Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sherlock Holmes Goes To Fight Club

Being an long-time fan of the rude, irreverent, intelligent, and egotistical sleuth, I regarded the new Sherlock Holmes film with much anticipation. Along with many other people who had time on their hands yesterday, Christmas Day, the opening day for the new Sherlock Holmes movie, I was able to take my family to see the new film.

While not necessarily less smart than Conan Doyle’s hero, this one spends more time fighting and making assumptions than our original crime-fighting genius. He seems more interested in theory and action than fact and hypothesis.

Instead of destroying his mind and body with a seven percent solution of heroin, our new Robert Downey, Jr.’s Holmes goes to fight club and wagers on himself for Watson. He now has the capability to clearly see the cause and effect of certain fighting moves and strikes, then carries them out with surgical precision.

This Holmes regards his ‘friend’ Watson almost with contempt. And this Holmes comes with the baggage of a past relationship with a woman that is just as apt to react swiftly and violently as the new Holmes, and she has an even more checkered past.

Watson is also changed. In the past, Watson was portrayed as well intentioned but inept, recognizing Holmes’ faults, but at the same time deifying him. This Watson comes across as intelligent and egotistical, less respectful of Holmes, and even derisive of Holmes, whom he claims to be just that: egotistical. In fact, this new Watson reminds me more of portrayals of Holmes by Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett.

The saving grace of the film is that Sherlock Holmes will now be introduced to a new generation, and with that comes the hope that new viewers may want to watch classic portrayals of Sherlock Holmes, or better yet, read the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novels.

This is what happens when American screenwriters get hold of Sherlock Holmes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

All That Remains - Metalcore in Des Moines!





I took my daughter, Schatzie, to a memorable concert at the Val Air Ballroom in Des Moines.
Haste The Day opened up the evening and immediately someone spilled beer in Schatzie's hair. We found ourselves amongst folks who'd rather thrash and 'mosh' than just enjoy the pounding drums and buzz-saw guitar. So we got away from the moshers and basically endured the opening act.
Next up was The Story Of The Year, which I was really looking forward to hearing. They had a good set which was marred only by the fact that half of their performance was from their new, unreleased album.
The Devil Wears Prada stirred the crowd up and put on a good show. I'm not sure whether it was intentional or not, but the only sound I heard from the lead singer while he was "singing" was grunts and barks. These guys definitely had the metalcore/thrash thing down. The way the drums were rigged into the sound system, one could really feel that bass drum thrumming in one's chest.

The highlight of the evening, of course, was All That Remains, who had a great set. These guys (and gal) know how to perform. Yes, the bassist was a gal and she did great: good eye contact, good performance, and screeching backing vocals.
At the end, the lead singer was cleaning up the stage and throwing stuff out into the crowd; Schatzie reached up and caught what appeared to be a ball of wadded up paper. It turned out to be a listing of the songs the band planned to play. Their set was like a compilation of the best of their two most recent albums, The Fall of Ideals and Overcome.

Songs performed:
Before the Damned [This was a great opening song that built anticipation with the first few notes, then blasted out with machine-gun like guitars and drums.]
Not Alone [Track 2 from The Fall Of Ideals]
Air That I Breathe [Track 9 from The Fall Of Ideals]
Indictment [Track 11 from The Fall Of Ideals]
Chiron
Forever In Your Hands [What a geat song, and a fine performance from the band.]
Six [Track 7 from The Fall Of Ideals]
The Weak Willed [Track 6 from The Fall Of Ideals]
Undone
This Calling [Track 1 from The Fall Of Ideals]
Become The Catalyst [Track 8 from The Fall Of Ideals]
Two Weeks [the much anticipated finale]

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lakewood, CO

We are in Lakewood, CO now. Last night we went to the fabulous restaurant, Casa Bonita.
Yesterday, while driving here, I almost got busted for speeding. My GPS thingy told me to keep left on I-25N, so I was in the left lane. I was going 71 in a 65 zone. People behind me were hot on my tail, wanting me to go faster. Then, magically, nobody was in front of me and I found myself leading the pack. Then I saw why: a cop on the edge of the freeway shooting radar. I didn't see red and blue lights, so all's well.
We're on our way to see the Denver museum, then to see cousins in Kansas, and then on toward K.C.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Everyone OK - Windshield Getting Fixed

Here's a follow-up to my previous email. We have been reunited after nearly five months; everyone is OK. I got on the windshield problem with insurance right away and we took the car into a Safelite dealer. It's getting fixed this morning.
I drove everyone around in my new Jetta and they got to see the El Paso Pella Window store, then I took them up Transmountain Highway and they got to see both sides of El Paso after dinner at Famous Dave's. It was a successful evening!
Today I plan to take then up to Franklin Mountain State Park before going to White Sands. The girls are thrilled at being near the place where the first atomic bombs were tested and where "The Hills Have Eyes" is fictionally supposed to be; that's all they want to talk about.
This is my last update as we will be on the road for most of the next week.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Busted Windshield In The Frickin' Desert

Here's the latest: Kathy and the girls are on their way down to El Paso. While on the highway between Alamogordo and El Paso, the wind blew an unsecured orange cooler from the truck Kathy was behind into the windshield right in front of where Schatzie was sitting. They ran down the jackass; at least he stopped. They are OK and the police arrived and finally took their report (in the middle of the frickin' desert) and released everyone. So now they are driving with a busted windshield and I'm trying to get that scheduled to get fixed ASAP.
Graduation is tomorrow, then we are to go to White Sands...we'll see what happens with the windshield.
Will keep you posted...
It's been tough for the past four weeks with seemingly constant testing here.
Monday, when the rest of the Army had a holiday, I took a 5 hour practical exam where I had to set up a radar system and connect it to nine other different systems using IP addresses and cat V cable. I even had to build a LAN cable! (It worked!)
Tuesday I studied. Then yesterday I took another practical exam, this one two hours long, where I had to set up and configure a satellite link and two radio systems that have to be in perfect timing sync to talk to each other. Then after that I had to take a closed book written exam. My Army colleagues and I breathed a sigh of relief last night and celebrated.
Today and tomorrow are big days. My family (that I haven't seen since February) will arrive here this afternoon. Tomorrow is the graduation ceremony. Then I'll take my family on a little vacation through White Sands, Roswell, New Mexico, and other points of interest as we make our way back home. We're planning a stop at the fabulous Casa Bonita restaurant near Denver.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Lacuna Coil Rocks El Paso


Wow! I cannot say enough good things about the first lady of melodic Heavy Metal, Cristina Scabbia and her band Lacuna Coil! They rocked El Paso tonight!
These performers poured themselves out on the stage. Their first number was so powerful it literally brought tears to my eyes! It was truly a treat to have been there when Cristina belted out Our Truth in the middle of the set. She really puts emotion into her performance, and co-lead singer Andrea Ferro equally worked the audience to a frenzy, as all the band members bounced in time on the stage as they performed Fragile.
I was right in the middle of the mosh pit. There were only five people between the performers and myself. It's hard to describe the surge of emotion as a sea of humanity surges forward and the deep bass thrums in your chest and great performers are on the stage putting themselves into a great, energetic performance for the audience.
It would be easy to feel that the vocalists overshadowed the entire performance, but to be fair to the other performers, (two guitarists, a bassist, and the drummer) they all rendered spot-on performances. Musically, they were great, and as showmen, they were top-notch. The band members connected with the audience - they looked out into the audience from the stage and really had eye contact with the audience, who responded, shall we say, enthusiastically!
I left the concert after the Lacuna Coil set, because I felt there no way The Cult, the headliner performance, or fireworks, could top Lacuna Coil.
On this blessed Independence Day, we not only say long live the United States of America, we say long live Italia! Not only do they make great cars, they can rock the house down!
And if you haven't already, run out and get Lacuna Coil's three releases:
Comalies, Karma Code, and Shallow Life.
Songs played during their live set:
Survive
To The Edge
Closer
Entwined
Without Fear
I Won't Tell You
I'm Not Afraid
Spellbound
Swamped
Our Truth
What I See
The Prophet Said
Fragile
Heaven's A Lie
The Ghost Woman And The Hunter
Fragments Of Faith
Enjoy The Silence

And for more info, check out this link: http://eventful.com/performers/lacuna-coil-/P0-001-000012378-0
Here's another perspective on the event published by the El Paso Times.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mr. Nails' steely heart melts

In which Mr. Nails finds that a cold, steely heart melts when interacting with orphaned kids.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009: The school requires that the class participate in a social service or community project each session; for our class, we elected to visit a local El Paso children's home. This is a modern orphanage, where displaced people of all ages live, mostly children. The home was having a summer picnic-style get-together, with hotdogs, drinks, tents, tables and chairs all out on the back lawn of the home's property. It was the ideal place and time for us to interact with and perhaps be positive roll-models for these young people.
We all arrived at 12:30 still in our Army uniforms. After brief introductions we started mingling with the people and just having a pleasant afternoon. I found myself trying to tell one young lady about my family in Iowa, having to go through an interpreter, another young lady. As El Paso is a 'border town' many people there speak only Spanish, or are bi-lingual.
Mr. Nails played touch football with the kids, and had stern words for those who played too rough. Mr. Nails was elected the permanent quarterback, and used his leadership skills to encourage the kids to come up with their own plays.
Water balloons appeared, and soon Mr. Nails was drenched. So was everyone else.
These new Army uniforms have the Velcro hoop and loop patches, and after speaking briefly with one 11-year old boy, I started to pull my combat patch off my right sleeve, and then let him rip it the rest of the way off. He beamed and Mr. Nails' heart melted. Mr. Nails didn't know what had come over him as his heart swelled and he suddenly had a bout of sniffles. How can a combat veteran, someone so cranky, tough, mean, and rude be moved? I guess mean, cranky, hard-as-nails, tough old guys have soft spots in their hears after all.
After the event, as Mr. Nails waved good-bye to the kids, he looked down at his uniform: The only patches left on his uniform were his name and the "U.S. Army" strip.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I grow weary of being gone from my home and family, and therefore wax magniloquent. Lest I become a bore, I shall quote one of my favorite poems, which I had to have memorized in high school, and never forgot:

Come my friends,
tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order, smite
the sounding furrows, for my purpose holds
to sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides, and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are -
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive,
To seek,
To find,
And not to yield.

These words, written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson as the closing lines of the poem Ulysses, were caused by my high school Latin and Humanities teacher, Mr. Lawry Anderson, to be memorized by everyone in the class. We recited the poem together, daily, over and over, line by line. As the years have gone by, I have read parallel meanings in the words, and they continue to be a source of strength and inspiration for me.
I hope anyone reading this, who may feel the weight of years, of time and maturity, will re-read Tennyson's words, and think of Ulysses, who found strength "not to yield", and, after years of war, made it back home to his family.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Weekend Update

Yesterday morning I went in for more training on the radar, radio, crypto, and computer systems on which we are training.
At lunch-time, I decided to watch a movie that I'd seen advertised on TV: Drag Me To Hell.
The first theater I went to in my new car did not show my movie. Jumped back in my new car (did I tell you about my new VW Jetta?) and headed out west to Mesa Drive. That theater had it!
OK, I'm a junk food junkie - I got a huge tub of popcorn, Whoppers, and an Icee. Heaven! The movie was pretty good, too!
Today (Sunday), James and I went to Cracker Barrel for breakfast. Mmm...Sweet tea - a taste of the South!
Later, James, Ben and I went to the golf driving range. That's the best $4.50 (for a bucket of balls) I have ever spent!
For dinner, we all went to El Taco Tote. Now I should be writing papers for my post-grad class, but instead I'm doing this.

New Car

Here's my update: I really need to be writing my papers for class, instead of doing this blog.
Thursday, I finally decided on a car. I'd been visiting a VW dealership here in El Paso since Memorial Day trying to decide what car to trade in my trusty old Dodge Dakota for.
I had a list of features from my wife and oldest daughter: it needed leather seats, four doors, and a sun-roof, minimum. I really wanted a Golf/Rabbit hatchback, manual transmission because it's fun to drive, diesel fuel because of fuel economy, and enough storage space to get all my stuff back from El Paso to Iowa.
I had to compromise: I found a 2006 VW Jetta that was almost perfect: more space than the Rabbit, manual transmission, sunroof, and four doors, but no leather seats. The downside is that it's a sedan.
I'm putting a spoiler on the back to make it a little more sporty. It has almost the same wheelbase as the Rabbit and it feels tight - very fun to drive.
I love it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thursday - midday

I did well on my first test today. Then we had safety classes to prepare the troops for the long weekend.
Next comes the practical exercise, in about an hour.
Today I get to take two tests. The first is a 25 question written test covering the basics of systems integration. The second test is this after noon. It is a "practical" exam where, given an assigned configuration, I will have to put together the pieces of the systems together and get them all to work together.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Now the system thinks that my Blog is Spam.
This is just one more reason to dislike technology. You try out something new and someone else has already ruined it for the rest of us.
If you're a Blog Spammer - Thanks, jackass!