Merry Christmas!

There can be no debate on what the greatest Christmas movie of all time is: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  An argument can perhaps be made for Elf.  Or Home Alone.  Or Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.  Or the underrated Bill Murray classic, Scrooged.  Okay, nevermind.  (While we’re on the subject of Christmas movies, I watched Fred Claus last night and it’s definitely underrated — or maybe I just like Vince Vaughn a lot.)

I’m going to follow RV:WT’s lead here and add a few things to the “Lexpatriates Recommends” section of this site.

Dexter is a show I would have never gotten into if it weren’t for the fact that the cable plan at my last apartment included essentially free Showtime; we paid a penny a day for it for a year.  This amazing deal combined with the fact that the only good original dramas you ever hear about on the pay channels come from HBO made me think that Showtime probably sucked.  But Dexter has become one of my favorite shows.  I’ve been catching up on Season 4 (which ended a couple weeks ago I think) through On Demand.  The show is essentially about Dexter, the “protagonist,” the “Everyman,” trying to balance his busy life and maintain his sanity.  He has a wonderful family, friends that care about him, a job he’s passionate about (blood-spatter analyst for the Miami Police’s homicide department), and an urge…to kill.  Serially.  Of course, Dexter lives by a code: he kills only those who deserve it.  He delivers justice to those whom the courts fail to properly convict when he, because of his job, knows with certainty the damning evidence.  Witnessing his mother murdered and cut into pieces when he was only 2 years old certainly contributes to his dark murderous compulsion.

There are several things that I think make Dexter interesting, great, entertaining drama.  First, the show explores that inherent human darkness that lies in us all — the “dark passenger,” as Dexter calls it. What do we do about it? Second, the show’s wickedly dark sense of humor.  Both of these themes are apparent through great voice-over narration from Dexter, something that if done wrong can ruin a show.  Third, Dexter trying to keep his secret life hidden from everyone else — his girlfriend, his sister, his co-workers whom he spends time with trying to catch other serial killers.  To me, the most interesting of these is his girlfriend, Rita, who eventually (not really giving anything away) becomes his wife, and her two kids. At first, his family might seem only a cover-up to make his life seem “normal.”  But throughout the seasons it becomes clear that he really cares about his family and wants to be there for them.  Put simply, a large portion of the show revolves around the tension between Dexter wanting a family he can love and be open and honest with, and the urges to kill that, understandably, he can share with no one.  Make no mistake, Dexter is at times uncomfortable to watch, not only for intensely violent and bloody sequences and because it’s unashamedly dark, but because you find yourself pulling for a serial killer.  CSI, eat your heart out.

I don’t know a lot about 3D movies.  Some say it’s the future of the movies (please God no), some say it’s just a gimmick.  No matter how you feel about it, one thing is for certain: I don’t see how the 2D version of Avatar can even compare to its 3D counterpart.  I have to say that watching a movie on the big screen in 3D is at first a little weird; you almost get queasy.  But once everything settles into view it becomes quite a cool experience.  I didn’t really know what this movie was about going in so I’ll try and give a quick summary here.  US scientists and military officers have set up shop on a planet called Pandora inhabited by people called the Na’vi.  There is a special and unique mineral only found on Pandora called Unobtanium.  The scientists want to study it and the Na’vi culture and environment, the military higher-ups want exploit the mineral and the people to make money.  To get an “inside look” they create avatars, or blue bodies that look like the Na’vi.  To imagine how the avatar works, think about those things that screw into the back of your head in The Matrix to transport you into the Matrix — I mean think exactly that.  Trouble ensues, inter-species love blossoms, good battles evil.  Pretty standard fare.  The story may not be original, but the way it’s told with 3D and great special effects is pretty awesome.  I don’t know enough about movies to know if Avatar is a breakthrough, all I know is that it does big and loud and computerized right.  You become totally immersed in the world of Pandora.  The last battle is epic.  The last scene of the movie works perfectly.  I’ve read where some people are upset because of the “apparent” message(s) the movie “apparently” promotes.  I say, who cares?  It’s a big-budget action flick.  Go enjoy it.

The only kind of music my dad listens to is Bluegrass…and John Prine.  He owns every John Prine album, and there was a time I didn’t understand why.  Prine’s songs are relatively simple (he’s admitted to knowing only 3 chords, though he obviously knows a few more) and his voice isn’t great by typical standards.  But one day I heard his words, full of honesty and humor; words that are pushed to the forefront by the simplicity of the melodies and words that came to endear his voice to my ears.  His album Souvenirs is a “greatest hits” of sorts; he takes some of his old classics, strips them down to mostly lush, acoustic production, and re-records them.  In fact, I will let Prine explain the album in his own words:

These songs are beautiful. They have been faithful companions throughout the years, never letting me down and constantly making me new friends, even when I was sleeping.

I re-recorded these songs so I could have my own master recordings of the songs. This collection of newly recorded versions was originally intended for European release only, as I have always wanted to be popular in Germany.

After we mixed, sequenced and listened to the songs, all of us at Oh Boy decided that perhaps we should release this in the U. S., as I would like to be popular there as well.

I hope you enjoy these recordings. If not, I promise to not re-record these songs for another 30 years.

John Prine
Oh Boy Records

Some great lines to whet your appetite:

Just give me one good reason
And I promise I won’t ask you any more
Just give me one extra season
So I can figure out the other four
-“Blue Umbrella”

Please don’t bury me
Down in that cold cold ground
No, I’d rather have ’em cut me up
And pass me all around
Throw my brain in a hurricane
And the blind can have my eyes
And the deaf can take both of my ears
If they don’t mind the size
-“Please Don’t Bury Me”

I’ve been popping in this album quite a bit in the last few weeks. Definitely check out some Prine. Prine Shrine Website

Anyway, the Cats are 13-0 (if you didn’t know), and we have plenty more basketball-related posts on the way, so stay tuned.

Merry Christmas!

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