Monday, September 18, 2017


Remember what I was just saying about screen addiction and my brain turning to mush?  Yeah... I'm going to come off like a pretentious douchebag, but I fear for the movie-going public of America if all of the 1-star reviews for Darren Aronofsky's mother! on IMDB are any indication.  Because so many people (including some in our screening) didn't seem to get the movie on any level, I'm going to ignore the surface-level story and talk about it as the metaphor that it is instead.  Although I'm confident that my old cast of regular readers here would be able to understand what's going on as the movie unfolds, I'm going to ensure it.  I wouldn't consider anything I'm about to say a spoiler.  These aren't twists; this is simply the context you need to understand to make sense of the movie.  Otherwise, you will find it hard to get any enjoyment out of it.

mother! tells the complete history of the Earth in microcosm, using various Biblical allusions to help mark the passage of time.  Don't worry, you don't need to be steeped in too much Biblical knowledge -- a basic understanding of the stories of Adam & Eve and Jesus are all that is needed.  God (Javier Bardem) is living in blissful tranquility with his wife, Mother Earth (Jennifer Lawrence).  They're all alone on Earth (their enormous house), and it's Mother Earth's job to build and maintain their domain ("building a paradise" as she says).  God is portrayed as a poet, who's had one great success in his career (Creation), but now has writer's block.  He begins to have a new idea when suddenly Man (Ed Harris) comes to the door; this is Adam.  I have confidence that you can take the rest from here.

The reason none of the above is a spoiler is because just playing "Spot the Metaphor" isn't what the movie is about.  There are a few different ways to read mother!, which I'll leave as an exercise to the viewer since that's where all the fun lies, but I tend to fall in line with Aronofsky's preferred reading.  You can watch his short Q & A from the screening at the Toronto Film Festival, if you want to know what that is.

I am a huge fan of Darren Aronofsky.  There's a reason that Meaghan and I chose him as the first director in the Decker Director Series.  I like to be entertained as much as the next person, but very few people today are able to use the Hollywood machine to create multi-layered movies that take some actual work to tease apart and fully understand.  We all need to be challenged sometimes, and Aronofsky consistently does this.

mother! is a fantastic movie.  Much like The Fountain, I can understand why it isn't for everyone... but it should be.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Decker Director Series

Back in the summer of 2014, Meaghan and I started a weekly event series with some friends.  Here's how it works:
  • Pick a movie director who's made at least three feature-length films.
  • Put that director's movies in order chronologically and make a weekly viewing schedule.
  • For each week, pick a potluck dinner theme that corresponds to that week's movie or director in some way.
  • Get together with friends, eat good food, and watch good movies.
  • Repeat.
Three years later, we're still going strong.  So far, we've watched all of the movies of Darren Aronofsky, Sofia Coppola, Lenny Abrahamson, Frank Darabont, Ridley Scott, Ben Stiller, Ang Lee, Sarah Polley, David Lean, and Lynne Ramsay.  We're currently working on both Hayao Miyazaki and Woody Allen.

If any of our directors puts out a new movie after we've completed their filmography, we organize a "field trip" to see it in theaters, usually on opening weekend.  I'm bringing all of this up now because the director that we started this whole thing with, Darren Aronofsky, has a new movie in theaters this weekend, mother!  We're going to check it out this afternoon, so hopefully I'll be able to put some words together about it tonight or tomorrow.  It's supposedly a pretty difficult film; I'm looking forward to exercising my brain with it.

If you have any suggestions for directors we should check out in the future, or want to share some fun things you've been doing with your friends, feel free to comment.

My Brain is Turning to Mush

I don't know if it's the fact that I'm getting older (I've now survived 38 years on the planet) or the constant exposure to screens in my life or the overwhelming disposability and superficiality of nearly everything in this world, but I can feel my ability to think creatively or critically slowly beginning to slip away.  I've tried my best to combat the cell phone addiction that's rampaged across this country over the last ten years, but even I have a smart phone now.  Don't worry; it's not that smart.  Even so, I find myself checking all the usual suspects like Facebook and Twitter once a day despite there not being anything particularly new or useful to be found on any of them.  It's a world of information and entertainment overload, only hardly any of the information matters.

Ironically, my solution for all of this is to re-open the Amber Tower for business.  Sorry in advance for overloading you instead, dear readers, but there's something about the act of putting words together in a coherent fashion that does something for your brain that nothing else can.  Even if no one's still watching for updates on this blog or ever reads what I have to say, it'll be good for me and that's what I need right now.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Taste the Future

Has anyone seen one of these new Coca-Cola Freestyle soda fountains yet?

Meaghan and I ate at the Noodles in Plymouth tonight and got to use one for the first time ever. It looks like they've been slowly spreading across the country for the last year or two, so maybe I'm completely out of the loop and they've just taken forever to make it all the way to the Great White North. If you can't tell from the picture and didn't bother to click the link, the big deal is that this is a digital soda fountain with touch-screen selection that can mix and match 100+ flavors of soda. So if you've been dying to find easy access to some Vanilla Coke or Coke with Raspberry (really?), look no further.

We didn't notice the machine was there until after we ordered, so all I can tell you so far is that it dispenses water like a pro.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Everything Ends

For those not tracking the stretch run of the MLB season, it may not be news to you that the Detroit Tigers lost last night. However, it is if you consider the fact that their improbable win on Wednesday over Chicago, which included two pinch-hit 9th inning home runs to send the game into extra innings, raised their winning streak to 12 games.

I'm not going to predict a World Series win or even an appearance, as the baseball playoffs are an enormous crap shoot, but it's worth noting that every other Tigers team that won >10 consecutive games during a season made it to the Series. I'm looking forward to seeing what our AL Central champions can do this year.


On a completely different note, since January I've been reading the 27 book Time-Life series on the Civil War that I inherited from my grandpa. I finished the last one this morning, detailing the failed attempt at Radical Reconstruction of the South from 1865-1877.

I've made a few half-hearted attempts in the past to read this series, but have never made it past the sixth book before. I've enjoyed it each time I've tried in the past, but failed because of the huge time commitment required. Now I'm pleased to say that I've learned everything there is to learn about the Civil War. Well, at least I've learned a lot about it.

It's already paid dividends at quiz bowl (first practice was yesterday) because I can laugh mercilessly when those puny high schoolers don't know who the Confederate general at Shiloh (and Fort Sumter) was. It's Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, of course.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Been There, Done That, Ate the Turkey Leg

The Warrior Dash turned out to be a ton of fun. Not only did we get some good exercise rambling up and down the ski slopes at Afton Alps, jumping over cars, climbing cargo nets, and ducking under barbed wire, but we did a bunch of other stuff I never thought I'd do. Among them:

- blasted clean by a fire hose
- ate a turkey leg at 9:30 in the morning -- my dad would be proud, there was absolutely no meat left on that bone when I was done with it
- queued up for beer at 10:00 in the morning -- it was free, and it was bad

If it comes back to Minnesota next year, I'd love to get a big group together to go with us. You don't have to be in fantastic shape, and can even walk it if you want to. The absolute worst part was right at the beginning because the course went straight up one of the steep ski slopes at the resort. We went at Meaghan's pace, which was less than strenuous, and finished in 50+ minutes. Even so, we didn't feel particularly out of place and could complete all of the obstacles with relative ease.

Because of the messy nature of many of the obstacles, we didn't bring a camera along, but there were professionals there to immortalize the occasion. Apologies for the watermarking, I'd have to pay money to get rid of that.

No, we're not drenched in sweat there. One of the first obstacles was to run through a couple of snow machines that were on at full blast. Since it's the summer, this amounted to being blasted with a metric ton of water.

Nearing the finish line, after going back down the ski slope on a giant Slip n' Slide, we had to hurdle a couple of flaming berms.

Emerging from the mud pit at the finish line, ready for the fire hose. Some of those clothes will never be clean again. Meaghan's still crawling through the mud somewhere behind me here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Breaking the Silence

It's been a busy couple of weeks since returning from Europe.

I had fully intended on using that first weekend to load this place with tales from the journey, but instead we turned around almost immediately to get on a plane to Florida for Meaghan's G'Pa's funeral. Unbeknownst to us, he had suffered a stroke while we were gone and was placed into hospice. To our relative good fortune, he managed to hang on until the day after we returned so we were able to visit with the family at least a little as opposed to missing it completely. I only knew him for a small fraction of his 92 years, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a kinder soul.

We returned to Minnesota again to the news that one of Meaghan's students had committed suicide, so we attended our second funeral of the week that Saturday. Between that and trying to get acquainted with the current goings-on at work, it was a difficult week.

For this past week, I don't really have an excuse beyond working too much. We saw a couple of movies in the theater that I'll be writing about before too long, and as I write this we're in the midst of completing Disney movie #3. There are scads of bonus features and multiple commentaries on our copy of Fantasia, so it's taken us a long time to make it this far. Dumbo comes next for those of you tracking our progress.

None of that is the real reason that I'm making the effort to break my silence at such a late hour, though. My reason? Sunday morning, Meaghan and I become WARRIORS! Or at least, we're going to make the attempt. As a fan of "American Gladiators", "Ninja Warrior", etc. it'll be fun to try something that's even a tenth of what those contestants do. I'll let you know how it goes next week.