Steve J. Moore

Archive for August, 2008|Monthly archive page

100 Members on the Facebook Group!

In Writing on August 22, 2008 at 11:30 am

I posted on the Facebook group wall that I’d do something crazy to celebrate crossing the century mark in membership and I always follow through with my promises. I hit up MS Paint ( why use Photoshop?) right away to create the masterpiece before you. I borrowed a frame from the brilliantly written and inked Doom comic book homage from the mid-nineties. A fitting tribute to myself I think.

Be sure to Join the group yourself if you’re on Facebook 🙂

In the meantime, I’ll be working on the new domain over at www.thespigot.net which you can feel free to check out anytime (if you aren’t already there). I’ll be posting on both pages from now on.

I See the Moon

In Writing on August 21, 2008 at 9:01 am

At a Red Light Where No One Waits

Even after years of church,
I see the prayers
I have not prayed,
not the ones to come
later on,
but rather those meditations
of my heart
that I did not speak
with closed dark eyes
hands folded out of habit.

I see them in a crosswalk
not walked across
and at a red light
where no one waits.

I see them in tea leaves
steeped and sipped
but not Seen.

They live in the wood body
of a guitar in my closet
whose diaphragm waits taut
for breath so it may sing again.

They live in O and N
on a damp window pane,
where lips were near
and love is vain.

Brb, lolz

In Writing on August 17, 2008 at 8:38 pm

Ok folks, there will be a slight drought for a few days in my posting. I’ll be starting my student teaching cycle at Republic High School tomorrow so I’ll have my hands full for a bit. In my stead I leave you all this video of a ridiculously cute Corgi puppy because I know it will leave you in tears until I return. 🙂

China’s Clarion Call

In World Events, Writing on August 13, 2008 at 1:12 pm

I got a little bit of flack from people for my unabashed hope for the Olympic Games in Beijing. New controversies seem to be uncovered every few hours with regards to judging, age restrictions in events, the opening ceremony displays, and let’s not forget human rights on the continent.

I just wanted to take a few lines to express what I was trying to focus on. I understand that there are many problems with the Chinese government’s actions in the past and certainly some that continue today. They are rigorous about control, I think that is apparent. In a country that promised uncensored internet access during the games, they have fallen short by a lot for both their own citizens as well as visiting journalists and spectators.

People have pointed out other issues to me as well to mention: genocide in Darfur, the war in Iraq, Iranian nuclear ambitions, and the Georgian conflicts with Russia. These events are all tragically being reported on (if at all) in the shadow of the Games.

I suppose I expected that readers here are aware of those conflicts and issues of global importance in general. I really wanted to sound a call to people to find the light in dark times, to search out specs of good intention in the grimy clouds of controversy surrounding Beijing. We know that China has a lot of work to do before they can be considered a truly modern nation in terms of their governance and diplomacy.

However, why would they continue along such a path when they are allowed no verbal praise for good deeds? Should we not inspire a nation to strive for a positive global image? Certainly no one thinks that the US, Great Britain, or any other major world power has it all figured out. As long as progress is made continually, I urge continued praise for the best and criticism of the worst of China’s efforts.

No, I don’t want to encourage countries to put walls up hiding their impoverished, nor to neglect children who are not cute or talented enough to represent their country. I truly hope that such actions are exposed as wrongful and wiped from the list of acceptable choices by a country. That cannot go unsaid. Voices of dissent should not be silenced by any government if they seek a genuine resolution peacefully.

My great hope for these Games is that they are remembered events that brought people together, and even in the face of many conflicts, inspired change. Watch the events. Watch the athletes cheer one another on, give hugs, look into each others’ eyes and give respect in winning, losing, or whatever, and look into your own life to find a way to do the same in some small way.

Maybe China’s global image is like its tiny singer. The facade will be stripped away during these weeks, leaving the less polished face of a nation in deep desire for change to emerge and sound its own voice from within. I hope I’m not alone in my optimistic awareness, because more often I find that such attitudes are in shorter supply than oil, corn, or other valuable natural resources.

Olympics Take Flight in China

In TV, World Events on August 11, 2008 at 2:55 pm

In a world where China is working hard to change its image abroad, I found myself watching the opening ceremonies of the 29th Olympiad with both great expectations and high hopes for the spectacle. Chinese master cinematographer and film director Zhang Yimou’s vision was to be realized before 91,000 onlookers from inside the place lovingly called “the Bird’s Nest.”

In a world where I often spend my time (here in the blogosphere) clicking through dissident news tags about human rights, protests,  politics, and rather raw stories in general, I find myself struggling to push the negative out of my mind and replace it with positive. I live my life trying not to hide from negative events, but to educate myself about and accept them. However, I firmly believe in messages of hope as being important. China is presented with a truly unique opportunity this month to evoke the spirit of friendly competition in the world’s nations. From this global stage, the world’s people should be able to set aside struggles and differences momentarily to remind themselves of our One World, our One Dream.

Okay, so perhaps I’m a bit of a Pollyanna when it comes to the state of the world. But, who, I ask you, could resist being in complete awe after seeing the opening ceremonies? How could anyone not sense the yearning of our world to come together and achieve something larger? This is what I believe Yimou was striving for in his presentation. He is a Chinese artist who expresses his country’s values and history with what I think is a global awareness in his films and this event lives up to that standard. These Games are perhaps only recreation but such a gathering of nations should not be overlooked in the state of world affairs as such.

There’s something that wells up inside of me when I see smiles of genuine excitement roused between citizens and athletes of hundreds of diverse and separated nations. The opening ceremonies were filled with smiles of this proportion. It made me feel like there was something for the world to share in together. What does it matter if we are imperfect, separated, and even on different paths? We can share in the celebration of our humanity, we can share in one thing together:

Hope.

No, I’m not talking about an American presidential campaign, but rather the state of a world that decides to put aside struggles, inequity, and misunderstandings to engage in aquatic, gymnastic, and ping pong diplomacy. The opening ceremonies and early games saw the likes of Hu Jintao, Nicholas Sarkozy, Vladimir Putin and the Bush family conversing in congenial fashion while the nations paraded across a giant canvas together, each for the pride of their home. Perhaps only posturing, but these do leaders play an important role in doing so, allowing for the athletes to display how global citizens should treat one another.

Even if the acts on high wires and the bursting explosions in the sky are only facade, I still find myself weighing in on their significance. What does it say about China, struggling with pollution, poverty, and population control, that they go so far out of their way to make the world feel welcome to share in this celebration? Even if there are cracks beneath the surface, I believe this time should be taken to celebrate what we would like our world to be; one in harmony.

More to come after the games end.

Au Reviour, a teut a l’heure

Until next time

Through the Glass

In Film, Music, TV on August 8, 2008 at 1:42 pm

While browsing through the overpriced movie section of Borders a few years ago, my friend Ed and I stopped on one particular shelf. He picked up The French Connection to emphatically remind me how badly I needed to see it as he reveled, wide-eyed, at its box. My eyes were searching the shelves as well for appealing movies I hadn’t seen. What I stopped on was Koyaanisqatsi. What on earth was this I thought. Being a filmhead, Ed could read my thoughts entirely and immediately began explaining why the film was titled after the Native American words for “life out of balance…”

$8 and an earful of explanation later, I was looking forward to watching this important work of cinematic and acoustic art. Ed had explained to me that the entire film was merely 88 minutes of instrumental overture lain upon a cinematic landscape of rural and urban themes. The music takes the viewer through by the hand through a journey from the order of nature to the chaos of the urban and human world. The movie is meant as a meditation on the connection between the natural and artificial worlds where people have become disconnected.

If you would have asked me then, I wouldn’t have been able to explain that because I only watched the first 20 minutes before I was bored out of my mind.

But wait! Steve! I thought you were into art?

Keep reading.

I did glean more than I had first thought from my brief initial encounter with this film. I learned who Phillip Glass was. It was his music that is the foundation of Koyaanisqatsi, the engine by which any message is ferried from screen and speaker to eyes and ears. Hauntingly simple strings of notes are repeated over and over building a melody as one builds a bridge from ten thousand toothpicks with no glue at all.

I immediately went searching for other works by this fantastic composer and artist ( I have a big soft spot for piano music in general) and found that he had a solo album called Metamorphosis, and that Glass’s work could be found in many movies already like The Hours and The Truman Show.

Writing about this has reminded me that music in movies always has a significant effect on me, both in terms of the emotional weight music can add and also of my opinion about a particular film or genre. Another instance of this happened just the year before.

I hadn’t yet left Augustana College in South Dakota for Missouri State (nor the field of chemistry for that of English), but my position as a Peer Advisor (RA, TA, SA, call us what you will) on a freshman floor allowed me ample free time to watch a lot of movies as I was waiting for people smuggle in booze and girls in the wee hours of the morning. Often, I watched movies with my residents ( I call them “residents” but we were all friendly, barring any Halo-influenced rage), and in some cases movies I may not have otherwise watched. This was particularly the case with Spirited Away.

Let me paint you a picture of Myself in 2004: I like a range of movies a bit wider than when I was in high school, but one genre I still don’t understand is Anime. Why not you ask?

[2004 simulated explanation]

“Well besides the fact that it sucks, Anime is mostly centered around retardedly underclad and over-breasted (yes, over-breasted) ladies who also happen to be computer hackers and ninja masters who do karaoke while riding motorcycles into store windows, out of space ship airlocks, and on top of buildings. There is also a lot of blood-spurting and limb-removing going on so the animators, who are all tasteless old Japanese perverts, have something to draw besides breasts. Also, none of it makes sense and I think they all involve some kind of rehashing of Robot Jox

Yes, for those of you wondering, the “jocks” are people who ride inside of giant robot warriors and fight each other.

All of that aside, my conception of the genre was completely reversed when I saw Hayao Miyazaki‘s masterpiece. My heart melted and ran down my leg into a puddle on the floor–ok they were tears, but who doesn’t like a good metaphor? The point is that I was emotionally moved by this film and my eyes were opened to a wonderful new world I was unaware of before.

The music did play a major role in easing me into the unfamiliar (non-Disney) animated landscape and I eventually bought the incredible score by Joe Hisaishi. After being so blown away, I wondered what exactly I had been missing out on. Before watching the movie with my friend and dorm-mate Alex, we would often play chess together in his room while listening to various soundtracks and scores. One I was attracted to in particular was the work of Yoko Kanno for the Cowboy Bebop TV series. It’s basically the best jazz fusion mix I’ve ever heard and so I decided to give the series a chance based solely on the music.

But discussion of that series and its music deserves its own post on another day entirely. Until then, I’ll advise everyone to take a step out of their comfort zone and check out something new in film, music, or both!

Au Revoir, a teut a l’heure

Goodbye, until next time.

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More Westerns? Yes, Please.

In Film on August 6, 2008 at 11:55 am

I’m not sure at what point in my childhood that I decided Westerns were not for me. Perhaps it was somewhere between my taped-off-of-local-TV VHS copy of Back to the Future III and my friend’s mom watching Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman when I was over, but one can only be so sure of such obscure childhood details. What I do know is when I decided that Westers were amazing.

How could I have overlooked this genre of film for so long! Gunslingers were not just dueling, robbing banks, and flirting with lady bartenders for nothing. These epic, and sometimes tragic, heroes were a part of the American literary narrative in film and I’d let them go by the wayside because why? They had no spaceships? They had strange music? I can’t explain what I thought back then, but I can recount the movie that changed my mind:

That’s right.

Clint Eastwood had always represented the genre I didn’t understand and didn’t care for. When I saw him in Million Dollar Baby I thought, “wow this guy is good” and “why haven’t I seen more of him?” I set out on a mission to find Eastwood. Naturally, I have a slew of film buff friends to bother, so I sought out Ed who has a particularly sensitive sweet tooth for Westerns.

I was given the Über Deluxe Magnifico Director’s Cut Limited Collectors Edition (case pictured above) which I think contained some of Sergio Leone’s blood or something as well. With all the begrudging hope of a gold panning 49er, I jumped feet first into the saucy spaghetti western world.

Drunk on Ennio Morricone’s warped and wonderful scores, I arose from my state of shock as the tumbleweeds blew between my ears. My jaw was dropped and I clapped at the end of the movie even though I was watching it alone on my copmuter. How… how… can a Western be so incredible? How did I live before I’d seen this? It was a major revelation for me akin to… well there aren’t many revelations I’ve had as great as this (in terms of art and culture) but I can draw comparison to:

Beautiful. No one quite says it like xkcd. Now I can continue on knowing that you understand the true weight of my revelation.

Yes, Westerns had arrived, in the brain of Steve at least, and life was good. Next I watched Jeremiah Johnson , Unforgiven, and Once Upon a Time in the West. JJ was a suggestion from my father-in-law, and not technically a western per se, but certainly in a similar vein. Robert Redford plays a loner mountain man who catches bears and drifts, not my favorite movie, but an entertaining and manly frontier piece for sure.

Given my new Westernophile status, when I saw the preview for James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma starring Ben Foster, Russell Crow,  Christian Bale, and the great Peter Fonda, I simply could not refuse. I called up my movie fanatic cousin Kiel and said, we’re going to see this right now. It did not disappoint. I won’t ruin any of it for you, but let’s just say that Foster was sorely overlooked for Academy recognition in 2007 for his role as the insane villain, Charlie Prince. I highly, highly suggest that you see this film.

And now, we have Ed Harris directing the remake of Appaloosa starring the gruff-voiced Viggo Mortenson, the gruffer-looking Jeremy Irons, and the epiphetless Renée Zellweger. They’re even pulling the androidish Lance Henrikson out of storage for this one (were there flamethrowers in the Old West?). I think movie makers have been prodding the public timidly for the past few years to find what they want in new films. What hasn’t been done in this new generation? Westerns.

My hope is that, as I’ve seen the comic book film industry boom, we don’t see a few fantastic Westerb remakes of old classics and then thirty drag-me-behind-the-horse failed attempts hoping to break the bank and beat the Sherrif out of town.

That being said, do yourself a favor and go rent a Western.

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I don’t care what they say…

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Writing on music was not something that I had ever intended to do often however, given my current state of affairs I’ve found myself listening (and catching up) on music more than other things because I can multi-task while listening to an album a lot easier than I can with a book, beverage, film, or game.  So, very pleasantly I find myself in the position of listening to more and more music of late.

In the past four years or so, I’ve broken down just about every wall of musical prejudice in my heart. Now, I like to think there is almost no genre or style of music that I wouldn’t give a chance. Everything done out of honest expression has some sort of value that can be derived or enjoyed. That being said, no I’m not reviewing anything really strange and obtuse like a John Cage album with tracks of complete silence. Nor am I going to try and posit the presence of some transcendental value in Hannah Montana’s latest musical foray. It’s just something I happen to profoundly enjoy.

The British winner of The X Factor (I promise my blogs on music won’t solely reference contest winning singers) has more than a heaping spoonful of vocal talents to backup her debut release Spirit. Here on the other side of the pond, most of us did not hear about her until months later when her single Bleeding Love hit the charts and decimated whatever it is that makes songs top charts…I’m no expert on such events but I know that they are certainly no indicator of how “good” a song is.

That’s what ears are for and boy, does she make me wish I had more ears. Lewis’s voice is hauntingly powerful in scope and yet serenely delicate in its style. Bleeding Love was produced by someone associated with One Republic‘s lead singer, which is maybe one reason why that song is just incredible. The abrasive pulse thumps and claps as her voice just shines through with shrill highs that are actually pretty rather than feline and annoying like Mariah Carey some people we have heard.

Somehow this album makes me feel vindicated as a child of the 80s and early 90s. The subtle clave and synth snare just make me want to start working out in hot pants or something.

I don’t care what they say/ I’m in love with you/They try to pull me away/ but they don’t know the truth/ my hearts crippled by the vein it keeps closin’/ You cut me open and I keep bleedin’ love.

Lewis feels to me like everything I wanted in a successor to Whitney “crack is whack” Houston. Sheer power and beauty in sound with great production value on top of it all.

I’m in love with this album a little bit and I’ll keep bloggin’ love.

PS- Since my wife teaches dance, it’s a given I have no choice to that we watch So You Think You Can Dance together. This piece is choreographed by Napoleon and Tabbitha D’umo who also host Rock the Reception where they teach couples who can’t dance how to throw it down on their big day. Mostly they are the people in the industry responsible for making hip-hop dance more than humping and well, more humping. This is what made me get this album:

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Way to the Heart Through the Clover?

In Food on August 4, 2008 at 12:08 pm

So I finally subscribed to Wired in an effort to compete with all the junk mail that counts for clutter rather than suitable coffee table fare. I mostly read their stuff online which is identical to the printed version, but I figure that I can contribute just a few dollars to the dying world of print media. I figure they will at least eventually find a home in the basket by my couch that’s currently filled with English journals I never made it around to reading and my wife’s copies of Dance Teacher (which I’ve long since read).

On to the point Steve, COFFEE. Wired did an article on the perhaps-as-doomed-as-printed-media Seattle giant Starbucks’s latest comeback effort. Posted under “The Coffee Fix,” the article is curiously titled “Can the $11, 000 Clover Machine Save Starbucks?” Given the current economic situation, most American’s are cutting back on $6 latte drinks and switching to straight cocaine caffeine. Starbucks is now on a soul-search leading back to its roots in the art of brewing coffee as opposed to selling overpriced knick-knacy crap and heart-devouring breakfast sandwiches.

Can Iron Man a mere machine save the jolly green giant from a further tumble from grace? A part of me does hope so. Then again, part of my love for coffee rises out of my love for the environment in which I can enjoy a good brew. Often that means small local places here in Springfield “The New Portland,” MO like The Coffee Ethic. The Mudhouse is another of my favorites, but I am neglecting them here for one thing they currently (and will forever) lack:

The Clover Machine.

Now, as much of a gadget fan I am, I’m no glutton. I don’t support spending money on things I don’t need simply because they are “the best,” but here before you you have the single greatest gift to coffee of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I’ll rip this description right from Wired themselves

Clover, From the Grounds Up

Clover looks like just another countertop coffee machine. But peek under the hood and you’ll find an innovative brewing system. Here’s how it works: 1. A barista selects dose, water temperature, and steep time. 2. A piston pulls down the filter platform while freshly ground coffee is poured into the chamber. 3. Hot water flows into the chamber. 4. The barista briskly stirs the grounds with a whisk, and the water and beans steep for several seconds. 5.The piston rises, creating a vacuum that separates the brew from the grounds, then lowers, forcing the joe out of a nozzle below. 6. The piston rises to the surface again, pushing up a disc of grounds, which are squeegeed away.

What’s that you say? Too lazy to read it all? Ok, I’ll link to the Wired article directly here. Ok, seriously? Too lazy to hit that link? My page is just that riveting? Fancy graphic below:

All-in-all, I have to say that a cup of Clover made coffee is better than any I’ve ever had. The Coffee Ethic is one of only a handful to get a Clover before Starbucks snapped the company up in what some might say an anti-competitive fashion. I can’t decide how I feel about all this yet, part of me is singing the evil corporation waltz in my head, but another more optimistic part of me says that Starbucks is doing a good thing by putting these changes into place. They do want to continue making money after all, and brewing better coffee is a good place to start.

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Wine of the Aux Arks

In Food on August 4, 2008 at 1:12 am

Being a relatively new inhabitant of the Ozarks, a region we might generally place from the Springfield, MO area to southward of Eureka Springs, AR, I have only begun to uncover all of its hidden treasure. Eva and I recently spent our first anniversary in Eureka Springs on a long weekend we spent horseback-riding, relaxing, and finally wine-tasting. Keel’s Creek Winery is located on Highway 23 on the way back up to Springfield. Much of the town is populated by touristy attention-grabbing signs about the Arkansas Hoe Down (boasting real dancing hicks) and Promised Land Drive-In Zoo (boasting real animals from the bible), but just as Van Buren Rd. becomes a highway, the attraction shifts as well.

The front lawn is adorned with blue and green glass set before an unassuming and quaint building; in contrast to its rather loud neighbors. If you’re going to find wine in Arkansas, this is one of only six places you can do so. Before prohibition, Arkansas was rife with wineries producing thousands of gallons of the savory stuff each year. Now, more than half of the counties in Johnny Cash’s home state, are as dry as Folsom Prison walls.

Nevertheless, Keel’s Creek offers up a wonderful alternative to any supermarket variety wine. Most of their over ten varietals are around $10 a bottle. A tasting runs a whopping five bucks and includes the whole gamete of semi-sweet to dry as the county next-door (and you get to keep the glass!).

What I found really blew my mind. Previously, I may have thought, “Arkansas wine…I’m sure it’s about as delicious and complex as my uncle’s basement brew from his Mr.Beer kit…” Wrong.

Their Award-winning chambourcin was full-bodied with rich tannins, dark complexion, and a delightfully sweet finnish. Maybe the next season of Jame’s and Oz’s Big Wine Adventure should plot its course for the Midwest! Overall, I found the common thread in each wine to be the flavor of the grape over some desired and overtly abstract marketability. Their Muscadine was not bloated with high-fructose garbage meant for a higher class alternative to Boone’s Farm, but rather just the natural sugars of the fruit itself. Beautiful and simple.

If you’re a wine lover of any type, a budding amateur or a real snob, looking for an out-of-the-ordinary trip on a dime, then pack your bags for Eureka Springs and head to the Creek.

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