Saturday, August 30, 2008

Towelhead (2008)

Christian Spotlight on Entertianment has just uploaded my review of the Alan Ball film Towelhead (formerly called Nothing is Private).

The film is currently schedule for a September 12, 2008 commercial release, but I was able to screen it at last year's Toronto International Film Festival.

Here is a link to the review.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Waiting is the Hardest Part...

Word out of Toronto is that the advance ticketing has begun.

Fedex says it delivered my booklet this morning, but I don't know what bin number I am in. The TIFF website says that the lottery showed they would begin with bin #9. Since there were over 40 yesterday, I assume my bin number is somewhere in the 60s or higher. Not a great draw, but past experience tells me that if I have a number of films scheduled at non-peak hours or in larger venues, I have a good shot.

The only film I specifically remember getting shut out of was Manufactured Landscapes (my friend Doug swapped me his ticket and rushed it) and that was at the smaller Isabel Bader venue. So that may not bode well for the Agnes Varda retrospective. But I've got a lot of films scheduled at the Scotia Bank or the Varsity (though, curiously, not too many at the Ryerson this year), and those theaters are huge.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

September Christmas

My friend Darren Hughes once described the day the Toronto Film Festival Out of Town Package arrives as a second Christmas. That's true enough, and it combines the hope and optimism of a new sports season as well. All the films will be great, and you get to make lists not see what you got.

It's a time of anxiety, though, too. Will the package get here? (Mine was late and I had to go to work, meaning it was sitting at home as I was teaching and I had to pore over the catalog to get my picks in so that I could FedEx my requests right back.)

Then there is the mix of euphoria (what a new Kore-eda that I hadn't realized would be playing!) followed by despair (Barbet Schroeder joins Paul Schrader and Agnes Varda as people whose new films I will miss as they play after I've left to get back to my real job.)

Then there is the anxiety of juggling as you realize that, oh, say, the Dorsky short films are playing at the same time as the new Linklater and the new Reichardt and the new Denis. Sheesh, I can practically hear Ursula the sea witch in the back of my head cackling with glee, "Life's full of tough choices, innit?"

With the help of the catalog before me, the schedule book map and the online guide (as well as an MS-Word Table to sort), I've managed to make my selections. Now, I send it off and hope and pray I get all my choices (or at least certain key ones that can't be juggled because they are only playing once while I'm there like, oh, say Lorna's Silence.)

Tentative Schedule

Friday

9:15-11:04

3 Monkeys

Scotia Bank 4

12:00-2:02

Sky Crawlers

Scotia Bank 1

4:00-5:30

Apron Strings

Scotia Bank 2

6:30-8:10

35 Rhums

Scotia Bank3

Saturday

12:30-1:53

Sauna

Scotia Bank 4

4:00-5:47

Me and Orson Welles

AMC 3

6:00-7:30

Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist

Ryerson

Sunday

10:00-11:27

Examined Life

AMC 9

12:45-2:05

Wendy and Lucy

Scotia Bank2

3:15-5:02

Afterwards

Scotia Bank 2

6:00-7:45

Lorna’s Silence

Scotia Bank 1

9:15-10:30

Of Time and the City

AMC 6

Monday

9:15-11:09

Still Walking

Scotia Bank 1

12:15-2:15

Disgrace

Scotia Bank 1

3:30-5:35

Seraphine

Scotia Bank1

6:15-7:55

Terence Davies Trilogy

Varsity 3

9:00-10:37

At the Edge of the World

AMC 10

Tuesday

12:00-1:41

Two Legged Horse

Scotia Bank 4

3:00-4:45

More than a Game

AMC 6

6:30-8:00

La Pointe Courte

Jackman



Hey, I may not get the new Varda, but perhaps I can end my festival with a Varda introduced Varda retrospective.

Biggest disappointment: Well, missing the Schrader and Varda films, though I hope both get distribution as seems likely.

Hardest Cut: The Dorsky Wavelength session. Man those hour sessiosn at the Jackman just totally screw your schedule. And Friday night is an obscenity of riches.

Film I'm Most Likely to Miss Even If I Get All My Choices: Inevitably sleep deprivation, the need to write or eat or catch up with someone and network ends up costing you one or two films out of twenty. (I think I screened 18 last year): Afterwards, Sauna, or Apron Strings. They each look interesting but made the final cut as much for their proximity in time and location to something that was an anchor than for anything I knew about the film. Still, it's hard to pass up a film that is described as a cross between Tarkovsky and Eli Roth.

Film that Would Most Screw Up My Festival Experience if I Got Shut Out of--Lorna's Silence.

Actor I Would Most Like to Show up at a Q&A--I guess John Malkovich, since he's in two films that I'm screening.

Film I Would Be Least Disappointed to Get Shut Out of: Nick and Nora. I'm sure it will get disribution, and I was the only person in America who didn't like Juno. Still, got to have some lighter fare mixed in.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

That Grinding Noise You Hear...

...is my teeth.

The official schedule for The Toronto International Film Festival came out today, and it turns out that both Paul Schrader's and Agnes Varda's new films will not open until Wednesday the 10th in the evening, which means I will miss them both.

Oh, well, here's hoping they get distribution. Perhaps I will discover a new favorite auteur in their stead.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why Disc Golf Will Never Be More than a Recreational Sport

I wish it were different.

I love disc golf, think it is a beautiful game, and with the disc being easier to see than a golf ball, has the potential to have all the public (and even spectator) appeal of ball golf. But I don't think disc golf will ever be anything more than a recreational or hobby sport where prizes will be based on entry fees, and here's why: disc golfers. I love disc golf. Unfortunately, most of the disc golfers I have met in my life have been jerks that I would not want to spend ten minutes with were I not paired in a grouping with them.

I keep thinking/hoping that I'll find some pocket of local golfers who "get it" but it just seems like everywhere I go (I've played in tournaments and monthlies in GA (Augusta, Atlanta, Toccoa), NC (Charlotte, Raleigh), SC (Chapin, Columbia), MD, TN, OH, VA (Spotsylvania, Sherando, Harrisonburg, Fairfax), all over the friggin' place--and I can count on one hand the number of times there wasn't flagrant cheating going on, especially in the AM division (I'm not talking ignorance, either, I'm talking about about a refusal to play by the rules or enforce them once they are made known). I've seen AMs blatantly cheat and Advanced and Pros just take the attitude of "they aren't taking money out of our pocket, so we don't care." I've seen pros cheat and people say, "Well we aren't going to call them on it because they won't come back to play this tourney" or "Who am I to call a violation on someone who is playing at a better division?" I've seen Pros and Advanced cheat because they were put in a mixed group and figured that nobody else in the group knew the rules or because they could get intimidate the Ams into not seconding an obvious violation. I've seen Pros and Advanced cheat in pairs in a mixed group to give themselves a leg up for the second round. I've seen blatant cheating at THE FREAKING ICE BOWL (which is a charity event).

I've seen disc golfers bet each other on whether or not they could hit a church steeple on adjacent policy. It is a fairly regular occurrence for me to see other golfers let dogs run, unleashed through parks and defecate on the course, golfers smoke weed and drink alcohol in violation of public park policy, golfers who make racist comments about minorities in the park, or lewd remarks about female golfers or women in the park. I recall one PDGA tournament I was at where a golfer commented loudly about the sex acts he wished to perform on a junior female golfer in another group, not realizing her father was walking by on the adjacent fairway.

There are, of course, exceptions, but they are unfortunately just too few and far between. I've never seen Brian Schweberger or Jeb Bryant conduct themselves as anything but class acts on the course. I once had the privilege of playing in a grouping with Juliana Korver and she was a consummate professional. In Georgia, John Nisewonder is a class act as well as a great player, and on the homegrown tour in NC, Jay Pontier and Jim Markov are models of decorum and sportsmanship for skilled players. I've never been in a grouping with him, but every time I've been at an event with Jeff Kozak he has modelled fair play both in and outside of his group.

I'm sure there are others. There must be. But if there are, I haven't seen them or played with them--and I've played on over a 100 different courses in over 30 different states.

I try to set a good example on the course as well as off--to congratulate guys for good shots and observe etiquette as well as rules. I was playing in a tourney once, and I made a 25 foot putt, lost my balance and took a step forward. One of the guys in my group jokingly called out "Foot fault."So I went back and re-putted, (making the putt again). When I was asked why I did that, I said, "Because it was a foot fault and the first offense on a foot fault is a warning and re-throw." When I was told that nobody had seconded it, I said, "I seconded it." To which I was told, "Get over yourself. We're not that serious around here."

And people wonder why competitive disc golf can't catch on as a bigger sport.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Good Work if You Can Get It

I was amused (while belatedly listening to Slate.com's podcast) that Senator John McCain had a campaign misfire last week when he had to consult with his staff in order to answer (or correct the answer he had already given to) the question, "How many houses do you own?"

It seems there was a difference of opinion in the McCain camp of whether or not, when answering this question, one should count guest homes that are located on one's property (in which case the answer would be "seven") or only count the homes that one lives in one self (in which case the answer would only be "four").

Gee...if someone asks me how many rooms I have in my house, I usually count the guest room, so I'm going with the "seven" answer, but if McCain's campaign wants to go with four, I guess we'll say it was an honest mistake.

I'm sure glad we got that confusion cleared up, so that now maybe we can work on less difficult questions like, for instance, how is it that Senator Barack Obama is the proponed elitist in the campaign?

I guess if I had to heat seven homes, I'd want to drill in Anwar too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Toronto International Film Festival 2008 Countdown

16 days and counting.

TIFF 2008 announced the full slate of films today. I haven't done an exhaustive look yet, but with a preliminary glance, here are the films I'm most anxious to try to get tickets for:

Two Legged Horse -- Samira Makhmalbaf (Contemporary Cinema)
The Terence Davies Trilogy--Terence Davies (Dialogues)
Adam Resurrected--Paul Schrader (Masters)
Of Time and the City--Terence Davies (Masters)
Le Silence de Lorna--Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (Masters)
Les Plages de Agnes--Agnes Varda (Masters)
Three Monkeys--Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Masters)
The People Speak: A Howard Zinn Documentary Project (Mavericks)
Witch Hunt--Dana Nachman and Don Hardy (Real to Reel)
Inju, la bĂȘte dans l'ombre--Barbet Schroeder (Special Presentations)
Me and Orson Welles--Richard Linklater (Special Presentations)
Miracle at St. Anna--Spike Lee (Special Presentations)
Sarabande and Winter--Nathaniel Dorsky (Wavelengths I)

I'm sure that list will be tweaked as I get and peruse the catalogue.

You may all envy me now.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mark Spitz and the '72 Dolphins

Great interview on NBC with Mark Spitz, Bob Costas and Michael Phelps.

Spitz was thoughtful, gracious, congratulatory.

Records are made to be broken--to measure ourselves against and to spur us to greater achievements. Most thoughtful people know that they are not an absolute measure of a competitor's greatness and do not necessarily indicate superiority across time. (Changes in equipment, training, knowledge, culture, all effect the pool of competition as well as the changes in approach we take towards sports.) Spitz seemed to understand that and used Phelps's achievement not as one last opportunity to draw attention to himself but as a platform to opine on what differentiates the mindset of those who accomplish epic feats.

Among his points, he rightly and interestingly praised Phelps for never backing away from challenging himself simply because doing so might put him in a position to fail. For example, he chose several years ago to compete in an event that was not his best and that was dominated by another swimmer. Despite bettering his own personal best in the process, Phelps wasn't able to overtake the other swimmer (I believe it was Ian Thorpe). But that was the moment, Spitz said, where he knew Phelps would someday match or exceed his own achievement, because even though Thorpe could have limited himself to events where he knew he could win (or in which he would be heavily favored), he dared to challenge himself. He took on a challenge before he knew it was attainable.

Spit, competed in the 1972 Olympics, a year which is famous for another athletic record--the Miami Dolphins' perfect season of 17-0. It is well chronicled that every year when the last NFL team remaining undefeated loses, a contingent of the '72 Dolphins meet together to toast themselves with Champagne; they allegedly have even sent gifts of champagne to teams that have knocked off undefeated teams, thereby protecting their record.

What a striking contrast in sportsmanship and psychology--between holding on to past achievements and thereby remaining rooted in the past and being secure enough in one's own self that one is free to acknowledge and admire that which is great in others.

Mark Spitz has been a great champion for 36 years.

He still is. And he still will be tomorrow, even if Michael Phelps wins an eighth medal.

Campbell Law Graduate Wins American Bar Association Award

It is an American tradition to complain about one's work and one's employer, so I think it is important to acknowledge those times and places where one's colleagues or representatives of one's employer make you proud to work where you do.

Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch, USMC is a Campbell University (School of Law) graduate, and winner of the American Bar Association's Minister of Justice Award.

In the above linked article, Campbell Professor of Law William Woodruff said, "I am deeply proud that Stuart Couch is not just a lawyer, but a Campbell lawyer."

As a member of Campbell University's faculty, I share Professor Woodruff's pride in one of our alums. As an American, I'm deeply grateful to all members of our armed forces. As a Christian, I'm thankful for models of principle in integrity brought to and maintained in all professions and parts of our culture.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Managing Expectations

...is one of the hardest things in disc golf.

After doing fairly well at the new (and I think, harder) course in Middle Creek, I was disappointed that I shot so poorly at OT Sloan last weekend (54, 55). So I went back to Buckhorn today for the first time since last month when I shot a personal best (49).

I parked the first drive for one of the easier birdies I've made on that hole (which is normally a bit too long for me). "Okay," I thought, "I am driving longer. It's going to be one of those good rounds."

Instead, I pulled a drive on 2 that left me short and in the woods with no shot at birdie and then hit trees galore in taking a double bogey 5 on hole 3. "Okay," I thought, "It's going to be one of those frustratingly bad rounds."

Then I pulled a very long approach from the right rough on 4 (one of the harder holes for me) and took a solid par on a tough hole. I followed it with a birdie on 5 and a good up and down on 6 to get my par. After six holes I was at par. "Okay," I thought, "I erased by bad hole. I can still have a good round."

So, you guessed it, I took another 5, this one on hole seven--one of the statistically easiest holes on the course for me. (I have a lifetime average of 2.9 on it.) This was the product of a pretty bad three putt. "Okay," I thought, "I don't have the putting stroke today. I'm +2 on the front nine, which is generally easier and have already taken two double bogeys. Let's try to keep it in the 50s."

I promptly birdied the next four holes: 8, 9, 10, and 11, including solid 20-25 footers on two of my putts.

And so it goes with the yo-yo of expectations based on one's temperature at any split second. I birdied one more hole (16) and made a great shot to clear the pond on 17 from between two trees only to land behind another tree to make my par putt on a bad lie. So I parred 18 and finished -2 (52), a good 2 1/2 strokes below my average and about half way between my average round and my best round ever.

Seldom when one has an optimal outcome is one above average or on course every step of the way to it. How many times have I been even par on the front nine? Why is it so different in your head when you've shot 9 straight pars as opposed to four birdies and two double bogeys?

If you are going to throw hard enough to make birdies, bad shots and bad luck can make errors worse than ones that result from tentative throws. But I'm convinced in the long run, the way to success is through increasing the number of opportunities you have, not just maximizing the percentage of opportunities you get. Sure I would not have taken a five on hole seven if I wasn't putting aggressively (and pulling it badly), but the extra stroke I got for not hitting the come backer is still relative to the strokes I gained on holes 4, 8, 11, and 13 by putting aggressively.

I need to focus on having a good round...not on trying to figure out on every hole whether or not I'm having a good round.

Because when I try to do the latter, I'm often wrong.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Middle Creek DGC

I put in a couple of hours at a work day in Cary yesterday so that I could be one of the first to play the new disc golf course at Middle Creek.

At 9.8 miles from my front door, Middle Creek will nudge Buckhorn by a mile and a half for the honors of public course that is closest to me, and that is undeniably a good thing.

In general, any new disc golf course is a good thing. I'm blessed to be close to so many courses in the Raleigh/triangle area.

That said, I had heard some buzz in the week leading up to the opening that this would be the "best" course in North Carolina on the day it opened. That would be a stretch, in my opinion. (I don't know how many people have played all or most of the courses in North Carolina. I'm partial to Buckhorn and Hornet's Next (in Charlotte). I also think the course in Kinston is pretty good, though I've only played it one weekend.

Some of the things will improve as the kinks get worked out. The huge amount of mulch on the course made for some awkward walk ups on as yet undefined tees. The distances on the scorecards as yet have a casual relationship with the truth. (If Hole #2 is 290 feet, my Valkyrie is a Pig). There are a few holes that bring that skirt traffic, including a long throw into approaching traffic coming around a blind bend that concerns me safety wise. A couple of fariways cross over the green area of the hole that was just shot (I think #4 or #5), though this is generally only a problem when a course is very crowded. There were more elevation changes than I like, and there seemed at first glance to be more right turning holes than normal.

On the upside, there is a nice mix of wooded and open holes. It is not super long (as I've come to expect all new courses catering to boomer throwers to be). Holes 9 and 10 are sure to be crowd pleasers, I think, and it seems possible to start on a couple of different holes if there is traffic. There are Innova Disccatchers (yeah!) instead of Chainstars, and the use of mulch may allow for the eventual marking of a 10 meter circle. Although there is no signage yet, the flow is logical without too many long walks between holes (between 5/6 and 16/17 were the most likely places for new people to get lost). The park looks well maintained and its proximity to local schools means it is likely to be a fairly secure neighborhood. There seem to be enough challenges that very good players will not get bored too easily while intermediates won't be totally crushed by the course. (Doubles rounds yesterday ran from 48 to high 50s; my partner and I shot a 52, albet with a 5 on the last hole.)

On the whole, I'm very happy about the course. While it probably won't displace Lake Sharon Harris as my favorite local course, it should earn a prominent spot in the rotation of local courses and provide fun and challenge for years to come.