Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Time Keeps on Slipping

My 15 year high school reunion is being held in October. I breifly considered going. But then I noticed it was being held in the Cafeteria. This took me to a secure psychological place where I could say, "no."

I mean really -- the cafeteria? What's on the menu; strombolis and gravy fries? How awkward will I feel sipping beer underneath the 6 foot tall portrait of St. Francis Xavier? Worse, should I drop my beer, wil my entire class reflexively chant, "dick" just as they did over dropped cafe trays all those years ago?

Besides, with a few exceptions, I still see the people that matter to me from that era. I kept my close friends -- and the few that drifted mostly did so for good reasons. Most of the time when I bump into old classmates, its usually a sad moment when I realize how little many of them of changed. (But, not always...)

Take, for example, my picture of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine posted above. (No, ladies, I didn't go to school with Hugh, so don't ask.) Isn't he silly looking. I have a theory that Wolverine is badass because he's defensive about that hair style. And believe me, that movie cut is tame compared to the super-pointy comic book version. So imagine my shock a few years ago when I turned the corner in my bookstore and found the class geek standing in the aisle wearing the same outfit I last saw him in: jeans, denim shirt, and jean jacket with super-hero buttons. And his haircut was the comic book Wolverine hair-do complete with the sideburns!

I turned tail before he could recognize me and hid in the stockroom. As I cowered in a dark corner, I realized with a shiver that my classmate had been browsing the new parent section.

The horror. The horror.

Maybe it's just me, but as Lovecraft put it, "There are some things man was not meant to know," and this was one of them. Do I really need to go to a reunion and discover roughly 200 different terrors like that? Or would I just confirm my classmates' suspicions about me?

I'll stay home and read comic books to my own daughter.

Lost Books and Fantasy Stories

One of my all-time favorite books will be getting the full silver screen treatment next year. Benjamin Bratt stars as Victor Castillo in Tan Like the Desert Sky.

Describing TLDS is almost impossible. Based loosely on one man's true story, this novel is like life. It is tragic, but has more than a dash of comedy, muses on philosophy, contains a touch of farce, and splashes in a little irony.

Written by the notorious lothario Michael Zick, the sadly under-read TLDS follows the life of hapless protagonist Victor Castillo as fate buffets him across the years and landscape of the American Southwest. If you have ever appreciated the verbal paintings of Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop, then you have been prepared for the majesty of TLDS. Zick's unforgettable imagery was seared to my retinas: everything I looked at for hours seemed burnt sienna red.

The characters are more than memorable. They shift hauntingly between fully realized human figures and mythic archetypes. But each has an important impact on Victor's life, and shapes his destiny.
Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek cameo as Victor's parents. The mutilating car wreck that opens the novel will both shock and amaze you.

Cheech Marin will play the Dickensian Head Administrator at the brutal orphanage in which Victor grows-up. Cameron Diaz will play the insightful Biology teacher who recognizes Victor's brilliance, and eventually teaches him the ways of love.

In a major casting coup, the entire Sheen clan, Martin, Charlie and Emilio Estevez will play the family of grifters that teach Victor how to survive the rough streets of El Paso.

Jack Black plays the grizzled vice cop who inadvertantly rescues victor from the clutches Penelope Cruz's harsh brothel bedroom.

Jessica Alba plays the angel who finally redeems Victor on his hospital bed as he lies dying of incurable syphillis.

Lou Diamond Philips will reprise the role that made him great as Ritchie Valens' ghost, a spirit guide who doles out advice to Victor whether he wants it or not. Prepare to dance La Bamba again!

This is going to be the best movie since Peter Jackson's King Kong remake!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Mira Sorvino

Tara Reid, or "Love is a Burning Thing"

Tara Reid is like that girl in high school who everyone seemed to "know."
Is it any wonder that I fended off two virus attacks just searching for pictures of her?
The polits thig, I suppose would not to say anything, if I can't say something nice -- but she makes no effort to treat herself with respect, so why should we?
Well, the most charitable thing I can say is: Tara is just a convenient scapegoat to teach this moral
Protect Your Reputation; it's the only thing that's truly yours.

Go on -- look all you want. She wants the attention.

Big Buki

While the samurai swords get most of the attention these days, the truth is that during the Sengoku, or Warring States, Period of Japanese history, the primary battlefield weapon of the samurai was some kind of polearm. Most martial traditions, or Ryu, developed and taught specific tactics and techniques for their use.

One the left is a miniature figure wielding a naginata. By the late fifteenth century, these had actually fallen out of favor among most warriors. But for centuries priviously, this long shaft topped by a deadly, curved single edged blade was an extremely popular weapon. The Sohei, or warrior monks, were particularly well known for their expertise with this weapon.
The miniature on the right is armed with an unusual weapon, the O-Tsuchi, or warhammer. This was not a nimble weapon, and required a high degree of skill to use effectively on the battlefield. The advantage was that it crushed through armor easily. This was very useful against other well-armored samurai, but not as effective against the increasing number of arquebus-armed, peasants of the light infantry called Ashigaru.

The strangely shaped tool on the left is a juji-yari, or cross-shaped spear. The normal spear was the most popular primary weapon of the Sengoku samurai. It could be used as a lance in a cavalry role, and as a pike or light halberd in close combat. The Juji yari was popular among advanced practitioners for its hooking and trapping abilities.

On the right, the two gentlemen in white on the basketball court are demonstrating a kata from the Hozoin Ryu of sojutsu, or spearmanship. The Hozoin Ryu belonged to a temple of warrior monks and because they were willing to teach outsiders, it was a popular desitination for warriors wishing to test their skills. It was widely regarded as one of the most powerful forms of spear technique, and Miyamoto Musashi was suppossedly defeated by Hozoin monks several times before harnessing the essence of his own technique and defeating their champion. But this is one of many possible apocryphal stories about him.

On the left is Masaaki Hatsumi, head of the Bujinkan. He is brandishing a dai-katana. These were oversized swords used much the same way their two-handed broadsword counterparts were used in Europe: to smash apart lines of pikemen protecting musketeers. The dai-katana was heavy and slow, but it was devastating in the chaos of clashing battlelines.

Which brings us back to the Naginata. The two pictures of naginata wielding martial artists give some hint of the fierce motions of their practical use. The nagainata were whirled around the user in a furious tornado of energy. The great sweeping cuts often amputated heads and limbs, especially legs. The blunt end of the shaft battered aside the defender's weapons or stunned them with strikes before the blade end finished the job.

This last tool went by many names. One of the most common is Tetsubo. It is a large, heavy battlefield version of the bo staff. Like the O-Tsuchi, the tetsubo required a great deal of agility to use. A good practioner wielded the Tetsubo as both an offensive weapon, and a defensive shield. By dancing around the weapon, the warrior could "hide" himself behind the log-like shaft of the Tetsubo. It is a surprising weapon to see in action, and requires extraordinary skill to use well.

Rogue Trader

Ever since high school, my friend, MD, and I have been talking about owning our own business. Back in the day, we dreamed of opening a bar, but as we got more savvy, we discovered that bars and restaurants are extremely hard to keep going. Employees tend to "help themselves," bar managers give away too many free drinks, and good help is hard to find and keep.

We've been exploring other options over the years. Just kicking ideas around. Our latest thought is to open a hobby store with an emphasis on these little toy soldiers (Games Workshop's WHFB and WH40K) that I've mentioned on and off over these past few weeks. Games Workshop calls these independent game dealers "Rogue Traders" after similar independent characters in their WH40K fluff.

There are no actual hobby stores in our town. There is a full-on toy train and model shop in the next twon over, and not far from that is the baseball/sporting cards store where I buy the vast majority of my WH40K models. One more town over is a hobby shop in a mall. 30 minutes south of us is a huge mall with an actual Games Workshop store inside.

There's a pretty well-used retail district in our town, and even a well-known section for boutique shops called The Mews. What's interesting about the Mews is that many of the shops are for Ladies' hobbies, cross-stitching and quilting. There is also a comic book shop; but nothing else for men or geeks really.

MD and I both play games. I'm hooked on the Games Workshop "plastic crack" which I think has broad appeal especially among the younger set. MD likes the historical war games. I actually started with a historical samurai army before a co-worker pointed me at WH40K. We're thinking that carrying several lines of miniature games, and setting aside some space for game tables might help set us apart from the other stores in the area, and give customers a reason to keep coming back. We also thought we might carry supplies for building elaborate scenery for the game tables, and a few sideline items like T-shirts. Doesn't every man need a shirt with the legend: "Don't Tell My Wife What I'm Doing"? He's mentioned books, but I'm not sure how to compete with the Borders and Barnes and Nobles in the area.

We still don't have a name for our shop. So I'm open to suggestions. We're not rushing into this rashly; I still have a growing family and need to have health insurance. I figure it will be a couple of years before MD gets this off the ground, and it might even be a couple more before I jump my current ship to go in with him full-time. But I am opening it up to the floor here at Occam's Broadsword for further suggestions. Just don't expect any remuneration. But you can expect a smile when you come through the door.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Clive Owen

Clive Owen is one of my wife's favorite British actors. She also likes Jude Law, but he's a sissy boy. Clive here had been rumored as potential replacement for Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. He even showed his chops as The Driver in the BMW short films, and a Touchstone assassin in The Bourne Identity.

Xena-less Lucy Lawless

Arrgghh! September 19 is National Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Give me back my shirt, you rogue!
Which of you scalawags has my trousers?
Does this count as Pirate "booty?"

Don't believe in Talk Like A Pirate Day? Check this out.