This entry will be trimmed down quite a bit from what I was originally planning. Partly because I have something I wrote earlier that I want to post (in an extended entry), partly because I was tied up with a lot more work than usual, but mostly because it's 1:30am and I have to get up early tomorrow for work.
So here I am in Cologne, home of the world's largest candy and biscuit (cookie) show. Though, since exhibitors are down 25% and attendees are down 30%, that's not quite as true as it once was. Hopefully the show will rebound as the economy improves (hah! fingers crossed), because it would be a shame to see it die off like so many trade shows have done in recent years.
MONKEYS! I usually find quite a few monkey-based candies at the show, but this year the only new one I found was a display model for some kind of chocolate association. It's a pretty good-looking monkey compared to the scarier monkeys I've seen in past years, and I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing?
STRIPPERS! Here's a way to FINALLY celebrate the TRUE meaning of Christmas... strippers! They could have just had babes standing around in sexy Santa costumes on this advent calendar, but they went the extra mile and included a stripper pole. Genius. And oh so symbolic... I mean, is that supposed to be the North Pole?
PIRATES! And now for something totally fantastic... FLASHING PIRATE POPS!! As if having a pirate-themed candy pop wasn't already cool enough, these sweet tributes to awesomeness also have flashing lights in them! I so totally want to buy a set. I couldn't find out where to locate a retailer, so if anybody ever finds them for sale, PLEASE let me know so I can get them!
BALLS! There are plenty of candies here that are simply called "BALLS!" but there's only one I've found that lives up to the name, and that's these little tennis balls candies. They're gum with a lemon liquid center of some kind. These are really well done, and the container they come in makes them look almost real... albeit at a much smaller scale.
POOH! Most of the time, the tiny plush giveaway toys that they put in candy boxes are pretty heinous. So imagine my surprise when I saw a tiny Winnie The Pooh plush that actually looked good! Sweet.
PEZ!!! Saving the best for last, I was amazed at the detailing that they managed to get in these super-awesome Star Wars PEZ dispensers. Frickin' sweet! PEZ dispensers not only perform the necessary and critical function of storing and dispensing PEZ candies, but they are total works of art as well. Equally amazing were the new toys made for the upcoming Monsters Vs. Aliens film Dreamworks is releasing...
PEZ may very well be the planet's most perfect creation. CANDY AND A TOY... TOGETHER!!! Genius.
PANDA!!! And what would the ISM show be without a bear attack? Last year I was almost killed when two ferocious bears were let loose to roam the show, this year I was very nearly mauled by a giant panda. Taken by surprise, I screamed "GAH! PANDA ATTACK!!! and threw a woman from a nearby booth in its path so I could escape with my life. Anybody who envies my traveling to exotic locations around the world and attending awesome candy shows would do well to remember this. My job isn't all fun-and-games... sometimes it's the most dangerous job on earth. I consider myself very lucky to have survived this long.
After I had survived another day and finished up with work, I walked to the train station so I could cross back over the river to "home." For the most part, I find Deutsch Bahn (German trains) to be timely, efficient, economical, relatively clean, and a good way to travel. So imagine my shock when I saw that some asshole had totally painted over my ride with silver paint! One of the best things about traveling by train is being able to look out the windows, but now that small pleasure would be taken from me...
WTF?!? If you're going to deface a train with graffiti, at least be respectful of the people who have to ride in it! And it's not even very interesting artwork! Plain silver? What kind of statement is that? Sad.
After dropping my work crap off at my hotel, it was time to head to my favorite place for eats in Cologne... POMMES DE LUXE!!!
They take thick-cut potatoes, fry them up until they're golden brown, then drench them in awesome toppings. Most people go for gravy, but I loves me the mayonnaise...
A delicious way to end my day before having to catch up with the work that's just waking up back in the real world.
And speaking of the real world...
IN DEFENSE OF CHRISTIAN BALE
Christian Bale is one of those actors that kind of slid under the radar for a number of years... at least from what I can remember. I had seen him in American Psycho and thought he was pretty amazing, but then wrote him off as he slogged through films like Shaft and Reign of Fire. Then along came great stuff like Batman Begins, The Prestige, 3:10 to Yuma, and The Dark Knight and suddenly Bale was hard to ignore. The guy has remarkable acting talent, and can somehow inhabit a character in a way that elevates any work he takes on.
The ultimate proof of this would be in The Dark Knight, where he has to appear with some of the most amazing actors ever to grace the silver screen... Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Aaron Eckhart (who is so underrated in his genius that it's criminal)... not to mention the mind-shattering artistry that is Heath Ledgers interpretation of The Joker.
Bale is dropped into scene after scene with total acting brilliance, but does not fade. He holds his own at every turn, whether it's the cool playboy facade that's Bruce Wayne or the mysterious animalistic grittiness that's The Batman. I don't think people appreciate what a difficult task this is. In my humble opinion, he doesn't make a single misstep. There are those who argue the gruff voice he uses as Batman is annoying, but I completely disagree. Bale was given the thankless task of making Batman unrecognizable from Bruce Wayne to sell the idea of his having a "secret identity" and he did just that. When he's Batman, Bale is not only unrecognizable as Bruce Wayne... he approaches being unrecognizable as human. Bale "gets it." He nails the character in a way that has never been seen before. Not with Michael Keaton (whose Batman seemed to be gravely overshadowed by everything else in the film), not with Val Kilmer (who actually managed to make Batman boring), not with George Clooney (who, with assistance from hack-director Joel Schumacher, turned the character into a bigger joke than Adam West ever did), and definitely not Adam West (who, through no fault of his own, was forced to play a character that was not Batman, but some kind of parody).
I am a huge, huge, huge, Batman fan (since birth!) and can honestly say that Christian Bale is the only actor who has even come close to doing the character justice outside the source material. So when I continuously see Bale shoved aside as people are (rightly) praising Heath Ledger's take on The Joker, I think it's unfair. Any Batman movie is ultimately going to succeed or fail because Batman succeeds or fails, and I think Bale should be getting some credit for the amazing work he's done in bringing the character to life on-screen.
But there's always a price to pay.
Christian Bale is becoming well-known as a hot-head on set by being very demanding of maintaining an environment that he can perform in. He's a perfectionist who doesn't tolerate fuck-ups, and gets nailed to the wall for coming unglued because he gets frustrated that other people don't seem to take his work as seriously as he does. Because of this, he's regularly labeled an arrogant asshole, total bastard, or a prima-donna psychopath. All of which is undoubtedly true.
And I can totally relate.
The only difference being that I don't have the luxury of going ballistic and demanding that people stop being fuck-ups. Because, believe me, I would if I could. If I was able to get away with going postal on the dumbasses I have to deal with on a daily basis, I would make Christian Bale look like an altar boy. And here's the point I'm trying to make... I think most people would. But most people are not shouldered with the burden of being the fulcrum on which millions of dollars are made or lost, so it becomes far easier to be dismissive and label Bale a self-centered douchebag than admit to themselves that they might turn into raging assholes too... if they were able to get away with it.
So when I listen to the shocking audio posted over at TMZ where Christian Bale is freaking out because the Director of Photography is goofing off in his eyeline while he's trying to create a character in a scene, I am secretly jealous. Here is a man clearly living the dream of being an insane asshole when it suits him, and making no apologies for it. Sure he could take the approach of actors like Samuel L. Jackson, who is legendary for being a nice guy on set and a coveted actor to work with because he's remarkably talented and a consummate gentleman, but Bale is of a different mind-set entirely, and I'm okay with that because the end results are worth it.
When I see Christian Bale in a movie, I don't care that it might have taken a psychotic episode to get there... I'm just glad to be enjoying the show and getting my money's worth for a change.
But most of all I'm just happy to finally have a Batman movie with Batman actually in it.