Posts from September 2005.

Movies: Grizzly Man

This review contains mild spoilers.

Several weeks ago Some Random Guy From The Internet sent me email to recommend the film Grizzly Man. Well, you know me: I’ll do anything I’m told to do over email, which is why I am forever purchasing penny stocks, verifying my Wells Fargo bank account, and watching you and your sister on your new webcam. So I saw it.

And hey, S.R.G.F.T.I: thanks! It was great.

Of course I was predisposed to like it, because Grizzly Man is a documentary and I loves me some documentaries. (I suspect I may have mentioned this here before, which is what earned me the aforementioned email in the first place.) That said, enough sets this film apart from most documentaries to prevent my liking it a sure thing. For one, the filmmaker, Werner Herzog, inserts himself into the narrative, doing the voiceover and occasionally even offering his own opinions on the events depicted. For another, most of the movie was not filmed by Herzog, but is, instead, literally found footage. How this footage came to be taken, and why it ultimately required a finding, is the story told.

Timothy Treadwell spent over a dozen summers living in the Katmai National Park & Preserve, frolicking with the grizzlies therein. You may think I am being glib but, no, the man actually frolicked — talking to the bears in sing-songy voices, invading their personal space, and occasionally even touching them (invariably to their annoyance). One of many people interviewed in the film says that Treadwell “wanted to be a bear,” and, at times, this seems like the literal truth.

For the last five of his annual visits Treadwell brought along a video camera. Because he didn’t really do that much beyond hanging out with the bears, much of the footage is of Treadwell giving monologues about his life in the Preserve, with particular emphasis on the danger he faces.

Treadwell often referred to himself as the bears’ protector, though it’s unclear what protection he envisioned himself as offering. At any rate, Treadwell is the one who could have eventually used some protection: at the end of his thirteenth summer amongst the grizzlies, he and his his female companion were killed and eaten by one of his ursine “friends.”

Now, I know is seems like I just ruined the end of the film for you, but they reveal this fact within the first five minutes, honest. And foreknowledge of Treadwell’s fate is essential to fully appreciate the bizarre quality of his on-air soliloquies. Even while he reminds the hypothetical viewer about the dangers of grizzly fraternization, he seems naively unaware of it himself. Treadwell’s ultimate goal — both in living with the bears, and in filming his exploits — seems to be the casting of himself as the protagonist in a Jack London short story or a novel serialized in Boy’s Life. At times he seems less like a man living amongst bears as a man in the middle of a “Living Amongst Bears: The Roleplaying Game” campaign.

Herzog editorializes quite a bit in this film — something I had been warned about in advanced and thought I’d hate, but actually didn’t mind. A few times he even goes so far as to say “Here I disagree with Treadwell” and offers his own opinion in the voiceover, and I did feel that these rare instances did cross the line. But as one of my companions remarked, “all documentarians have bias — better that they state them openly than pretend they are objective,” and I agree with her sentiment.

One thing that Herzog does exceptionally well in Grizzly Man is keep the character of Treadwell (and he does seem to be a character, albeit one of Treadwell’s own making) from becoming stagnant. Several times in the film I thought, “well, I think I’ve seen all there is to see of this guy” moments before Herzog unveiled some new fact, included an interview, or spliced in a piece of footage that gave Treadwell a whole new dimension. Even as you’re walking out of the theater, you’re still not quite sure what to make of the guy.

Grizzly Man is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen; and, as I stated before, I like documentaries a lot, so that’s saying something. And just a quick postscript for people who are hesitant to see this film because of the killing. There is no video footage of Treadwell’s death, so you won’t see it. There is an audiotape (Treadwell turned his camera on just before the attack but didn’t have time to remove the lens cap), but Herzog declines to play that, either. At one point a coroner describes the audiotape, but he does so in a fairly clinical manner. There is one emotional scene in regards to the audiotape, but Treadwell’s death is treated mostly as an ironic twist to his life, and is not, in itself, the focus of the film.

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Dogged

The Squirrelly attends an at-home daycare, a few doors down from someone who owns several hounds.

Occasionally one of the toddlers will throw a tantrum with all of the attendant crying and shrieking. If it continues for more than a few seconds the dogs will pick up on it, and soon the hounds will be baying at the top of their lungs. Once this happens, all of the toddlers — including the one who, moments ago, was raising holy hell — quiet down, stand stock still, and listen, their ears pricked up like rabbits in a field.

Eventually the dogs wind down and the babies go calmly about their business, the cause of the tantrum forgotten.

It’s a pretty great system, actually.

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Signs

In front a field near my house there is a sign reading “Strawberries / Blackberries / Blueberries: U-Pick.”

Oh man, that’s the greatest racket in the world. “My dirt made this — pay me.” I’m going to buy a wooded tract of land and post a sign reading “Chairs / canoes / homes: U-Bild.”

Also near our house is a handwritten sign reading “Will wash windows, $1*” and then, at the bottom, in a tiny scrawl, “* per side” Ha! The Queen thought it was a waste of money to get those fancy M

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Roberts Continues To Stonewall On Logan v. Wayne

Judge John Roberts weathered another round of questioning today as his confirmation hearing entered its second day, but the controversal pick for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court left many senators frustrated and angry as he repeatedly declined to explicate his position on Logan v. Wayne.

Though he remained calm and composed while addressing members of the Senate judiciary committee, Mr Roberts refused to provide unambiguous answers when asked about the one of the most controversial questions even pondered by Congress.

Proceedings quickly became acrimonious Tuesday morning, as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) openly challenged Robert's claim that he "had not made up his mind" on Logan v. Wayne. "With all due respect, I find it frankly unbelievable that, in 30 years of public service, you could not have formed an opinion on this matter," Kennedy said. "So I would again ask that you simply answer the question: who would win in a fight, Wolverine or Batman?"

Seemingly nonplussed, Roberts demurred, saying, "while I

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On Deaf Ears

The Queen and I make chit-chat over breakfast.

Me: Have you read Mighty Girl recently?

The Queen: Nuh-uh, why?

M: It sounds like she has the same problem with her spouse that I have with mine.

Q: Bryan doesn’t listen to her when she he talks?

M: No, he — wait, what?

Q: I uhhh … I mean, what does she say?

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9/11 Recollections

A few years ago The Queen frequented a hairdresser named Caroline. Caroline was a real girlie girl, forever bemoaning the state of the Seattle dating scene, showing off photos of her overly-pampered dog, and providing exhaustive recaps of recent Sex and the City episodes. She couldn’t have been more unlike The Queen, but she was very nice, gave good haircuts, and her salon was two blocks from our house. Plus she was a neverending fount of funny stories, which The Queen would relate to me when she got home.

In February of 2002 — five months after the September 11 attack — The Queen arrived for her regular appointment and found herself alone in the salon with Caroline. After she was seated and the two had engaged in some small talk, Caroline picked up the current issue of People Magazine off the counter.

“Have you seen this?” she asked, showing it to The Queen. On the cover was a group shot of 32 women holding infants. “All of those babies had fathers who died in the World Trade Center collapse,” Caroline said somberly. “Can you even imagine? It’s so sad. The whole thing is just so, so sad.”

The Queen and Caroline stared at the photo without speaking for a while. Then The Queen noticed that Caroline was watching her out of the corner of her eye, as if she waiting for an appropriate amount time to pass.

Finally she could wait no longer. “Look at this one,” Caroline said, breaking the mournful silence and excitedly calling The Queen’s attention to a woman in the picture. “Can you believe that lip-liner she’s wearing? And her hair — my God, it’s horrible!”

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Aging Is Dumb

Saw this sign in the liquor store today. (Well, the top half of this sign, anyhow.) Kids who were born in 1984 are legally drinking Yam Daiquiri these days? That’s just ridiculous.

This whole “21 years” law is a crock. Drinking should be illegal for anyone who (a) has never worn a Member’s Only Jacket, (b) has never used the word “rad” in a non-ironic manner, or (3) was unaware that David Hasselhoff starred in a TV series prior to Baywatch.

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Playing The Game Part III

The third and final installment in my account of playing the Game has been posted: The Morning News: Endgame. If you missed the first two chapters, they are available here.

A big thanks to Gordon Dow, who invited me to join the adventures of the ‘B’ Ark — he’s the only reason I was able to participate in the Game at all.

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Coming Soon

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Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?

BUSH BRINGS MUCH NEEDED HUGS, FROWNY FACES TO NEW ORLEANS

BELEAGUERED CITY’S DEPLETED SUPPLY OF PLATITUDES ALSO REPLENISHED

President reassures horrified nation: “Trent Lott’s home will be rebuilt.”

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Regular readers of this website know that I am no fan of the Bush Administration, but the situation in New Orleans beggars belief. I’m so outraged I can barely think straight. Bad enough that the White House (again!) ignored repeated warnings of impending disaster and (again!) diverted necessary resources to its wealthy patrons and ideological hobby horses, but the federal response to the catastrophe is like a goddamned cabaret show.

Conservatives often justify the slashing social programs to fund corporate tax cuts by saying, “A rising tide raises all boats.” Well, the tide rose folks, and this is the result.

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