Saturday, August 30, 2008


I have often maintained that I am the less attractive Smith brother. Those of you who have not met my brother may find it hard to believe that he could possibly be handsomer than I am. Well, to reassure you, he's not MUCH more attractive, but he is both taller (by a hair) and darker than I am. Also, he wears his facial hair better, when he chooses to grow it. For the past few years he has also been in much better shape than I am (I'm working out again, so maybe that disparity will diminish - I won the last arm wrestling match we had years ago and have been smart enough not to let him try again).

Also, and this is where he really gains the points, he's a bit more adventurous than I am, more daring. He has a certain boldness that so many (men and women both) find charming. He's the second child and he and I play those respective roles pretty well.

You can take this whole summer as a prime example of this. He started with a stint on a research boat out of Woodshole on a NOAA cruise, saving baby seals or something like that.

Okay, so heavy weather gear isn't his best look, but then he drove from Massachusetts to Wyoming for the express purpose of fighting forest fires. Yeah, that's right, my brother now has firefighter chic going for him, too. It produces pictures like this:

(he's also more of a ham than I am)

He was officially stationed in Wyoming, but they sent him to California for weeks at a time. He helped fight the American River Complex fires and the SHU Lightning Complex fire, largely by creating firebreaks to contain them. Basically he and his team walked along the edge of the fire (on the windward side) and dug a trench down to mineral soil, clearing any brush that crossed the line.

The two pictures below show him using a drip torch to start a fire, clearing out underbrush and depriving potential (wild) fires of fuel.

He worked hard, clearly, but had an awesome time. It sounds like quite the adventure (helicopter rides and everything!).

(He is also, if this is not obvious yet, an expert at the one-armed-self-portrait.)

And now he has a kickass answer to the question, "What did you do this summer?"

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It's like 2002 all over again

Sarah has been gone all week at a conference. It's been quite an event and I'm sure she'll tell you all about it when she gets back. This, however, is my venue, so this is the story of my week. I should warn you it's not very interesting. In fact, that might be it's chief feature, a general extended boredom.

I was pretty disappointed at how quickly and how completely I reverted to bachelor behavior once Sarah vanished. I basically ate only three meals the entire week. I started with an old box of Tuna Helper that survived the most recent move. And yes, I checked the expiration date first; I still had at least three days to go (and that's the last box of _____ Helper we've got - now that I'm paying attention to things like "sodium content" I won't be buying any more of that ever again). That was dinner Sunday and lunch through Wednesday. The rest of the dinners alternated between pasta with marinara that's been the staple of my diet since I began cooking my own food (in my defense, it's a homemade sauce) and sausage (eaten like a hot dog, except using regular bread since I don't have any hot dog buns) that was on sale at Publix this week. If the sausage hadn't been on sale, I would have just had regular hot dogs.

It's amazing how boring my diet is when I'm only cooking for one. Oh there were salads (with the hot dogs and the pasta) and peas (mixed in with the Tuna Helper), but all in all neither the healthiest nor the most interesting of weeks.

Let's see, what else happened this week? There was school and homework. There were video games, two DVDs (both only so-so), and some reading (mostly stuff I've read before). There was cat feeding (and occasional cat throwing when they decided to gnaw on my elbow at 2 in the morning). There was even cake baking. There was, however, very little washing of the dishes. I should fix that before she gets home...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Familiar Terrirtory

A curious thing happened to me yesterday (and no, I am not here referring to the oddity of my decision to write a new blog entry at the school year’s beginning considering my failure to write anything at all during the freedom of summer. I won’t be mentioning that particular irony again). This curiosity concerns the movies previewed before The Dark Knight and it is this: I want to see all of them. Okay, so I won’t be waiting in line opening day for Bolt the animated tale of a dog TV star who believes his own press releases and the wacky cast of animals who help him rescue his owner, but it’s definitely going on my Netflix list. The others, I want to see in the theater.

There is, I suspect, a twofold reason for this. One reason occurred to me last night, the other is only just occurring now as I contemplate the actual list. First of all, these previews are showing before The Dark Knight, which could pretty much be counted a success before anyone actually saw it. I don’t know how previews are chosen, but it’s possible that the studios doing the preview used the venue of such an assumed blockbuster to show off their best stuff (also their most expensive/most in need of big ticket sales to make a profit).

The other reason I may find all these movies so appealing is that, in some ways, they are all familiar to me. With the exception of Bolt none of the movies previewed are original intellectual property. Two are continuations of longstanding franchises and the third is a movie adaptation of a comic book. Not that surprising, I guess, considering The Dark Knight is a sequel to a comic book adaptation.

Let’s list them off, shall we? We’ll go in order of certainty. The least risky of the three is the new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. I thought the last one was excellent and this appears to follow in the same vein: same general tone, same actor (several of my lady friends will be pleased to have a new shirtless scene). I don’t know how the diehard Connery-forever Bond fans feel (Amanda?), but I imagine anyone who liked the last one will probably like this one and vice-versa. So it’s a sure bet either way.

Next comes something a little less certain, given its history, but they’ve got an ace up their sleeve so I’m going to trust them. I’m talking about the next Terminator movie: Terminator Salvation (insert obvious joke about saving the franchise from the last offering). The first two were awesome. The third one less so (and I’ve never seen The Sarah Connor Chronicles, although I feel like I owe it to River Tam, I mean Summer Glau, to at least check it out) but this newest incarnation has something else going for it, specifically Christian Bale as John Connor. He’s excellent in everything I’ve seen him do. I didn’t enjoy American Psycho, and I really want to get back the three hours/million years of my life stolen by New World, but his part in each was certainly well done. Then there’s the Batman series. Bale has pretty much proven he can do dark action and we’ve even seen him do post-apocalyptic grit in Reign of Fire (but I’ve got a thing for dragons so I might be biased).

Finally, the riskiest of the three movies, the one you’ve probably never heard of (unless you’re Brantley who first pushed this comic book on me, for which I thank him), the movie adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen. The comic book (Moore hates the self-importance of the term graphic novel) is excellent. It pulls apart the superhero mythos and uses it as a lens for a deep and exciting and often surprising look at humanity and violence and civilization and other Important Things. It changed the way people thought about or looked at or wrote comic books (it was already a done thing by the time I discovered comic books, so I’m taking someone else’s word on this one). It is also home to one of my all time favorite storytelling moments in any medium (novel, movie, or comic book) ever. I would try to describe it for you, but I can’t do it justice. My only concern is that the movie makers won’t be able to either. A lot of people won’t like it even if they do. It’s not an easy story. I will. Brantley will. My brother will. People who like Batman Begins, and the darker The Dark Knight, and the newest Bond movies probably will. People who like Terminator might, too.

What the heck was Bolt doing hanging out with this crowd?