INLAND EMPIRE: A great movie most people won’t ever see

Yesterday I went into Manhattan to go see David Lynch’s new movie INLAND EMPIRE. He’s self-released it, so it’s only in a few American theatres and only for a short time.

It’s an extremely satisfying movie, although not easy to sit through. I saw it described somewhere as a book end to Mulholland Drive, which I still think is his masterpiece and one of my all-time favorite movies.

It’s hard to compare the new one with that movie, as it’s a very different story (or set of stories), and a completely different visual style, not the least of which is due to its being shot on a consumer-level digital video camera rather than on film. For example, I realized after I walked out of the theatre that with the exception of the first few minutes of the movie and the closing credits, there was virtually no natural light during the other three or so hours. It’s 90% shot in underlit interiors or night time exterior scenes. The other 10% is overexposed daylight exteriors. Like his other movies, sound, music and strong color choices all contribute to an effective whole. Who else can use these elements to so effectively make something as innocuous as a bedroom lamp seem menacing?

The story (or interwoven stories) includes a range of locales, events and themes, many of them carryovers from other Lynch works: a cursed film remake; Polish Gypsies, curses and underworld figures; the seamy underbelly of Hollywood; street people; anachronistic elements, such as a 30s radio announcer; doors, alleys and stairways to other worlds; and a banal sitcom starring anthropomorphic rabbits. At the center of it all is a woman (several women, actually) who is in big, big trouble.

Lynch also knows how to get good performances out of his actors. Laura Dern was astonishing, morphing into four (five?) distinct characters. And, although she’s in almost every shot, she doesn’t even have any lines in the last 45 or so minutes of the movie, but you can’t take your eyes off of her. I’d like to see Julia Roberts pull that off.

I won’t give any spoilers, but I will say that what made the movie hard to sit through was its relentlous feeling of dread. The entire movie is an extended nightmare, with Dern’s situation going from bad to worse. And you’re right alongside her during her ordeal, and the way she is directed, we are empathetic participants, wanting to reach into the screen and help her, not passive voyeurs to the spectacle.

He’s also used some of his most frightening imagery in this movie, using distorted visuals to achieve a painterly effect not unlike Francis Bacon paintings (he has cited Bacon as an influence). One frame contains a shocking, distorted image of Dern’s face that will haunt many viewers.

Anyway, there’s my highbrow review. I eagerly await Lynch’s movies because I enjoy getting lost in his strange world every few years, so I was glad to be able to catch this one in the theatre rather than having to rely on DVD to see it. He’s also one of the few directors I can think of who so fully exploits and combines sound design and music with visuals.

Here are some favorite David Lynch quotes — and one reason why I’ve stopped believing that his movies have some secret “key” to unlocking what they supposedly really mean. I do believe him when he says that they are to be experienced not unlike you experience a piece of abstract art, with your interpretation unfolding however it does (and no single interpretation being the ‘right’ one). That doesn’t necessarily mean that his films make no sense. They can, but the sense they make is more a process of realizing how the recursive narratives and overlapping/morphing characters fit together into a larger thematic structure, and not so much about making linear sense of everything and everyone.

I don’t think that people accept the fact that life doesn’t make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable.

I love child things because there’s so much mystery when you’re a child. When you’re a child, something as simple as a tree doesn’t make sense. You see it in the distance and it looks small, but as you go closer, it seems to grow — you haven’t got a handle on the rules when you’re a child. We think we understand the rules when we become adults but what we really experienced is a narrowing of the imagination.

— David Lynch

18 mile run number two

Well, this is getting easier.

I’m still struggling with a shinsplint, now on my right leg. But I soldiered on, doing my second 18 mile long run this morning. I really didn’t feel like going out there. I was tired after two not-s0-great nights of sleep, slightly dehydrated and, of course, experiencing some shin pain. So I laced up my shoes without the best of attitudes.

But it’s new year’s eve, so I wanted to start off next year with the knowledge that I did my best on my training run with just 84 days to go until Marathon Day. It’s always helpful to have a goal for these runs. So my goal for this week was to run the first half at 10:20 and the second half at 10:00. This would be a shade faster that the last 18 miler, in which I averaged a 10:25 over the course of the run.

After the first couple of miles, I realized that in fact I felt quite good, all things considered, so I picked up the pace and ran the first eight miles at around 10:10, then the next eight at around 9:55, and in a serendipitous change of plan ran the last two at marathon pace (around 8:45). I will be tacking on more marathon pace segments at the end of my long runs, as well as running marathon pace shorter runs. The 8:45 pace felt fairly natural, although I was quite tired at the end of the run. My watch reports that I burned 1900 calories. No wonder I inhaled two burritos.

For Christmas, my mother generously gifted me a year’s subscription to Marathon and Beyond. The first issue arrived a few days ago. The January/February issue, at least, is quite good. A nice mix of sports science, essays, runner and race profiles, and training information. I can now add this to the pile of running-related publications coming into the house, including Running Times and Ultrarunning magazines.

Furthering the running theme, my sister gave me a gift certificate to one of my favorite outfitters, Title 9 Sports. I’ll be spending that this afternoon. There are always more running clothes to buy. I’ve had my eye on a running vest for inbetween days like today.

Running while drunk

Okay, I’m not drunk, but I’m mighty hung over.

Work has felt like a racing hamster wheel lately, and it culminated in a big crisis yesterday, which extended into today, unfortunately. Here I thought I’d have a nice relaxing Friday before the holiday, followed by Saturday off to leisurely run errands. Instead, I worked for around 13 hours yesterday and just finished up another eight or so today. At least I can charge for the aggravation — one of the few perks of working as an hourly freelancer rather than a wage slave.

I kept my plans for a leisurely Friday evening at least. The evening started with a lovely dinner at our local Thai place, which used to be a bar. It’s a funny place, because they left the bar up, and it’s populated with the same sorry guys who probably went there when it was the old bar. But the other half of the place is a cheery Thai restaurant. Very weird.

As usual it was empty. Well, almost. Oddly enough, there was a huge family with Cockney accents at the big table. Londoners having Thai food in Tuckahoe? Why? Why?

A martini and a Tiger beer later, I was stumbling the half mile home for…wine. And bad TV. Bad TV until 12:30AM. Then woke up in a state of worry (and extreme dehydration) at 5AM. So I made some tea, ate some protein and got to work.

Now that’s done and I can go along my leisurely way. And figure out how I’m going to do a tempo run later this afternoon in my present state. Ah, but I remember. The best thing for a hangover is a good run. I think it clears out the toxins or something.

Only two shopping days till Christmas. Glad I’m done.


Nike has a reputation for being exploitative and uncaring (thanks to Michael Moore’s ambush interview of then-Nike CEO Bill Knight in his film “The Big One”). But I discovered today that they’re not all bad.

Since I seem to be going through shoes like Kleenex these days, and I live with someone who is also piling on the miles, we have bags of old shoes lying around. Well, now I know what to do with them: donate them to Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program. Nike takes old shoes, chops them up into tiny bits and uses them to create a variety of synthetic athletic surfaces, which Nike then donates to local youth programs, parks, playgrounds, schools and other worthy organizations. You can donate any brand of athletic shoe. Even if you don’t believe in human reincarnation, you can still believe in shoe reincarnation.

Nike has a few dozen drop off locations around the country (and in Australia, the UK and Japan) or you can box them up and mail them off to Oregon — happy in the knowledge that now that your feet are done with them, they will absorb the pitter patter of other feet eventually. Find out more about the Reuse-a-Shoe program.

Road tested: Brooks Adrenaline 6

A short, but glowing shoe review: I’m constantly searching for the perfect shoe. While not perfect, the Brooks Adrenaline 6 comes close. In the past year I’ve tried out:

  • Adidas SuperNova Cushion
  • Saucony Trigon Guide
  • Montrail Masai
  • Salomon XA XCR Pro 3D
  • Brooks Adrenaline 6

I figure I may as well try different brands to see if one or another works out well in terms of fit, comfort and durability.

I originally ran in New Balance, but (and this is silly, I know) although they were perfectly fine shoes I’ve found that lately their shoe designs are just butt ugly. I don’t want to wear ugly shoes.

The Adidas were just weird. My first run in them was fine, very comfortable. Then, on the second run, the left shoe gave me unremitant pain along the outside of my left foot. This persisted for six or seven runs. I gave them to my sister, who has been delighted with them. Go figure.

The Sauconys have been fine, but not notable. They feel clunky and, although there’s a lot between my feet and road, they don’t feel cushioned. In fact, they feel a bit hard. I realize they’re a stability shoe, and so will be on the stiff side. But once you get into the 12th mile or so, running in a hard shoe isn’t pleasant. Maybe you get used to it.

The Montrails were an impulse buy. They’re a discontinued model that I spotted selling for $25 at Marshall’s. Before they were discontinued, they retailed for $90. They are trail shoes and I ran one 10 miler in them. My shins were worse the day after, although to be fair this was during my post-Thanksgiving racing tendonitis jamboree period, so the shoes may be fine. But I’m not taking any chances with them during marathon training. For now, I just wear them around the house.

The Salomons are the perfect waterproof shoe, as I attest to and swoon over in my previous review and its follow up.

Finally, we come to the Brooks shoe. I’ve run about 50 miles in the Adrenaline 6 so far and they are great shoes, for my feet at least. They are cushioned (but not hard) and lighter than the Sauconys, but with good support for my moderate overpronating. What I like best about them is that I am unaware of them when wearing them. Nothing’s pinching or sliding or rubbing or otherwise uncomfortable. I barely know they’re there. So they allow me to get on with the job of running.

Marathon training: Week 9

Training is going well. Some highlights:

The shinsplint has migrated to to my right leg now. But I’m not that bothered by it. It seems to come and go. At least it keeps to just one leg at any given time, which is a good thing since I only have one shin support.

My first hill run on Saturday went well, although I did it at a fairly easy pace. Jonathan’s mapped out a good route, with a total of 6 big hills. Muscles I didn’t know I had were asserting themselves the next day.

I did my first 18 mile training run yesterday, and that too went well. I was rested and, even with my shin bothering me, it was a good run. I felt quite tired for about two hours afterward, but basically felt fine and was able to function. I’m happy with my pace for that run, too: under a 10:30 mile, with the last 8 faster than the first 10.

The Macmillan pace calculator says I should be running these at between 9:17-10:17 in order to race my goal time of 3:50:00. I should be able to get into that range over the coming weeks. And I’ll eventually start adding in some marathon pace miles in those longer runs.

I drank more water on yesterday’s long run as compared to my last 16 miler, and consumed three Clif Bloks (at miles 15, 16, 17) as well. I felt a definite lift after eating those, but that may just be psychological. Although I did go out yesterday morning on an empty stomach, running from 7:30 until 10:45, so I suppose I was pretty hungry.

I’ve got one more 18 miler before I move up to the 20 milers. Yesterday left me feeling confident that I can do that without problems.

94 days until the marathon.

Marathon training: Week 8

Sunday marked the beginning of my eight week of marathon training. I now have 103 days until my first marathon.

The past three weeks have been focused on speed intervals (and racing), as well as preparing for gradually longer long runs. This is a recovery week, and thank goodness for that. I am surprised at how exhausted I felt on Sunday and the oddly located pains I’m feeling.

A “recovery week” means, at this point, one hard workout and one long run instead of two hard workouts with the long session. But I may need to scale back from even that based on how I feel over the coming weeks.

Last week was two speed sessions and one 16 mile run on Saturday, with easy and recovery runs on other days. I felt completely trashed on Sunday. One problem: I did a speed session on Thursday. I’ve learned from this experience that I need more than one recovery day between a hard session and a long run, so I’m adjusting my plan accordingly. Not drinking three quarters of a bottle of wine on Friday night is probably also a good adjustment to make.

The other interesting discovery is how dispersed the pain is. My neck and upper back hurt on Sunday. Yesterday, it was my arms, including lower arms and hands. At least the shinsplints have abated, although now my hamstrings are complaining.

I’ve got one speed session left, which I moved to Wednesday. Then Saturday is my first of seven planned hill workouts. The More Marathon route includes a hill, which means I need to run up it five times. I want to be happy running up that hill.

A few days before Christmas I start adding in tempo runs as well as making my long runs longer (and faster at the end). I personally love tempo runs — they’re hard, but I trace my racing improvements over the past year directly to the tempo work I’ve done, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they help this time around.

A week from tomorrow is my first 16+ run, an 18 miler. I felt like dog shit for the last four miles of my 16 miler on Saturday. Possibly because of the “not enough rest” issue, but I also was experimenting with not taking in any fuel. For next Wednesday, I’m going to take some Clif Shot Bloks out with me and take them if I start to bonk again. More water too. Must drink more water.

Jesus. I’m even boring myself.

Thumbs up on the gimpy leg

I did my long run yesterday, and felt good enough to do an extra mile. Tomorrow is a speed session, so that should be a good test of the leg. But today is a lounging on the couch rest day.

16 miles is beginning to feel “normal” in that I’m not exhausted afterwards. This is good since in a week and a half I step it up to 18 miles and it only goes up from there.

The difficulty now is finding the time to run all these miles. I’m up from 30 miles per week to an average 45 miles a week now and will be peaking in the mid-50s. The good news is I’m running those miles faster, so they take less time. The bad news is there’s less and less daylight as we get into winter. I’m getting up with the sun some mornings in order to make my AM teleconference meetings.

But I do like running early in the morning. The paths are empty and it’s nice and cool. I’m enjoying running outside as much as I can, since soon enough the snow and ice will force me back on the treadmill for some days.

Podcast: Phedippidations

I’ve discovered a new running podcast, Phedippidations.

Permalink is on the right —————–>

This is a sometimes entertaining, almost always very well-written and produced podcast about various aspects of running. The latest edition is a dissection of the inflamatory screed about slow runners “ruining” the marathon that I mentioned in an earlier post.

Trial run

I took Wednesday off to pamper Splinty (I’ve named my shin splint). Then Thursday and yesterday did two 6 mile runs inside on our newly repaired treadmill. Did you know that the plastic bed of a treadmill can break? Neither of us are large, so it’s a mystery how that happened. But three weeks of phone calls and $214 later, we have what feels like a brand new treadmill. Quieter too.

Nonetheless, I am leaving Millie (our treadmill has a name too) for the great outdoors. It’s a sunny day, and in the 40s, so I’ll see if I can handle a long run (15+ miles) on the local running paths.

I also registered for the More Marathon this morning. Now the idea of running a marathon is no longer theoretical. It’s real. I gotta get my shit together.