May 2013


There once was a tree, a tree, a tree
as big as any tree could be.
It had bark and roots and leaves and leaves
and all around flew big bright bees.
Buzz buzz
the honeybees buzzed
and that was all because because
the tree was happy and jolly and lovely
and the sun shone down from above-y above-y.

The tree was oak, okey doke
and it could always tell you a funny joke!
Like: “What’s the difference between me and yew?
Not mulch!”
The tree told jokes, not necessarily good ones.

From that oak there fell two acorns.
Two wonderful acorns named Tammi and Sammi.
And they were friends.
Tammi loved Sammi and Sammi loved Tammi and they loved
love and loved a lot. They were acorns.

Tammi said to Sammi:
“I like your brown-ness, your roundness, your all around mound-ness.
You’re beautiful Sammi, and I am your friend.”
And Sammi said to Tammi:
“I like your ability to soundly express
your political views with ease and kindness.
You’re beautiful Tammi, and I am your friend.”

They sat next to one another on that sunny hillside
and to one another they each would confide
their secrets and things that would made themselves cry
and their dreams and their longings and made their hearts fly.
Sammi and Tammi were acorns and were friendly.
Tammi and Sammi were acorns and lovely.

Then, one night, one stormy night a storm
appeared and did perform
a sight to see! that scared the acorns.
A BOOM and a flash
And lightning crashed
And rain came pouring down.
A storm in the night
and a shivering fright
and scary lights and sounds.

And in the morning Tammi was gone.
Sammi looked everywhere and asked the neighboring flowers
but no one had seen Tammi.

And Sammi was sad.
For Sammi it seemed that rainclouds hung over her everyday.
Sammi learned that she would feel better when she swept the side of the hill.
She would use a little broom to sweep all the blades of grass into a pretty little pattern and she would feel better. For a little while.
Then she asked her friend Chippy The Chipmunk to help her brush all the flowers’ stems into pretty little rows and she felt better. For a little while.
Then Chippy brought over more Chipmunk chums to help Sammi along and she felt better. For a little while.
Then Chippy The Chipmunk tied a broom to a kite
and Sammi sailed it high to the highest height
and wouldn’t you know it that by and by
that broom-kite swept the clouds from the sky!
And Sammi felt better.
Guess for how long….A little while.

And then one night a big storm started brewing
and the crows stopped cawing and the pigeons stopped cooing.
And the lightning started with a BOOM and a CRACK
and Sammi thought: ‘would you look at that?’
To her, the lightning looked different.
Like pretty, like special, like magic.
And Sammi sighed.
And Sammi whispered:
“Tammi, I love you and always had loved you. Wherever you are, I love you.”
and Sammi took root.

Take the Metro Rail to the Rosslyn Station. 

Metro Rail Map: 
http://www.wmata.com/rail/maps/map.cfm?

Upon exiting the station, head North on N. Lynn Street. 

You’ll go a couple of blocks, cross Custis Memorial Parkway. 

As soon as you are on the North side of the Memorial Parkway
turn Right onto the Mount Vernon Trail bike/hiking path. 

You’ll soon see the foot bridge to the island on your left. 

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This is a story. A story about Crooked Bill.
If, as the story goes along, you find yourself uninterested by it you are welcome to change the names of the characters and the actions they undertake until you find it more pleasing.
That’s a little trick that you can use the next time some one begins to tell you “how their day was.” The minute you begin to feel bored just replace “Me and Tim” with “A Dragon and a Robot” and replace “went to eat tacos” with “went to Jupiter to investigate a newly discovered species of penguin.”
But back to Crooked Bill.
It’s a story that’s never been heard before and I know that for certain because it’s never been told before so if it seems familiar it may just be that you had the same dream that I did which inspired the story. But don’t worry! Although you and I may have shared the same dream we may have awoke at different times during the dream so your ‘ending’ might be different than mine.
So anyway, The Story of Crooked Bill.
Are you getting tired yet? It looks like it. Did I just see you yawn? Hmmm.
Can you yawn? How big can you yawn? Wow. That was a big yawn. It was such a great yawn in fact I’m about to yawn myself! Yaaaaaawwwwnn! Whew. That felt good.
Crooked Bill got mistaken for Ethan Hawke a lot. It wasn’t so much that they looked alike as it was that they shared the same smile. Or I should say, “type of smile.”
It would be very troublesome for someone to have to come over to your house, knock on the door, and say “Sorry to bother you, but I just heard a great joke and need to smile. May I borrow yours?” “Well, certainly you may borrow it. But I will need it back tomorrow morning because I plan on looking at the birds.”
And the story of Crooked Bill gets mistaken for a lot of other stories.
Some think it is about a Toucan (because toucans are birds with big crooked bills, you see). Some think it is about an Albatross who lived in the Land Of Black Hole Potholes where time fluctuated like a roller coaster and the days were as crooked as the day is long.
But, no! This is the Story of Crooked Bill and Bill was a Chickadee.
When he was little, he was very little. He was little even compared to other Chickadees and was so small that he was about the size of a Bumblebee.
Buzzz! Buzz!
In fact some of the other Chickadees were not very nice and would say that Bill was more a Chicka-Bee than a Chickadee. Bill didn’t like it when others said unkind things and he would feel sad when they teased him.
Then Bill met Hush.
Hush was a Scarecrow who was very nice. He had a very pleasant smile painted on his face and although he never said a single word, he always had his arms opened wide to give the whole corn field a big hug.
Bill told Hush about all his favorite things.
What are some of your favorite things?
Every person has different favorite things and Chickadees are no different.
Bill’s favorite things were: seeds, insects, and berries.
As the summers and winters went by, Bill wondered where all the Autumns and Springs had gone to, but he realized that time had a way of slipping away like that and soon enough even his Tuesdays and Afternoons in general disappeared.
He matured, grew, learned, failed, tried again, became stronger, made mistakes, got teased more, became wiser, made bad decisions, made new goals, and on and on.
He tried ballet dancing, painting, biochemistry, palm-reading, farming, piloting, shoe repair, hair styling, and rodeo clowning until he finally he found himself playing guitar at a coffee shop.
And then, one Wednesday (which had crept up on him–golly his weeks seemed to zip right by) he discovered the blues.
Blues music is a type of music that even though it sounds like someone’s heart is breaking you feel better by the end of the song.
Bill traveled the countryside playing blues on his guitar and came up with the name Crooked Bill to perform under.
He chose Crooked Bill because of the winding path he took in life before he discovered the blues.
He became very famous in Topeka and Omaha and almost famous in Oklahoma City.
Crooked Bill loved to hear the sound of the audience’s applause.
“Yay! Crooked Bill! Go go go!” “We love Crooked Bill!” “Yippee! Hip hip hooray!”
The audiences would say.
And Bill became older, as all Chickadees do as time goes by and the people who came to see his concerts became older, quieter, and fewer.
One night after a show, Bill got on the last train out of town.
“Choo! Choo!” Said the train as it closed it’s doors.
“Chugga Chugga” It said as it started slowly down the tracks.
The next day Bill hopped off the train and walked down a quiet old highway past the crossroads. There he stopped and pulled his guitar from its case and began singin’
and a strummin’:
“Don’t need me no money
Sure don’t pay no rent
Cuz underneath stars honey
Is where I lay head.
Don’t need me no money
Got nuthin’ to call my own
Cuz underneath stars honey
A bird can feel at home.”

The corn stalks clapped against each other in the wind
and Hush had a big ol’ smile.

Anywho, that’s how my dream about Bill ended.

Iron Man 3 is a fine film. I got a kick out of it and so did the group of comics fans sitting behind me in the theater. (It’s always fun to see a Marvel movie with other comics folks around.) 
Here’s some ideas on the movie including how it could have been even a better movie. 

1. Don’t start a movie with the Eiffel 65 song “Blue” for any reason. This will definitely be included in YouTube’s CinemaSins video. 
2. ….But this song is part of a larger problem: it is included in the “1999 Preface” scenes. 
This whole section is unneeded but more on that later. So “Blue” was chosen to ‘set the mood’ of late 1999. Uh. I get it but isn’t “Blue” the one song of 1999 that everyone would rather forget? There are many better choices of song from 1999! 
How about
“Scar Tissue” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 
“Hard Knock Life” by Jay Z, 
“Last Kiss” by Pearl Jam, 
or maybe 
“Miami” by Will Smith!
You might not want to include the chorus, because the movie later uses Miami as a backdrop but it could be a nice choice to use just a verse. 

3. But again: this is all pretty moot because the whole intro 1999 Preface is unhelpful to the film. It is slow, it adds little new or surprising information about Tony. When we see Happy, I thought “Hmmm. Jon Favreau is wearing a costume to add weight as though he was heavier in 1999. Nope. That’s just him, as we see when we come to current day. 

4. We need some consistency about Tony’s alcoholism. We see him drinking alone in his wine cellar, and later he refuses beer from Trevor Slattery. No one every makes reference to Tony’s drinking nor does the film seem to acknowledge it in any way. Even the scene where Tony goes to the honky tonk bar and speaks with the drunken grieving mother there isn’t a glimpse of Tony judging or reacting to her appearance nor does the camera work seem to acknowledge it. 

5. Happy’s relationship to everyone is hampered by his one-note characterization as an “overly protective goof ball with inflated sense of importance.” Hey! Happy has been in all the movies and he is gravely injured in this film. We would care about it a little more if someone ever gave him some dignity before the bomb went off. He actually does some ‘detective work’ by following a lead and placing himself at risk to get to the bottom of a hunch. That’s cool. But we need to see him in a positive light before this. If Pepper or Tony saw him as ‘cool’ or the script gave him something other than goof balling around we would have. 

6. There are two instances of the gag “Cliche is said and it is revealed that its meaning is not understood.” Sheesh. In the initial voiceover from Tony he says “We create our own demons” and then backs away from it and basically says he doesn’t understand it and it has no meaning. Then, Killian says to Pepper something like “We see victory through the fog of failure.” and she says “What does that mean?” and he basically shrugs. 
Uh. How smart are our heroes? Why use a cliche if only to expose that cliches are stupid–and then have your main characters be too stupid to get them anyway? 
Waste not want not! Wait. Is that pertinent here? 

7. Why do Tony and Rhodie hang out at what looks to be a Chilis or a TGIFridays? 

8. Why is Pepper with Tony? This question is not handled too well. We get that Pepper has motivated Tony to choose monogamy and ‘settle down’ a bit and she has given him motivation to be a hero (more on that….). But why does this very smart, powerful, beautiful woman love Tony? She are shown that perhaps they have a lot of physical attraction but that is about it. Instead of showing us examples of their relationship, they are separated for much of the movie and they are simply shown 
a) arguing
b) post coital sleeping
c) witty bantering

9. And Tony is her ‘hero.’ She takes the role of Princess Peach for the last act of the film (ugh) and Tony tells her that “after New York” he feels a lot of pressure to “protect her.” Tony is a knuckle head so we can understand that he needs to feel that he gets his identity as his girlfriend’s “strong protector.” Uhhh…But!

10. I love that Pepper steps up and is awesome. She dons the suit well, and when she’s Extremis powered she saves Tony. I love that. (I’ll not get into the issue of Pepper stepping into heroism through violence here but that’s a good discussion to have.) 

11. We’re given a Christmas themed movie in May. Why? Was the release date screwed up a bit or was the Marvel studio thinking about DVD/Netflix/Redbox release dates? Which brings me to….

12. The “Christmas Carol” theme. It begins in fact on New Years, but it is a “past flashback” sequence. We have the fireworks bookending at the end also (the blowing up suits). Tony has his Scrooge-like awakening of heart (the suit was a cocoon!) and he is a changed man. He even has his heart literally repaired. Go buy the biggest Christmas goose! Tony even tells the kids in the restaurant they look like they’re from A Christmas Carol. This is a cool repurposing of a classic ‘myth.’ 

13. The whole “Tony does detective work in Tennessee” is useless. He goes to investigate a lead from the Happy bombing. But then he is given the coordinates of the Mandarin’s suspected whereabouts in Miami. These scenes in Tennessee give good “Tony time.” It’s the ‘breakdown’ of the hero. He’s been defeated, he needs to regroup, and is befriended by a child who allows him to see himself in a new light. All this could still be achieved without this phony “I’m doing detective work!” stuff. 

14. There is a big missed chance at the end of the film. The Tennessee Kid walks into his garage and finds that Tony has gifted him a bunch of expensive name brand gadgets. He’s even left a note! Uh. Wait. The Kid already has been left by a father and isn’t this just a little bit like an absent father trying to buy their redemption with a kid? 
I suggest that it could be shown that the kid and his mom are sitting around in a renovated garage video chatting with Tony who then introduces Pepper to “his friend.” This way we see that Tony is continuing a relationship, and Pepper and he can be a type of extended family with the Kid all under the supervision of the Kid’s mom. It would have been a five second shot and it would have shown us more of a changed Tony and been more meaningful. 

So: In closing my favorite line of the film was one that seems easy to miss. 
It’s when the Kid says “I’m cold” and Tony says “I know. How’d I know that? Because we’re connected.” 
This sums up the movie’s themes pretty well. We see Tony communicating with his near symbiotic suit through the film and yet he is often disconnected from those people around him–especially Pepper. But it is empathy and compassion that are the most powerful assets that we can have. As cool as it might be to communicate with gadgets and technologies and A.I., without human empathy we’re lost. 

By the way, despite the weakness of this film I did like it. Especially the falling out of the airplane rescue. 

Excellent to-the-point essay on the Christmas Carol theme from Forrest Wickman:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/05/03/how_iron_man_3_draws_from_charles_dickens_a_christmas_carol.html