12.16.2009

Finals Week - Chimes Day By Day

Finals Week - Chimes Day By Day
Zachary Newcott


We now stand at the precipice of Christmas break and in it our freedom from the cold clutches of Biola. Only one thing stands in our way, and that thing is final exam week. Never fear my friend, Day By Day is here with some helpful stress-relieving techniques.

Day One - Yoga Day

There are five basic branches of yoga, and although I don't know what they are and couldn't pronounce them if I did, I do know that any one of them results in a trip to the emergency room with a foot lodged in a very unfortunate location. That said, from the one semester of yoga I took to fulfill a PE credit, I learned that with proper breathing and exercise anyone could make themselves stress free. Except for me, especially when my yoga final exam required me to do a head-stand and resulted in a pulled groin and a black eye for my professor.

Day Two - Violent Video Game Day

If there's one thing I learned from Nature of Math, it's that nothing can take away my pent up frustrations over the book Flat Lands than an extended period of aimlessly running over virtual pedestrians in Grand Theft Auto. Some may say it's sick, and they may very well be correct, but if running over pedestrians is wrong then maybe I don't want to be right. Be sure to dedicate a few hours each night before you hit the books to get that stress out of your system, and if you stay up too late remind yourself that you can always do your reading in the morning.

Day Three - Music Break Day

Nothing can get you in the mood for studying quite like the right tunes to back you up. Blast yourself some Disney Classic Hits Volume Five as you begin to memorize your biblical passages for your New Testament class. Then find yourself surprised the next day to recite Ephesians 1 perfectly as The Colors of the Wind.

Day Four - Late Night Burrito Run Day

Be sure not to let the stress get in the way of your late night studying by taking a quick trip to a local food joint. Although your only options at four in the morning may be various mexican restaurants, remind yourself of the nutritional value to be found in beans. Then rush home as the hot sauce turns your intestines to a single churning ball of cramps.

Day Five - Nap Time Day

On this day get rid of all that stress you've built up from studying all night by taking a quick nap. I find that the best slumbers are often the most unexpected ones. On this day be sure to stare listlessly at your final exam before blacking out and waking up an hour later in a haze of confusion. Yes, you might feel an additional boost in stress levels when the professor announces you have five minutes left, but cherish the rush of adrenaline you'll get as you randomly fill in circles and scribble an essay that for some reason vaguely relates your cat to geology.

Day Five - Beg Your Professor Day

Sure, your stress might have p'wned you good by earning you only a fraction of the possible points on your test, but turn those lemons into sweet bitter lemonade by approaching your professor in tears and explaining that your grandmother died the previous morning. When he reminds you that your grandmother already died earlier that semester, quickly counteract by saying your grandfather also for some reason went by the name of "grandmother" and you don't like to talk about it. Consider yourself covered.

Day Six - Reap the Benefits Day

On this day kick back and relax as you realize that grades aren't everything in this world. Cherish the C's you have worked so hard to earn and remind yourself that even if your parents wouldn't be quite pleased with your grade reports, there's always photoshop to convince them you earned otherwise.

12.13.2009

No Strings Attached - Chimes Opinions Article

Christmas With No Strings Attached
Chimes Opinions Article
Zachary Newcott




I believe I was in the third grade when I was looking out the back window of my parents Honda Civic only to see our newly bought Christmas tree slide off the roof and tumble behind us across the highway.

"The tree!" I screamed, followed closely by my mother who just screamed, perhaps not even fully realizing what exactly I was screaming about.

The tree meanwhile spit off pine needles as it rolled.

"Maybe it's still okay," I thought to myself, shortly before it was run over by an eighteen-wheeler.

Stunned, my eyes began to water. It was the only tree in the lot that didn't have a massive bald spot on its side.
That wasn't so much the case anymore.

Its perfectly straight trunk was now separated into five or six smaller splintered trunks, and each of those wasn't in such great shape either.

I slunk down in my seat. My family of six was often crowded into the car, so I had since gotten used to sitting in what we called the "pod," and what everyone else from normal families usually calls the hatchback trunk. My father turned the car around. All the while he was reminded by my mother that we probably should have tied it down a bit tighter, or given up some change to tip the guys to tie it for us.

In retrospect I realize this is all just part of the challenge of the holidays, for which all men must give their own account. In olden days they had to trek out into the mountains and chop themselves a tree with nothing but their bare hands. The times may have changed, but the inconveniences of tree transportation will always be the same.

I'm not sure what I would've done if I were in my father’s shoes in such a situation. Would I have gone back to pick up the shredded pieces of our Christmas decor from the side of the highway? Perhaps, if only to take it back to Home Depot in a desperate and sad attempt to make an exchange.

Somehow we ended up getting a second tree, and this time we double-knotted it. My brother Nick would remember this lesson well when later in high school he would find himself being a tree salesman.

"Remember Nick," My father told him, "Don't ever tie the strings through the windows of the car." Laying his hand on his shoulder, my father continued to wisely note, "If you do, the people won't ever be able to get out."
Nick's eyes widened, and he nodded with the secret of the trade. My father nodded as well, and today I fear it may have been out of personal experience.

Even if the tree makes it home in one piece, there's always the chance it won't make it much longer after that. My father has since gotten into the habit of tying the tree to nails in the wall. This tradition has come to pass after one year in which we glanced through the living room window to see our cat Stimpy clutching the tree where the angel should go. It was a surreal sight for my father and I, to look through the window into our house as “Silent Night” played faintly in the distance, and see Stimpy begin to violently sway the tree back and forth from its peak, as if it were wagging the trunk like its own tail.

My oldest brother Ben takes a different approach. His yearly tradition is to toss the tree onto the top of his car, hop into the drivers seat, and then with one arm outstretched through the window he simply clutches the trunk of the tree with one fist as he drives. No strings attached. This has been his solution to just about anything the man has ever been forced to place on his car roof, including furniture, mattresses, and at one time a home-made raft that he and his friends used to briefly sail down the Potomac river.

I envy that confidence. I myself only bought a Christmas tree once, and from my previous experiences I was so nervous I briefly considered placing it into the car, buckling it in, and driving it home in the front seat.

I was a sophomore in college at the time and decided that the other nine guys I was living with could use a little something to get them into the holiday spirit. In search of something at least a little non-traditional I purchased a few strands of blue Christmas lights to string on the tree.

“Nice Jew lights,” Anthony said to me when I finished setting it up.

“I thought they looked nice,” I said.

By this point Ryan had walked in the front door and stopped immediately once he noticed there was something green in the living room.

“What do you think Ryan?” I asked.

“What is this, Hanukkah?”

Lacking in an angel we settled on topping the tree with a sombrero and then promptly forgot about it. In very little time the withering brown tree in the corner became a staple of the living room. It was something we weren’t even cognizant or aware of until every once in a while an ornament Micah had attempted to make over a month ago would become too heavy for the frail branches and shatter on the ground.

“Did you actually paint these ornaments, Micah?” Ryan would ask concerned while looking at the numerous splotches of paint on the hardwood, “or did you just fill the inside of them with paint and splash it around?”

“Let me put it this way,” Micah replied, “one way was faster.”

It wasn’t until late February that I returned from a trip to New York and was able to fully notice the sad decaying tree collapsed in the corner of the house. Now its sombrero was fully slouched, and below it a dense ring of grey pine needles had formed.

By the time I had carried it out to the gutter the branches were completely bare.

Later, when eight of us were all huddled around the television for a few rounds on the Nintendo 64, Anthony would glance in the corner and say “Something’s different in here. Did somebody move the furniture?”

Clearly, the sun-stained shape of a tree in the corner wasn’t enough for him, but later when he would find his shoes filled with the pine needles I had swept up from under the couch, it would hit him.

I meanwhile returned to my room, hung up the remaining Jew lights, and even though it was February, I thought of Christmas.

12.09.2009

Station Master Cat Still At It

Sometimes things look pretty bad in this world, but when they do it's time to sit back and say, "Thank God Station Master Cat is still around to do whatever he does, and to do it in high-larious costumes!"

"I hate my life."

Yes, in case you forgot, like I did, Japan is still putting their Station Master Cat to quality work.



With that said, it's still good to know that Station Master Cat is probably in good hands.

"Back to work Station Master Cat!"

Happy holidays Station Master Cat.

12.04.2009

Easy A's

Easy A's
University Link Magazine

Here's a snapshot of my latest spread in ULM. (pick up a copy today!)

12.03.2009

Black Friday Year 2

Black Friday Year 2
Chimes Opinion
Zachary Newcott


If there was one thing I wanted to do this Thanksgiving it was to spend money. As a matter of fact, the only services I wanted in exchange for my goods was a line to stand in, an employee to hand my debit card off to, have it swiped, and then be able to say "Thank you good sir!" as I continued to march directly out the exit.

Naturally, I wanted the best deal. So I scanned the newspaper ads that Thursday night only to find that one particular store remained completely unmentioned. Realizing that this unpublicized location would certainly be my best bet for holiday deals, I decided it was time to don my gay apparel (aka: my layers of five jackets) and head out the door.

Luckily for me, it seemed like this was going to be a Black Friday to remember, as I appeared to be the only one in line at Circuit City.

"Haha, suckers!" I laughed confidently, knowing that I was able to be first in line and to top it off only had to arrive six hours beforehand to do so. "Now it's time to play the waiting game!" I yelled, pulling out my lawn chair and proceeding to twiddle my thumbs.

This confidence however did come with a certain amount of suspicion. It seemed strange to me that the Circuit City logo above the building had been completely removed and replaced by a tattered "Halloween Superstore" banner. In addition to this, the employees appeared to be dressed somewhat over-casual in black plastic bags, and I found it disconcerting that they were keeping all of their belongings in shopping carts, smelled like cat food, and were huddled around a trashcan fire.

"Hey kid, did you know the government stole my kidney?" One asked with a crazy eye.

I responded with a hearty laugh. Black Friday lines always involved a certain amount of dark humor, and even though I was in for the deal of a lifetime this line was clearly no exception.

I was disappointed however to find that all the doorbuster shelves were completely empty, except for one that appeared to have a week old dead rat.

It seemed that this year there simply wasn't anything to waste my money on. Depressed, I returned home to learn on Wikipedia that Circuit City went bankrupt long before I had ever arrived. As I hung my head down depressed I knew I must have missed out on an amazing liquidation sale.

The sun was only just rising and I had completely let down the American public and economy by failing to play my part on Black Friday. This was worse than the time I mistakenly waited in line at Kids R Us instead of Toys R Us. I wondered what Sacagawea would say had I been one of the first pilgrims who failed to buy a robotic hamster toy on the day after the first thanksgiving. I couldn't let it happen. I hopped back in the car and made my way to the nearest toy store.

I was at the tail end of the line, but I was in a line nonetheless. As we entered the store together I was in a haze of confusion. I was astounded by the fact that once again, there was nothing I wanted to buy. Then I came across a stuffed animal Koala that reminded me of Beth. Thinking of her I remembered what gifts were supposed to do, let people know that you're thinking of them. It wasn't on sale, and had been sitting on the shelf for what appeared to be months, but as the check out lady asked me if it was worth waiting in line all morning for I was surprised to find myself saying, "Yes."

It really was.

11.28.2009

2012 - Movie Review

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View Trailer
2012
***--

I'm not sure where Roland Emmerich draws his inspiration from, but if he's anything like me I assume the man begins a new game of Sim City and spends the next three hours just slamming the keyboard with open palms and hitting random disaster buttons until every residential home and park is flattened, flooded, and burned. The film 2012 is basically the same experience, except this version of Sim City resembles something off of a gaming system a decade ahead of us. A gaming system that allows you to play with John Cusack as the lead character.

If only the future were right now...

It should be noted that Roland Emmerich has assured me that all of the events that take place in 2012 will in fact take place in the year 2012. Considering he also made a similar assurance with The Day After Tomorrow, I think we're in for a rough three years. Live it up.

The movie itself is about what you'd expect. The world begins to blow up and in the process John Cusack gets the one chance he never had to get back in touch with his estranged wife and kids. The man is also a writer, and Roland Emmerich makes the interesting point of noting that whatever copies of literature we have carrying around with us when Earth starts rattling might just be the last books humanity has left. I take this to mean that there's an underground bunker somewhere that Roland Emmerich has stored up with spare copies of Stargate, The Matthew Broderick version of Godzilla, and 10,000 B.C. ...God help us all.

The movie is long. Does it really take two and a half hours to destroy every continent? I don't think so. It only does because Roland Emmerich is clearly a man of science and is kind enough to stoop to my level and show me scenes of scientists looking at computers and saying "The world is exploding. I know. I'm a scientist." He also is kind enough to throw in all sorts of character development, including extraneous characters who are clearly only established so that the narrative has a reason to show a part of the world getting punched in the baby-maker.

That said, some of these extraneous characters are quite fun. I would've just appreciated more focus. For example, the two elderly cruise ship lounge-singers were just great. Imagine how awesome, creative, and innovative this movie would have been if they were the only central characters. That's something I would have really enjoyed. But then again, I suppose that's not why I invested in this ticket. I wanted to see destruction, and really, some of this is just glorious.

I must admit, I really didn't know how 2012 would end. For all of the mass destruction, I really did want to see John Cusack to pull through and save the day. Was this due to good writing, or just John Cusack being John Cusack? I'll never know.

Point is, you could do worse with your movie cash than check this one out.

11.19.2009

Meteor Pwnage

Meteor Pwnage - Chimes Opinions Article
by Zachary Newcott



It wasn't 10 minutes after leaving Beth's place that she called my phone to tell me something about a meteor shower going down at 1 in the morning. Having just seen the trailer for 2012 and viewed the disaster film "Confessions of a Shopaholic" earlier that night, I made a sharp U-turn in the middle of Imperial highway and sped back to her place. I knew we didn't have much time. Seeing a fruit cart parked alongside the road I quickly drove directly through it while glancing at my watch and yelling "HANG ON!," "GET DOWN!" and "WE DON'T HAVE MUCH TIME!" to no one in particular.

Artists rendering of meteor destroying a bad movie.

Upon my arrival Beth informed me that apparently meteor showers happen pretty frequently and don't always result in the extinction of all human life. I replied by saying, "That's exactly what they want you to think," while filling buckets with clean drinking water. "We'll have to take Georgie Fruit with us," I continued, as I glanced to see him licking himself in the litter box. If the situation got really desperate we could use him for food ... and it was already a desperate situation. Beth calmed me down by explaining that most meteors in a shower are hardly ever bigger than a grain of sand, and went on to lighten the mood by explaining that stars themselves are giant gassy balls.

"HA HA! Now I, the Ankylosaurus, will live forever!"

Knowing I had nothing to worry about, we took a trip to the local park to stargaze. Although I seemed set on lying down in the mud, Beth meanwhile managed to find a nice patch of grass for us to share. "Wow!" I exclaimed as I relished the majesty of the universe. "These are the biggest meteors I've ever seen!"

"Those are airplanes," Beth explained.

"Oh, but look! That constellation is moving!"

"That's a helicopter."

"Ah, I see," I concluded. The universe, I was discovering, is filled with mystery and intrigue. What could at one moment be the Milky Way may at the next be car exhaust, and what could at once be the sound of a distant traveller from another world be also the sound of my stomach attempting to digest a 7-Eleven chili dog and losing the battle to potentially disastrous results.

Turning my head towards Beth, I began asking the profound question of "Do you ever think that-"

"Look a meteor!" she yelled.

"Dang it!," I exclaimed. Realizing that I missed it and also forgot my question.

My dad and I used to go stargazing every summer at the beach and watch falling stars graze over the ocean. We would wait minutes at a time for a fleeting streak of white that would often be so slight that I probably imagined it, and usually did. It was nice sharing a similar moment with Beth, with both of us reclined back and wondering if the meteor shower was about to start, had just ended or was going on behind a thick veil of pollution.

"Are meteor showers usually this lame?," she asked.

My chance to respond with a "Yes, probably," was cut short by a blinding streak of white in the sky that seemed to leave a vague scar hanging in the air for several moments before fading away into a blue mist. With our jaws hanging open we both released loud gasps.

Looking at each other, Beth effectively summarized our situation by saying "We just got pwned by the meteor shower."

I don't think even the dinosaurs could have said it better.

11.11.2009

Meatballs and Explosions

Chimes Opinions Article 11/09/09
Zachary Newcott


It was only a few weeks ago that the power cord for my laptop died out leaving me with yet another reason to resent technology. Upon a quick trip to Best Buy I realized a new replacement would cost me a solid hundred bucks. What is this, the Ritz?! Let's be honest here. Online, through a grammatically impaired seller on eBay, I could get a similar power cord for only one tenth of that cost. Really, there is no choice. Before I knew it I had a brand new power cord en route to Los Angeles on a cargo ship from Taiwan.

If there are any lessons that Newcott Explains It All has driven home through the years, one would be to stick it to the man, the other is that being cheap often doesn't pay very well. This past week I received faulty information that Ikea was selling Swedish meatball meals at the cost of one dollar. Seeing this as both an opportunity to stick it to the man and eat food, I was on my way. Imagine my disappointment after having driven a full half-hour and being distracted by a display featuring various robot arms opening and closing cabinet doors, only to hear that I would have to pay full-price for my little taste of Swedish delight.

"I'm afraid you don't understand," I told them, polishing my monocle. "These meatballs are only a dollar." I stared them dead in the eyes. "The INTERNET told me so."

"I'm avraid vees meatballs are at vull price," The cocky Swedish Ikea employee replied.

I looked like a fool. They might as well have punched a hole in my top-hat as well, which they did, by placing it in front of one to the door-opening robots.

Luckily, I still had my Taiwanese power cord to keep me company. Coming home at night I returned to my computer to update my facebook status with something in regards to Ikea being the man and that they should stick their lingonberries up their Flarke.

Right up it.

It was at that moment that I heard a loud popping sound accompanied by a bright flash of light and fire. Blinded, I frantically stumbled in my room in fear that the illegal fireworks I had stored under my couch had finally reached their expiration date. The smoke informed me however that this was no Purple Rain, the explosion had actually come from my power cord. My brand-new Taiwanese power cord, which had now left a permanent black smudge on the the wood floor.

Not wanting to make too much of a scene at two in the morning, I was suddenly thankful that I had been too cheap to replace the batteries in the smoke detector and too lazy to re-assemble it after breaking it open when it wouldn't stop beeping. Picking up the cord by its tail end, I flung it outside near where I buried the dearly departed Flan the mouse. Once again, I had to nudge my roommate's cat away so he wouldn't begin gnawing on it.

Now it seems I may once again have to make an investment, and although my intelligence may say that quality comes at a price, my gut also says that exploding cheap power cords also come at only a fraction of that price. Is it worth the risk? Only time will tell my friends.

11.06.2009

My Camping Adventure



Camping - Chimes Opinions
Zachary Newcott

After strategically placing bowls of cat food around the apartment, we decided that Georgie Fruit would be well occupied for the next two days while Beth and I set out to go camping with her roommate and her fiance Jared. I myself had only been camping once before as a cub scout, and apart from my sewing and tie-tying badges I considered myself to be somewhat of a novice at the sport. Luckily I consider Jared to be a lumberjack of sorts because he has a beard, so we were in good hands.

We arrived at the campsite a bit later than expected, mostly because someone (me) had eaten Indian food before-hand and was too stubborn to admit he had made a horrible mistake. This resulted in our first obstruction which came in the form of a gate with a lock on it. Although the sign next to the gate said "camp ground 2 miles away," I took this to mean, "you are fully capable of walking 2 miles even though you spend hours at a time sitting at your computer while clicking refresh on Facebook status updates and refuse to eat most things unless they can be consumed through a straw (blended Indian food)."

Picking up our gear we started to make the hike. Despite my constant requests, Jared refused to carry me on his shoulders, especially since after the first time I demanded he gallop like a pony. I had the task of carrying the drinking water, which didn't last long seeing how dusty my boots kept getting. After the third mile we had to come to terms with the fact that the National Park Service is made up of a bunch of rotten liars with a bunch of rotten lying signs.

It was Halloween weekend, and myself, being a rational man, refused to enter the porto-potty after realizing that the monster of the film Jeepers Creepers, who is also named Jeepers Creepers, was most likely hiding inside of it. We continued our trek, yet we suddenly stopped in our tracks after being terrified by a screetching owl who then quickly flew off afterwards, having successfully fulfilled his goal of making me soil myself. Realizing that I had packed no second pair of pants, I knew it was going to be a long trip.

Eventually we arrived at the camp ground. I was disappointed to find that there was no refrigerator to speak of (bad news for the left-over Indian food) and that the only concierge level I could find was comprised entirely of hungry coyotes and mountain lions. We set up our tent and made our way off to bed. Meanwhile I discovered that our tent lacked air conditioning, solid walls, and was entirely missing other rooms. Sleep was made difficult by the endless string of coyote howls combined with my snoring which resulted in frequent slaps to my face and sharp jabs at my sides.

Although the next day involved walking back three miles to pick up the car, I found the isolation nature has to be calming. True, the peace was frequented by passing jets and relentless coyote howling, yet to be in a place without cell-phones and where the only distractions to be found are reading a book, or being read a book by someone else when said book doesn't have enough pictures, is a refreshing chance for a brief escape.

Beth and I returned to her apartment to find that Georgie had found his food cache's immediately after we left, and was both hungry and angry. With several angry swipes at our hands, we poured him a bowl-full. It seems that even nature likes the conveniences of the modern age. Feeling the soft comfort of the carpeting under my feet, I realized I do too.

11.04.2009

This One's For You Rob Mulla

Rob Mulla. You dog. This post on the Awkward Unicorn is all for you.

Word around town is that you subscribe to this blog on your "google reader" or what-have you. I'm honored.

Here, take this hypnotic cat gif image. It's on the house. This time.



Not enough for you? Here. Take this video as well of a cat in Japan who is famous for his wig-colored patch of hair.



Style. Something American cats often lack. Let that be a lesson to you Georgie Fruit. I want you to grow your grey face mask back.

what. food?

11.02.2009

perdy cool mash-up time



take a look at this one. It's a combo between The Killers and La Roux, by the mash-up artist Suga.

Sugamotor - Smile Like You're Bulletproof (via: vipr)

Interesting, no?

10.28.2009

Pumpkin Carving With Zack


Pumpkin Carving With Zack
Chimes Opinions Article
10/28/09


Nothing can get you into the right mood for the Halloween holiday season quite like creatively stabbing a vegetable, repeatedly, over and over again and then setting fire to its center. Some might prefer to call it "pumpkin carving," but whatever the name, I don't think I'm alone in saying that it's my favorite tradition — not just for Halloween but every holiday except Veterans Day.

This past week when I was given five dollars and sent out to the store to get groceries, I found myself using that logic to rationalize my purchase of a fine pumpkin instead of a basket filled with 20 packets of Ramen Noodles. I believe I made a wise choice.

The tradition of pumpkin carving actually harkens back to the days of yore when rascally children would place flaming pumpkins on Old Man Nicholson’s doorstep and quickly run away. Old Man Nicholson, getting his foot stuck in the pumpkin after stomping it out, would then shake his fist at the next generation of village citizens yelling, "You no good Punk-Kins!" –– therefore giving birth to the legend.

Of course technological advancements have made it so that we no longer need to use our feet to stamp holes in the pumpkins and can now use carving knives instead. What I realized was that this still requires a certain amount of skill, especially if one wants their pumpkin to resemble the likeness of their cat as I did.

After I first mistakenly brought home a watermelon to carve instead of a pumpkin, I made a second trip to the store, only to encounter even more disappointment when I realized I had accidentally bought a pumpkin that wasn't seedless. In addition to this, I was also saddened to see it didn't come with a candle or a prize inside. Thankfully Beth took the time to inform me that this is actually a blessing since the seeds could be baked and covered in copious amounts of salt, my favorite flavor next to the color red.

Then, it was time for the actual carving. Unfortunately it seemed that the pumpkin I had chosen was suffering from a strange sort of leprosy, which covered its most promising “face side” with a large patch of off-white growths. It seemed that unless I was willing to carve my pumpkin into the shape of a teenager who used to work at a Regal Cinema (me), I would have to use the misshapen backside. As if matters weren't complicated enough, while in need of a model to plan my carving, I had to struggle to get our cat Georgie Fruit to sit still in my chosen pose: standing. At this point Beth stepped in to assist me by making a drawing that I could easily trace onto the pumpkin and then cut around.



Every Halloween, my father used to carve pumpkins with me as well. Myself, being scared of all things sharp, left most of the hard work up to him while I just drew the outline. It was strange now doing the carving myself, still half-expecting a trip to the emergency room while maneuvering Beth’s Ikea knife around the lines she helped me draw. I didn’t know if I felt quite like an adult, but I definitely felt like I wasn’t just a child anymore. I felt responsible not just for how the pumpkin looked but for the very moment — for the holiday itself.

I took the knife into my hands and began cutting away. I ran into some difficulty when I realized that knives usually cut in one direction and not in the shape of circles, yet I continued nonetheless. And then, before I knew it, my beaver carving was complete. Beth and I stood back and nodded, knowing it would be a happy Halloween.

10.27.2009

Gigantic - Movie Review

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View Trailer
Gigantic
*----

I rented Gigantic for two reasons. One was that it had Zooey Deschanel, who I'm sometimes drawn to in the same way my fiancee is drawn towards Michael Cera, which is to say I'm a stalker. The second reason is its trailer struck me as a quirky, fun, and charming comedy. What I discovered is that the film is quite quirky, yet lacks all of those other attributes. For the sake of a review snippet: it's a gigantic mess.

The film is centered around Brian, played by Paul Dano who I really liked in Little Miss Sunshine until I realized he could talk. Brian is on the verge of fulfilling his life-long dream of adopting a Chinese baby. Why? Because he's quirky. That's why. He's also constantly stalked (much in the same way I stalk Zooey Deschanel) by a homeless Zach Galifianakis who attacks him without reason before mysteriously disappearing. Why does he attack him other than the fact that it's both scary and quirky? Has quiet-nature Brian upset him somehow, or is this homeless man even real at all? I'd say you'd go with your disappointed gut on that one, but I will say that the answer lends Brian to be a less suitable candidate for a solo parental figure than I would have hoped.

However, much is in store for Brian when he meets Zooey Deschanel after she passes out on one of his recently sold mattresses. Upon waking they undergo a conversation which remarkably mimics every other conversation they have throughout the rest of the movie, which is essentially structured as "That's amazing,' "you think this is amazing?" "no, I'm actually talking about something else, but that's amazing too." Oh ha ha ha, you quirky bastards. I'm amazed at how flat many of these jokes land. It might look good on paper, but on screen the timing doesn't quite match up, the editing doesn't keep pace, and the characters don't react in quite the right way that they should, and no, quirkiness is not a good excuse.

Limitations are in desperate need here. At its very core Gigantic has a lot of good ideas. Gigantic ideas I should say. But those ideas are overwhelmed by quirky character gimmicks, useless set pieces, unnecessary scenes, and endless narrative alleyways that have no distinct destination. The film begins with a scientist musing on the floundering ability for a rat to swim. I assumed it would have a significant commentary on the story, in how maybe it relates to relationships, you know, like good screenplays usually do. In retrospect I'm still stumped. Maybe I'm not quirky enough to get it.

The film has a number of great performances. Paul Dano is quite good, so is Zooey. John Goodman gives his character life and a sense of strange realism that has to be appreciated. Ed Asner is simply charming in all the right ways. The rest is jumbled, messy, and made for a film festival circuit, not for those seeking something to be enjoyed. For me, that's very disappointing.

Miss it.

10.23.2009

Zombieland - Movie Review

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View Trailer
Zombieland
****

It's been a pretty good year for horror flicks and luckily it's getting topped off with Zombieland, a bloody fun romp through the post-apocalyptic United States. But I have to be honest, I was really worried going into it. For anyone into the horror genre lately it's not hard to see that zombies are "in." Just like pirates were "in" until the 3'rd Caribbean movie came out and ruined it for all of us. Zombieland is filled with great set-pieces, innovative weapons, fun objectives, and any other way you could describe a good videogame. What I didn't expect were great characters, and here is where Zombieland really truly delivers.

Jessie Eisenberg (from the oddly similar and quite-good-despite-the-fact-that-i-didn't-review -it-because-i'm-lazy Adventureland) stars as Columbus, who after the zombie uprising kept his scrawny self alive by adopting a long list of rules similar to the one anyone could form had they only taken notes while watching all of the Dawn of the Dead movies (as I did). The rules are typographically displayed here-and-there for the benefit of the viewer, but we only wish they could be viewed by his rough-neck companion Tallahassee who takes down zombies more for points of creativity rather than pure need for survival.

The movie gets off to a rough start with it's dedication to Columbus' voice as a narrator. The set-up is entertaining and very funny, but is often unnecessary in the amount of information given to us. Do we really need to be told where the kid is heading? Do we need to be told how he feels about the other characters? Not really, not for me at least. I want to see this information in action. Luckily i do, but being told kind of spoils the reveal of finding out for ourselves. Let the characters figure things out on their own. It's forgiven though because really, we mostly just want some zombie action, and of course Zombieland has much in store.

The action is really similar to that of recent videogames, down to the detail of shooting a button here to save the person there. It's quite brilliant because any gamer can tell the movie really knows this. What does Columbus do when he is chased to his car and mistakenly drops his keys? He runs in a circle of course. It's the solution to beating every boss, provided (the Survival Guide notes) that you have the cardio to do it.

As a horror film there are certainly enough surprises. As a comedy there are even more, down to the best cameo of the year that couldn't be spoiled even if you already know who's waiting around the corner. The film is intense because you actually care for these people, and knowing how just about every other zombie feature ends, I really found myself hoping it would turn out differently.

Zombieland really works. It's exactly everything a zombie lover could want, and finds itself well worthy of placement next to the best in the genre. See it.

10.22.2009

Legacy of the dead bunny

NEWCOTT: Legacy of the dead bunny
Chimes Opinions Article - 10/22/09

I have yet to explain to my roommates why exactly there's a dead bunny in the shoebox in our freezer, but I assume the less I say about it the better. Had this happened a year ago I probably would have used it as an opportunity to ward off my old roommate Jon from eating all my food, possibly along with a cryptic note written in newspaper clippings saying "You'll keep your PAWS off my bagel bites, if you know what's good for you." This time it's more out of necessity until my fiance's roommate finds a good time for a burial.

The problem I have had to come to terms with is that there's never a good time to have a burial, much less to remind someone else to have a burial, especially for their adorable dead bunny. No one wants to get a phone call in the middle of a romantic dinner to take care of the furry long-eared Popsicle that I've jammed behind the Eggo waffles. If only I had been fortunate enough to be responsible for the remains of someone's dead possum or pony, a bunny though? It's a sick world we're living in.

Beth and her friends gave the bunny to Claire on her 23rd birthday. Being a dwarf rabbit, the bunny was twice as cute as any ordinary bunny due to its small size and girlish charm, kind of like a Nintendo DS. The fact that she was so fresh from the pet store made her arrival all the more special. This, I suspect, must have driven our former dwarf bunny Johnson mad with jealousy. Could he have been the one to cause our new animal friend to meet her untimely demise? The evidence is inconclusive, especially seeing that I found the bunny stiff as a log in a very relaxed pose, but was it too relaxed? Only Johnson and our cat Geogie could ever know for sure.

Georgie is perhaps just as much a suspect as anyone. After an in depth research involving reading someone else's question on Yahoo Answers, cats apparently have the ability to hypnotize bunnies, to death. That's right, cats can literally kill other animals with their minds. That is messed up.

Whatever the case, now the bunny serves as the constant little reminder in the back of my mind, be it when I'm getting groceries or running to the bank, that death is all around us. Every moment I go to grab a Sunny D I hear its lifeless heart beating from behind the freezer door, it's cuddly paws clutching at my conscience. Every so often, I grab its cold body in my hands and am just inches from running out the door when I remind myself that I'll probably forget about it at some point in the afternoon and leave it's frozen body to defrost in the boiling interior of my car, most likely only to find it later among the possibly hundreds of other snacks, drinks, and animals I've left in my car earlier that week. The circle of life continues.

It's times like these that I'm glad my body won't be left in a college students refrigerator after I die, or at least I desperately hope not. Really makes you think. Now that the bunny has found her way to frollick on the giant carrot in the sky, she doesn't have to worry about what she left behind, and neither will we when it's time for us to go to our own respective giant carrots. It's down here that we have the problem letting go. Life's a fragile thing.

Latest Favorite Song - All Yr Songs

Although he doesn't appear to have any other songs posted anywhere else on the wide world of the internets, Diamond Rings has made it onto my favorite list with the little ditty entitled All Yr Songs.

Listen to Diamond Rings - All Yr Songs (via: fighting)

And if you're into it, check out the retro-esque video, which I think is brilliant... even if you might disagree.

10.19.2009

Where The Wild Things Are - Movie Review

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Where The Wild Things Are
****-

It's rather amazing how faithful Where The Wild Things Are remains to its source material, a storybook that contains (to my surprise) more than a few words, and stays faithful to it throughout the course of an entire feature film. With that said, the film directed by Spike Jonze and co-written by literary front-man Dave Eggers, takes liberties unto itself in the form of exploring ideas regarding relationships, friendships, and "all those ships" we've seen in similar dream-like films.

But what a dream it is. It was either a mistake or a fortunate opportunity to view this film late at night. In my mind it remains vibrantly kicking in a vague haze of comprehension. What exactly happened? Well, if you read or simply looked at the book you have a pretty good summary. A young boy is sent off to bed for being bad, without his dinner I might add, and takes off into an enchanted wilderness where the wild Things roam. The Things themselves aren't always so nice, but despite their threats to eat him instead opt to elect the self-declaring boy as King. The King then wishes to return to the world he left, and he does, to the regret of the wild Things.

What the movie captures so well are those moments in childhood when a time of playfulness suddenly turns to a moment of pain and betrayal. These moments are doubly painful due to the fact that in the betrayal we ourselves are the constructors of our own pain. We create games we cannot win, and when we want to win we create games where someone else must lose. The first fifteen minutes of this film are mostly wordless, but in that we are given a truly authentic and engaging experience of what being a kid was all about. It's actually when the Wild Things come into the picture that the image begins to wander, sometime to greatness and sometimes along lines of confused tangents.

This really isn't a movie for kids. Where the Wild Things Are is less akin to The Cat In The Hat than it is to Lost In Translation. Except in this one the kid goes to the island of the Wild Things rather than the island of Japan. The characters themselves are very broken. A central theme is that of loneliness. Max is elected not by his claims to magic, but his claims to bring happiness to the Wild Things. He does, for a little while, but people have a way of letting each-other down. The film is really quite profound in its subtle reveal that the Wild Things were quite wise to elect themselves a king, they were just mislead to choose a human one. What they need is someone who can, quite literally, be inside of them.

Where The Wild Things Are is at times quite abusive to its massive, hairy, muppet/Labrynth-esque friends and often quite dark. I imagine its surreal world just isn't suitable for young children. For adults its wandering nature can either be a joyful excursion or a confusing one. All in all, it's a work entirely of its own which in and of itself deserves great praise just for sticking to its guns, or in this case dirt clumps.

Take a look.

More News Everyone!

That post I made earlier about IndieFest 09? Well, you might want to cancel all your flights to Florida for a few weeks 'cause it's temporarily postponed. Mawww.

The good news is that they're still going to tally up the films and announce winners, and considering that Florida is so far away, we can all still just imagine the movie playing on a gigantormous screen.

C'est la vie. But speaking of French I have some wondrous news. After checking online today I found out that I got a final grade of B for Frenching it up. Hooray!!!

In celebration please enjoy this stock photo of a guy I found while google image searching "French Guy."

10.14.2009

Adventures In Engagement Photos

Chimes Opinion Article
Zachary Newcott



Although I thought Jennifer Lopez prepared me well with her instructional film The Wedding Planner, it turns out I thought wrong. J Lo knows nothing of my life. So when my fiance told me that we needed to take engagement photos I was at a disadvantage even before I suggested using her imac photobooth to do the job.

Now, I can't claim to be a doctor. Lord knows I've tried, but I can't. What I can claim to be is a college student intern. This places my price-range for wedding photographers a tier below insta-matics and a tier above talking about how great our wedding photos would have been had I a budget that didn't require me to save 7-Eleven cups for cheaper refills. This is bad news if you want to hire a professional (or a "pro" as the professionals call them), as they like to be paid in valid currency and not the unspecified favors I usually offer.



What's frustrating is that my fiance is a rather great photographer. I know this because she doesn't have to use the same amount of lense-flare and blur that I usually do, or insist on using MS Paint to edit in embarrassing photos of celebrities. She's a real classy lady, unlike me, who is a semi-trashy not-lady.



Sadly, first-person wedding photos would make for a terrifying prospect considering that they would mostly involve me coming towards the camera with my mouth opened incredibly wide and drooling (as is the way I expect our wedding kiss to be). If we were going to do engagement photos soon we would need another option. After thinking about all I had learned, I proposed we could make money snake hunting, but was once again convinced that was a bad idea after learning that I had mistakenly watched Anaconda instead of the Wedding Planner, which also starred Jennifer Lopez. Beth had a better solution.



The answer came in the way of the automatic timer on her camera, who works for practically nothing provided that it has enough battery power. Harnessing this resource we found an excellent location atop a pleasant mound of dirt. Problem was, in order to photograph a mound of dirt the camera itself needed to be several yards away. This resulted in me, a Chimes opinions-writer/part-time-videogame-player, setting an eight second timer and then running as fast as I could. This made the modest pile of dirt, to my physique, virtually Everest.

Having no knowledge as to how legs should function apart from sitting, I took whatever lessons I could gather from Discovery channel videos and hunkered down, assuming that if I stayed low I could practically pounce my way to the top of the hill in one swift movement. Somehow, I managed to make it literally at the last second, and although that means many of our photos feature me sweating and plastered with an expression of fear and confusion, that might just be exactly who I am deep down inside.



In this way we have captured a truly authentic moment in our relationship with a minimal budget of nothing. Even still, we fear that a similar, somewhat-complicated system of various cameras set to timers might have to be implemented in the actual wedding to come. We're dedicated to finding a better option. I think Jennifer Lopez said it best in the film Gigli when she noted, "Life, will find a way..." And although I never saw Gigli and actually stole that quote from Jurassic Park, I think we all learned something very special. Although saving money is important, if it takes making an investment to capture a memory, then it's worth the cost.

Good News Everyone!

Shooting Blind has been selected to be shown at IndieFest '09!
Yayhooray!

It's showing along with the Student Documentary Program on Wed. Oct 21, 2009 at 10:00am.

But I'm afraid I have to tell you that the festival will be in Celebration, Florida. So I think it might just be more economically viable for all of us to look at this image of the theater interior that the movie is going to be shown in and imagine my face on the big screen.

MINDBLOWING.

Done.

10.12.2009

How I Survived the LA County Fair

Chimes Opinion Article
Zachary newcott

If there's one thing I learned from going to the LA County fair, it's that death is all around you. It's sitting next to you on the creaky ferris wheel. It's standing at your side as you pet an angered goat in the petting zoo. It's hiding inside of the deep-fried Snickers bar which is wrapped inside another layer of deep-fried bacon and zucchini. Yes, it might taste good, but if you wonder what's at the core of that Candy Apple, the answer is fear. I on the other hand had something else on my mind – was getting my hand on a delicious frozen banana.



Maybe I just don't do well in crowds. Swarming people often provoke me to close my eyes and frantically rotate my arms with closed fists as I run straight ahead screaming. It's a self defense mechanism that has proven useful time and time again. Unfortunately it was foiled by the sheer number of people surrounding me and I found myself protecting my life by delivering a constant barrage of small karate chops, which were in reality as effective as giving a stranger a pleasant back massage. After unintentionally messaging a clown, an elderly woman, and a runaway pony from the petting zoo, I found myself exhausted before I was even able to consume a single frozen banana. The fair has a way of draining all the energy one may possess.

Yes, Mr Moneypants, I could have saved myself some leg work had I dished out the extra five bucks for "premium parking" and not walked the half-mile from the car, but some of us don't have texting covered by our cell-phone service and sure as darned aren't going to call our fiance's to pick us up from work. This is America.

To me, the fair will always be a disappointment. My problem is that I always envision a day at the fair from Charlotte's Web, except without the thousands of hatching spiders at the end. I see myself and Templeton the Rat gathering a veritable smorgasbord orgasbord of discarded banana treats and sharing them with our other animal friends.

me.

Of course, the fair isn't much fun without other people to join you. In fact, had I not someone else to tether the other end of my child leash onto I'm fairly certain I would have wandered into a circus trailer and never been heard from again. Luckily, I had Beth at my side and together we were able to shove our way through the miniature train tour until we found the holy grail: the frozen banana stand. With a banana in hand, we realized we had to head back the way we came. Luckily, we managed to bypass much of the traffic by taking the fair's glorious flying machine, which Beth informed me was a ski lift minus snow or skis.

There was a catch, however, in order to ride. I had to get rid of the one thing I loved the most, namely, my newly aquired frozen banana. I knew this was exactly what myself and Templeton had always trained for – eating a frozen banana as fast as possible. Having mentally prepared myself, I downed a bite of it before collapsing with a horrible case of brain-freeze. Beth meanwhile managed to complete the task for me.

Little did I know that it was riding above the fair itself that my limits would be tested. As the flimsy ski lift rocked back and forth, Beth and I questioned our ability to escape in case of an emergency. Instead we realized we would just have to resign ourselves to the terrors of the LA County Fair. Yes, if a wire snapped we would all face certain doom (unless we managed to land on a palm tree or an over-weight child), but as we slowly drifted over the hundreds of deep-fry stations we were just glad that we could share that terror together, and maybe that's what the fair is really all about.

9.30.2009

To Wii? Or Not to Wii?

Zachary Newcott
Chimes Opinion - 9/26/09


If I have learned anything from a lifetime of playing video-games, it’s that any problem can be solved either by pushing crates, using explosives, or forming a collection of otherwise useless objects such as a loaf of bread, a coin, and a pony, which when combined, somehow form a key to unlock a door. Unfortunately all of these lessons failed me when I realized I had to pay rent this month.

It doesn’t take much to get a man through the toughest moments in life. It might just take a high-end power tool, sporting gear, or bacon. I, on the other hand, require more than just that, especially considering that I fear any power tool might partially dismember me and any sporting good might hit me in the groin (likely resulting in a comical “boing” sound). Considering the rising prices on the bacon front, there is little hope to be found there. Videogames on the other hand got me through a lot.

After all, what knowledge of biology would I have if Mario hadn’t taught me of the wonderful world of mushrooms, or the exploding fire-ball power of flowers? What knowledge of physics would I have, had not the game Dead Or Alive expanded my horizons? How else would man have harnessed the super-sonic speed of Hedgehogs if it weren’t for the days of Sega Genesis? We have come so far my friends. I'm certain I speak for all of us when I say that during high school, at one point or another, we named all of the female Final Fantasy characters after girls we really liked. I know I did.

With all that said, times are tough. This past week I had to sell my very own Wii to pay for gas. It was one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make. Before coming to Biola my Wii was my only trusted companion, without it I don't know what to do with myself. Together my Wii and I explored the farthest reaches of space, as well as the comforts of a relaxed game of tennis. Long ago I made little mii avatars of my friends, or when lacking friends, girls I had crushes on, or when lacking that, Final Fantasy girls I had crushes on. It was a confusing time for me. But that was all in the past. Never again will I have the joy of accidentally throwing my wii-mote at the television and injuring my cat, or the chance to watch my fiance look like a drunkard as she attempts various minigames that require her to draw on the screen. Weep not for the memories.

Luckily I still have the joys of being engaged to fill in the void left by Nintendo. Joys such as registering for Snuggies at Target, going to Ikea, and renting "He's Just Not That Into You" from the Red Box. This is my life now.

Beth gets the Leopard Print and I get the Zebra.

A few nights ago I became lost while driving and somehow managed to take my fiance down to the beach instead of to the movies. Apparently the sense of direction I had gained from Grand Theft Auto wasn't nearly as precise as I expected. The night took a turn for the better however when we realized that I had actually driven us directly to a group of Frozen Banana stands directly next to eachother. It's moments such as these that I'm able to realize the unexpected fun to found in the game of life. Sure, there's lots to be had in a Wii, but life has something else entirely, something that I hope to explore, and maybe booting the Wii is a chance for me to level up.

And if not, there's always Xbox.

9.28.2009

Computers Doing Things I Don't Understand Again

I realized that my computer at work has the unnerving tendency to disfigure anyone I please, provided that I pause a video of them and rapidly scroll back and forth.

Within seconds I can turn any one I see on the Biola University site from friendly student, to demon possessed oompa-loompa.







This is what I do with my life.

Day By Day - Eating Right Week

Day By Day - Eating Right Week
Zachary Newcott

With a cool five dollars in your pocket, feeding yourself for a week might seem like an impossible task. Not if you take it Day By Day style.



Day One - Ramen Noodles Day

Oh, I'm sorry Mrs. Money Bags, but some of us out here can't afford what you call Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup. Some of us get to enjoy a dish made for the everyman, and that dish is Ramen Noodles. For those unfortunate souls who rarely have the chance to somewhat-digest this treat, on this day help yourself to the best of all the noodles; chicken-flavor, or it's close follow-up; meat-flavor. Whatever you do, just steer clear of that tempting demon we know as shrimp-flavor. It's just not worth it. Add a dash of salt into that bowl to up the precious sodium. For your health.

Day Two - Macaroni and Cheese Day

Whether it requires a stovetop or a microwave, macaroni and cheese has become the universal last-second meal when there's nothing else in the house but pop-tarts. Nutritionists may still be flummoxed by what sort of daily vitamins and minerals are actually supported by the small packet of cheese sauce in every box, but that doesn't mean it won't quell your hunger until the late night burrito run. Fun tip: to get an additional taste sensation, use nothing but butter in the box recipe as well as negate the entire cooking process of stirring the cheese sauce into the mix. I'm salivating all over my keyboard and clutching my stomach right now just thinking about it.



Day Three - Cereal Day

On this day spend a half-hour or so picking out all the ants that have burrowed into your freshly bought box of Lucky Charms after you left the kitchen cupboard open over night. Take a moment to appreciate all of the technological advancements of the 20th century as you notice all of the new marshmallows the magical leprechaun has provided you with. Someday our society may learn to forgo all the non-marshmallow pieces in lieu of what we all really desire. Yes, it may only be "part" of a complete breakfast, but if life has taught me anything it's that sometimes the marshmallow rainbows make up for sum of its non-nutritional parts.

Day Four - Taco Day

On this day fully realize the potential those two-for-one dollar taco's have by purchasing some for your very own. Briefly question if American cheese has a right to be in any food before ignoring the thought and eating it anyway. You might regret it later. In fact, it's practically guaranteed you will. At the time though it will seem like the best investment you've ever made in your future. Live in the moment and take your tongue on a trip to the south of the border, and then back up again to the city of Pepto Bismol.

Day Five - Green Day

On this day realize that green foods aren't actually as expensive as you thought. Pick up a whole head of lettuce and decide whether it would be more manly to gnaw on it whole or drizzle some sort of white dressing on top of it. Enter a whole new world as you realize that you can get bananas even cheaper if you find the discounted pile of black ones in the corner. Then frantically struggle not to throw up your previous intake of tacos and macaroni at the checkout.



Weekend - Pepto Day

Eating like a college student comes at a price, but luckily doctors take the change. On this day get a hold of some Pepto-Bismol and guzzle it down to quell the fire in your heart. Swear off the Jack In the Box tacos once and for all and seek forgiveness. It's time to clean up your act and find that perfect balance, the one between salads and Ramen Noodles. It might not exist, but if you keep working at it there just might be a pot of gold at the end of your marshmallow rainbow.

In Memory of Flan

Chimes Opinion Article - September 23, 2009
Zachary Newcott

Flan was the first pet I ever had to die on my watch; at the very least the first one to die outside of a fishbowl. As a matter of fact, Flan died holding her most precious treasure, a large chunk of food which I could barely manage to pry from her cold dead claws.

Flan was a feeder mouse, which automatically placed her housing and board a cut above the rest of her old buddies from the two dollar bin at Pet City. I could classify her as being exceptionally "well cared for" as long as I didn't feed her to a large snake or pony. Just about every day for her was a new chance at life. She was mine, and I sought to care for her to the best of my ability.

Some time earlier when my mother was first diagnosed with a severe case of cancer, my sister-in-law suggested we visit a grief counselor. Knowing how backwards many aspects of my life take place, it only seemed fitting that we meet with someone to help us deal with death before it actually occurred. Seeing it as a great opportunity to get a free box of tissues to help deal with the gravity of the situation, and my allergies, I dragged myself to it as well.

In the counselors office, a rather large green plant dominated the corner gave me a slight jab each time I began to doze off and unconsciously lean towards it. It was at one of these moments that I thought I'd stop to "smell the roses" so to speak and take a whiff of the provided foliage. Smelling the fresh scent of Febreeze, I realized the plant was about as real as the photos I had seen in bargain picture frames at Wal-Mart. It made sense. After all, who wanted to be reminded of the fleeting nature of life in a grief counselors office by a withering brown sac of weeds?

I buried Flan in the weeds behind my house, quite literally, as I couldn't manage to pry up any dirt with the spoon I stole from my roommates kitchen supplies. I covered her as much as I could and decided it would be only right to give her a few words of remembrance.

"Flan," I said to myself and my roommate's cat, who I had to tenderly kick away after he began pawing at the barely covered box of Thermaflu, "You were a great mouse. Although I had no idea that your cute arched back was probably due to how incredibly inbred you were, I was smitten by your curiosity and tendency to run in mindless circles on my hand. You died doing what you loved most, eating. I respect that. I think we all do when it comes down to it."

That green plant in the grief counselors office is probably still there today. It probably will be for the next decade. It will stay green when it is thrown in to the back alley and replaced by whatever artificial foliage mankind comes up with next. Then, much later, when mankind is overpowered and destroyed by their mechanized cognizant artificial foliage, it will probably still be around. Eventually that evergreen plant will outlive us all until it's the last green bit of foliage on earth, and then it will be more alive than all of us. It will never experience grief, or loss. It will never fully experience anything at all. It will just stay green until it needs a loving hand to dust it off and appreciate it for being there to stand in the corner and jab kids awake when they don't know what losing someone really means.


Read it online at The Chimes.

9.21.2009

Orphan - Dollar Theater Movie Review

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Orphan - Dollar Theater Review
*****

There are two things that scare me in this world, and one is nuclear war. The other is little girls with long black hair who come up behind you just before you close the medicine cabinet in your bathroom during a thunderstorm. Orphan is the kind of movie that goes for the latter of those two, and in doing so I must admit, the film really delivers on its promise of delivering all kinds of horrible sights.

This is also the kind of movie that knows what we're already afraid of, and so it will capitalize on our paranoia again and again, rather shamelessly, actually. It must have been a half-dozen times that the tension building music swelled to a climatic build-up just before our hero would look into a mirror or close the refrigerator door. What kind of horrible sight would be there? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Well, maybe except that one time. And it's that one exception to the rule that makes Orphan just that much more terrifying. Anywhere else I would just be annoyed, but at some point during the viewing a noticeable knot had tied itself in my stomach. This film is really quite intense.

John and Kate are two characters who (in an unexpected parallel of the reality show of the same name) have serious problems involving children. After losing the third addition to their family, and getting off the wine wagon for good, they both decide that adoption would be the best way to give the love they had for the baby they lost to someone who dearly needs it. Quickly they make haste to a nunnery were they find little Esther, whose ability to paint is actually quite good in the right lighting. Excited over this talented young lady, the parents sweep her away.

And everyone lives happily ever after.

Still, there's something just not right about Esther. Maybe it's just something about girls her age. Or maybe she's just a horrible demon child. Whatever it is, it means that Esther knows how to use a hammer. Her new mother (Vera Farmiga) kind of has the feeling the kid wants her out of the picture. Her new father (Peter Sarsgaard) is pretty confident Esther's a sweetheart when she doesn't happen to have a bottle of kerosene in her gloves.

Orphan might be cheap at times with it's jolting noises and sudden images, but that's just part of what you pay to see. This is a horror movie that actually makes good on it's promise to scare, finding a place alongside Drag Me To Hell as one of the best horror films of the year. But whereas that film had a colorful fun charm about it, Orphan is downright brutal in assaulting your sense of anxiety. Esther is almost admirable in how daunting of a villain she really is. This is no doubt largely a success due to the performance of Isabelle Fuhrman, who at 10 years old has left a sizable impact on how tightly I lock my closet at night. Sleeping after this one isn't much of an option.

See it.

9.18.2009

Chimes Opinion Article - Feline Flatulence

Feline Flatulence
Opinion Article 9/17/09

Zachary Newcott



Beth's cat Georgie Fruit has a lot of problems, but his most recent happens to be farting. Originally it took me a couple seconds to realize that the squeaks I heard when picking him up didn’t actually come out of his mouth, but now I’ve managed to forgo the entire picking up process and just witness his farting power all on his own. It’s unassuming at first, but then it envelopes the room in an invisible cloud of barf, a cloud of which there is no escape.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever smelt a cat fart before. I don’t know what you’re into, and I’m certainly not one to judge, but believe me when I say it’s far worse than anything I could produce, even after devouring a pile of spicy chicken fajitas at Molca Salsa. This of course comes at the tail end of a long line of Georgie related problems, and in contrast to his recent run-in with fleas, the farting dilemma is the Mild in the bin of Flaming Hot sauce packets.

Fleas are incredible insects. Much like their brethren mosquitos, they join the special segment of the animal kingdom pyramid which is composed entirely of creatures which have no impact on this earth other than to annoy every other segment of the animal kingdom pyramid. No one is safe. In an act of random cruelty, Georgie found himself a victim by his arch nemesis (aka: the bunny living on Beth’s back porch) and became infected by these horrible pests.

The only solution was a cat bath, and for Georgie the cure was worse than the disease. Although he doesn’t have much fur, his wet body resembled a mummified skeleton scampering back and forth in the shower and screaming wildly. If it wasn’t so funny it probably would have been disturbing. Yet he had his revenge by witnessing the flea bath of his rival Johnson the bunny, who in the midst of his treatment inexplicably began drumming on the sink faucet with his hind legs in a desperate attempt to keep his heart from exploding.

Still, the fleas returned. My old roommates could relate. Their cat Stig also got fleas, and Jon has since resorted to scratching his bites his their car keys, leaving long red stripes down his legs. Micah has since begun to consider wearing a flea collar of his own around the apartment to effectively counteract the parasitic onslaught. Stig meanwhile has given up moving and instead has collapsed in a large round heap in front of his food bowl, lazily pawing at it in request for more.

My solution was fire, and lots of it. Luckily, Beth put out my torch and instead opted to shuffle out the money needed to get medicine from the vet. Money, I remind you, that could have gone to the poor. Or videogames.

Yet, after all of this, Georgie has only repaid us in releasing noxious barf breath from his rear end. Again, I suggested fire as a solution, but I feared Georgie’s gasses would result in a cataclysmic explosion. Then again, pets aren’t really here to repay us for the food we feed them or the poops we have to scoop up for them when they miss the litter box (Why Georgie? Why?). They’re just here to eat and bother us when we’re at the computer, just like children, except furrier. It’s the moments when they curl up next to us and place their heads in our lap that we appreciate them for just what they are, cute little farting machines.

9.11.2009

Day By Day - Commuting Week

So it turns out that the Chimes wanted to hurt my feelings this week and not publish my Day By Day article, instead choosing to publish one about various dances from around the world. I'm all for dancing (usually dancing involving vigorous hip thrusting and repeated pointing to a specific body part), but the one they had chosen unfortunately failed to capture my interest, mostly due to the authors ability to use big words I don't care to try to understand...

Well, here's mine. I'll leave it up to you to decide which article should have made it in.



Day By Day - Commuting Week

Labor Day weekend has come to a close, and although history may never know its true origin or purpose, we have accepted our day off from school and work with open arms. Now we must head back to the old grinding stone once again by braving traffic, the merciless heat, and angry drivers. This week lets celebrate our daily commute.

Day One - Bike Day

Nothing says "I Freakin Love the Environment! Probably Way More Than You Do!" than showing up to class covered in a shiny layer of sweat. On this day save the gas by blowing the dust off your bicycle. Although it may have been passed down by your great-grandparents, made out of wood, and features one giant wheel accompanied by a tiny wheel in the back, this beauty will get you anywhere, provided that the hills aren't too steep. Additional respect points are rewarded in proportion to the amount of spandex worn in conjunction with the amount of stretching performed upon arrival at your destination. Declare to your coworkers "Welcome to my world. My world of exercise!" while propping you leg up against the computer and attempting to reach your toes.

Day Two - Bus Day

In many cities across these United States the public transportation system is renown as the best method to get from place to place. Here in Los Angeles it mostly serves as the best method to fear being shot or stabbed while in a moving vehicle. On this day celebrate your commute by sincerely hoping that the woman with a shopping cart full of cats doesn't decide to sit next to you and engage you in a conversation concerning the mind-controlling gasses emitted by airplane exhaust. On the other hand of the spectrum, take this opportunity to explore your own "crazy side" by engaging another stranger on the bus by repeatedly referencing your extensive Pog collection and the numerous benefits of padded walls.

Day Three - Rollerblade Day

Although having the advantage of eight wheels (making them a faster alternative to four wheeled automobiles, mathematically speaking), rollerblades are mostly useful for reminding you of your dependance on sturdy objects to hold onto as you'll spend the majority of your time desperately pulling your weight across the landscape. Instead, I suggest you follow in the footsteps of my greatest mentor, the Dog Whisperer, by attaching yourself to a pack of dogs and have them pull you wherever you need to go. "Hyah! Hyah!" you'll scream, as you harness the power of the pack and become the lead dog with your fellow canines racing down the street with you in your bright pink rollerblades following close behind.

Day Four - Speedwalk Day

Running takes too much work, and walking at your own pace all too often results in being slowed down by infamous "slow walkers" who seem to always manage to squeeze their way directly in your path. Luckily, no one bothers a determined speed-walker, as these professionals tend to usually appear as though they're constantly in urgent need of a bathroom. Get to class fast on your feet by donning an expression of constipation and rapidly moving your arms as your legs move at a slightly fast, but not too fast, pace.

Day Five - Labor Day Encore

It was a short week anyways. On this day celebrate your commute by not making one and kick back with a tall glass of Arizona sweet tea, the perfect companion drink to relaxation and unemployment. Declare this day as Labor Day Part II: The Return of Labor Day the Phantom Menace. Enjoy yourself. Days like these only come once or twice, or whenever you decide to have one, a year. It's a beautiful thing.

Chimes Opinions - Contact Time

Contact Time
Opinions Article - 09/08/09

At some point in history a man, most likely inspired by the Three Stooges, realized that the best method to correct ones vision would be to repeatedly poke something into their own eyes. That realization led to the invention of contact lenses, an item that has since garnered universal recognition as a viable alternative to the constant glasses-breaking us book worms all so frequently had to endure at the hands of angered biker gangs, as well as provided the perfect excuse to cry in public. After numerous encounters with bullies at college and frequent emotional breakdowns due to sudden flashbacks of a previous episode of Greys Anatomy, I finally decided that a product such as this was meant for me.

My only previous encounter with contacts was four years ago, when I thought my entrance into college would benefit from the lack of a broken object affixed in front of my eyes by scotch tape and carpenters glue. A wrench was thrown into my plans however when I realized that contacts required prodding fingers into one of the top three places on my body where I desperately didn’t want fingers to prod: my eyes.

As cool as having lazers shot into my eyes sounds, I just couldn’t go for surgery either. I settled on a pair of frames which I would later repeatedly lose until finally sitting on them.

Two weeks ago I decided it was time to try again. Again I endured the same practical joke the optometrist pulled on me at my last three visits by sitting in a dark quiet room until having a powerful jet of air shot directly into my face at the most unexpected moment. It appears my doctor makes for a tough audience, as in my surprise the empty coconut thud, heard as my head banged against the medical instruments, refused to elicit the slightest laugh. It’s a sick world we live in.

With Beth at my side I took my seat, placed the glistening lense on my finger, and raised it to my eye.

Thirty minutes later the situation had not changed. It appeared that as my finger approached my face, my eyelid would close at equal speed. All those years of listening to my mothers words of not sticking various objects into various body parts had finally, and surprisingly, sunk in. Although when I was six I could jam Play-Dough anywhere I wanted, I just couldn’t do it now.

As I repeatedly tried again and again, a thirteen year old girl taking the same test approached the counter, poked both her eyes twice, and apparently completed the same task I was attempting to finish in a matter of seconds.

The patience of the doctors was beginning to waiver. If I was going to do this I was going to have to overcome the disturbing memory of the time my brother convinced me there were crystals inside of toothpaste and squeezed an entire bottle in my eye. A breakthrough arrived when I realized I could force my eyelids open if I jammed my fingernails deep into them.

“Great job,” the doctor told me. “Now take them out.”

Looking back into the mirror and staring at my red eyes, I fully realized what a terrible situation I had placed myself into.

As they began to close the metal gates and shut off the lights I realized that once again I had lost the battle to contacts. The tears in my eyes were no longer merely from the irritation of constant poking, but from the recognition of my own defeat. I had failed, and now I had to face the humiliation of having my face grabbed by the doctor and the contacts removed by someone else’s hand.

I drove Beth home in silence. Although it’s pretty often that I embarrass myself, this was one of those special occasions where I also got to be sent away in a state of near blindness. She took my hand, and turning her way I realized how lucky I was to not only be near-sighted, but to be close enough to see her.

I returned the next day to face my arch-nemesis, and I returned victorious.

Now I just have to do it every morning...