Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Ugly Truth About Friendship, Mud and Ice

This weekend I’m getting together with two of my best friends. I’ve talked about Meg before, and I love Shelby just as much. We live halfway across the country from each other, so we don’t get to see one another as often as we’d like. Therefore we planned this girls’ weekend a few months ago.

And by “girls’ weekend” I’m talking about: shocking ourselves with 10,000 volt wires, scrambling over 8 foot walls, leaping through fire, crawling under barbed wire, and scurrying our way through underground tunnels.

Forget the spa. This girls’ weekend we’re competing in a Tough Mudder obstacle challenge. In case you don't know what that is, I'll give you a taste:

My muddy buddies
Shelby, Megan and I have all done Tough Mudders before. And tough is definitely a good word for this course. Along with: crazy, dumb, ridiculous, ludicrous, terrifying, painful. It's full-on stupid, without a doubt.

We love it.

Me getting over an 8ft wall
Like the sign says, you have to sign a death waiver before participating, a fact that was celebrated far more before someone actually died doing a Tough Mudder last weekend. (Although honestly, with all the shenanigans going on in a Tough Mudder, having a death rate of only 1 in 750,000 really isn’t that bad, I guess.)

Extreme races like this teach you things about yourself: how strong you are, how much you can accomplish. But sometimes it teaches you things about yourself you don’t want to know.

For example: my friend Meg (who is about 5’3 and has around 0% body fat) is always cold. When my house is a nice balmy 78 degrees, she’s wrapping herself in a blanket. At our first Tough Mudder in 2011, we came up to an obstacle that was called the “Chernobyl Jacuzzi.” It was vat filled with really gross slime-looking liquid with stuff floating around in it.

We didn’t know anything. We thought the obstacle was going to be wading through some nasty slime. Gross, but relatively harmless, compared to, say, the 10,000 volt wires also on the course. So we got up on the edge, giggling about how disgusting that liquid looked.

Bless our little hearts.

We jumped into the vat, totally unaware of what we were getting into. Literally.

That stuff floating around, it was ICE. The whole thing was filled with ice. Filled. With. Ice. And then some sick, sadistic SOB put a board in the middle of it with barbed-wire across the top, so you’re forced to dip your head under the water. They’ve since renamed the obstacle “The Arctic Enema.” Fitting. It was the coldest thing I’ve ever felt in my life.
Chernobyl Jacuzzi - yeah, that's ice.
You can imagine how poor little Meggie, who’s cold when it’s 78 degrees, felt about that sort of iciness. Her body was in such shock from the cold that by the time she had gotten under the midway wall and to the other side of the vat, she couldn’t make her muscles move enough to get her out. She was stuck in there, freezing.

And where was I? As soon as my body touched that icy water, I zoomed through it, under the wall and had used my super-long legs to jump out the other side in a matter of seconds. For a fleeting moment I had a thought…

I should help Megan. She doesn’t do well with cold…

But my body did not care what my brain was saying. It was getting us out of that ice as soon as possible. Too bad, best friend. Hope you make it.

The hard lesson I learned about myself that day: I will sacrifice you to save me.

That’s a very ugly truth and I would’ve argued it impossible right up to the moment that I left my best friend freezing in a pool of slime-colored ice. While I watched from the side, unable to make myself do anything to help her.

Fortunately, there were a couple of big ol’ guys at the end of the vat. They plucked Meg out of the icy death and we both lived to run the rest of the race. My part in abandoning her happened so fast, she didn’t even realize it had happened at all. Even if she had, she would’ve forgiven me in a heartbeat. That’s just the type of person she is.

This weekend I have a chance at a do-over. I have promised not to leave Megan and Shelby behind in the ice. This time I know I will do better.  I hope.

Maybe next year we’ll just go to the spa.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Showdown: AFI vs. IMDb (#45)

It's the Sunday Showdown: continuing my comparison of the American Film Institute's and Internet Movie Database's Top 100 films. 

#45: AFI's Shane vs. IMDb's Amelie

Alan Ladd as Shane
I had never seen the 1953 Western Shane.  I liked it a great deal, despite not being a huge fan of the genre as a whole. It’s an intelligent Western  -- no singing cowboys, no silliness. Shane is archetypal: severe in fights, gentle with women and children, loyal to friends, unforgiving of himself and his past.  The setting is Wyoming and its scenic beauty is glorious to behold. A great Western.

But it’s up against the French foreign film Amelie. I have difficulty coming up with enough adjectives to describe Amelie: sweet, blissful, romantic, charming, silly, rich, imaginative, sensuous, playful.  I guess if I had to choose just one, it would be: adorable.
The joy of  watching Audrey Tautou

I believe if this movie had come out a year earlier than it did, it would’ve been a runaway hit in American theaters as well as world-wide. Unfortunately, it released in November 2001, a mere two months after 9/11.

There wasn’t much room in anyone’s vocabulary, cinematic or otherwise, for words like playful, charming and adorable.

But coming back to it again, I loved it. I love the
One of the sweetest, most romantic scenes of any films
romance of it. I love just about every expression on Audrey Tautou’s quirky little face. I love the playfulness of
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s direction. I love how the whole film is a delightful little scavenger hunt.

Amelie makes me smile. (A blessed reprieve from most of films on this list.)

So for this week, my vote goes to IMDb’s Amelie. The first vote in a long time for IMDb.

AFI’s Top 100
IMDb’s Top 100 (as of 1/1/12)


City Lights (1931)
LoTR: Return of the King (2003)
On the Waterfront (1954)
LoTR: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
LoTR: The Two Towers(2002)

Shane (1953)
Amelie (2001)
It Happened One Night (1934)
Alien (1979)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Wall E (2008)
Rear Window (1954)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Intolerance (1916)
The Shining (1980)
LoTR: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Spirited Away (2001)
Paths of Glory (1957)
Taxi Driver (1976)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Double Indemnity (1944)
M*A*S*H* (1970)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
The Pianist (2002)
Jaws (1975)
The Lives of Others (2006)
Rocky (1976)
The Departed (2006)
The Gold Rush (1925)
Memento (2000)
Nashville (1975)
City Lights (1931)
Duck Soup (1933)
Aliens (1986)
Sullivan's Travels (1941)
Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004)
American Graffiti (1973)
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Cabaret (1972)
Das Boot (1981)
Network (1976)
The Third Man (1949)
The African Queen (1951)
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Chinatown (1974)
Unforgiven (1992)
The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948)
Tootsie (1982)
Modern Times (1936)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Life is Beautiful (1997)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Monty Python & the Holy Grail (1975)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Back to the Future (1985)
Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969)
The Prestige (2006)
Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Raging Bull (1980)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
All the President’s Men  (1976)
Singing In the Rain (1952)
Modern Times (1936)
Some Like it Hot (1959)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
The Apartment (1960)
Rashomon (1950)
Spartacus (1960)
All About Eve (1950)
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
Amadeus (1984)
Titanic (1997)
Once Upon A Time in America (1984)
Easy Rider (1969)
The Green Mile (1999)
A Night at the Opera (1935)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Platoon (1986)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
12 Angry Men (1957)
Inglorious Basterds (2009)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
The Great Dictator (1940)
Sixth Sense (1999)
Braveheart (1995)
Swing Time (1936)
The Bicycle Thief (1948)
Sophie’s Choice (1982)
The Apartment (1960)
Goodfellas (1990)
Up (2009) 
The French Connection (1971)
Downfall (2004)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Gran Torino (2008)
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Metropolis (1927)
Do The Right Thing (1989)
The Sting (1973)
Blade Runner (1982)
Gladiator (2000)
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Toy Story (1995)
Unforgiven (1992)
Ben Hur (1959)
The Elephant Man (1980)

 Next week is The Philadelphia Story vs. Vertigo. It's not the only time in the countdown that Jimmy Stewart will be up against himself. But it's going to be tough.