Monday, November 27, 2006

Beware of Elves

We cut down a Christmas tree this week. The kids loved running through the trees. I didn't see them much. But once, when A came back up to me, I gave her a stern warning.

Me: Be careful out there. Watch out for elves.

A: What elves?

Me: The tree elves.

A: Oh. Okay.

Then she ran off.

The Christmas Hierarchy

We were at a Mexican restaurant this weekend. In Mexico, you don't put the baby Jesus in the Nativity scene until Christmas.

Anyway, under the Christmas tree at the restaurant was a nativity scene and, just outside the circle of wise men and shepherds, Santa Claus on a sleigh. Z took a long look at it and then said:

"Santa Claus is waiting for baby Jesus to give him his orders."

I thought that was funny.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Casino Royale

We went to Casino Royale last night.

I'm not a huge fan of the Bond franchise overall. I've always thought he was a little silly. I can't really take it when Bond skiis down a mountain and jumps into a plane that's flying by, kisses the villainess and shoots the villain. Then he drinks a martini, blows up the plane and uses the parachute built into his watch to escape.

But, I have to say that overall I enjoyed this film. Bond is meaner, tougher, grittier and more human than in previous films. He could beat the stuffing out of all the other Bonds if you locked them all in a room.

Believe it or not, it deals somewhat realisitically with the world of violence and corruption that Bond runs in. The fight scenes make you cringe, because it's not cartoon fighting. There's blood on the knuckles (and the walls, and the clothes and everywhere else). And some of the characters have actual emotions as a result of seeing the violence. And Bond, who seems cold and aloof, is recognized as being a sick individual for "not caring" about the pain and violence.

Bond even has an emotional arc in the film, which is refreshing.

In fact, Krista and I agreed that the first 3/4ths of the film was really, really good. Of course it all falls apart in the last act... one of those last acts where everything makes sense for the ten minutes it takes to run across the screen and then fall aparts if you reflect on it for more than thirty seconds.

I had plenty of theories about how to make the last act better, but then K and I stopped at a bookstore last night and I took a look at the original novel... and they had already spruced it up considerably. I was, in fact, impressed by how far the screenwriters had taken it and fixed it up.

Conclusion: This is the best Bond film they've made. We could have done without several parts (the torture scene, for instance). But Bond is the most human we've ever seen him, and the part of Vesper (played by Eva Green) was a great foil for Bond.

PG-13: Intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content and nudity

Eavesdropping with Matt (imagined): The Casino Royale Writing Committee

Dedicated to the hard-working and no doubt underpaid screenwriters who penned the best Bond film yet.

Writer #1: We need yet another action scene.

Writer #2: But we've really hit the end of the movie. It should have a quiet resolution now.

Writer #3: I've written about fifteen minutes worth of quiet resolution but it just doesn't feel right.

Writer #1: We need some more action. Let's try to revive the already-resolved plot.

Writer #2: We already killed or arrested all the bad guys. I mean, we killed everyone who came near Bond.

Writer #3: You are thinking like a mere mortal, Writer #2! We are writers! We can do whatever we please.

Writer #1: What if we (deleted... spoilers).

Writer #2: But that makes no sense in the context of the film. It will destroy the characters.

Writer #3: It will cause everything to collapse into a Kafka-esque nightmare. We're not Pynchon. This is not "The Crying of Lot 49". Our conspiracies and plot must, at a certain level, make sense.

Writer #1: Nonsense. This is a movie. If we move it along quickly enough, if the action is engaging enough, no one will notice that we have thrown the plot, the characters and the real world out the window. No one will notice when the Very Smart people do Very Dumb things. They will notice only the bullets flying and things exploding, imploding, sinking, rising, et cetera.

Writer #2: You have a good point.

Writer #3: But what if someone comes to the movie and notices that we have massacred our own beautiful beginnings to provide just one more shoot 'em up ending?

Writer #1: Those sorts of people do not come to this sort of movie.

Writer #2: An excellent point.

Writer #3: Now, let us write. But we've run out of time. We'll have to do it at the next meeting. When shall we three meet again, in fire, lightning or in rain?

Writer #1: When the hurly burly's done, when the battle's lost or won.

Writer #2: That will be ere the set of sun.

All: Fair is foul and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air.

Exeunt.

At the "Bond Girl" auditions



Director: Can you fit into this dress?

Murino: Yes, I think so.

Director: Are you willing to take that dress off?

Murino: Yes.

Director: Will you wear a bikini and ride a horse?

Murino: Yes.

Director: Are you willing to have at least one scene where you rise seductively from the sea?

Murino: Of course.

Director: Are you willing to play a character who will be used and tossed aside with about as much attention as Bond gives to an empty pistol?

Murino: I would love that!

Director: You're hired!

Murino: Do you want to know if I can act?

Director: Why would I care about that?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday

Today is called Black Friday, in honor of the fact that it is one of the largest retail days of the year. I think you might have more fun celebrating Buy Nothing Day.

Also, I would like to protest using the words "Black Friday" as a celebratory term, since there are plenty of reasons we should leave it for tragic moments in history.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thankful

For my wife, who makes life more than what it was before.
For my kids, who have brought joy and blessing.
For the beginning of the Christmas season.
For my parents, who moved to WA just to be near us.
For Krista's parents, who have been like new parents rather than "in-laws".
For my teammates, whose lives show me ways to become more Christ-like.
For my stinters, who remind me what it means to be passionate about serving God.
For my Wednesday night buddies.
For Chris "the Omnivore" who will be my friend no matter how often I forget his birthday (happy birthday).
For my sisters, twice the fun!
For my two brothers-in-law and my one sister-in-law.
For my two nephews!
For my SZ family... let's get together soon.
For my school.
For the BHR community, you wacky, wacky people.
For our many friends close to home and around the world.
For the Lord Jesus Christ, maker of heaven and earth.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On the Road to Korea

I'm starting a new blog. That's right. And it's a work blog. Yes. So I can blog while I work, like some sort of 21st century dwarf. Hiiii Hoooooooooooo! Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to blog I go...

Anyway, it's for CM2007, which is an enormous world missions conference in South Korea this summer. Feel free to drop by!

007

How is it possible that there could be someone in the world that I so clearly identify with?



I don't need to go see Casino Royale now. I'm just going to sit back and imagine the Craig Ferguson version.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction



Will Ferrell stars in a movie about a man who can hear the narrator of his story. And he hears his narrator mention his "imminent death" which leads him on a journey to discover his life again.

And of course he has to fall in love, discover his genre, see a shrink, yell at disembodied voices and so on.

In the midst of it all, this movie actually works really well. You've never seen Will Ferrell like this before (unless you are his Mom, in which case, "Hi, Mrs. Ferrel!"). He's serious, nuanced and funny. No slapstick, no mugging for the camera. Maggie Gyllenhaal was spectacular, making you wish you knew the character she played so you could all just hang out at a bakery and enjoy some sort of crazy scones together. Emma Thompson is great as the narrator with a penchant for killing off her characters, and Dustin Hoffman, likewise great as the literature professor that Ferrel enlists to help him discover his genre. Queen Latifah somehow landed the only role that is played completely straight, and she does it well. I was amazed by the whole thing.

The best part about this movie is the way it balances the humor and the poignant emotional moments. The acting is terrific and the writing and directing are great. The whole "I can hear the narrator" bit is inconsistently enforced and essentially abandoned in favor of the love story, but I didn't mind. I actually wondered at some point if it wouldn't be better as two separate movies... the sweet romantic comedy and the fourth-wall-breaking thriller/comedy. But to be honest, it was balanced well enough to enjoy both. I'm usually one to prefer the fourth-wall-breaking over the romantic comedy, but the romance bits were so well scripted and acted that I found myself wishing for more of that and less of the author-in-crisis moments.

Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed this movie immensely. It was fun, sweet, silly, deep, nuanced and enjoyable. Go see it!

A Good Day

I took today off, since I've been away for a while. I spent the morning with Krista and the kids, and then in the afternoon we dropped the kids off at Mom and Dad's house. We went shopping for some Thanksgiving treats, and then K suggested the bookstore. And then we went to dinner and discovered the best Thai food we've had so far in the Portland area...Dok Koon. We had pad thai, yellow curry and coconut sticky rice. My mouth is watering again. It was like eating in Thailand.

Then K suggested a movie, so off we went to see Stranger Than Fiction, which was actually quite good.
And I got to IM with Ken, which was fun. And now I'm blogging in bed. Ha! Life is good.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My Children and the Baby Python

While I was out of town, Krista took the kids to see "Steve and the Creature Feature" at Z's school. Here are some pictures of Z and A holding and smelling an albino baby python. Pythons smell like buttered popcorn and feel like plastic. So if you're ever walking through the jungle and you start to think, "Mmmm, I could go for some popcorn right now"... RUN!

Collide


Any major collision will change your life forever, whether it's a car, a plane, an atom or two people in a grocery store. But this December in Portland, Oregon, there will be a collection of people who are interested in the question, "What happens when a human being has a headlong collision with God?"

Here's the website with all the info.

Here's the blog.

Here's the facebook group.

Check it out.

No Mo Po (etry)

The submission period for the First Annual "I Want To Be Poet Laureate" contest has officially come to an end. I will now print them all off, put on my wading boots and dig deep into the sea of words you've sent in. I expected approximately twelve poems, and am glad to say that you all sent in something closer to a hundred poems.

I'll do my best to have all the winners listed and contacted by December 1st!

King of Cartoons

I just returned home tonight from Reno, Nevada, where I spent a week with many of my beloved co-workers and didn't give even one slim penny to the money-grubbing casino fat cats.

Waiting for me upon my arrival home was (in addition to my three favorite ladies) a copy of my latest story in the Wittenburg Door. It has a very funny little cartoon next to it, so I thought I'd go see if I could find the artist on the web. His name is Jerry King, and apparently he's an accomplished cartoonist.

I thought that was cool. And his illustration goes prefectly with my story. I laugh every time I look at it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Politics I'm Passionate About

Quasinaut01 sends an update on the political race we were all watching: incumbent vs. homeless man on the Ashland, Oregon, city council.

Be sure to note that the loser outspent the winner by a "ration" of 20 to 1. I'm not sure what that means. A "ratio" would make sense, though.

Just humor me and pretend to care


You can go see the new trailer for Spider-man 3 here.

I thought the first one was mediocre, and that the 2nd one was great.

Number 3 has an okay look to it. I always wonder, though... why does every "3" movie have to have three villains? Seems stupid to me. Oh well.

Sandman looks cool, though. And I'm glad that Harry Osborn isn't going to get a big dumb helmet like his Dad had in the first one. Mixed feelings on the black suit showing up already. I'll give it a shot, though.

Which means that Krista will have to go, too. Ha ha!

p.s. I was kind of hoping for the Lizard and Werewolf by Night. I guess there's always Spider-man 4.

Exclusive Story by Z and A Mikalatos

I've been teaching my kids to tell their own stories. We've been using the simple formula of: "Pick a good guy, pick a bad guy, pick a problem." I've also been introducing them to the oral traditions of our culture by telling them the story of Star Wars (which they've never seen).

So, here's my favorite story that the kids have come up with so far:

"Obi-Wan Kenobi got up in the morning and got dressed, but when he looked in the drawer... NO SOCKS! He looked in the dirty clothes... but no socks! He looked under his bed... and saw Darth Vader curled up under there, holding Obi-Wan' socks! Obi-Wan tried to get Darth Vader, but Darth Vader ran down the stairs and outside. Obi-Wan tried to follow him, but... he didn't have any socks, so he couldn't put his shoes on. The End."

The only thing I would add is Darth Vader saying, "Do not underestimate the power of the Dark Side." The Dark Side is just mean.

Pearls Before Swine










Click for a larger view. Or go here for more Pearls Before Swine.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Paycheck!

Today I received my third-ever paycheck for writing. Hooray! It's not enough to buy an ocean liner, but then again, I don't want an ocean liner. It is enough to pay a bill, though, and that's nice.

So, feel free to support the fine folk at Wittenburg Door, who are so kind as to occasionally pay me for writing.

P.S. They totally spelled my name right on the check. AND they fixed it on the website. They are good, good people.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

adopt a pet

I know you all want to have mascots for your teams and whatnot. Here's a fun place to get one:



adopt your own virtual pet!

A Quote from My Wife

Me: (That guy) can talk a lot once he gets started.
My Wife: You are a lot like that guy.

Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

I voted today. I'm sure that all of you did.

I'm sure, like me, that you are eagerly anticipating the epic battle in Ashland, Oregon between the incumbent city councilman and his rival... a local homeless guy.

Don't worry, we'll keep you updated.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Ape That Cried "Fire!"

Now that we have a gorilla in the house, I'm very interested to see what kind of problems they cause, and what is the correct discipline for them.

Here's an interesting story: Panbanisha the bonobo (pictured at left)pulled a fire alarm at her facility. The fire fighters arrived to discover a serious lack of fire. Panbanisha was promptly scolded, and the facility is now putting covers on all their fire alarms to prevent the apes from pulling the alarms.

My response: Well, I think that scolding the ape afterwards is much less effective than a little education on the front end. They should teach the apes that it's okay to pull the fire alarm, so long as there is actually a fire. Boy will those researchers feel stupid if a fire comes in the night, and when they get there in the morning they find this charred ape carcass right by the alarm, but its poor ape fingers couldn't lift the cover to call the firefighters.

Education is the key here. Unlike stupid robots, apes can be taught these things.

In Which I Complain About Automated Phone Systems


Why is it that automated phone systems say things like:

"Input your 16-digit code and then press the pound key."

Shouldn't they just know when you hit the 16th button that this is, indeed, the entire code? Can't these robots count?

Stupid robots.

Poets Laureate Confessional

I have to be honest that when I started the first annual "I Want to Be Poet Laureate" contest, it was meant to be this sort of tongue-in-cheek joke. I thought that a few friends might send in a limmerick about Arizona, or a silly three liner about New Jersey (thanks, Rob E!).

But now it's a real contest. I forgot how earnest and serious poets can be. It's been a true pleasure to get some poetry by people who take it very, very seriously. So seriously that they would never use the word "very" twice in a row like that.

And in response to my public challenge, even William Carlos Williams sent in a poem. I was suprised that he chose "The Red Wheelbarrow" since in later life he came to reject all that the Imagist movement stood for, but I suppose he's had lots of time to think about it, being dead and all. I suppose he really understands now how much depends on a red wheel barrow that is slicked with water and beside some chickens. White chickens. (Note to WCW: My wheelbarrow is blue, actually, but I know what you were going for.)

All that to say, keep the contributions coming. I've received well over thirty poems now, but that means there are some states with only a few poems. Remember, the deadline is November 15th, a scant ten days away.

And hey-- if you posted a poem but didn't give me a way to contact you (i.e. an e-mail address) you can still rectify this monstrous error by sending me an e-mail (matt.mikalatos (at) gmail.com).

Gracias, everyone. Stay strong and every state of the union shall have a poet laureate.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Can we leave this here overnight?

I cannot believe how funny this is. Some jokers in Sydney, Australia decide to sneak the Trojan Horse into various places to see if anyone has learned their lesson from history. There are two four-letter words for those of you who don't want to hear that (and those of you who particularly like it, I guess).



*sniff*

I am so proud to be Greek right now.

via Mir and the Claw.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Several Advantages Of Owning A Gorilla

A few days ago I decided that we needed a gorilla in the house. So we got one, but he's not very smart. He thinks the kids are bananas. When the kids yell at him, he gets scared because he's afraid of little girls. And also, he thought they were bananas. Screaming bananas are frightening, I suppose.

There are many advantages to having a gorilla. For instance, if the kids start crying, I just say, "Stop it! You're upsetting the gorilla." That works right away. And if the kids get scared of someone coming into the house, I say, "Do you think the gorilla is going to let someone walk in the front door, right by his cage?" Of course not!

Tonight the kids decided they would name the gorilla Caramel. I thought this was a dumb name. "He has black fur, not caramel-colored fur. Why would you name him Caramel?"

"Because he likes caramel-covered bananas," they replied matter-of-factly. Which is true. So what could I say to that?

You know what else I love about having a gorilla? When I am walking home from the kindergarten where A and I went to pick up Z, and Z starts to talk about her gorilla and one of her friends says, "Do you really have a gorilla?" She says, "Of course I do." The kids look at me, and I say, "It sleeps on the love seat in the front room, in the cage." I think Z is probably famous at school.

Don't get me wrong, there are disadvantages, too. For instance, tonight Caramel took a bath and left so much hair in the tub that the kids refused to bathe.

But mostly, having a gorilla is pretty nice.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Mikalatos For Sale


The new issue of Wittenburg Door comes out today, and I have a story in it called, "Heaven's Suggestion Box."

Or at least, some guy named Mike Mikalatos does. Now my brand recognition is going to go down, because everyone is going to think that Mike and I are some brother-brother writing team. That's okay, though. Mike can write all the hard, edgy stuff and I'll write the children's books. Together we shall rule the publishing world!

Congratulations, Mike, on your first publication!

Sharing is nice

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