Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Rocky Balboa Superstar - Coming to a Church Near You!

I recently saw the trailer for the new Rocky film (in front of Casino Royale) and I couldn't quite tell if the crowd reaction was amusement or consternation. Anybody else remember this sight gag from Airplane II, "the Sequel"? -

"Art" mirroring reality?

The marketing of "Rocky": The release date for Sylvester Stallone's final installment of the Rocky story -- "Rocky Balboa" comes out Dec. 22 -- is no coincidence. The film is being marketed directly to Christian audiences, and the Christmastime opening is a part of that effort. Church groups have been provided with study guides and special screenings, and Stallone himself has been reaching out to the faith community to peddle his boxer's tale; in a recent teleconference with religious leaders, he admitted his own faith had influenced the Rocky story greatly. "The more I go to church and the more I turn myself over to the process of believing in Jesus and listening to His Word and having Him guide my hand, I feel as though the pressure is off me now," he said. "You need to have the expertise and the guidance of someone else. You cannot train yourself. I feel the same way about Christianity and about what the church is: The church is the gym of the soul." (RockyResources, CitizenLink via Drudge)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Just in time for Christmas! The gift that keeps on giving.

That stocking stuffer you never realized you wanted...or wanted to give!

Make sure you mark that calendar for your next hunting trip with Dick!

Robert Altman

I've been mulling what to say about the death of Robert Altman, one of the most important filmmakers of the last 40 years, and been stumped as to how to convey my feelings for his work. Gosford Park was his last great film in my view but I'm a sucker for the conventional British mystery and Altman did wonders to what could have been a cliche outing. It didn't hurt that the film had one of the finest casts I can think of in a recent film. I recently watched Prairie Home Companion and while I delighted in portions of it, it didn't rise to the level of greatness.

That being said, I'm lucky enough to have a friend (call him JH) who has followed Altman, and film in general, rigorously for some 20+ years. I was delighted when I received this email lamenting the loss of Altman and he has graciously allowed me to post it here.

Altman is one of the handful of directors that, were I a film student with a
free pass to intern with any director I wished, I would have chosen.

I would have chosen him for a multitude of reasons. One, I have an aversion
to the mainstream Hollywood industry films and he always operated outside of
that. Two, he was interested in a part of the process that most filmmakers
seek to avoid. In the common approach to filmmaking, the director creates,
either in collaboration or by himself, a storyboard of how each shot should
look. Most directors are free with their storyboards, using them mainly as a
reference point for planning the shots, some, especially films that are
special effect heavy, need these storyboards firmly in place on the set so
that things match up in post production. Altman was spontaneous. Even his
scripts were famously fluid. He cared little for sticking to dialogue as
written and was interested in capturing spontaneous displays of character
behavior. As long as the actors hit certain plot points in the script, like
so and so got killed, or the whereabouts of another character, improvised
dialogue was encouraged. This made actors want to work with him and that
fact is another inspiration for wanting to intern with the man.

Another reason to be on his set was that he set up shot sequences in a way
that was at once visually complex yet allowed for the spontaneity from the
actors. I think the way he moved the camera was influenced a lot by
Kurosawa, although the way he framed a shot was much more casual and the way
he worked with actors was diametrically opposed to that of Kurosawa, but
camera movement was very similar. I would have liked to have seen how he
managed this. He used to say that the most interesting film wasn't the one
that got edited together, but the sum of the dailies. He was the behavioral
scientist of cinema. He loved the character stuff, but he also loved the
process of actors finding and getting lost in their characters, so the "sum
of the dailies" would always include the acting process as well as the final
product. I think this fascination with the relationship of the process to
character, the relationship of actor and character, actually drove a lot of
his choice for story. So many of his stories have a "behind the scenes" feel
to them. M*A*S*H is an example, so is Nashville, so is Gossford Park, The
Player, the one about the fashion industry, the one about the ballet
company, and Prairie Home Companion. Popeye does not have this "behind the
scenes feel" and Popeye kind of sucks. He does have some good films that
lack the behind scenes feel, like The Long Goodbye and some of the direct
adaptations from the Samuel French stage script films, but I do think he was
attracted to this sort of story.

He was also a nice guy, in spite of his black view of human nature, AND his
daughter used to live in Fremont Nebraska, so he was probably within 5 miles
of me on several occasions. Maybe I could have used that as an ice breaker
the way George Castanza broke the ice with George Peppard simply by the fact
that they shared the same first name.

I can't say that Altman has been a favorite of mine for several years now
(probably the last one I really loved was Short Cuts). But I think that is
due to changes in my own taste and not any diminishing of his skills.
Nevertheless, had I been in a position to choose any filmmaker to intern
with, he would have been in the top three choices and the other two fail to
come to mind at the moment.



I'll say one more thing about Altman. I really believe that he didn't care
at all about the characters in his films. I think what he cared about was
recording how his actors created character. I don't know of another
fimmaker-- ever-- who preferred the actors' process to the character. It's
not so much that he had stories to tell, as he had creative behavior to bear
witness to.

Public lands and mountain biking forum

From the NV Appeal:

"The U.S. Forest Service is calling the meetings, which will be held from Redding to San Diego, “listening sessions.”
They are meant to gather ideas that local rangers can use to plan for and manage mountain biking.
“We’re seeing more and more use of [mountain biking] and so we’re trying to stay ahead of the game,” said Matt Mathes, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest region.
Mathes said two concerns with mountain biking are trail erosion and compatibility with other trail users.
“We’re trying to avoid social conflicts,” he said."

Monday, November 27, 2006

Separated at Birth

I've been eyeing the advertisement for the Brooks and Dunn concert on the event center billboard for a few weeks now. I kept thinking that there is something familiar about them but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Until now that is. Am I the only one who thinks that Brooks and Dunn are country music's answer to Hall and Oates?

Friday, November 24, 2006

About the only thing I like about GWB

It's Presidential legacy time. Surely GWB is thinking about how history will view his presidency. Words like Failure or Worst President Ever come to mind but they have been covered far more eloquently by other people. So here is my .02 on what Shrub could do for this country from the standpoint of a bicyclist.

Let's start with his statement that we are "addicted to oil." My cynicism runneth over on how much he truly wants us to unchain ourselves from the shackles of our oil dependence. But, ok, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. How about he launches a full scale offensive on including bicycling as a viable form of transportation in urban planning. The man loves to bike (see link). And apparently Lance Armstrong, who I had some hope for being involved in encouraging bicyclists in this country beyond the lycra clad weekend warriors, isn't really willing to take this on since he is too busy running around shirtless with his Texas buddy Matthew McConaughy. But he's off the hook since he does so much for the cancer community.

So, instead I'm looking to the leader of the "free" world for some leadership. Imagine what it could do for our oil dependence, quality of life, and overall health of the population. Here is a chance for him to get one thing right by becoming a champion for alternative forms of transportation. Perhaps one day our urban centers could look more like this:

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dubious honor award: Nevada is number 3 on the shakiest states list

Alaska and California have more earthquakes and more strong quakes than any other U.S. states. But depending on whether they count total number of quakes or the strongest temblors, geologists don't agree on ranking beyond that.

So John Anderson and Yuichiro Miyata at the University of Nevada at Reno decided to investigate and create a formal list.

Their Top 10 states, based on the greatest magnitude achieved every year:
Alaska, 6.70
California, 6.02
Nevada, 5.11....
follow the link for more of the list

A Little Thanksgiving Cheer When You Are Eating That Turkey

Monday, November 20, 2006

Jesus Christ Superstar - the sequel

I'm not really into musicals per se. But somehow a I caught myself humming a song from the JC superstar soundtrack the other day. It must have leaked out of my subconsience. The songs are so catchy but I can't help but imagine Jack Black instead of Murray Head in the Judas role. The songs have that Tenacious D sound to them.

Anyway, little did I know that there's a sequel available on youtube....enjoy!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Don't call her a TV critic!

I don't even watch the shows that Ms. Havrilesky writes about (I lost interest in the OC and Lost about halfway through their first seasons). But it just doesn't really matter when you can delight in her glorious prose. More cultural critic than TV critic, I'm not sure she says anything new...but the way she says it! It's one of those great simple pleasures I look forward to every Sunday morning. The opening of this week's column (below) is vintage HH but the full article is linked above.

I Like to Watch

The born losers of "Lost" and the born winners of "The OC" prove that victory is just another word for nothing left to lose.

By Heather Havrilesky

Nov. 19, 2006 | Americans savor the mythology of winners and losers. We love to declare people winners, then lament their fall to loser status, then pick them up and dust them off and call them winners again.

As long as someone falls in the "winner" category, we embrace them unconditionally, set them high on a pedestal, create a rich fable out of their rise to victory and celebrate their shortcomings as if they're strengths. But the second a winner's popularity slides, either on the retail shelves or in the theaters or in the polls or in the media, we shake our heads in faux-sympathy and then outline why their decline into loserdom was inevitable: Mistakes were made. Tragic flaws were there all along, poised to ruin everything. A taste for junk food or loose women is enough to knock a natural-born winner into the loserly gutter; a streak of luck or a bestseller is enough to bestow a coke-addled moron or an angry sociopath with endless praise and accolades. We gladly rewrite history over and over again, depending on whether a person is winning or losing at the moment.

The oppressive importance of winning is the root cause of the disingenuous nature of our culture. Whether you're winning or losing, it's crucial that you give the world the impression that you're winning, and winning big. When those in the spotlight -- politicians, musicians, actors, business leaders -- hint at the slightest weakness, the masses react with confusion and dismay. "Does this mean he/she is a loser?" we ask each other, befuddled. Stock prices fall, records don't sell, "industry insiders" hint that careers are being mismanaged.

Honesty is the worst policy

Consider the most brutally honest public figure of the last 30 years: Jimmy Carter. Every time Carter opened his mouth and spoke the truth, the media declared him an unabashed loser. How fitting that he would lose to Ronald Reagan, the most transparently full-of-shit president in modern history and, not coincidentally, the president most universally embraced by a culture that begs to be spoon-fed sugary lies. Reagan knew how to tell Americans what they wanted to hear: "We're winners, we're winning! If we keep stockpiling nukes, we'll be winners forever and ever!" Yes, every mushroom cloud has a silver lining.

But when you've told the world that you're winning and you're a winner and everything is going according to plan, over and over again, and obviously everything is going to hell in a hand basket, eventually the public is going to catch on. That's when you have to take drastic measures, usually by blaming your losses on outside parties, then distancing yourself from those losers.

Recently, a herd of deadbeats got the boot: Britney dumped K-Fed, Reese Witherspoon dumped Ryan Phillippe, Bush dumped Rumsfeld, and the country dumped the Republican majority in the House and the Senate. These rude dismissals afforded the involved parties an opportunity to redefine themselves as winners: Britney is clearly headed for a post-Federline makeover and an upsurge in popularity, Bush is likely to sell us on a "humbled" version of himself, and Democrats are sure to trumpet their new, aggressive reimagineering of the country. Winners once more! Winners all around!

Our popularity depends on our ability to serve up delusional optimism on command, resulting in a culture of strained smiles and forced cheer. Looking on the bright side, though, this patently fake climate ensures the cultivation of generation after generation of angry, bile-spewing rebels, clutching "Catcher in the Rye" to their chests, hunching their shoulders and gritting their teeth in disgust over the misfortune of growing up in a nation of professional cheerleaders. These misfits may not smell very good, but at least they recognize that the rest of us are patently fake and untrustworthy.

Think win-win

What's particularly nice is that many of these foul-smelling, hunchy-shouldered revolutionaries and suspicious, pissed-off alternative types have grown up and decided to make some money in the patently fake and untrustworthy TV industry. Gone are the grinning geezers that brought us '70s and '80s programming, with its insistence that every story feature at least one clear winner and a big, important, heartwarming moral at the end, replaced by people like Aaron Sorkin and Rob Thomas and J.J. Abrams, people who one suspects spent their formative years shuffling around in Army surplus jackets, pouting and replaying "London Calling" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" on their walkmen so that everyone would leave them the hell alone once and for all.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fixed Gear Bikes - Fad, Fashion, or Foolish

It seems that everyday I'm seeing more and more fixed gear riders out there on the streets of Reno. Long a part of the urban messenger chic in larger cities the fixed gear bike has its roots in the first bicycle boom from the 19th century and the popularity of track cycling. For those not hip enough to know, fixed gear bikes basically translates to: one gear/no coasting, i.e. if your wheels move so do your legs. If you go up a hill you have no choice but to muscle your way over it. If you go down a hill, you're likely to look like a sewing machine on speed.

I've owned three fixed gear bikes over the years which either makes me the coolest person ever (ahem, not damn likely) or a few gear inches short (sad attempt at bike humor).

These bikes are great for their simplicity and "road feel." There are the few purists out there who subscribe to the idea that a fixed gear should not have a brake but I'm not going to get into that debate.

What does stick in my craw is the way that the current crop of fixed gear riders all seem to want to look like the fellow on the cover of this magazine. I'm not sure if this is a magazine reflecting the culture, or of the hipster crew buying into the latest corporate niche marketing gambit. I can't help but think of how 2 weeks after Nirvana broke in the early 90s (showing my age) deparment stores all of a sudden found themselves pushing flannel so you too could "fly it" and be grunge just like those crazy kids from the NW.

Haruuumph! Ok, ok. Really I'm just happy to see anybody riding a bike. For those interested in the fixed gear experience check out these sites:
eye candy galore!
the guru of all that is fixed

or, Reno's very own loose group of fixed riders (you'll have to subscribe I believe)

And if you're really into it, try any of the local bike shops. Virtually every bike company is offering a "cheap" ($500) fixed gear model and a "high end" model (thousands...$$$). And for the do it yourselfer check out sheldon brown's site above for cheaper options.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Reno to host presidential debate?

American Gaming Association President Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., who also serves as co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, said Tuesday that he hopes to bring one of the 2008 presidential debates to the University of Nevada, Reno.

Fahrenkopf, whose Washington, D.C.-based gaming industry advocacy group is hosting the current Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center, said the nonprofit, nonpartisan commission that has sponsored and produced the presidential and vice presidential debates since 1988, will soon be taking requests for bids from universities across the country for 2008.

Fahrenkopf, a Reno native and a 1962 graduate of UNR, said he would like to see the school win one of the prized nationally televised debates between the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.

In preparation, Fahrenkopf said a technical team from the debate commission will visit the campus in the coming weeks to see if the school has the necessary facilities and capabilities to house one of the debates.

"Obviously, I think this would be good for Nevada, Reno and UNR," Fahrenkopf said. "Since it's my alma mater, I'd love to have the process continue and actually go forward."

Click link for more...

by Howard Stutz

Las Vegas Gaming Wire

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The bravest bicyclist I've seen in quite a while

Ok, it's not like she's in Tiananmen Square facing down tanks...but still. Wow!

Originally reported at a Chinese blog:

but if you can't read Chinese go to the above link. They have a full break down in English with a bunch of photos of this woman standing down a car and the driver who gets out and physically tried to remove her from the bikes only portion of the road.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

So much has happened since my last post...

...but I was not prepared to wake up after the election in a parallel universe where Nancy Pelosi and George W. Bush are making nice with each other.

One of the most striking things about the aftermath of the election has been the way Republicans have tried to take heart in the results as a "blip" in the overall rightward slide of this country. What these conservatives seem to be forgetting is that in actuality for the last 600 years (or more really) the western world has been moving towards a liberal worldview with its embrace of rationalism, democracy, and human rights. The real "blips" have been the brief conservative backlashes that have emphasized anti-intellectualism and religious zealotry in the midst of this slow evolution towards a more enlightened society.

Granted, Pelosi and Reid aren't necessarily the inspirational thinkers that our founding fathers, steeped in the age of enlightenment, were. However, I'll take them any day of the week over the myopic Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Mehlman, etc.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Diddy as Bond! Why does that seem so right?

I realize this is a few days old but somehow when I heard about it it seemed the most obvious direction for the franchise to go (if you discount the hoped for demise of Bond films altogether). Look at 90 percent of the male hip hop artist music videos and they are all about interchangeable, nameless hot women, hot cars, and conspicuous consumption. These things might seem passe to most of the Bond audience that grew up on Connery and even Moore. But apparently this is what gets it up for the majority of the hip hop audience.

That being said, I have higher hopes for Daniel Craig in Casino Royale if only because I'm a big fan of Layer Cake.

Quote of the Day

"On the eve of what looks as though it might be the biggest Democratic victory since 1992, I'm feeling a little bit somber. Because on Nov. 8, it will be time to figure out how to get out of Iraq, and it won't involve victory, for anyone." - Joan Walsh

Friday, November 03, 2006

Oh, sweet Jesus, No!

At least the NCOT Governor's Conference is after the election and before Titus or Gibbons would be inaugurated. But, please, if you needed no other reason to vote for Titus, think of poor Lee trying to find something that rhymes with Mazzeo if Gibbons wins!
Celebrated country singer Lee Greenwood will debut a new song paying homage to Nevada at the Nevada Commission on Tourism’s annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism Dec. 11-13 at the Silver Legacy hotel-casino in Reno, Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt announced today. Only delegates to the conference may attend the performance, and an early registration discount is available through Nov. 10.
“This year’s conference theme is ‘All About You,’ and it seems that everyone has some connection to the troops tirelessly fighting for our freedom. We thought it appropriate to incorporate a tribute to our loved ones in the military,” Bruce Bommarito, NCOT chair, said. “Pride in our country starts at home in Nevada but it doesn’t end there. With the help of one of the most recognized singers of patriotic music, we have a wonderful opportunity to honor our state and our country during this conference.”

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Toxic Train Trench?

This from KOLO...and we thought Yucca Mountain was a bad idea. How about radioactive waste transported through the heart of our biggest little city? And just blocks from our friends down in the WEFI area. Follow the link for more on this story.


Imagine high-level nuclear waste rolling along the train trench in downtown. That could be a reality if a Northern Nevada Indian Tribe okays the federal government's plan and we might not be able to do much about it.

The struggle over Yucca Mountain has always been about more than the mountain and the proposal to store the nation's most toxic waste there. It's also been about getting that waste to the mountain.

The transport of spent fuel rods from the nation's nuclear power plants potentially impacts thousands of communities, but none more than those here in Nevada. If the repository is opened, all of the nation's high-level nuclear waste will pass through some communities in our state, but which. Initially the Department of Energy looked at 10 potential routes through Nevada.