Thursday, February 23, 2006

Coffee and Chess

There's a coffee shop in the town where I live that's practically close enough to walk to. It's actually an old grain warehouse that's been converted into a business but I love the atmosphere there. It's never empty, but big enough to never feel crowded, with plenty of room to spread out and read or study or surf the net (if I remember to bring a computer) yet the people there are always friendly and chatty enough that sometimes you just have to sit with a group of regulars and talk about whatever is on anyone's mind. Good food, great coffee, wonderful people, and completely unpretentious - it's the exact antithesis of Starsmucks. It's one of the few downtown locales I know of that actually reflects the demographic makeup of the town proper (one-thirds black, white, and latino) whereas the majority of the downtown shops and resturants cater to the uber-rich equestrian types that live on their estate farms outside of town. I love it, because to me - the coffee shop is the town - and by going there I feel a part of a community again.

Today, in one of the upstairs nooks was a group of old men playing chess at a handful of tables. They invited me and a few of the comparatively younger patrons to join them. It'd been a long time since I'd played and I'd never played too seriously, but thankfully there were a few of us from about every skill level imaginable. After winning or losing a few games you were likely to get matched up with some honest competition. I lost two games and won one, but had a lot of fun and learned quite a bit in the process. Apparently Thursday evenings has been consecrated as chess night. I'll be back.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Donnie Darko

In Silico tied me down and forced me to watch Donnie Darko, a movie I'd missed seeing when it came out because I was overseas, but is exactly the sort of movie he knew I'd dig. Now I can't stop watching it.

Produced by Drew Barrymore (who also plays a minor role) and directed by a complete nutjob, the movie did some clever things. I especially liked a lot of the simple yet sophisticated cinematography, and I loved the kick-ass retro-80’s soundtrack. [I even fed the entire soundtrack into the Pandora music system just to see what I’d get. Of course my brother won’t introduce me to Pandora for another 28 days – but that doesn't stop me.]

The movie would be difficult to describe even if I wasn't concerned about spoiling the plot. I could say it’s a spooky Halloween-time movie, or that’s it’s a clever psychological thriller, or maybe even an insightful commentary on mental-illness - but no matter how I described it, five minutes into the movie you’d still decide it’s not the sort of movie you were expecting. It’s unique – and I guess that’s what I like most about it. It's a movie that spurs you to think and adjust. I certainly wouldn't describe it as incredibly deep, but it does challenge the audience to search out the meaning behind it all.

I still can't beleive I hadn't seen this one sooner (especially considering it's endorsement by my evil-wonder-twin Wil Wheaton.) F.Y.I. - I'd discovered Primer months earlier than him but this continues to piss me off.