Sunday, February 27, 2011

McBone Presents: The Fourth Annual McBoner Awards

As the Middle East boils over with popular uprisings and public workers fight for their livelihoods in the Midwest, it's time to step away from such goings-on and steep ourselves for a few hours in our favorite cesspool of privilege and excess: the Academy Awards.  Yes, fellow moviegoers, it's that septic spectacle we call Oscar Night.  We at McBone annually wade our way through the Versace frocks and endless dark glasses to see which motion pictures are deemed worthy to enter the Academy's canon.  Yes, I will watch every second, and yes I'll come out feeling like I've bathed in (and drunk from) the Ganges (minus the sacredness).

But before I begin weeping for civilization, I'll offer my own take on the year in cinema.  This year's McBoners go to:

Get Low--Best film.  My early favorite withstood an onslaught from some stiff competition, and just edges out Winter's Bone, (an obvious choice for the McBoner), True Grit and the mesmerizing documentary, Catfish.  I'm not sure what this exquisite picture did to deserve complete and utter indifference from the award givers of the world.  I suppose I'm biased in my love of grizzled old men with beards, but so much of Get Low was done with love and care by director Aaron Schneider, who, unlike the Coen Brothers (hellbent on crafting a masterpiece of quirks), sticks with authenticity in the name of good storytelling.  Throw Sissy Spacek into the pot with some apt screenwriting and magnificent cinematography and you get this folkloric tale of regret and redemption.

Geoffrey Rush--Best Actor, The King's Speech.  Sorry Colin; your convincing stutter earned our sympathy for King George, but Geoffrey Rush owns this movie as his irreverent mentor.  Rush (in this leading role, in spite of what the Academy says) is perfection as he unceremoniously does away with all the pomp and ceremony that goes with being King, using patience and great humor to free his pupil from the stifling weight of his position. Apologies to: James Franco.

TIE!  Michelle Williams, Jennifer Lawrence--Best Actress, Blue Valentine, Winter's Bone.  The superiority of these two performances made it impossible for me to decide.  Both women enact their parts with understated artistry.  Both deserve the prize.  Apologies to: Hailee Steinfeld, who should have been nominated for the Oscar in this category.

Barry Pepper--Best supporting actor, True Grit.  My inclination with this award is usually to choose the smallest performance that makes the biggest impression.  Pepper makes the most of his five minutes on screen, letting the spittle fly from his green-toothed gape.  Apologies to: Get Low's Bill Cobbs.

Rooney Mara--Best supporting actress, The Social Network.  The quick-tongued Mara puts on a clinic on how to broom a d-bag boyfriend.  Apologies to: Amy Adams, who atones for her awfulness in Doubt, and Chloe Moretz of Kick-Ass.

Debra Granick--Best director, Winter's Bone.  Granick makes us see the perils and pitfalls of back-woods poverty.  Her portrait is terrifying and she weaves a nearly perfect story without the benefit of major studio backing.  Apologies to: Christopher Nolan.

Aaron Sorkin--Best screenplay, The Social Network.  I admire films that resist the urge to load up on dialogue, but I tend to give this award to the more talkative films.  The Social Network has too many memorable lines to ignore, particularly: 'I'm 6'5" 220 and there's two of me.'  Apologies to: Coen bros.

Get Low--Best art direction.  As much as Tron and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World were awesome spectacles, I applaud how director Aaron Schneider makes the most of a small budget to transport us back 100 years to erstwhile Tennessee.

Crushing disappointments of 2010: Tron: Legacy, Iron Man 2, Never Let Me Go, Love and Other Drugs

For those of you who think me a hopeless imbecile, we offer you the Alex Awards:

Best film: My heart this year belongs to Winter's Bone.  From the very first frame I was both insanely tense and transfixed by this gorgeous, hard-hitting story and its characters.  Blue Valentine comes second, and, although the awards ignored it completely, I thought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 took what in the books is a tedious journey and turned it into a mesmerizing story about growing up and coming to terms with who we are while the world is falling apart around us.

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence owns Winter's Bone. Whether she's skinning squirrels, battling the meth mafia, or protectively looking after her siblings, Lawrence makes Ree into a hero for our postmodern times.  Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine comes a very close second, handling the beginning and the end of love with no tricks or mannerisms, just pure, authentic emotion. 

Best Actor: Blue Valentine's Ryan Gosling makes for the most charming and lovable drunken fuck-up in years, so much so that you almost, but not quite, forgive him when he loses it.  Gosling makes clear how a woman can be with someone like him and manage to find happiness in the midst of the chaos and sadness he brings her.  Kudos to Collin Firth and Jesse Eisenberg as well.

Best Supporting Actress: Dale Dickey from Winter's Bone.  As the terrifying meth world matriarch, Dickey is the only worthy match for Jennifer Lawrence's Ree.  With one of the most expressive and sorrow-filled faces I've ever seen on the screen, Dickey gives us an awe-inspiring picture of female power and pain.  Melissa Leo, another frightening matriarch comes a close second.  Mia Wasikovska made the stress, confusion and hopefulness of the pre-college months with their uncertainty and impending family separation look beautiful and tangible in The Kids Are All Right.

Best Supporting Actor: Winter Bone's John Hawkes makes loose cannon, creepy and good-hearted (in a twisted, fucked-up way) find new meanings with his performance as Uncle Teardrop. 

Best Director: Debra Granick makes magic with her actors and eerie storytelling in Winter's Bone, all while keeping her amazingly capable hands wrapped around our hearts.  The authentic, lyrical way in which she weaves her tale visually should be studied by directors with much larger budgets.  A close second goes to Derek Cianfrance, who spent 12 years working on Blue Valentine and created the most profound exploration of relationships I have seen in years.  Lisa Chodolenko also created something beautiful in the relationship department with The Kids Are All Right, going beyond couples to explore how the nuclear family can come together and fall apart as they try to find their own personal happiness within the larger family structure.

Best Original Screenplay:  Blue Valentine for having some of the most gorgeous and heartbreaking dialogue this year.  The Kids Are All Right's wit and emotional power comes second.

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Winter's Bone for bringing to life such a visceral tale into a story that looks like it could not belong anywhere but on the screen.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, I would argue, improved on the book and created some truly enchanted moments like Harry and Hermione's dancing scene, that, although not in the book, perfectly belong in the story.

Best Art Direction: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, for finding the most haunting places in England and creating a whimsical, painful space for our three favorite wizards to find themselves, and, in the process, maybe run into a few Horcruxes.

Previous winners:


nwb and AHA

Friday, February 25, 2011

Well Played, Sir

This week Obama ordered the Justice Department to stop enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act, declaring it discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional.  This comes on the heels of our president signing the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell into law.  This is good work.  No, it's not going to create jobs, fix the deficit or get Falling Rock National Park into the daily papers, but progress is progress.

Of course a few headaches are inevitable as the same, tired arguments come slinking out from under rocks, but you know what:

I don't want to hear about the horrible things this is going to do to traditional marriage.  By now we know that traditional marriage can take care of itself.  Oh hey!  Is that Massachusetts with the lowest divorce rate in the nation?  Huh!  How about that?

Don't tell me this will lead to people marrying more than one person, their sibling, their labradoodle, their inflatable doll.  Take your 'where does it end??' argument and put it where heaping, stinking piles of ignorance belong.

I'm really not interested in what the Bible has to say on the subject.  I'm not sure I want my moral compass guided by a text that obliges me to execute my neighbors if I catch them working on a Sunday.

I don't give a damn what some blithering, dithering radio host with brain fever has to say.

And don't hand me a crock of bull about how people in 29 states voted in referendums.  The majority does not necessarily rule when it comes to civil rights.  At some point, sanity must intervene on behalf of the less privileged.

You done good, Mr. President, in giving a nation of infants a little nudge toward adulthood.  May your views regarding the subject continue to evolve.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

so, she said, this is what we've been missing

1961 - 2011
golden valleys all of us tumbling thru. a wayward grasp at
flying. such scenery we are we like to view.
go head on.
snap snap snap.
Walk away from the center of reality. i don't know where
that is at. forget what is said in the world of touch. anything
you want baby. marilyn monroe promised. ride flames
thrashing thighs. find a field where plantain & cucumber
grow. eat from the vulva's sphere. snapshots endure. smile
lucky. the world is a firecracker &
don't you forget it.
you safe.
all those kids missing on milk cartons. fall away from the
centerfold. small breasts alone on a beach.
this is imperative. all this time away from heaven.
all this.

akilah oliver

the she said dialogues: flesh memory


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Your Turn, Muammar

All right, fuckhead, listen up.  Forty years of autocracy, repression, terror and all-around weirdness are quite enough.  You had a good run, but now your people are done with you, so take your Snuggie, your jheri curl (caution! flammable!) and your scaly, mole-encrusted visage and get lost.  Put the guns and bombs away, pitch yourself a nice, opulent tent somewhere and live out whatever days you have left being fanned by a legion of voluptuous female virgin bodyguards.  That's a sweeter deal than you deserve; we urge you to accept.

By the way, I'm not sure how you got your mitts on our great aunt Lettie's pillbox hat, but you just go ahead and keep it.


No, we don't want it back.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Koch Is It

On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to repeal spending limits on campaign donations by corporations.  The ruling essentially granted corporations citizen status, with all the first amendment free-speech rights pertaining thereto.  Thus 1 Wal-Mart Stores, Inc (2 million employees, 170 billion total assets) = 1 Nate (0 employees, $170.00 total assets).  Sound crazy?  It is!

One year later, we're seeing some of the fallout.  Public employees in several states face having their collective bargaining rights sharply curtailed.

Conservative oil magnates David and Charles Koch (also of Dixie Cup fame) threw heaps of cash at union-busting Republican Wisconsinite Scott Walker in his successful campaign for governor.  Yes, the Koch Brothers, worth tens of billions each, for whom taxes are an affront to their perceived right to hoard as much wealth as possible, for whom a union is a seen as a direct threat to their accumulation of power, want nothing more than to squeeze away the bargaining rights of Wisconsinites toiling away in the state's public sector.  Is this surprising?  Not when you consider that David Koch was the running mate on the Libertarian ticket for the 1980 presidential election.  Among the reforms sought in his party's campaign: the abolition of public schools.  Thirty years later, Scott Walker, fresh off a victory fueled by Koch cash, is happy to do the brothers' bidding in what appears to be a highly organized, multi-state crusade against organized public labor.

Union leaders have declared their willingness to negotiate with Walker.  Walker won't budge.  We are certain that his overlords will have a nice cozy position waiting for him when his tenure as governor is up.

Understand that McBone is not anti-business.  We love business, as a matter of fact.  What we condemn are decisions, like the one made by the Supreme Court last year, that are turning this country into an oligarchy and give undue legislative influence to the likes of the Koch Brothers.  We believe that management must be kept in check by labor.  That's fair.  That's democratic.  In 2011, one percent of the population commands nearly a quarter of American wealth, the largest imbalance since the 1920s.  This is not McBone pulling numbers out of its McButthole.  That's a very real and alarming statistic.  The demise of the labor union is certain to further tip the scales.

For what it's worth, this small blog stands with you, workers of Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cluck, Cluck, What the F*#%?

From the Akron Beacon Journal's Crime Watch section:


An Eastern Road man reported Dec. 12 that someone broke into his home and tied a live chicken to his refrigerator by a leash made of shoelaces. Popcorn was placed on the floor for the bird to eat. He told police that he had found dead animals on his porch for the past three Saturdays.

This is of course hilarious, but here's a word of advice from McBone to the Eastern Road Man: take your new chicken and move away now.  It might be a good idea to change your name and phone number, too.  Also, grow a moustache and never show your face on Eastern Road again. 


Friday, February 18, 2011

The Din out of Madison

I spent two years in public schools teaching little kids to speak English.  During that time I learned two valuable lessons about education:

1) Good public school teachers are a precious resource.

2) I don't have what it takes to be one.

I fail to see the merit in stripping the public sector workforce of its bargaining power, just as I fail to see how punishing already modest wage earners with smaller paychecks can be good for the economy.  I see plenty of merit, however, in this:

McBone takes its hat off to Wisconsinites who have demonstrated against their governor's efforts to weaken the power of the public employee.  Scott Walker, in stooping to the standard Republican credo of blaming unions for our economic woes, has fully aligned himself with the dark forces that seek to siphon American wealth away from the middle/working classes and into the distended bellies of the privileged few.

We maintain that a healthy, well-educated citizenry is crucial to keeping pace with the world, and we believe that strong public services are necessary in achieving that goal, ie good public schools populated with good public school teachers. 

Wanna be no. 1?  Tax and spend like you mean it.  Let's keep the most talented and qualified people in the classroom so that hacks like me aren't forced to miseducate America.

Yeah, I'm a liberal.  Fuck you.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

McBone Mini Reviews; Award Season Edition

Black Swan - Unsettling, overwrought ballet thriller about a dancer's descent into mental illness.  Director Darren Aronofsky seems to want to craft his magnum opus, but just about everything feels a little over the top, from the overbearing mother to the overwhelming feeling that nothing is as it seems.  Aronofsky has made a career of twisting the knife handle.  Nothing wrong with seeing Natalie Portman peel the skin off her own finger, but the director is too single minded in his devotion to intensity, and thus takes the tiniest of steps back after his masterful The Wrestler.  Natalie Portman does fine, at times masterful work, but often looks as though she's clutching her bowels.  She will win the Oscar, though.  3.5 McBones

The Fighter - A lively portrait of family drama that ultimately devolves into Rocky III.  Relationships are the strength of this one.  To reach glory in the ring, boxer Micky Ward must first survive his family.  Watch Mark Wahlberg navigate a gauntlet featuring seven trashy sisters, a chain-smoking control freak of a mother (Melissa Leo--sublime!) and a 98 pound, crack-addicted brother (Christian Bale, looking the part).  Fun!  Along for the ride is girlfriend Charlene (the sometimes-insufferable Amy Adams is outstanding), willing to go to the mat for her man and take on the whole lot of them.  These characters are so well drawn, and the actors tear into their parts with such gusto that it's a real shame this isn't the masterpiece it could have been.  As in all boxing movies, the boxing looks super fake.  Mark Wahlberg has a sexy torso, btw.  What can I say?  3.5 McBones

True Grit - Will not occupy a place as one of the great westerns, and probably won't be considered one of the Coen brother's masterworks.  That said, this tale of revenge and unlikely friendship is a top candidate for the McBoner.  Hailee Steinfeld is a force of nature as a vengeful daughter and Jeff Bridges grunts and growls every last shred of dialogue as her cyclopic hired gun.  Along with cheeseball Texas Ranger Matt Damon, they form the most dysfunctional set of Old West comrades imaginable.  Don't miss the climax, one of the most astonishing 15-20 minute sequences you'll ever see in film--with snakes!  4.5 McBones

127 Hours - Claustrophobic, bone-crunching agony.  Rarely have I squirmed and flinched in a theatre like I did with 127 Hours.  James Franco is perfection as a hiker trapped in a cave, and Danny Boyle, pulling no punches, gives us a film that, unlike Slumdog Millionaire, is award-worthy.  Falters when Boyle tries to craft too tidy a cinematic package out of a true event.  4.0 McBones

Catfish - A New York City photographer gets involved with a uber-talented family of Minnesota bohemians.  That's all I'm giving away.  Stop wasting time and go watch one of the finest, funniest and most baffling pieces of documentary filmmaking I've ever seen, a must-see for anyone who has spent one second nosing around Facebook.  4.5 McBones

The King's Speech - An inspiring story of triumph against a backdrop of looming war.  I'm not much of a Colin Firth fan, but he and Geoffrey Rush are dazzling as pupil/mentor trying to rid a king of a debilitating speech condition and save England from the clutches of Nazi evil.  Also, I love Helena Bonham Carter.  Her presence is worth at least one McBone in any movie.  4.0 McBones

Blue Valentine - You know why Michelle Williams is about the best actor out there?  Because she never appears to be acting.  Contrast her performance with Ryan Gosling's in this small, eloquently spun tale of curdled love.  Gosling turns in a fine performance in his own rite, but one so self-conscious and full of affectations it hardly seems to belong in the same movie.  Somehow, someway, the contrasts balance and together the two leads make sweet music.  Literally.  Derek Cianfrance shows a deft touch in weaving two narratives, past and present, to show us how, in love, things change, people change and Hollywood endings are total bollocks.  May not appeal to those who dislike reality in film.  4.0 McBones

Winter's Bone - Faced with eviction and starvation, a young woman sets off across Missouri's meth country in search of her father.  A survival story anchored by the strength of Jennifer Lawrence's haunted and flawless performance, Director Debra Granik puts on a clinic in storytelling that the big studios need to observe.  Forced into the breadwinner's role, Ree traverses the remote corners of back country society in a desperate, last ditch effort to save her family from total collapse.  There she encounters characters menacing (a local clan of meth cookers), kind (an Army recruiter) or both (her uncle Teardrop, played by John Hawkes with a perfect combo of villainy and compassion).  With so much Hollywood pomp and flash bombarding us--I'm looking at you, Iron Man 2--Winter's Bone is a frightening and much needed glimpse into the lost crevices of America.  4.5 McBones


Sunday, February 13, 2011

The McBone Birdwatching Journal; Pileated Woodpecker

After a lazy Sunday breakfast, my sometimes-popular wife and I were treated to an unusual sight.  Behold the magnificent pileated woodpecker as it works over a tree in our front yard, not 15 feet away. 

As big as a crow and boldly colored, few species in the birding kingdom can match the beauty of this red-crested woodpecker with the striped head and neck.

I spotted this pileated in our neighbor's yard and summoned my SPW just in time for the bird to swoop toward our house in a quest for delicious, nutritious, protein-rich bugs.

Though it is not rare to see a pileated woodpecker in its natural woodland habitat, it is a shy, solitary bird that tends to avoid human populations.  This is not the first time one has winged its way over to McBone manor, but never have we been able to provide photographic evidence.

We thank our friend for spending a solid 15 minutes with us, and invite it to come back anytime to feast on the crunchy, munchy bugs in the old oak tree.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Thank You Note

Dear Mr. Mubarak,

I see that you got our letter

Thanks for the quick response!




Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dear Mr. Presidents

Say, Hosni, what brand of hair dye is that?
Dear Mr. Mubarak,

You are seeing exactly the kind of uprising that should have happened in the United States when our nation's leadership marched us to war in Iraq under false pretenses.  Tens of millions of us would have liked to have organized and demonstrated like your compatriots are doing.  Only we didn't.  That's just not how we roll.

But the Egyptian people have spoken.  They are speaking now.  Do you hear them?  They are tired of your brutal, 30-year repression of human rights.  After three decades of torture, murder, imprisonment and exile, they've had enough.

Your time is up.

Kindly step down now, before they march on your palace and a bloodbath ensues.



Dear Mr. Obama,

The moment has come to either end the longstanding US policy of supporting ruthless dictators or stop using the term 'beacon' when it comes to the example we are setting as a democratic nation.

Your condemnation of violence is commendable, but please, stop speaking Politicianese and advise your friend that his time is up.

Ask him to kindly step down now and let the people decide who should lead them.




Wednesday, February 9, 2011

God's Army of One

Big wtf moment this evening after reading a Plain Dealer article about a clergy member and the disturbingly large cache of weapons he was storing at a Cleveland homeless shelter.  It seems the Rev. John Henry's vast arsenal included some 230 assorted handguns, rifles, assault weapons and 2000 boxes of ammunition.  Building inspectors discovered the store of munitions (hilariously dubbed a 'severe over-storage of miscellaneous items') in the complex Henry presided over for decades.

This story is all kinds of weird.  Henry has resigned his post and will undergo a psychiatric evaluation as a mandatory part of what is being called a 'crisis intervention.'  Good move, I'd say.  Who knows what this guy was thinking or planning or which angel was telling him to stockpile.  Maybe they'll end up giving him a clean bill of health, but in my book, behavior like this falls way, way, way beyond the parameters of normalcy, even for a priest.

Not everyone thinks the good reverend is being treated fairly, though.  PD readers rushed to the defense of Henry, who, as they would have it, was just exercising his constitutional right to own as many firearms as he pleases, and to store them wherever he pleases, like in a homeless shelter, where the collective mental stability of the general populace may be subject to question.  Far more alarming than owning enough guns to form a good old fashioned American-style 2nd Amendment militia is, they say, how the police invaded Father Henry's privacy and seized his personal property.  

Such warped opinionating leads this blogger to seriously question his own judgment.  What the hell was I doing poring over the comment section of the Plain Dealer?  Wasn't there something more productive I could have been doing?  Like counting my leg hairs? 

I know I've been hitting the gun thing hard lately, but here's a tiny morsel to chew on, for what it's worth:

Violent gun deaths in Great Britain in 2007: 41
Population of Great Britain: 60 million

Violent gun deaths in Ohio in 2007: 391
Population of Ohio: 11.5 million


Monday, February 7, 2011

The Gipper at 100

Stay dead, please
Yesterday Ronald Reagan's moldering corpse celebrated its 100th birthday.  McBone would like to commemorate one of our deadest presidents by highlighting some of 40's most notable achievements as chief executive.  Noam Chomsky has expressed strong doubts that Reagan had any real idea of what was happening during his tenure, but McBone isn't letting him off the hook so easily.

So we'll just go ahead and thank you, RR, for:

Being a pioneer in deficit spending.

Cutting taxes irrationally...

...and then raising taxes to cover your ass.

Swelling the national debt from 900 billion to three trillion.

Funneling American wealth to the rich.

Overseeing a decrease in real wages.

Precipitating the decline of the middle and working classes.

Deregulating the mayonnaise industry.

Bloating the military budget.

Coining the phrase 'welfare queens'.

Demonizing people who need help.

Ignoring AIDS.

Hating the poor in general.

Hating the environment.

Infecting the political mainstream with religion.

Laying waste to Central America, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, etc, etc...

For eight years Reagan eased our worries with a voice that was soft and peanut buttery smooth.  While he was busy charming our pants off, the world most of us live in was eroding.  More than two decades later, he has become the patron saint of the Republican party.  How does this happen?  You'd think the diseased Reagan mantle would be something conservatives would want to shed, quarantine and study so that the future would not see his mistakes repeated.  Or maybe they should have just burned it and started over.  After all, his administration was the embodiment of just about everything they profess to hate.

Happy fucking birthday.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Doing the Dirty Work at Tidal Gardens

The King School Carnival at King Elementary in Akron was a yearly chance for overworked primary schoolers to get away from the grind, an orgiastic free-for-all filled with fun, games and delicacies even more sumptuous than what we were offered daily in the lunch line.  As a first grader navigating the funhouse for the first time, I slapped down a ticket for the right to participate in a game of skill. The stakes?  A real live goldfish.  With an Olympian display of dexterity (after 14 tries), I tossed a ping pong ball through the narrow mouth of a glass bowl.  Victory was mine.  My prize was handed to me in a vessel normally reserved for the safe transport of ham sandwiches.  Excited by the prospect of a new companion, I took my scaly friend home, filled a goldfish bowl with gravel and water and vowed to be a dutiful master to my underwater charge.

The next morning I found my poor fish floating belly up.

After a year of blaming god and washing down Prozacs with straight vodka, my grief finally subsided.  Hopeless optimist that I am, I took another chance on a King School fish, with the exact same results. 

Watching Goldie II swirl clockwise into oblivion and wracked with guilt, I wondered where I had gone wrong.  My goldfish bowl was a death trap, and the senseless loss of life had to stop.  My days as an aquarist were over.  I needed to find a hobby that made sense for an eight year old.  I turned my sights to winemaking.

Except that winemaking isn't as glamorous as it may seem on the surface.  Last summer my buddy, Than, treated me and some friends to a pair of the finest French wines money can buy.  Sipping liquid transcendence can put one in a romantic mood.  It can also make people do some really crazy stuff, like drop everything, move to California and burn the kids' college funds on starting a winery.  A wise man (Than) once wrote: People often look at winemakers as these people gazing off into the distance and pontificating about the universe as seen in movies like Sideways and Bottle Shock.  In reality, winemaking is really dirty work and you end up pruning several acres of vines by hand and hoping to god something doesn't come along and nuke your crops (like locusts or Monsanto).

And that's true.  Because growing grapes is really no more romantic than growing Brussels sprouts, when you get down to it.  The fact is you still have to dig in the dirt, plant the crop, apply fertilizers and pesticides and worry about the weather.  As a bonus, viticulturists spend long hours hunched over while snipping and trimming acre after acre of vines.  Believe me, your back will already be aching when the time comes for picking.  And all that's before you ever get the grapes to the winery.

Where is this leading?  Winemakers are really glorified farmers.  There's a lot in that bottle besides fermented grape juice.  Just like there's a lot in that goldfish bowl that I never saw, like chlorine, minerals and nitrates.  You know why my fish died?  Because there's more to keeping a fish alive than plopping it into a bowl and sprinkling in some funny-smelling flakes.

No one knows this better than Than, who as a professional aquaculturist is really a glorified wastewater treatment engineer.  It's easy to look at an aquarium that looks like this:

and think, hey, I'd like to do that!  Well almost anyone who ever had a fish tank has found it takes a lot more time, effort and money than they had planned on investing.  Just ask Than.  Even a basic aquarium has minimum requirements: filter, aerator, light source, heater, water testing equipment, food; and there are water changes to think about, and water quality tests, and algae removal.  And even under the best conditions tanks get diseased, get the picture.

Than's aquaculture business, Tidal Gardens, originated from the 10 gallon freshwater fishtanks he used to keep in lieu of dogs and cats.  That hobby morphed into saltwater aquariums and eventually evolved into the coral propagation venture it is today.  A visit to Tidal Gardens in Copley, Ohio is worthwhile even if the only fish you care for comes in a breaded, frozen square.  Inside Than's greenhouse is a complex system of tanks, skimmers, water softeners and reverse osmosis purifiers, all dedicated to making the water as pristine as possible.  Yeah, the corals are like some kind of fantastical iridescent dreamscape...

but look at the kind of crud that Than deals with on a daily basis, all in the name of keeping his stock healthy and thriving.

A protein skimmer, skimming the poop

And no, this isn't the kind of protein you want to drink, as much as it looks like that spirulina smoothie you tossed back this morning.

Vintage scum

Experienced marine aquarists will find a wealth of healthy coral growing in Than's tanks.  You can buy online or set up an appointment.  I keep a modest freshwater tank myself, but every time I visit the greenhouse, I come away knowing that someday I'll take the plunge.  Because, short of hallucinogens, I can't think of any better way to bring colors and shapes so spectacular to my home than having a marine tank loaded with coral.  When I'm ready, all my coral will come from Tidal Gardens, because I know that Than will have done all the dirty work necessary to keep the crap out of his tanks.  There is simply no finer source in Ohio for populating a reef aquarium.  That makes Tidal Gardens kind of like the Chateau LaTour of the coral biz.


Friday, February 4, 2011

And it's Only Friday

Somehow we got detoured on our way to seeing 127 Hours.

So, what's your weekend looking like?


Thursday, February 3, 2011

It's Always Sunny in Sheffield Lake

This morning I broke my goddam back clearing a path for the McBonemobile.  The roof of McBone Manor groans beneath two tons of Mother Nature's worst.  A 2000 mile swath of America is buried under a frozen crust of snow, sleet, salt and ice.  As I type, the mercury plunges.  Nerves are frayed.  People are pissed.

Though it may be the thick of winter, there's one spot in Greater Cleveland that's as piping hott as ever:

The tank top, the short shorts, the hair piled on top of hair.  Oh yes, McBoners, it's the Sheffield Lake Girl.  You wanna find her?  Shouldn't be hard.  She'll be the one melting all this stuff.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

McBone Mini-Reviews; Boxleitner Edition

Back in the early 1980s I had a set of comforters for my twin beds that glowed blue in the dark.  McBone Poet Laureate M. Patrick Foliglio (when he wasn't working feverishly on his seminal Diz-aster Book of Poems) and I would hang the blankets on the walls of our TV room, flip off the lights and pop a certain early work from the Jeff Bridges oeuvre into the VCR.  Before you could say 'now that's a big door,' we found ourselves on the Grid, just another couple of conscripted programs spinning our identity discs and trying to avoid being derezzed by the MCP.

What the holy fuck am I talking about?  Why, Tron, of course!

Very few movies imprinted themselves into the folds of my gray matter like the original Tron movie.  Light cycles were a close second to light sabers in my estimation, so when I learned that one of my all-time faves was going to be rebooted for the digital age, my reaction was twofold:

1) Awesome!  Creator, director, screenwriter Steven Lisberger's influential work (The Matrix, Avatar, and every hit movie that ever used CGI--yes, even you, Star Wars--owes him a debt of gratitude for their billions) deserves a 2.0 now that the technology has caught up with him.  The cyber reality he envisioned looks great in trailers, and how interesting that a former architecture student, Joseph Kosinski, has been chosen to reconstruct the Grid instead of a Hollywood insider.  Doesn't hurt that Jeff Bridges will be reprising his twin roles as user Kevin Flynn and program Clu.  I'm so excited I'll even overlook the cheesy : Legacy bit appending the title. 

2) Oh shit!  Just look at that lame : Legacy bit appending the title.  Disney's cashing in, hoping Tron and its legions of followers will finally redeem the 1982 box office flop by flocking to theaters.  And why the heck did they hire a bloody architect to direct it?  This turkey is going to be all visuals and no story.

And the verdict is?  Not so fast! Let's go back to 1982 first.  A ruthless Master Control Program threatens to seize dominion of two worlds, the one inhabited by humans and another cyber-world in which programs, in humanoid form, are already enslaved.  Sound evil?  MCP has evil to spare, and he's got the British accent to prove it.  The only ones who can stop him are ace programmers Flynn and Alan (Bruce Boxleitner), whose programs, Clu and Tron, navigate the computer world in humanoid form seeking to destroy the MCP.  Having none of this meddling, the MCP derezzes Clu (that's Tronspeak for 'kills dead') and draws Flynn via a super high tech laser onto the Grid where he will be forced to compete in games with other programs until he is killed dead (that's human speak for 'derezzed')  Ultimately, Flynn joins forces with Tron because only together can they succeed. Their union is poignant as hell.  In a more just world, one without MCPs and their imperious accents, humans and programs can work side by side in peace.  Yes, Tron is loaded to the gills with relevant social commentary.

Oh, and along the way Cindy Morgan pops up.  I'm not sure what her point is, other to provide some sexual tension between Flynn and Tron and to prove that some people look better in a Tron suit than others:

Cindy Morgan

Not Cindy Morgan

Look, Tron had some interesting things to say about the eventual overlapping of our real and cyber realities.  In 2010, almost all of us interact on two planes of existence.  Here I sit blogging while I simultaneously chat with 15 friends on Facebook, pick my nose, guide my Second Life avatar to a strip club and eat a pickle.  But I think what really captured our imaginations back then was this visual revelation.  There had simply never been a film that looked like Tron, a blending of live action, animation and early CGI.  Even today there is something beautifully imaginative about the black and white characters decorated with beams of light and traversing a colorful world of geometric magic.  Critics knock the thin storyline and gaping sequences during which nothing much seems to happen.  Fair enough.  Lisberger's limitations do show in places, particularly as a screenwriter.  Then again, judging Tron on the same level you might judge a Bergman flick is rather missing the point and ignoring the ground the Lisberger was breaking.

So what about 2010, when all the technology is there for the director to do more or less anything he wants?  I so wanted this movie to be good, and I did have a fine time watching it.  Tron: Legacy is a visual feast.  That's a given.  Kosinski and company do right by Lisberger in that department.  That it's not nominated for an Oscar for visual effects is beyond stupid.

But 28 years later I suppose I'm less forgiving of storytelling flaws, and so I went into the modern incarnation of Lisberger's vision hoping for something a bit more roundly cinematic.  Here we have Flynn's son, Sam, who finds himself, like the old man, sucked via laser onto the Grid.  The movie should be a simple tale of a boy trying to rescue his father, who has been trapped on the Grid for most of Sam's life.  But somewhere it gets all mucked up by too much backstory and too many plot lines.  One ostensibly cool character after the next is introduced, only to languish as they explain just who they are and just where they've come from.  Nothing wrong with the casting, and Olivia Wilde adds a much needed female spark, but her character is as underused now as Morgan's was then.  If she's an ass kicker, let her kick some ass!  Oh, and it may have been cool to see Clu and Tron again if I wasn't so busy trying to figure out how they turned evil and why and...oh screw it.  It's all so bloated with expository dialogue and homages to the original picture that you'll find yourself wishing they had hired a goddam real director to direct it and architects be damned.  Visuals are great, but this is a movie.  A bad story is still a bad story.

I still kind of liked it though.

End of line.

Tron: 3.5 McBones

Tron: Legacy: 2.0 McBones


Tuesday, February 1, 2011