Conquer the heat, and you become...a legend

The day the air conditioning died. That would be last Sunday, sometime in the afternoon. When I returned to my apartment that evening and opened the door, a blast of warm heat enveloped me. I do really badly with heat when I'm trying to sleep. Psychologically I can cope, but my body has the cooling system of an Apple Powerbook. That is to say, it sucks. I opened up the air conditioning unit, one that looks to have been manufactured about the time that A/C was invented, or the wheel, whichever came first, and discovered a filter so crusted with dirt that it had simply frozen solid. I immediately began thawing it out by turning the unit off, but it wouldn't help much until morning because no stores were open to replace the filter at that late hour anyhow.

I tried opening the windows but the humidity outside was so high that it overwhelmed any cooling effect from the night air. I lay on my sofa, but the suede-like fabric didn't breathe, so I lay on the living room floor, trying to lay as still as possible in the hopes that my body's screen saver would turn on. No such luck. My skin began to overheat, degree by degree. My entire body burned as if combusting with fever. Any hopes of sleeping that night would be futile. Despair and madness awaited.

Suddenly, from the depths of my mental inventory, out of the mental fog of my steaming brain, a blurred image arose, as if something dark and solid were rising out of a swimming pool. Excalibur? No, it was round, in motion. A fan! I sprinted to my bedroom closet to retrieve an old IKEA fan I had brought with me from Seattle. I'd bought it for just a few bucks from a damaged goods section of the South Seattle IKEA, and treasured it for its antique metallic look, quite a contrast from the bland and minimalist Scandinavian look of most IKEA furniture. It lay in a box high in my closet. I jumped and tugged at it, and it nearly split my head in two falling down upon me. I held it high above my head, cackling with glee. Soon, I'd be as cool as Jake Gittes in this summer heat. Bwahahahah! It's alive!

Only it wasn't. I plugged it in and flipped the switch, and...


What? It can't be! Nooooooo!

I took a screwdriver and opened up the bottom of the fan, but in my desperation I couldn't think straight, couldn't decipher the monkey wrench in the gears. I fell to the ground weeping, a defeated man (okay, it was more moaning than weeping, but the latter registers my inner turmoil with greater clarity).

I turned off my stereo amplifiers, computer, A/V receiver, cable box, DVD player, anything that gave off the slightest bit of heat. Then I took a cold shower, as cold as I could bear, and plopped back down on my living room floor to stare at the ceiling to ponder a mystery: how long until exhaustion would overcome my discomfort from the heat and bring sleep? The answer? A few hours. I fell asleep to the first light of dawn, that midnight blue that always heralds the coming daybreak.

But that was a darker time, one I've since resolved by replacing my A/C filter. Today was a happier day as I prepared for the arrival of family for a long visit. Some things that made me happy today:

  • Some Stanford alumni organized an alum screening of Saving Face and a Q&A with director Alice Wu afterwards. Her story of getting the movie made was like an existence proof that what I'm trying to do is possible. She left a tech job in Seattle (program management at Microsoft) to move to NY to pursue a filmmaking career, giving herself five years to make a feature film. Without going to film school, she still managed to shepherd a work to the big screen, just meeting her own five year deadline when acquaintances of acquaintances of friends lined up financing and put her in the director's seat.

  • Saw the midnight screening of Batman Begins with the usual opening night crazies, and what I enjoyed most about the movie was the score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. It's more atmostpheric and less iconic than Danny Elfman's score for the original Burton Batman movies, but it pulses with dark energy and compliments the movie the way a finely tailored shirt meshes with a suit. has a track by track walk-through along with 30 second samples (better than the 30 second samples available at the iTunes Music Store).

  • also has a walk-through of the War of the Worlds score by John Williams. I have not listened to it, but the review notes that the score is "very' modern...with plenty of dissonance and atonal material." This gives me hope that it will equal the quality of his score to A.I., one of his best.

  • Christian Bale makes a good Batman. I've always been a fan, from as far back as his Empire of the Sun days, but with his edgy work in American Psycho and astonishing physical transformation in The Machinist, he revealed a brooding, glowering persona that pointed at the obsessive anger and torturous guilt that lies at the heart of his Batman. Okay, I was going to try to keep this going like Patrick Bateman discussing one of the eighties bands in American Psycho, but it's too late, I'm too tired, and I can't come up with anything more.

  • I enjoyed the new Batman movie. It's not without its flaws. It doesn't conjure up any iconic images as with the first Elfman Batman movie, and for a two-and-a-half-hour movie there are several moments that feel truncated or rushed. And some of the action sequences or fights share the same problem as Cinderella Man; they're framed too tight to distinguish what's happening. It's a common flaw of American action movies, the tight framing making acting as shorthand to speed up the action without speeding up the film, but it all just comes out a mess on screen. I much prefer the Asian kung-fu cinematographer's trick of framing with a longer shot but speeding up the film, allowing you to see the fight choreography. All that said, the movie succeeds at explaining the origin of Batman, his personality and mission, in a way that's dramatically exciting and satisfying, with the slow, patient simmer that's required for the best bolognese sauces. That's not an easy task when everyone in the theater knows roughly how it happens. The best parts of the movies are not the action sequences with the villains but the ones when Bale isn't wearing a mask. More later--I hope to see it with my brother-in-law Mike in IMAX on Thursday.

  • Cubs win 14-0! They'll be in NYC this weekend playing at Yankees Stadium. Now that they're back in the wild card hunt, I'm looking forward to the games again.

  • At the Batman screening they showed the latest Charlie and the Chocolate Factory trailer and all the fanboys went crazy. Some things about seeing a movie opening night with the drooling fanboys are annoying, like having to go early to battle for a seat, but the energy of an opening night screening can't be matched, and all the whooping and hollering turns a night at the movies into an event.