Wednesday, May 31, 2006

In Rotation...

I busted out a few cd's I hadn't listened to in a while the past 2 weeks or so, and have gone back to some age old favorites. Here's a roundup of sorts...

Over the Rhine and Hem., both catalogues - This more than anything else has to do with me going down to Bloomington to see these bands Thursday evening. Every 5-6 months or so I go on a huge Over The Rhine kick where I listen to them for about 2-3 weeks nonstop. Then, I just need to put it away for a while. The songs and the themes in the songs, battling through faith, love, loss, etc...They all carry too much weight for me to listen constantly, even if Karin has one of the sweetest voices ever. Hem is just extremely literate soothing music. Somehow I guess it might fall into alt-country soundscapes. Whatever it is, it makes me want to just be sitting on a wide open porch. When listening to both these bands I find my mind drifting bck to the Canyon trip of a few weeks back. I don't know if it's the themes or the music, but it must be intertwined somehow, probably both.

Asobi Seksu - This is a band I heard through the Big Soccer musical grapevine. I then saw them play live in Broad Ripple 2 March's back and absolutely loved it. Layers of guitars and guitar trickery. Breathy vocals, some sung in Japanese I think. These cats are from Brooklyn, and I guess they fall into shoegazer mindset. If ever a band sounded like the cover to their cd, it is Asobi Seksu on there new one, Citrus. I guess you would need to listen to it for that to make any sense. Luckily there website has a Citrus jukebox. Please come back to Indy.

Old 97's - Wreck your Life - I'm not linking to Old 97's site, cause I am bitter. I don't know what really happened, but at some point in the past 4 years or so Rhett Miller decided he'd rather be a model than continue writing brilliant songs. Don't get me wrong, the new stuff isn't terrible. It's descent accessable pop. And I have no problem with that. I'll defend Kelly Clarkson and the Killers to the point of idiocy in the name of pop. But, the new stuff isn't anywhere near as good as the older stuff when there was a snarl and it seemed as if they drank a few cases of High Life and decided to go into the studio and record a sloppy good times country rock record. I miss those live shows, a lot. To this day Old 97's and Slobberbone at the Patio is one of the ebst shows I have ever seen.

June Panic - I don't even know how to describe one time Indianapolis resident June Panic, so I won't try. But I have been enjoying him a ton recently.

Also in rotation; the new Pearl Jam, Vigilantes of Love - Audible Sigh, Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger, and as always Depeche Mode and New Order.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Birth, d. Jonathon Glazer

Some of my favorite movies require the viewer to take what seems to be initial leaps of faith, or require what might seem to be a large leap towards suspension of disbelief. I think of films like Breaking the Waves or some of Kieslowski's films namely some stories in The Decalogue or The Double Life of Veronique. In part I think all stories require a bit of a suspension of disbelief if you are to allow yourself to be caught up in them. What truly matters is if in the story, the characters, faced with what might seem to be completely outlandish situations can act in believable ways.

Birth, directed by Jonathon Glazer asks the viewer to take a huge leap. Is it really possible that a woman ten years removed from the death of her husband can see her husband reincarnated in the body of a ten year old boy? And it's more complicated as she is just about to remarry. It seems entirely absurd, right? Fair enough, just accept it. Just at this point take it as a given, regardless of your stance on reincarnation and sit back and watch how the characters react.

The child knows intimate details of her life. He recognizes other members of the family, "You were the one who told Anne there was no Santa Claus..." he says to Anne's grandmother at one point. He knows the details of Anne's brothers life, and of Anne's sex life in her marraige.

The charcters are well off sophisticated New Yorkers. None of them face an easy decision. Anne has all this evidence before her that goes against all whims of science and rational thought, but it's all in front of her. Is she gonna believe theory or her own eyes ears and heart. What of Anne's fiance? How does he deal with this, patiently, as he has known Anne long enough to know this would definitely affect her in a large way. Or does he act decisively, and perhaps selfishly to ensure that his engagement to Anne is not compromised and he and she is not hurt. What of the other family members? How do they balance this situation with their love for Anne. Each of their responses is believeable. Each when faced with the seemingly absurd act human, their actions often times contradict themselves just minutes apart. How else to deal with something like this.

The film itself was perfectly paced for this sort of story. It had a similar vibe to me of a cross betweem an M. Night Shalyman film and a Stanley Kubrick film. From even ten minutes in through the ending I was left feeling extremely uneasy the whole time I viewed it.

I don't know how you construct an ending to this film. To me this ending may have been a bit unresolved but maybe thats the point. Maybe after an experience like this the emotions and the idea would leave one unresolved, you can go 100 different ways and stiill need to wonder, "What if..." I loved this movie and really need someone else to watch it soon so I can discuss it with them.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Intrigue, Passion, and Cheating, it must be an F1 Race Weekend!

Look! Right there, it's a parked Ferrari! But why is he parked? What is he doing. In the final minute of today's qualifying at Monaco the worlds most talented driver either lost control of his car and stalled it at a most unfortunate time for his rivals....Or he deliberately took a bad line into Rascasse and stalled his car on purpouse to impede the progress of Fernando Alonso and a few other drivers, and in doing so secured himself the pole position!

Admittedly, I haven't seen this yet, since I taped it and am stuck at work taking a break to write this. But these are the sort of intrugue and aqusations that make up virtually every weekend in F1. Renault's team have already protested the pole. Williams looks to be doing so as well. And looking at a sampling from Formula 1 forums the fans are up in arms! Some sample thread headlines...

Schumacher - Ultimate Sportsman
Schumacher - A force for Unity
Michael the Cheater
MS Cheats to pole
Schumi flees the scene of the crime
Schumi is a cheating pig
Schumacher, cheating scum
Does it even matter if Michael cheated?
That's why he's a 7 time champ

Me? This stuff is all part of the appeal to me. In part, yes its unfortunate that stuff like this happens. Cheating will always put a black eye on the sport. The situation in Indy last year with only six cars racing also put a black eye on the sport. In that situation, I was initially pissed yes, and still am sore about it, but at teh same time utterly and completely fascinated by all the politicing behind the scenes. (And make no mistake, that was a Michelin politic decision, not safety) In this situation, I am just laughing about it. That's racing. Yes, it's unfortunate that stuff like this happens for the sport, but at the same time it just makes the race weekends that much more memorable.

And now this just in....

Within minutes of the end of qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix, there were rumblings in the paddock that a number of the F1 drivers are so unahppy about what happened to Michael Schumacher that the Grand Prix Drivers' Association is going to demand Schumacher's resignation from the board of directors of the organisation because they consider his manoeuvre at Rascasse to have been unsporting and detrimental to the image of the sport. Amazing!

As the season preview over at Grand asked a few months back, "But the question is will the season be exciting? The answer is Formula 1 is always exciting, and those who think otherwise, just don't get it." I love this stuff.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Moving onto racing for a moment....

For a moment we will move away from obscure films of the past 50 years and talk about cars wasting our valuable resources and spending way too much money to go really fast for our own entertainment. It's an enormous race weekend around the World. You have right here in our backyard the Indianapolis 500. And way over across the pond in you have the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco.

2 years ago, I got to my first Indy 500 and actually loved the experience. If I had more disposable income I would go every damn year. It's just a huge event and even as someone who did not follow the IRL series at all beforehand I enjoyed myself thoroughly. Of course, since I don't have tickets this year, I am unable to watch it when everyone else in the country is watching it. That's because we suffer the blackout here and it is shown on tape delay later in the evening. This is better than how it used to be when we had to wait till the next day! Still, since I have a dear friend I have not seen in two years stopping in Sunday night, I will be taping it and waiting till the next day as well. Three cheers for nostalgia!

That's probably for the better though since as a Formula 1 fan I am forced to suffer through another tape delay and stuck watching this weeks Grand Prix of Monaco on CBS at noon on Sunday, hours after the rest of the world has seen it. Thing is, the Monaco Grand Prix is gonna be a total bore. Somehow last year's was exciting as Alonso's Renault was passed by two Williams cars in the final few laps as he suffered tyre wear. But Monaco is a notoriously terrible circuit for overtaking and all you have is a bunch of cars in a procession. It's terrible racing, really, a total bore to watch and you are stuck hoping for a crash (which is never good) or a car to suffer mechanical failure (a bit more humane) to shake up the running order. What's more is that this season in Formula 1 it seems only two cars, the Renault and the Ferrari have what it takes to win races. So everyone else is really an afterthought. (IRL is suffering this same fate to a certain extent with Penske and Chip Gannassi). Regardless, as a Renault fan, I can tolerate the Renault drivers fighting it out on the top two rows every race week. And, at any rate, despite the total bore that the race is likely to be I will be glued to my television, feeling somewhat guilty watching it for a multitude of reasons, the least of all being entertainment value.

So predictions? At the 500, I would like to see Sam Hornish Jr win since he is an Ohio boy, but I see Wheldon getting it again with Meira as a possible darkhorse. In Monaco, it's all gonna come down to qualifying (which will likely be infinitely more exciting than the race, especially in the new qualifying format.) But I see a podium of Alonso, Schumacher, and Montoya. My personal favorite Fischella will do something stupid and likely not even finish, but hey, that might be the jolt of excitement the race needs!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ugetsu, d. Mizoguchi 1953

I finally got around to watching Ugetsu earlier this week. I had purchased this DVD earlier in the month before even seeing it with some tax return money. I knew it was a classic and it had a very extensive list of extras in the Criterion Collection edition so I figured it was worth a shot. It did not disapoint.

Ugetsu was made in 1953, after the war and many of its themes had to speak to the Japanese people at that time. The story follows two couples in 16th Century Japan as the country is awash in civil war. One man sees the war as an opportunity to get rich by selling pottery. The other man sees fame and fortune coming his way if only he can be a samurai. Despite pleas from their wives to not follow these dreams and greed both men go there own ways and to pretty tragic effect. The dialogue is rather simple. At times it even seems that it is a simple moral tale written for children against greed and maybe in part war. But, mainly through the direction and visuals the story becomes much more than you expect it to be. Suddenly you are dealing with the supernatural. You have ghosts, you have men in the grips of madness, and its all filmed beautifully.

I thought back after watching this to another post war Japanese film, Tokyo Story by Ozu. I was thinking bout how in Tokyo Story Ozu showed the falling apart of a family due to greed and ambition as well. His was set in modern times and displayed nothing in way of the supernatural. In Ugetsu Mizoguchi tackles teh same themes, with the supernatural and needs a different directing style because of it. Mizoguchi's camera always seems to be panning along away or towards a shot whereas Ozu was famous for the still camera shots. As contemporaries I am sure they respected eachother, and now years afterwards its fun to look back and see how their films echoed eacother in what they thought needed to be said about postwar Japan, even if it was done in much different styles. When I finally got around to watching the extras their was quite a bit mentioned about Ozu as well, more than I can get into here.

It's interesting especially to look at films like this, made over 50 years ago in the response to a war and see how they still apply today. Good stories are still good stories no matter how old, and especially so when magnificently told visually. It's depressing at the same time to see how they are still relevant and how a story like this has been told so many times, and how men and women still make the same mistakes. Ah, humanity!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Simply Christian - N.T. Wright

Before taking my trip to the Paria Canyon I was looking around for a few books to read while on the journey. I had in mind reading The Challenge of Jesusby N.T. Wright but by the time I got looking for it in bookstores I couldn't find it and it was too late to order. Next up I was offered, The Upside-Down Kingdom by Donald Kraybill, but I had already read that and loved it. I was ready for something new. And that's when I saw, Simply Christian by N.T. Wright on the shelves.

I was first introduced to N.T. Wright around easter this year when our church showed videos narrarated by him during Passion Week. Wright is one of the more well recognized and respected Biblical scholars around today. His main field of study gravitates towards the historical climate in which Jesus Christ walked. He has infused this in many of his writings and when he does you may find yourself with a fresh or different view of a parable you have heard 3000 times. Without the historical context and taken straight from the pulpits in America in 2006 some stories and interpretations can become a bit skewed.

Sometimes this would lead to dull and dry reading. But not in this case. Wright starts out with what he calls "echoes of a voice" the pangs we here in our conscience or subconcious. Why do we crave justice, spirituality, or relationships? Why is it that beauty alone does not completely satisfy us. In searching for these answers he does not give conclusive proof that a God exists. But hopes to just point out that faith can make sense. From there his writing style completely takes over. Reading this I was reminded of many conversations with friends at college about my faith. He of course discusses Israel, the Trinity, prayer and worship as well. He does not leave his historical background at the door, but allows it to shed different shades of light on ideas we have already thought through numerous times.

To me however, the most compelling and most important parts of the book discussed the role of the Christian individual and the Church as a whole in todays society. He talks of a world needing to be "put to rights." By this he means justice. And he is not talking about the Christian Right idea of justice where all disenting views need to be diminished. He is talking of engaging a world in need and working on the behalf of the oppressed, needy, and neglected. He talks of prayer vigils in Easter Europe round the fall of oppressive Communism, or the peaceful work of Desmond Tutu in Africa. This isn't a Pat Robertson blaming Hurricane Katrina on gay marraige. This is a man who in his studies of Jesus feels compelled to be caught up in the way of life that he lived. If Christians are to be a positive force in todays society they need to engage the world. He understand the difference between engaging and being in this world, and being of this world. As he so readily points out we live in a world where Heaven and Earth often interlap, if only for brief moments. If this is the case, if Heaven sometimes interlaps, why would the individual Christian stand on the sideline and not want to participate in this world as well.

Now, I didn't agree with everything he said. There was some stuff of Baptism and some bits on worship I didn't agree with. That said, it is definitely a worthwhile and engaging read, for believers and skeptics alike. If you are a skeptic, you at least get a more historical context of the Church and Christianity. If you are a believer, chances are you will be challenged and look at some, if not many thing differently after reading.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

This makes me happy...

Yes, it is true that I have yet to even see The Squid and the Whale (number 52 in my Netflix queue) but I fully intend to because I enjoyed Noah Baumbach's work on Mr. Jealousy and his work with Wes Anderson on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

But now one of his films is getting the full Criterion Collection treatment, and it's a favorite of mine that has not been available on DVD for years. Kicking and Screaming is coming in August. Hell yeah!

Undertow, d. David Gordon Green

Yesterday while couch ridden with some sonic death flu, I watced a few movies that I will write about over this week. One was Undertow, directed by David Gordon Green. I am gonna make no secret here before going any further that David Gordon Green is already one of my favorite directors. All the Real Girls and George Washington were two of the best films I've seen in the past five to ten years. So, what about Undertow?

This is probably my least favorite of the 3 David Gordon Green films I have seen. And that said, it is still great. I will watch this numerous times. Without giving away to much of the plot, two sons live on a rural Georgia farm with their widowed father. The existence of the family doesn't seem to be a happy one. Dermont Mulrooney plays the father and has a very cold repoire with his sons. Chris is the older one, and at the beginning of the movie we see him attempting to romance a young girl and also gettuiing in a bit of trouble. Tim is the younger son, and he eats paint, throws p and apparently has health problems. I wonder why. Eventually, Uncle Deel comes to town, fresh out of prison. He is invited by the father to stay with them, keep an eye on the boys and help around teh house in exchange for food. Deel still harbors resentment against his brother from their younger days, though he initially masks it well this is where the conflict in the film begins.

There are many moments that make this a typical David Gordon Green film. Based in the rural south, the scenery is as much a character as any living breathing person. The dialogue has it's quintessential moments, "Can I carve my name in your face?" the young girl asks Chris. Tim has a 2 minute speech on chiggers. There is a whole lot of mysticism surrounding the story as well, that may be specific to the south. It reminds me in a way of Faulkner or Flannery O'Connor, or even a much darker Walker Percy.

This fim isn't for everyone. It's dark, there is more than a fair share of violence, you wonder in the end if you were supposed to learn or take away anything from this. But for some reason, it still sticks with you.

I await future films by David Gordon Green with a bit of excitement. This was his least critically acclaimed film with reason I suppose, but I still very much enjoyed it. I notice that he has a movie filming now called Snow Angels and though the plot summary is extremely vegue, from what I've seen of his work so far, I hope this its theaters sooner rather than later.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Twilight Singers - Live @ the Vogue

Do you like your rock and roll slightly overweight, but with a metric ton of swagger? If so Twilight Singers might be the band for you. At the Vogue Sunday night Greg Dulli and band played selections from each Twilight Singers release and one from Dulli's solo album released last year.

The show predictably leaned more towards the material from Powder Burns released just last week. Indianapolis did me proud though as when I was looking around almost everyone near the front of the stage was shaking their ass, and/or singing along. Not too shabby for an album thats been on the shelf only one week. The new material was recieved very well but the largest ovation probably came during Teenage Wristband from the Blackberry Belle release just a few years back. As soon as the piano kicked in everyone was screaming, and ready to sing along. Dulli, even obliged the audience by giving thema few bars to sing on their own as he just stood back and enjoyed the scene. Playing with between 4-6 other band members, depending on the song, there was no doubt that Mr. Dulli was the man in charge. He chose mostly rockers for the evening. But the few times he slowed it down it was almost as if he was a gospel singer testifying from stage. Truthfully.

About Greg Dulli real quick. This guy is just a commanding stage prescence. His songs have an element of swagger as he takes on the persona of a very sex driven bad boy. On stage the complte picture comes into view. It's not as if he is extremely demonstrative in a Bon Jovi sort of way, he just has a menacing aura about him. At the same time you can tell that he loves what he's doing up there. You get the feeling you wanna hang out with the guy, but you don't wanna bring your girlfriend along since he'd likely seduce her right in front of you, leaving you powerless to object.

We saw one opener, Afterhours. These guys were amazing. Apparently they are Dulli proteges. They are from Italy. They play loud. They are Italian vampires with guitars. They are very, very good. Check them out.

The Vogue was only half full, but Dulli promised the crowd that he'd be back at the end. And as the show ended, from the looks on the faces all around me, I don't think anyone left disappointed.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Five Obstructions

I finally got around to watching The Five Obstructions the other evening. And among other things it helped me re-realize that one of my favorite directors, Lars von Trier is an insufferable prick.

In this doccumentary von Trier challenges his cinema hero and mentor Jorgen Leth to remake his own short film, The Perfect Human five times with different "obstructions" set up by von Trier himself. These obstructions include no cut being more than 12 frames (1/2 second), shot in cuba, shot as a cartoon, answering the questions posed in the original, shot in the most miserable place on earth, and complete freedom. It's difficult to really explain, but what you wind up seeing is von Trier and Leth in a battle of wills and in a complete mental chess match.

Seemingly Lars von Trier's objective througout the movie is to humiliate Leth, or at the least have him give in entirely and proclaim von Trier the winner in this battle. And at times it seems that might happen, we see Leth losing sleep over the first obstruction, before having a breakthrough and telling von Trier that the 12 frames were a "gift." Similarly you see him make the most out of the cartoon obstruction and the remake in Bombay is just fantastic stuff. Yet at times, you see von Trier visably frustrated and saying that Leth has made a great film, but not what he wanted and that he will need to punish him. Redo it again.

The documentary is fascinating, and not in the least part because of von Trier and Leth going at eachother. But you get to see film being made. You get to see the creative process, even if through a series of ridiculous dares and double dares, tested to it's limits and still out of that again, great film is made.

On the DVD one of the extras is the original version of The Perfect Human at only 18 minutes long it is highly entertaining and to watch it before the actual main presentation gives even more insight into the film and the creative processes. So, I highly reccomend that.

At one point in the film von Trier admits, "I am not an expert at many things. But Jorgen Leth is one of those things about which I know more than anyone else. I know more about Jorgen than he does. I am doing him a favor here." In an interview shortly after the films release Leth was asked what film he would put through the same obstructions that von Trier put his through. Leth simply stated he wouldn't choose to do that to any film because it wasn't right. The last obstruction leaves the viewer to contemplate whether von Trier did do Leth a favor, and leaves one to wonder who came out on top, if either in this little game. Both are left standing and we have a great and compelling film come out of it, but I can't help but wonder, for what reason?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Book Review - Blankets By Craig Thompson

As we left the Paria Canyon and started our journey back towards the overbearing, and frankly depressing, lights of Las Vegas I wound up going at what I anticipated to be a short a light read. For the first time in my life I actually read a graphic novel. It was Blankets, by Craig Thompson. It had already been read by two of my fellow trail mates on the trip and they both reccomended it. The book itself is nearly 600 pages. Really. Yet, it can be read in one 2-3 hour sitting. I know this because I did it. In the inside flap one of the overly wordy reviews of it mentioned it read like a Francois Truffaut movie would. If you know me, you know that more than served to peak my interest.

So what is it about? Goodness. It's as expansive and tackles as many or even more themes than many great books I have read. At the center of story is Craig. The book traces his experiences with his family, his childhood adventures with his brother, his love for drawing, his first love, and first exposure and acceptance of religion (Christianity). Of course a good story more often than not needs a conflict and in Blankets seemingly everything good that I have mentioned so far falls apart and Craig is left to pick up the pieces and reevaluate it all.

Perhaps it was mostly filtered through my own lens, but the main stories throughout the book to me seemed to be young Craig's wresling with his belief in his God and his wrestling with a belief in his first love. And wouldn't you know it, sometimes in adolescence if one falls apart so does the other. And come to think of it, that sort of thought process, or deconstruction of belief isn't just restricted to adolescence, is it? And perhaps it struck a pang with me because in the past I had struggled in much the same way.

Very few amongst us wish for something different than the romatic life. To love and be loved. The few times that the stars aligned for me the love I felt was love that was reciprocated, well of course those go down as the happiest moments of your life. And to me in my Christian walk, I saw it as a blessing. And it's probably true that I streched it to the point that I believed it was confirmation that my walk with God was headed in a correct direction. But then, when you have made that connection in your head and heart, what happens when it all goes pear shaped? Not only the questioning of yourself, but the questioning of your faith as well. It's gotta be recognized that whereas romance is truly a gift, goodness can it be a dangerous idol.

Reading through the book, it's hard not to believe that Thompson has painted at least a semi-autobiographical sketch. Craig wants to draw. He is pushed towards ministry by his Pastor (who is drawn as a spitten image of Jerry Falwell, which I find hilarious). What if his art can be used to glorify God? His trips to youth group snow camps in high school hit the mark completely. If you have ever been to one, you can't help but snicker at how much Thompson's snow camp looks like the ones in your memory. A chapter is based on the Cure's wonderful tune Just Like Heaven. At different points in Craig's growing up peers are seen wearing B.U.M. shirts. Craig is wearing a cardigan. PJ Harvey, Jane's Addiction, Radiohead - Pablo Honey, and Galaxie 500 (Galaxie 500!!!!) posters adorn the wall in different rooms. Extreme care has obvioulsy been given to these smaller details for sake of authenticity.

There is much more I'd care to say about the plot that I choose to hold off on. I really think this book can just about appeal to anyone. I have hit on some of the faith aspects covered in the book here, and there are more, and I believe they are centrally important to the book. But, it can also be read as a simple but extremely well told love story.

The ending of the book. At once I wanted to scream. Or throw the book. Or just lay back and smile. I chose the lay back and smile route. It sticks with you. I am smiling again now thinking about it. Like any good story it's weight stays with you far afterwards. Even if it is a comic book. I mean graphic novel. Whatever. At the end of the day, it's an incredibly affecting story no matter what the medium is.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The first pictures of my trip are here

So yeah. This morning I messed around with Flickr and got about 15 or so photos online from the trip so far. Of course, that apparently is my upload limit for the month with Flickr until I upgrade my account, which I will surely do soon. All the photo's are from the first day and a half.

Let's talk a bit about it. The Grand Canyon Motel was where we stayed the first night after getting into Vegas. We drove about three hours to Fredonia, Utah and stayed there. As the sign says, it had Telephones, BBQ's!?!?!!, and Microwaves. Fantastic.

We wound up driving another two hours to Lee's Ferry the next morning. Lee's Ferry is where the Mighty Paria River converges into the Colorado River. We came back here to the Colorado when we ended our journey and jumped in. But that's another story for another day.

From Lee's Ferry to the Wire Pass Trailhead is only 55 miles of canyon hiking. But, due to the terrain surrounding the Canyon, it's another 2 hour's worth of driving. We were shuttled by Betty. Betty had a bit part in the Donald Sutherland movie Benefit of Doubt if anyone has a copy. Let me know. She also knew virtually everything about the surrounding land. She had been doing the shuttle thing for 17 years. She loves her job, and she was a great conversationalist. Hearing her love for the area and the land surely helped get me excited, and I think some others too.

Eventually we were at Wire Pass Trailhead. We met a few people in the parking lot who had told us that at parts in the Buckskin Gulch pools were chest high. We had only heard it was about waste high. At any point this sort of got the adreniline going a bit. As did this sign. Emergency response is never rapid!!!! Awesome!!!!

The first day we went into Buckskin Gulch just a few hours. Bucksin Gulch at 16 miles long is supposedly the worlds longest slot canyon. I had no idea what a slot canyon was before this. I now know among other things it's absolutely beautiful. There was plent of staring up in awe throughout. After maybe two hours, which included about a half hour of solo hiking to take in the surroundings, and to prepare ourselves for the trip, and to quiet ourselves in an attempt to prepare to hear what God would teach and tell us this coming week, we came to our first campsite. Up on a hill, overlooking the trail. This was flat out of Outdoor Magazine. No picture can do this justice, really. And the tents. Those were just for aesthetic value. Sleeping under the stars was what the night would bring. What a great experience.

Our first full day we expected to only go about 8 miles. We were facing going through countless pools like this. Of course between finding footing in those pools and having 45 pounds on your back you tend to be slower than you would want to be. After about 10 hours. It dawned on us that we missed our campsite. Or perhaps it had been washed away by a flash flood in the 6 months since Larry had been there last. You can't really climb out so there is nothing to do but keep going. So we did. After about 13 miles and over 11 hours of hiking, including over and down a boulder where we had to pass down packs and repell 10-12 feet we finally came to a campsite, but thats about where my pictures and story ends for the day. So maybe we'll just need to talk about that at a later time. And besides, this is already far too long.

Voting was rigged!!

Here at 64th and Broadway, Barcelona we search far and wide to bring you stories for your entertainment. Obscure films nobody cares about but me, less than popular music, a world class soccer team that nobody cares about, and all rife with typos. But today, we go even further and we go into the pages of world known personal finance magazine, Kiplinger's. Because, if there is one thing 64th and Broadway knows, it's personal finance.

At any rate, Kiplinger's listed the 50 best places to live in the United States. Rankings were based primarily on affordibility and future economic possibilities. Here is how the fine people at Kiplinger's stated it....

To come up with this list of cities, we began by surveying you, our readers, to see what factors you consider most important when choosing a place to live. The top two were cost of living and cost of housing. Quality health care and a low crime rate were also among your top requirements.

We then asked Bert Sperling, co-author of Cities Ranked & Rated (Wiley, $25) and host of, to design a database to take these factors into account. Other key criteria used were weather, education (primary, secondary and higher), cultural amenities and transportation.

Unfortunately, no database could allow for another top priority: proximity to family.

To broaden the appeal of the cities on the list, we also factored in economic vitality -- we gave points to well-diversified economies that are good places to start or expand businesses. In addition, we looked at quality of life, which by our definition means the variety of cultural and recreational activities available.

With this tentative list in hand, we sent six writers out to investigate the top cities, with instructions to examine in particular the price of housing, the character of neighborhoods and the ease of living. Were commutes reasonable? Did suburbs have personalities? Were downtowns clean, interesting and vibrant? Based on all of our findings, a panel of eight writers and editors ranked the cities.

And you know what? After all that, 3 Indiana cities made the top 50!

And at an unjustly low number 14, it was Indianapolis, Indiana.

I think voting may have been rigged. We are clearly top 10.

You can read more about it all, HERE.

Sure it would have been nice to be higher, but it's still nice to see Indianapolis where it is, and overall, it's a very interesting list.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Back from the Canyon.

I still am not settled in. Not even close. I have extolled the virtues and my love for Indianapolis and my neighborood on this site before. But I must admit, all things considered. I would rather be back in the Paria (prounounced par-EEE-ya).

Before going on the trip I had a few expectations to be sure, I had seen a few pictures. I had talked to Larry and some others who had taked this pilgramage before. There really is nothing that could have prepared me for what I saw, heard and experienced.

It would be a complete and total lie if I were to say that I had ever attempted anything more challenging, physically or mentally than this hike. I haven't rode a bike across state. I jog a bit. Kick around a soccer ball when I can. I hadn't spent a week in the wilderness carrying a 45 pound pack on my back, hoping that I had everything I needed in the pack.

Just a few days removed from touching back down it might sound like hyperbole to say that this was the most rewarding week of my life as well, but it's not hyperbole. As the days and weeks go on and the further I get removed from the week and sights, smells, sounds, and memories...tons and tons of memories, I am only too sure that my fondness for the week I spent there will increase. So yes, the most rewarding week as well. I said it. I'll stand by it.

5 nights. 6 days. I saw sights I could not have prepared my eyes for. I was sore as hell. My feet were never dry. My pack never seemed to get any lighter. I heard God speak clearly through the nature and through my trail mates.

5 days, 6 nights. I hiked the Buckskin and Paria with Sparrow, Dickon, and Fryar and I am a better man for it.


(pictures and much more reflections to come later in the week.)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Last post for a week, to Utah I go...

Goodness gracious, is it hard to concentrate on work today. I have plenty to do, but my mind keeps drifting. Tomorrow afternoon, I board a plane to head out west. By Sunday afternoon I will be cut off from all of civilization as myself and 5 others will be hiking through the muddy waters of Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon out in Utah. We will not come off the trail until the following Friday afternoon.

This will be my longest trip of this kind, and really first since a few camping trips in college 6 years back. There is a slight feeling of intimidation which quickly gives way to excitement and adreniline. The past week has been a mad dash to make sure that I have all the food and gear that I need. I have basically everything. Tonight I need to come across a few stuff sacks and stuff for two more dinners. Making sure I would be able to do this entire trip vegan has not been as challenging in my head so far as I have thought. Oatmeal and dried fruit for breakfasts. Granola and a protein bar for lunch. Dinner, lots of beans, lots of protein. Amazingly I have even found a dehydrated Pad Thai pouch. Just add boiling water, let sit for 15 minutes and I have Pad Thai out on the trail. Amazing!

I went down towards Bloomington on Wednesday and hiked a 5 mile loop just in Yellowood Forest. The first half ws peaceful and quiet enough, nothing special. The second part was a bit better. Plenty of crossing through creeks and just overall a more interesting terrain. Just jumping into a small creek and splashing around a bit got me excited for wading through water for large parts of this coming trip.

To be honest with myself though as much as this trip is to be a physical and mental challenge, I hope it to be spiritually challenging. Working two jobs and always being on the run sometimes it has been difficult for me to slow down. It's something that I really need to learn how to do in my Christian walk, but I have always been jumping from one task or event to another and not taking the time outside of my midweek group and church to really look inside myself and towards my Creator and ask difficult questions. It's not that I am expecting to find a calling while I am out there. Or to see a burning bush. But I do expect to learn something.

There is something about time spent in solitude before God. Sometimes I try to find that on an early morning run. Or a walk. Or just a long drive in silence. But to be entirely cut off from the outside world, and to be surrounded by Creation, I just expect something else entirely. Whether it will be in the form of more clarity, I do not know. It certainly does not need to be though. Sometimes, you learn more through asking hard questions that you have yet to find teh answer to. And sometimes you just need to consider that another step in the journey. At any rate, I go in with a feeling of optimism and openess of mind. I have not been this excited for a vacation in a very long time. I got my journal, some reading material, a camera, and just want to start.

I had posted it before, but for those curious about the trip it will be along more or less the same route that These guys took in 2004. Hopefully, I have learned enough about my new digital camera to get some pictures up when I get back sometime next weekend.

Joshua 1:3,5 - Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that I have given to you as I said unto Moses. There will not be any man able to stand before thee all the days of thy life, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.

I'll be at Radio Radio tonight for the Gentleman Caller/Mysteries of Life show and am accepting good luck pats on the back and Bourbon as farewells for a week. :)

Until next weekend...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

US World Cup Team Announced

The moment that many fans were waiting for happened yesterday when Bruce Arena, live on Sports Center, announced the US World Cup team. You can have a look as Joel and Jim have there takes on it.

Truth told, I've been recognizing over the past few years that I have been drifting more towards club over country. I think that may be because FIFA really has screwed up the World Cup Qualification process for CONCACAF. I watched most of the qualifiers, but there was never any feeling of a sense of urgency in them. There never really was any feeling that if the US didn't win this game they would not make the World Cup. That's what happens I guess when 3 1/2 spots come out of CONCACAF, there is always a huge safety net. It would take a collosal failure by the US not to make the World Cup, so all qualifying games felt like glorified scrimages to me. I foundmyself pulling for and against certain players because of their club affiliation, instead of pulling for the team of the United Staes.

Yesterday though, I was late to my second job as I stayed in to watch this team announced. I actually started getting excited again. For the team, and for the World Cup. Is it because players I don't think very highly of at all (Taylor Twellman) did not make the squad? Is it because players I hoped to see make the squad (Jimmy Conrad, Frankie Hejduk) made it? Or is it just because the time is coming round to get behind your team and hope for another terrific run like 2002.

One thing I noticed in the picking of this team, is that if you are a US Soccer fan and you have not been paying attention to MLS you are doing yourself a diservice and really might be out of your element when arguing for or against the inclusion of some players. Yes, MLS is not the Premeirship, but as 2002 showed and again is shown here in 2006, it is without a doubt the primary breeding ground for US National Team players. As it should be, as any domestic league in a half serious soccer nation should be. It is clear looking up and down the roster the effect that MLS has had. All 4 of our forwards have played in MLS or are there now. 6 of 8 of our defenders have played in MLS or are there now. And 7 of 8 of our midfielders have played in MLS or are there now. If you are serious about being a soccer fan in this country, it's time to start, at the very least paying attention to your domestic league.

The USA Today has a great breakdown of the roster complete with quotes from Arena. Definitely a good read. It's an exciting time. As has been uttered elsewhere, In Bruce we Trust! Go USA!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Weekend Film Review

This past weekend I was more or less bedridden. Not the best of feelings. No early morning runs. No chance to go out and see any of the Films at the Indianapolis International Film Festival. No Crew game on TV. Colds suck.

However, I did watch two movies during this time. Bob Le Flambeur and amazingly also The Man.

First to Bob Le Flambeur, this movie is phenomenal. In the Jean Luc-Godard bio that I am reading there is a small mention of the director Jean-Pierre Melville as an influence on Godard. It's of course true, as Godard even gave Melville an extended cameo in Breathless. Bob Le Flambeur tells the story of a gambler who plans an enormous heist on Grand Prix Day at a casino in Paris. There are many striking similarities between this and later heist movies like Ocean's Eleven. While watching this I thought this film either directly or indirectly influenced a great amount of films I love. At times comedic, at times noir-ish, this is a just a great film. Some have complained that Bob's character is too cold to relate too, but I didn't see that at all. We still have this at home via Netflix and I hope to watch it with my roomate when he sees it before we send it back. this is also going on a wish list for DVD's to own. Fantastic stuff.

The Man, well sometimes you just need a dumb comedy. And truth told, even though my roomate told me before that he liked this movie I still was skeptical when he brought it back from the video store. That said, company was over, popcorn was made and Evan Williams Bourbon in the glass I decided to watch it. Truth told I laughed much more than I anticipated. Sure it's a pointless film. It's not important in the grand scheme of anything. But, you could just got the feeling these guys had a good time making this movie and it showed. I really don't have much to say about this other than that. I guess I just have a little blurb here so the record can show I do watch films other than French New Wave or Criterion Collection. Sure I am a snob, but even snobs need a break every once in a while.