The High Countries

because it’s all paperweight…

Feature Video: wherethehellismatt.com

My days are generally separated and looked back upon based on three categories: stories, quote and videos. Each new day typically brings either a new story from a friend, a new quip for the Scott House Quote Board or a new video found on the World Wide Web. Today, September 30, 2008 will be remembered as the day I was given The Dancing Video. Or enjoy it in HD, here.

Many of you have seen this video. Many of you have participated in this video. It was not until today that it was put in front in front of my nose. The video is the story of Matt Harding, a 32-year-old, ex-video-game-creator-and-player. In February of 2003, he quit his job in Brisbane, Australia and used the money he’d saved to wander around Asia until it ran out.

A few months into his trip, a travel buddy gave Matt an idea. They were standing around taking pictures in Hanoi, and his friend said “Hey, why don’t you stand over there and do that dance. I’ll record it.” He was referring to a particular dance Matt does – the only dance Matt does, really. This turned out to be a very good idea.

A couple years later, someone found the video online and passed it to someone else, who passed it to someone else, and it finally got passed to me. The response to the first video brought Matt to the attention of the nice people at Stride® gum. They asked Matt if he’d be interested in taking another trip around the world to make a new video. Matt asked if they’d be paying for it. They said yes. Matt thought this sounded like another very good idea.

In 2006, Matt took another trip – a 6 month trip through 39 countries on all 7 continents. In that time, he danced a great deal.

I’ve done some traveling in my day, but not in the same universe as Matt. This video inspired me beyond words – to a point where my parents could be legitimately concerned for what may come in its wake.

Watch it. Write him. Dance happy.

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

LOST in the…Two Moments

Lindeloph (left) with Cuse (center) in their home -- the editing bay

Lindeloph (left) with Cuse (center) in their home -- the editing bay

Well, it’s all happened at once now hasn’t it? What used to be my wishful thinking has all come crashing down in a heap of escaped dreams. If only I had had the chutzpah – if only I were Jewish. Prepare yourself for the letdown…

A couple weeks back, as I was leaving my place of work, I was walking down a long stretch of road — no cars, no people to speak of, just me and another bloke. As we walked towards each other – we were both trying to exit the premises – all I could notice was the fact that he looked like he was from the east coast. He had on a big coat, his cap, and was holding a briefcase. The only other thing I immediately noticed was his glasses – black, hard rimmed glasses on an unforgettable face; well, unforgettable for a few.

You’ve got to be kidding me. There’s absolutely no way? Well, considering I am in Burbank, CA, close by to many of the major studios, I suppose, in reality, there actually is a way. I continued on my line. The closer we got to each other, the clearer the face and facts became. I’ve done it. I’m walking stride for stride with Damon Lindelof. This is unreal.  Consider the facts here for a moment if you will:  I write nearly every week about LOST — the show the consumes my thoughts, invades my personal sleep and generally spites me around every turn. I created this blog to vent about my glee for the show and combined cynicism it brings to my Wednesdays, and I was now walking in step with its masked man; its proverbial Wizard of Oz. It all happened so fast.

And then we just kept walking. And walking.

To say that my brain was going crazy would actually be false. He was on his phone, I was listening to my Ipod — let’s be honest though, I had it on pause, just kept the ear buds in to be cool. We walked step for step for the next full minute. The entire time I was deliberately looking away from him, as if to say I didn’t know it was him. As we walked — it must have been a block or so — I made the strict decision not to say anything. I wouldn’t bother him. In an ideal world he would have handed me the summary of Season 5, but it probably would have just been too weird, so we just kept our pace. I wasn’t going to say anything. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to be that guy. Oh, my spider-senses were tingling.

For the next couple weeks I milled that night over in my mind. It’s been my dream for 4 years to be a writer for LOST, to start wherever possible, shouldn’t I have said something? I feel as though I made the right decision – nah, I know I did – I just wonder what would happen if I saw him again.

I did.

Two weeks later, I got a call from my roommate who works at the Disney/ABC Lot in Burbank. He invited me over for lunch and we walked down to the Disney cafeteria. On our way over, we walked right past the LOST writer’s offices and I decided it would be best to just take a deep breath and not focus on the past. We kept walking. I kept thinking. I settled for a salad at the cafe (what?!) and we made our way outside. We hadn’t sat down for more than 5 minutes when low and behold, out of the commissary, five feet away, the entire LOST writing crew plops down, save one: Carleton Cuse. I looked at Todd and he at me as I mumbled the words, “Well, that makes twice…” There I sat, trapped in my own skin, this time confronted with the option of not ruining a phone call, but a large group lunch.

Out walks Carlton.

Son of a…!

I wish I could tell you all that I did the proper thing, just a ‘thank you’ or a ‘I love your work’ type of quip. I wish I came bearing great news of great joy, but I don’t. I sat there like a lump, afraid of burning any future bridges and focused on professionalism – its all very elitist and lame, isn’t it? If I had to live it over, I would’ve done it differently. What exactly this different thing would be, I do not know, but I can say this: The next time I see Mr. Cuse or Mr. Lindeloph, they will know the name Bryce VanKooten. I vow to you on the foundation of this blog. I hereby swear that nothing on this side of Saturn’s rings will keep me from telling them that they can keep their money; I’ll work for free. I’ve never wanted anything more than a position within the LOST writing community. The next time I see their face(s), I’ll make it happen. Perfectly honest, I’ll make it happen, you can bet that freeeaking island on that one.

September 18, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Babylong A.D. (2008)

Toorop (Vin Diesel) looks onward in the film's finest moment on screen

Toorop (Vin Diesel) looks ahead as Aurora (right, Mélanie Thierry) follows behind in the film's finest moment.

Disappointing Days

by Bryce VanKooten

Babylon A.D. read exactly like the studio knew it would: short, not-so-sweet and entirely forgettable. It’s incredibly unfortunate that a movie which started out as the daring, futuristic novel Babylon Babies got chopped up into an overtly uninspiring and subsequently shallow PG-13 disaster.

Babylon A.D., the story of Toorop, a veteran-turned-mercenary who takes the job of escorting a woman named Aurora from Central Asia to New York, stays fresh and witty in its first hour. What Toorop (Vin Diesel) thinks is an ordinarily dangerous mission soon becomes much more when he discovers that his guest is carrying twin babies, thought to be the next Messiahs. The movie begins quickly and the first hour is brilliantly average — one can only help but admit there is little chance of a blockbuster after hearing zero publicity. All preconceived notions aside, there are actually quite a few great turns at its opening, including a border-crossing scene equaling intensity with any action film. Needless to say, after the 40 minutes my hopes were high.

The movie could have got one of two ways, really. Either it stayed true to its first hour – gritty, surprising evil marked by mysterious characters or get lazy and forever be lost to theatrical mediocrity. Unfortunately (again), it was the latter. What started out great in this production plunder (over budget, cutting room hell, fist fights, tears, etc) ultimately pandered its way boredom. I had justifiable misconceptions walking in because I have seen too many movies like it. I was hoping to be surprised and hoping that the Studio made the right decision by cutting one MPAA rating and 70 minutes from this potentially epic story, however, the Hollywood equation rings sad but true: one star + below average script + cute girl = guaranteed to at least get your money back. It’s nothing short of box-office fraud I know, but I maintain that this movie had at least a chance to be above average, before coming up far short. And my oh my, did it come up short.

The movie ended in the direct opposite way it began. We were met with intrigue and let out with boredom. We were ushered in with mystery and exited with apathy. Nothing kept me thinking, nothing kept me caring. The movie ended in a lump of lazy, backward thinking – as if we cared what happened to the babies? The last scene of the film (which could have been filmed in my backyard for all I know) was about as entertaining as a Colonoscopy. Standing outside some building (his house?), Toorop held the hands of two very different looking children (the babies?) in an act of true love (Someone was in love? Who was in love?) and a commitment to raise the children on his own (Aurora’s dead? How? We just saw her at the hospital…). All this coming from a man whom we’d grown to love by seeing him throw innocent people from a vessel he was trying to board out of self preservation. Apparently Toorop turned nice in three seconds; who would’ve guessed?

If I could be blunter, I would. There were many, many things wrong with this movie outside of the fact that it was created on the floor of a cutting room. The fight sequences had to be ambiguously edited in order to show the least amount of production error and lack of footage. The characters, although almost brimming with development possibility, were left to hang like a basketball mid-flight, as if we were watching a trilogy without the courtesy of seeing part one and having no hope for part three. It was nearly torturous.

However, it’s hard for me to sit here and comment solely on the end of the movie. As I said before, the opening was quite brilliant. The rigidness of Toorop was a lovably fallen character and Aurora, played by the beautiful (and teeny) Mélanie Thierry, brought a terrific, silent balance to the harsh world around her. The characters were there. The story was in place. The stage had been set, if only for an above average picture, if only for those willing to see the two-plus-hour epic, if only given the chance.

We weren’t.

So Babylon A.D. is lost. At least until the next one.

September 8, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rudimentary Thinking

Barack Obama speaks 'hope' and 'change' in Lancaster, PA on Sept 9th, 2008

Barack Obama preaches 'hope' and 'change' in Lancaster, PA on Sept 9, 2008.

Hope, Change, Press Firmly on the Chad.

Guest Writer: Christopher Rudy

A couple of days ago, I wrote to a friend, concerning some of the ambiguity that bombarded me when I entered barackobama.com.

“…As I made my way back to the homepage of the site in question, my eyes caught a glimpse of something I had missed: the central quote to his campaign. The central thesis of his quest against tyranny – the proverbial gospel of our modern-day William Wallace:

“I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington … I’m asking you to believe in yours.”

I was taken aback. I read it again. I read it again. What does that even mean?”

This is the response that followed that email…

(Bryce), I have a few thoughts to add, if I may be so bold.

I.
The inherent simplicity and broad-based appeal of Obama’s proclamation of change belie the inherent simplicity of Obama’s proclamation of change. I did not accidentally repeat myself. In proclaiming “change” as if it is some rarely extolled political virtue, Obama has ignited fervor among his cultish following. But is change a rarely extolled political virtue? Is that word; change, as out of the ordinary as Obama would like us to believe? Most Obama supporters are so worked up in their Obama-frenzy that they forget ask this question, or even question what lies beneath this change (crappy movie, great phrase).

II.
The answer is a resounding no. Change is not novel. In fact, every political candidate ever has run on the exact same platform. If you can tell me the last candidate who proclaimed, “I am going to do every single thing my predecessor did. I will support what he supported. I will not change a thing.” I will give you a bag of skittles. For free.
For those of you keeping score at home, that is one bag of skittles for me, and zero for you.

III.
To make matters worse, Obama has never spelled out his proposed changes in any great detail. Obama’s failure to elucidate his changes are exactly why he has  garnered the sort of mass-appeal that I thought could only come on the heels of Paul McCartney and those
handsome devils from the UK. The vacuum created by the generality of his rhetoric is quickly and inexplicably filled with irrational hysteria. When Obama steps out from behind the Parthenon to a crowd of 80,000 I can’t help but wonder if behind the boisterous applause is the poignant thought, “Yay, I’m clapping and I don’t know why.” Must be clapping for change.

IV.
Yet Obama’s change, he would have us believe, is different from the run-of-the mill-change that every political candidate ever has espoused. His change is going to bring everyone together. That sounds cool. Like Gilligan’s Island meets Candyland (I have no idea what that means). But is it realistic? Have you ever seen a McCain supporter and an Obama supporter interact? Invariably, every time Obama promises this change, he alienates the proportion of the population that disagrees with him. And just how does that bring everyone together? It doesn’t.  Res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself. Now, more than ever, play-at-home pundits are a bumper sticker away from getting their ass kicked by the opposition’s constituency. The ferocity of our partisanship in these tumultuous times is intensifying. And Obama is fanning the flames. The proof is in the pudding.

V.
I have another, slightly longer word for Barack Obama’s vision of change. It is called communism. It tried. It tried again. And again. And millions of people suffer every day as a result of its mechanistic, misleading imposition of the state on its people.  I am not a sensationalist. I am not a Conspiracist. But I don’t have to be either to recognize that the socialistic leanings of Barack Obama are not what this nation needs. Not now. Not ever.

September 8, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment