Sunday, March 27, 2011

It turns out you CAN go home again

Which in my case is not necessarily not a good thing.

The whole family is in Long Beach this weekend for my sister-in-law’s baby shower and to visit with my wife’s ailing grandmother. Since the baby shower is a girls-only affair, my father-in-law, son and I took advantage of the opportunity to head down to the beachfront main drag—the same strip where I worked for 12 years—pointing stuff out to my son (“...and that bar banned me for life...”), having a lovely time.

The Missus’s whole family LOVES to walk; apparently The Boy did not inherit that particular gene, however. This became painfully evident after the three of us had turned around and were headed back to where the car was parked and The Boy started fading fast. Belly-aching about the length of the walk, insisting we were heading the wrong way, eventually demanding to sit down and rest. So he and I sat down there on the very busy, very upscale sidewalk, our backs against a storefront and had a little talk (below). He reiterated his anti-walking stance and I explained that I understood, however the car was getting closer with every step we took, but we’d never get to it if we kept sitting on the sidewalk.

So he got up, and I got up and we kept walking.

We crossed the street at the light and we kept walking, but The Boy was slowing down again. Grandpa was about a half a block ahead of us by then. The Boy complained some more about the walk, and I said, “Suck it up, boy, we’re almost there.”

From behind us, I heard someone yell, “Hey, take it easy on him!” I turned around to see which concerned parent was butting into my fucking personal business to discover it was the pan-handler on the corner, obviously someone to whom any reasonable person would turn for parenting assistance.

And that’s when I ‘came home again,’ by which I mean, I turned into the aggressive, combative asshole I was when I worked at the newspaper on this street a lifetime ago.

I yelled back at him to butt out. He yelled back at me (we were a good thirty feet away from each other, with lots of yuppie bystanders between us), repeating his admonishment. I could feel my dander rising... So I shut my mouth and flipped him off behind my back as I turned around to walk away. He yelled again, “He’s just a kid!”

That’s when I lost it. I turned around on the very busy sidewalk and hollered back, “And you’re just a bum!”

He didn’t have a response to that, but just the same, somehow I knew it probably wasn’t my finest moment as a human being, let alone a parent.

All that work on repairing my karma from the life I led in Long Beach (and before), and in one moment of anger, I was right back to where I was 15, 20 years ago. Both literally and metaphorically. And it’s not like Tucson, where going there pre-pushes my buttons because I hated living in the place; I loved the hedonistic excesses I practiced while living in SoCal.

I suppose I should have ignored him completely—like we did when he tried to relieve us of our change when we walked by him earlier—but I was pissed before I even turned around to face my accuser. Whoever it was hadn’t seen me sitting down on the busy sidewalk with my son three minutes earlier and calmly encourage him to keep on trucking. They didn’t know that “Boy, suck it up” is a common, affectionate encouragement my son hears often. Frankly, they didn’t know a Goddamn thing about the situation and my first thought was just to give them the stink-eye. But when I saw who it was giving me parenting advice—loudly, in public, with no real justification based on my actions—I slipped right back into Bad-Fang Mode.

If the street-person hadn’t backed down, I was ready to go all-in. I just didn’t give a fuck. My trolley had slipped completely off its track.

In retrospect, I wonder if maybe the fact that I was that close to the edge wasn’t because of the uneasy night’s sleep I got last night, or the fact that I’ve been out of weed for days, or the fact that I’m always uncomfortable away from home... I’m thinking now it might be because being back in SoCal reminded me of how good I used to have it compared to the scary mess that is my life these days, and it forced me to contemplate the loss of that comfortable lifestyle, and it made me angry.

I don’t regret having moved on from Long Beach, but I do resent having worked so hard for so long to suddenly find myself on the short end of the stick, both financially and in terms of prospects for the future.

And now I’m even angrier because I made an asshole out of myself in front of my son. About 10 seconds after we resumed walking away from the confrontation, The Boy looked up at me and said, “I love you, Daddy.”

And I thought, Little Man, whatever for?

“Sucker Punch” movie review

As a full-length movie, it made an excellent 90-second trailer. But just look at the picture above; how can I be blamed for being tricked into thinking this movie wouldn’t suck rotten eggs!? Spandex-clad babes with guns, post-apocalyptic hellscapes (I have to pay a royalty to the Tucson Chamber of Commerce every time I use this phrase, btw), even giant killer robots.

How could this movie not rule?

It’s not even worth the effort to count the ways.

Until this alleged film, I had total faith in the director, Zach Snyder of “300” and “Watchmen” fame. But now I see that his talent lies in adapting other people’s ideas, because he apparently has none of his own. Thank God his next film is a re-reboot of the “Superman” franchise, another adaptation sure to be filled with other peoples’ good ideas.

I’m sorry, Nick! Next time I’ll read the reviews, I promise. Or better yet, let you pick the film...

There is nothing about this I do not like:

Watch it soon, though. The Missus assures me the various copyright holders will have this clip pulled down in no time and she’s probably right.

Friday, March 25, 2011

This post has no clever headline

I never really knew either of my grandmothers.

My Dad’s mother passed away before I was born, and my maternal grandmother died when I was about The Boy’s age. The only real memory I have of her is walking over to my grandparents’ house once and giving her something, I suppose it was a drawing, since I did a lot of drawing as a kid.

A couple weeks later she lay down to take a nap and never woke up.

In retrospect, it was weird. I’d never made a call on my grandparents before—my grandfather had suffered a stroke, again before I was born—and their house and him in particular always gave me the creeps. I still wonder what motivated me over there that day, so shortly before she died.

It wasn’t for another 35 years that I would gain another grandmother, when I met and married The Missus and inherited her maternal grandma. I wanted to call her “Grandma,” but she insisted I call her “Dorothy.” It still doesn’t feel right to me.

She was—and is—a frisky old gal. The matriarch of an extremely close family, she lives in a cute little house on a corner lot. One of her daughters lives three doors down, and my wife’s parents live next door to her aunt. Her other daughter lives about a 10-minute drive away.

If my family still lived in that kind of physical proximity to each other, oh my goodness, there would be blood, and lots of it. I’d heard a lot over the years about the existence of non-dysfunctional families, but until I got married, the closest I ever came to one was on TV sitcoms of the ’50s and ’60s. And one Christmas in Maine with my friend Kath’s family, but I never made it back to Maine.

Dorothy is well into her eighties, but is still fit and sharp enough to be actively at the center of every event and occasion. Each Christmas, she’s the MVP, hosting the entire extended gaggle of in-laws and outlaws for homemade, artery-clogging holiday awesomeness and a staggeringly generous amount of gift-giving. Every Fourth of July, she and the whole clan make the trip up to Yosemite and rent a deluxe cabin or several and spend a week hiking the trails, enjoying the river and drinking wine that does not come in a box.

She is the fulcrum of that family.

And she’s become a great friend to me, as well. I am by all accounts one odd duck, and to a lot of people, apparently, I come off as aloof and disinterested, when really I’m just uncomfortable being around all that familial affection. It’s not my background, it’s not my experience. But I’m always comfortable around Dorothy. Maybe it’s because she’s the same age as my own Mom, and I feel at home with members of The Greatest Generation—as long as I’m not directly related to them.

Maybe because she’s just so goddamned cool; we even turned her onto “Lost” and she loved it.

But it’s probably mostly that she is the picture-perfect Grandma, like something out of a Bing Crosby movie from the ’40s. And I had never had that until Dorothy. I didn’t think I ever would.

Now the other shoe drops. All of a sudden, Dorothy has cancer. Lots of it.

That’s the bad, awful news. Mitigating it somewhat (for me, anyhow), is the fact that she has so much of it, she is not expected to have to suffer it for long.

Also in the mitigating column, The Boy has a memory like a steel trap, and I’m confident he will remember this remarkable woman—his great-grandmother—much better, and with more affection, than I remember my own grandmother.

Everything else about it just sucks, though. The thought of Christmases-to-come without her kind, encouraging presence looms like a lead weight tied around my heart. The Missus is going to be devastated; she already is, in anticipation. I cannot overstate how close she is to her Grandma—it was to her house young Missus Bastardson went after school every day as a kid. She is like a second mother to her.

So the Spring Break in SoCal next week that has long been in the works for The Missus and The Boy has turned into a dark, forbidding rite of passage that will somehow have to be endured. Smiles will be forced. Tears will be choked back. Sadness will reign.

I’m even flying down for the first couple of days. Dorothy still feels okay and I don’t want to miss this opportunity to spend what may be my last quality time with the only Grandmother I ever knew well enough to love.

. . .

Roseanne Cash wrote a song for her father toward the end of his life, and with their permission, I will close with it here.

September When It Comes

There's a cross above the baby's bed,
A Savior in her dreams.
But she was not delivered then,
And the baby became me.

There's a light inside the darkened room,
A footstep on the stair.
A door that I forever close,
To leave those memories there.

So when the shadows link them,
Into an evening sun.
Well first there's summer, then I'll let you in.
September when it comes.

I plan to crawl outside these walls,
Close my eyes and see.
And fall into the heart and arms,
Of those who wait for me.

I cannot move a mountain now;
I can no longer run.
I cannot be who I was then:
In a way, I never was.

I watch the clouds go sailing;
I watch the clock and sun.
Oh, I watch myself, depending on,
September when it comes.

So when the shadows link them,
And burn away the clouds.
They will fly me, like an angel,
To a place where I can rest.
When this begins, I'll let you know,
September when it comes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Things escalate on the Killer Robot front

The Boy was possibly even more determined today to get to work on his army of Ultrons as soon as he got home than he was yesterday.

So I transitioned him over to my old light table (see: 20th century newspaper production), set him up with a drawing of Ultron we’d printed out from The Google and let him go:

. . .

I think we’re officially past the “planning” stage and are going to have to move on to actual production next.

Anybody—and I’m looking at you, The Jeffs—who can help us with the laser death rays for the eyes, please leave your contact information in the comments.

On behalf of our future mechanical Overlords, I thank you.

Killer Robot Apocalypse progress report (#1)

The Boy came home from school yesterday and announced that he was determined to “build an army of Ultrons.” Before I could say anything, he asserted that he was not talking about pretend Ultrons, or playing a make-believe game—he and a preschool pal are deadly serious about building and unleashing an army of actual bloodthirsty killer robots.

I liked his initiative. It was good to see him willing to tackle a big project.

So I said, Okay. What’s our first step? “Metal,” he said. “We need to find some metal.”

After we had scavenged one of the dog’s bowls and a handful of paperclips, I asked him, What do we need to do next?

He said he didn’t know, and I told him that robots require circuitry. He asked me what that was, so we were off to The Google for a few minutes to look at pictures of circuit boards. I explained we’d have to solder all those tiny pieces of wire to the board, gluing them in place with dots of melted metal.

Then we spent a few minutes looking at pictures of soldering guns, with him encouraging me to “Scroll faster, Daddy, scroll faster…”

When I warned him about the logistical difficulty we were likely to encounter getting our hands on some death rays for Ultron’s eyes, he finally began to get impatient with me. “Let’s just start!”

I said, Okay. The first thing we need is a plan. We can’t build a robot from scratch (“Ultron,” he reminded me) without a plan, because we needed to know in advance how all the pieces were going to fit together. That made sense to him, so I sat him down with a pen and paper and said, “You’d better get busy on the blueprints.” He’d gotten as far as the head and shoulders when we dragged him off to bed last night.

Hopefully he will come home from school today with a new project in mind, one that won’t necessarily require humankind’s extermination at the hands of killer robots.

Or maybe not. Boys will be boys.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Obama gets his war

Well, Obama’s in the shit now. He can stamp a big hopeful, changey “O” on Libya.

As I type this, I am amused at how close the word “Libya” is to the word “Dubya,” and how appropriate it is I am recalling him now, as the United States flings itself into yet another middle-eastern hot spot.

(Maybe we need to avoid presidential candidates with signature initials in the future?)

As soon as CNN sent the word to my cell phone that our planes were throwing bombs, I did what I’m used to doing at these times, and turned on Fox News. Wall-to-wall coverage. Switched over to CNN. Commercials. Back to Fox News.

Fox News is like having a fly-on-the-wall view of the opposition’s war room. Whether the GOP marching orders come from Fox or are just reported there hours or days earlier than elsewhere, when shit is jumping off, you can count on Fox News to be right on top of it. Albeit in their weird, slanted way. But once you know how to filter out the bafflegab and editorial tilt (hint: watch the pictures, don’t listen to the words coming out of their mouths), they do a pretty good job of being Johnny On The Spot. I didn’t even bother to check MSNBC. Besides having a liberal axe to grind—the yin to Fox’s yang—which I hate, they run prison reality shows all weekend. They’re not even a full time news organ.

But I digress…

For the record, Fox’s spin is that bombing the hell out of brown people is always fine, but Obama waited too long to start in the case of Libya.

And I half agree. If the U.S. was going to jump in, the time to do it would have been when Libya’s military was opening fire on their own people, not a week or two afterwards. Now we just look late to the party.

But that’s strictly a philosophical construct. Because it’s hard to see how reinforcing the branding of the U.S. as “Crusaders” in another Arab country right now, even as we try to hide behind NATO’s skirt, is anything short of a historic blunder.

Yes, Gadhafi is a madman. He’s a tyrant and a murderer of his own people. But so is everybody over there. Nobody’s hands are clean. It’s the same thing I said when Bush Jr. invaded Iraq. If we use the leaders’ misbehavior over there as justification to invade their countries, we have an entire continent on our to-do list. And we don’t dare turn our judgmental eye on Asia, lest it fall on the dictatorial overlords who run China and to whom we owe most of our assets for the next couple of generations.

That is not what I signed up for, nor is it what anyone is claiming the founding fathers had in mind, either. They would have been cool if we went to war because, say, a country with whom we had mutual military and political interests was under the gun. An ally. But basically, America was formed to protect its citizens’ freedoms, not those of the entire world. Or those of foreign nations not allied with us, but sitting on top of large quantities of the world’s most precious commodity. (Sorry everybody selling gold on Fox—in case of a real emergency, oil will power your car and light your home a lot longer than gold will.)

I admit, America’s franchise grew considerably after WWII, largely because that war produced two super-powers at its end and without the U.S.’s ever-expanding military muscle to keep the Soviets at bay, old Uncle Joe Stalin would have had us all speaking Russian by now.

But that was the Old World Order, this is the new. And the new paradigm is, conventional warfare is becoming as unwieldy as useless as marching and firing in blocks-long rows of soldiers turned out to be for the British in our own war of revolution. As times change, so do tactics. And these days, launching bombs from miles away that invariably produce exhaustively documented proof of extensive civilian collateral damage is nothing more than an excellent way to speed up the next 9/11.

With the communications revolution that is inarguably upon us must come the understanding that the battlefield has shifted once again. Optics are everything. And the same way the optics of Egyptian freedom fighters having cans of Made-in-the-USA-labeled tear gas lobbed at them was bad—the same way Abu Ghraib was bad—this military intervention is bad.

Even assuming our intentions are entirely noble—which they never are—the perception as well as the reality is, the U.S. is now involved in a three-front war with Muslim nations. And believe me, in the Muslim world, where it really counts, that is the perception. Even less than oil, they see it as religious persecution. After eight years of the Bible-thumping of George W, how could they not? Obama may look like them, but he’s acting more and more like his reviled predecessor.’s headline right now is “Gadhafi Promises Long War.” And just to keep it interesting, this time we have been cast as the “new Nazis.”

I guess everybody is someone else’s Hitler.

Recently, my nephew the Marine learned he was gonna receive a posting to Okinawa in a few months, then ride out his enlistment in the cushy bosom of one of the few “safe” military gigs then available. The whole family breathed a sigh of relief; finally something was going our way.

Now, that cushy gig in Okinawa is suddenly looking as unhealthy as being sent back to Afghanistan to serve out his bit, if not more so. And with a three-front war looming, based on Obama’s record to date, you can bet he will turn to W’s stop-loss program to keep bodies in the field when the need arises.

I’m frequently reminded of a Bono quote from the ’80s. I don’t remember what issue of Rolling Stone I read it in (U2 were cover stories about three times a year during the late ’80s) or who he was talking about, but I see now that it applies to Obama as much as anyone. He said, “No matter who you vote for, the government always gets in.”

And sure enough, instead of being the mavericky firebrand he campaigned as, Obama seems to have been consumed by the office and replaced by a stock presidential figure, plucking presidential decisions right off the same dusty shelves his predecessors have.

Well, have a nice war, Mr. President. Put this one in your cart and proceed to check-out. Meet the new Nazis, same as the old boss.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Awesome Coolness to report at last:

Tom Waits jams with Neil Young, above, at last night’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony.

Waits stayed in character while accepting his long overdue award, remarking, “They say that I have no hits and that I’m difficult to work with and they say that like it’s a bad thing.”

According to Tom, immediately after Waits’ 4-song set, Elton John noted, “If Jackson Pollack could sing, he’d be Tom Waits.”

Last year Leonard Cohen, this year Tom Waits... next year Rush?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Melting-down the myth of “safe” nuclear energy

It’s almost 2 o’clock Sunday morning as I sit down to write this. Due to a quirk of the calendar, in a few minutes it will be 3 a.m.

As of this moment, there are only “meltdown fears” looming in Japan. I hope it doesn’t get any worse, but by all accounts, it isn’t getting any better, either. Nuclear power plants are exploding and radioactive gas is being released into the atmosphere.

It’s like page 50 of a Tom Clancy novel, and the first 45 pages have been spent outlining the technical specifications of the plants and the history of nuclear energy.

The next 30 pages are going to be nail-biters.

My first thought, and I had it yesterday but went to the movies instead of writing about it, was that that’s going to be the end of all that beltway bafflegab about throwing any more tax dollars at building nuke plants over here. Hopefully for at least a generation, ala Three Mile Island, or until something better, safer, is found sooner and we won’t be tempted to give nuclear another look in 20 years.

This isn’t a partisan issue. Weak-kneed Democrats starting at the very top of the food-chain, namely the president, have gone on the record as being pro-nuclear energy. I couldn’t believe it, the first time I heard him tick-off nuclear as one of the sources of energy that we were going to continue to pursue. I knew I had to vote for him anyhow, but his position on this issue really worried me.

Because I’m not a learned man. I’m mostly wrong about stuff, especially the closer to home you get. All the little decisions I’ve made in my life, when taken together, haven’t amounted to much. But Big Picture stuff? Common sense stuff? I’m always the first one out of a burning building.

And it really worried me that a guy I thought was as smart as Barack Obama considered nuclear power as a viable option. Because even take away the high risk of a nuclear accident—in places like Japan and California, which are riddled with nuke plants built atop high-risk earthquake zones—for me, it always came down to the spent rods that are produced in creating “safe” nuclear energy.

These spent rods are deadly on a Doctor Doom Scale of 8, with 10 being a sudden, extinction-level event. The plants make this radioactive byproduct, which stays radioactive for something just this side of forever, and we have nothing to do with it that isn’t going to come back to haunt us.

We bury them in the ground, we bury them at sea, someday I wager we’ll be shooting them out into space, too. Because once we create this deadly shit, we don’t have a good strategy for dealing with it, and it’s only going to accumulate and become a bigger and bigger problem over time.

Nuclear power was never a reasonable answer to our energy woes because of those spent rods. Say another meteor hits the planet in 100 years, and humanity is wiped off the earth. The planet has to start from scratch again, and it’s millions of years before some version of home-sapiens reappears.

Except at their ancient archeological digs, they won’t be unearthing the treasures of King Tut, they’ll be unleashing a radioactive plague left by their far-off antecedents.

That’s what nuclear power is. It’s inherently unsafe on its face. Crazy, plainly unsafe.

And this is the best-case scenario. The worst-case is currently being played out in Japan.

My second thought was, Oh God—Japan again? If any country should have known the devil they were dancing with, wouldn’t it be Japan? If any country had exhibited a fear of nuclear energy and earned a pass, it would be Japan. In addition to being the only nation that has had nuclear bombs dropped on them in anger, their country is a jigsaw puzzle of tectonic fault lines.

It’s a worst-case scenario, waiting to happen. I hope to Christ this isn’t it.

Either way, I pray it’s going to be this generation’s Three Mile Island, which stalled the construction of new nuclear power plants for decades. I hope this incident, however good or bad it eventually becomes, has an even stronger effect on this generation’s Captains of Industry.

It’s time to stop throwing public and private money at an unsafe, unsustainable power source like nuclear energy and fund instead the young science geeks who will make that quantum leap that will remove us from the collective teat of petroleum, coal and nuclear energy.

History shows again and again, if the financial titans can find a way to make a buck off the new paradigm, they will kick the old way of doing things to the curb faster than you can say “8-track tape.”

We can’t let the unfolding tragedy in Japan go into the books without a long-term upside, the way the horror of what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki have effectively kept the nuclear genie in the bottle for more than 50 years.

This is our moment of clarity. Unless the next great scientific revelation is a way to eliminate the dangers caused by spent rods, we need to “stick a pin” in nuclear energy and turn our attention—and our tax dollars—to something brand new. Until we abandon the old, invalidated theory that “safe” nuclear energy exists and can be harnessed, we won’t be motivated to pose the question that will ultimately lead to that as-yet-undiscovered answer.

Warp engines and repulsor technology are just waiting to be discovered, we just have to want it bad enough.

How about it? Do you want it bad enough yet?

I do.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Summer Comes Early…

…to the multiplex, if not Boise Idaho, which is still cold, wet and gloomy as, er... a night in an English bog.

All the locals are still saying about the weather, “It’s never like this!” It’s only a matter of time before they put two and two together and come up Witches, and we are burned at the stake to appease their pagan weather deities.

Until then, I’ve been going to the movies.

I Facebooked last weekend about what a surprisingly cool flick Rango was. It worked for me on every level. Pixar is really going to have to earn that Best Animated Feature statue at next year’s Oscars.

I went in with zero expectations—let’s face it, Johnny Depp’s hit-to-miss ratio is about 50/50 at best. Add that the movie takes place in the vast, arid plain of the great American Southwest (where I was brought up, much to my dissatisfaction and without a hell of a lot to show for it), and I thought it was going to be just a dreary ordeal. My disdain for the Southwest is almost as vast and withered as the land itself, and I went strictly out of a sense of parental/spousal obligation.

I can’t remember a time recently when I was so happy to be so wrong. It has a couple of cameos that alone make it worth seeing the movie. (One flashes by very quickly in the opening sequence, but if you’re a fan of Johnny Depp and his onscreen relationship with Gonzo Journalism, is priceless.)

The whole affair is so damned clever and fun and good-quirky. The Boy loved it and didn’t get itchy-assed even once. Plus, the Sunday matinee audience was packed with families and small kids, and as always, listening to the kids whisper questions/observations to their parents was almost as much fun as the movie.

Then yesterday I finally wriggled free of some onerous, odious work obligations and snuck off to see Matt Damon’s latest paranormal thriller, The Adjustment Bureau.

Now I usually never give away plot points, but in this case, I feel like I must. So, SPOILER ALERT, Last Boy Scout: I thought this was going to be a movie about sci-fi, time-travel/alternate universe stuff, but it ended up being a much more traditional, old-Hollywood kind of affair. You know, like the last episode of Lost.

What’s interesting is that as I’m writing this, I realize that if The Adjustment Bureau had been released, say, 70 years ago, nobody would have batted an eye. The atheist lobby were very much in the closet back then. But even I took a little umbrage at the plot turn of events. I kept waiting for the Morgan Freeman cameo, if you know what I mean.

But in classic-era Hollywood, this kind of plot would have been almost by-the-numbers. Sometimes magic actually did occur, like Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, or even as recently as Warren Beatty’s Heaven Can Wait in the late-’70s.

But today it just felt preachy. In retrospect, I don’t think it was, but relative to the current cultural environment, it was kind of a bold move to go the spiritual route rather than the sci-fi/tech-run-amok. Especially after the media and fan backlash against the last episode of Lost.

I also think it was deliberate marketing misdirection—I fully went in expecting high-end sci-fi, not squishy theology. That and the fact that I had stumbled into a barely-attended close-captioned screening of the film really left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt like I had been lied to, twice.

Anyhow, I hit the head briefly after the screening, and on my way out, struck up a conversation with another guy exiting the bathroom. We were still talking as he approached his two buddies, waiting for him outside of the theater playing Battle Los Angeles. The four of us walked in together.

I haven’t snuck into a movie since I was a kid. It seems much more scary now. I don’t think I’ll be doing it again soon.

Battle Los Angeles certainly lives up to its title. There’s this movie-length battle, see, and it takes place in Los Angeles? The end.

Oh, and the bad guys are really bad. Evil aliens, like high-tech Predators, bent on the annihilation of mankind. Naturally, they came extremely well-prepared to meet that goal.

And of course, the evil ET’s foolproof plan also has an Achilles Heel a mile wide that an intrepid but diminishing force of good guys spend the movie looking for and then finding a way to exploit.

Throw in a few just-plain-folks who require rescuing—a plot MacGuffin that would be bewildering if the movie ever slowed down enough to give one time to ponder it—and you’ve got a B-grade summer blockbuster. Except the numbers-crunchers must have watched it and said, “Sorry, don’t quite have room for it on our summer super-calendar.”

It’s kind of Cloverfield meets Platoon, with an emphasis on Cloverfield. Or maybe it’s a just a feature-length advertisement for the United States Marines, in which case, it succeeded admirably.

Still, the couple of hours passed quickly and pleasantly enough. But I’m not sure it passed the “Would I finish watching this at home on DVD?” test.

Today the family went together to see Mars Needs Moms. I guess it’s based on a beloved book I’ve never heard of, but it was family-appropriate and we like to expose the kid to class n culture and whatnot, as much as possible.

The animation style was that awful motion-capture stuff. Not the photo-realistic Avatar-style either, more the Polar Express kind. Actually, exactly the Polar Express kind, this film coming from the same animation studio, whose name escapes me.

Maybe it was meant to better capture the otherwordly aesthetic of the source material. Hell, maybe it even succeeded, but I just find this style of animation… outmoded. Like it was a cool idea for a little while, but it didn’t pan out. They even ran film clips of the actors being filmed wearing their blue-dotted space-suits over the end credits, completely destroying the illusion for anyone who might have been buying it up till then.

Plus, you could have hung meat in that theater. It was the Regal theater at Overland and Cole. If you’re local, you know the one. I went out early to complain—politely—about the cold, but was ignored. It wasn’t until The Missus went out about a sub-zero hour later that the temperature finally began to climb.

Anyhow, it’s been a lot of movies in a short while. Seems like every weekend the next couple months has an almost-blockbuster coming out. It’s like the summer movie season developed mission-creep. A lot of people will bemoan this fact because a lot of people just like to bitch about everything. But for hard-core geeks like me, hopefully it’ll mean not having to choose between two or three films I want to see every weekend between May and July, because a lot of them will have been released in March and April.

Man, I sure hope Atlas Shrugged opens in Boise!