Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Speaking of awesome seasons...

Our softball team, the Pirate Monkeys, went all the way this year. You're reading the words of an A-League champ right now. We lost only one game (the one I missed -- coincidence?), and beat the pants off of everyone else (including that team in the playoffs).

I tried a new position this year at John's request, trading third base for pitcher, and I was very pleased with the move. For one thing, while I can throw straight during warm-ups, I throw like a wild baboon when there is pressure (you know, when it counts), so easy outs thrown from third to first typically went 8 feet wide in any direction. Even as pitcher I botched a few 10 foot throws to first. I don't know what my deal is. But as far as pitching went, I did pretty well. Struck a few people out, could throw strikes fairly consistently, and was backed up by a great bunch of fielders.

Here are a few pictures taken after the final game:

Wearing our championship shirts:
Amy was Team Mom and Number One Fan this year. She also let me use her glove since mine was stolen.

We had a great team this year. We had so many fun people, so many great personalities. Not pictured above are my brothers and Aaron Klett, who played with us for a few games and also contributed the the richness of the experience.

Here's the logo I drew for our shirts a few years ago. John Tiffin made them all up for each player with our names on the back and everything.

The idea for Pirate Monkeys came from a brainstorming session that I sent in an email to John. Here is the original list of ideas:
  • The Pirate Monkeys!
  • The Cadavers!
  • The Federal Duck! (stolen from Dave Barry)
  • Bon Apetite!
  • The Shawshank Redemption!
  • Schindler's List!
  • The Ox-Cows!
  • The Defeaters!
  • Undefeated!
  • Duty Calls!
  • Shufflers!
Pirate Monkeys came from my idea to use the two most played out icons of popular culture I could think of at the time. Another idea would have been the Random Awkward Chuck Norris Pirate Monkey Ninjas (which would probably have been really fun to draw).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Biola Lacrosse 2008

This has been a fantastic year for Biola Lacrosse. The boys had an excellent record and ended up winning the Division 2 Championship down in San Diego against UC Santa Cruz. There was an issue with eligibility for one of Biola's players that was discovered the Friday before the championship game, which unfortunately disqualified them from going to Nationals in Texas (and, technically, cost them the Division 2 title), but it was still a phenomenal season.

This was my brother Ben's final season, and he went out with a bang. He racked up 99 total points for the season, 48 goals and 51 assists. (That's counting non-league games. Click here to see the Div 2 rankings. Look at all the Biola players near the top!) Ben earned Offensive Player of the Year for Div 2 West Coast, made MCLA DIVISION 2 ALL-AMERICA FIRST TEAM, and tied for the highest scorer of the year. He assisted and scored in two sudden-death overtime victories (against Pepperdine and Dominican). My brother Josh acted as coach again this year as well. Needless to say, I'm quite proud of my brothers.

The issue regarding eligibility was this: one of the players dropped a class that took him below 12 units, which meant he was no longer a full-time student and thus ineligible to play. Unfortunately, he either forgot or wasn't aware of this, and he played 5 games like this. It never would have affected the team if they hadn't gone to play-offs and needed to resubmit their eligibility forms. Like I mentioned, they discovered this only a few days before the championship game. They could have not mentioned it and hoped that the WCLL did not find out, but they did the honorable thing and came forward on their own. The WCLL said they appreciated this, but still took the title away from them and disqualified them from Nationals. I know rules are rules, but it was 1 unit, the guy who was ineligible wasn't some ringer from the the East Coast, and the team had such a great year. The team was completely within the spirit of the law, but the letter had to be followed. It's disappointing.

It was a lot of fun watching the team this year. While Ben is graduating and moving on, there is a lot of young talent on the team (as well as a couple great Juniors coming back next year), and I look forward to seeing where they go from here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Monkey vs. Cat

Frankie drew a picture of a magical cat with wings slashing a monkey, so here is my retaliation.Here's an earlier version that's a little too busy.
Here's Frankie's original, from Facebook's paint program:

Visit to the comic store

I went to pick up the last two issues of Scud: The Disposable Assassin from Cornerstore Comics last night. Cornerstore is a very nice little shop that's just a bit too far away to warrant weekly visits, so I had them pulling Scud for me and waited until the last issue was out.

Rob did a really great job ending the series. It ties up everything very well, and it's really interesting to see the direction it took after 10 years. Rob has matured and worked through a lot, and it shows. The art is fantastic, too; it's just as good as it was when he left. (Click here for some preview pages from #23.) There's also a really good interview in the back of #24 with Rob, conducted by Doug TenNapel (who also drew the cover). He asks great questions, and Rob's answers are very insightful. The final issues of the series featured God being imprisoned by some evil angels, and Rob gets into his thoughts on God and religion a bit. (That's God on the cover, by the way.) There's a great 2-page spread in the final issue featuring God rampaging through Heaven eating rebellious angels. Rob describes God as a bear-like force in the interview.

I can't wait for the Scud Omnibus. Rob has hinted at a hardcover edition as well, which is even more exciting.

While at Cornerstore, I also spied the new Neca Ninja Turtles figures. They look so awesome. It's funny, because the packages have art from the original comics on them, but it doesn't do much for me. The figures look better than the art they are based on. I bought Leonardo.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Awkward conversation

(Please pardon my use of "awkward"; I know it's been the new "random" for while now, in terms of overuse in everyday conversation.)

(Also, please forgive my use of the "it's the new ______" phrase; I know that's on the outs too.)

(If I misuse semi-colons, please let me know. I stopped using them for a while because I seemed to use them way more than anyone else, so I assumed I was wrong.)

So yesterday Amy and I were just exiting our car for lunch at our apartment. We ran into a neighbor friend. We don't know him very well, but he's a nice guy with a family and I believe he's a missionary. We were both heading to our apartments, so we walked together for a few feet until we reached our respective stairs.

"Boy, this weather, huh?" he starts with. I agree with him, smiling. (The day before had been cold and drizzly; this day was warm and sunny.) Normal, friendly, meaningless conversation. The comfortable kind you have with someone you don't know very well, or even a stranger.

He continues: "And then there are the thousands dead in China and Myanmar." His eyes grow sad. Oh no, this conversation just got downgraded to Uncomfortable.

"Yeah," I agree, wiping the smile quickly from my face.

"The End Times, you know."

"Could be." This space of 15 feet is not conducive to arguments about End Times theology, so I'm just going to agree with whatever he says.

"You know, the Bible says that in the end of days the earth will experience pain like birth pangs."

"Right." Please, just a few more feet until we part, walk faster! But I can't, it'll look like I'm trying to escape.

He pauses a bit, looking reflective. Stop it! What do you want me to say? I don't know what to say to this! It's horribly tragic stuff, to be sure, but why are we discussing it on the way to our apartments from the curb? Augh!

The "conversation" actually continues up the stairs! How to break it off? There's no easy or natural way to do it! Just have to say something vaguely friendly but hollow.

"Welp, have a good one," I say as I wave and smile meekly.

And I'm finally free.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Recent movies - Logan's Run, Charlie Wilson's War, The 400 Blows

Logan's Run (1976) - This was Jeri's pick for last night's Movie Night, and what an interesting choice. It's one of those movies that is referenced quite a bit in pop culture (like The Simpsons and Family Guy), yet I had never seen it, and really knew nothing about it.

The basic story is set in a future where everyone lives in giant domed cities because the rest of the world is supposed to be a toxic wasteland. It is an era of hedonism where everyone is cloned and no one is allowed to live past 30. Basil Exposition plays Logan, a "Sandman" who executes anyone who tries to avoid their expiration date. You can guess what happens based on the title, but it actually comes about in a unique fashion. Logan's Sandman partner is the guy who played the southern senator in The Hunt For Red October. The girl who helps Logan is played by someone very familiar looking, and I was trying to place her all night, but it turns out I've only ever seen her in The Eagle Has Landed. I guess she has a distinct face. Peter Ustinov steals the movie when he shows up towards the end. His goofy old man shtick was incredibly charming, although there was a point where I almost got sick of it because we saw so much of it.

It seems there were two creative forces driving the movie: a visionary with great ideas for the visual style and interesting ideas about the future, and a guy who likes boobs. Some of the sets, shots, and ideas about the world in the future are great, but they are tempered constantly by girls running around bra-less in ridiculous sheer dresses. Every cool moment has a cheesy moment immediately following. You have an intense scene involving cosmetic surgery lasers going nuts and cutting up a doctor followed by a slow-mo sex club. You have an intriguing scene where the protagonists explore the foundation of their city for the first time followed by a ridiculous "ice room" where they fight the world's least intimidating crazy robot.

Which is preceded by them getting naked! We all laughed out loud when Logan said, "We'd better take our clothes off before we freeze!" and the camera stayed and watched. It was like the boob-happy producer came on set every few days and looked at the dailies: "Good, good, I like what I'm seeing. Tell me, though: how long has it been since the last nipple?"

Oh yeah, I can't believe I forgot to comment on the guns! The Sandmen have these black pistols for dispatching Runners. They have a cool green muzzle flash, but the lamest result. Each time they are fired, it looks like the actor is squeezing a lemon at his target (who directed them like that?), and the resulting bullet effect on the walls always occur several seconds late and a few feet off-target. They needed to hire someone who knew what they were doing there. Watch for a hilarious scene where a Runner gets shot in the butt, too.

I'm glad I've finally seen this one.

Charlie Wilson's War (2007) - Continuing the odd "proper name + possession" title scheme trend I've got going, Amy and I watched this one over lunch breaks. It's about the largest covert military operation in American history, which was funded and pushed largely by the efforts of a Texas Congressman named Charlie Wilson. Tom Hanks plays Charlie, and is supported by Philip S. Hoffman as a gruff CIA dude and Julia Roberts as a right-wing rich gal.

The movie is very entertaining, and the fact that it's based on a true story makes it that much more compelling. Great performances and direction all around.

The 400 Blows (1959) - Francois Truffaut directed this one at the age of 27. Wow. I'm 27.

This was my first Truffaut film, so I suppose it's appropriate that it was his first as well. (First major one, anyway. Is that right? IMDB lists two before this one, but I could have sworn the DVD said 400 Blows was his first.) The title means something like, "to sow one's wild oats," or "to get into mischief." The story concerns a boy named Antoine, who is a bit of a punk, but has no reason to be good, either. His mom is very open about the fact that she didn't want him, and his dad is lazy gambler (as near as I could figure -- the movie focuses on Antoine and doesn't reveal much outside of what Antoine knows, which is appropriate. How many kids know exactly what their parents do until later in life? I didn't, at any rate). Neither parent knows how to be a parent, and his teacher is a tool, so he has no authority figure to look up to at all in his life. With no direction provided, he sort of rambles through life. He doesn't care much for school except for seeing his friends, and he doesn't seem to have a passion for anything. He turns to mischief because it's fun, but he never comes across as malicious.

The movie doesn't really have traditional structure. It's more of a snapshot of Antoine's life, though it does capture important transitional moments. Antoine is played by a boy named Jean-Pierre Leaud who gives a great performance. He is very good at acting as a boy his age would. My favorite bit for him was his reaction to a psychologist question about sex. His expression and surprise are the perfect blend of embarrassment and excitement.

The movie is also beautifully and creatively shot. From the opening scene that tracks the pin-up to the final loooooooong tracking shots, Truffaut picks interesting ways to tell his story.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Memory: Mis-reading On Purpose

My memory is an odd thing. Some memories from childhood are clear as a bell to this day, some memories from only a few years ago are absolutely gone. My brothers are often baffled that I remember what I was thinking when I did certain things as a kid. My mom has encouraged me to start writing down certain memories, probably mostly for my family's entertainment. Here's one from when I was in elementary school.

I was a big Calvin & Hobbes fan from an early age. I developed an extensive vocabulary at an early age because of this, though I mis-used words all the time. Also, most of the words didn't lend themselves to my normal everyday topics of conversation, so I would try and recreate the exact context of the strip with someone else so I could use a word like "revoked" and sound smart.

But this story isn't about my vocabulary weirdness, it's about Calvin's green-leaning. Watterson has always included very pro-green messages about pollution and animals and such. This message of recycling, saving water and saving the rainforests was also reinforced by my public elementary school from about 3rd grade on, as I recall. I'm not sure what made me adopt my own conservation mindset, but at that age, the idea that there were bad guys cutting down forests and jerks throwing their trash everywhere, and that we needed to stop them was an easy sell. When I first discovered all the cool animals that lived in South American rainforests, the deal may have been sealed. I loved poison dart frogs and ocelots, so Go Earth! Down with loggers! Down with pollution!

This leads us to some prayer night my folks were having out our house one time. There were a couple other families with us there. There was only one other kid that I remember, a girl about my age, but I didn't know her very well. We all wrote down prayer requests and then passed them to the person next to us, then we went around praying for each one. My request was something about saving the earth. I even included a line from Calvin: "We've only got one Earth, and it's got to last us a while." Well, the lady next to me who had to read my request couldn't read my writing, apparently, because she struggled through it and translated it as "'We've only got one Earth, and it's got to lost us a while.' Well, Lord, you know what he means..." I was really annoyed. My handwriting isn't messy! You really couldn't read "last"? Come on!

So then it was my turn. I held the note of requests that belonged to the girl who was my age. Her handwriting wasn't that great, but it was her spelling that was really awful. We must have been in at least 3rd or 4th grade at that point, and I was (am) quite the spelling snob, so I was even more disgusted by her lack of skill. The trouble was, I could understand her message completely! I deciphered it quite easily. I thought, how can you not read my message, with its perfect spelling, grammar, and punctuation, yet I can decipher this affront to the English language with ease? It didn't seem fair that, in front of the group, I was going to look like the dunce who couldn't spell, whereas this girl was going to look normal. So I did a really jerky thing. I acted like I had to struggle through reading her note for the prayer. I still read it completely and understandably, and didn't add, "Well, Lord, You know what she means...", but I really poured on the pauses and effort in my voice.

Kind of a butt-face.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Top Ten Movies

Haven't done one of these in a while, and I saw Nate Bell's list recently. Anyone care to list their top ten films, and if there have been any changes since last time, list why?

Here's my list from 2004.

Ikiru (Kurosawa, 1952)
High Noon (Zinnemann, 1952)
The Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954)
The Samurai Trilogy (Inagaki, 1954)
To Kill A Mockingbird (Mulligan, 1962)
Sanjuro (Kurosawa, 1962)
Red Beard (Kurosawa, 1965)
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Leone, 1966)
The Matrix (Wachowski, 1999)
The Twilight Samurai (Yamada, 2002)

Here's my new 2008 list:

Top Two:
The Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954)
3:10 To Yuma (Daves, 1957)

The Rest:
High Noon (Zinnemann, 1952)
Open Range (Costner, 2003)
To Kill A Mockingbird (Mulligan, 1962)
Terminator 2 (Cameron, 1992)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Spielberg, 1977)
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Leone, 1966)
The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)
The Twilight Samurai (Yamada, 2002)

Barely missing out:
The Sting
For A Few Dollars More
The Big Lebowski
Master and Commander
Shaun of the Dead
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Once Upon a Time in the West

As you can see, my list is very entertainment oriented. These are all movies I will watch over and over again. I think they tell good stories and are well-made, of course, but there are many movies that I admire but don't re-watch.

Regarding the changes from 2004 to 2008: The Matrix doesn't hold the luster it once did. It is still an entertaining flick, but the action doesn't seem nearly as revolutionary as it used to, and what's left isn't as interesting. Ikiru, while still a good one, is not that entertaining, and I haven't found myself returning to it. The themes of life and meaning still resonate with me, though. The Samurai Trilogy are still fun flicks, and watching Mifune is always a treat, but room needed to be made for other movies. Red Beard is still fantastic, but it got trimmed in favor a great Spielberg film. I decided to limit the list to one Kurosawa. I wrestled with switching out The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for For A Few Dollars More or Once Upon a Time in the West, but I ultimately kept it because of Eli Wallach. Man, OUaTitW has got a great cast too, though...

I added Open Range because I watched it again with Amy recently and it's just a darn good movie. Yes, there is some awkward dialogue (Costner acts better than he speaks), and the ending feels a little long (though necessary, I think, in carrying out everything that's been established) but the rest is perfect. The setting, the themes it wrestles with, the build-up, the pay-off, all good. I also added Terminator 2 because it's a near perfect piece of entertainment. Close Encounters is up there for now because it's a really well-made and enjoyable movie that I rarely hear brought up, though it is a tough call between that, Jaws, and Raiders. Saving Private Ryan was also a consideration. The Godfather is up there because I don't know how I left it off the first time. Another perfect movie. I listened to Coppola's commentary on it recently and my appreciation grew further.

It was really tough leaving off The Sting (perfect movie), a Coen brothers movie (like The Big Lebowski -- I'll never get tired of watching that one), and Shaun of the Dead.