Oakland Athletics, 2017

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There is a standard admonishment stated at the beginning of every Major League Baseball game broadcast that all accounts, descriptions, etc., without the express written consent of Major League Baseball are strictly prohibited. Which means I can’t write about a particular game I attended, lacking, as I do, the requisite express written consent. Instead, I’m going to write about this year’s Oakland Athletics experience in general, having attended two games so far in this still young season.

Both games I attended were Wednesday games with a 12:30 p.m. start time. Most weekday games are played at night so that people who work during the day can attend in the evening. The Wednesday games precede team travel days prior to a road trip. My work schedule having now changed, I am able to attend day games during the week and I promised myself I would go to as many of these Wednesday games as possible. There is nothing quite so indulgent as whiling away a few hours in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, when so many others toil. It feels sinful, but I am going to get used to it anyway.

The big news for the Athletics this year is not so much the team itself as the changes made to improve the fan experience. You might ask what could improve the fan experience when the Athletics home field occupies the Oakland Coliseum, known by fans throughout baseball as one of the less desirable stadiums. There are some reasons to think that. The Coliseum was completed in 1966. It is also a duel use stadium. In addition to the Athletics, the Oakland Raiders also play home games there, for the time being (more about that later). Also, despite the age of the stadium it does not have the sort of legacy, or shall we say “vintage” appeal of places like Fenway Park in Boston, or Wrigley Field in Chicago. So, it’s old, but not old enough or quirky enough to have any cachet.

Well, it turns out, the Athletics organization has done an admirable job making the most out of what they had to work with. This is due to the efforts of the new team president, a guy named Dave Kaval. The previous public face of the Athletics organization was a guy named Lew Wolff, who decided to sell his stake in the team and leave the organization. Mr. Wolff was know by most fans of the Athletics as the guy who tried to move the team out of Oakland. So, one big change to improve the fan experience is not having to think about him, or worry about the team leaving town. In fact, for me personally, that’s probably the most important change, and the Athletics organization seems to think so, too. They have branded the Coliseum with signs and banners with the declaration “Rooted in Oakland,” with a background of iconic symbols of the city, like shipping cranes (you have to be local to “get” that one) and the stylized symbol of the oak tree that serves as the city’s official logo.

And they’ve tried to lend some vintage cred to the place by naming the baseball field after one of the greatest Athletics, Ricky Henderson, so now it’s Ricky Henderson Field. They’ve also added a mechanized sign in center field in the shape of the words “Holy Toledo!,” which was the tag line of the great sportscaster Bill King. When they play the Star Spangled Banner, the words are washed over with a waving Stars and Stripes. And, in a stroke of genius, they have expanded the “interior” of the Coliseum to include an area outside of the physical stadium in the space between the Coliseum and Oracle Arena. They’ve named this area Championship Plaza, spruced it up with some artificial turf, picnic tables and, best of all, food trucks. Now, instead of being limited to the food and beverage concessions inside the stadium, you can get your food from one of the trucks and take it back to your seat. The difference in the quality of the food cannot be overstated.  The prices are much more reasonable, as well.

The concept of bringing the outside inside extends to what used to be called the West Side Club; now renamed “Shibe Park,” which harkens back to the days when the Athletics were in Philadelphia. There is an elevated patio area that adjoins Shibe Park and overlooks Championship Plaza; kind of like someone got the idea, “Hey, why don’t we open these doors and let a little fresh air in!” Shibe Park has also been upgraded from the old West Side Club configuration; it’s got a billiard table and a ping pong table. There is also a kid-friendly area on the patio with amusements such as a pitching cage, face painting, etc.

Someone told me that Kaval is not the one who came up with all these ideas; that he got these ideas by listening to the fans. If that’s true, it’s consistent with the feel of the Athletics organization these days. For the longest time fans of the Athletics have been saying, “Don’t leave! We’ll support you! We love you! You can stay in Oakland!” It really feels like someone listened, and perhaps that’s the biggest upgrade of all. You see, Oakland is about to lose the Warriors to San Francisco. And the aforementioned Raiders have a deal for a new stadium in Las Vegas. Both teams will leave Oakland in a few years. It feels good to know that at least the Athletics are committed to staying.

Now, as for the team itself, the season is still young and the Athletics have a way of outperforming and surprising people. A few years ago they beat the Texas Rangers (a far better team on paper) on the last day of the season to win the division. Then there was the “Moneyball” team with that crazy 22 game winning streak. They had a terrible record at this point in that season and they went to the playoffs. So, who knows what will happen. They’re a few games under .500 right now. All I know for sure is that the Athletics won both games I attended so far. Those Wednesday games; gotta love ’em.

Let’s go Oakland!

 

 

New York City, Part 3: Hello, Dolly!

On the second night of our trip to New York City we saw “Hello, Dolly!” at the Shubert Theater on West 44th Street. This was the first time I’d seen a play in the Broadway theater district. It struck me that most of the theaters are not actually on Broadway, but instead are located on the cross streets near Times Square.

Around six o’clock in the evening the area is teeming with people trying to get to the theater on time. The show we attended had a sign saying late arrivals will not be seated until intermission, so there is a sense of anxious urgency, especially when you’ve paid a lot of money for your tickets. Some people don’t like cities because they don’t like crowds. If that’s you, avoid Times Square. Myself being someone who likes cities and crowds, getting to the theater was chaotic and invigorating, being among all those thousands of people sharing a similar experience. To me, the place had a warm, joyous energy.

There were two long lines of people waiting to get into the theater and, being new, we didn’t know if which line we were in made any difference. We asked people standing next to us and they said they were wondering the same thing. It turned out there was no difference and once the lines started moving, they moved quickly.

Once inside there is a bit of a jumble in the lobby, which felt cramped. This was ameliorated to a large degree by the excellent staff at the theater, who were very helpful and pleasant. Real pros. I went to coat check and they charge a dollar to hold your stuff. I forgot to bring cash with me and the staff person said I could pay him at the end of the performance. When I went back I still didn’t have any cash and he gave me my stuff anyway, and was nice and understanding. I felt bad because I tip most everyone; I think that’s an important part of the economy.

So now we get to the part of this post where I “review” the play. Reader beware: I consider myself a novice observer of live dramatic arts. I’ve seen about twenty live dramatic performances, including six musicals, so understand this is my subjective opinion as someone who witnessed this particular performance on Saturday, April 1, 2017. I don’t present myself as someone you should take seriously as an expert on Broadway musicals. But maybe you have about the same level of experience. With that in mind…

I’d never seen “Hello, Dolly!” before, except for the film adaptation starring Barbara Streisand, which I own on Blu-Ray. Those who’ve never seen the film or dramatic version of “Hello, Dolly!” might have a meta-level introduction to it, if they’ve seen the Pixar film, “WALL-E,” which cameos scenes from “Hello, Dolly!” via an old video tape that the robot in “WALL-E” plays over and over. In the weeks between when I bought the tickets and when I saw the show, I was wondering how the play would compare to the film I know so well. For the uninitiated, “Hello, Dolly” is a romantic comedy set in early 20th century New York City. The main character, Dolly Levi, is a widowed matchmaker who wants to marry a semi-wealthy bachelor, Horace Vendergelder, owner of a grain and feed store. The comedy revolves around Dolly’s efforts to fix up Horace’s store clerk’s, Cornelius and Barnaby, with two women that work in a hat shop, including one to whom Horace intends to propose marriage.

There was an added level of charm conveyed by the setting of the musical. What could be better than seeing a musical in New York City when the setting is…New York City!

One question in my mind about this performance involves the casting of Bette Midler in the lead role of Dolly Levi. She did a great job, in my opinion. She may not be the best singer, or the best actress, but she is a great entertainer, with loads of star power. Indeed, it was the star power that had me questioning whether the quality of the overall performance relied too much on Midler’s cult of personality. For example, some of the best songs in “Hello, Dolly!” are performed by secondary cast members. I noted that those songs didn’t get the same level of reaction from the audience. In particular, the great love song “It Only Takes A Moment” received what I thought was tepid applause, as did the song “Elegance.” On the other hand, Midler got a standing ovation when she first appeared on the stage, before she sang a note. It would be interesting to see the musical again with the role of Dolly Levi played by the understudy, a woman named Donna Murphy, who will take over the lead role in a limited capacity starting in June.

Aside from Midler, my favorite performance was by David Hyde Pierce in the lead male role of Horace Vandergelder. He managed to wring out every ounce of humor from his lines, with incredible comic timing and physicality. His performance was subtle and I was impressed by his artistry. In fact, the whole cast was great. I also enjoyed the comic interplay of the two bachelors, Cornelius and Barnaby, played by Gavin Creel and Taylor Trensch. The Barnaby character did this funny thing where he would imply slyly that he has a man-crush on Cornelius. Like, what are those guys doing down there in the basement of the grain and feed store? And why is Cornelius 30 years old and vows to not go back to Yonkers from New York City “until we kiss a girl?”

Another stand out was Beanie Feldstein in the role of Minnie Faye, the secondary character from the hat shop. Beanie has, shall we say, an atypical “look” for an actress. Short, a bit on the heavy side, etc. Nonetheless, her acting, dancing, and singing were delicate and polished. She stole every seen she was in.

For me, the two highlights were the songs “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and “Before the Parade Passes By.” The title song, “Hello, Dolly!” was great, as well, but Midler really cut lose on “Parade.” The tone of her vocals on that number exuded a melancholy world weariness at the beginning, then, as though her character was not going to give in to life that easily, built to a rousing finish.

But for me, the best of all was “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” Starting with that famous line sung by Cornelius:

Out there, there’s a world outside of Yonkers
Way out there beyond this hick town, Barnaby
There’s a slick town, Barnaby!

A had a huge grin plastered on my face through that whole number. The only thing is that I love the show stopping dance sequence from the film. The stage at the Shubert was a bit too small to attempt to replicate that.

Then, of course, the theme song, preceded by the centerpiece dance routine performed by the waiters at the fictional restaurant, Harmonia Gardens. It was over the top, and by the end the dancers were breathing heavily from their exertions.

I recommend seeing “Hello, Dolly!” if you’re in New York. It’s the first Broadway revival of this particular musical since the original run, according to Broadway.com. The tickets are expensive if you’re not able to avoid after-market ticketing services, but it’s a throughly entertaining, extremely charming Broadway experience.

 

 

 

New York City, Part II, 9/11 Memorial

My daughter was born a couple of weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She’s 15 now, and this was her first trip to New York City. In the back of my mind I was thinking it would be good to hold off visiting the city with her until the site at ground zero had been repaired and the new tower completed.

On the first full day of our trip we took the subway to lower Manhattan and walked to ground zero. One thing that seemed odd to me is that even though the new tower is the tallest structure in Manhattan, you can’t see it as you approach. I was looking for it as a visual clue on how to get there, but the view of it is blocked by other tall buildings, so I had to use the map application on my phone for navigation.

Finally, you round a corner and there it is. Another odd thing is that it doesn’t look that tall when you’re right up near it. I think there must be an optical illusion at play related to the tower’s wide footprint and narrowing shape as it rises skyward. When you see the tower from a distance (e.g., from the Brooklyn Bridge), it is very impressive and there is a direct correlation between how far away you are and how tall the tower appears in relation to the rest of the skyline.

I remember visiting New York as a child and seeing the twin towers. By comparison, the new tower struck me as kind of an only child; somewhat lonely. The choice to build one tower instead of two probably had to do with the building site. The tower competes for space with the footprints of the twin towers, which incorporate the memorial and the museum, so my guess is building two towers was never a possibility. That said, they did a nice job of the fitting the new tower into the site without creating a shoe-horned feel; it looks like it belongs there.

If you plan to visit the 9/11 memorial, I recommend that you visit the museum first, before contemplating the fountain memorials inscribed with the names of those lost. The effect of the fountains will be much more profound that way.

Kudos to the people involved in creating the memorial and museum. I can’t imagine the difficulty of conveying the experience New Yorkers went through that day, while respecting the sanctity of the site itself, which is, in effect, the final resting place of those whose remains were vaporized in the collapse of the towers and could never be recovered. So, here is my subjective perspective on the memorial and museum.

To me, the most important aspect is that the footprints of the twin towers are incorporated into the museum experience. By that I mean there is an above ground structure that you enter, and after passing through security you go through an introductory exhibit that leads down into the ground to an overlook. When you get to the overlook you instantly realize that you are looking at the actual excavated area below where the towers stood; you recognize it from the innumerable television broadcasts that showed the workers digging out the debris. When I walked to the edge and looked down, my breath caught in my throat and my eyes moistened.

Care has been taken to retain features of the footprints; there are still pieces of metal supports sticking out the sides of the walls. The space hasn’t been prettied up at all, except for removal of the debris. A sloped walkway leads you down, down, into the ground, past a sign that says here is the epicenter of where the truck bomb exploded in the first terrorist attack on the towers back in the 90’s. You continue going down the sloped walkway until you are at the bottom, which is decorated sparsely with a few items: a crushed fire truck; a huge steel beam bent back on itself like a pretzel; a display case of personal items recovered from the debris field. There is also the so called “last column,” a rectangular monolith of steel and concrete that is covered with the names of various fire companies and other memories of the first responders. It’s devastating. There is nothing they could have created in that space more impactful than the simple space that was left when the debris was removed; it is unique, haunting, a bit claustrophobic, and evocative of the experience of those who died there, and of those who toiled there in the aftermath.

But nothing can prepare one for the museum within the museum; a structure that you enter through glass doors, and which contains a comprehensive multi-media recitation of everything that happened on 9/11. Through the use of video, news reports, photographs, sound recordings, recovered personal items, and projections, the museum re-creates the events of that day. I can’t imagine that someone can walk through it without reacting emotionally. For me, there were moments when I felt like I was going to lose it completely and I had a strong urge a couple of times to run and get outside. I imagine different people will react to certain things more strongly than others. For example, they have sound recordings of goodbye messages from the doomed left on voicemail and answering machines – the final calls to loved ones from the airplanes and the buildings. They also have children’s pajamas, toys, and blankets from the airplanes that somehow escaped destruction.

All of the people I met on the trip who live in New York, when I told them I had visited the memorial, said that they couldn’t go. They lived through it once already. I think the point of the place is for people who were not there on that day. While people who were not there have their own memories, visiting the memorial connects them more closely to the terrible events; something approaching but never matching the experience of those who were there.

Visiting the memorial is not a “fun” experience, but, I think, essential for anyone who wants more than a superficial understanding of what happened. People will react to it in their own way. For some, it will be cathartic; for others, painful; for others, life affirming; and, I think, for most everyone, a reminder of the best and worst of humankind.

 

 

New York City Part One: LaGuardia

We flew into LaGuardia because the airline I use doesn’t fly into JFK, which is a bummer. You know how a certain candidate for president kept saying during the campaign that some of our airports are like what you’d find in a third world country? He surely must have been thinking of LaGuardia. The place is, to put it mildly, an anachronistic dump. I took a trip to Costa Rica a couple of years ago and the flight was not direct; it had a stop in El Salvador. The airport there is much nicer than LaGuardia.

I live in northern California and most of the time I fly out of the airport in Oakland, which is an OK facility. I mean, we’re not talking Inchon in Seoul, by any means, but it’s fine. It’s shocking to report that the airport in Oakland is like Inchon as compared to LaGuardia.

We got off the plane at the B gates, which has like 28 some odd separate gates for departures and arrivals. 28 gates, and one restroom, with a sad sign posted letting you know that it is the only restroom for the B gates. Go inside the men’s restroom and there are three stalls and four urinals. The handicapped stall was “temporarily unavailable” so the one restroom was not even ADA compliant. Another stall had overflowed and there was some poor sap with a mop and bucket trying to clean it up. You have to go outside the security cordon to get to another restroom, so if you’re waiting for your flight to depart out of the B gates, or you just arrived at the B gates, you’ll be waiting in line should nature call.

You know how most gates have a “this side” and a “that side?” At LaGuardia B gates, there is no this side and that side. Instead, the concourse is so narrow, there is only “here we all are in the middle,” with no bump outs for the modest concessions. For arrivals, there is a sign directing you to the baggage claim, and when you get there you’ll see the lone carousel, so you don’t have to guess which one. When it starts up there is a high, thin, screeching sound like the guy playing the one string Chinese orchestra instrument at the farmers’ market in Old Oakland.

After we collected our luggage (my daughter’s bag was somehow ripped badly in transit), we went outside to a scene of absolute chaos. We tried to get a Lyft cab. Our driver was calling us and texting with apologies that the airport security forced him to drive right by us so as not to block traffic. The security people were out in the middle of the road screaming at the top of their lungs. I don’t really blame them, because the traffic was so bad and it was raining. To top it off, the cover over the waiting area leaked, so we were getting soaked while waiting for the cab to cycle around again.

There is no direct subway connection to LaGuardia; you have to take a bus from the airport to the nearest subway station.

The good news is that my trip to New York City was great, despite the awful, horrible experience at LaGuardia. If you can possibly avoid this airport you’re doing yourself a real favor, at least until they complete the $4 billion renovation.

Kindness Amidst Chaos

Tebow

There were two news stories yesterday about air travel. One was about the terrorist attack at the airport in Istanbul, Turkey. The other was about a man who had a heart attack during a flight he was taking with his wife and her friend. Which one would you guess had the most emotional impact on me?

It was the one about the man who had the heart attack.

The reason is that the man’s fellow passengers on the plane tried to help him. In particular, the former football player, now sports broadcaster, Tim Tebow, left his seat in business class and came to the man’s aid. He led prayers for the man along with other passengers around him while the man’s wife and her friend cried on his shoulders, picked up the family’s luggage when the plane landed and went with them to the hospital, staying until the family was told that the man had passed away.

You might think that it’s insensitive to not have a more emotional reaction to the terrorist attack. In fact, I thought that to myself after reading both stories. I think the reason the Tebow story impacted me more is because the terrorist attacks have become routine and have numbed my senses. Also, because there are so few positive stories that make the news. Indeed, I wonder if this story would have made the news were it not for the fact that a celebrity was involved. I suspect that there are many such occurrences every day that go unreported because the people engaging in such acts of kindness are regular, ordinary people, doing the right thing in obscurity.

That’s a shame, because I think that reading about acts of kindness promotes that type of behavior, just as the terrorists think that media coverage of their doings recruits some people to that type of behavior.

I wish the media would run a story about an act of kindness every day, not just when it involves a famous person. Maybe doing that would balance out the negative stuff and encourage the type of behavior the world desperately needs right now.

My thoughts, prayers, and condolences to all affected by the attack in Turkey.

Bullet the Blue Sky

Eiffel Tower Dark

The Irish Rock Band U2 was supposed to play in Paris tonight, with the show to be broadcast on HBO. Instead, the show was postponed by the band “until an appropriate time” due to the terrorist attacks that hit Paris on Friday night. I wonder if the terrorists were thinking about the fact that it was the 13th.

I was reminded of the time that my wife Lisa and I saw U2 in Paris at the Parc de Princes. We were on our honeymoon and it just so happened that U2 was playing in Paris during that part of our European itinerary. We bought tickets from a scalper outside the stadium. That particular show was played on the same date of Princess Diana’s funeral; she had died in the car accident in Paris when Lisa and I were in Nice. It was a memorable show, but two memories in particular stand out: U2 playing the song “One” in honor of Diana, with a royal portrait of her projected on the screen behind the stage; and, U2 playing “Bullet the Blue Sky.”

I thought about Bullet the Blue Sky when I heard that U2 had postponed their Paris concert because of the terrorist attacks. The song is a critique of violence and conflict and when performed live it can come across as political theater. When I saw U2 play it in Paris, they extended the out-tro for several minutes while the lead singer, Bono, performed an exquisite pantomime of a man walking a highwire while holding an umbrella over his head as if for balance. The umbrella he was holding had a colorful red, white, and blue American flag motif. Bono’s theatrical interlude came across clearly to me as a metaphor of Europe as the daredevil, protected by the security umbrella provided by the United States. I could hear many of the audience members around me muttering in French, “c’est vrai, c’est vrai.” (it’s true, it’s true).

A lot has happened since then and I’m not writing this to grind any particular political axe. One could say that we are less secure due to American adventurism in foreign affairs, or because we’ve chosen to “lead from behind.” I think most would agree, though, that for whatever reason, the security umbrella is looking a bit frayed these days. U2 reacted to the terrorist attacks on Paris with “shock and horror.” Yeah, me too. For people who’ve visited Paris, it’s hard to imagine something like this happening. Hard, and sad in a way that rips at your heart. Paris evokes an ethereal innocence. To see that shattered is heartbreaking.

Maybe it was inevitable that the security umbrella wouldn’t last forever. But it will certainly be replaced by something better, or worse. I get the feeling we’re going to find out real soon.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the French and all the others affected by this terrible situation.

Live Long and Prosper

Spock

As a fan of science fiction, I’m glad that Leonard Nimoy, otherwise known as Spock, graced us with his presence on TV and in film. He died today at the age of 83.

Spock is, of course, a character from Star Trek, and is, in my opinion, the most developed and memorable character in the sci-fi canon. I’ve often wondered to what extent Nimoy was acting when he played Spock. He always seemed to disappear into the character, like another one of my favorite actors, Clint Eastwood. It makes me think that Nimoy was just playing himself.

Nimoy is gone. Rest in peace. Spock lives on. I wait for the next Star Trek release.

The actor Zachary Quinto has proven an adequate replacement, but will never be Nimoy’s equal. Still, I should take this opportunity to say to Mr. Quinto, live long and prosper.

Next to Godliness

lava mae

I’ve been avoiding posts about negative stuff and waiting to find positive stuff to share, which is why I’ve been sort of radio silence for the past couple of weeks. Well, I’ve found something positive, sort of.

I live across the bay from San Francisco, which has a lot of homeless people living there. When you visit you see them on the streets a lot, begging for spare change. You also (ahem) smell them, because they don’t have access to bathing facilities. But now that’s changing as a result of one woman’s great idea and ingenuity. Her name is Doniece Sandoval and her great idea is a bus that has been retrofitted to provide mobile showers  for homeless people.

Homelessness is not a positive thing to write about, but shower facilities for homeless people provided by a non-profit organization called Lava Mae is a good and positive thing. At least I think so, but if you check the comments following the article on SFGate about Lava Mae it becomes apparent that not everyone agrees. The reason is that some people think that San Francisco creates too many programs to help the homeless and the programs become a magnet that attracts more homeless people, which in turn increases the need for more programs for the homeless people; kind of a vicious cycle.

My own views on homelessness have evolved over the past thirty years. I used to have a neutral stance of grudging tolerance toward the homeless, balancing sympathy with a feeling that people often make bad choices in life. San Francisco and Silicon Valley have been very successful and created enormous wealth. It seemed odd to me that anyone could be homeless in the context of such wealth. Then we experienced the great recession and there were a lot of people who got swept up in the negative tide of choices that other people made. Whole families were living in tents in camping grounds and I realized that people become homeless for a variety of reasons and it’s wrong to put them all in the same category.

I see Lava Mae as an unqualified good and I love their motto: Delivering Dignity, One Shower At A Time.

Straight-Up Nuts

mixed nuts

I watched a bit of trial footage in the case of a former Marine who shot and killed “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and his friend at a shooting range. One piece of evidence is a text message from Kyle to his friend just before the shooting that reads: “This dude is straight-up nuts.” The shooter’s attorney is saying he’s not guilty by reason of insanity, so Kyle’s text is being used by the defense to support that notion.

Not to blame the victim; Chris Kyle is a true hero and it’s so sad and ironic that he was killed in Texas after surviving multiple tours of duty as a Navy Seal. But I can’t help but wonder why he went ahead with the planned visit to a shooting range once the thought expressed in his text message crossed his mind. He had volunteered to take the shooter out for the day as a therapeutic activity and I suppose he felt a certain responsibility to follow through with it.

Speaking of nuts, the crimes committed by ISIS just get worse by the moment. I don’t think they’re insane in a clinical sense, but what word can describe people who would cage a human being, set them on fire, film it in high definition, and post it on the internet? I think the appropriate word is “evil.”

Then there’s the American woman who died while being held as a hostage by ISIS. She was kidnapped while doing humanitarian work in Syria. The media haven’t reported the specific circumstances of her death, probably because they aren’t sure of the facts. That’s fine. Spare me the details. My condolences to the family and friends of Kayla Mueller. I admire people like her who are willing to risk their lives to help out victims of war, but may I make a suggestion to anyone thinking of following in her footsteps?

As much as Syrians need the help, I have concluded that on balance it doesn’t make enough of a difference to counter the possibility that the helpers will be kidnapped by ISIS and used for horrific propaganda videos. Please, folks. Stay away from the war zone unless you’re in the military.

Then there’s the situation with Brian Williams, who appears to have manufactured a series of phony experiences, such as surviving a rocket propelled grenade attack on a military helicopter he was riding in. He admitted the story was not true, saying he misremembered the incident (total BS, in my opinion). I’m at a loss to understand why a journalist would feel compelled to make up phony stories when there’s so much real stuff to report on. He should try phony news for a living and replace Jon Stewart on the daily show, because he’s disqualified himself as a serious journalist.

It seems like these things are unrelated, but when you line them up next to each other a theme emerges. As much as technology seems to be a dominant force in the march of recent history, you have these examples of human behavior that negate the ability to feel like we’re moving in the right direction. Maybe that’s because we’re saturated with various media, blogs included.

OK, I’m only going to write about positive stuff for the next month.

Film Review: Boyhood

Boyhood

I missed seeing the film Boyhood in theaters so I rented it through U-Verse. It’s done about $25 million at the box office as of today, which is why it’s been relegated to video rental.

Despite it’s relative lack of commercial success, I recommend seeing it. Boyhood is a unique film that traces the lives of a family over an actual period of twelve years, using the same cast. The film was written and directed by Richard Linklater.

The film has an interesting narrative arc, since Mr. Linklater could not have written the whole story in advance. For example, there’s a whole riff about the impact of personal electronics and social media that rings very true and could not have been predicted with such precision were it written twelve years ago. Also, as you watch the film you will probably wonder whether or to what extent the events in the script echo things that happened in the lives of the cast members.

Another interesting thing about the film is that the cast ages. This creates a deep intimacy between the viewer and the characters, especially the namesake character of the boy, Mason, who begins the film as six year old in elementary school and ends it as an eighteen year old in his first year of college. You quite literally see him grow up in the course of the film’s two hour and forty-five minute running time.

As I was watching the film it became apparent that there is no antagonist, except perhaps life itself. These people just sort of wander around living their lives. The beginning and end of the film could have been chosen randomly. The director could have started a year earlier in the lives of the characters or ended a year later, in that there are no big events that punctuate the script or create a tremendous sense of drama, other than the type of life events that will seem very familiar to most people. And yet the film as a whole is very dramatic in a quiet way, by pointing out that most people’s lives are like that.

On a personal level, the film’s timeline is similar to the life of my daughter, who is now thirteen, so that resonated quite a bit. The songs used in the soundtrack are time specific as well and it was fun to take a stroll back in recent popular culture and remember what you were doing when your first heard a certain song. Kudos for throwing in one of my favorite songs by the band Wilco.

I’ve never seen another film like Boyhood. Mr. Linklater deserves a lot of credit for sticking to a project for twelve years to create a beautiful and unique work of art.