These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

a world of black and white

i've been on a kicklately watching old movies -- that is movies before 1960. i don't know if it was my wife who inspired this, since she's watching the AFI top 100 films and a vast majority of the films are from way before my time.

at first i was hesitant to take the jump into the worl dof black and white, a world of litle special effects, no in-betweens of color, a different type of acting and more wholesome movies. then i said what the hell and took the plunge off the board.

and now i can't seem to stop watching them. every week i grab one or two old movies, films i really should have seen before, but when you're a kid growing up ina rural texas there's little choice or opportunity to watch these classics.

in the past two days i watched "dr. jekyll ane mr. hyde," the original 1932 fredric march version and today i finished up seeing james cagney in "yankee doodle dandy."
both movies impressed me for different reasons and evoked diferent emotions from me.

"jekyll" was a carnal film, more so than spencer tracy's role reprisal 10 years later. the effects on march's face were more obvious, but also disturbing and distracting. he looked more like what mr. hyde should have looked like, almost cro-magnon-like. but his hair piece and wide nostrils made him look apish and it took awaay from the effect. i could have done without that much monkey business. in another aspect, when dr. jekyll visited champaign ivy at her place, there was definitely monkey business going on. she did strip down and when the camera switched angles, her back was bare. when march moved his arm, there was the outline of ivy's right breast fully exposed. it was similar to tracy's version, but i liked march's performance better as jekyll. i liked tracy's performance as hyde better.

cagney was great in "yankee." it's the first film i've seen with him. i've read he never did anything like it before or after. it was magical the way the film went from musical to musical that george m. cohan did. i knew about "yankee doodle dandy" but didn't know about "over there" or "grand ole flag." the movie made me misty-eyed at times, i don't know why. it wasn't particularly sad. still, the portrayal of cohan by cagney was impressive and brought out something in me. his dancing was so cool to look at. i kept picturing bugs bunny in the cartoon versions of yankee doodle dandy, which reminded me of how much those cartoons were actually made for adults. what eight-year-old kid is going to know about cohan? i loved the distinct style of dancing cagney had, torso forward, legs pumping beneath him. i'm glad i watched it.

and then there's bogart. the guy could act like nobody's business. i won't discuss much about him here (he'll have his own blog entry), but he was great. i'm going to read a biography on him. favorite performances so far are "the african queen," "casablanca" and "treasure of the sierra madre" (another bugs spoof).

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

fear factor

i've got a guilty pleasure. i watch fear factor. i was disappointed when it didn't start at the beginning of the season but glad it's back now, even if it's for a few weeks during th interim between other shows.

i guess it's a little different these days, with no eating of any gross stuff during the new shows. they've got a stunt at the beginning, then a middle part with contestants able to win a trip, and a final task to determine a winner.

today's show had four couples. during the first task, one of two team members had to be shot from a cannon, after the first member ignited it after swimming from a buoy to get flares. all four teams completed it and in a new fear factor twist, the team with the least time involved in completing the task gets to choose which team leaves. the gay couple choose one of the girl teams to go. the middle stunt was a trip to las vegas, non-elimination. it involved diving into large trash cans and dumpsters filled with oil and other junk. the gay couple won. the final stunt involved crashing through barriers while lying on your stomach and being pulled. at theat moment, team members let go. the teams, combined footage, closest to a finishing line, win the moolah. the bikers ended up winning. they were cool. not typical fear factor folks. they had large bellies, tattoed, bearded. but cool.

one of the things i enjoyed that the show isn't doing much anymore (and call me sadistic or insane) is when the couples (or singles, because usually its one-member teamss) had to eat something either alive or something once alive or part of a now-dead animal. people on the show have eaten pig uteruses, 50-year-old egg nog, milk a goat with their mouths, cow brains (and my own sick favorite) live african cave-dwelling spiders in an episode a few years back. contestants had to pluck the large spiders off a roulette table (it was in vegas) and munch on them. as the contestants crunched, you could still see legs jutting out of their mouths. sick shit, but it made for interesting tv.

one of the more provacative stunts involved no physical excertion -- but it was physical all right. contestants had to walk out nude and walk around a stage. the deal ws there was a room full of people watching. i, unfortunately, did not get to watch the episode. my wife and i were in a neighboring town in texas and it was only after coming out of a restaurant that i remembered the show aired that night. too late, though. i learned later that networks will not show that episode again. oh well. side note: one of the girls even did cartwheels during the stunt.

i wish some of the major stunts would stick out in my mind, but none do. to me, i enjoy them all. most present soe sort of difficulty and challenge. some involve swimming, others arm strength by hanging on to something. either way, i dig them.

next week seems interesting. the couples are placed into the "psycho house" and they have to do tasks and be involved in similar things (a shower scene was shown in a preview). sounds absolutely thrilling.

go joe, go joe, go joe

Sunday, December 25, 2005

christmas day

christmas id pretty much over, one hour to go. but the festivities are done. this is the third christmas in a row that i spend up in michigan wth my in-laws. we moved up here in november 2003 and i haven't seen my family for the hoidays since. it's really been impossible to do it because of my work schedule, but i guess one of these years i'm going to have to ask for a week during christmas. i know it's hard since all reporters would like a week off during this time. we'll see.

dawn's family has been really good to me, though, and it's like spending time with my own family. i have my place with them like i do with my family. though, each place is different with each respective family. however, i have my own presence in both places.

we started off at my mother-in-law's house and then made our way to dawn's sister's house, where we spent a good portion of the afternoon. i had a good time talking with derek about this and that or to todd about chicago. we opened presents and watched dov tear into them like crazy. it's funny watching him. reminds me of myself as a youngester with fierce anticipation on my face. we had a good meal and nice dinner talk, which is always interesting with dawn's family. it usualy goes back to their younger days, whether its school, old teachers, their dad (or things their dad did) to the crazy world of evie. never dull.

we slipped back to evie's house and then we were off to dawn's brother's house. we had a good show with the twins. they are so cute; irresistable little things. eli is cool with his shaking and moving around,while gabi looks adorable with her blond hair and her cute conversation. and at age two, they're all over the place. it was nice to see the girls -- raisa and adria. i rarely get to see those gals.

overall, i got what i wanted from christmas -- togetherness. while it wasn't with my family, it was just as nice, comfortable and cozy