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Gazing into the Abyss: Michael Rawdon's Journal


Pirates of the Caribbean

We started the week by attending a pretty unremarkable baseball game, which the Athletics lost 5-3 to the Toronto Blue Jays. Pitcher Josh Towers held the A's to 2 runs for over 7 innings, though the A's had a chance to come back in the 9th, but all-in-all there wasn't a whole lot going on in the game. We did have some nice seats, and my friends Subrata and Karen came with Debbi and me - it's Karen's first baseball game since moving to the Bay Area earlier this month. (She's here on a contract for a year.)

We have more tickets to game in the second half of the year, so there will be a few more baseball reports. This will be the fewest games I've gone to in a season since 1998, and also the first time (I think) that I won't be seeing the Red Sox live since that season.CJ and I seemed to motivate each other to go to a lot of games, and since we see a lot less of each other I don't think either of us are going to as many.


We decided to stay home Friday night with take-out pizza from Amici's to watch Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which we've had borrowed on D from our friends Lisa and Michel for months. It got good reviews when it came out, and the cast was certainly hard to argue with, but it just took us forever to see it.

It was worth the wait.

Years earlier, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) is rescued from a ship destroyed by pirates by a ship of the royal navy commanded by Captain Norrington (Jack Davenport), and carrying Governor Swann (Jonathan Pryce) and his daughter Elizabeth (Keira Knightley). Elizabeth steals a necklace from Will's neck, thinking him to be a pirate, and saves it. Will grows up to become a master blacksmith and swordsman, while Elizabeth grows up with both Will and Norrington in love with her.

One fine day, several things happen: Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) sails into the harbor on a sinking boat, intent on stealing a new ship. Norrington proposes to Elizabeth, but she accidentally falls into the water, to be rescued by Sparrow. Though Sparrow is captured and condemned to be hanged as a pirate, he grasps her necklace, thus summoning the infamous Black Pearl to attack the harbor that evening, in search of the pendant on the necklace.

In the attack, Elizabeth is captured. Will, having failed to defend her, frees Sparrow so that they can pursue the Black Pearl and its captain, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to rescue Elizabeth, quite against the orders of Norrington. Stealing a ship, the pair recruit a rag-tag crew and then the adventure really begins: It turns out that the Black Pearl is (well, you guessed this from the title) cursed: The crew are all undead zombies, their nature revealed in full moonlight, and therefore they're impossible to kill. Barbossa is working to remove their curse, a task which intimately involves one of our heroes.

Based on the Disneyland ride, Pirates is a splendid film. Of course, the script would have to be pretty moronic to fall completely flat with first-class actors like Depp and Rush headlining it. Instead, it's smart and funny, poking fun at the sillier conventions of pirate and swashbuckling films while following through on delivering the action and suspense the viewer expects. In a few cases, it even takes a cliche and makes it meaningful: When Sparrow and Will first face off in Will's smithy, Will has a seemingly-endless array of swords at his disposal. "Who makes all these?" asks Sparrow incredulously. "I do!" cries Will, "And I practice with them three hours a day!" And the reason for all this not only gives the scene meaning, but it's an integral part of Will's character.

It's hard to praise Depp's performance in Pirates highly enough. My only quibble is that critics widely said he played Sparrow effeminately; I mostly just thought he seemed perpetually drunk. Not really Depp's fault, though. He mixes just the right amounts of whimsy and seriousness in playing Sparrow, a man who's had a hard and improbable life, and is every bit as larger-than-life as the role suggests. Barbossa is his opposite number, but no less suave and dangerous. (Actually the pair would make a good Doctor and Master in a revival of Doctor Who. Of course, it's a little late to have that thought.)

I'm not sure what I think of Bloom. He's not very unlike his role of Legolas in The Lord of the Rings here: Earnest and heroic. Still, that's what both roles call for, so I'd say the jury's still out. On the other hand, I found Knightley's Elizabeth to be the cliche modern-day strong heroine in a setting which traditionally lacked them. She had a few good lines, but mostly I felt she was outmatched by the other actors.

The sets were lavish, the special effects good-plus (the skeletons' animation seemed a bit herky-jerky, though), and the direction by Gore Verbinski was engaging and creative. Klaus Badelt's music was just about perfect, reminding me a bit of Basil Poledouris' from Conan the Barbarian (a good thing).

Overall, Pirates is a witty and entertaining film, and I urge you to rush out and see it, if you haven't already.

(I understand the sequel will involve the pursuit of the perfect chocolate substitute: Pirates of the Carob-bean.)


Last night we visited a former cow-orker of Debbi's at his and his wife's new house. Very nice. Not quite my style, but with a 1920s-like charm I appreciated (it was actually built in the 30s, it seems). Good food and conversation.

I've been on a cleaning binge this week: Cleaning my sink, fixing up some of my drip hosing in my garden, cleaning my desk, shredding papers, cleaning my dining table, etc. etc. The place is starting to look nicer. Not a bad thing - housing prices are going up and by my calculations my home has appreciated by a tidy sum in the past year.

On the other hand, we both felt rather zoned out today, and it's been terribly hot this past week, which is getting to be a drag. The kittens are having their first bout with the heat in their lives, and seem to be weathering it fairly well, but they sure do appreciate when it cools down at night (don't we all?).

My plan this coming week is to try not to fall behind on my sleep, as the ballgame last week caused me to do.

Oh, and to put some more stuff up on eBay.

And maybe write some more journal entries before the month is out.

(Yeah, that trick never works!)

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