As someone who mistakes habit and routine for security and happiness, it takes a lot to get me to adjust grocery store habits. But it’s happened. The discontinuation of my favorite brand of ice cream meant I had to look elsewhere for different options, and this led to the world of Blue Bunny. Why is he blue? Sadness? Because his woman done up and left him, something he discovered when he woke up this morning? Loss of circulation? I don’t know, but it’s not the sort of name they’d choose today. It’s too old-fashioned. However: they make a no-sugar-added variety that’s chock full of chunks, or vice versa, and it’s delicious. So now once a week I shop at the store that sells it, even though it’s a somewhat shabby place with dispirited produce. You want bigger apples, pal? Get a better job. But they do have good sales, especially on meat, even though it’s not the best-looking stuff. Now with 13% less Chinese Hormones!
I mention this only because – well, like I need a reason. But I’ve been meaning to mention something about the store: the produce department has the most amazing room tone I’ve ever heard. In fact you don’t hear it anywhere else, because most modern grocery stores have quieter produce displays. The motors on these things sound like a panicked Mac tower (something I learned about this week, oh my yes. I pulled my Mac out of its cubby to attach a firewire cord, walked away, and came back to hear the thing in full fan panic. Turned it off. Turned it back on. No screen. Nothing. Urgh. It’s 11:45 PM. I have things to do. I try the laptop: screen works. Well, let’s take it apart and push tiny recessed buttons and pray. Nothing worked. Then I remembered that the monitor cord had been a little tight; had I pulled the video card out? I had. Situation solved. Midnight! The night was still young!) and there’s about ten of them, screaming away. But the different motors make different sounds, and the result is a chord, a strange persistent sound that reminds me of something (forgive me: ) on a Brian Eno Fractal Zoom remix.
I’ll get the sound from the store for comparison. See if I’m just making this up.
Anyway: it’s been a busy weekend. How busy? Haven’t activated the phone yet. I had to fix my email problem first, which I did at 2:10 AM Sunday morning. (You get right through to technical support at that hour, it seems.) I got the phone Friday night. The full story’s up at buzz.mn, since I liveblogged the event. Much fun. I got my phone 15 minutes after the first guy in line; he’d been there for 13 hours. The second guy had bee there for 12 hours and 59 minutes. Having never stood in line for one of these events, it was pretty cool – the showmanship is just extraordinary. The black paper comes off the windows 30 minutes before the release, giant timers count down the minutes, and everyone shouts out the last ten seconds en masse. But I couldn’t rush home and activate the thing, since I had to finish the video. I set up the mobile studio (okay, the laptop) in the car and crunched the clips while I had a little cigar, and encountered problem #1: whatever flavor of .avi the camera exports, it makes iMovie fall down and die. So I had to run everything through Visual Hub to convert it – which stripped out the audio. So I had to use WireTap to get the sound from the AVI preview window, then match it with the lips of the people I’d talked to. Getting it on buzz was a nightmare, since there’s no way to embed flash in the site – I had to upload it to VEOH, pray they crunched it quickly, then deal with the buzz software, which wll let you go into the HTML editor to put in the embed code BUT strips out all embed code when you preview the post. It was up before midnight, so mission accomplished.
It was a test, and now I know what to do. But it made for a busy Friday.
Saturday I went looking for cedar chips. Trip three. Twenty more bags. Home Depot was out, which just seemed wrong. Wrong, I tells you. Went to two other places; twice the price. Well, no. So I nixed that, grocery shopped, felt the whole week come down on me like ten sacks of bricks, and went home to nap. In the evening time I worked on the sites and helped Gnat with her new Nintendo DS. (NOT MY DECISION. She went with my wife to Costco and wheedled one out of her.) We’re playing a Spongebob game, which has control issues, and we’ve hit a kweepa point: can’t move beyond, don’t know what to do. (The Kweepa point is a term used only by people who abandoned “The Leather Goddesses of Phobos” during the sequence when you had to type hop / jump / kweepa in various combinations to avoid dropping a canoe in a sewer, or something like that. I use the term to describe a point in a game where you just say oh, to hell with it.) She really wants a Pokemon game, anyway. Big surprise.
Sunday – it’s the afternoon now – I confronted the fine, brilliant handiwork of the creators of the Oak Island Water Feature. See, they put in two evergreens. Very nice. But they put them in the shade of another tree. Hence:
Dead. Dead, dead dead. So I hacked off the limbs and sawed off the trunk, cursing them all the while. And they’re landscapers, fer criminey’s sake.
Well, that’s the day: now I’m going to take Gnat to see Ratatouille, which she really wants to see. As do I. She wants to know if we can have popcorn and an Icee. But of course! And so July begins: perfect.
Update: Ratatouille lived up to my expectations, and they were high. The animation, as you’d expect, is never short of superb, but it’s the characters and the writing and the incredible direction that set it apart from the rest of the genre. Everything’s played one notch lower than you’d expect, except for a few over-the-top moments from the requisite over-the-top character (Skinner the chef, in this case. And even that’s fine.) It feels much different than “Cars” – just think of the typical reaction in a Pixar movie, where something holds an expression of shock, then falls over, or holds an expression of delight, then moves off with great speed – hard to describe, but it’s a hallmark of the way they time the visual gags. Not this time, and that’s probably due to Brad Bird. I never really liked Iron Giant – just didn’t grab me, and it seemed to impressed with its premise and content to roll out the standard cliches about
Bad Things That Go Boom and the Men Who Love Them. The Incredibles was joy from A to Z. This, however, is just another level; there’s so much heart in it. And there’s something else I didn’t realize until later: it’s mostly free of foodie cant. No one discusses food as though it’s a superior replacement for religion or child-rearing or representative democracy or sex or opera, although I’d concede that last one. It’s food as food, and that keeps the movie grounded in something other than a haute bourgeoise diversion. (We rarely see the people who consume the food, only the hard-working cooks who make it – and their attitude is serious, professional, and unsentimental.)
As usual, the credits were delightful – Gnat wanted to stay to see them, which emgladdened my heart. Unless I’m wrong, they’re meant to evoke the illustrations in 1950s cookbooks – and I’ve seen a lot of those, so I know what I’m talking about.
But I’m not a professional critic. As Entertainment Weekly said, en route to giving the movie a rating lower than the one it bestowed upon that hallmark of cinematic perfection, Ocean’s Thirteen – “The lack of celebrity voices is a major drawback.” After reading that I not only wanted to bang my head against a wall, but choose the sharp corner, so the pain would make me forget that he ever said that. Because nothing puts you into a fantasy dream world where a rat talks to a floating ghost of a fat dead chef like the realization that hey, that’s Mike Myers! (Which explains why the French rat has a Scottish accent, too!) He goes on: “Compare (Remy) with, say, the bad-boy Owen Wilson speedster in Cars, and you’re seeing the difference between a hero with spice and a bland one who happens to know where the spice rack is.” Well, actually, you’d be hearing a difference, since we’re talking about voice work. Also, it’s nonsense. There’s a scene in which Remy is trying to escape the kitchen; he passes a pot of soup, and can’t help go back a few times to add more ingredients. You see him think; you see his decisions in his posture and gestures. Not for a second do you think you’re watching a texture-wrapped wireframe. You buy it absolutely, and it has nothing to do with the voice, and if you think it would be better if Eddie Murphy or Jack Black voiced the character and the movie had more fart jokes and winking pop-culture references and ended with everyone singing “Mr. Roboto” or some other so-bad-it’s-even-worse song over the credits, fine.
Oh, and the voicework is fine. Geesh. The movie even contains a little swipe at critics - which, given the general adulation Pixar products get, might seem a little petty. But it doesn't seem that way at all, and the character who make the remarks - a repentant critic himself - does make a good point. Those who can assemble a team of brilliant artists to combine inspiration and technology in hitherto unseen combinations do, and those who can't have to call the IT desk once a week to reset their password so they can log in, create a new document - thanks for the help, Clippy - and pick a few nits in the hope they'll stand apart. EW gave the movie a B+.
It's the "plus" that's so special. Because A- doesn't quite communicate the problems the critic had with the story, and the fact that people may not warm to a tale that features rats. I know I had some revulsion going in: Well, I'll try not to think of the disgusting blue-haired talking rats I've known who stand erect and know the value of saffron. But it's not going to be easy.
See you at buzz - starting now!