Driving Anozira-style

(non-fiction letter-style article/essay)

"What's up? What's new?"

          All too often these words—when directed my way—result in a quick scan of recent memories, which I then compare against long-term ones (to identify as-yet unshared newsworthy events).  Then I reply:  not much, same-o, just enjoying life, or words to that effect.  I think my days, for the past few years at least, have been like the local weather:  pleasantly uneventful and constantly unworthy of remark.  Oh sure, I went to Mexico last spring, the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park last summer, and San Francisco in the fall; but are those things newsworthy enough to call people’s attention to?  Maybe-probably not.

         In order to be newsworthy, I need something waaay-wonderful (a published story in a mass-market magazine, for instance) or something on the other end of the scale (a near-death experience, say).  Well today, unfortunately, I'm not reporting membership within the ranks of the newly published.

          I used to say—when having a conversation about driving—that I'd never been involved in an accident.  Now, I can’t say that.  Before I provide details, however, understand that no one was seriously injured.  Small cuts, some scrapes, a couple sizable bruises, and a concussion (which no amount of over-the-counter shit has been able to take the edge off) is, amazingly, the extent of the damage.

          Sunday afternoon, coming back from a weekend in Utah, driving her '99 Ford Explorer south of Flagstaff toward Phoenix, I'd normally have been going about 83 (because that's what I go, when the limit is 75).  But because there'd been snow on the road fifty miles back and twenty-five hundred feet of elevation above-behind us, and also because the roads were still a little wet from rain, I was driving around 65.

          It began to hail.

          There's no way to write that sentence with sufficient adjectives and adverbial phrases to do it the simple justice it deserves.  These were not the infamous golf-ball sized hailstones (which seem to be the minimum size capable of instilling awe); rather, they were the common, marble-sized, variety.  Come to find out, size is over-rated in terms of hail as well.  Who knew?  It's the volume that gets you.  And it got me.  A cacophonously phantasmagoric volume of noise clapped my eardrums in concurrence with an amazing chicken-little icefall, which—up to that moment in time—was unthinkably beyond my imagination (and that’s an ouch, because I’ve got a waaay fuckin-amped-up imagination).

          You know how—when discussing electrocution—they say it’s the amps that get you? 10, 000 volts of electricity can hit you but if it’s only, say, half an amp; you’d get a good shock, but no serious tissue damage.  Conversely, if your body provided the ground for a 2500-amp/120 volt transformer, you’d more closely resemble a smoldering charcoal briquette than anything mammalian.

          Well, translated into the language of hail:  cantaloupe-size hail could fall, say, one per square meter every ten seconds; causing you to certainly get smashed and dented.  Conversely, if a hugely massive volume (acres of tons, say) of marble-sized hail fell and—in less than thirty seconds—became two inches of ground ice, you would certainly be fucked (if you were...say...going 65 mph on a highway.  Next to a semi).

          The amplitude of hail was so extreme I immediately lost sight of the semi tractor-trailer on my right, which I’d been passing moments earlier and assumed was still less than five feet off my port bow.  (The hail striking the roof and windows of the SUV was amazing-shocking-ranting-noise; much louder than the sound the planet would make when it pummeled the roof and windshield in a half-minute).

          As the hail began, I simultaneously did the following:  lifted my foot from the accelerator; reached up to the turning-signal lever and switched the windshield wipers from their previous setting of intermittent wipe every two seconds (the semi had been spattering me with spray from the road) to the whack-fast speed of four wipes per second; said the words, "Shit, I can't see"; clutched and shifted into neutral; and applied the brakes with a tap of my right foot (the left was still holding the clutch).

          The wipers, now flinging ice off the windshield as fast as mechanically possible, provided almost no effective visibility.  There was only about a 1/4 inch of clear windshield following each wipe of the blades.  As that fraction of an inch flicked across my vision a few times, I saw the semi—a dark blur in the right lane—attempting to prevent his truck from jack-knifing.  I was no longer beside him. Now, he was ahead of me, trying to stay in the right-hand lane.

          The lines on the road were no longer visible, but I could see where the edge of pavement met the median on my left.  Peripherally, out my side window, I was aware of the point where shiny, flat, gray-white roadway became rough, dull, brown rocks as it sloped away, unimpeded by guardrails, toward boulders and trees.

          My brakes began to slow the vehicle a little and then the rear tires were no longer in direct contact with the highway—no longer tracking behind the front tires—instead they were sliding toward the median.  After a few inches of skid, I let off the brake pedal while turning the steering wheel in, slightly—no more than a half-inch—to compensate.  At this point my hands told me: I no longer had any ability to steer.  I said, “O-Oh, this’z not good.”

          The ice was now completely under all my wheels.  No steering.  No brakes.  No traction of any kind.  I thought, “This feels like I’m rolling down a road of real marbles.”  I don’t think I had yet slowed the vehicle much below 50, but I didn’t check the speedometer.

          The car was now on a slight downhill grade and the only thing keeping us on the road was forward momentum.  As I felt the front wheels slide on the hail, I eased down on the brakes again.  The back end corrected and then began to wobble, no longer sliding in toward the median, now sliding toward the right lane and the semi.  All four tires had lost contact with the road.  Off the brakes, again, I said, “Oh shit.”  I don’t know if my paramour heard me over the noise of the hail pounding on the roof, but I knew by her posture out the corner of my eye, that she was aware we were out of control.

          And we continued to slide.  I tried to correct by steering into the skid, up to the point of no return.  The back of the car crossed the centerline.  When it slid beyond the front tires’ turning-range; at that point, I stopped trying to steer or brake and just held on.

          The left front tire dropped off the ice into the median—which, like a pivot-anchor, altered the momentum of the vehicle.  Now, the direction of travel was slightly toward the ditch, with the vehicle skating down the left lane sideways; the passenger-door was now the leading edge.  A second later, the passenger-side front wheel also anchored in the mud.  Two anchors.  I shouted, “This is it.  This is it. We’re going in!  Hold on!”  (Later, I wondered about my last exclamation.  More appropriate for a fighter pilot with a shot-up plane than a SUV driver going into a ditch, but none-the-less, that’s what came out of my mouth).

          The vehicle continued to spin.  The passenger door struck a roadside reflective marker pole.  And, still spinning—front tires now dragging in mud—rear end now the leading edge, the car went down into and thru the shallow ditch in the median.  The rear bumper struck a rock-edged, cliff-like, chunk of earth at 45 mph or more and then the kinetic energy of the SUV—with a high center of gravity—caused the front end of the vehicle to rise.  The SUV flipped over, front over back, and landed on its roof and hood in the ditch.  The front was now pointing in the original direction of travel, the left lane was four feet away from my face.  I could smell the wet pavement.

          I recalled the punch-crunch of metal on rock, the smash of breaking glass, and I opened my eyes.  I was buckled upside down.  The once loud noise of hail on the roof had now been replaced by the softer sound of rocks and sand crunching along the roof, hood, and demolished windshield.  Through some of the unbroken shards of windshield, I saw rocks and earth slowly sliding to a halt in front of me.

          My side window was gone.  Pain in my left shoulder told me I must have slammed against it before it disintegrated into the little pebbles of safety glass I could see on the roof under my head.  I unbuckled and lowered myself to the roof (which was now crushed much closer than a few seconds ago).  I determined Pam was OK and unbuckled her as well.  We both exited through the driver window.  It had stopped hailing.  A bit of blue sky and sunlight peeked around the clouds.  "I fucked up your car," I said. "I'm sorry."

          As we stood between the upturned car and the highway, my friend—wounded—(by me, I felt so guilty-terrible, her injuries were my fault) gasped things like:  it wasn't my fault, we should be thankful, it could have been much worse—and then we turned and saw a half-dozen cars, trucks, and two more semis, all entering the hail-ambush zone.  One semi fishtailed but made it to a halt on the right shoulder without hitting or being hit by anyone.  Two cars barely missed each other.  I shouted: “Get up the embankment.  There’s gonna be more accidents!”  More cars were skidding and sliding behind us as we climbed.  I have no idea how they all missed each other.  One car with a trailer went off the other side into the ditch (their rubber side stayed down).  I was certain we were going to be the first of many hail-victims.  As we reached the top of the embankment and turned to watch, none of the vehicles hit each other or lost complete control.  I looked at the highway.  Only two or three minutes had passed since the hail began—now you see it, now you don’t—a coating of slush.

          The sheriff's deputy told us there were dozens of accidents in the area all morning and afternoon.

          The SUV was totaled.  Neither airbag deployed (which I’ve since been told was an additional blessing, because we avoided the chemical burns caused by the gas that inflates them, who knew).

          My Fight Club automobile-accident-experience is now just electrical pulses across neurons (and, of course, computer software).  Although my consciousness has already nominated this memory to be upgraded from short-term to long-term—the only thing that differs between it and my memories of imaginary incidents and fabricated fantasies, are my shoulder bruise and headache that, currently, still remind me this is a work of non-fiction.

          This accident was not an impetus for life reaffirmations or zealous, misplaced born-again-ziness.  I am especially glad nobody had reason to erect a ridiculous, lattice cross on the southbound median of Arizona Highway 17.  It is, however, one of those things that qualify as:  “If it doesn’t kill ya, it makes ya stronger.”

—Thanksgiving 2004

alphabetical film reviews

- Numbers -

The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005) directed by Judd Apatow (TV producer; big screen directorial debut); starring Steve Carell and Catherine Keener: Snaprating=WFC, CHARACTER theme. Surprisingly, Ben Stiller (the copyright holder of brunt-of-embarrassing-jokes-guy) isn't the lead in this rarely funny three-joke movie, which will soon be found on the same channel as Bad Santa and Road Trip.

- A -

Alien Vs. Predator (2004) directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Event Horizon, 1997); starring Sanaa Lathan and Raoul Bova: Snaprating=WFD, PROBLEM-theme. Fans of all the Alien and Predator films will discover nothing new or unsuspected as this story successfully pokes fun at itself and it's predecessors.

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) directed by Jean-François Richet (De l'Amour, 2001); starring Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne: Snaprating=Cheaper, PROBLEM-theme. Fans of the original, directed by John Carpenter, will relish the gritty violence of this remake.

A Very Long Engagement (2004) directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie, 2001); starring Audrey Tautou and Gaspard Ullie: Snaprating=Cheaper, PROBLEM-theme [strong CHARACTER secondary theme]. Fans of Amélie may be slightly disappointed but will still enjoy this anti-war film.

- B -

Batman Begins (2005) directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, 2000); starring Christian Bale and Katie Holmes: Snaprating=Keeper, Character theme (all other themes are present to a lesser extent). This is hands-down the best superhero-film. This saga incorporates over-the-top action sequences and chases, interesting fight scenes, and witty rejoidners (with less CGI) as if Van Helsing, Die Hard and Indiana Jones were morphed with the first Batman.

Broken Flowers (2005) directed by Jim Jarmusch (Coffee and Cigarettes, 2003); starring Bill Murray and Sharon Stone: Snaprating=Cheaper, CHARACTER theme. Wonderfully directed, in a High Fidelity-meets-About Schmidt-way, this film never underestimates it's audience's intelligence. Cannes got it right this year.

The Brothers Grimm (2005) directed by Terry Gilliam (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975); starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger: Snaprating=WFD, MILIEU theme (Problem sub-theme). Because it's difficult to measure Gilliam-as-writer against other directors, fans of his The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Time Bandits may enjoy his newly addled concoction.

- C -

The Chronicles of Riddick (Directors Cut) (2004) directed by David Twohy (Pitch Black, 2000); starring Vin Diesel and Alexa Davalos: Snaprating=WFD, RE-ORDER-theme (secondary MILIEU theme). Riddick fans, and fans of the Blade trilogy, will overlook the grainy CGI, humorous costumes, and campy script to enjoy a familiar suspense in new settings.

The Chumscrubber (2005) directed by Arie Posin (Over My Dead Body, 2002); starring Jamie Bell and Camilla Belle: Snaprating=WFD, CHARACTER theme (secondary Re-Order theme). Fans of the Keepers Donnie Darko and American Beauty may enjoy this staged, Robert-Altman-esque, saga of self-medicated Californians because of the superb acting and the nod to Un Chien Andalou (1929).

The Constant Gardener (2005) directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God, 2002); starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz: Snaprating=Keeper, PROBLEM theme (secondary Milieu theme). Fans of suspenseful romantic mysteries will love this wonderfully directed, edited, and acted amalgamation of Tears of the Sun, Beyond Borders, and The Bourne Supremacy.

Crash (2004) directed by Paul Haggis (big-screen directorial debut, screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby, 2004); starring Don Cheadle, Michael Pena, Sandra Bullock and many others: Snaprating=Cheaper, RE-ORDER theme. This somber snakes-and-ladders-game, (with every flavor of hate on display) effectively combines: 21 Grams and Thirteen Conversations About the Same Thing, insuring you feel dismayed with your fellow-man, upset, and maybe even angry when the credits roll.

Constantine (2005) directed by Francis Lawrence (directorial debut); starring Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz: Snaprating=WFD, RE-ORDER-theme (secondary MILIEU theme). Fans of good vs. evil battles will like this movie more than Van Helsing because the supporting characters are outstanding.

- D -

The Devil's Rejects (2005) directed by Rob Zombie (House of 1000 Corpses, 2003); starring William Forsythe and Sid Haig: Gory-film-Fan Snaprating=Cheaper, All Others Snaprating=WFC, PROBLEM theme. A very gory — yet humorous — sequel, which outshines the slasher-flick which spawned it. Fans of Natural Born Killers will be thrilled by this shock-film because of it's caliber of acting and script.

Downfall (Der Untergang) (2004) directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (The Experiment, 2001); starring Bruno Ganz and Alexandra Maria Lara: Snaprating=WFD, CHARACTER-theme. Historical film fans will overlook the length and claustrophobic settings of this war movie and applaud Hitler's secretary's perspective of his last few days.

- E -

Employee of the Month (2004) directed by Mitch Rouse (directorial debut); starring Matt Dillon and Steve Zahn: Snaprating=Cheaper, PROBLEM theme. The skillfully written script overshadows all, even the the heavy-handed direction and average editing, in this amalgamation of Bad Santa, Clerks, and "About Last Night...".

Eulogy (2004) directed by Michael Clancy (Emily's Last Date, 1996); starring Zooey Deschanel, Debra Winger, Hank Azaria and Ray Romano: Snaprating=WFD, RE-ORDER Theme (Character sub-theme). A Hilarious mix of Big Chill and Home for the Holidays.

Everything Is Illuminated (2005) directed by Liev Schreiber (Directorial Debut; Actor The Manchurian Candidate, 2004); starring Elijah Wood and Eugene Hutz: Snaprating=Keeper, PROBLEM theme (Milieu secondary theme). With a Schultze Gets the Blues vibe, this story is quiet and simple, yet a very intelligent, touching, and humorous 'search for ancestral footprints and self-discovery'.

- F -

The Forgotten (2004) directed by Joseph Ruben (Sleeping with the Enemy, 1991); starring Julianne Moore and Gary Sinise: Snaprating=WFT, PROBLEM-theme. Fans who really loved the two WFT movies: Signs and The Village, will jump off their seat a couple times as long as they overlook the extremely bad editing.

Four Brothers (2005) directed by John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood, 1991); starring Mark Wahlberg and Terrence Howard: Snaprating=WFT, PROBLEM theme. This is what happens when two mid-1960's westerns (The Sons of Katie Elder and El Dorado) get poorly re-tooled into current-day, icy winter, inner-city Detroit with dumbed-down dialogue, predictable plot, and awful acting.

Flightplan (2005) directed by Robert Schwentke (Tattoo, 2002); starring Jodie Foster and Peter Sarsgaard: Snaprating=WFD, PROBLEM theme. Even though much of the first two acts of this tightly written script were lifted, intact, from Hitchcock's A Lady Vanishes, it's still a well acted, closed-box, mystery/suspense film (better than the WFC: Executive Decision).

Frank Miller's: Sin City (2005) directed by Robert Rodriguez (Once Upon a Time in Mexico, 2003); starring Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Brittany Murphy and many others: Snaprating=Keeper, RE-ORDER-theme (MILIEU secondary theme). Graphic novel afficionados and fans of Pulp Fiction will worship this tight yet over-the-top stagesque rendering and character melange, which moves the 'unique bar' high, so very high.

- G -

Garden State (2004) directed by Zach Braff (directorial debut); starring Zach Braff and Natalie Portman: Snaprating=WFD, RE-ORDER-theme (minor secondary Character-theme). Fans of quirky ironic depictions of everyday-people acting out an interesting script will like this 'Clerks meets Napoleon Dynamite' film.

Grizzly Man (2005) directed and narrated by Werner Herzog (Nosferatu the Vampyre, 1979); starring Timothy Treadwell and many wild animals: Snaprating=Cheaper, MILIEU theme. Wildlife documentary fans who liked The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill will be able to judge for themselves if the mentally challenged Mr. Treadwell (and his girlfriend) welcomed or deserved getting eaten alive.

The Grudge (2004) directed by Takashi Shimizu (Ju-on: The Grudge, 2003); starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jason Behr: Snaprating=WFC, PROBLEM-theme. Fans of the original shouldn't sully their memories with this Americanized re-make which won't scare a 5-year-old (too much).

- H -

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) directed by Garth Jennings (big-screen directorial debut); starring Sam Rockwell and Mos Def: Snaprating=WFD, MILIEU theme (PROBLEM sub-theme). Fans of dry British humor (who enjoy the adherence of the Harry Potter films to their books) may be unhappy with this oblique sketch of Douglas Adams's book because of a dumbed-down script and poor CGI -- even though it's novelty and uniqueness outweighs it's vagary and camp.

House of Flying Daggers (2004) directed by Yimou Zhang (Hero, 2002); starring Zhang Ziyi and Takeshi Kaneshiro: Snaprating=WFD, MILIEU-theme. Fans of the 'Keeper': Hero will discover this film flawed by weak plot and poor editing but may enjoy it none-the-less.

Hustle & Flow (2005) directed by Craig Brewer (The Poor and Hungry, 2000); starring Terrence Howard and Taryn Manning: Snaprating=Keeper, CHARACTER theme. Comparison to 8 mile is easy and simply wrong because this film has the warmth of a great script, wonderful directing (at one point, a woman's song made me tear) and superb acting, which are missing from Slim's hollow autobiography.

- I -

The Incredibles (2004) directed by Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, 1999); starring the voices of Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter: Snaprating=Keeper, MILIEU-theme [strong secondary PROBLEM theme]. Fans of Toy Story will enjoy this animated family action adventure.

In Good Company (2004) directed by Paul Weitz (American Pie, 1999); starring Topher Grace and Scarlett Johansson: Snaprating=WFC, RE-ORDER-theme [CHARACTER secondary theme]. 'Buddy movie' and romantic comedy fans may enjoy this one.

The Interpreter (2005) directed by Sydney Pollack (The Firm, 1993); starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn: Snaprating=WFD, PROBLEM theme (MILIEU secondary theme). Pollack's signature 'tiny pool of A-list actors' and a bland script hurts this routine political-thriller in which the United Nations building is the most interesting thing to watch. He did it better in the Keeper: Three Days of the Condor.

The Island (2005) directed by Michael Bay (Armageddon, 1998); starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson: Snaprating=WFD, CHARACTER theme (Problem sub-theme). A solid mix of Logan's Run and Bladerunner for SF fans, with more than a heaping portion of Torque for action fans.

- J -

The Jacket (2005) directed by John Maybury (Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon, 1998); starring Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley: Snaprating=Cheaper, PROBLEM-theme. Fans of Vanilla Sky will enjoy this cryptic-pic and walk away with a theory about what happened when.

Japón (2002) directed by Carlos Reygadas (directorial debut); starring Alejandro Ferretis and Magdalena Flores: Snaprating=WFT, MILIEU-theme (weak secondary CHARACTER theme). Fans of sad characters plodding through a beautiful landscape pock-marked by pain, may be duped (by the misguided belief: "art is difficult to understand") into thinking that the grainy quality, sloppy direction, and weak story are intentional. Bullshit. The fools at Cannes who awarded it are naive for not recognizing it as such.

Junebug (2005) directed by Phil Morrison (big-screen full-length directorial debut); starring Amy Adams and Embeth Davidtz: Snaprating=Cheaper, RE-ORDER theme. Unlike coming-home films set around mandatory attendance rituals like Garden State and Monsoon Wedding, here, we slip back--quietly--into the blissful ignorance of a small-town and a not-so-close family in the deep-Southeastern US almost by mistake, and almost get stuck there.

Just Like Heaven (2005) directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls, 2004); starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo: Snaprating=WFD, PROBLEM theme. Equal parts of Ghost, City of Angels, You've Got Mail, and any another 80's or 90's Meg Ryan film of your choosing; this cute, enjoyable, and smoothly edited flick is not just for chicks.

- K -

Kinsey (2004) directed by Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, 1998); starring Liam Neeson and Laura Linney: Snaprating=WFC, CHARACTER-theme. PP-BOATS (Period Piece, Based On A True Story) movie fans will be disappointed by this bland and lackluster bio-pic.

Kung Fu Hustle (Gong Fu) (2004) directed by Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer, 2001); starring Stephen Chow and Qiu Yuen: Snaprating=Keeper, PROBLEM theme. Far more over-the-top than a Warner Brothers cartoon, kung-foolishness fans (who enjoy Jackie Chan movies) will get their fill of giggles while being thrilled by constant CGI-slap-stick, stomp-stick, and crush-stick.

- L -

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) directed by Brad Silberling (Moonlight Mile, 2002); starring Jim Carrey and Meryl Streep: Snaprating=WFD, PROBLEM-theme (MILIEU secondary theme). Jim Carrey fans will enjoy his familiar antics and overlook the weak script in this cute yet unfunny attempt to do what The Princess Bride (a Keeper) accomplished in pre-CGI days.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004) directed by Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, 2001); starring Bill Murray and Owen Wilson: Snaprating=Cheaper, RE-ORDER-theme. Wes Anderson film fans (especially The Royal Tennenbaums) will consider this one of his best and add it to their list of 'Keepers'.

Look at Me (Comme une image) (2004) directed by Agnès Jaoui (The Taste of Others, 2000); starring Marilou Berry and Jean-Pierre Bacri: Snaprating=WFD, CHARACTER theme. Fans of Real Women Have Curves may enjoy this story of a misunderstood daughter and her shallow family surrounded by French stereotypes.

Lord of War (2005) directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, 1997); starring Nicolas Cage and Bridget Moynahan: Snaprating=WFD, CHARACTER theme. This well-acted but ploddingly predictable Catch Me if You Can (with guns instead of checks) is heavy on message and, with the exception of a few special effects, light on interesting.

- M -

The Machinist (2004) directed by Brad Anderson (Session 9, 2001); starring Christian Bale and Jennifer Jason Leigh: Snaprating=WFD, PROBLEM-theme. Fans of Memento will enjoy this dark whodunnit.

Matando Cabos (2004) directed by Alejandro Lozano (Guzman Huerta, 2002); starring Tony Dalton and Joaquín Cosio: Snaprating=Cheaper, PROBLEM theme. Fans of low-budget films (like El Mariachi) will love this tribute to Snatch and Pulp Fiction (with nods to many others, like Clockwork Orange and Taxi Driver).

La Marche de l'empereur (March of the Penguins) (2005) Luc Jacquet's directorial debut; starring thousands of emperor penguins: Snaprating=WFD, MILIEU theme. Old fans of the 'Wonderful World of Disney' and younger fans of the documentary Winged Migration will enjoy this tale of Antarctic-nature's hardships and triumphs.

Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) directed by Miranda July (Jesus' Son, 1999); starring John Hawkes and Miranda July: Snaprating=Cheaper, RE-ORDER theme. This jigsaw-puzzle of vignettes paints an odd-joyful portrait of two characters and everyone they know. Fans of Todd Solondz's Happiness and Wes Anderson's Royal Tennenbaums will like this film.

Millions (2004) directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 1996); starring Alexander Nathan Etel and James Nesbitt: Snaprating=Keeper, PROBLEM-theme (CHARACTER secondary theme). Etel's adorable quirky-sweetness causes this 'Sleepless In Seattle meets Pay It Forward' to shine above the mass of other British 'found loot' films.

Mindhunters (2003-2005) directed by Renny Harlin (Deep Blue Sea, 1999); starring LL Cool J and Val Kilmer: Snaprating=WFC, PROBLEM theme. Fans who liked My Little Eye, Identity or The Cube will find (this time around) our clueless victims are unbelievable FBI Agents in this over-cooked and over-edited example of a closed-box slasher-movie--but many may still enjoy the exercise of identifying the killer before he's the last one alive.

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) directed by Walter Salles (Central Station, 1998); starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Rodrigo de la Serna: Snaprating=WFD, CHARACTER-theme. Fans of 'coming-of-age' and 'based-on-a-true-story' films should enjoy this bio-pic.

Mr and Mrs Smith (2005) directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, 2002); starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie: Snaprating=Cheaper, PROBLEM theme. Although the Smith's fight can be compared to the fight in War of the Roses, the steady humor and over-the-top shoot-n-blow-em-up's, make this more 'Grosse Point Blank meets Léon, The Professional' with a nod to Butch and Sundance.

Mysterious Skin (2004) directed by Gregg Araki (Splendor, 1999); starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brady Corbet: Snaprating=Cheaper, CHARACTER theme. Depicting the ugly and troubling results of pedophilia (from two victim's points of view), this wonderfully directed film succeeds where The Woodsman and Palindromes did not.

- N -

Napoleon Dynamite (2004) directed by Jared Hess (Peluca, 2003); starring Jon Heder and Efren Ramirez: Snaprating=WFD, CHARACTER-theme. Fans of Bad Santa will be less ashamed of laughing but may not understand why this deadpan movie makes them giggle so much.

- O -

Off the Map (2003) directed by Campbell Scott (Big Night, 1996); starring Valentina de Angelis and Joan Allen: Snaprating=Keeper, RE-ORDER theme (CHARACTER secondary theme). The WFT film Secondhand Lions aspires to become as tightly directed and wonderfully scripted as this insightful glimpse of a precocious 12 year old girl, her family, and friends.

Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior (2003) directed by Prachya Pinkaew (US directorial debuit); starring Tony Jaa and Petchtai Wongkamlao: Snaprating=Cheaper, PROBLEM-theme (MILIEU secondary theme). Martial arts fans looking for a new face performing non-CGI, non-wired, ass kicking's--in the tradition of Fists of Fury--will be legitimately enthralled by the loosely choreographed roughness and may forgive poor lighting and sophomoric editing.

Overnight (2003) directed by Tony Montana (directorial debut); starring Troy Duffy and everyone he alienates: Snaprating=WFC, MILIEU theme. This documentary of a talented egomaniac is an early Project Greenlightesque foray into 'how to make enemies and lose influence with strangers'.

- P,Q -

Palindromes (2004) directed by Todd Solondz (Happiness, 1998); starring Ellen Barkin and Richard Masur: Snaprating=Cheaper, CHARACTER theme. Solondz fans, and fans of other directors who cause you to pause and think, will overlook the grainy quality of this disturbingly-unique examination of abortion, statutory rape, and pedophilia, which is almost (but not really) a sequel to Welcome To The Dollhouse.

Polar Express IMAX 3-D (2004) directed by Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, 1994); starring the voice of Tom Hanks: Snaprating=Keeper [non-IMAX3D version=WFD], MILIEU-theme [CHARACTER secondary theme]. Fans of Final Fantasy and virtual rollercoasters will love this every x-mas.

- R -

Ray (2004) directed by Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman, 1982); starring Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington: Snaprating=WFD, CHARACTER-theme. Not to down-play Foxx's superb ability, but bio-pic fans will discover this to be just another attempt to make up for plot-shortage by allowing a character's weaknesses and mistakes to dominate and overshadow the life story.

Red Eye (2005) directed by Wes Craven (Scream, 1996); starring Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy: Snaprating=WFC, PROBLEM theme. This suspense-retread is too predictable because it borrows every key element from other films except one (fortunately it's the big one), the acting is average, and the script is weak.

Robots (2005) directed by Chris Wedge (Ice Age, 2002); voices of Ewan McGregor and Robin Williams: Adult Snaprating=WFC, Gradeschool Snaprating=Cheaper, MILIEU-theme. Very young animation fans will laugh at the fart and butt jokes and enjoy the many first-person roller coaster scenes (done better in Polar Express) but may not catch every rapid-fire gag jammed into this worn-out, retreaded, hick-makes-good-in-the-city script.

- S -

Saw (2004) directed by James Wan (Stygian, 2000); starring Leigh Whannell and Danny Glover: Snaprating=Cheaper, PROBLEM-theme. Fans of The Cube will notice strong situation and dialogue similarities, but even with flawed acting and directing the plot will keep you in suspense.

Schultze Gets the Blues (2003) directed by Michael Schorr (directorial debut); starring Horst Krause and Karl Fred Müller: Snaprating=WFD, CHARACTER-theme. Fans of slice-of-life films depicting odd characters turning over a new leaf, like The Station Agent, may enjoy this 'still-waters-run-deep' film.

September Tapes (2004) directed by Christian Johnston (directorial debut); starring George Calil and Wali Razaqi: Snaprating=WFT, MILIEU-theme (weak PROBLEM secondary theme). 'The Blair Witch Project meets The Killing Fields' in Afghanistan with poor directing, no plot, bad special effects and terrible actors.

Serenity (2005) directed by Joss Whedon (Big Screen Directorial Debut; TV Director); starring Gina Torres, Nathan Fillion, and Adam Baldwin: Firefly Series-Fan Snaprating=Keeper, All others=Cheaper, PROBLEM theme (Milieu sub-theme). Although this Harry Potter of samurai space-westerns is not amazingly cutting edge it is a well-edited, tightly scripted, action-thriller, filled with plenty of chuckles and gasps.

Sideways (2004) directed by Alexander Payne (About Schmidt, 2002); starring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church: Snaprating=Cheaper, CHARACTER-theme. Fans of films that bump the funnybone while squeezing heartstrings are shure to enjoy this one.

Spanglish (2004) directed by James L. Brooks (As Good As It Gets, 1997); starring Adam Sandler and Téa Leoni: Snaprating=WFC, CHARACTER-theme. Fans of Punch-Drunk Love should find this appealing.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) directed by George Lucas (Star Wars, 1977); starring Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman: Star-Wars-fan Snaprating=Cheaper, all-others Snaprating=WFC, PROBLEM theme. The script was cribbed from a videogame sound-byte tech (no sentences over six words) and most scenes are CGI hand-me-downs from one of it's older, wiser, siblings or are attempts at humorous nods to films like The Fifth Element and Frankenstein.

- T -

Tarnation (2003) directed by Jonathan Caouette (directorial debut); starring Jonathan Caouette and Renee Leblanc: Snaprating=Cheaper, CHARACTER-theme. Fans of What the #$*! Do We Know!? will adore the exceptional editing and soundtrack of this stunning, unique, autobiographical-documentary, which--like an angst-driven, 90-minute expressionist video--plays the emotionally-charged card quite well.

- U -

Up and Down (Horem Pádem) (2004) directed by Jan Hrebejk (Divided We Fall, 2000); starring Petr Forman and Emília Vásáryová: Snaprating=WFC, RE-ORDER theme. A second-string depiction of hatred and bigotry, like an uncohesive Crash set in Europe.

The Upside of Anger (2005) directed by Mike Binder (Blankman, 1994); starring Joan Allen and Kevin Costner: Snaprating=WFC, RE-ORDER theme. Fans of the subdued, intense, character, which is consistantly portrayed by Allen (The Contender) will be pleased to watch her banter with Kostner's familiar ex-baseball character in this plodding melange rife with directorial filmic errors.

- V -

Vera Drake (2004) directed by Mike Leigh (Secrets & Lies, 1996); starring Imelda Staunton and Richard Graham: Snaprating=WFC, CHARACTER-theme. If fans of PP-BOATS (Period Piece's, Based On A True Story) can overlook Leigh's signature 'garbled dialogue' further confabulated with incessant bleary-eyed whining, they may be intrigued by this moral-legal debate with lack-of-criminal-intent as it's focal point.

- W -

War of the Worlds (2005) directed by Steven Spielberg (Minority Report, 2002); starring Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning: Snaprating=WFD, PROBLEM theme. Fans of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow may enjoy this dark, awfully edited, CGI-dominant, retread.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (2003) directed by Judy Irving (Kids by the Bay, 1999); starring Mark Bittner and a flock of parrots: Snaprating=Cheaper, CHARACTER theme. Documentary fans should be captivated by this endearing 'Crumb meets Animal Planet' nature film.

The Woodsman (2004) directed by Nicole Kassell (directorial debut); starring Keven Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick: Snaprating=WFC, CHARACTER-theme. Poorly directed, with a simplistic story-line sparse on between-the-lines message, this snapshot would have gone direct to dvd without big name actors (and should have gone direct to cable).

- X,Y,Z -

The Yes Men (2003) directed by Dan Ollman (directorial debut); starring Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno: Snaprating=WFC, RE-ORDER-theme. Documentary fans may not enjoy this unless watching extremely detailed, embarrassing pranks is entertaining.


I distilled 24-months of my s n a p p e r h e a d writings and art—with a dash of comics and a splash of personal perspectives (2004–May 2009) into a book: UNBLOGGED the flesh and starch of snapperhead.

I did this because my mother is 70-years-youngish-oldish, and—like many of the generation that begat the baby boomers (the WWII generation?)—she's built her own Maginal Line against technology (which she doesn't cross, and regards those who do with a measurable quantity of disdain). Accordingly, cell phones, computers, the Internet, high-def TV, DVRs, and things of that ‘ilk’ will never be invited within the glow of her campfire.

In order to permit her to read and view snapperhead, I created a soft-bound book, 205 pages long, made of high-quality 8½" x 11" paper, with full-color artwork/photos. I did not include housekeeping posts, dated posts, comments, meme’s, or 98% of the hypertext effluvium.

The front cover:

The back cover:

The index pages:
  • 5 Driving Anozira Style [ Creative non-fiction essay]
  • 8 Shrimp-cheese [Comic strip]
  • 9 Armbytrarie and Snapperhead History [Art & non-fiction article]
  • 10 Field Notes [Creative non-fiction essay]
  • 14 Locality of Fear [Art]
  • 15 Decision Waffling [Writing Challenge]
  • 17 Entranced Exit [Art]
  • 18 Rhymen Standard Pennant & Love Note [Art & Message]
  • 19 TYPE 4 Remnant [Speculative Fiction ‘grabber’ page]
  • 19 Six and Seventy [Art]
  • 20 Seven and Seventy [Art]
  • 20 Lotto Luck [First pages of a fiction story]
  • 22 All Fun and Games [Non-fiction story]
  • 32 Sarah in the Pity [Art]
  • 33 Jorge with a Cat [Speculative Fiction (Chapter 1&2)]
  • 39 Vestige of Course [Art]
  • 40 The Tobbo Shop (Agent Veach) [Science Fiction (Chapter 1)]
  • 43 The Tobbo Shop (Agent Veach) [Science Fiction (Chapter 2)]
  • 48 Anger, Angst and a Jalopy & 10 Things [Art & List]
  • 49 Urgrund and Self Portrait [Art (2)]
  • 50 Patrol Cap Years [Creative non-fiction (Chapter 1)]
  • 54 Monoscholastic Sex [Art]
  • 55 Vacation Drug [Plot Treatment & Sketch]
  • 56 Illicit Has Three Eyes [Art]
  • 57 Film Code (thru my eyes first) [Opinion Article]
  • 66 Sidore Kuroneko [Art]
  • 67 Allow Me to Introduce Myself [List]
  • 73 One Station Eighteen [Art]
  • 73 Some Films are Bad, mmmkay? [Opinion Article]
  • 76 Asta Right [Art]
  • 76 The Invisible Underpinnings [Creative non-fiction story]
  • 78 BFM (zip overseer mix) [Art]
  • 79 Can You Canoe? [Opinion Article]
  • 82 Keep Fingers Clear [Art]
  • 82 Dawn Begins at Zero Dark-Thirty [Speculative fiction & non-fiction essay]
  • 85 Sample Fourteen [Art]
  • 86 Book Meme [Q&A]
  • 87 The Architect of Sleep & Berserk Helix [Book Opinion & Art]
  • 88 Q on Next Generation can do it right? [Non-fiction Conversation]
  • 90 Natunatch 19 [Art]
  • 90 Interview [Q&A]
  • 91 Cicatrize It [Art]
  • 92 PAPA’s Auto Opinion [Fiction Article]
  • 94 Quill Cog Native [Art]
  • 95 Knotted Picayune [Art]
  • 96 The Seven Shades of Love [Opinion Essay]
  • 101 Vaca-Enn-We [Art]
  • 102 Xjer-Catch & Tomah Relatives [Art & Poem]
  • 103 Prudence Afore, Ian, snap & Paramour [Art (2) & Poem (2)]
  • 104 TITLE UNKNOWN [Speculative Fiction (Chapter 1)]
  • 106 Misplaced Scorn, Who has it? [Opinion Essay]
  • 108 Surreptitious & Paramours Birthday [Art & Prose]
  • 109 Didn’t say it was right, just that it was [Art]
  • 109 Perfect breast & Breach Cesarean [100-word challenge (2)]
  • 110 Dor-man-t-of-fer-ing [Art]
  • 110 TITLE UNKNOWN [Speculative Fiction (Chapter 2)]
  • 113 Neosporin [Art]
  • 113 PP-BOATS are different than B.P. BOATS [Opinion Article]
  • 116 Public Service Homicide [Art]
  • 117 TITLE UNKNOWN [Speculative Fiction (Chapter 3)]
  • 120 Dreamline & Exactly What You Need [Art (2)]
  • 121 100-word challenges [Opinion & Other ‘snippits’ (6)]
  • 123 TITLE UNKNOWN [Speculative Fiction (Chapter 4)]
  • 126 Chasing Svelte [Opinion Article]
  • 129 Lightbox - Nightlight [Photograph]
  • 130 Flippers and Floppers [Opinion Article]
  • 131 TITLE UNKNOWN [Speculative Fiction (Chapter 5)]
  • 134 Vet, Single . . . cash [Opinion Article]
  • 136 All Saints & Year One of my Sabbatical [Art & Creative non-fiction story]
  • 138 Fortunate Fortnight [Art]
  • 138 TITLE UNKNOWN [Speculative Fiction (Chapter 6)]
  • 142 Scathing Elves [Personal Observation]
  • 143 Sketch of Portland & Reason #12 [Art & Opinion Article]
  • 144 Electoral College Opinion [Opinion Article]
  • 145 Reason #11 & Greypopcorn [Opinion Article & Art]
  • 146 TITLE UNKNOWN [Speculative Fiction (Chapter 7)]
  • 149 The Story Behind the Sign [Creative non-fiction story]
  • 150 Sharp Edges & Reason #10 [Art & Opinion Article]
  • 150 Portrait of Monti Lee [Explanation Article/Photo]
  • 151 Portrait of Monti Lee [Art]
  • 152 TITLE UNKNOWN [Speculative Fiction (Chapter 8)]
  • 155 Reason #9 & Why do you live there? [Opinion Article (2)]
  • 156 Breakfast [Art]
  • 157 Reason #8 [Opinion Article]
  • 157 TITLE UNKNOWN [Speculative Fiction (Chapter 9)]
  • 160 Reason #7 [Opinion Article]
  • 161 Jobs [List]
  • 162 Harvest Festival & Reason #6 [Opinion Article (2)]
  • 163 Phredd’s Pengwynne & Altrusitic Evil [Art & Opinion Essay]
  • 165 21 December 2012 [Creative non-fiction Article]
  • 166 Reason #5 [Opinion Article]
  • 167 NIGHTMARE [Non-fiction story]
  • 168 Wholw & Review of Public Enemies [Art & Opinion Essay]
  • 170 ...dogs begin to smell her... [Creative non-fiction story]
  • 171 Reason #4 [Opinion Article]
  • 172 Finally Caught Me [Creative non-fiction story]
  • 175 Reason #3 [Opinion Article]
  • 175 Gus 1998-2008 [Creative non-fiction story]
  • 179 Finate [Art]
  • 180 Giggle Bone & Continuing Nonsense [Non-fiction story (2)]
  • 181 Ingrate Portrait & Reason #2 [Art & Opinion Article]
  • 182 Hapse Knot [Art]
  • 183 Conversation with a Ditz [Comic Strip]
  • 183 War Story (that’s not a real war story) [Creative non-fiction story]
  • 188 Ingrate Legal [Art]
  • 189 Le-Ge-Ec & Reason #1 [Art & Opinion Article]
  • 190 Stegasaur to Sauropod [Comic Strip]
  • 191 Sometimes it is all ahead of you [Q&A Opinion Essay]
  • 192 Spoof Radially [Art]
  • 193 Conversation Santa and Bunny [Comic Strip]
  • 194 Pareidolia-Apophenia [Art]
  • 195 Zeal 4 Real [Comic Strip]
  • 196 Two not-much-discussed Failures [Creative non-fiction story]
  • 199 ESP Explained [Comic Strip]
  • 200 Boswell–Seasons & Puffy Writing [Art & Opinion Essay]
  • 201 Black and White Stuffed Convention [Comic Strip]
  • 201 Fear = Survival Mechanism [Opinion Essay]
  • 203 Fourth Dehydrated Hyena [Art]

Interested in purchasing a copy of UNBLOGGED? Email me at veachglines@gmail.com and I'll provide you with my address or a paypal account. Once I receive US$20.00 + shipping (at the rate of your choosing) I'll send one to you.

Interested in having your blog turned into a book? I can, and will, do it for you. Obviously, the cost will depend on which (and how many) of your posts/photos/art you want used, as well as how many pages are created.

Email me. I’ll examine your archives and discuss the project with you prior to providing you with a cost (I estimate about US$1.00 for each sheet-and-a-half of paper—so my 205 page book would have cost about $75 to create—add about $12 for the 11" x 17 3/4" cover and binding, add shipping costs). I suspect most blogs could become a 200-page book for less than $100.00. All you'd have to do is pick the posts!