Sunday, March 29, 2009

A multi-colored cardboard diorama

Spoiler alert - the plot and events in Watchmen, both the book and the film. This was originally posted on the Ships and Giggles board.

Weeks later, I've talked with a lot more people. Some of them liked the movie and others thought it was garbage. At least one of those people who didn't like the movie went back and read the book afterward. So as an ad campaign for the book, I guess it worked out. With regard to my own feelings on the movie, I still can't say I like it.

The folks who liked the film seemed to respond most to its visual elements, though a few here have suggested that the musical choices were interesting as well. I can not disagree more violently with the latter, though the former... I'd have to say yes, it's certainly a pretty film.

I'm watching Across the Universe at the moment, and I think that Zack Snyder tried to do with Watchmen what Julie Taymor did with the Beatles. While
I'm not sure that either is a great film, they're really pretty. I find the performances in Across the Universe to be much stronger, and obviously Taymor didn't use direct visual reference to the Fab Four. I think of the Watchmen film as a sort of cardboard diorama of the book. I still haven't heard or read of anyone saying whether the movie adds any additional value to the Watchmen experience. If you can think of a reason why anyone who has read the book really needs to see the film, I hope you'll please respond.

To compare the movie to its source material, it seems necessary to consider the elements that were changed from the book. Most of the changes I feel were in aid of making the conclusions for the audience: the song choices, the score over Veidt's opening speech, Manhattan's ability to let everyone see the world as he did, Dan Dreiberg's scream at the end of Rorschach. None of these are elements in the book. For a film that fans claim was so true to the source material, these little things make a huge difference. As I have said before, I initially felt that the choices were on-the-nose. In further consideration, that hasn't changed much. Where this is most vitally different from the source material is that I have always felt that Watchmen book let its readers come to their own conclusions and that was important. How much do we suspect Veidt when we first meet him? Do we really need to know specifically how Dreiberg might react at the end? Might he not have been much more pragmatic? Also, what happens to the metaphor when there actually existed a team called The Watchmen?

I'm still bothered by the addition of lengthy fight scenes and the gratuitous sex scene. That opening fight scene is completely out of character for The Comedian, I feel. Especially in light of his emotions in light of discovering the conspiracy. Watchmen to me is a book of conversations, where violence takes place in the context of those conversations.

Which brings me to Malcolm Long. Other than being a confidante to Walter Kovacs in the film, he doesn't serve any purpose. In the book, he serves in so many contexts - he is the well-adjusted person who is finally touched by the abyss and moved toward heroism, at least in my interpretation. Other than the obvious gag of showing Kovacs the blot-tests, what purpose does he serve in the film?

Click on the image for a closer look.

I'm not ready to conclude these thoughts. I'd like to hear your comments.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What a difference a day makes!

They told me that packing for the 24 Hour Cancer Dance-a-thon would be something like getting ready for a summer camp. I brought 12 t-shirts, one for every couple of hours and I was gonna leave my laptop at home. The 24 Hour Fitness Ultrasport didn't have wireless, so I would just have to rough it.

Here's the run-down: hundreds of participants volunteer for the weekend to go to a giant party. Before they come to the party, they ask their friends and family for donations, the proceeds of which will go to The City of Hope. In exchange for the donations, the participants promise that they and/or their team members will be on the dance floor for the entire duration. Live bands, contests, dance classes, great company - it's not a bad deal in the least. In past years, the event has raised an annual average of over $100,000 to benefit cancer research. So it's a giant party that helps to make good things happen.

Pictures by Mike Wolfe unless otherwise noted.

I was the leader of Team Old School. The team had originally been made up of dancers who liked classic jazz music and who were inspired by vintage dance footage. This year, I invited some of my students to join the team. The more bodies the better. At the outset of the event, we had over a dozen members. We were planning a bake sale, and I made sure to remind everyone that a bathing suit makes you that much more welcome in the jacuzzi.

About the bake sale, Jen Hollywood is famous for her cupcakes (she'd bring Caramel Mocha and Chai spice, as well as a secret stash just for the team), at least in our friendly circles. I'm a ribbon winning pie-maker (I was experimenting with Kiss my Buttermilk again and had the idea to make Ginger Apple pie, modified from this recipe) and Karin Pleasant would pitch in with cookies and brownies.

When we got there, we pulled a spot between The Cult of the Eye and the Swingin' Clientele. We also had a spot next to the free water and the restroom, so go Team Old School! The other teams made up for our lack of youthful enthusiasm. Most of the folks that I spoke to seemed a little perplexed about the Cult, but they seem like fun folks. I heard that they have a party called Waffles of the Damned, where they get together for waffles and zombie movies.

Moon-faced and starry-pied

Laurinda Steinmeyer brought our tent set-up. I hadn't met her before but she'd been dancing in Orange County since the early 90s. She's one of the Disneyland generation - those dancers who learned at the weekly dance there. She had a ton of supplies, including our tent, chairs and tables. She also made our really cool Team Old School sign, including some required information about skin cancer and the team motto:

Team Old School - It's like New School, but Old.

Tise Chao is a founding member of the team. I believe she dates back to The Derby, like I do. We like to tell the same in-jokes back and forth, about whipped cream and beef & broccoli.

Todd, Tise, Rachel and Jonathan
Thanks to Tise Chao for this pic

One of my favorite bands had the marquis spot for the weekend. Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five with Hilary Alexander. These cats know swing!

Old School members Laurinda Steinmeyer and Mike Lopez
Thanks to Laurinda Steinmeyer for the pic.

Jen Hollywood (yes, that's her real name) drove in from Santa Barbara to participate in the event. She's comes from that late 90s Santa Barbara crowd, I think. I've known her since one of the Laughlin bus trips back in the day. She still comes down to dance in Los Angeles from time to time.

A few of the other members of Team Old School, including some students of mine from my class at LindyGroove: Ashley Mee, Mike Wolfe, Kirsten Welge and Jorge Estrada.

There were a ton of classes scheduled that weekend. It was good having the students on the team, because they were on the floor when we old fogies were restin'. That Jorge was our team madman. I think there was barely a moment when he wasn't on the floor. He was definitely doing a lot of the heavy lifting for our team, being on the floor when everyone else was asleep.

In the meantime, I spent a lot of time conserving my energy. If by conserving my energy I mean hanging out with cute girls.

Photo by Paul Almazon

Do I have a thing for cute blonds with glasses? You decide.

Did I mention dance contests? There were several that weekend.

Video by Roxie1589

This Jack and Jill was the first contest of the weekend. For the non-dancers reading a Jack and Jill is a contest in which dancers are partnered up randomly. In the footage above, I'm dancing with little Morgan, a new dancer from the inland empire who was probably the youngest participant at the event. There were plenty of babies around, but mostly they weren't working too hard.

Wait a second. Matt from the Cult of the Eye was selling a minute worth of holding his baby for a buck. That little cultist had to have been the youngest one there!

Photo by Laurinda Steinmeyer

Bernard of Hollywood and Karin Pleasant represented our team in another contest that night. I didn't see it, but apparently they won a hundred bucks for our team. I think I might have been in the jacuzzi when that happened. Congratulations to Bernard and Karin!

Here's a video with Bernard and Karin in the semi-finals:

video by Matt Jenkins

Here's clip from one of the jams that weekend. I think this is around 1 in the morning, but who can remember?

Video by Matt Jenkins

This is what happens when you dance in the jams: pretty girls spooning. That's just a lesson for you non-dancer folk: dancing is fun and mental.

Photo by Tom Hong

Photo by Tom Hong

The Atomic Cherry Bombs:

Video provided by Shesha Marvin

Event MC Kyle Smith. Photo by Laurinda Steinmeyer

Shaheed Qaasim and Amanda Marchand. Photo by Shane Karns

At 6am I made a parking trip. What our team does is we collect all of the team parking stubs and then send out one person every four hours to re-park and get new tickets. This means that we can park for free at the event and it also gets us out of the building in case someone's feels like getting outside. I always forget that the parking lot is open access after midnight, so we did this for several hours without need. But better than having to explain the plan to someone in the wee hours of the morning.

Photo by Chris Gandhi

Then there was the only class I took that weekend. I hadn't heard of Aubri Siebert before, but she did the annual wake-up class, which had previously been done by Mikey Pedroza. She taught a bright charleston routine and for a non-morning person was pretty much a charmer for the folks in the class. I'd take a class from her again in the future!

By the way, I brought pajamas but forgot to change. I did change between the wake-up class and later, but I haven't found any pics from those hours.

Photo by Paul Almazon

One of the perennial competitions at this event is the t-shirt customization contest. Every participant gets a shirt, but some very creative folks spend most of their time making their shirts their own. This year saw some of the fiercest competition to date, with designers making bringing in heavy equipment to make their elaborate creations.

Where were you at 6:30am on March 14th? This is where I was.

Video by Matt Jenkins

The solo stylings of Danny Maika. Photo by Krystina Torres

One of the surprises of the weekend was a late morning performance by singer/songwriter Danny Maika. I've known Danny since the early Memories days and he's really been putting some great tunes together. He did a set of mostly classic rock covers that were surprisingly danceable. One of the highlights of the weekend was his one man rendition of Don't Worry, Be Happy. He sold a bunch of CDs that day and they're definitely worth a listen.

By the time 2pm rolled around, I had had 15 non-consecutive minutes of sleep. The event raised close to $128,000 for the City of Hope. The Cult of the Eye really did their work, raising over $21,000 by themselves. That baby rental plan really worked out!

The two top team Old School earners were Karin Pleasant with $555 and and Mike Wolfe with $465. If we take into account the $100 that she earned with Bernard in that contest, she's easily past $600. Good work and congratulations to Team Old School!

At the closing ceremony every year I get teary-eyed. Shesha and Nikki presented the ceremonial check. Then, much like summer camp, it was time to clean up and go home.

There's still time to donate to the event, if you're reading this before the end of March 2009. Since the event ended the totals have been upped past $130,000. Please visit for more information.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ed Brubaker's Angel of Death

Ed Brubaker is the new king of hard-boiled fiction. His comic with Sean Phillips Criminal hits in sucker punches to the soul. He's the guy who killed Captain America and if you haven't heard of him by now, you should look him up.

This is the first of ten episodes about Eve, a cold-blooded killer. It stars Zoe Bell, who did that death-defying car-roof scene in Death Proof . I'm looking forward to the rest of this series. Check it out: