My wife and I have been anticipating The Avengers on the big screen for some time. As soon as it was available, I went online to order advance tickets at the Carmike 14 theater in Tyler, Texas. This is our favorite theater in the area. Specifically, I wanted to see this blockbuster
in the Carmike's Big D auditorium, complete with a 78' x 35' screen, advanced 7.1 digital surround sound, and luxury over-sized theater
seating. The BigD really delivers a perfect cinematic experience, and I am thus spoiled.
Initially, I was a bit disappointed to discover
The Avengers would only be in 3D in the BigD auditorium. You see, 3D is much maligned on the internet by naysayers,
spewing that 3D is only a fad and a gimmick not worth the extra cost. Then, there are those, purists, who proclaim that
the only 3D worth viewing are those that are actually shot in 3D, and that post-production 3D results in a "fake"
and distracting viewing experience. Then you have the IMAX fanboys who say only an IMAX 3D movie is worth watching.
Not having anything more than online propaganda to deter me,
ultimately, I feared the 3D addition would detract from an otherwise spectacular film. Additionally, I've had difficulty
"seeing" old-school 3D (anaglyph) that uses different colored lenses, due to my mild astigmatism. I now have corrective contacts, but I'd yet to
test them out on 3D. In fact, I'd never seen a 3D movie on the big screen. That said, the majority of 3D movies
in the US, utilize a more modern technology such as RealD that overcomes some of the hurdles of the older 3D technologies like a dark picture, poor color separation and resolution.
Then, there was the concern for my wife who has migraines and sometimes seizures that at least have the potential to
be stimulated by certain visual cues such as strobing and flickering. Even I have had issues with motion sickness in
some unsettling 2D action sequences.
All of this made me quite hesitant to proceed with watching the 3D version, but
our desire to see the film in all its big-screen glory, we opted to give it a try. We are so glad we did. The
3D effects were astonishing. It was so immersive and natural I can't imagine seeing it any other way. My wife nor
I noticed any ill effects and the image was bright and crisp. I caught myself flinching on a few occasions.
Additionally, I can't speak highly enough about Carmike Cinema's BigD experience. The sound and image quality
is truly outstanding.
Now, to the movie itself. If you enjoyedIron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, or Captain America: The First Avenger, you won't disappointed in The Avengers. It delivers all of the punch of its predecessors and then
some. Thanks to writer and director (and my hero) Joss Whedon, the dialogue is snappier and wittier and the characters are more lovable. And the effects? I dare say the chaos
and mayhem of The Avengers' 40-minute battle in Manhattan surpasses that of any of the Michael BayTransformers flicks, a franchise I still hold as the standard for visual effects. I won't spoil it for those who haven't
seen it, yet, but I will say this may be the best super hero film yet.
A friend of mine gave me a bottle of "He-brew Turkish Coffee Stout." This beer clearly makes it to my top
5 all-time favorites, ranking up there with Corsendonk and Maredsous. I detected cardamon, but clearly this is an artisan beer--not one of those flavored beers. So, a shout out to Ryan
Gunderson and "Byrne & Friends." You get this beer out there, and I'll be able to say, "I knew 'em
...I'm bald now. Or, in the more specific, proper term, I'm "bald-by-choice". I naturally
have a thick head of wavy hair. When I was in high school, I used to spend a lot of time with a hot hair dryer and a brush
to make said wavy hair straighter. Since adulthood, I've opted for lower maintenance, and in more recent years,
my wife has been cutting my hair. She would always cut it as short as I liked it and as often as I liked, but it was
only perfect for about two weeks. At which point, the curls would begin to return and no amount of mousse or gel would
control it to my liking. I actually would receive compliments regarding my curls, but it always felt unkempt and unruly.
Additionally, I've always liked hats---fedoras and the like---but I've never worn one due to the inevitable "hat
For years I'd "threatened" to shave my head, but I never took the plunge. I was
concerned that to achieve a good slick bald look I'd have to shave daily. I'm not much of a fan of shaving my
face daily, so shaving my head too wasn't really appealing. Ultimately, that was the only
thing holding me back. Finally, I rationalized, with my thick head of hair, I had to periodically fuss with it
throughout the day and some days it just simply wouldn't cooperate. If I had to spend an additional five or six
minutes in the shower to shave my head daily, I would still save time not having to perform any further maintenance throughout
the day. My wife provided the final word of confidence by stating, "Your hair grows so fast anyway, if you don't
like it, it'll grow out within a month or so anyway." So on August 21, 2011, the decision was made. I
entered into a realm of freedom known as baldness!
After taking my hair down to a "burr" using my clipper
without a guard, I hopped in the shower, lathered up, and scraped the scalp bare using my trusty vintage double-edge Gillette
that has served my face so well over the years. I made a few rookie mistakes, i.e. spending too much time on a virgin
scalp trying to ensure complete slickness by making too many repeated passes resulting in some razor burn. All in all,
however, I was very pleased with the results.
I then ventured onto the internet for some tips. Little did I know
there's a wealth of information out there regarding head shaving. The first place I stumbled upon was HeadSHaver.org. It proved to be a nice informative site providing unbiased information about products and techniques. It's
a great place to check out even if you've been shaving for years. It's also a very informative those who think
they already know everything there is to know about face shaving. You will learn something.
HeadShaver.org recommended other sites, one of
which was the invaluable SlyBaldGuys.com. SlyBaldGuys is a great community of folks who are eager to share their experiences and advice about not only head
shaving but many other related topics as well. The site also helps those who suffer from male pattern baldness and serves
as support and encouragement for those with self-esteem problems related to the condition. For some, shaving their heads
provides freedom from feeble attempts to hide their male pattern baldness while others, such as myself, have gained freedom
from their hair.
So for the past four weeks, I've been experimenting with different razors and products to obtain the fastest, closest,
and most comfortable shave. I found many guys recommending the HeadBlade Sport. I was skeptical at first thinking it was a gimmick. It looks like a cross between a Hotwheels car and a toy spaceship. (Click thumbnail picture for a larger version). I probably never would have purchased
one had I not come across it in Walgreens for $13. What did I have to lose? So, I picked one up and tried it the next morning. I was amazed.
It fits on your middle finger and you simply swipe your hand across your dome in a motion similar to slicking your hair back.
The result is a very close shave within about 3 minutes after practice. I've been shaving daily for the past ten
days using this ingenious contraption. I highly recommend it!
Check out this video from HeadBlade spokesman,
Jack, giving a demonstration of the HeadBlade Sport:
Most of you know, I'm an RN that works in a hospital, but I don't work for the hospital.
I work for a cardiologist. It is not unusual for patients and patients' families to assume I work for the hospital,
even though my name badge clearly indicates differently. I've been known to answer the phone and help out a colleague
from time to time, but I do have my own job to do. As a result, when a patient or family member comes up to me to ask
a question, I generally avoid eye contact so they'll ask someone else. If they don't get the message and proceed
with their question, I'll usually preface it with, "I don't work here, but...", and then I'll usually
direct them. I've worked in this hospital for 15 years so, I probably know the answer.
Today, a patient's
family member approached me while I was sitting at the nurses desk, looking through a chart. I have a very effective
'I'm busy' look. This lady apparently, despite her years, was not familiar with this method of anti-communication.
She proceeded to ask, "Where is the ice machine?" She asked twice. The nurse sitting right next to me
- the nurse who actually works for the hospital - apparently has honed her 'I'm busy' look better than
mine and managed to completely ignore said nuisance. (Thanks Judith).
So, while getting up to leave the desk,
I pointed to the nourishment room, that is - oddly enough - labeled "nourishment room", and told her, "It's
over there in the nourishment room." Because I'm there as her servant, no "thank you" was offered
or even implied. I went my way and she headed for the nourishment room. I knew the room was locked, and that it
requires your pass key (which I have) or the ward secretary to push a button to allow access. Ultimately, this is just one
more pointless task the staff must endure, because I cannot see how this has squelched the inappropriate access to snacks
by the patients, families, vagabonds, and truants since implementing this procedure. I assumed this person would do what every
other semi-sentient being has done since implementing the procedure, and that is to abruptly shake and rattle the locked
door handle a minimum of three times before turning around and issuing a perplexed look at the ward secretary thus prompting
her to push the button granting access to the snack mecca that is the nourishment room.
About 30 minutes later, I returned
to the desk to discover that the nurse who was previously oblivious to everything around her now had an in depth account of
the circumstances following my departure.
Apparently, this lady fell apart, sobbing, and ranting to the charge nurse
and anyone else who would hear her plight about my complete lack of compassion by directing her to a locked door. Compassion?
You are able to derive my lack of compassion based on a single sentence uttered from my lips? A 10 second conversation,
the subject of which amounted to a bucket of ice? If this is how you want to play the game, fine. I will therefore
deduce from our soul-revealing encounter that you are a heartless, self-centered, individual who thinks everyone is around
you to be at your beck and call.
Now, before any of you bleeding hearts out there start to tell me how I don't
know what she's going through. Perhaps a loved one is in declining health and her emotions are on edge...
I suppose Facebook is causing independent, illegitimate, bloggers such as myself to neglect our meek little personal websites.
So, since I believe, someday, Facebook will become a paysite, I'm back. I'm still on Facebook, mind you. I'm also on Twitter, for what it's worth.
So, now there is only one moon...
I suppose that statement requires a little background.
I have a vision problem that I only notice while looking at bright objects against a dark background such as headlights at
night, end credits to a movie, or the night sky. The problem is such that when I look at the moon, I see a perfect crisp
image of the moon with a lighter, blurry, repeated image up and to the right of the "original".
About 5 years
ago, I went to an optometrist who diagnosed the problem an astigmatism. While she felt my degree of astigmatism was mild, she offered glasses. I asked her about contacts, but she said
they didn't make contacts for astigmatism. Otherwise, my vision was perfect. I opted for the glasses, but
ultimately they never really made much difference, so I rarely wore them.
I'd heard there are now toric contact lenses to correct astigmatism. Since my first visit with the optometrist, my insurance has changed, so I had to go to a different
doctor. The experience was incredible, to say the least. I saw Dr. Valerie Mace with EyeCare Associates of East Texas. She confirmed my astigmatism, but again indicated my visual acuity is still
perfect. I told her I wanted contacts partly due to wanting to be able to enjoy 3D movies, a technology that untreated
astigmatism sufferers cannot enjoy due to the inherent "stereovision" trick on the brain. Interestingly, she said
this was not the first time she'd heard this rationale for an individual's decision to correct their astigmatism.
what made this little visit to the optometrist an "incredible" experience? Never having worn contacts before
in my life, I walked out of her office within one hour with perfect vision! A patient put it best when she said, "You
can't even get an oil change done right in an hour." I can't say enough about Dr. Mace and her professional staff.
Now, there is only one moon.
A wren made a nest in what originally seemed to be a precarious location atop a wind chime hanging underneath the eaves of
our home. She secured it with mud, such that it now appears to be quite stable. I don't imagine the nest sways
anymore on the wind chime than it would on a tree branch. At either rate, she now has babies in the nest.
night, I saw a rather large chicken snake on the deck near the nest. I initially thought nothing of it, so I stepped
on his tail to make him scurry along, thereby preserving his life. Otherwise, if our dogs had noticed him, he'd
surely be killed.
A few minutes later, I walked into the kitchen to discover the same snake crawling along the window sill (outside). It immediately became apparent his intent was to get to the baby wrens. So, after shooting some
video and snapping some pics, I flung the snake about 20 yards away.
Just a few minutes later, I found the snake back
on the window. So, when I walked out on the deck, I found two more snakes. We now have a family of snakes, presumably
on a mission to eat these birds. One of the snakes was at least 6 feet in length! As the medium sized and smaller
snake would climb on the window, they would stretch their bodies in an attempt to reach the bird's nest. The big
snake was simply too large to fit on the window sill, so he quickly gave up and escaped underneath the house. The small
snake was too small to pull it off either. The medium sized snake (the one featured in the video) was almost long enough
to reach the nest, but he would fall each time. He must have fallen 10 feet to the ground at least 6 times that I witnessed.
Each time, he would return for another try.
Most of you know that I love nature and all God's creatures. I understand the "family" of snakes were hungry, but I could not bear to see these defenseless baby birds meet their
demise after I have watched them grow from eggs. I could not kill the snakes as many have suggested, as I just do not
have the heart for that. I therefore fudged the prime directive and removed most of the wood pile giving them access
and also coated the wall with soap.
I woke this morning to find the baby wrens safe and sound. Hopefully the snakes
found a meal elsewhere.
December 11, 2010, Baxter, TX - A quiet Texas community was literally shaken at its core early Saturday morning when local landowner, Matt Hilton, stumbled upon a gruesome crime scene. Texas native, John Tupp, known
by his friends as "Jack", was found eviscerated just outside his home off County Road 4508, the apparent victim
of homicide. Mr. Tupp served his community for years as a hard working excavator. Friends of the victim indicate he
mostly kept to himself with nary an enemy except that of suspect Gypsy Hilton.
Ms. Hilton is on record for having submitted many informal verbal complaints with regard to the victim's late night construction
jobs, accusing Mr. Tupp of interrupting her sleep. Apparently Ms. Hilton's rage was further fueled by her landlords'
dismissive attitude toward her outbursts calling them simply imaginative fabrications. Attempts were made to interview Ms.
Hilton at the scene, but she refused comment. While this reporter would never speculate in the interest of justice,
it seems obvious that Ms. Hilton clearly is the perpetrator of this crime. Crime scene photographs reveal a bright red substance on her chin that could only be the blood of the late Mr. Tupp. Local transient, Toby Kins, initially
seemed to be a reliable witness as he ambitiously gave his account. Unfortunately, in the middle of the interview, Mr.
Kins seemed to get lost in thought and began rambling about unrelated matters regarding tennis balls and squeaky chew toys.
A brief encounter was had with local curmudgeon, old maid Mercy Hilton (no relation), who only muttered, "They should
all be locked up." One thing is for sure, it will be quite some time before the Baxter community reels from this
Click on thumbnail images for larger versions. WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
Better Late Than Never: I Finally Watched The Sopranos
In January 1999, there was a buzz about a new HBO series, The Sopranos. As a huge fan of the mobster movie genre, there was little doubt I would enjoy the series, but, at the time, I had
too many "appointment" television shows and thus never watched it. It did not take long for the series to
achieve accolades and critical acclaim, winning Emmy's, Golden Globe awards, Peabody's, and multiple major guild awards.
At that point, I knew I had missed the foundation of the story, and therefore I never watched a single episode. I knew
someday, I would have the time to watch the entire series.
The Sopranos spanned six seasons before ending
on a high in June 2007 with a very controversial series finale. Despite all the hype, blogging, and prolonged critical analysis of the final episode, I managed to avoid any spoilers. All I did understand
is that many fans of the series were outraged and / or confused by the ending.
So, three years later, I have found
the time to watch this series---all six seasons. I started in July and finished yesterday. What a ride!
Almost every episode made me laugh out loud as well as cringe at the suspense and violence. Homicide: Life on the Street
still holds its rank as my all-time favorite television series, but The Sopranos holds a close second. It was a roller
coaster ride, watching Tony Soprano, an innately evil man, come so close to redemption only to fall again. Unlike most
other gangster movies in which the audience is subconsciously encouraged to check their morals at the door and unwittingly
cheer for the evil gangster, I found myself longing to see Tony overcome his dark inclinations. Again and again, I was disappointed
in him as he came so close and then failed.
I assume if you are reading this far, you are not concerned about having
the ending spoiled for you, so let me, as many bloggers before me, give my $0.02 on the ending. Perhaps I was at an
advantage with having watched the entire series within two months as opposed to 8 years. I quickly became accustomed
to the writing and directorial style of The Sopranos. The creators take for granted that their audience is intelligent,
and therefore details are not spoon-fed to the audience as in many network serials.
There are entire essays
analyzing the final scene of The Sopranos, so I will not presume to duplicate them. The final scene can be summed up
like this: Throughout the series, it is alluded to---if not emphasized---by Tony himself, that there are only two possible
fates for men like him: "dead or in the can." Additionally, in the final few episodes it is proclaimed that the
guy taking the bullet never hears it. In the final scene, a tempo and pattern is established. We see Tony, then
the very next image is from his point of view, i.e. what he sees. This pattern is repeated at least six times in this
final sequence, therefore, the viewer is trained to know that the image following any scene with Tony looking up is what he sees. Now, there are other shots, mind you, to maintain continuity and to add to the
mood, but make no mistake, if Tony is center frame, the next image is from his point-of-view. This is further emphasized
by the ringing of the bell that occurs when the diner door is opened. So, we have both visual and auditory clues: The
bell rings, Tony looks up, we see exactly what he sees, then we see his reaction. The viewer already knows this is the
final episode which no doubt adds to the tension. Finally, we hear the bell, we see Tony casually look up expectantly awaiting
his daughter, the only member of his family not yet seated at the table, then---the intelligent audience knowing the next
thing we see is what Tony sees---nothing. The screen goes black. The music playing in the diner simultaneously
and abruptly ceases. Black...silence...nothingness. For a full 10 seconds we are shown only a blank screen, then
the credits roll, even still, no music. In 86 episodes, this is the only episode that has no music during the credits.
It is jarring and unsettling. The only logical explanation is that we saw what Tony saw. He died. Presumably
from a gunshot to the head given the abruptness. He "never heard it". The Sopranos creators assumed their intelligent
audience would be taken off guard, but ultimately would understand it after the initial shock given the foreshadowing. Pure.