May 31st, 2008

Whale fluke

Work is working differently (job update)

It's been a complicated several days, but here's the quick sketch:

I'm working from home. AND THAT IS NOT A EUPHEMISM FOR "GETTING FIRED." It's more complicated than that. I am still drawing a paycheck, as I shift to new duties.

My job at OHSU is being phased out, as there was no longer enough work to warrant my working at the hospital. I have some OHSU work still to do, and my company is having me do non-Spheris work as well, so I'm still being useful.

I spent yesterday afternoon and evening dismantling my hospital workstation and moving it home. Took a while; I was already tired. (And I had to drive up to the hospital twice because I'd left something I needed at home and didn't realize that until I was in the hospital.)

For that and for other reasons, I've been tense. Stressed. To the point of having trouble eating, which is rare for me. Working from home is a big unknown for me -- I've never done it for full-time work -- and whether or not I can do that will affect what sort of job I can do. So things are still unsettled.

One result is that, as I noticed today, I've lost a few pounds. They were pounds I could afford to lose, mind you, but I didn't want to lose them this way. Having almost no appetite for several days during the changes that led to my move is how it happened. (I don't know if I lost any of those pounds while sick a week ago; I was eating better then. I believe in "feed a cold and feed a fever"...) I feel like my appetite's returning; please let that be so.

Today is a day for myself. Go to a movie. Wear shorts. Walk around in the nice weather. Maybe take a nap.

I'm working through things, and I know that today will be a good mental health break.

Breathe, Chris.
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    Harvey Danger, "Flagpole Sitta"
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Online Retail Therapy

I have the funds to function! So I just used some.

I've indulged myself by buying a load of film score CDs. Stuff that's coming soon to me:

* Logan's Run, by Jerry Goldsmith. Disturbing electronic noodling exploding into enormous orchestral rumblings for the cheesily cool movie. There is, no, Sanctuary! There is, however, a cool ruined Washington, D.C. ...

* The Shoes of the Fisherman, by Alex North. This was North's first big score after his half-completed score to 2001: A Space Odyssey was rejected, and in fact he reused significant chunks of his 2001 music here. I have the LP of the score; Film Score Monthly released 2 CDs' worth of that score. It's a rather disposable film, by all accounts: basically new pope Anthony Quinn prevents World War III. It's an attempted epic; there's nothing "attempted" epic about the music, which is huge and wonderful.

* Mutiny on the Bounty, the 1962 film version scored thunderingly by Bronislau Kaper. Hearing only a few minutes of this score was enough to make me want a copy of the whole thing (which, by the way, is 3 CDs long).

* The Wind and the Lion, another by Jerry Goldsmith; it's one of the most muscular scores he wrote in the Seventies, for the John Milius adventure film (decent flick) with Sean Connery as Arab raider Raisuli.

I also bought another film score I won't name yet, as it's a gift for someone who might read this journal. Hey, [name not here]! You'll like [this score, also unnamed]!

There. I've stimulated the economy like it needs to be stimulated.

Next I'm going out to Indiana Jones, which the one-screen Cinemagic on Hawthorne is showing. I like going to a theater that still looks like an Eighties theater to see an Indiana Jones film.

“They were archaeologists…” (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)

Just saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I liked it. Not in love with it, and I went in to the film knowing it had flaws and moments to make you go “Huh?!” and “Oh, come on!” – I knew it was far from perfect – but a lot of the film made me smile, especially the world-weariness of Harrison Ford (who can still kick ass) as he reckons with red scare-era America along with archaeological riddles. And I remained smiling as I left the theater.

Time for reviewing thoughts:

  • At one point I thought So they gonna use the Repo Man theory of UFOs? No, but wouldn’t it have been a trip if they had? +

  • The film looks great, hands down, full stop, as all of the Indiana Jones films do. I find the look of this series very appealing, almost comforting; it always makes you feel like Indy’s in a real, dusty world. I like that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas eventually steered away from the initial idea Lucas had for Indy IV, which would’ve been called Indiana Jones and the Saucermen from Mars: I agree with Fatboy Roberts, who noted on his show that Indy’s adventures need to be tied in to the earth’s dirt, not to outer space stunts.

  • Shia LeBoeuf is really solid as Mutt Williams, the greaser kid who turns out to be a kindred spirit with Indy, and someone who Indy actually can trust. Finally I see the guy’s appeal, now that he’s not swallowed up by the ridiculousness of Transformers (his only other film I’ve seen). LeBoeuf got guidance from former greaser George Lucas on how to play that sort of guy, and what could’ve been a mannered aping performance stays natural, lived-in, and appealing (including his nervous tics). He’s a good guy. I’m not sure I’d see a film starring adventurer Mutt Williams, as Lucas has suggested they do, but maybe I’d read a book about him…

  • I laughed happily at how they sneaked in the Wilhelm Scream. And at the ants. And at the use of the snake. (Oh, right, I thought, Marion doesn’t know he’s scared of snakes…)

  • I mentioned world-weariness: I’m glad that the film addresses head-on that Indiana Jones has aged, and that he isn’t in love with the way the world’s developed in the 1950s. I contrast it with (of all things) Men In Black II: amidst that film’s silliness is Will Smith’s performance, which deserved a better film than the one he was in. Smith plays J as a man who’s aging faster than he should because of his job, and he knows it; but that film does almost nothing with that bit of characterization, as it basically falls over itself aping the decent original film. It’s a shame, especially since it’s tough for a young man like Smith to pull off that world-weariness and have it not look silly. (Even Orson Welles didn’t completely manage that when he played an old man in Citizen Kane.)

    Crystal Skull does use that, thank goodness. Indy’s had a lot of sadness and disappointment, personally and professionally, in the 19 years between Last Crusade and the events of this film…hell, from the end of Raiders on. Many men in his government don’t trust him, even though he was decorated in World War II. (“How many of those medals did you deserve?” one G-man asks.) He’s upright and trustworthy, but surrounded by turncoats, double agents, people who plum don’t earn trust, and the congenitally distrusting. It’s telling in a thematic way that Indy’s nearly killed by his own country’s weapon, which is why I forgive the silliness of how he survives the freaking nuclear blast: Indy has to stay on his toes around almost everybody, unable to expect that anyone else can rescue him, and that’s aged him.

  • Importantly (I think), the Indiana Jones films avoid the sequel trap of escalating action where everything must be bigger, bigger, bigger. Spielberg, Lucas, and the various writers they hired know that they can just throw Indy at a new situation and see how he reacts: he doesn’t need to be confronted with a BIGGER, MORE DANGEROUS SECOND ARK OF THE COVENANT or anything like that. They evoke the movie serials that inspired this series, but they know it would be a bad idea to have Indy in a scene that could be titled “Indiana Jones Saves The Universe!” like some serials would. Some of Crystal Skull’s later action does succumb to the “bigger than ever before!” mentality – the stunt involving the vehicle and the tree is one moment like that – but the film never goes completely nuts. (But remember that I’m very forgiving of science fictional plot twists. You might find it completely nuts.)

  • But one way this film nicely builds on the earlier films is that when Indy realizes who built the city he finds in the Amazon Basin, he says “They were archaeologists…” He’s found other kindred spirits, even if he’s missed them by thousands of years (or thinks he’s missed them…). And Indy’s also become less likely to automatically say “this belongs in a museum” (as he would have as a young man or in the 1930s) and is more apt to return objects to where they belong. It’s a character arc moment that I can’t imagine the creators of Lara Croft or the recent Mummy films bothering with.

  • I could’ve done without Indy and Marion becoming the Bickersons…

  • …or how “Ox,” John Hurt’s character, shows how he’s gone crazy… (Maybe “quiet crazy” would’ve been a better, less silly choice.)

  • Ah, hot college students are hot in many eras… I must have a thing for those Fifties glasses… ;-)

  • And yep, I’m in love with Cate Blanchett, even when she’s evil. Scorchingly hot. Mike Russell pointed out that though her Soviet scientist character is allegedly psychic, we don’t see her use that power (except slightly in her first scene); however, I think that detail’s mentioned to show that she believes both in psychic power and in its potential as a weapon, and that psychic power augmented by the crystal skulls is an ideal weapon. She wants to destroy the West by destroying our collective mind, and she thinks she’s found the way to do it.

  • I started thinking of this after I learned that Crystal Skull used science fiction plot elements: What would an Indiana Jones time-travel story be like?

    + Footnote: This makes me want to quote Repo Man:

    MILLER: I'll give you another instance. You know the way everybody's into weirdness right now? Books in all the supermarkets about Bermuda Triangles? UFOs? How the Mayans invented television? That kinda thing?

    OTTO: I don't read them books.

    MILLER: Well, the way I see it, it's exactly the same. There ain't no difference between a flying saucer and a time machine. People get so hung up on specifics, they miss seeing the whole thing. Take South America, for example. In South America, thousands of people go missing every year. Nobody knows where they go -- they just, like, disappear. But if you think about it for a minute, you realize something. There had to be a time when there was no people, right?

    OTTO: Yeah. I guess.

    MILLER: Well, where did all these people come from? Hmmm? I'll tell you where. The future. Where did all these people disappear to? Hmmm?

    OTTO: [doubtfully] The past?

    MILLER: That's right! And how did they get there?

    OTTO: [laughs] How the fuck should I know?

    MILLER: Flying saucers. Which are really?... Yeah, you got it. Time machines. I think a lot about this kind of stuff. I do my best thinking on the bus.

    • Current Music
      John Williams's scores to "Raiders" and "Jedi" (this took a while to write)
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