Sunday, August 27, 2006

New Site!

Well, I'm on my way folks. After trying to contend with managing FOUR separate blogs for all of my work, I have happened upon the opportunity to consolidate them into one website. Thanks to a great deal of assistance from my friend Provoked, I now have a new site that I'm testing out in hopes of making the presentation of my work look more professional and less "Blogspot-ish", as I continue my attempts to locate gainful employment as a free-lance journalist.

Thus, I'd appreciate it greatly if you'd take some time to visit (and maybe even change your blogrolls) Dryvetyme Onlyne in the next few days (and in the subsequent weeks and months and years. And thanks for all of your visits to my blogs here over the past 18 or so months, because, as soon as Dryvetyme Onlyne is fully functional, my four Blogspot sites will become extinct.



Thursday, August 24, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine
Fox Searchlight; 2006
Rating: 9.4

Alan Arkin as Grandpa
Abigail Breslin as Olive
Steve Carell as Frank
Toni Collette as Sheryl
Paul Dano as Dwayne
Greg Kinnear as Richard

Directors: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
Producer: Michael Turtletaub (& others)
Writer: Michael Arndt

This movie has been on the horizon for quite a long time – it’s taken over five years to make; Focus Features was involved until 2004 before it backed out; and Turtletaub finally had to agree to back much of the film on his own, after initially paying $250,000 for the script in the first place. However, having seen this movie on the first night that it was open nationally, I must declare, quite definitively, that the wait has been very much worth it. Little Miss Sunshine, without a singular doubt, is one of the most creative and substantive movies that I have seen in many years. In fact, I’m going to go as far as to openly state that this movie (along with the recently-released-on-DVD, but hardly-seen-in-theaters Brick) just may have restored my faith in the existence of truly original screenplays in the cinematic world.

One of the things that struck me most in this movie was how deftly intertwined the highly-individualized storylines of the six main characters were. Most screenwriters, when employing ensemble casts, quite often still find ways to focus upon two or three primary characters, no matter how many people the publicists claim are intimately involved in the story (with a good example being Love Actually, though I do really enjoy that movie). So many of these flicks leave viewers wanting to know more about their favorite minor character, but, because there is a time issue involved in film-making, there’s always at least one character’s personality that has to be diminished and/or their little bit of story never finds fulfillment or resolution.

However, in Little Miss Sunshine, each of the characters has their own personality, their own struggles, and their own issues, and they do whatever they can to keep the others out of their lives. The opening scenes, especially the one at dinner, are filled with comedic, yet painful tension, as this family threatens to split open at the seams. This all occurs to the dismay of Sheryl, the hard-working and hard-smoking Mom, who’s perpetually frustrated by her family’s hurt and is portrayed by Toni Collette. She’s an “Every-Mom,” standing in the gap, doing her best to love the four men in her life, who each addresses their personal sorrows in drastically different ways. Sheryl serves as the center of this family in two distinct manners: she is the fulcrum around which many of the plot machinations revolve and is also the foundation of a shaky house, doing whatever she can to shore up the wobbling walls of her family, but still feeling like a failure at the same time.

Greg Kinnear (in a stellar performance) plays an aspiring writer and motivational speaker who is struggling to find his place in the high-stakes world of pop psychology and intensely dislikes and loathes the other 3 males living in his house, openly calling them “losers.” His mute-by-personal-choice son, Dwayne (Paul Dano as one of the more truly serious, yet appropriately angst-filled teens you’ve seen on screen in awhile) is trying to gain permission to obtain his pilot’s license and enter the Air Force Academy, so that he can leave behind a family he can’t stand; Alan Arkin plays the horny, wizened, and smack-addicted Grandpa, who feels stuck in his old age and thus instigates pointless arguments with Richard, his son; and Uncle Frank (portrayed by Steve Carell, in his best performance in anything – ever) is a college professor who specializes in the works of the French author Marcel Proust and who recently attempted suicide because one of his male graduate assistants spurned his romantic advances. Four men – each approaching life in different ways, all viewing their world with divergent sets of lenses – are thrown together into one family and make no attempt to live in any kind of harmony.

However, even with strong and skilled performances by the five adults in the film, the true star is Olive (Abigail Breslin), the awkwardly adorable daughter of Richard and Sheryl, whose primary goal in life is to become a beauty pageant winner. And because of this aspiration of hers, she spends a great of time watching her vast collection of old beauty pageants, trolling for any and all tips that will help her in her quest. Moreover, in what could have been a purely comic role, filled with opportunities to lampoon anyone who’s ever been involved in the hellishness that is the beauty pageant life, Olive becomes everyone’s muse. She is not some cheesy, inspirational character that everyone eventually looks upon as some sort of fantastical representative of idealized childhood in hopes of finding his or her personal source of redemption. In many ways, Olive is the most mature and immature member of the family – she remains strong and focused upon her goal, even in the face of family tragedy, despite the fact that, all the while, her “adult” focus is upon the naïve idea of becoming a beauty queen. Nevertheless, it is Olive’s quest that eventually brings the family together to achieve a common goal; it is Olive who is the recipient of the family’s efforts to finally become a family.

I can’t really find very much to quibble with in Little Miss Sunshine, as in no way does the writer rest upon cliché or formula when presiding over the direction of this family’s life. Oh, the standard plot components are there – the troubled teen who doesn’t like his parents; the parents who fight over money and purpose; the young daughter who doesn’t understand the adult world around her; and the random, quirky, eccentric family members who only bring problems to the house – but this movie works; it really works. Little Miss Sunshine is filled with a captivating mixture of humor, pathos, anxiety, stress, laughs, tears and surprisingly deep spirituality, including a few revelatory instances that literally choked me up at the depth of their insight into the human condition that plagues us all. And all the while, the family’s journey is contained in a dirty, broken-down, yellow VW bus, accompanied by bits and pieces of “Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens. See if this film doesn’t find you “… crying, in a van, with my friends.”

How does one even attempt to clean up chaos?

A brush
A broom
A mop
A pair of hands and more

A bag
A rake
A rag
Strong hands & backs galore

Have things gotten out of hand
With the destruction all around?
As hopeless as it all seems,
Can we maybe get some relief?

A push
A pull
A tug
A new set of eyes to see

A wish
A heart
A hope
Freshness out of ashes to be

Have things gotten out of hand
With destruction all around?
As hopeless as it all seems,
Can we maybe get some relief?

May we find ways
To set straight the broken
And wipe clean the slate.
We have not yet gone too far
And may it never be too late.

Copyright 08/20/2006

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Brick Testament

OK folks.... It has been a nice, full day of blogging, though I did get a good bit of work done on the job. Ahhhh.... The office.....

Anyway, if there's one thing in the world that makes me happier, it's the Legos that carried me through childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood (don't ask me how many Star Wars-sanctioned Lego sets I have). Thus, I must present to you something that has made me even happier in the past few months (since I've used these images over at my Genesis Commentary Blog a few times recently). This wonderful guy, Brendon Powell Smith, has created this wonderful site entitled The Brick Testament, where he has re-enacted a great many scenes from the Old & New Testament using (you guessed it) Legos. In fact, he's published three collections of his work so far -- Genesis, the Story of Moses, and the Christmas Story. Go check his site out and see if you don't laugh as much as I do. And if you're so inclined, marvel along with me at the time & dedication it's taken to create such wonderment.



Radiohead -- Kid A

What follows is a record review that I wrote about 10 months ago, during my first attempt to start looking for work as a free-lance journalist. I'm not sure why poeple didn't like it or use it (besides the fact that it was a 5-year-old record by then), but I still like the work that I did. Thus, to read more of my attempts to find outlets for my writing, please visit me at The Music In My Ears. I will be posting my review of the new Sufjan Stevens album "The Avalanche" later today. Thus, I ask of you -- read, enjoy, comment.

Kid A
Columbia; 2000
Rating: 9.3

I bought a 12” Macintosh PowerBook G4 in July 2005. In so doing, my technological capacity leapt headfirst into the 21st century. It was rather startling actually. I went from owning and operating a 1997 Toshiba laptop what was running Windows 1998 (barely) to actually being proud of the computer that I owned. I went from crawling around on the World Wide Web to cruising along in First Class with all possible amenities on an intercontinental flight.

(And yes, all clichéd Information Superhighway metaphors will cease as of now.)

It was an amazing feat of purchasing power, though I simply bought it used from a friend who was entering seminary. She was upgrading to a much newer model and wanted to sell her 12-inch model, and, because she was willing to let me pay her a bit each month, I was able to help her out with her move. And if you’re interested, she’s attending Regent College in the Great (Seasonally) White (and Unbelievably Picturesque) North that is Vancouver, BC, Canada.

I say all of that to say this: in the process of uploading all of my CD’s into my new (to me) computer’s iTunes, I got the chance to give a fresh listen to an album that I have long loved, but often never fully appreciated. In my estimation, Kid A from Radiohead has to rank as one of the best, most misunderstood, and taken-for-granted albums of the past decade or so. Most of my friends who are hardcore Radiohead fans typically citeOK Computer as their preferred album, while a decent minority are big fans of Hail to the Thief, mostly because it’s the band’s most guitar rock album since OK Computer.

Don’t get them wrong – they all rather do like, love, and regularly listen to Kid A, but they feel it’s too electronic, that it’s not rock enough, that it’s too low-key and ambient in too many places. Those are rather appropriate responses, but, when I listen to the album in its entirety, in its proper place in chronological order of Radiohead releases, I can’t help but proclaim the genius that is Kid A.

Let me explain more fully, or at least permit me move through the course of the album, song by song, or rather, movement by movement. To begin, I don’t think that there’s another trilogy of songs as complete or as moving as the 3 opening tracks on this album. “Everything In Its Right Place,” “Kid A,” and “National Anthem” are as well-crafted, flowing, and 3 parts of 1 whole as anything you might have ever heard on a progressive rock band’s concept album (like Six Degrees of Separation by Dream Theater). Thus, with these 3 songs, Thom Yorke & the boys begin their meanderings through the most guitar-less rock album probably ever recorded (and that’s a compliment in my book).

From there, the listener hearkens upon the start of the second movement in Kid A. Comprised of “How to Disappear Completely,” “Treefingers,” “Optimistic,” and “In Limbo,” it seems that Radiohead is attempting to redefine the components of a rock song, whether in a recorded fashion or when taking these songs on the road. Moog-style synth sounds abound, along with well-crafted and well-played electric guitar and string arrangements that call to mind a symphony, as opposed to a rock record.

Admittedly, one can easily get lost sonically and thematically within these tracks, as it sounds that there is no continuity, no rhyme or reason behind the noises or the direction of those noises. If there is a downside to the album, it can be found amongst these 4 songs, and not because they don’t fit the flow of the album, but because they do. The average (and even above-average) rock music listener simply doesn’t get this section of the album – there’s no hook, no big single, and nothing to really keep you going onto the next song (unless you count the fact that the CD keeps going on the next song automatically). I remember reading reviews and talking about this album with friends when Kid A first came out in 2000 – few people got it and those who did were Radiohead fans who were disappointed that they didn’t get to listen to OK Computer 2. And I was amongst them, but not anymore.

Into the last movement, probably the most recognizable: “Idioteque,” “Morning Bell” (reprised and reformatted on Amnesiac), and “Motion Picture Soundtrack.” On an album filled with string swells, organ hums, and pulsating synthesizers and Moog keyboards, these 3 songs ring true, ring deeply, and ring out loud with a dark cynicism that only songwriters like Thom Yorke can muster. While “Idioteque” resonates with calls of a coming Ice Age, “Morning Bell” has the clarion call of a band trying to wake us up from expecting what’s normal in life and normal in music.

Simply put, few bands have the ability to create an album as esoteric and still as timeless as Radiohead has done with Kid A. Why are we compelled to return again and again to this album? Because if we didn’t, Thom Yorke would scowl us to death as Johnny Greenwood turned his guitar or a seemingly random box of electronic ingredients into an instrument worthy of inclusion in the finest of European orchestras.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A few thoughts, in case anyone might be interested....

1) So, in case anyone gets worried, this is still APN. No one has hijacked my blog's HTML and screwed things up. I just wanted to spruce up the look of my page -- I was getting a bit tired of the soft pink/magenta/violet color scheme that I had going there. The content and context haven't changed, just the color spectrum.

2) I'm getting back to my screenplay. Yes, you did read that correctly. After 9 months away, I'm taking charge of my creativity and bringing greater focus to my writing as never before. Thus, if you've never read the 6 scenes I have posted, go take a look at Like Augustine and tell me what you think. And to those of you who HAVE read those scenes before, well, be prepared for some changes. There won't be any true style changes, but I'm hoping to bring a bit more structure and definition to the characters and their personalities, as well as some cohesion to the direction of any plot that might and/or needs to emerge.


3) I feel excited about life -- where I'm going, how I'm getting there, and who's traveling with me. As tumultuous, trying, tremulous, and terrible as July was, I feel that I'm on the brink of something beautiful, wonderful, and beyond anything I've ever attempted to plan on my own. By leaving behind my small imagination and limited scope of perspective, I have allowed myself to be made over and made new by my Creator, as never before. All love and praise goes out to my Creator, Saviour, and Sustainer, as well as the people, places, and occurrences that are in my life.

Peace to you all.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Burnside Writers Collective

Hello and Happy Thursday to all of you!

If you hadn't heard quite yet (though this will NOT be news to most/many of my regular "readers"), I had my first music review published on Tuesday. Burnside Writers Collective accepted my offering of the recent review that I wrote on the new Regina Spektor album, Begin to Hope. The editor, Jordan Green, really liked it and wants me to submit more reviews that I've written or will write in the future, in hopes of maybe becoming a regular contributor.

Thus, please do me a favor -- visit BWC, read my review, and tell them how much you love it. I need the support. This is my first post-collegiate byline (I mean, who really counts the work you did in college for your college newspaper, unless you were a Communications major trying to get into grad school at Northwestern, Stanford, or NYU), so, the more bylines I get, the more I can truly start shopping my work around to get some PAID free-lance work.

Anyway, I appreciate all the love that you great readers have shown in the past 18 months. Invite your friends to come visit me, both here and my OTHER blogs (you can see those links on the right-hand sidebar). I'd love to interact with more people!



Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Out of the Tar Pits (six lines at a time)

Tied up in knots
All wrapped up inside
Tangled strands & bits of string
Thinking I’ve cut the cords
But every end remains fused

So easy to become ensnared
Trying to hide all the parts
And pieces of the truth
That I don’t want anyone to ever, ever see
Even though it needs to be exposed

Passions and lusts inflamed
Beyond the point of my control,
A control I do not have,
A control I’ve never had,
And it threatens to consume me

Because my walls have been broken,
Brought down to reveal the cancer,
The ugliness that lies within,
So that such a pain (even to death)
Might be excised so that I might live.

At the thought that my creation,
My precious, is no more, since
I have had many chances to seek out
Its removal, yet I have not asked,
To my detriment and that of another

Of a temple so loved and cherished
By one other than myself,
But I’ve lost all respect for what
Should lie within, and I don’t want anyone
To see what is actually there

Still found a way to spring forth,
Though death seemed imminent,
Though all looked hopeless,
Though everything was duly lost,
What was worn-away arose anew

Won out, against all odds,
Breaking through the wreckage,
Dispelling the darkness that had prevailed,
Chasing away the depression that sought to overwhelm
Forgiving what seemed so impossible to forgive

Copyright 08/16/2006

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Work Stoppage

When I choose to cease,
There can I truly begin.
When I decide to rest,
Maybe my struggles will end.
But if they don’t,
That will still be OK,
Because maybe I need to give up anyway.

Slow down.
Take a breath.
Realize that there’s not much left
To lose or even gain
By keeping inside
All of the hurt and the pain.

Be still.

Copyright 07/09/2006

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Music In My Ears

Well, it's done -- you all now have permission to go visit The Music In My Ears. And yes, this does mean that I've created a FOURTH place online where I will be sharing my creative writing with the world around me. Along with my general blog, my Genesis commentary blog, and my long-silent screenplay, I have created a place where I'll be writing record reviews.

I've been attempting to get into reviewing music and/or literature for awhile now, but I've never really been able to succeed. Whether it's been a lack of desire on my part, a deficiency in opportunities, or some combination of the two, I've just kept myself frustrated for far too long now. Thus, I decided that, if the chances weren't making their way to my doorstep, I would just begin writing for my own benefit, and, if the "right people" started paying some attention to me, then that would be great as well. I just couldn't sit on my ass any longer.

Anyway, I would like to welcome you to my site and I sincerely hope that you'll be returning in the very near future. I'm hoping to write one album review a week (at minimum) and I'm considering incorporating book reviews into the milieu in the (near??) future. Feel free to read, comment, and generally participate in the discourse. I am not and will never be the final word on anything. I might not change my rating of a certain album or book, but I'll be happy to read your thoughts alongside of mine.