Nasty Tricksey Hobbitses

This is a rant brief analysis – my opinion on the film adaptation of The Hobbit. It comes nearly a month after I saw the movie, so I’ve had time to give it some thought. I’ll also clarify that I saw this film twice; once in a standard theater (with an 11-year-old ward in toe); the second viewing was a full IMAX/3D experience with the (less than entertained) wife.

 

  • The book is jovial, lyrical, filled with exceptional songs and poems, made-up words, heartwarming animism and fairy tale prose. It’s a children’s book foremost, lighthearted and humorous, with Middle-Earth’s grander themes explored without really needing further explanation.
  • The movie is an epic adventure, consuming a mere third of the book (2 more films coming out in the next two years) with decapitatingly bloody battle scenes, weaving plotlines pulled from the appendices and archives of Tolkien’s other writings (or completely fabricated), and a mess of an action movie. It’s clearly a prequel to Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, with lofty and often misinterpreted themes, endless CGI, and enough violence and noise to weigh it against any modern hollywood blockbuster.

radagast cartoonIf it sounds like I’m being harsh, maybe I am? The film has heart-lifting moments that made me smile, the simple story and underlying theme, beautiful landscapes and good acting all around; but constant, extraneous, and dire excess plagues this movie. It’s too action-oriented, too long, too garish. It’s like Saruman was retelling the story, and the amount of trash tied to the movie and franchise – everything from Hobbit-themed Denny’s meals to Gandalf on my popcorn box, all just screams with the type of consumerism and industrialism that Tolkien adamantly deplored. To see his vision commercialized and pandered like this is a hypocrisy. It could have been far worse, and I do hope to enjoy the future movies, but as someone who’s been so influenced by his writing (since grade school), it was a bit of a disappointment – and a disservice for those who may not have read the book first.

Go see it, but please enjoy it as an interpretation – rather than a faithful retelling. okay?

Books printed

I am picking up freshly-printed All Around Bend books later this week, Huzzah!

 

I’m hoping to spend a good bit of this weekend out distributing the books around town. I think putting them online would be a good idea too. Definitely an order/eCommerce shop…but eventually an ebook version could be made, thoughts? Check out AAB over at http://allaroundbend.com

 
In addition to peddling books this weekend, I am also hosting an Adult Spelling Bee down at Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe, should be fun and fairly informal (ie- there will be beer). It’ll be a hoot. Also…when I say ‘adult’, I don’t mean nastay. The event will be more like a trivia-night.

The iThneed

There’s a new cgi movie coming out soon, based on The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. I assume hope that it sticks close enough to the deeper message, being a story about protecting the environment, preserving nature for the next generation, discouraging excess, and so forth. Yet recently I saw a commercial for The Lorax…well actually it was a Mazda commercial; a co-branded advert for a small SUV. The commercial can be seen here (if mazda doesn’t take it down due to all the complaints) and features their vehicle driving through a happy countryside of truffula trees, with cheery music and bright colors.

Also, the Lorax totally looks like Wilford Brimley

The real fact though, is that this is a new SUV, made on a huge assembly line, from 20000 parts, all of which require fossil fuels to refine and fabricate; metal, plastic, glass, rubber. At which point, it is shipped across the country/world, and begins its decade of consuming gas at 30MPG, barrels of oil and lubricants, new tires, batteries, and not to mention the air pollution, roads and infrastructure.

 

This is what we call greenwashing, friends. The commercial even makes reference to being “Certified Truffula Tree Friendly” an “Truffala Tree Seal of Approval” and something called “SkyActive Technology”. There is no intention or nod to being sarcastic, they actually and cheerfully tout these fictitious awards with the same authority as JDPower and Motortrend.

As an adult – and with an eye for marketing –  I can recognize this blatant branding ploy.The fact that the commercial is so bright, so colorful, so cartoony, makes me wonder how kids view these sorts of commercials…whether they will see the movie and this commercial…and question things, or whether they just nod, not knowing corporations can hide truth.

 

My general disposition would be to not pay to watch the movie. The Lorax is tied into several other products as well, over 70 ‘launch partners’ as they’re called. And I certainly I have no plans of owning or recommending a Mazda. But, at what point should people, common folks like you or I, take a further step…signing a petition, participating in a boycott? Am I upset enough about this unholy Mazda/Lorax affair that I want to do anything about it?

Perhaps the fact that I wrote up this blog is a step itself 🙂

Preparedness

This morning before work I was putting some clothes away in my closet, only to have a mountain of debris fall out. I sighed and decided to do something about it. First up was my fancy internal-frame backpack…my glorious hiking pack that I used to lug all over the place, now sitting idle, taking up space. It really just needed some love, honestly. It was a mess, filled with random bric-a-brac from the move: a bocce ball set, summer clothes, a pair of computer speakers, some envelopes and a stapler.

 

“This will not do!” I said resolutely to the dog, who eyed me suspiciously before curling back up into a fuzzy ball to resume her post-breakfast nap. I laid the pack out on my office floor and began to tear all the offending items out, discarding them around me like confetti. I had twenty minutes before work, and was determined to make the pack

presentable to a panel of REI employees for judging, if need be.

 

I scampered into the other room and opened up the big chest that held all our other camping gear; tents, sleeping bags, and an entire crate of campground crap. I fished out everything that ‘should’ go in a well-provisioned backpack: the bug spray, flashlight, first aid kit and survival gear. With stuffed arms, I marched proudly back into my office and began to load my frame pack like I meant business.

 

I have a reputation to uphold, a rugged and prepared sort of reputation. I would woefully rue the moment when I fetched the pack for a zombie apocalypse last-minute hiking trip… and a lone bocce ball rolls out, thudding sadly to a carpeted floor.

 

I am happy to say, that in case of any backpack-related-eventuality, I am now golden.

 

Food-buying tips

My wife and I are fairly good grocery shoppers, or so we assume. There are criteria we obey when shopping, and we are conscious of purchasing foods that are preferably 1)local and/or responsibly grown 2)chemical and hormone free 3)minimally processed. This isn’t too hard, mostly involves just shopping around the periphery of the supermarket, avoiding the center aisles where all the big brand processed food dwells. Aside from those few rules, here’s 5 things that the average person should keep in mind…deceptions that we’ve fallen prey to.

 

1. Products with olive oil. Whether it’s mayonnaise, salad dressing, crackers, or frozen food, generally people will pay more for something with ‘olive oil’ emblazoned across the label. Truth is, most of these things could have 2% of the oil, with the 98% of other oils…canola, corn, cottonseed, hydrogenated oils, etc. Check the label. Even if olive oil is #1 on the ingredient list, there’s all sorts of issues with olive oil out there. Basically, be skeptical when paying more for something with olive oil as a selling point.

 

2. “Light”. This one has slowly become a no-brainer. For years now, things are branded as ‘light’ or ‘low fat’. In all honesty, how different is a light wheat thin compared to a regular one? You’re still eating a whole box of carbs, who cares if it’s got a bit less grease. For many products, the manufacturer exchanges fat for sugar (usually HFCS). A lowfat ice cream or salad dressing may be less fat, but it’ll be pure sugar. In the whole low calorie battle, it’s more about quality. A potato will always be a healthier purchase than a bag of Ore-Ida fries, a pack of preservative-free bacon is better than a box of low-fat JimmyDean frozen ‘sausages’.

 

3. Vanilla. This spice is damn-expensive, and nearly any big-brand processed product uses only something called vanillin, a synthetic compound used from everything from food to that car air freshener. This is not vanilla, and the jury is still out as to it’s health effects, as the majority of vanillin is now made synthetically, mostly in China. This fake vanilla can even have ‘all natural’ or ‘naturally flavored’ on its label, as those words are not regulated…which brings us onto the next issue.

 

4. “Natural”. This doesn’t mean shit. The term “Organic” does have quite a few federal guidelines, but ‘natural’ means nothing, only somewhat regulated in the meat and poultry industry. Even for meat, ‘natural’ just means that it has no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. This has nothing to do with hormones, genetically modification, living conditions, or any other chemicals or ingredients…and has no bearing in the non-meat industry. Long story short, if it’s not meat, and it says ‘natural’, there’s likely no difference between it and any other product on the shelf, don’t waste the extra money.

 

5. Vitamin C. Here’s the thing…pasteurization destroys vitamin C molecules. To compensate for this, juice companies that advertise ‘vitamin C’ prominently add ascorbic acid or other synthesized chemicals to the drink to bring the C back up to 100%. You might as well just buy vitamins, because that’s all this is. If you like juice or fruit snacks a lot, buy them, but the big flashy “Vitamin C” graphic on the label is crap. Don’t buy OJ or sugar-water just because you think you need vitamin C… If you want to fight scurvy, go grab yourself a grapefruit or something.

 

Recycling Woes

Apparently a few years ago, the City of Omaha decided to stop recycling glass curbside. As a whole, the city is abysmal with its overall recycling policies too. Driving down the streets on recycling day, I see very few bins. I’d at first have said it’s a Midwest thing…but discovered nearby cities like Des Moines have wonderful recycling programs, so that’s not it.

As with any municipal program, it likely comes down to money. Glass is heavy and costs more (and is worth less) to recycle than coke cans. As such, the city simply stopped it. In addition, right across the border is Council Bluffs, and Iowa has a 5 cent deposit for returned glass bottles. I should just haul my glass across the border and make some cold cash!

Alas, even if my trunk was full of months of glass bottles, and I spent all afternoon redeeming them via the machines in Iowa, I’d have a wasted afternoon and maybe five bucks for my trouble. I just want to get rid of this stuff responsibly! There are dropoffs in Omaha for glass; receptacles in a few grungy lots across the city, but none close to home…this looks like my best bet though. Either that or just pitching the bottles in with our trash.

Oh well, it’s just a few bottles…i’ll get over it. Besides, who cares about mountains of glass when you also live in the city with some of the most toxic tapwater? I also don’t want you to think that I’m bashing the fine folks in this city…well maybe some of them…such as the folks they chose to govern.

Awww, that’s nasty

One of the fun things with living in a rental house, is that you make discoveries. We made one such discovery a week or so after moving in and firing up the furnace on the first brisk autumn morning. As savvy members of post-industrial America, both the wife and I knew that central heating units have filters, and like any filter, need replacement on occasion. This was a morsel of useful modern-day knowledge that was passed down to me perhaps by my parents, and filed away in the back of my brain for the distant eventuality that I’d be living someplace with forced air when I grew up. It’s the sort of trivial fact that can easily be forgotten, but just as quickly remembered when in the basement, when the heater or A/C kicks on, or when you move a new air filter aside while grabbing golf clubs or trying to find the power drill in the garage.

“Oh hey, I bet the air filter needs changing,” you think, and you change it. You like clean air; you know that when clogged it makes the heater run less efficiently, it’s just something that you do.

Well, the Ollinger Family had no such inkling…no such concept. Who are these wiley Ollingers, you ask? They are the previous renters; the folks who leave a drawer full of legal documents, work performance reviews, and don’t bother to change their address with the post office. They are the ones who’ve been enjoying this:

That there, is a furnace filter, 1 inch thick, with another full inch of the grossest gnarliest filth adhered to it. That filter has been in the furnace for yeeeaaaaars. Upon its removal, the central air system turned from a strained whistling hiss, into a flood of glorious radiant heat. In a tug of the arm, I probably cut my heating bill in half, supplying the poor furnace the precious air it craved.

That white filter beneath it in the picture…well that was sitting up against the furnace, wrapped in plastic and waiting its turn to shine. Who knows how long it had been there, whether the Ollinger’s had planned to make the switch and didn’t know how, whether the landlord brought it over with hopes of use…we may never know. What I do know though, is that it’s clearly the wrong filter, you can see the dimensions in the pic. When alI was said and done, I had to go to Home Depot and drop a couple bucks on a correct size filter. In the long run, $3 is worth clean air and lower heating bills, I’m sure of it 🙂

As for the lesson of this tale:

1. Go check or change your air filter, it’ll be fun 🙂

2. I think i need to write some sort of further expose on the Ollingers. A rich full tale of these folks may be one for the ages.

changes

Apologies to you, Misses or Mister Blog Viewer. Estoy muy ocupado.

We’ve been in the midst of a move, from our shitty apartment to a rather respectable house; 3 bedrooms, two garages and all the trimmings. The free time I dedicate to blogging took a back seat as we shuttled a dozen carloads of our worldly possessions to this new house and wearily unpacked.

I do plan to continue posting daily, or at least every other day…so don’t expect these dry spells very often 🙂