Friday, November 24, 2006

today is the longest day of my life

the following takes place between 7:00 a.m. and 1:53 a.m.

7:01- we're starting season 4 of 24, with the plan to watch the entire season nonstop today. sounded like a fun idea when we suggested it a few months ago--now i'm wondering how it's going to feel watching a full season of tv in one day. a couple of years ago, a roommate and i watched the full 'lord of the rings' in one day; it was fun to see the whole story, but after 12+ hours we finished 'return of the king' feeling kind of fried and saying i would never do that again. the difference here is that we get a full plot structure and cliffhanger every 42 minutes, making it easier to keep our interest sustained.
so here we go.

10:09 a.m.-
one episode down: we're 1/24 the way there.
two episodes down: we're 1/12 the way there.
three episodes down: we're 1/8 the way there.
four episodes down: we're 1/6 the way there.
and thus ends disc 1.
it's a little odd being that it's just me and mark watching, as we normally have 6-10 people here, but we still cheer [such as when jack pulled out his man-purse and yell at the tv. we still haven't see a handful of regular characters and we're already making predictions about who will turn out bad, who will get fired, and whatnot.
my only complaint now is that i'm out of eggs and i wanted to make some breakfast.
i'm still working on that.

jack's kill count: 2
and one gas station held up.

11:39 a.m. 'man, jeff, what are we doing?'
so asks mark as we're 25% done. he's on his second can of diet coke, i've had two donuts, and a friend of mine told me how to get into her house to get some eggs. we've finally found out what the threat is for this season, discovered a traitor, and still haven't seen a few of our favorite characters [while enjoying new ones]. i'm doing alright. we've been at this for almost five hours; it's a weird feeling to think how much longer we'll be here, depending on how many breaks we take. some friends invited me to temple square tonight for the lights--i'd like to go, and depending how i'm feeling around 4:00, i may take the offer. but that would really set us back.
unlike 'lord of the rings', 24 moves fast enough that it doesn't feel like a long time; that makes a major difference in our endurance.

why are we doing this? because we can, mostly. just like standing in line for superbowl tickets for long hours, there's something fun about this sort of crazy scheme. wild keggers aren't our style and i've done the toga party thing- ironman 24 is one more item to cross off the list.

jack's kill count: 15 [yeah, that was a good episode]

and marks swoons as jack and audrey hold hands.
so do i.

5:18 p.m.
oooh, we're halfway there....'
two papa john's pizzas and a load of laundry and we're still going.
somedays on set, as we sit down to lunch, i find myself thinking, 'if we were done now, this would have been a good day.' that's kind of how i'm feeling now. but we're just crossing the halfway mark. when we did 'the lord of the rings', the whole thing took about 12 hours; compared to that, i'm feeling just fine.
being that we have seen every other season of 24, we know the structure of a 'day' and what sort of incidents 'have' to happen, and so it's been fun calling out what will happen and then seeing it fulfilled. and yet it's new enough that it keeps us involved. 'same same but different', as they say in thailand.
so far the season has been fine; nothing amazing, but keeping the status quo of what we expect from the greatest show on tv.

we went out and tossed a football around for a while to keep ourselves moving. i jammed my pinkie. it hurts.

jack's kill count: 20

8:11 p.m.
coolness note: i've worked with and talked with the guy who guest d.p.ed three of the episodes this seasons.

starting disc 5 out of 6; we're starting to get a little numb to the whole thing not paying full attention, talking some during the 'slower' parts, but still getting excited. and the last episode just reminded us once again that, yes, 24 will do anything. that being said, this season hasn't been as 'intense' as 2 and 3 were--i don't think as many people will gasp watching it. that being said, we haven't gotten to the infamous 'chinese embasy' episode yet.
now that we are on the second-to-last disc, the end is appearing on the horizon and i think we will make it. actually, i've never doubted that we would finish this [and what a goal, right?] still, it's nice to get near the finish.

i've been icing my pinkie and the swelling has gone down, i'm debating if i should go for a slice of cold pizza or some thanksgiving pie, and i never did get those eggs. [actually, i got one, but it was hardboiled.]

jack's kill count: 38 [we're hoping to get to 50 by the end of the 'day']

11:05 p.m.
i've been having to prod mark every so often, but he just declared that he's going to make it.
and now we start the sixth and final disc, the anchor leg, the home stretch. mark's eating a bowl of orange rock star float and egg nog ice cream, i'm contemplating a can of apple beer [bottles are so much better], and we're both getting a little numb; the last episode was the best one of the season so far, one that we probably would have been on the edge of our seats; instead, we were somewhere in the 'pretty interested' category.
when we had five episodes left, it felt like we were close to the end--only five left. when mark described it as a drive to las vegas, that kind of sent my head for a trip.

it's looking like we will finish shortly after 2:00 a.m. really pretty good time, all things considered. and my pinkie is still sore, but the swelling has gone down.

jack's kill count: 42
chloe: 1

12:30 a.m.
we're down to the final two. 'cowboy hats help you stay awake' states mark, and it seems to be working for him. on the other hand, he's getting kind of weird, now trying to play a broom like a guitar to keep himself entertained.
all this is now is running down the clock. we should be all excited about the final climax; instead, we can barely remember what happened even an episode ago. in fact, every 'hour' [42 minutes without commercials] is feeling longer and longer. they used to fly by, but now i look at the dvd timer, thinking we're near the end and find that it's only 13 minutes into the show. kind of too bad, too, as this is some of the best work around right now, and we are so over-saturated that we can't appreciate it.
maybe the hardest part is the psychological perception of time--whether it's because we've been sitting here for more hours than i honestly want to admit or because we're sucked into the world of the show, but it feels like it's 4:30 a.m. or later [and it's been feeling like that for a while].
we're detatched from the show. it's mostly just running down the clock.
and the powerful 'ticking' sound of the clock is starting to get annoying.

did you ever see 'they shoot horses, don't they?', about the marathon dance competitions?

1:53 a.m.
we did it. 24 should not be watched like that, but we did it.
i don't regret doing it, but i can't recommend it to anyone.
and now we're going to sleep.

jack's kill count: 43

Sunday, November 19, 2006

editor's note

dear readers,

i deeply and sincerely regret the current and prolonged famines of this publication. i know that some of you very much enjoyed the daily postings that came since the blog's inception this year and generally continued throughout much of the summer.
when a reading base has been established, it is the duty of the publisher to see that deadlines are met and that a certain degree of respect and responsibility is shown to those who matter.
recently, our staff has become exceedingly busy with other matters-- sadly, none of which involve any degree of notable interpersonal female relations.
sudden changes in daily structure can have rippling effects, and a lack of time management skills can quickly erode seemingly extranneous activities.

certainly, this takes a mental toll on all of here, including our writing and editing departments [which is to say nothing for h.r., who seem to be have hit the hardest of anyone].
our r&d staff, however, has been working around the clock, compiling weeks worth of material that we feel is not only interesting but also up to the standards our readers have come to expect from sheep go to heaven. several dates have been set for press time, only to have other priorities arrise that have sent our publishing department into near-tantrums, pulling our their hair and yelling about 'the suffocation of the artist'.

after many long nights with third party-mediation, we have decided to begin publishing backlogued commentaries, insights, opinions, reviews, emotings, and rantings just as soon as they pass by my desk.

as readers, i encourage you to check the recent archives from time to time, as we will be publishing these articles under the date which they occured, beginning with october 20, 2006, and continuing until we reach this posting.

we hope you continue to enjoy our work here, and i welome your comments at anytime.

thank you, and be excellent to each other.

jeff gustafson
sheep go to heaven

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

a closer look...

never in my life have i seen a movie that has left me with more to say while still not knowing if i the movie was worth seeing or to be avoided, yet that is exactly how i felt watching 'american beauty'.
i was in japan when it was released and winning all the oscars, so i didn't hear a lot about it for a while. in fact, i didn't know much, other than it was best picture, kevin spacey won for it, as did the great conrad hall, and that when i mentioned i wanted to see it, a friend of mine who is less scrutinous about movies than i am, said 'no, you don't want to see it; it's not a good movie.'

it was on tbs one night, and that's what the dvr is for.

but before i get into the complicated matter, let me rave about that which there is no debate: conrad hall is truly amazing. arguably the most talented and respected cinematographer in cinema history, i have often wondered how a movie that's about a suburban family would be so expertly photographed. as i write this, i notice a sort of personal irony, as his work in 'searching for bobby fischer' is one of my four most beautifully shot movies, and that work is enhanced by the movie's outwardly mundane story of a little boy playing chess. just a michelangelo reportedly was told that nothing good could be carved from the oddly-shaped block of marble that would produce 'david', constraints of our working environment often push us to excellence beyond what seems to be possible. in 'american beauty', nearly every scene, from start to finish, is wrapped in light and shadow in a way that does not distractingly draw attention to itself, but strengthens the whole of which it is a part. gymnasiums, living rooms, front yards and bedrooms, corportate offices and fast food drive-thrus, the back alley outside of a dinner party, all look like works of art created without effort, as if they were always beautiful but no one took time to notice them until the camera came. visually, suburban disfunctionality has never held more artistry.

that's the easy part.
but what about the movie itself?

watching it, i kept thinking to myself, 'turn it off.' it was unhappy, with no admirable characters. everyone seemed to be destroying their lives, often willingly and without any notable remorse. yes, there is a form of storytelling known as 'naturalism', based upon the supposition that a portrayal and exposure of evil will cause the viewer to inspect their own lives and erradicate the similar traits in their own lives. but the question should soon follow, 'does it work' and 'how much is too much?' has 'in the company of men' made us kinder to those around? did 'salo' solve all of the world's problems? is your family better now that you've seen 'american beauty'? this is a question for the individual, but from my observations on society, i do not subscribe to the theory of naturalism. one of 1999's other 'best actor' noms, richard farnsworth in 'the straight story', was more inspiring to change [and yes, i am aware of the ironic and tragic choices me made a few months later].

throughout much of the movie, i was asking myself what the director was trying to show. was i being encouraged to throw off the chains of corporate america, throw my anger in my boss's face, and buy a corvette? will i also 'rule' then? or was lester's [kevin spacey] irresponsibility of working at the fast food joint a morality lesson of what not to do? certainly, he seemed happy then. his wife, his daughter, her stalker-turned boyfriend, angela, the real estate king, none of them seemed to hold more than an ounce of decency. and we were here to watch almost everything.
i didn't really like being there.

everything was coming to a horrifying collision, with bad choices reacting with misunderstandings and indifference for responsibility. then, in the last 15 minutes, angela's confession to lester changed everything. everything.
suddenly, our protagonist's became clear again. in a manner very true to life, a quick realization can cause the illusionary phantoms of sin and tempation to disappear and we can see reality once again in clarity. the muddled gray lies disolve into bold contrast, and the wrong path and its consequences are exposed without glamor.
the lies and mists that he had been following were gone, and he saw again what was real, what was important, and what was actually happiness. and the movie had the strength and the boldness to say that 'family' is matters most.

in the fashion of a david lean epic, this should have been the intermission of the movie. there should have been another two hours of movie, or an 'american beauty vol. 2'. instead, the story gives us a tinge of hope then irreparably ends the story, and timidly bows out with a mediocre monologue.

yes, lester's closing monologue leaves us with a certain amount of hope and perhaps even resolution to appreciate what we have, but for all the gradiose skill of the movie, the story ends because no one knows how to tell the next half. we are very good at showing humanity decending to the depths of hell as we understand them; we can show misery, sorrow, pain, and agony very well and very honestly. but to show the redemption of a marriage is a story that hollywood genuinely does not know how to tell.

'american beauty' is about family, and the core of the family is lester and his wife. there are several movies about the fall and redemption of parent and child, or between siblings, but any story that primarily deals with boy+girl either ends with them getting together or them starting together and falling apart. no one knows how to tell the story of creating a strong and happy marriage. countless sports movies have told the stories of starting at the bottom and reaching the top, and we never seem to grow tired of them [and that's a good thing], thus showing that an interesting story does not have to glean conflict solely from denegration.
to my knowledge, the only movie that has successfully addressed this is 1927's 'sunrise'. 'jerry maguire' attempted but found he didn't really know what to say in the end.

would i recommend 'american beauty', or would i watch it again?
the technique and artistry of the movie are quite amazing, and there are websites that bring all sorts of insights [i didn't know that 'american beauty' was the kind of scentless rose displayed throughout the movie], and the movie has a good lesson at the end. but it was a lesson i already knew, and the filth and mess to wade through to get there is not worth it.

Friday, November 03, 2006

she's so refined...

it's fun to go on a fun date.
an evening with buster keaton helps.

i must say, part of me was sad when neither jack nor aaron nor mark could come along with us, but if things go well, it can be fun to be just the two of you.
byu was doing a 'silent film night', something i had never heard of before but which seemed to be regular occurance; i suppose it's possible that things have changed since i was at school two years ago, but not likely. i bought two tickets to the gala--buster keaton's 'college' in the dejong concert hall, with live accompaniment--and regretted not getting a byu friend to buy them for me at the student price. meh.

wanting to have fun, i called kristin and suggested we dress up for the outing; i wore one of my shiny silver shirts and a black hat. i really do wish men wore hats again. her mom opened the door and invited me in. i seem to end up talking girls' moms a lot more than dads, for various reasons. while i've been in the dating scene for a while and really don't get nervous, i can't help but wondering about those few moments while the girl is getting ready. is her mom looking at me, wondering 'so this is the guy taking out my daughter?' is it some secret interview, asking subtle questions to judge my character in five minutes? in reality, i think she's being friendly and hospitable. but that doesn't make for good blog-pondering.

i'd never really talked with kristin outside of f.h.e. and church, but anyone who can go through my ipod and sing along with the songs wins with me. i'm really not sure why, if you can sing along, you've got my first vote.

the event itself was great. while i believe all movies should be seen in a crowded theater, comedies are especially enhanced by the populated environment. the organist was a different guy that i'd seen at previous silent movie events, but still did a very good job. we were encouraged to clap, cheer, boo, hiss, and have a gay old time, and we did. before the movie was a sing-a-long to old timey tunes like 'my bonnie lies over the ocean'. it was also the first time i'd heard humans sing 'daisy'.

'the general' may always be the great buster keaton movie, although 'sherlock jr.' gives it a run for the money, yet 'college' lived up to everything i had promised. the plot is tried and true, the nice but downtrodden hero is ignored by the girl for the jerk she hangs around only because she can't see anyone else, yet with determination he wins her in the end. all good and well, what makes a keaton movie is the physical stunts, leaving you not only asking 'how did he do that?' but also 'how did he survive that?' that these were made 80 years ago, obviously long before any sort of cg effects, and also before modern safety and padding had been devised [the high jumpers in the movie's track team landed on a pile hay]. along with the rest of theater, we booed, cheered, stood up and applauded, and laughed until it hurt.

with the evening still relatively young afterward, we went off to what has become one of my favorite places in town, 'the happy sumo'. yes, their standard plates of sushi are four times what you can pay for in downtown tokyo, but that's not why one frequents this trendy restaurant. far and away, the tastiest [and most economical] items are the rolls--a full page of different styles, augmented with everything from crab to avacado to spicy sauce to those nasty fish eggs are available. we opted to sit at the bar, because there was less of a wait, plus we got to hang out with the sushi chefs [and i found that having a pretty girl as you date helps with the service].
stories, jokes, and a couple plates of good sushi, coupled with a great cultured movie and a fun girl makes for a great date.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

howling at the moon [sha-la-la]

sometimes i just want to scream

when i was driving home last night, realizing that it was halloween and i wanted to call someone and say it was cool and fun and then realizing that i had no one to call

or because i need to become much better at managing my time because i feel like i am spending all my time working on this movie yet seem to get so little done and wonder if i am making any progress or only circles

because my life feels like a poorly mounted lens, in that no matter what i do, i cannot find the focus

for my sister, who is one of the neatest people i have ever known and is hanging out with an equally neat boy and doesn't know what to do with this new possibility

and maybe i just want to scream because i wonder if anyone would hear me?