Shutter Island

Kish, Russell, and I went to see Shutter Island last night.  The theater was packed, and the audience reaction was mixed.  The three of us liked it, but I overheard the teenage girl sitting next to me tell her friends:  “Well, that is the worst movie I’ve ever seen.”

Richard’s review does a good job of describing the movie’s plot and setting.  I thought the Martin Scorcese’s direction not only paid homage to Hitchcock, but also to movies like The Shining and The Sixth Sense and even The Usual Suspects.  It was much move overtly violent than typical Hitchcock fare, but it had a great sense of overall creepiness that goes well with the Hitchcock ouevre.  At the end of the movie I found myself wondering which of the scenes were real and which were not.  The reveal at the end of the movie made me want to go back and review the first part of the movie to see whether, like The Sixth Sense, the reveal was perfectly consistent with the characters’ actions and dialogue.  My suspicion is that it is. It helps to explain, for example, why the heavily armed guards greeted the characters of Leonardo diCaprio and his new partner when they arrived at the island by ferry.

After leaving the theater, Kish, Russell, and I went to Five Guys for burgers and talked a lot about the movie.  Not many modern movies can spur so much conversation.  Any movie that can do so is worth seeing.

Thank God For G.P.S.

Completing our weekend travel adventure, Kish and I drove home from Vassar today.  Russell graciously let us use his car after it became apparent that it would be very unlikely that we could fly back today, due to the disruption caused by the weekend snow storm in the Northeast.  (Even today tens of thousands of people were without power, as the heavy snow tore down tree limbs that knocked down power lines.)  The airport we were to fly out of, Stewart International Airport, got around 50 inches of snow in the space of a day or so, lost all power, and then couldn’t get its computer systems up and running.  Rather than risk a total travel failure, we decided to drive home today, and it was a good move.

One last travel observation:  I think a G.P.S. system is worth renting if you are making a strange drive.  On Friday, after we arrived in Philadelphia to learn that our flight to Stewart International was canceled, we rented a car from Budget.  They had no maps, but they did have a G.P.S. device we could rent.  It was a godsend!  It faithfully guided us out of Philly, across New Jersey, and up to Poughkeepsie, taking us through some back road short cuts and allowing us to avoid some of the traffic snarls that bedeviled the area due to the monster snowstorm.  I don’t make many unexpected road trips, but I am still wondering whether a G.P.S. system is worth the investment — just in case.

Back At The “Buddy Inn”

Kish and I are back in Poughkeepsie for Russell’s show, and because there is a Vassar Board of Trustees meeting this weekend we were not able to stay at our normal lodging of choice, the Vassar Alumni House.  Instead, we were forced to return to the “Buddy Inn.”

The “Buddy Inn” is really the Poughkeepsie Days’ Inn.  In the Webner family we call it the “Buddy Inn” because of a notorious incident that occurred when Russell was still at Academy and we took a trip east to look at colleges.  On that trip, Vassar was our first destination.  As the trip started, Russell was in a surly mood, groaning about wasting his days looking at schools rather than having fun with his Academy classmates.  We got to Poughkeepsie around the dinner hour, checked in to the Days’ Inn, and walked to a nearby Italian restaurant for dinner.  We then went back to the hotel and went to bed.  At about 2:30 a.m. the “Buddy incident” began.

The "Buddy Inn"

A fire alarm directly over the headboard of our bed went off, screeching loudly and waking us out of a sound sleep.  At first, I thought it was the clock-radio alarm in the room that a prior guest had set and left cranked to full volume.  After a few seconds, however, I realized it was the fire alarm.  Kish bolted out of the room to make sure that Russell was up and okay.  She left the door to our room open as I got dressed.

When I walked to the door, I noticed that I strange overweight man, about 50-something, was standing there, wearing only dingy jockey underwear and a t-shirt.  He was wild-eyed and his hair was askew; he was very agitated and saying something I couldn’t make out.  I thought he was a fellow guest who had been rudely awakened and said something like:  “Don’t worry, I’m sure it is just a false alarm.”

I quickly realized,however, that something was definitely “off” about the guy.  He came into our room and started wandering around, looking at our luggage and clothing.  He sat on the bed and started to pick up and examine things on the nightstand.  By then, I stopping caring about the possible fire and started to focus on how I could get this guy out of the room.  He weighed about 350 pounds and reeked of body odor and cigarette smoke.  I started to say things like “C’mon buddy, you need to go.”  He was unmoved by such entreaties.  He wandered to our bathroom and started to pick up things like toothpaste tubes and aspirin bottles.  In the meantime, the screeching fire alarm was continuing at ear-splitting volume, and Kish was outside, saying:  “Just leave him, we need to leave the building.”  Russell, our strapping offensive tackle who could have helped me wrestle the guy out of the room, also stood outside, chuckling at my predicament.  He wisely decided to have nothing to do with “Buddy.”

Finally, I just grabbed “Buddy” and shoved him out of our room.  Pushing him was disgusting, like having your hand sink into the spongy material they sometimes use for packing where your handprint stays visible for a few seconds after you take your hand away.  By the time I had locked the door, Buddy was nowhere to be seen.  I went outside, met up with Kish and Russell, and waited for the fire crew that had by then arrived to make sure that it was, indeed, a false alarm.  It turned out the “Buddy” had set off the alarm and also had visited other rooms during the early morning incident.  He was a developmentally disabled guy who had escaped his companion traveler.

When we got back to our room I wanted to do nothing but wash my hands.  The next morning the Days’ Inn comped us on our rooms, and I noticed that Russell’s mood had changed remarkably, from glum surliness to barely disguised glee at my interaction with “Buddy.”  He quickly called Richard and recounted the “Buddy incident” in blow-by-blow detail, and remained cheerful for the rest of the trip.  He also ended up selecting Vassar for college notwithstanding the night’s events — which is why we are back at the “Buddy Inn” today.

This The Range And Recent

It took a while to get to Russell’s art show — actually a show of pieces by Russell and three other artists, Rhys Bambrick, Joseph Redwood-Martinez, and Charlie Warren — but it was worth it.  The show is in the Palmer Gallery, which is on the first floor of the Main Building, the massive edifice that is the original, and therefore the oldest, building on the Vassar campus.

Russell and one of his pieces in the show

When we arrived on campus, we also were delighted to see that a feature article about Russell and the show appeared in the latest edition of the Miscellany News, the Vassar student newspaper.  A link to the article, in which Russell describes the concept of the show and talks a bit about his artistic interests, is here.

The show is quite well done.  It includes four paintings from Russell, as well as some cool prints, a large silver robot, and some multimedia pieces.  I like all of Russell’s artwork, but there were two pieces that I particularly liked.  One was a large, intensely layered study of shades of red and textures that had a very strong visual impact; the deeper reds in parts of the painting yielded to lighter orange hues that looked like an angry gash across the canvas.

Another piece I very much liked was more whimsical and playful, giving the sense of a screen shot from a video game in which a character named Frogma is locked in a death duel with a giant, mechanical villain rolling forward on massive wheels, each speaking the stylized and stilted language of video game characters.  Another of Russell’s pieces in the show had a similar video game feel, but with a more sobering theme, of storming the beaches at Normandy from the first-person standpoint of a rifle-toting American soldier in a Call of Duty-type scene.

The show runs through Thursday, March 4.

Snow, Snow, Everywhere I Go

Kish and I traveled to Poughkeepsie today for Russell’s art show — more about that in a minute — but of course the weather interfered with our plans.  We were to fly to Philadelphia, and then to Newburgh, New York.  Our flight to Philadelphia went off as planned, but when we landed in the City of Brotherly Love the snow was cascading down and our flight to Newburgh was canceled.  The next flight was not for another 12 hours, trying to take the train would have involved a delay nearly as long, and we therefore rented a car to drive up to Poughkeepsie.  It was slow going as we passed through some near white-out conditions and snow-covered roads, but finally we arrived.  It is still snowing even as I type this.

I think I speak for everyone in the Midwest and Northeast when I say, Spring cannot get here soon enough.

An Evening At A Sports Bar

Wednesday I spent the night in Cincinnati, getting ready for a hearing.  The Buckeyes were playing Penn State at 6:30, and two other lawyers and I decided to go to a bar to watch the game and have something to eat.  We ended up at a place on Fountain Square called Rock Bottom.

Titan Toothpicks

As in many sports bars, this place had an abundance of TV screens with lots of selections.  We asked the waitress to put the Buckeyes game on the large TV immediately to our right and she cheerfully obliged.  Immediately ahead was another big screen showing the Olympics.  While we were there we watched a woman skier crashing into a retaining fence, then a very serious curling showdown between Sweden and Great Britain, and finally an unexpectedly one-sided hockey game between Canada and Russia.  On the far left wall, meanwhile, was a series of TVs showing NBA contests and other college games.  So, without leaving your seat, you could see virtually every sport known to man simply by swiveling your head.  It was almost as good as having unfettered command of the remote control at home.

Some well-brewed IPAs and bar food contributed mightily to the fun atmosphere.  Beer never tastes as good as when it is quaffed from a heavy pint glass, and a hoppy IPA is a good complement to bar food.  After scanning the menu we decided that, rather than getting entrees, we would just get appetizers for the table — and on Wednesday nights, appetizers at Rock Bottom are only $5 each.  We decided to mix healthy stuff with classic bar food, so we picked rare ahi tuna, barbeque chicken pizza, five meat pizza, and an astonishing dish called Titan Toothpicks.  The ahi tuna was quite good, but really isn’t appropriate bar food.  It is simply too light (and, frankly, healthy) to accompany a steady diet of beers.  If you are going to down a few pints, you need to establish a good base, and that means something that is melty, cheesy, meaty, and crunchy.  The two pizzas filled that bill admirably.  The Titan Toothpicks, on the other hand, are as long as your arm and consist of melted cheese and some unspecified meat rolled up in a kind of deep fried tortilla shell.  When you bite through the shell, a warm gooey mixture seeps out.  From that description alone, you can understand that Titan Toothpicks are a prototypical bar food.

It was a very successful evening.  Tasty beers were tipped back, unhealthy food was consumed, the Buckeyes won at Penn State, and the curious sport of curling was thoroughly discussed in a warm, happy, noisy place.  Sports bars can be a good choice when you are on the road.