DUMA [2005] review

June 30, 2007

I had been waiting for the right time to watch DUMA for a very long time. I heard Roger Ebert review it back when it first came out, and he said to make a point of seeing it. As it features my favorite (pre-Borneo trip) animal in the world, the cheetah (duma is the Swahili word for “cheetah”), I knew it was a must see for me. I guessed that it would make me quite emotional, so I was saving it for just the right time. As this summer could be my last for viewing movies, I had to fit it in soon. I was not disappointed by the movie, but I was also not so deeply moved by it. Certainly in comparison to the last movie about animals in Africa I saw, TWO BROTHERS, which devastated me, DUMA played more as a serene poem, a movie to contemplate while laying eyes upon the magnificence and glory of the Kalahari Desert.

The story starts out as the usual boy finds abandoned baby animal, raises it, and then the audience can predict the ultimate ripping away of the grown animal from the boy. Before this can happen, the film takes a pleasantly unexpected turn and takes a different line–it’s the story of a boy growing up as he sets to release his grown-up cheetah back to where he and his father first found him. It is a satisfying journey, that is not overly manipulative, and in fact not manipulative at all.

The film manages to show a realistic, un-sappy, message about love, and the journeys one needs to take to test the strength and length of love. Wait for the right time to watch DUMA, and make sure it’s sometime in the summer.

Evening Ride in Yoyogi Park

June 30, 2007

Time in motion: 1 hour 00 minutes 07 seconds

Average speed: 10.6 mph

Max speed: 27.7 mph

After I wasted 2 hours and 40 minutes on trains in a failed attempt to go skimboarding (due to rain starting en route), I returned home to Shinjuku a might pissed off. Somehow, it wasn’t raining in Shinjuku and showed no signs of having gotten any rain at all. So I uncovered my Trek 7.3 FX and took to the streets, post-haste. I took the route to Yoyogi Park I discovered on Sunday night’s ride. I found Yoyogi Park directly but there was a lot of traffic on the streets so getting there wasn’t that quick.

Once there I ambled about getting a feel for the place, passing the usual assortment of musicians, performers and idlers. Then I discovered a dedicated paved bike path, which I got very excited about until I found out the whole loop can be ridden in 5 minutes. Even taking the large paved road all the way around the park hardly takes 10 minutes. Yoyogi Park has always seemed huge to me, on foot. However, on wheels it seems but a wee patch of grass. Still, coasting through the trees of the park, listening to flutes, rock bands and brass instruments, seeing a group of people wielding high quality replica light sabers and various other things made it a pleasant way to de-stress from the day’s earlier illnesses.

Of course it started raining there too, so I made my way home and found myself on the street with two other semi-real cyclists, who were no match for me on the Trek. They did teach me a few tricks though about riding in the city, which I immediately employed. I’m learning the ways of riding in the city quickly.

Morning Ride to Tokyo Station and Beyond

June 28, 2007

Time in motion: 1 hour 50 minutes 17 seconds

…Max speed: 24.4 mph

This was my first real daytime ride. I had read online that around the Imperial Palace was a decent place to ride, and having walked it before, I could see how it would. I checked a map about how to get to Tokyo Station which is right next to the Imperial Palace. I basically had to head due east to get there from here in Shinjuku. I had a choice of two major roads to take, and of course I took the wrong one that lead me too far north. It would have worked had I known where to branch south, but of course signage in Japan is piss-poor and not a single sign said Tokyo station or Tokyo Tower or Imperial Palace or anything. I was wandering around for at least 30 minutes trying to find it after having already ridden 45 minutes. I was about to give up and just head back, as I was on a bit of a time schedule, but finally I came across a sign saying “Tokyo Station 300m” and sprinted on down seeing the European styled station building.

…I hadn’t come all that way to not ride the loop around the Imperial Palace, so even though not really having the time I did it anyway and indeed the wide, smooth sidewalk surrounding the palace and its moat made for the best riding by far I’ve yet to find in the city. I definitely go back in the future.

…I had another hard time finding a good road to take back to Shinjuku before finding a sign to Yotsuya (the midpoint city) and it turned out to be the second road I could have taken. It was much faster and easier.

…The sun was pretty hot out today. I took water with me for the first time, and it was definitely needed.

…My next ride might not be until next week as there isn’t much time tomorrow and Saturday will be skimboarding and Sunday will be frisbee.

Night Ride to Nakano and Back

June 27, 2007

Time in motion: 37′ 17″

Average speed: 12.1 mph

Max speed: 22.1 mph

It was another overcast night, but no rain at all tonight. Temps were not as cool as other nights, but still very comfortable. No wind to speak of. I set out to find a land route to Nakano where I teach on Friday evenings so that I could ride to class this upcoming Friday. As expected, it wasn’t that hard to find a route, and even with getting stuck at infinite, annoying, small red light intersections, I could still roll there in about 13 minutes. That’s a few minutes less door-to-door than by the walking/train combo method. I don’t think I’ll make it a regular habit of riding to that lesson though as taking the train to and from that lesson has become highly ritualized.

After discovering the land route to Nakano, I took up the greatest search: long, uninterrupted road on which I can lower my head and just grind. … I did find a few very minor stretches that allowed me to reach the new record max speed of 22.1 mph listed above, but still I have to worry every quarter of a mile or so about an intersection or even come to a dead stop at a red light.

Other than these exploits, I wondered through a very congested and winding neighborhood, and I think I discovered the building I looked at an apartment in 4 years ago when I first tried looking for apartments in Shinjuku. It was nice inside, and had nice kind of ivy like plants growing on the outside, but it was too expensive for me at the time and had no view to speak of. I ended up choosing another place.

On my short list of place to ride to next are back to Yoyogi Park at night to check it out properly (could see all kinds of freaky stuff there), to cruise down the paved with gold streets of Ginza, and maybe a good spot is around the Imperial Palace, which just popped into my mind.

The next piece of gear I will get are a pair of clear lens glasses to wear on night rides.

Jason RIDES again!

June 25, 2007

I’ve been riding bikes since I was a little kid. In elementary school I raced BMX bikes at one time taking 2nd place (just a pedal-slip away from 1st) in the 1982 New England Championships for my age group. In college I started getting into mountain biking and commuted both to class and my part-time job by bike. I felt so damn good riding in even heavy downpours to work while the fat cats sat in their cars getting weaker.

When I went abroad to South Korea in June 2000 (7 years! ago now) I had sold my faithful Trek Singletrack 950. I hadn’t owned a bike since, that is until Saturday night. I bought my 3rd Trek, a 7.3 FX, and on Sunday morning I picked it up and road for the first time in years. I went on a ride late last night, and it was glorious.

…Today I took the Trek to get fitted for bar ends, a cyclo-computer and toe clips. I had already bought a helmet (Giro of course) and front and rear lights on Sunday. So by this afternoon I had the Trek outfitted with everything my previous Treks once had. Tonight I set out on my first attempted real ride, but of course a light rain soon started falling and I had to break off the ride early.

…I also had to buy a heavy duty rain cover as I have no space at all inside my apartment unfortunately to put it. So it’s out on my semi-exposed balcony.

I am still using my faithful red Trek gel gloves and Pearl Izumi riding shorts.

My first real day-time ride will probably happen on Thursday, but as it’s the rainy season in Tokyo now, who knows?

20th Anniversary Skimboarding Season: Session #02

June 17, 2007

I had high hopes for this Saturday’s skimboarding session. The tide was supposed to be near ideal, it was pretty windy the past few days, and the sun was out shining brilliantly despite it supposedly being the rainy season. As I walked toward the beach I saw a surfer riding his bike back home with his board mounted on the side, which is usually a good sign. However, the waves really weren’t there and only a handful of surfers were out trying to catch what small rides they could.

I had to deal with the usual obstacles of kids and stupid parents.

Despite these conditions I managed a decent hour-long session, with a few very nice rides. I never had quite the step I had in the first session of this season, but I was satisfied given the circumstances.

My next session won’t be until 2 weeks from now, weather permitting.

300 [review] 2007

June 17, 2007

I can’t see how any of the very smartly and politely dressed ladies in the audience for 300, who looked more like members of a charity luncheon, could have enjoyed it at all. This is a total Man’s movie. It’s about doing Man things and speaking only in shouts. There is a good amount of female nudity, i.e. breeests in several scenes. Granted, the men only wear briefs and capes, and somehow have 8 abs apiece, but other than that, can’t see what the appeal would be.

Even as a Man, the movie was only mildly entertaining and if I hadn’t seen it on the big screen with a male companion to make snide comments too, and to laugh at scenes with that may not necessarily have been funny by intention, then I might not have enjoyed the movie at all. The best scenes come before the halfway point. When we see the real mechanics of how Spartans fight in unison, it is an a visceral screen visual. But these battles give way to mainly slo-mo kill shots, though spectacularly filmed, are not anything of note.

One deformed Greek character was the source of a lot of humor, intentional or otherwise. I laughed out loud at most of his lines. Just too funny. A lot of the dialogue was quite funny, and most likely unintentional as well.

The ending was kind of an anti-climax. No real big crescendo, just kind of a slow fade.

If you missed your chance to see it on the big screen with friends, then watch it on the biggest TV you can find with friends, at least for the laughs.

THE SEARCHERS [1956] review

June 10, 2007

John Wayne is a Man. He may have been born in 1907, but he cuts a perfect form for starring in movies set in the 1800′s. There is no greater hero of the American West.

Such is the John Wayne we see throughout THE SEARCHERS, a hard man possessed of wisdom no others have, yet a man who is not incapable to yielding to reason. A Man so sure his ways are right, he allows others to give orders, only to show his wisdom when the others’ plans fail.

The movie starts out with Wayne returning from the Civil War, for some reason three years after it ended. Peace doesn’t stay long for him and almost immediately he takes upon himself a Herculean task: to find a kidnapped white girl taken by the Camanche. He is more than willing to do this alone, but grudgingly takes on a young partner who he should seemingly have more feelings for.

As always, John Ford shows great American western vistas. … My favorite shots, however, were when Ford uses door frames themselves to frame shots. … The score by Max Steiner is noticeable, but in a good way. The scenes are meant to be bold and dramatic, and the score punctuates that.

There was maybe a bit too much of the slapstick comedy for my taste that finds itself into movies of this genre, but there were also some good laughs.

I think to most people it would never occur to try and take the course of action Wayne’s character does at the end, for we are not of that time. The sense of honor nowadays is almost nonexistent and life is clung to far too desperately. THE SEARCHERS shows us that if a Man wanted to spend his life on any given day, the choice to do so might not necessarily even be his own. Yet not all lives are spent in vane, and honor and perseverance can bring peace.

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