• Both Carole and I liked Captain America a lot. I don't want any spoilers here, so let me talk in generalities. The movie is more of a prequel than a stand-alone, though it does stand by itself as a very good action flick. As a WWII-era hero, the Captain America comic was a morale booster, and they got this part right. For parts of the film I kept thinking, "Take that, Leni Refenstahl!" (maker of the most notorious Nazi propaganda film).
As a good comic book film should do, imrho, the film sets up the characters very briefly and doesn't stop for a lot of exposition. Anybody who's familiar with the character knows far too much about the background anyway, and those who don't simply won't care. They slide over plot holes gracefully, the characters are believable and don't insult the viewer's intelligence.
Jack Kirby (the original 1940s comic artist) was evident. Unlike Thor, which seemed to rely more on Walt Simonson's artwork than Kirby's, Captain America was full of panoramas and details that told as much as the dialog.
The 3D was okay. As with several of the movies out this summer, the best use of the 3D was made in the beginning of the closing credits. If you stay through the credits, you'll see a trailer for next year's Avengers movie.
I'd put Captain America on a par with Harry Potter 7B as my favorite movies so far this year, though for very different reasons.
• Sitting in my stack of unread books for a long time, Eyeless in Gaza, by Aldous Huxley, popped to the top. The 1936 novel was his next after Brave New World (1932), the only other work of his I've read. Like the sf novel, Huxley's British patrician roots are evident: Some people know better than others. In BNW this is a cautionary tale. In EiG, all the self-declared smart people are major assholes.
The time frame spans more than 30 years, from the death of the mother of the major POV character, Anthony Beavis, in 1902, into the then-contemporary world of 1935. No two chapters in a row are set at the same time; often succeeding chapters are decades apart. At first, this was offputting, as was the complete unlikeability of any of the characters. After a while, I got into it, and various characters are illuminated at different points in their lives.
Because of the structure of Eyeless in Gaza, I had some very weird dreams. Within a dream (this happened several times in a row), a person would sort of be 1/4 there; not a ghost, but dimly present like a hologram, floating in the air. Just as the presence of someone from two decades earlier or later haunted a chapter. I can't tell you the rest of the dreams -- not nightmares, but memorable. I dream in B&W, and rarely remember details, but those remain.
At some point, Huxley was faced with having to collapse all the plotlines and figure out some way to end the damn thing. He fails. The last third (or so) of the novel seems less naturally plotted and more directed to Huxley's political sympathies. Hint: He prefers Communism (what we would now call "socialism") to the Nazis or the Gilded Age. What might have worked in the mid-30s just seems like alternate history today.
• In the Spring of last year, on the advice of my doctor, I lost a bunch of weight, and eventually went on some fairly well-known medications and changed my diet to low-salt. And Carole moved in last fall; it's a lot easier to make healthy meals for two.
After a summer of weight loss, I weighed myself on a day I was fasting: Yom Kippur, Sept. 18 2010CE. Fasting is a poor way to lose weight, but I figured that would be a baseline. I weighed 254 lbs. Since then, I've lost either two or three belt notches, depending on the belt.
As of this morning, Aug. 1 2011 CE I weighed... 254 lbs. I've never been more than a few pounds more, and occasionally a pound or two less. I attribute this dissonance to my change in diet. I suspect I've lost a fair amount of water weight while gaining some muscle.
Still, my belts were feeling the, um, pinch. I'm on the last hole of several belts. So Saturday, at the Mall of America for Captain America, Carole and I went belt shopping. I bought two Optimistic Belts: Belts which fit but where I'm on the first hole.
With a bit of effort, more seafood and determination, perhaps I'll lose some more actual lbs. I hope the weather cooperates, so I don't just swelter but feel like exercising. We'll see. If you see any of my new Optimistic Belts down a notch or two, you'll know.