Road 431 & Shrines NIGHT RIDE

August 30, 2007

Distance: 9.10 miles

Time in motion: 50 minutes 03 seconds

Average speed: 10.9 mph

…Is it really possible that it’s been 20 days since my last real ride? Actually, I did ride to Yoyogi Park and to Mejiro, over 11 miles, but that was just to go and hangout, not a specific ride per se. Anyway, tonight’s ride was not a hardcore one either, but I just wanted to get out and ride. The weather was great, nice, almost cool feeling temperature, no wind, and a calmness over the city. I wanted to go on a bit of a casual ride through the skyscrapers in Shinjuku, then after that I had no plan. From the skyscrapers I stumbled upon Road 431, which turned out to be a great road for cycling, only two lanes, lined with trees and small shops, very quiet, and virtually no traffic as it is paralleled on both sides a few blocks away by major roads. It was exactly the kind of road I was hoping to ride on tonight. I road at a moderate pace until it ended after about 3km.

From there I branched off, touched onto Koshu Kaido, then dove back off onto smaller streets, eventually finding myself slipping along like a shadow on tiny back streets in an old neighborhood somewhat southwest of Nakano Sukaue. Again, it was great to coast nearly silently down streets not big enough for cars curiously looking at what motion there is in such neighborhoods at a bit of a late hour (10:30pm). Most was silent, though a few people were out relocating plants, walking home from work, meeting a lover for a quick chat, and of course polluting the air with horrid cigarettes. I came upon a small shrine (pictured) lined with lanterns that probably had hosted a bon festival recently. From there I snaked my way through yet more back streets until I popped out near my own street. It was a nice E.T.-ish ride.

FANTASTIC FOUR [2005] review

August 30, 2007

I really like and enjoy origin stories. Fellowship of the Ring, The Sorcerer’s Stone, was totally into them. Even the origin stories at the beginning of most hero and/or comic book movies, those are often some of my favorite scenes. FANTASTIC FOUR seemed like one long origin story, which was enough until about half-way through the movie, but by then I was ready for some action and display of their powers, but almost nothing came.

I thought the movie was well cast and that the actors had good chemistry together, especially Ben Grimm in any scene with any of the other FF. I first saw Chris Evans (Johnny Storm) in SUNSHINE, and preferred that performance to his FF one, but still, he had lots of charisma and added much needed energy to an often talky screenplay.

I wanted to see FF because I liked the trailer for the sequel about the Silver Surfer and thought I needed to see this one before I could go see Silver Surfer. Plus, mid-week is my time to watch non-elitist movies. FF was still passable, and had one truly great geek moment, which the trailer for the movie actually spoiled already. But still, seeing in context Johnny Storm flying for the first time and saying, “Flame on!” gave me chills. If the movie only had more moments like that, it could have been a great comic book movie.

E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL [1982] review

August 26, 2007

If one is looking for a movie full pure movie magic, then one would be hard, hard pressed to find one in more possession of pure movie magic than E.T…. There are very good movies, and movies that are even great, but then their is a whole other level, a rarified realm, where movies such as E.T. reside, masterworks that are so iconic, so part of the lore of society, so ingrained in public consciousness that they are like shimmering stars in the night sky.

…Watch the directing and the camera work in this movie, then watch some random movie that was released in the past month or two and you will see that in comparison to E.T., most movies look like they were made by robots without a shred of talent. … The small touches throughout the movie, like a cord pulling a chair flush against a wall, a table placed between the camera and the characters, the way you never see the face of authority figures. … Because for 90% of the movie all you see, and hear, of the character is a set of keys chiming on a hook on his belt. … Again, another reason why this is a masterwork, this movie is about children’s ability to believe in the unbelievable, it shows THAT world, and adults have no place in it.

…The performance given by Henry Thomas as Elliot is so incredibly good, I can’t believe he was really acting, I think he was really feeling those things on screen. … Because E.T. was REAL, and by real I mean E.T. existed as a physical rubber puppet of some sort, giving something to act with. Today, E.T. would have been CG, and there would have been nothing for the child actor to react to and with, and the performance wouldn’t be 1/10th as nuanced and real and RAW as Thomas’ is.

…Imagine being a kid in 1982 and going to see E.T. in the theater?? … I think I went one time to see it in a theater that only cost $1!

…I bought a bike at the end of June in part because I wanted to relive the experience of what it was like as a kid in the 80′s to ride around on your bike, exploring, feeling the Freedom of going anywhere, until dark that is and your mother’s calls you home. … I can tell you personally, that was every boy’s dream in the 80′s, to ride your bike fleeing the authorities, riding for Freedom, riding as if your life depended on it, even if for us it was only in our imaginations. … In that very year, 1982, I was the second best (really for the slip of a pedal THE best) BMX rider in all of New England.

…If I ever met John Williams, I would tell him, “your scores defined my childhood and really my life,” as I am sure at least one person must tell him each and every day. For a movie to be truly iconic, it must have a theme you can recognize instantly and add an absolutely critical dimension to the movie. … It’s absolutely perfect. “da neh dunna na na nan eh” You can FEEL the wind in your hair too as Elliot and E.T. fly through the air and the score soars.

20th Anniversary Skimboarding Season: Session #06

August 25, 2007

On my tide chart today was marked as a 2-star day, the highest level, because high tide was to be at 4:21pm. I was feeling pretty confident the conditions would be good today, but then again I almost always feel that. In reality, the waves were decent at times, allowing me to get several good rides. I had to wait until 5pm when the lifeguards literally call everyone out of the water, which should leave the shore all to me, but of course, that is never, never the case. Every single time I’ve ever skimboarded at Chigasaki the past 2 years, at least one person or group of people have been a nuisance to at least some degree, if not a high degree. Today was almost perfect, save for a few people who against the rules went back into the water toward the end of my skimboarding area.

…Still, I was able to have a pretty hardcore 1 hour 15 minute session even though the waves weren’t so huge or frequent. I was able to get to some pretty good waves, and had a great floater on one in particular, floating a good 3-feet above the shore and smoothly gliding back down the wave. Surrounding that ride were some other floaters and a fair amount of good flairs and rips. I skimmed with a lot of power and had good speed. The water was really warm, especially compared to the relatively cool water down in Shimoda, Izu. It felt like a long 1 hour and 15 minute session, I was expecting at least 1.5 hours.

There was actually another skimboarder there, a young j-dude who stayed well down the beach in another section, although I would have welcomed him to skim along in my area. … He could get on the board and ride decently, but he had no power and thus couldn’t even come close to any real wave action.

I left the beach after sunset, and as I walked up along the walkway I watched the moonlight shimmer off the surface of the Sea, very beautiful and enchanting. In the photo you can see the moon in the center.

It was a good session.

RATATOUILLE [2007] review

August 22, 2007

Brad Bird is the only person working in animation that can bring up thoughts of Hayao Miyazaki. RATATOUILLE is a wonder to the eye from the very first scene. CG animation is reaching an amazing level, especially if you like to notice thing like how water reflects light, which I do. The story and characters are just as solid as the CG, coming together to produce a special movie.

…I was surprised how good the action sequences were. The camera stays tight on Remi, the rat that can cook, as he whooshes down a sewer, scurries across the sidewalks of Paris, and most spectacularly when he avoids all attempts to crush him, smash him, slice him in the kitchen where he will eventually work, in a sense. By keeping the camera tight, the viewer can’t see where any dangers come from, so we see things as Remi, a rat, does, and thus the audience gets to see through his eyes just how fast and quick rats have to be to avoid death at any given moment.

…The human characters are interesting, especially the feisty Colette. The two villains in the film are quite different. The head chef chews up scenery and is constantly frustrated by the mere thought that Remi might be in his kitchen and that he might lose ownership of the very restaurant. The other villain, a restaurant critic, has much less screen time, but is very effective in the small screen time he gets, and has a very satisfying character arc.

…As a vegetarian, I expected some of the cooking scenes to be offensive to me, but Remi largely cooks with vegetables so vegetarians go see this movie without fear!

…Remi struggles with not fitting in with his rat family and with trying to fit in to the human world. The deepest thinking of the movie concerns trying to be more than what you came from without alienating those who helped you get to a point where you are able to go off on your own. Remi is strikingly independent and his boldness yield both positive and negative results.

…I also found getting to see the intricacies of how a 5-star French restaurant kitchen runs to be fascinating as well.

…This is a special movie that will leave you feeling a better person and feeling better about the world than when you walked into the theater.

HOT FUZZ [2007] review

August 18, 2007

I was really into the first half of HOT FUZZ, often laughing out loud, totally loving the perfomance Simon Pegg was giving as a super cop who gets on the nerves of his fellow officers with his perfectionism. I loved his absolute dedication to his police work and ultra-strict enforcement of the law. I have always believed, if you have a law, then it should be enforced, otherwise why have it? Pegg finally becomes too good at his job in London, and his superiors, fearing he would soon replace them, ship him off to a small countryside village, where of course, little real crime exists and the local cops are almost complete yocals. Pegg wastes no time enforcing drinking age laws and looking for suspicious characters in a village where everyone knows each other already. There are a lot of laughs in this first half.

All the characters in the village are great, and I was really into seeing the daily life of a small English village. I liked all the character moments we got. Then as the inevitable mystery hidden in the plot starts to come out, the movie lost me somewhat as a barrage of comic action ensues and there really is no danger in it, it’s just amusing to watch, which I didn’t find as amusing as the character moments in the first half. Still, this is a very funny and very stylized movie with strong performances all around. I watched it alone, but I bet if it were watched with friends, the laughs would go on from start to finish.

20th Anniversary Skimboarding Season: Session #05 — Return to Shimoda, Izu

August 15, 2007

I made my third trip to Shimoda, Izu on August 15th and 16th, but my first time to go solo. It was also my first time to ever drive solo in Japan as well. I rented the venerable Nissan March and made the drive from Shinjuku to Shimoda in under four hours, although I was taken by the navi-chan a way I didn’t want to go and this greatly reduced my overall ability to enjoy the trip, by at least 50% actually.

Still, I ended up having my greatest skimboarding session of the year so far. … Somehow I skimmed for 3 straight hours with no breaks at all. This is a throwback to the 3-hour sessions I’d regularly have in my high school and college skimming days. In the past few years, I usually put in 1.5 hour sessions, so you can see how stoked I was to be on the sweet sand of Ohama Beach, to have such good waves, and most importantly to have a skimming partner. The same Japanese guy I met last year, Kazakazu (sp?)… It was very good to see him again. It has been years and years since I had a skimboarding partner, not since I’d say about 1998, if not longer.

The waves were quite good. The highly sloped banks of Ohama beach that are also tightly packed make for excellent entry into the water. I was running full on. In this way I was able to get some truly great floaters, rising some 5 feet up into the air up on the top of the just breaking waves, before gently gliding back down to the sand along with the crest of the wave. Other times I would rip huge, arcing flairs.

We skimmed until nearly the sunset. It was a great summer afternoon, as ideal as it can get in such times.

THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER [1990] review

August 14, 2007

I had a hard time choosing a movie to watch tonight. Nothing in my collection was meeting my demand for a semi-famous movie from the 80′s or perhaps early 90′s. Then I thought of the iTunes movie store. I literally browsed every single title they have available, and not counting the movies I had already seen, about 95% of the rest was total junk. Still, I made my first ever movie purchase from iTunes settling for THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, which managed to meet what I was looking for. Alec Baldwin has long been one of my favorite actors. And I really like the technical aspect of the film, getting to learn how subs are operated and some new lingo. I was impressed with the ingenuity of all the sub crews, both American and Russian.

The special effects for the most part were impressive and stood up some 17 years later, however, at the end there was a lot of obvious blue screen usage that was a bit jarring. All the sub effects were great though.

Technically, there wasn’t much action in the film, but there always seemed to be constant tension. Good performances all around no doubt helped the bare bones script and the sub action provided the rest.

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