Saturday, June 29, 2013

World War Z: A Movie Review



Okay, I will admit to saying the following not only once but a few dozen times in my life, “Zombie movies are like porn; if you’ve seen one you have seen every one” and for zombie movies and porn that is basically true.  Supporters of both will tell you that each is special and different and they love them all but no, they are not. Mostly, when it comes to porn or zombie movies they are all pretty much the same. Not that I’m saying the walking dead and sex are the same things but there is a great deal of moaning and screaming no matter which one you watch.

And again, I’ve never been a big Brad Pitt fan. He’s pretty much the man version of a bimbo and he’s cast in movies that make him seem more of that than anything else. A female friend of mine watched “Legends of the Fall” so many times it lasted longer than World War One, but again, those people who like Brad Pitt movies are going to say each one is good and special.

So why on earth am I doing a review on a Brad Pitt Zombie Movie?

Oddly, I did not come here to trash the movie but to praise it. Director Marc Forster doesn’t allow much lag time in this movie and it is expertly casted. Pitt is the only big name here but he shares the screen with minor actors who do more than pull their own weight in this one. Nonstop action is a very overused description these days but about three minutes deep into the movie you better have everything you need to make it to the end because no one is standing around waiting for something to happen.

“28 Days Later” invented the mean and fast Zombie, I think, (Zombie people will correct me I am sure, but anyway…) and these Zombie are both very mean and very fast. They explode into the scene like rabid football players on meth and from beginning to end I was constantly flinching.

So how is this one different? Let’s go through the Zombie movie checklist… Do we have the undead who can only be stopped by headshots? Yes we do! Do we have panicked survivors on the run for their lives? Yes we do! Do we have moan and groaning and the undead eating the living and infecting more people with each turn? Why, yes, as a matter of fact we have all of this, and a super-secret government disease center with everything else we need also to complete the checklist.  So what makes this one different?
What makes this movie is how well it is done. Period. Pitt fashions himself in a caring family man and gets plenty of back-up from his counterpart Mireille Enos who plays his wife. Enos is more known from her small screen talent but she delivers big here. Likewise others in the movie who are make a statement for casting rare talent. Matthew Fox turns in a good piece of work, as does Daniella Kertesz who pulls off a gritty and realistic performance as an Israeli soldier.

Of course, some scenes are rather campy as you’d have to imagine in a Zombie movie. But the intensity of the movie never stops, never lets up, and Pitt does a remarkable job of selling it as real science fiction rather than a Zombie movie.

Yes, I liked this Brad Pitt Zombie Movie and I would highly recommend to those who like action movies as well as Zombie movies.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Great Movie quotes


"And One Day Closer To Death"






I remember as a kid everyone’s parents were like your own parents as far as having to do what they told you to do.  I learned very quickly which of them to avoid because people like Mr. Kelly would draft a kid into slave labor in an instant.  There were other parents who didn’t care for other kids, and Miss Dot was one of those. Her kids could go over to other kids’ houses but we weren’t allowed to play in her house. She didn’t much like us in her yard either. Her husband drank himself to death but that was going to be years later.

But there were years later. Suddenly I was trying to navigate parents again, this time in the social realm of dating, and it was difficult to sit there and have a conversation with two people whose daughter I would try to undress after a movie.  Then there was a period of time when parents of the people around me became more or less irrelevant; we were all adults and everyone did their own thing.

But there were years later.

Now I find myself going to the funerals of parents. This morning I helped a friend move her mother and father-in-law into an onsite cottage at a nursing home. The father-in-law is ninety years old and it’s odd seeing him like this. I walked up to him this morning and asked him how it was going and he said, “I’m blind, I’m deaf and I’m losing my mind” and there really isn’t anything to be said past that.  He sleeps most of the day and he keeps telling people he just wants to die and maybe he does. But his wife still wants him around and she doesn’t want to live in the country alone with him anymore.  “Assisted Living” is what they’re calling it these days and as far as I can tell it’s a very good thing.

They put Mr. Kelly in a nursing home because of his temper and his drinking problems and he fought them all the way down. Two male nurses tried to put an IV in his arm and he fought them off of him, at age seventy-five and they finally had to sedate him. His kids couldn’t do anything at all with him. Back in the day when he was the father and father knew best, it was socially acceptable for him to cuss and raise hell at people thirty years younger than he. But now those people are the people who have to take care of him. He spent his entire life talking down to young’uns and he sure as hell wasn’t going to stop now just because one or two of them went to medical school.

My closet neighbor is 95 and she still gets out in the yard and works. Even on the hottest days she’s out there puttering around and there are a lot of younger people who freak out when they see her out there but this is the way she has always lived.  Air conditioning has ruined a lot of people but she’s resisted using it.  She and I both have our windows open right now and I am willing to bet we’re handling the heat a lot better than most.

It’s odd hearing about Mr. Kelly being old and out of control. Not that he was ever in control, mind you, I watched him brutally beat his son one day for no good reason and that same day he threatened to shoot their dog in front of his son and myself just to watch us beg him not to do it. His son did beg, of course, but I told him it was his dog and he could do anything he wanted to do.  I was very surprised he didn’t shoot the dog, really, but that was what life was like in South Georgia during the late sixties; dogs and children were not that far removed from one another in the social order.

I buried a man who was my age this year, a man I had grown up with, and it was odd to see some of the people I had not seen in many years. We traded small talk but I also heard about parents growing old and parents dying. We once listened to those same people talk about how quickly we were growing up and how big we were getting and that was nonsense to us, just as some of this talk about growing old is nonsense to some of the older people.  There are parents who are gone now and there is no denying that there are very few people my age who still have a grandparent left alive.  Some people have lost children and no loss I will ever feel will come close to that horror. That is the Universe in disorder and whatever else those who we are planning for and caring for now, at least they haven’t outlived us…yet.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Two Rotted Trees, One Stump Between Them, and ...



“We are about to do something we’re going to pay for” Peg told me and as my tree cutting partner of nearly ten years I know when to listen to her, which is always.  But the problem was a very simple problem; there was a tree very close to the shed that was totally rotted inside and the trunk was cracking. If I paid someone to drop the tree for me it would cost at least five hundred bucks. Hell, the shed was worth half that and Peg had helped me build it. Another problem was the dog kennel was on the other side of the tree. Another problem was the water faucet that was in front of the tree. Another problem was the fence which maybe, the tree would hit if it fell perfect. Another problem was this tree shared that cracking trunk with another tree which while not rotted, was going to be sooner or later.
“You’re sweating a lot.” Peg told me and I knew what she already knew; this was a bad idea. Yet it was a bad idea whose time had come. We tried to get a rope into the tree and it broke. There comes a when you just have to say, “*&^$# it” and just do the best you can.

I made a wedge cut on the north, northwest side of the tree and hoped the rotted wood would hold it as it fell, guiding it between everything. I cut knowing the top might break off of it. I cut knowing the trunk might shear away or the rotted part of the tree would crumble. But mostly I cut knowing it was time. The wedge fell to the ground and Peg nodded.

The old wood was eaten quickly by the saw and Peg and I knew that once this began there wasn’t going to be any stopping it. I cut straight in and a little to the northwest, willing to trade part of the fence instead of having to do any plumbing and the cut began to open. I let the saw feed for another three seconds and bailed. The tree was going to come down now.

I killed the saw and bailed. 

 The photo above shows the snapped rope and shows we dropped the tree about three feet due west away from the water faucet!
 This is the view from the top. No, the dogs were not outside when all this was going on. This is their post felling pee on everything new inspection. 


Now, about that other tree on the shared stump.... 

We dropped it right on top of the burn pile!




This photo was taken from South of the firepit! Dead on top!


Peg and I high fived and yelled aloud. This was not our first drop but it was the first where things had to be perfect. 

And they were! 

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Summer of 2013





The weather is flirting with triple digit heat and it is that time of year again. Last year it happened much sooner with late May bringing  heat usually reserved for July or August.  The official temperature yesterday topped out at ninety-nine, but it felt like the inside of an oven outside, even in the shade. The humidity robs the shade of its coolness and even in a building the AC struggles to keep up if the doors are opened and closed many times.  The heat and humidity will be around for another one hundred days or so, and maybe even longer. But there will be no relief early and there is still a lot of heat to endure until then.

I started heat training early this year. I haven’t turned on my AC inside the house and I ride with my windows down in the truck more often than not. I started doing yardwork in the heat of the day again, to get used to it, and my plan to become accustomed to the heat as much as possible is working.

We were the last American generation to grow up without air conditioning and no one complained about the heat before AC came along. We played baseball in the middle of the day and roamed the woods and fields, mowed grass with a push mower, because riding mowers were for rich people, and Summer was what Summer was. Dogs and children stayed outdoors until it was absolutely necessary.  We slept with the windows open and I slept nude even as a child. My room didn’t even have a window fan which was a luxury back in the day.

There isn’t a natural way out of the heat of South Georgia that isn’t a liquid. The cool springs that are getting more and more rare, are a benison but there is no place to run to and no place to hide from the heat. The dogs dig down past the first layers of baked earth yet they still suffer through the day, hour after hour, with gnats and biting flies and the heat, always the heat, until September arrives with a little parole from the Summer. September, still the better part of three months away, seems like August for two weeks and then seems a little less than August for a fortnight, but at some point waiting for September in June seems a little like waiting for dawn at midnight. The worst is yet to come.

We make things worse for now nearly every home has some sort of appliance that leaves some residual heat that was unknown a couple of generations ago. Dishwashers, clothes driers, computers, televisions, and a host of other devices all have some life force bound in heat, much like The South, and each of them adds to the inside temperature which forces people to turn their thermostats down even further. By trying to avoid the natural heat of the Summer people have instead created their own world of heated air and warm lights. The outside heat becomes hotter as people desperately seek relief and then make matters worse by adding more heat inside. The Summers may indeed grow hotter but we are accidently making ourselves weaker.  We wrestle each day with the residual heat given off by comforts and entertainment while outside the Summer bombards us with an anaconda type mixture of heat and humidity.

Yet there is something about Summer. I love the life of it, how every moment is throbbing with some heartbeat, be it insect or wood. The greenery of the Summer is fueled by the heavy rains we’ve had the Earth fairly explodes with life at every square inch of dirt and every corner of the land. It’s hard to imagine death when life springs and sprouts at every turn and seeming, at every second. The trees are heavy with their thick green leaves and the world is an emerald again. The humidity, a bane for those seeking comfort or ease, is the very breath of The South, coaxing food from the earth and turning the entire region into a hothouse for all green things that live. This is the heart and soul of The South, this heat, this hazy dragon’s breath, and there is no way of living without paying some homage to it in sweat.  Simple yardwork becomes epic in its difficulty.  Outside exercise becomes legendary for its ability to, quite possibly, kill those who take the heat lightly. This is not the environment for those who seek some sort of lazy existence in a mild climate, no. This is a heat that makes life more difficult and with that contrast, the milder times seem so much better in comparison.

So this is the beginning of the Summer of 2013. It has been both hot and wet. I’ve made it to nid June without artificial cooling in the house but I suspect that I will soon be forced into my electric igloo very soon. A week from now and the longest day of the year will arrive, and ninety days after that the days and night will equalize. July must come before this happens but doesn’t this mean the Fourth of July and all that this celebration brings? We must endure August, long and hot, but who does not see August as a time where the sand is exiting the glass far too fast? The Summer, for all the sweat, gnats, misery and for all the times we have to hear, “It’s not the heat; it’s the humidity” it is still a glorious time that is filled with memories and adventures.  This is Summer! This is Huck Finn and baseball! This is tomatoes and watermelons! This is swimming pools and garden hose wars! This is water balloon fights and long hot nights. Whatever else can be said the truth of the matter is Summer is a long hot sticky hell but it is worth the heat. The times we will have in Summer, that time of few clothes and a few beers, will be worth it.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Yellow Jacket War.



I am a live-and-let-live creature.  I do not kill venomous snakes. I allow weeds and other plants free reign to grow where ever nature dictates and not I. My plan was to move out into the country and live in peace. I did not move out here to declare war on nature.

Yet recently I have decided to cut a trail around the property so the mutts can walk around and see their feet and I can walk around and see the mutts. Things had gotten very distinctly bushy.  So I made a trail and wouldn’t you know it? A tree died right there close to the trail. And to make matters worse it didn’t actually fall but rather it just broke at the bottom and leaned over on another tree. I took the axe and hit it a couple of times and it slipped. The third time I hit it the thing fell over and all sorts of hell broke loose at once.

I once was a land surveyor so I knew what it was the second they hit. Yellow Jackets! Small yellow and black wasps that live in paper nests underground. They are vicious and they are tenacious. I had shooed the dogs away from where the tree was so they didn’t get stung. I counted five stings on my right arm, one on my face and one on my right side.

I could see the Yellow Jackets boiling around their nest like a cloud of smoke. I had dropped the axe out there and I knew I would have to wait until dark to retrieve it. I did not want to go near that nest again in the daylight. I did want to creep up on it and try to find out where they were coming out of the ground. I got within about twenty feet when Lucas decided to wander right into the middle of everything.  I yell about the time they hit him and we both run like hell.


I have no idea how many times Lucas got hit but I picked up a couple of more stings and I also got pissed. Clearly, these were insects who were not interested in some division of the property in the name of coexistence. They meant to kill me and the mutts or drive us away from the trail.  Okay, that simplifies things somewhat.

I wrapped up in a coat, put a scarf around my face and got out a can of raid. I walked right up to them with the can held at arm’s length with my finger on the button all the way in. Yeah, that’s right; a hammer- down- right- to- the- front- gate- frontal assault and may the best man win.  This wasn’t that high powered wasp spray, oh no, all this was is the flying insect stuff. But I figured if I waded right into them I could get to their front door before they got me.

They dinged me three more times but I got up close and personal with their main entranceway.  They had occupied an old stump which is a great place to live if you’re a Yellow Jacket but that also means that if you’ve gone to war with your local Firesmith he’s only got that one tool and all the problems look exactly the same.

There’s an old metal yard cart that I have had for years and I built a fire in it with leaves and sticks. I pushed the cart up to the stump then lifted the fire out of the cart with my gloves on. I got popped a couple of more times, sure, but this was going to be the every last time.

I can have fire.



Whatever else they might be, Yellow Jackets are small winged insects. It matters not at all, to fire, how well armed they might be.  Historically speaking, fire wins when the two go to battle and I wasn’t done yet. I started hammering away at the stump, tearing it apart and adding more stuff to the fire, and trying to figure out exactly where they were. They came back to the nest in droves and they died trying. Oddly, once the smoke and flames started getting up they gave up fighting me.

I’m just getting warmed up.


There are many things I do not know about how these creatures live or die, but I know fire. I know a good hot fire will suck the oxygen out of a hole and I know carbon monoxide will fill low places before oxygen will. I know that the heat will kill and I know smoke will smother.  I don’t have to know much else in this case because what I know will work.  I slam the shovel down over where I think the hive is and I hear buzzing. There are many of them in there and none of them are happy. Ten minutes later I try again and this time there is silence. I try again in another ten minutes and there is more silence.

The nest is directly over where the hottest part of the fire is so when I start digging I have to be careful not to get burned. Forget any visions that you have of an angry swarm of Yellow Jackets boiling out to seek revenge on me. They’re dead. They’re very dead. My fire has sucked the life out of them and my smoke has choked them. Lucas stands nearby with his head down, waiting. It’s an odd thing, what Lucas is doing.  He has no idea at all as to what is going on but he’s locked and loaded. You do not want a dog that size with that look on his face and his body poised like that aimed at you. He doesn’t like the fire and doesn’t like the Yellow Jackets but I’m in the middle of this…whatever this is…Lucas is ready.  

That’s why they have to die. Because Lucas is ready to and before I let a bunch of damn bugs kill my dog I will stand in shin deep fire and I will dig their home up out of the ground. Peace and harmony, living with nature, one with the Universe, we will discuss it later.  Right now I’m going to kill something.

The dollar bill is there for scale. It is six inches long.

Note the still living larve


I tried to reconstruct it the way it came out of the ground. 




The nest comes up in pieces and there are dead Yellow Jackets everywhere. The living have no fight left in them and they buzz harmlessly around. There are at least five levels to this nest and it’s about a two feet long and about half that wide. The Yellow Jacket War is over now. The trail can be completed. Lucas has been avenged.

Take Care,
Mike