Thursday, May 27, 2010

Overlords RFC, Part Five

The next day around noon, I said, "Okay Brudder, if you want to get going here, you could get that big wisteria planted, and then get on the beds for the cedars. The kids and I can start on the flower beds".

"No problem, Brudder. I just gotta run to the store to get a few things". That made some sense, because he'd shown up with only a backpack, and was supposed to stay for three weeks. "I should be back in a few. Can I get twenty bucks in advance?". I said sure. Being carless, he jumped in my van and left.

Three hours later, with still no sign of him, I called his cell.

"Hello?", he said. In the background, I could hear what sounded strangely like calling seagulls, ocean waves, bottles clinking, dogs barking and people laughing.

"Brudder - where are you?", I said.

"I'm at the beach. It's totally awesome down here! Joey, wait, try it upside down...yeah, like that...HA HA HA HA HA!".

What the...? Who's Joey? "Hello?"

"Here boy, come on over - Tina, grab him for a sec..."

"Brudder, you there?"

"Yeah I'm here, hang on - Wait, let me try, I bet he jumps right off the edge. WOOOO HA HA HA HA HE DID IT! GOOD BOY! (ruff ruff rrrrr ruff) Where'd Bucks go? Hey-"

"Brudder - what the hell's going on? Who are you with?"

"I'm at the beach with some friends..."

"'Friends'? You just got here last night. How can you have friends?"

I heard the sound of guitar in the background, then Spoiler saying, "That's not how you play it, gimme that..."

"Brudder! Listen - you there? I need the van. I have to go get food for dinner".

Well, Spoiler finally made it home, but as usual, was frustratingly vague about how he could have made a dozen friends almost instantaneously on a trip to a store. Although, I'd seen this kind of thing before with him. We're somewhere, someone - or a group of people - appears and approaches him - not me - and says, "Hey man! What are you up to? Nice to see you. We're hitting the lake tonight, you should come on down. K, catch you later!". And then when I say, "Who was that?", Spoiler says, "I don't know; I've never seen them before". It made no sense. It was totally inexplicable, and it happened over and over. Maybe there was some cosmic "party" energy field that these people were all attuned to, that I had no access to, which enabled them to find and identify each other. No clue.

Anyway, we went to the grocery store, then threw some steaks on the barbie, and after dinner, we got out the rugby ball and went into the back yard. I don't think Spoiler had ever touched one in his entire life up to that point.

"How do you throw it?", he said.

"Just like this". I put my right hand towards the back, my left hand towards the front, and gave it a little spin as I tossed it. Within a few minutes, Spoiler had gotten the hang of it, and along with the kids, we all tossed it around.

"So Brudder, you gonna play with us against the McCues?".

"Yeah of course, Brudder", Spoiler said. "I'm an Overlord now". That was quick. Cool.

"Too bad we don't have a uniform that will fit you", I mused.

"WHAT?", said Spoiler. "Brudder, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? I'M NOT GOING TO SHOW UP IN A T-SHIRT FOR A GAME. WE'RE ON A TEAM. THIS IS RUGBY. I'M AN OVERLORD-"

I admit I was totally caught off guard. I had no idea Spoiler would instantly take this so seriously. I mean...he hadn't even heard of the Overlords until a day or two earlier, and I don't even think he'd ever been on any actual team in his entire life, except for maybe a stint on a Little League team when he was seven or eight. "Okay Brudder, calm down - we'll try to figure something out", I said.

"YEAH BRUDDER. GUY INVITES ME OVER, AND THEN WANTS ME RUNNING AROUND IN A T-SHIRT DURING AN OVERLORDS GAME. UNBELIEVABLE!"

Well, a few days later we headed out to Sierra Park for our scheduled match against the McCues, the 6'3" Spoiler jammed into one of our Overlords jerseys, Polish-sausage style.

An hour later, the game was over, and we headed back to the house. The kids wanted to jump on the tramp while the sprinkler was on underneath it. Spoiler and I sat down with a couple of guitars. Within a few minutes, we'd come up with a pretty good idea for a song. The next day at the beach, we came up with another couple of ideas. Same thing the next evening, sitting around the fire.

And after a week of that, I had a strange idea.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Robin Hood Review

We interrupt our regularly scheduled broadcast...

I saw "Robin Hood" last night, the new Ridley Scott-directed movie starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. I'd heard from a few sources that it was average, but I didn't believe them. Putting together, in my head, the "Gladiator" director and the actors and the timelessly appealing story, I just thought, "it's gotta be good". In fact, it was average, a five out of ten.

Probably the most important reason for its mediocrity is a less than compelling story. The story depicted is actually backstory, an explanation of how Robin became Robin (the movie actually ends at the moment that Robin becomes an outlaw). Now that I think of it, this is the first movie I have ever seen which seemed entirely devoted to being "the first movie of a series of movies", rather than primarily a stand-alone movie, which, secondarily, could also setup a sequel. Anyway, bottom line is, the story just isn't that compelling, and is depicted in too lengthy and cumbersome a fashion.

The second factor is casting and acting performance. I can see Russell Crowe as Robin Hood, though just. He would definitely be a rougher, cruder, more piggish Robin Hood than, say, the dashingly nimble Robin Hood played by Errol Flynn decades ago. But...you know. Maybe that would have been better, more realistic. But Cate Blanchett - a fine actress - as Marian? I can't buy it. I'm not trying to be mean when I say that Cate Blanchett is one of those actresses (others include Jodie Foster, Whoopi Goldberg, and Sarah Jessica Parker) who have made it to the top-tier of their profession while being entirely devoid of sex appeal, so I think she was an odd choice. Great as Elizabeth I, miscast as a dashing hero's love interest. It's completely unbelievable.

The supporting actors are likewise pretty mediocre here. Mark Strong as Godfrey is too...what's the word...obvious; too "caricature of a bad guy". William Hurt is too American for this picture; he looks American, he moves "American", he just shouldn't be in this movie. Danny Huston was phemonenal in "The Proposition"; here, his brief acting performance, like so many of the others, is just that tad overwrought (must be Ridley Scott's fault). Robin's Merry Men, same thing.

"Robin Hood" would have been far better with a different leading lady, subtler, more "organic" acting performances, and a tighter, more dramatic story, whether comprised of pure backstory or the traditional tales of Robin Hood, or some combination.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Overlords RFC, Part Four

Right around this time, I had a chat with Mommy.

"I'd like to go back to England", she said. "I need to re-connect with my family and friends. That will help me on my journey of healing" (healing after leaving Mormonism, that is).

Not to go into too much detail, but no one had been longing as desperately for Mommy to complete her "journey of healing" more than I had over the past few years, so in the moment she said it, I was on board. She asked me to buy the tickets and schedule the trip for her, which I did: three weeks in July (2008), back to England. I would stay at home with the kids. As usual, I felt very hopeful - in retrospect, naively so - that this trip would really help her achieve peace, etc.

We were all sad to see Mommy go, although I also was relishing having a fun, laidback three weeks with all eight kids. Barbecues, the beach, swimming, biking...I thought we'd be able to have a blast. And then I had another idea. I called up my brother, Spoiler, who was still in White Rock (on the mainland, a suburb of Vancouver).

"Tracy's gone for three weeks. Why don't you come over?", I said.

"I have no money", he said.

"I have landscaping I have to complete. You can help me, and I can just pay you".

"Done", he said.

The next day, my cell phone rang. It was Spoiler.

"Brudder, it's me. I'm just pulling in to the ferry terminal. My friend gave me a ride on his motorbike".

I wondered why he was calling me if he was still riding on the back of a motorcycle. Didn't you need to hold on with both hands? In any case, it sounded like they were just stopping the motorcycle, and he was trying to get off.

"I'll be on the 3, can you pick me-OWWWWW!!!!", he suddenly shouted. "YOUR BIKE JUST BURNED MY LEG! LOOK AT MY LEG!".

In the background, I could hear his friend was saying, "Oh, you gotta be careful around the-"

"YOUR BIKE JUST BURNED MY LEG! NOW I'M GOING TO HAVE A SCAR! ALL SUMMER! A GIANT SCAR FOR SUMMER! LOOK AT MY LEG! WHY DON'T YOU WATCH IT WITH YOUR STUPID BIKE, MAN?! Brudder, this guy's pipe here just totally burned my leg. YEAH THANKS A LOT MAN. NOW MY LEG IS BURNT!....YEAH WHATEVER....YEAH....YEAH, SEE YA LATER!"

Listening in, I couldn't quite grasp how it would have been his friend's fault (who after all, I assumed had given him a ride all the way from White Rock to the Tswawwassen ferry terminal) that Spoiler, who was wearing shorts, had burned his leg on the pipe while dismounting.

In any case, the kids and I picked Spoiler up a couple of hours later on the Vancouver Island side...and thus began a legendary three weeks of hilarity.

Gotta run, more later.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Overlords RFC, Part Three

I put a call into Rich McCue. We had been friendly with Rich, his wife Heather, and their kids for a couple of years. We had played hockey with them a few times, so I thought they might be game for a rugby adventure. Fortunately, they were, and we scheduled a touch rugby game for the following week.

So far, the kids had been pretty excited about the idea. This was as surprising as it was gratifying to me, since none but two had ever shown any interest at all in rugby. Maybe they felt the low morale, too; and maybe the idea of a new adventure that we would all be embarking on, and the alter-ego element, the opportunity for totems and colours and all those things, and maybe even a kind of small-scale glory, appealed to them the same way they did to me at that moment. T-Bone and A-Roq were already interested in Norse and continental mythology, and were quite into fantasy video games, often with a martial element. They began coming up with a mock mythology for our alter-egos almost immediately. Sno-cone, six at the time, came up with a stirring riff on the piano one day, which we immediately adopted as our battle theme. The little girls, for their part, seemed very keen on dressing up in the navy and blue family jerseys, with the matching shorts and socks. We even began brainstorming for an official logo and motto. We came up with a logo - an upright oval with a simple half-cross in the upper half - and tossed around the motto "Break or Be Broken" for a few days, before concluding one day, amongst a few chuckles, that it was too intense for playing touch rugby with a bunch of little kids (we finally settled on "Together We Rise").

Anyway, we hit the local elementary school field a couple of times for practices, and when our debut game came that Sunday, we were ready. We laid out the boundary cones, went over some rules with the McCues, and the fun began. I must say it was disconcertingly tiring. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't even breathe after two minutes. Rich is something of an athlete already, and does triathlon training. I thought I was in pretty good shape, but the continuous process of stopping, accelerating as fast as possible, slowing, accelerating again, stopping, leaping, etc., really destroyed me. Rich zipped past me more times than I'd care to admit.

Despite my exhaustion, we managed to eke out a victory, and our amiable rivalry had begun. Almost immediately, our weekly games became the family highlight of the week, and I was thrilled that the kids talked about it so often, and even wanted to go out and practice during the week. I wondered sometimes how many sixteen year old boys were keen on going out a couple of times each week to run rugby drills with their little brothers and sisters. Everyone was excited and it all seemed to be working better than I had dared hope. Kids started tossing rugby balls around in the house and in the yard ("we need to practice again, our game's only in two days!"), and two even asked if they could wear their Overlords RFC jerseys to school. It seemed like magic.

The seven of us: A-Roq, T-Bone, Skinny Dip, Lady Lu, Red Bear, Sno-cone, and myself so far comprised the team (Trixta had only just turned three, and J-Dawg, the oldest, was more focused on doing musical demos at the time). We would have had an awesome time for the rest of the summer just us, but Overlords RFC got an injection of new excitement when an unexpected addition to our playing side showed up one day...

To be continued.

Overlords RFC, Part Two

We need something to rally around...we need some common goal or pursuit...we need some story...and something that can unite our three year old with our seventeen year old, something we can all do...we need...

And then suddenly I had it:

We need a family rugby team.

I had never played before, only tossed balls around with the kids. But I'd always known that rugby was the coolest sport on earth. Making it easier was that a couple of my kids had played for a local club.

We'll start a team. We'll get jerseys. We'll start drilling. We'll find another family to play against. Each week we will have a game; that is, we will go to war. We will have fun. We will have colours, a team name, maybe chants or songs, code words...it'll be like something out of James Frazer's Golden Bough....

I began wracking my brain for our "one true team name". I didn't want any name that had ever been taken for a sports team. I didn't want "The Cougars" or "The Tigers" or anything like that. No...this had to be different...unique...it had to be us.

Then one day, I think after we just got home, reading a magazine article about the Anglo-Saxons, I came across a sentence, and the word just popped out at me: overlords. That's it!, I thought. I ran a google search; there was no team on the planet called The Overlords. Plus, it was a key word in my very first favourite song, and probably the coolest rock song of all time, Led Zeppelin's "The Immigrant Song" - and all the kids had always liked the song, too. So we also had a theme song. Even better, Mummy was from England; my family was from Germany; there was an actual blood connection between us and the ancient Anglo-Saxon overlords of the British Isles. It was perfect.

The next task was determining the colours and getting jerseys. I looked online to see how much it would cost to get custom-made rugby jerseys for all of us. Way too much. I then looked around local shops - Wal-Mart, Zellers, Roots, The Gap, etc. - trying to find shirts that A.) looked like rugby jerseys, and B.) came in sizes to fit everyone from Trixta (three years old) to me. Frustratingly, I just could not find anything.

Then luck struck again one day. I popped into Old Navy, and there, marked way down (clear-out), were a bunch of matching cotton shirts, white front and back, but with navy shoulders and neck band, in all boys sizes, from extra small to large. The shirts even had a couple of navy stripes on each short sleeve. And the cotton was stretchy enough so that I could actually jam into a size large. And they were like three bucks each or something. I had already come up with the idea of having our colours silver and navy, so when I saw these, I just thought, Done.

I bought them all, plus matching white and navy blue athletic socks, and then took them to the local T-shirt shop, where I had them emblazon, in navy and silver, the name Overlords RFC (rugby football club) with a navy border around it. I brought the jerseys home, and there was an element to the whole thing that seemed akin to the thrill an as-yet-unsassigned superhero-in-waiting might feel once he is given his superhero name, a list of his superhero powers, and his official superhero outfit. All the kids put on their jerseys, looked at themselves in the mirror, and somehow or other, instantly became The Overlords, a family of elite superheroes which no force on earth could now keep down, let alone separate.

Now, we just needed a battle to fight.