Thursday, June 29, 2006

Superman Returns

Movie: Superman Returns

I had little interest in seeing this film. I didn't understand the point. Hasn't Superman been done to death? This film didn't sound like any new take on the superhero, so why bother? Better special effects? Who cares? But as the release date (and hype) grew closer, I decided I needed to at least see what all the fuss was about. Perhaps it would surprise me. Well, it did. I was surprised at how pathically awful it was. It's truly one of the most uninspired films of the century. Everything in it we have seen before. Oh, sure, there are some "new" things -- like the crystals Lex Luther steals from Superman's "Fortress of Solitude" that can grow entire continents, and the ridiculous modern addition of Lois Lane as a single mom shacking up with a boyfriend and raising a son that might be Superman's -- but these new things are not particularly tasteful or interesting, and the implementation so poorly done that we really don't care much either way. Everything else is stuff we've seen before -- why rehash it? The concept of the plot was not bad: Superman has left earth for five years and suddenly returns, back to save the day, but the method of his leaving and his reasons (when finally revealed), are unbelievably lame. Apparently he beds Lois one night and disappears the next, without a word of explanation, when he hears astronomers might have discovered parts of planet Krypton still intact. He heads there hoping to find a trace of his ancestors (he doesn't, of course). Granted I can see why he might be curious about his past, but it's not like it's urgent and he can't take two minutes to leave a note! And why didn't the world fall apart while he was gone? Shouldn't Superman have been wracked with guilt when he returns at all the lives he didn't save while he was gone? The producers could have done some neat things, like have 9/11 happen while he was gone and the world is angry at Superman for not preventing such a tragedy. Or perhaps his adopted parents, the Kents, could have died while he was away, and that causes some turmoil. Instead it's all about Superman/Clark Kent, who's shocked that Lois Lane has moved on, won a Pulitzer, and has a boyfriend and a kid.

This is a film that could have led us into a new era of Superman. I'd have loved to see a film that explores his dark side. For instance, have him fail to save someone he loved and that's why he leaves earth for a while. Perhaps he returns and tries to be a regular guy, just ordinary Clark Kent. Maybe as Clark he's tempted to use his powers for evil, like playing pranks on Lois' boyfriend. He's bitter, angry, and depressed. But some experience changes him and realizes his duty, like Peter Parker's mistake costing his uncle's life in Spiderman make him realize he must use his gift to help people. At least with such a storyline we'd get to see aspects of Superman we haven't and we'd explore deeper into some classic characters. This film has none of that. The only thing I liked -- which suprised me greatly -- was Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane. She came across as genuine, conflicted, and the only real, non-stereotypical character in the film.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Memorial Service

Today we had the Memorial Service for Grandpa. I had an invasion of relatives (about a dozen stayed at my house), which was nice and kept me distracted. First we stopped by the cemetary and watched a short presentation as Grandpa's ashes were placed in a crypt next to Grandma. That was very difficult for me. I couldn't watch but had to look away. During the Service I was to give a eulogy, which I wasn't sure how to do. Though I was close to Grandpa, I really only knew him for a fraction of his life. It's rather a challenge to summarize 91 years on the planet! I thought I was going to go later in the service, but apparently things were switched around and I was told, seconds before the thing started, that I would go on right after the opening prayer. That didn't give me time to reread and practice, which meant I was more unpolished than I preferred, but I was more worried at being overcome with emotion and being unable to finish (we had a backup reader if I couldn't make it). Fortunately, except for a minor flub or two, it went okay, and the main thing was that people really appreciated my unique perspective of Grandpa. My eulogy told stories about what I learned from him and thus at least wasn't dry and boring (which was what my aunt had wanted). I think Grandpa would have liked it.

After the Service we had a pot-luck dinner at the church, which was neat, as I was able to see some people I hadn't seen since I was a teenager. Grandpa had been one of the people who'd started the monthly pot-luck tradition at that church and they still do it today, though the church has had different leadership for many years now. Funny the way things like that stick.

I have created a Memorial Page for Grandpa on my website. It contains links to all my "Adventures with Grandpa" newsletters, pictures and audio/video clips, as well as audio files of the entire Memorial Service. I also broke out just my Eulogy, in case you just want to listen to that (it's much shorter than the entire service). It's all MP3 and MPEG, so it should work on any computer platform.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

USA Done

Soccer: USA Done

Well, the World Cup is officially over for the United States. It was not a good tournament for us. I hold our coach, Bruce Arena, at fault. He changed tactics and played a different formation and line-up in the World Cup than he'd ever used during the two years of qualifying. He played a conservative, defense-first style, and refused to start with two strikers or put in a second striker until late in matches, if at all. He blamed early mistakes and bad refereeing for the U.S. not having an aggressive attitude which his defensive line-ups were the true blame. We finish the Cup having scored only once (not counting Italy's own goal) and giving up six. We did manag the impressive tie against powerhouse Italy, but most Americans won't realize just how amazing that was. Unfortunately, while I was hoping Ghana had given it all in their win over the Czechs, it was the U.S. who had nothing left for the Africans, who deserved the win (despite the weak penalty kick call against the U.S.). Overall, not a huge surprise for the U.S. who were in the toughest group of the tournament, but what annoys me is the weak play, poor attitude, and defense-oriented tactics when we needed goals. Perhaps U.S. Soccer can get a new coach that will return the Americans to their aggressive style of old.


Monday, June 19, 2006

A Day of Sadness

Today my grandfather went to be with the Lord. About 18 months ago I took over his care. He had been living with my mother, but when he lost mobility, she was unable to continue (she could not lift him or properly assist him). At the time we weren't sure how much longer he would live -- my uncle warned me it could be months or years. Unfortunately, he continued to decline. He got a hip replacement, which helped ease the pain in his leg, but developed gastro problems at affected his eating until we found treatment, and last fall the hip replacement became infected, requiring constant antibiotics and caused severe leg pain. Most recently we did home infusion antibiotics, which eventually seemed to cure the infection, but during the process his kidneys began to weaken. Twice he ended up in the hospital due to kidney complications. Fortunately, they did recover, but were severely weakened. He was slowing down, not eating as well, but still mentally healthy. On Sunday evening, June 11, he seemed fine. I got him to eat half a grilled cheese sandwhich for dinner. About 3 a.m. the next morning he called me and was acting strange. He was having trouble breathing. He has asthma so I gave him his puffer, which helped. But every thirty minutes he kept calling for me, and each time it was strange requests, almost delirium. Once he wanted his pants so he could "go outside." I told him it was the middle of the night and he said, "Oh, I didn't know," and promptly laid back down and went to sleep! Another time I found him on the floor with no idea how he got there. I lifted him back into bed and he didn't seem to be in any pain. Later in the morning, he had trouble getting dressed: his right leg was in a lot of pain, making me think the infection had returned. His temperature was a low 94.6, but after breakfast (which he didn't eat), it was 99.4 -- we called 911 immediately. By the time he got to the hospital it was nearly 103! It turned out he was suffering from a myriad of inter-related problems: a bladder infection meant he wasn't urinating properly which resulted in kidney strain and fluid build-up in his body, which collected in his chest, causing congestive heart failure and pnemonia. It also turned out that he'd broken his leg with the hip replacement -- apparently the infection had weakened the bone so it was incredibly fragile and it had broken in several places (possibly that time I found him on the floor). But worst of all was something called sepsis -- an infection of the blood -- which is serious even among young healthy people (who can take months to recover). In the end, it was too much for the poor man. We'd just celebrated his 91st birthday in May, which is not a bad achievement, though he always talked about hitting a hundred. Always positive, even the day before he died he was telling the doctor he felt great.

Granda was a very special man. His sense of humor was dry and subtle, even to the end. While in the hospital, during his last week, I tried to get him to eat his lunch, and he wanted me to eat it. "No, it's yours," I told him. "You're the patient." He looked up at the nurse who was nearby. "Am I the patient?" he asked in convincing confusion. She was startled until I explain this was his form of a joke! I could see the twinkle in his eye.

I shall miss Grandpa dearly. He and I were very close. When I was a baby my father was killed in a car accident and he and my Grandma cared for me until my severely-injured mother was better (which tooks months). I lived with them for many years, off and on, over the course of my life. They even took me on as a teenager, during my high school years, something I wouldn't wish on young, healthy people. I feel blessed and honored I got to be with Grandpa during his last years. Caring for him was stressful, educational, and filled with magically tender moments of humor and love that made everything worthwhile. I shall miss Grandpa, but I know he's at peace and out of pain now.

F. Wildon Colbaugh
May 9, 1915-June 19, 2006


Friday, June 9, 2006


Movie: Cars

Wow, what a great movie! It's the best movie of the year so far. How does Pixar do it? I wasn't sure going in if I was going to like this -- I'm not a racing fan and don't know much about cars and the story, about a hot shot racing car that gets stranded in the middle of nowhere didn't sound particularly unique or exciting (think Doc Hollywood for the same plot with a human) -- but to my surprise, Pixar turned a simple story into magic. The "car world" of the story (there are no people, only talking cars) is wonderfully complete with absolutely fantastic detail. Everything's a car pun, many of them quite subtle and clever, from business names to idioms, with the result that the world feels real. Even better, Pixar's animation quality is unsurpassed, with their "Route 66" town and desert graphics rivaling photographs for detail. Some of the highway scenes were truly astonishing. But Pixar never lets the graphics overshadow their characters -- the story always come first, as the pictures support the story. Here again Pixar takes the simple -- an arrogant race car who learns his place -- and doesn't trivialize it with easy solutions. The ending is surprisingly emotional and fulfilling. The film is fun, clever, and filled with all the right touches of emotion and humor. And stay tuned for the closing credits, which are hilarious (the cars go to the drive-in and watch clips of previous Pixar releases with cars as the stars). P.S. the opening short -- a Pixar tradition -- is worth the price of admission alone.


Thursday, June 8, 2006

World Cup Starts Tomorrow

Soccer: World Cup Starts Tomorrow

The 2006 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament starts tomorrow! I am SO excited. I am feeling a little alienated. Here in the States I feel like a foreigner. No one seems to understand or care about the significance of the World Cup. "It's like the Olympics times ten!" I cry, but I just get blank looks and bewildered shrugs. For most, it's an event about a sport they don't pay attention to, but for me the World Cup has nothing to do with sport: it's all about history, human achievement, artistry, spectacle, and hundreds of cultures uniting for a full month of peace. It's about celebrating life, your nation, and enjoying healthy competition.

I don't hold out that much hope that U.S. will do as good as 2002 -- we're in an ridiculously tough group with Italy, Czech Republic, and Ghana, all great teams we've never beaten -- but cheering on your nation is not the only reason to watch the World Cup. I watch every game, all 64, and I don't care who's playing, some unknown African nation like Angola or a powerhouse like host Germany. I know how important just getting to the finals is for a country like Angola, and what it will mean for their nation if they accomplish anything -- a goal, a draw, a win. The World Cup is the most amazing event in the world, period. It's every four years, like Olympics, but instead of watering down the event with hundreds of medals and sports, it's just one medal, one champion out of 32 finalists out of 200 teams that took over two years just to qualify. The World Cup is a microcosm of human history in a nutshell, to playfully mix metaphors. It's 30 days of glory, passion, agony, and triumph. There's nothing else like it in the world.


Thursday, June 1, 2006


Movie: Alphaville

Strange older French film (apparently a classic) about a future society run by a totalitarian computer and the guy who's out to stop it. While I was intrigued by the premise, I can't say I liked the film: it was confusing (possibly on purpose) and the limited (lame) special effects (if any) and bizarre editing bewildered me. I couldn't say if the lameness was due to low-budget, lack of special effects technology, or lack of futuristic vision, but the "computer" was the human voice narrator which was confusing (it was difficult to tell when the computer on screen was talking and when the narrator was narrating). On the whole this strikes me as a brilliant-for-its-time film, but its heavily dated now and we're less wowed by brillance attempted than by brilliance achieved.