quiet kinneret

in texas, as you drive the backroads and highways, you’ll see plenty of longhorn steers dotting both flatland and rolling hills. in israel, a donkey wanders away from his bedouin camp outside your suburbia, realizing that the scrub brush of the negev isn’t that tasty, and starts munching the turf. smart guy. this young donkey turned up even closer to the house the next day, chowing down happily.

but we left him there, piling up the station wagon for an all-family road trip up to the kinneret. kinneret is the hebrew name for the sea of galilee, the largest body of water in israel. it’s a very deep lake, the depths of which roam a variety of tilapia, the surface of which has footprints of a carpenter’s son. having a bit of inside knowledge, we didn’t head for a proper hotel, but one of the small, house hotels that israeli’s use when on vacation. the big tourist hotels, especially on the dead sea, are absolutely terrible (as relayed by my expat friends). however, we were headed for a couple tourist spots. first up, capernaum, a village right on the kineret and home to the apostle peter. now, a greek orthodox monastery sits next to the ruins, and the monks lead tours and keep up the place. we walked in and were attracted right away to the center of the place by the sound of singing. we headed up the steps of the building that sits right on top of the apostle’s house, allowing views down thru a glass floor (like an archeological aquarium). inside was a church group from africa, sending up a rousing gospel hymn. very sad that we got there at the end of it, and very happy to see they ignored the ‘quiet please’ sign. i just got a snap of them leaving, and the other pic is of the underside of the weird saucer building that squats over the ruins of peter’s digs.


then we did the capernaum walk-about, in and thru the standing ruins, which signs appreciatively pointed out were color-coded.

another group was being given a great, informative tour by one of the live-in monks.

i stopped for a moment to hear his account of jesus’ head-turning ways, but couldn’t help thinking of robin’s rotund buddy friar tuck, for whom this guys had a serious resemblance.

but lily, for whom this would be of age appropriate interest, was running about w her family, having no interest, thankfully, in lectures from strange, robed men.

so we headed down the little garden path that leads past the old walls and out to the sea. capernaum sits only about 50ft from the rocky drop to the water. there’s no beach at this section of the lake, just dark, melodically lapped stone.

i watched lily a moment so dan and amber could rock-climb down to the water’s edge.

i had already snuck down for some pics form the bank, including this one, that i think gives a sense of the quiet and peacefulness of the area. it’s right after a light rain, there’s a bit of cloud, but the sound is of water, swelling up and down on the bank.

we paused on the way out, enjoying the moment.

and that’s when i got a look at these huge yucca, where kids and such had made it a practice to carve in their names. i also got a really cool photo of lily, even if it does make her look like a ghost child.


then it was off, but i got one more nice wide for the road.

jonah, stuck in traffic

daniel and i set out around 10am, headed for tel aviv/jaffa, where he and his family had, until just before my arrival, held an apartment. tel aviv is the titular capitol of israel, a coastal manhattan where the roads of business and commerce bisect. however, it abides as the political center only as long as jerusalem, israel’s true heart, balances in a state of imperfect stability. the equally dense city of jaffa abuts tel aviv, and the two exist much the same way as st paul and minneapolis, st louis divided by the missouri, or for my texas friends, dallas and ft worth w out irving in between. metropolitan and vast, the cities differentiate by being predominantly jewish on the tel aviv side, and arab on the jaffa side, but they intertwine w the sinew of traffic, vertical construction, the azure blue of the mediterranean sea to the side, and in the middle, long dark alleys of tiny stalls, each peddling olive wood carvings, badly inlaid cigar boxes, and t-shirts w the equivalent of ‘i “heart” ny’ printed on them. you might also have deduced that jaffa is the ‘joppa’ of old testament reference, the seaport of jonah’s dissident departure. however, on the way there, daniel and i were not considering this, but instead, the simple need to stop for coffee. we did so, finding a starbucks imitation attached to a gas station. inside, we ordered our cafe afuq (not sure of spelling, but pronounced ‘a-fook’), which is a cappuccino, but translates directly as ‘upside-down’, owing to the separation of the foamy milk and coffee. i am very happy about the cappuccino’s here.

i waited for the coffees as dan filled up the gas tank, but purchased a sweet before leaving. a piece of apple cake. a point of interest because i love apple pie, and stand behind norman rockwell’s deifying of the cinnamon dusted, crumble crusted, apple stuffed confection. however, this alternative proved soggy and lifeless, too sweet and tasteless at the same time. but wishing i picked ‘trick’ instead of ‘treat’ didn’t deter us and we hit jaffa traffic shortly, winding our way to my friend’s old place, which is situated on the street that divides the arab and jewish quarters. that means his family experienced some tension and unrest, but more often than not, they saw nothing but bustle. though arab and jew have a great many discords, jaffa and tel aviv are known as the place where they mingle w and abide each other.
 i waited for dan’s super to show up and enjoyed the 3rd floor balcony. the noise of construction and clamor was constant, but a big blue sky made it easy to bear. then headed up to the boardwalk for some sea side pics. the coast curves in, allowing for some beautiful wide shots of high rise downtown.

then it was into the swell of the bazar. narrow roads w storefronts extended by merchandise to the curb, squeezing pedestrians into traffic unless they closely observe the wares out for sale. even more claustrophobic are the alleys w a hundred cramped stalls, one after another. some part of your body is always brushing sale items, and the verbal part of your brain is trying to evolve so it can differentiate the directionless ricochets of seller entreaties: ‘please come in!’, ‘how are you, sir?’, ‘i have only the best merchandise!’ i bought some trinkets for some siblings, small things that i can carry w out hassle.
we stopped for schwarma (pronounced sh-war-ma), which is lamb in pita, w vegetables and humus. dan knew a hot spot, and it was incredibly good, w texan size portions. later, in jerusalem, we would get more schwarma, but this was the best and twice the size. i made sure to get the ‘spicy’ sauce, which was mild. i washed it down w water, daniel w coke.
we spent some time in a public garden situated on a hill overlooking the coast, and we separated for a bit so dan could meet his landlord. i walked up the boardwalk, which was lined w fancy cafe’s. feral cats run wild in all of israel, so i couldn’t resist the guy eating his dinner w the cat just outside of a fancy restaurant. kids on bmx’s were using the stylish curve of the boardwalk as a ramp, popping wheelies as the sun descended.


amber called to see if we were out of town at 4. the sun was headed east and traffic was picking up. she had hoped, for our sake and daniel’s sanity, that we had made it out of city limits by then. not so much. we sidled down the coast w all the other big city shlubs, wading thru a sea of honking as much as a sea of cars. the sludge out wasn’t too bad, i got some decent silhouettes, but i wonder if it was as difficult for jonah getting in to joppa, as it was for us getting out?
a couple more pics… circle by the bay; ships in bay; waterfront graffiti; scooter: the only way to travel

Israel by Land, Sea, and Wadi

i’m staying in omer, which is a suburb of be’er sheva, israel’s 6th largest city. be’er sheva is in the south and it’s a university town, w a lot of young people, a lot of western influence, and a desert just beyond the city limits. in fact, i can see the negev desert from my friends’ porch. and across the way, both visible and audible, is the arab city of tel be’er sheva, where the muslim prayer call can be heard in the evening.

 living in the space between are bedouins. though not the never seen wanderers of the desert that might come to mind, these nomadic people still refuse to settle down, erecting sheet metal housing and foregoing things like electricity and plumbing. and yes, they still use camels.

but after snapping a few pictures of the bedouins, daniel and i and headed east for the dead sea. as you probably know, this body is aptly named  because vast salt and other mineral deposits make it lifeless. but for the same reason, you’ll find a bevy of beauty minded resorts on it’s shores, all preaching the good news of body rejuvenating treatments. besides being so salt rich that you experience and uncanny buoyancy in it’s waters, the mud of the dead sea exfoliates and rejuvenates and… i don’t know, does other ‘ates’ so you look young again.

at any rate, we had to sneak onto one of the resort’sprivate beaches to check it out. the water is very oily, but has an emerald tint and it’s very clear; although our beach had had sand imported to replace the former salt and rock, and so was fairly murky. many  people were smearing the dark mud onto their skin.

thankfully, we didn’t stay long and hopped back on our way to ein gedi, a desert spring that ends up in the dead sea, but begins in the mountainous cliffs above it. this is a well known and attended national park, and there were plenty of people there, including some IDF soldiers catching a break from the road. these guys were driving some high tech vehicles, but they were no less captivated by the simple pleasures at ein gedi.

namely, the ibex, a type of mountain goat indigenous to the area, which finds station wagons every bit as natural a climbing surface as a rock cliff. i guess there’re no ibex herding courses in special forces.

in either event, it was a miracle the hungry hoofers didn’t use our own vehicle for a highchair. we found no hoof marks or prints after our foray into the park. and how do you explain that to insurance?.. ‘those dents were cause by mountain goats. what do you mean you don’t believe me!?! they’re rude and inconsiderate bastards, and they don’t give a damn about deductibles!’ but aren’t they cute:

after some time at ein gedi, we backtracked and turned in at a desert wadi. a wadi is a dry riverbed, cut into the rock and soil by seasonal rain and flash floods. it’s also a brilliant place to hike. you can see the incredible view that the entrance provides looking down the bluff edge. we hit it right before sunset, and right after a dust storm, so the light was diffused and and full of depth; we headed in and up.


about a 1/4 mile in, we discovered a series of natural stairways up the side of the wadi (the dark, vertical shadows in the picture). each of these cut by rivulets of water from the cliff top. we started up the one on the right but found it too dangerous. the ‘steps’ were too unstable w loose shale.

so we tackled the one on the left, climbing about 75 ft up before a sense of mortality kept us from going further. it’s no surprise that amber later told me she’s more afraid of daniel killing himself on some type of adventure outing than she was when he was a beat cop. going out alone into the desert can erase the most sedate mind’s comfort. after climbing down, we had to hoof it back in the dark w the aid of flashlights. this didn’t keep us from coming out of the wadi about a 100 yards south of our entry, but we made it.

wadi mishmar when we first arrived:

The Dust on my Fingers is 4000 Years Old

This is Be’er Sheva (of Biblical Beersheba fame). we’re headed for the suburb of Omer (of Biblic… actually, all these places, names, and pictures have Biblical relevance! So I will be more specific when able). Omer is a tip top little burb, w fenced yards and a nice grocery store. this is a big deal i’m told, and i’ve quickly come to realize that most stores retain some measure of the market bazaar’s frantic disorder. in omer, you can shop at about 75% of western normal, which is pretty sweet if you ask the expats.

israel is 9 1/2 hrs ahead of america. that’s basically ‘day’, which means jet lag flips you for real. and as sure as fenster is still incoherent, jet lag makes your mind a place of salvador dali paintings and indistinct thought. however, that’s normal, so i’m trying to stick to the plan and avoid washing up on the beach. no one wants to be buried in the sand. to that end, my first morning (late morning, thank you!) saw us packing up sandwiches and my friend’s little girl for a foray to Abraham’s Well. this well is supposed to be the Be’er Sheva of reference. abraham dug the well but the herdsman of a local king claimed it. subsequently, abraham made a pact w the king, abimelech, and sealed it w the payment of 7 lamb ews. therefore, the name of the well can translated directly as ‘well of 7’ or ‘well of the oath.’ a city eventually grew up around the well, which you can see below.

here are my friends daniel and amber pierce, and their sweet little kiddo lily. and that, w out ticker tape, glass walls, or staring guard, is abraham’s well. we even had the place all to ourselves, until…

the tours started showing up.

later that afternoon, we visited a nabatean ruin. these were roman-era christians. the site is still being excavated, however haphazardly. i didn’t see any archeologists, just well preserved walls and piles of rock and sand. it was very strange that we could touch ~1800 yr old, priceless history, w carte blanche. sitting astride the  ruins is a quaint bed and breakfast w a collection of bedouin rifles, pistols, and swords on the wall. but it by no means felt exotic. there was a brightly colored blanket dividing the firearms and mission-style stained glass in the windows, and it was hot and bright outside: i had deja vu to spanish texas, and alamo era exhibits in san antonio. feeling further at home, a took a picture of the large french lace lavandula intermedia growing out front. i grow and sell these in texas.

but i guarantee this isn’t sw of the pecos.

we stopped at an IDF outpost to take some shots of visible missiles, but the guard yelled at us so we quickly drove away. instead, stopping for scenics down the road.

this is not from easter island. i understand israeli’s are very into modern art, but this seems like kitsch.

a walk across the road from my friends’ house leads to land in the process of being developed. there are hills of graded soil, piles of rock, and lots of wild cats and dogs. there is no animal control in israel. one theorizes on the rungs of societal advancement. after all, israel has been a nation barely 60 yrs. therefore, things like a stable gov’t, reliable roads, public schools, airports and sanitation have been top of mind. maybe spaying and neutering their pets is next. we hiked out thru the rock piles and debris. about a half mile down slope is this arab town. the minaret is lit w green, the color of islam. on our way back we passed a husky in fairly good shape, and avoided the trash can fire started by bedouins. we relaxed when the fire and the bedouin children tending it came into view.

Tel Aviv via Submarine

We left for the airport at noon. On the way out of my parents sprawling suburb, we did a cursory search for the mail lady, hoping to snag my un-arrived Italian phrase book. She didn’t have it, and neither did the UPS guy blaring Zepplin. So much for 2 day shipping.

At the airport, I checked in at the US Airways counter and was fortunate enough to get a sweet and informative clerk. I haven’t flown in a long time, so I needed her to explain things like boarding zones, and baggage weight and size allowances. She kindly bumped me to zone 1 so I could board quickly and let me sneak 2 pounds of extra weight in my checked bag.

Good-Bye’s were quick, and after my family and I parted, my youngest sister texted me an apology for hurrying away so fast, saying she was afraid of onrushing tears. She’s just had to make the same good-bye’s to her older sister, so she’s had it rough and she knew the score.

And that was that. I went smoothly thru TSA and listened in on a veteran traveller speak nostalgically of bygone days, when family could cry you all the way to the plane and Jehovah’s Witnesses could serenade you onboard. Then I stood unceremoniously at the terminal for about half an hour. After boarding with zone 1, I just barely managed to smash my backpack in between two other bags that were overflow from 1st class, but I was lucky enough to get an entire row to myself. I realized this too late to move to the window seat for take-off, but switched seats shortly thereafter. The guy behind me refused to get off his phone, but eventually hung up after the pilot announced with wonderfully dripping sarcasm that even if some of us had ‘very important phone calls’ to take, ‘the rest of us [were] going to Philadelphia.’

I did like the take-off. It was a rush and a thrill. In fact, you must forgive my lack of adult indifference, but I haven’t been on a plane since I wore batman underwear, and the whole experience felt much more visceral than I expected. Banking in the fairly small jet gave me a Lindbergh-era kick. And watching turbulence visibly shake the wing gave me a titillating jolt and made me think of Shatner’s famous Twilight Zone episode where he goes insane watching the gremlin on the plane wing.

3 hours and a jump to Eastern Time led to a night landing in Philadelphia, where another very sweet clerk explained that my bag would be moved from plane to plane for me and that my flight to Tel Aviv was booked full, so I couldn’t change my seat. Really, only a switch to first class would have made a difference. The wonder of flight wore off deliberately on the long haul to Tel Aviv. The terminal was a foreshadowing. It was packed full, barely a seat to take as one waited. This little affected me, as I wanted to stand and save my back for the grind. But I did have to leave the terminal to use the boy’s room, which meant I had to go back thru the rigor of TSA. Since it’s international, the terminal is secure, so entering means passport out and shoes off. I tried to exit the way I had come and the agent said ‘if you leave, you have to come back thru here’, meaning the ‘mess.’ I said, ‘I know but I gotta pee.’ He nodded and replied drily, ‘word.’ Besides that, the only interesting turn was discovering blood on my backpack, and realizing that it was mine. Dry skin and a scratch on my knuckle. But I hid the bloody tissue on my return thru security, none the less.

The trip from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv was arduous. It was cramped, and I had less leg room there than my hop on the little jet. Only the little movie screen on the back of the seat in front of you makes it bearable. I watched Money Ball and found it better than I expected, though I can see why Art Howe might say WTF. Wash (the Texas Rangers now Head Coach and formerly the Fielding Coach for the Oakland A’s) portrayed well, if much too coherently. I’d have liked to see him mimicked in the correct fashion: high energy and low coherence. I fell into a fitful doze at about hour 4. I awoke in a sick and sweaty haze at hour 5. A rush to the bathroom ensued, but it was occupied. I wonder if the passengers nearby were concerned when I immediately doubled over in a near panic, hands on knees and head dropped listlessly. When I finally made it into the lavatory, it was God graced with enough space and (strangely) fresh air to help me relax. And so I didn’t pop. I made it thru the rest of the flight by watching the unfortunate follow up to Night at the Museum, half of Tree of Life (Malick’s dreamy and floating shots are nauseating on a plane), and most of the classic Dodgeball.

And then the pilot told us we had arrived. I couldn’t tell you otherwise, being away from the windows. It’s a strange feeling to get in a box and feel G force and sit in a small seat 10 and half hours and then be told you’ve travelled farther than Christopher Columbus. But that’s the way it works. You get in a plane, but it’s more like a submarine.

Arrival had it’s bumps. I was pulled aside in the airport by Israeli security and given a quick set of questions by a very serious female agent. I took no offense, having a buzz cut and a beard makes me look unfortunately sinister in the middle east.

I met Daniel at greeting area with no trouble. It’s nice that we’re both taller than most people here and he could wave to me over everyone and I could see him over everyone. Do you detect some Texas pride? Probably.

a pic from the ‘hop’ to Philadelphia which i found so much fun. the blood stain on my bag and my little cut. is it weird that i’m showing a picture of myself bleeding? i do hate the twilight series. shalom.


2 minutes in heaven [11.16]

this week, we discuss heroines who rock your dopamine levels the old fashioned way – w fighting skills and pretty hair! but we also get into a woman’s most dangerous weapon – her body! no, we’re not discussing milla jovovich and kate beckinsale, but let’s face the facts, it’s a woman’s world, and men just live in it. unless the movie is about the relationship between a father and son. in that case, i don’t think a woman can even understand.

BRAVE.     i admit it, hayao miyazaki has made me a super fan of animated girl heroes. if you know nausicaa and mononoke then you know they are some pretty bad-ass princesses, able to stand toe-to-toe against robin hood and aladdin any day of the week. (although little john and abu give the guys a manpower edge… the girls get to be royalty but the guys always get a cool sidekick). so i’m just as excited for pixar’s new film as if it were woody and buzz (another tag-team!). in Brave, we have Merida, a tomboy red-head who takes her cues from the ghost of sherwood by rocking dead-eye bow hunting skills. her epic tale appears to center on whether she’ll accept an arranged marriage or make like edward and abscond for personal happiness (although, i doubt this sweet girl has an american divorcee holding her leash). i predict she’ll strike a blow for future Elizabeth’s and maybe kill a giant bear = awesome. in preparation for this movie, i suggest you check out disney’s Tangled, which, in spite of being only a year old, sporting the voices of mandy moore and zachary levi, and being part of the neo-disney machine which bears little resemblance to the vaunted frank and ollie days of yore, is an absolute dynamite picture. but i should say, i have a thing for blonds.

SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN.     this trailer rips right into my pleasure centers with charging warhorses, slashing swords, a murderous witch, and a rising score equal parts Inception and Bladerunner. i did not expect this. but i am happily surprised. in fact, i’m psyched. here’s a snapshot of my jubilant stream-of-consciousness: the witch’s crown looks like sauron’s; the far-away-castle shot reminds me of Conan and Willow and Krull… where the kingdom is every bit as mysterious and magical as Arthur’s, but it’s Evil; the dark and mono-tone monsters remind me of Shadow of the Colossus and The Sword in the Stone; the red and blue pageantry of the battling knights reminds me of Prince Valiant, instead of the colorless ‘gritty’ look of our recent and crappy King Arthur; and the hero is just a guy w a couple of hatchets, a blue collar brawler who happens to know his way thru that big scary patch of shade trees over there. let’s do this fairy tale! and if it sucks, i still have the julia roberts vehicle to look forward to! what? oh no…. please be good!

FOOTNOTE.     this movie is about father-son professors. both scholars of the same subject, but the son famous and the father ignored and bitter. when an accident occurs and the father is given an award intended for the son, everything changes. the son must decide whether to crush his father w the terrible news or give away his own prestige. though visually cluttered w the minutiae of nerds, including hunchbacked and bearded men in dimly lit, paper-strewn rooms, w hubble-sized glasses pressed inches from giant books, this is a primal story. it asks horrible questions: does a son who has completed the ritual killing of his father (in mono mythe terms), but who also has deep regrets because of his father’s unhappiness, restore his poppa’s strength at the cost of his own conscience? will doing so lead to a greater fall when the truth is discovered, and deep bitterness from dear old dad? though different in plot, it has the same pressure points as Hamlet. the son entrapped by the father’s ignorance, his passions confused, his eventual decision likely to kill him no matter what. however, this looks like it’s supposed to be darkly funny, not darkly tragic. we’ll see. Very Bad Things is darkly funny, but any story where a father and son fail to reconcile is surely tragic. just ask jacob. naturally, the sons of jacob seem to love this kind of moral dilemma. i hope this turns out better than The Chosen, i really dislike that book. (and i can say nerds all i want. i am a nerd. and one day, i will no doubt paint a self-aggrandizing picture of the glasses and gray-haired man i described).

MELONCHOLIA.    i watched this trailer and said yes! then i saw the post script ‘lars von trier’ and said d’oh! you see, that guy is an ass. he’s just an ass. i don’t like to support guys like him. same goes for gaspar noe and roman polanski in differing measures for differing reasons. but i admit my inconsistent principle which collapses in my consistent patronage of woody allen. but Melancholia has kirsten dunst, who i really like – she’s brilliant in Marie Antoinette – and both skarsgard’s – the young one who played a too-good-looking model in Zoolander, and the old one who played an ex kgb turncoat in Ronin. there’s serendipity in there somewhere! so here’s my proposal: no on roman, no on noe (cause i like myself), yes on allen, and we’ll give trier a chance. this crazy little pic looks like a 2 hour version of Tree of Life mixed w the TV show Pushing Daisies, part cinema verite soul-searching and part magically-surreal melodrama. but to be honest, part of me just wants to see 2 planets smash into each other!

YOUNG ADULT.     Juno was really good. i know diablo cody has written more movies since then but i haven’t seen them. jason reitman, on the other hand, made Up in the Air, a wonderful film that sampled america’s job and morality crisis in a tragically sublime fashion. yes, we all saw the twist coming. did that make you cringe less? not likely. it’s still really damn sad and well done. in YA, we have charlize theron, of ye wicked witch fame, playing a hot, female version of Bad Santa. development fully arrested, but her cans every bit as pointed and dangerous, she’s hot on the trail of former flame patrick wilson. the plot looks very reminiscent of this summer’s Bad Teacher, where cameron diaz thru it around in order to get a proposal from a rich and silly jason timberlake. Teacher, which was very funny, had jason segal’s super tall but lovable shlub as diaz’ eventual soul mate, whereas YA has patton oswalt as the mocking and ogling, but short, shlub who gets the girl…. at least i hope so, even if i strongly believe a woman should never be taller than her man. i expect the differences in the movies to be plenty, however, as reitman is one of the premier directors currently working and he’s shown a slight penchant for christopher payne type americana storytelling, if not as dark and bitter. just don’t expect that happy and svelte ending, not when charlize is throwing herself at a married man.


i saw the crazy new 3 musketeers today. and no, it’s not as good as the book by alexander dumas (doo-maw) upon which it is oh-so-loosely based. but that’s ok, it’s a lot of fun in a lot of ways that i really appreciate. and it’s not trying to follow the book by plot, synopsis, or cover, but in spirit; which it does wonderfully, staying true to the swash-buckling bravado and fraternal escapades of 4 men w swords. you can’t say that about all our recent re and re-re-makes. we’re at that point, after all, where the movie or story is getting made a 2nd, 3rd or 4th time! a lot of the favorites have had plenty of red carpet merry-go rounds: batman and king kong, sherlock and nosferatu. in fact, i’m sure you’ve heard that there are 2(!) live action snow whites being made, and even the girl w the dragon tattoo is getting it’s american import before noomi rapace can take off her bulldog choker and grow out her razor cut hair (to be replaced w victorian jewels and tresses so she can be in the next sherlock!).

  compare these queens from the 2 new snow whites

many of those upcoming films will have morphed or entirely original plots, retaining only the characters from the source material. so does that mean they’re new properties, w no similarity to their namesake? no! because what’s important is the spirit of the thing, irrespective of even maniacal superficial changes. for instance, look – NO! – ‘consider’, romeo + juliet, baz luhrman’s neo pop rendition of the bard’s most famous tale. it’s guns and punk rock, fast cars and trip-hop-fast recitation of shakespeare’s iambic pentameter… but it’s in the Spirit of the original play. just look at the cover where the words love, despair, hope and tragedy are writ plain in letter and image:

baz, and even the film’s publicity team, want you to know it’s all still there: the ethos(setting) may have changed and the logos(plot) minutely deviated, but the pathos(spirit) remains sincere and, just like romeo + juliet‘s love, eternally devout. but this example may be cheating. you’d have to chuck the old dialog and ‘translate’ and edit and condense before you could really lose the nature of the bard’s tales. besides, his were all plays, so pissed and pacing hamlet is well designed for 2 hours of theater sitting. but musketeers is different, it’s a big, grand book, so it has to be condensed, cut, and even rearranged. therefore, how shall we judge musketeers against other adapted tomes?

since we’ve mentioned a Dane, let us address beowulf, one of my favorite surviving olde english epic poems (along w the lord of the rings and the silmarillion… those are real, eh?). beowulf is fairly light on pages (look at lotr or hp or tgwtdt in comparison) so it should translate perfectly to the screen, right? actually, this first ever big screen adaptation has almost none of the epic verse’ spirit. beowulf is about a warrior who fights for God & Country. quite literally, he’s a Geat and he’s into smiting for Christ. now, there are some serious mistakes in beowulf’s new testament orthodoxy – a midas-like love of treasure and ridiculous thirst for battle – but on the whole, he’s christian. however, neil gaiman and co-writer roger avary changed him and his world so much philosophically and pathologically, never mind the plot, that the resulting character and story no longer resemble their progenitors in the core ways, the deep ways, the ways that are important. i went into the film thinking it would be the creepy robert zemeckis animation that would drive me nuts, but i was wrong, it was the corrupted spirit of the story. by the time the credits rolled, i was almost ready to pass out from the downer you get after an anger induced adrenaline rush. now it must be noted that i get riled up by bad movies, but i also cheer for good ones. so please understand that my feeling is not one of disappointment in a technically bad film or irritation at an empirically changed plot, but at betrayal by a pathological twisting of anima, guts, and spirit. which is sad. cause i love beowulf.

so thank you to musketeer’s director paul ws anderson for making a film both visually refreshing, and in the true spirit of the material that inspired it! and i know a lot of you out there probably saw the trailer w the…

1. steam-punk airship

2. milla jovovich doing matrix-like acrobatics

3. orlando bloom in a buccaneer-cum-court ponce pompadour haircut w matching earring

4. and last but not least, an 18th century assassin using a scuba suit(!)

…and you thought: ‘that’s stupid’. but i’ve been in your position before, friend. i was watching the trailer for the 5th element and i said ‘what? that’s stupid’. then i watched the movie and i realized stupid can often be incorrectly confused w crazy. and i like crazy. not only that, i like movies that plan, predicate, and jump headlong into crazy not just for it’s own sake, but to have fun. and that’s what the brilliant but insane sci-fi masterpiece 5th element does, and to a lesser degree, what musketeers does, as well. it’s not as good, even though it also has the true maven of female action in it: milla jovovich (sorry angelina). and it’s not as hero perfect, cause even though i really like all of musketeer‘s actors, none of them is bruce willis. but it’s crazy good fun. and we all need more of that at the movies! so for all of you who scoffed at the trailer, here’s more detail than you wanted: the neo-history/steam punk flair is pulled off much better than league of extraordinary gentleman; the sword fighting is top notch; and it’s anderson’s best movie, which isn’t saying a lot, but it’s better than resident evil, which i think is a fun little film. and for all you actor nerds, it’s got the sublimely evil christoph waltz! so just remember this: movies are supposed to be fun, and they’re supposed to have swords – and the 3 musketeers has both. en garde!

in addition to snow white, ‘red riding hood’ has a just had another remake. the ‘5th element’ – yay! ‘beowulf’ – boo! and the new ‘mission impossible 4′, which i’m looking forward cause it’s directed by brad bird and cause the trailer makes it look like a lot of fun.


noomi in ‘tGwtDT’ vs the new ‘sherlock’. she still looks angry.


full disclosure: i’ve been looking to get that ‘beowulf’ chagrin off my chest for a while, but i am a fan of neil gaiman. just read ‘american gods’ or ‘neverwhere’ to get on his bandwagon. although ‘gods’ will let you in on his distaste for deities of any nature, ‘neverwhere’ (along w ‘stardust’ [not to be confused w the willie nelson album]) is an exciting and delightful neo-fantasy adventure for boys and girls alike. i even foisted it on my little sister, which vouchsafes for its good standing.

i am ‘the thinker’s’…

for some time i’ve wanted to add a background image to the vox vetus page. stormtrooper white is cool but no one realizes it’s stormtrooper white. the question then becomes what exactly should i put behind those latin letters? i need to add an image that defines my blog; assuming, that is, that the written content is coherent enough to fit into a pixelated reflection. and which is better… fitting into a jpeg or defying boundaries? actually, nerds and non-conformists, it’s fitting into a jpeg. you see, the picture reflects a structure of thought, not subject matter. this is not a section in the paper like finance (boring) or sports (awesome). this is the editorial section (blowhard), which is to say, content should derive from logic and clarity and a consistency of these honorable tropes.

all this to say that my newest copy of ‘science illustrated’ has sparked the ephiphanous answer: Rodin’s ‘the thinker’. it’s pretty famous, probably just behind Michelangelo’s ‘david’ in regards to naked men made of bronze. and it’s in the new ‘science illustratrated’ because it was grievously violated (a very scary thing for any naked man). this particular ‘thinker’, one of 20 original castings by the french sculptor, was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum in the Netherlands. it was retrieved 2 days later, but not before the thieves tried to cut it into pieces and sell it for scrap metal. scrap metal! can you believe that?! how philistine. as the original name of the statue was ‘the poet’, an allusion to Dante of ‘inferno’ fame, one could suggest this particular ‘thinker’ survived the circle of hell reserved specifically for atheist art lovers. but who expected that particular circle would involve a band saw? i figured it would be ‘a clockwork orange’ type punishment where spiked pince-nez prevent guggenheim lovers from closing their eyes as they’re forced to watch ‘entrapment’ all day long. if anything could worsen separation from our dear Lord, that would be it. fortunately, said science article is actually about the remarkable restoration of ‘the thinker’ by manner of 3D imaging and replacement molds. hooray for scienc3!


but on the subject of the pilfered ‘thinker’, and having mentioned ‘entrapment’, let us consider the ouvre of art heist films. they’re a small bunch, but unique and worth some study. the most popular films of the genre are ‘entrapment’ and ‘the thomas crown affair’ remake, which are cheesy titillation for the middle-aged. each w a debonair thief on the loose and brassy gal in tow to barely fend off his advances. he’s plotting 2 heists, and she knows it, playing the matador to his toro until it suits her to prefer the goring. this is not a good start. these movies are popular, but i don’t like them. the end of ‘crown’ is slick but otherwise it’s silly, slow, and romantic in the same way as late night cinemax. instead, if you’re a brosnan fan like me, check out ‘the matador’ (natch), a great little hitman movie w him at the center of an existential crisis. and where ‘crown’ has a crass love plot, this hitman movie actually has 2 very sweet loves, one romantic and the other fraternal. as for ‘entrapment’… triple old man ugh. watch ‘from russia w love’ if want to see sean virile (and not pervy); or better yet, watch ‘the hunt for red october’ – cause it’s super bad ass. but let’s practice a little redemption! there are some good art heist movies, enough even to ransom this tiny little genre from a creepy old connery.

first off, the princess herself, grace kelly, who shines, quite literally, in the hitchcock classic ‘to catch a thief’. this is a nice little film, equal parts silly and fun while walking the line of the genre’s tropes. and while cary grant is probably too old for the exquisitely beautiful kelly, who of us can resist his gentleman’s charm? the plot is fairly simple, grant is an ex cat burglar, pardoned for his crimes because of his part in the french resistance, but an impostor has begun to mimic him and he must now ferret out the new thief. kelly happens to be the heiress of the biggest jewel on the riviera, drawing grant’s attention (not that it would take jewelry), and adventure and fireworks ensue. it’s not the match of hitchcock’s classics (veritgo, SxSW, etc), but it scores big for location and production value, as it was shot in monte carlo on cliff top and sea side. i need to watch the new collector’s edition of the film, as the horrific old film stock has been remastered and may now reveal the true brilliance of the locale. one wonders if shooting in the french riviera, and wearing the wardrobe of famed designer edith head, made an impact on kelly’s future decisions?

next on our list is ‘charade’, a film i like even more, cause it’s got some real bad guys in it. what it doesn’t have is a big heist moment, but i’m going to include it because it has a a very smart heist reveal. this is another grant project, but w audrey hepburn riding shotgun. this go around, grant is a little more rugged (if still too old for his new ingenue), hepburn more coy and conniving, and walter matthau and james coburn make things interesting as fairly menacing villains. what’s better, you can’t always tell if grant himself is on the up-and-up. none-the-less, he pulls hepburn along on the hunt for a rare treasure, hidden by her deceased husband, who was murdered after he stole it. when the treasure is finally revealed, it’s actually surprising (and just ‘art’ enough to include on this list), and as grant and hepburn try to retrieve it, taut and clever chase scenes occur, the kind inspired by hitchcock but unfortunately missing from ‘to catch a thief’. this makes the final balance of ‘charade’ very nice, with tension, mystery, romance, and a few bad buys biting it along the way. and lay off the glossy fairy tale ending, w out that it might not have been played on public television, and my teenage cable-less butt wouldn’t have seen it and be telling you about it now.

finally, and keeping audrey in tow, we have ‘how to steal a million’, a truly died in the wool art heist flick. here you’ll find a rich heiress, a practicing thief who falls for her, and a big museum heist. but ‘million’ is also a rom-com, and plays on the genre’s cliches. for instance, peter o’toole’s burglar needs a ride home when he’s grazed by a musket shot from hepburn after she catches him robbing her! of course, he also bums a cigarette on the ride home. the rest of this caper’s plot revolves around o’toole and hepburn’s budding romance as they plot to retrieve a fake statue that her father has passed off as real. to be honest, it was late and i fell asleep watching this movie. i was really tired. but it was good til i drifted off to middle earth, so it still stands far above ‘entrapment’ and ‘crown’.

so what have we learned about art heist movies?… rich girls (usually played by audrey hepburn) get into trouble, and then tantalize, toy w, and finally fall in love w the dangerous but inwardly tender thieves who come to their rescue. at the same time, there’s art on the loose and a big plan being made by the girl and the guy to lift it. the art heist flick sustains itself on a simple dynamic of plot mirroring romance, and i can live w that, especially if grace kelly is in the mix. what i find intriguing is that the blond hepburn, whose natural brassiness would make her the perfect matador, never played the part. but then again, i believe it would have ringed false for such an inevitable seduction to work on someone of her ‘no nonsense’ stance. some dames are just too smart. so props to classy katherine for truly declaring ‘no toro’! and don’t throw ‘philadelphia story’ at me. cary’s inevitable conquest of katherine is not sexual but marital; he wants to put a ring on her finger (a 2nd time!). in any case, it seems you need cary grant to pull your art heist film out of timid sexual cliche. unsurprising.

but what about my search for a background image that perfectly defines my blog and my thinking? the hunt for pixelated sublimity. well, it’s apropos that a magazine that intentionally combines 2 disparate forms, science and pictures, gave me the answer. but, having settled on ‘the thinker’, am i now suggesting that an iconic work of nude art, one that universally conjures up brilliance, is the right mascot for my mind? wow, that’s pompous, i must be a full of hot crap. actually, hold that thought. you see, it’s not ‘the thinker’ that perfectly defines my dilettante deduction.

it’s his naked butt.


a few post scripts:

‘the maltese falcon’, one of my all time favorite films, is almost identical in plot to ‘charade’. however, i just don’t see them in the same light. ‘charade’, which has been called ‘the best hitchcock movie hitchcock never made’, is a thriller w the character dynamics of the art heist film. grant, as the lead male, is full of chicanery and tricks just like a thief, even if he isn’t one; whereas bogart, in ‘falcon’, plays fall guy most of the way thru. besides that, ‘falcon’ is straight up noir: the wit is dark, the danger sinister not titillating, y las senoritas estan los toros.

‘ocean’s 12’ is technically about an art heist. and it’s a truly bad movie that doesn’t, in any way, fit the genre billing we’ve discussed. ‘hudson hawk’ is also about a museum robbery. it is, indubitably, one of the strangest films ever made. it fits into the genre of terry gilliam films, but not art heist films. i haven’t seen john woo’s ‘once a thief’, but i suspect there are flying doves in slo mo. 


a very cool stormtrooper wallpaper.     grace kelly – no explanation needed.    


trailer rodeo oct 9

this week, we focus largely on the anima of manhood, but don’t worry, there’s a nice flick for the ladies, too. also, you’ll get some inside info on my favorite actors – information i’m sure you’ve been dying to hear!

THE GREY.     both male fantasy and nightmare, ‘the grey’ follows neeson after a horrible plane crash in some arctic wasteland. in the process, he loses his beloved wife and falls into a mortal struggle against the elements and a hungry pack of wolves. the chills run from emotional, when his wife is ripped from his clutches, to physical, when he straps on gloves ridged w broken glass and charges a wolf. it’s kinda like ‘unforgiven’ meets ‘the predator’, so i’m sad and psyched.

THE WOMEN ON THE 6TH FLOOR.     (this one’s for the ladies!) maybe just watch it for the wardrobe design, or because you appreciate new wave and want to see the period in hd color. in ‘6th floor’, we have an upstairs-downstairs comedy in the french sense. so, where a brit version would involve very stiff contact at the kitchen door, and maybe a very secret, and likely disowned, bastard pregnancy, the french version is colorful, whimsical, and lightly erotic. i say it’s easier to laugh off the indifferent infidelity than the duke date rapist – viva la bastille day!

TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY.     in an age of post-dated manhood this film’s title alone is enough to command a pause of renaissance-man respect; but i bought ‘the book of man’ to consider the words of seneca and my failings in comparison to my favorite president and roosevelt, teddy, this movie is actually about the cold war, not facing down a society of fatuous adolescence.  on that note, count me in. especially because of gary oldman. it’s funny that playing detective gordon in ‘batman’ would get him a leading role in a brit period piece, but check and mate. and to that metaphor of chess, this film leans. the cat and mouse game is on and oldman ought to be great as the pragmatic, practical and inscrutable sleuth on the case.

THE RAVEN.    john cusack is one of my top 5 favorite actors. in fact, he’s neck-and-neck at #1 in the irrelevant race for my 24 frame affection w harrison ford. both are strong leading men, the latter a rogue and everyman hero of serial adventures, braving nazi’s and lasers while acquiring bruises as bad as his luck; the former a dissident and everyman hero of existential crises, braving society and girls while baring a heart as tender as his tongue is sharp. if you don’t like john cusack or harrison ford, you exist on an untenable plain, where coexistence w myself is impossible. especially when it comes to girls, cause i don’t care if your hands are dirty, ‘my hands are dirty, too’; and because there is a very deep truth in holding up a boombox outside a girl’s window – or in any similar expression of personal feeling.

but let’s talk ‘raven’… it looks great! there’s a fine lineage of period films from this victorian era. from the fictional(?) sherlock holmes to jack the ripper. and this appears to be a mash-up of the two – but who cares, it’s cusack damn it! actually, it reminds me of the book ‘drood’, about the brit counterpart of poe, dickens. both stories mixing murder and obsession w fiction and reality. but here’s the lowdown on some recent cusack flicks: ‘hot tub’ showcased cuse the rye leading man, in the same clever straight man role as ‘better of dead’, and ‘raven’ looks to showcase cuse in the same role as ‘identity’, an under-rated who-don-it where cuse plays a suspect after/or the real killer, both smarter than everyone else, but in an ode to reality, not quite smart enough. in ‘raven’ there’s another leading man, much younger and probably an actor on the rise, proof of the disappointing fact that aside from small indies, nobody will bank on cuse as a full leading man. but i’ll take what i can get, even if, according to imdb, cuse is only interested in doing serial killer films right now. hopefully they’re better than ‘cowboys and aliens’… seriously indie?

— also in my top 5: will smith, humphrey bogart, errol flynn, owen wilson, and carey grant. yeah, i know that’s more than 5, thereby breaking the rules of ‘top 5’ lists laid down in john cusack’s own ‘high fidelity’. but i don’t care. also, you’ll see a clear road grade of characters w quick wit, bruised egos, and strong punches, usually delivered after they’ve gotten up, post being knocked down.

‘i say unto thee’

i went to SMU last night to see a debate. so did 1600 other people, which i wasn’t expecting. textual criticism on the new testament seems like an unpopular subject, but this is bible country boys and girls. so when the words of Jesus are potentially on shaky ground, people stand up and ask, ‘what say you?’. which is great! as any of our Lord’s scholars might suggest, from lewis to muggeridge to chesterton to zacharias – all cambridge or oxford men i believe (yes, i am jealous) – a knowledgable christian is a better christian. here is my account of the evening.

the scholars of the debate seemed, by their introductions, to be imminent scions of their field. that daniel b wallace and bart d ehrman have known each other 30 years made it all the more likely. long rivals, it seems, in a most auspicious realm of study, come to duel like teutonic knights. said knight ehrman is the new york times bestselling author of titles that call into question the origin of our greek new testament. a polarizing figure, no doubt spurred by his publisher choosing titles for his books like ‘misquoting Jesus’, which is a doozy. before he took his place behind the microphone, he gave a less than flattering impression. his bald pate and black frames attached to a tense and inattentive manner. i thought immediately of the russian foreign press censor of the same name that malcolm muggeridge references in his memoir. no personality connection exists, but ehrman looks like the intense and fanatical men of intelligentsia who spurred on a proletariat uprising – sans the beard, of course. but he is no demagogue or screaming philosopher, in fact, he’s a friendly fellow who leans toward a people pleasing, if moderately pedantic, manner of argument. ‘we only have copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of the original text!’ this truth released with an air of mental exhaustion, carried on the plea of a nasal voice. the suggestion being, ”i’m warning you! don’t stand on the stool and expect someone not to come along and kick it out from under you!’ his argument basically a threat, but the threat, however subtle, comes in the form of an amiable ouvre. should we kill him as the messenger of this threat? no, but i imagine he suspects of wanting to; he as unsettled as his argument is meant to make us.

wallace, on the other hand, is the knight on the pilgrim’s trail. an avuncular man who reminds me, by his scholarly girth and over-sized glasses – no doubt used to look down at manuscripts, and only able to catch half, at best, of a view in any mirror – very much of a character from the wonderful film ‘ronin.’ but that character is jaded and ‘retired’, while wallace is stout-heartedly on his fabled trail. a Sisyphean Chaucer, trudging towards truth, recovered manuscript by recovered manuscript. in his grail-seeking heart, hope springs eternal but his feet must be made of the same iron as daniel’s statue, for he must fight that roman empire to cough up it’s tightly gripped treasures with equal fortitude. but in the lecture hall he doesn’t have the same way with words as ehrman, and he says as much at the beginning of his argument, noting ehrman’s best selling quick wit. instead, wallace fights ehrman’s subtle threats with comforting probabilities, describing how most manuscript discrepancies are inconsequential, how there are so many copies of the new testament that it dwarfs other writings of the age many, many times over – and in these numbers, he suggests, there is stability. furthermore, he says, one must neither be an absolute believer in the veracity of every oft translated word, nor be the dangerous skeptic that is ehrman. but i realize as he delivers his sermon that he relies on numbers and a lesser locution to express his points, and i imagine this moderate man fighting the urge to reveal more divine truths, thinking to himself, ‘is not the Lord a sovereign God?! look at how little has changed and note his hand!’ but then the imminent doctor, realizing that there in the lecture hall the Lord is relegated to a pew like all others, his knee bent to ‘facts’, sighs almost inaudibly. he pauses at the dais, looking over the top of his glasses and seeing in perfect clarity his Christ in the first row, then looking thru his prescribed and over-sized frames with fuzzy imperfection at his notes before him, he wonders silently, ‘how shall i reveal this truth which is divine, when i have not the words? o Lord, where is my aaron? i am not your moses.’

there was no winner in the debate. a crowd, which wanted wallace to win, found ehrman interesting and wallace fully sufficient. 3 separate times the scholars made fun of west virginia, which brought loud guffaws. those snake charmers don’t know jack about the text of mark.

on final account, i think it is incredible that there has been so little change in the text of the books of the new testament over the years. one thanks the monks of the middle ages most for this when looking at the facts, so props to the middle ages! in honor of those monks and their fortitude, i relay this quote from st thomas aquinas, ‘nobody can understand the greatness of the thirteenth century, who does not realize that it was a great growth of new things produced by a living thing. in that sense it was really bolder and freer than what we call the renaissance, which was a resurrection of old things discovered in a dead thing. in that sense mediaevalism was not a renascence but a Nascence.’ so too, the dutiful monks kept alive a living thing – the word – and did not change it into something other, something dead.

i have a few more notes before leaving you. of vivid interest to me is the manner in which these doctors, ehrman and wallace, live their lives. each devoted to a very specific thing, which conceivably, cannot be finished – the original manuscripts not likely to be found to prove either man right or wrong. i saw a special on a professor recently who spent his whole life searching for the tomb of herod the great. this man thought he found it towards the end of his life and you could see how much it meant to him. the sistine chapel existed in point of fact, but historians and scholars are not always allowed to finish their life works. none the less, professors are some of the few to exist in this mode any more. few professions are craft professions of such real devotion. it is an honorable thing.

also, i got to the debate late and was stuck behind a camera. ha! you might not know that i do that kind of thing myself, so it’s kinda funny. to me. the big camera man blocking the camera was also blocking the dais on the near side. that’s what i get for doing the same thing to others.

the drive back was long. 635 was shut down. my back was killing me by the time i got home. please note, in the video i took, my horrible singing and then the dj describing my situation. bridge demolition you say?


this is the book that got me interested in the subject.

and this is me in my bathroom. i was going to continue my tradition of taking pictures of me in public bathrooms, but the mcfarlin auditorium lavatory was full, and i didn’t want to incite a donnybrook at a christian event. cause i got class.

and a final note. i’m going abroad following the holidays (that was intended to sound british), including to greece, so i’m very excited to visit some of these cloisters of monks and nuns, the places where many of dr wallace’s team at CSNTM have recovered lost manuscripts and are still searching for more. i may not get to look at them myself, but that’s alright. as aristotle describes in his poetics, there is ethos, logos and pathos. thought i may not be able to see the manuscripts (logos/the facts), i can take in the ethos/atmosphere, and pathos/passion. those two should mix well at sites such as this:


pretty incredible, right