Friday, December 30, 2005

Back from our trip to Boston Braintree, with a brief foray into Boston. It was fine. Kirsti and I cleaned up at the yankee swap, netting a handheld Sudoku thingy and a CD-boombox. Saw The Producers, which wasn't on my list 'til I heard Will Ferrell played the playwright. If you see it, be sure to sit through the credits. Also watched the original King Kong on TCM, which backed up my previous post as well as Chris's comment. Taught Mille Bornes to the inlaws, and have discovered that if I want Kirsti to cheerfully play board/cardgames with me, I need to take her out of state. Had lunch with Mark in the city, and attempted to see a movie, but no dice. Oh, a new highlight: JP Licks in Brookline has a chocolate/cinnamon/cayenne pepper ice cream approximating my beloved Chocolate Coyote at Sebastian Joe's in MN. I think SJ's is a darker chocolate, but I'm not sure.

I'm not sure how I managed to miss the Jeff Reardon story until I got home, given the inlaws get two newspapers and have a full cable package. I know that New England is vaguely aware of the existence of the other 44 states, but Reard the Beard did spend some time with the Red Sox, too...

Monday, December 19, 2005

King Kong could have easily been 40 minutes shorter. Too much backstory for the red shirts. Too much gravitas stapled on to something that should be a straightahead actioner. Peter Jackson is responsible for one of my favorite movies of all time, but since then has churned out three bloated spectacles I enjoyed but never need to see again. Let's hope he got it all out of his system during this romp through the candy store, and exercises some restraint for The Lovely Bones. My estimation of the 1933 Kong has only increased. They can do anything and everything onscreen in 2005. They couldn't in 1933, so the accomplishment means so much more. There's still more soul in that clay-and-fur model than in Andy Serkis's pinky.

The new one's worth seeing, don't get me wrong. Just show up late.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

I haven't had too much to say about curling this season. I just wrapped up two leagues, playing #2 in both. In my men's league we struggled early on, and it was getting pretty frustrating. Our vice worked with our rookie lead before a few games and we ended up winning our last three to finish at a respectable 4-4.

In my mixed league, I'm not sure how it happened, but we ended up going 4-0 in our division and will now play for the club's mixed championship in February. We will most certainly get clobbered in that game, as the other division is sorting out a circle of death between a few state playdown teams. But anything could happen, and we're guaranteed a pin at this point. It's pretty cool; my mixed teams have never been that competitive. I'm especially happy for our skip, who's doing this with his daughter, who plays with a disability. He's a low-key guy, but you can tell he's in the clouds about this.
Here are the remaining answers:

Tiger genus: Panthera. The quizmaster sends out category titles to his email list. We thought Tora! Tora! Tora! would be about Pearl Harbor, but it was actually all about tigers.

dreidel letters: nun, hey, gimmel, shin. I remembered gimmel, perhaps because it was the most unusual of the four. Then we went with the Hebrew letters we could remember: aleph and qoph, the latter being one of the ways to get rid of your Q in Scrabble if you lack a U.

Oh, and in Diner, there is a minor character -- I don't know if he's ever referred to by name -- who hangs around in the diner quoting Sweet Smell of Success. If Levinson's goal was to make people seek out that earlier movie, well, misison accomplished, at least in my case.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

As some of you know, you can use AIM to help answer "Ask the Audience" lifelines as WWTBAMillionaire tapes. Yesterday they were apparently taping Movie Week, and my suspicion that I was rejected because I'd cost them too much money is closer to being confirmed. Among the questions (paraphrased):

Ralphie's decoder ring decodes an ad for what product in A CHRISTMAS STORY? ($2000)
A character in DINER compulsively quotes what film? ($100K)

I'll have to watch when they actually air. For now I can take solace in ekeing out another pub quiz victory, this time as "Scott Beowulf." We trailed after the first category, came back to tie going into the final round, then won by two points on a rather serendipitous event.

A sampling, including what was probably the eventual gamewinner:

What genus are tigers in?

Name three of the four letters on a dreidel.

On The Simpsons, Jeff Albertson is known by what other name? Comic Book Guy (James) - We figured it was either him, Bumblebee Man, or the ersatz Seymour Skinner. My teammates went with CBG, and I deferred to them considering Blake had just carried us through a "Homer or Peter Griffin?" round. Still, it's funnier if the Bee's real name is Jeff Albertson.

What is the capital of Bermuda? Hamilton (Brian) - This was just odd. The Globe is trying to be a soccer bar, with Fox SoccerNet on most of the TVs in the back room, even if there's nothing going on. So were wracking our brains, thinking it was something British/patrician sounding, and a rugby match starts up on some of the screens -- played in Hamilton, Bermuda. I think only one other team and the quizmaster spotted it. This was one of the last questions, and I think it was the one that clinched it for us.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Nothing like this has ever happened at our pub quizzes.

As the comment below points out, Jason Patric is trivia.

Friday, December 9, 2005

Am I the only one not the least bit interested in Narnia? I read a few of the books as a kid and thought they were okay, but they weren't a childhood staple. And I thought the His Dark Materials trilogy pretty much trounced Lewis's series.

How many millions of children were intrigued by "Turkish delight" only to later find out now nasty it was?

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Didn't do the pub quiz last night. Instead we watched In Cold Blood, which I wanted to catch before seeing Capote. It was very good, though not as chilling as I'd been led to believe. I was surprised the homoeroticism and language was turned up as much as it was -- the b/w tends to throw you and you think it's older than 1967.

Trashmasters was this weekend. Team was 4th, I was #2 scorer, but was more disappointed to miss the K-Tel Hell finals for the first time ever. Prizes were LPs given out in a botched Yankee-swap format, but we stuck Cooch with the goods, as he was the only one traveling with a large case. Trashmasters seems to have backslid in punctuality, which is unfortunate. Interesting to see what'll happen if plans to make it a one-day event go through.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The triumphant return...

of Out of 5!. And the theme this week is mine.

UPDATE: well, that didn't last long. dang! Hm. Well, in the new year you'll have my Monday music feature, at least.

In other returns no less triumphant, we won the pub quiz again. Note to self: watch those Alec Guinness Ealing movies already, because I apparently can't recognize the man unless he's spouting crap dialogue and carrying a lightsaber. I have no questions for you. Sorry.

Okay, here are some from Tuesday, though I may not post answers for you 'til next week:

TEAM AND YEAR: The last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup was...? 1992-93 Canadiens (Craig) - I narrowed it down to Calgary or Montreal, then remembered that in 1993 I was living in Michigan and thus had access to Hockey Night In Canada. Don Cherry was not too happy about the Francophones winning, but sang the praises of John LeClair.

On what album did The Clash's "London Calling" originally appear? London Calling (Brian) - I know there are differences between the US and UK editions of the eponymous debut, but no way was I going to fall victim to a trick question regarding one of my faves.

Soccer legend George Best played for three United States teams. Name any one. Ft. Lauderdale Strikers (Brian) - Also the San Jose Earthquakes (NASL) and LA Aztecs. I correctly guessed that the opening topic, "Best of the Best" would be about the recently dead footballer, so had a chance to skim his obit earlier in the afternoon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Hmm...a little over a year ago, I changed email addresses. The new account has beeen largely spam-free until this last week. More accurately, until the second time I checked email from the Wintel machines at mom's house. Coincidence?

After 35 years, I finally found a squash recipe I like. You'd think I'da taken to squash long ago, given my longstanding love of anything involving its cousin, the pumpkin. But most squash seems to end up like a big bowl of baby food for adults. Not this one: two lbs. cubed butternut squash. 3 tbsp. chopped ginger. 1 cup frozen concentrated OJ, thawed. Toss, bake. Yum. I recommend extra ginger.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Greetings from Minnesota. Saw the new Harry Potter movie Sunday with just one of the nephews, as the burgeoning juvenile delinquent managed to get himself grounded from going. Best in the series so far, I think. Today's a lazy day, as we've finished all our shopping for early christmas, and everyone's still working. I'm leaning toward a 40-year-old-virgin/Serenity double feature at the local dollar cineplex.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Me & the Bruce on movies

loosely-organized ruminations on this post.

Matt didn't think much of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Of the films he compares it to, I think FT is:

dunno, haven't seen Kids
loads better
worse but different
hardly comparable, but both are good
far better

I'd submit that some of this might be generational in the few years that set us apart. (same reason everyone just two years younger than me love that damn Goonies). I also may be cutting FT some slack for being a genre-definer, not a refiner. First off, Amy Heckerling directed FT from Crowe's screenplay, so blame her for how the end titles ended up. It was a first feature for both, and yes, it showed (though in Heckerling's case, the only notable improvement since is the wonderful Clueless). I hope you stuck around for the DVD commentary: Crowe and Heckerling are tremendously entertaining, and talk for a good 20 minutes after the film ends. Likewise, Crowe has a 15-20-minute preamble on the Say Anything dvd commentary.

I don't remember making the nudity comment (your comments aren't archived), but I agree. Jennifer Jason Leigh carries the film. Roger Ebert gave it a one-star review seemingly because he was crushing on Leigh and didn't like seeing her character abused. I don't think he ever publicly changed his position on this film, but he didn't mind seeing JJL put through the wringer in the 3.5-star Last Exit to Brooklyn. Anyway, I like it because there's enough levity to keep the proceedings from getting too afterschool special while attempting to be serious about actual teen problems (not this BS "my parents don't understand me" malaise of John Hughes): demeaning jobs, money problems, the feeling that everyone but you is getting laid. And it deromanticized the First Time, an experience that nine times out of 10 is lousy. There's only one movie I can think of with a more unpleasant consensual first time.

Breakfast Club is an utter embarrassment. The great shame of my generation is that this was a defining film. You may think this is just me being cranky, but I remember it ringing false even then -- the North Shore affluence of most of Hughes' movies didn't speak to me. I can't imagine what a modern 15-year-old would think of it. Ferris Bueller has a bit of that problem too. Parts may as well be set on Mars. And then there's the problem of Bueller himself: a manipulative little jackass. I like to think that Bueller grew up and became the civics teacher in Election. But I think he's actually George W. Bush.

American Pie and Porky's -- A line I just heard last week (Dave Kehr on Animal House, actually) sums up my feeling toward Porky's: "I probably laughed harder...than I ever have at a film I didn't really like." There are some great bits, but it's sunk by the supposed "friends'" cruelty to each other, and the wedged-in anti-bigotry message. American Pie was freed of that phony sense of social responsibility, and for once the women were given a little more to do than be doormats/receptacles. Still, it felt like deja vu all over again.

I don't see the ties to Animal House. There are the "where are they nows?," but American Graffiti did them first. A link to Better Off Dead is even more tenuous -- other than a scene in a fast-food restaurant and Vincent Schiavelli, there's hardly a connection. Well, I guess Curtis Armstrong is playing a Spicoli Lite (VERY lite)...

Friday, November 11, 2005

Beijing mascots. Power Rangers meet Teletubbies? Surprisingly, I rather like these.

Which country will make the shoddy counterfeit merchandise, though?

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Did you know I never saw an opossum until I moved to Evanston? It's true -- it was quite literally a what the HELL is THAT?! moment. You'd think that growing up near the Mississippi, we'd've had more run-ins with 'possums, raccoons, and the like pillaging our garbage. I guess we were too far north for the marsupials, or maybe all the CHUDs got 'em, who knows. Anyway, while going to work today I noticed that some people still had their jack o'lanterns wilting on their steps, and that critters of some sort had been eating at them. I've decided that no matter how scary you may want your jack o' lantern to be, it'll be scarier with its face partially gnawed off.

Just a craft tip to help you get the jump on next year.
I hope you were able to grab the Out of 5 stuff over the past two days...the site's gotten too popular for its bandwidth. TPTB are making some changes; more news as things develop.
We rolled to another pub quiz victory. I don't know if we're quite on our way to getting a Barker-style banning--it's our second win in as many appearances, but we took last week off. Also, we drink, so we're more attractive to a pub than the Michigan cabal would be. Anyway, perfect scores in matching Canadian provinces/capitals/flags and "Halen or Hagar?," and three bonus points on Bizarro World.

We're recycling the BUCB gags; I guess there's enough time and distance where this is okay. Karin wanted our name to involve "Cobra Kai," so we became the Cobra Kai Pub Quiz Dojo. Also a comment was made (by one of our female team members, mind you) about the fabulosity of our team's rack, so that may come into play in future weeks. Flax, be warned.

I don't remember too many questions, so here's one hard, one easy:

Who was the last Aztec ruler? (we had multiple choice, but you'll not be so lucky)

Where is the US Hockey Hall of Fame located? Eveleth, MN - (Craig, to no one's surprise. It was gonna come down to whether he or Mark checked in first. )

Monday, November 7, 2005

Once there was a song that I liked, but had no strong feelings about. Once there was also a group that was never really my cup of tea, but that I considered mostly harmless.

Then the song and the group came together, and it became my most hated cover version of all time.

I type of course of 10,000 Maniacs' "unplugged" butchery of "Because the Night," originally performed by Patti Smith and written by Smith and Bruce Springsteen. Natalie Merchant drains any soul, any passion from the song like a vegan-coffeehouse succubus. Come to think of it, her/their cover of "Peace Train" is pretty damn annoying too..."eee-ahh--ee-ah-oo-ah" was never meant to be a lead vocal, unless your boss is Dave Seville. In all seriousness I'd rather listen to Britney Spears covering "Satisfaction." I'd rather listen to Michael Bolton take on Percy Sledge. Brit & Mike know their fans don't know any better.

It's likely that my bile for the cover overinflates the original. To be fair, Patti also has some blood on her hands for her "Hey Joe" cover, esp. the spoken-word nonsense about Patty Hearst. And Natalie Merchant took steps toward redemption with her lovely work on the Mermaid Avenue albums. Finally, I'll cop to liking the 10,000 Maniacs cover of "More Than This," when Mary Ramsey took over vocals, though I only ever hear it in the Christmas Tree Shop when visiting the inlaws.

Anyway, here.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

and speaking of Netflix,
The company recently announced a class-action settlement proposal in which eligible customers may receive a 1-month upgrade in service (i.e. a 3-disc customer would step up to the 4-disc plan, with no increase in fees for that first month). Okay, so everyone gets $6 or so in service upgrade, and whether you pay for the service increase after the first month is up to you.

But longtime users like me could be worse off by opting into this "benefit." I've been a member since 2000, so I'm in the 4-disc plan, but grandfathered into the 3-disc rate. So if I accept the benefit, I get bumped up to 5 discs for one month (or more). If at the end of that month, I decide to drop back to 4 discs, do I keep my favorable rate, or do I now pay $23.99? I've already sent an email off to Customer Service. In the meantime, there are already people unhappy with the proposed settlement, though in more of a nebulous, stick-it-to-the-Man way.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Here's an interesting widget for Netflix users. Request your complete rental history, then paste it into this URL, which will then crunch your stats.

The title number is the number of discs we've rented in almost 6 years as customers. Based on $3 rentals (a figure I pulled out of thin air), we've saved nearly $500, but that's still $1200 in membership fees. If you were waiting to rent Rules of the Game last winter, I apologize for holding it for 70 days. Had I known you wanted it, I'd've invited you over.
All week long, this week's Out of 5 candidate was "Skulls"' by the Misfits. But then, like second-guessing one's Halloween costume, I thought there might be an overabundance of Mistfits-y type stuff, if not two songs by that band. So I delved into my 70's AM-subconscious for good old Cliff Richard.

My other frontrunner was Ashcroft's "Let the Eagle Soar."

Friday, October 28, 2005

Today is the yearly Halloween fundraiser, involving a costume contest, cube decorating, and a chili cookoff. I'm not partaking in the first two, but will participate in the latter, at least the eating part. The funny/annoying thing about the chili cookoff is that there are so many delicate palates sampling the wares. So at every station at least one person around me asks, "Is this spicy? I can't eat it if it's spicy." People, people. It. Is. Chili. I'm not saying Guatemalan insanity peppers are a requirement in each crock, but perhaps you'd be better served judging a corn chowder cookoff.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

There was no pub quiz last night. Apparently there was some baseball thing going on. Who knew? Three of us stuck around since we were out already, and the plan to have "a couple" turned into becoming the penultimate group to leave. Damn them and their $3 St. George's!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

In which I channel Lileks, only without the Powerline brownnosing and creepy kid stories
Here's more potential wallpaper: an outstanding collection of vintage (pulp) paperback covers. What a great mix of the literary and the not so much. It's also fun to look for authors you may have heard of, particularly in the sleaze section. Here's Brian Aldiss, who later wrote the short story that became the film AI. Here's Philip Jose Farmer. Gustave Flaubert. Anyone who picked this up based on the cover had to be disapppointed. And here's poor old Eric von Stroheim, the director who had his big silent epics chopped up and was reduced to playing Norma Desmond's chauffeur in Sunset Blvd. I'll bet the Paprika manuscript was originally 2,012 pages long.
(via me3dia.)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I meant to chat up some of the better things I saw at the Film Festival, especially during my 6-program weekend over 10/15-16. Best of the bunch was The Hidden Blade. Katagiri is a low-level samurai develops a relationship with his out-of-caste maid, and is later ordered to kill a friend who's turned against the clan. Yoji Yamada makes samurai films focusing on the bureaucracy and corrupt politics of the japanese feudal system, so if you're looking for a more Kurosawan epic, you'll be disappointed. But when action does break out, it carries more weight.

I don't remember why I decided to buy a ticket to Brick, but I'm glad I did. Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finds a girl (Emilie DeRavin from Lost) dead in a storm drain. He then tries to figure out who killed her, but the film's gimmick is that it's a teen film noir, played totally deadpan with hard-boiled dialogue. This works to great effect. In one scene Brendan and "The Brain" debate whether to get "bulls" (cops) involved, then in the next line Brendan asks to borrow the Brain's mom's cellphone. And there's a scene with Richard Roundtree as the assistant principal that sends up every rogue detective/commanding officer conversation you've ever seen. Tremendously entertaining.

With lesser aspirations but still thoroughly entertaining was Night of the Living Dorks, a German teen comedy. Yeah...German. Comedy. These three nerds get turned into zombies by a Goth ritual gone awry. Their new-found resistance to pain lets them get revenge on bullies, and their undeadness is mistaken for a hip heroin-chic look. They become popular, until body parts start to fall off...

Other things...saw a couple of very solid shorts presentations, which are unlikely to pop up anywhere. Spike Lee's Jesus Children of America was quite good, but it being a Spike Lee joint, I had goose-eggs on my head for a couple of days from the message. The animated short most likely to pop up come Oscar time is Legend of the Scarecrow, from Spain. Back in feature news, Animal is a French/Portuguese thriller about a timid geneticist researching human aggression. The best thing about it is how it manages to keep its serial-killer character fresh. Other'n that, it's just okay. But far better than Black Brush which was billed as a Clerks-esque tale of Hungarian chimney sweeps. Well, it was black-and-white, anyway, but dull and stupid. I fell asleep. And it was the first of the four things I saw that day.
The FOGHAT tournament was this weekend. Finished third. We were competitive in all the games we lost, which is good or even more frustrating, depending on my mood. It was nice to have Mark & Chris in town, and Kirsti seemed to have a good time playing, and saved our bacon in several lit questions. The themed questions were for the most part okay, though Jeremy forever ruined a musician I generally liked with an abysmal Matthew Sweet theme pack. If you have to stretch that hard and add that much excess verbiage to a pack, the theme probably isn't worth doing. The Northwestern and NC State theme packs would not have been so annoying had they not been back to back, I think. As it was...well, they were.

We managed to get some of the out-of-towners around to a few Evanston restaurants, which was nice. Then I had the bright idea that going down to the Neo-Futurarium would be a fun Saturday night activity. Sadly, I underestimated the effect of heavy Italian dinners and the amount of time to kill between dinner and the 11:30 showtime. Mark nodding off while watching the ballgame was a bad sign, so at 10:30 we decided to bail on the plan. Unfortunately the plan involved meeting people, and we ended up standing up Leah, who got my voicemail late. So that...was bad.

Friday, October 21, 2005

You know how I like to argue about and track progress on various critical lists? Well, I'm not going to do so with Time's list of the "100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present." My progress is abysmal. I've read 17. This includes one I listened to as a b-o-t and one I've started and put down so many times, and finally decided I've read enough of it to say I read and Disliked it. And yeah, I read the Judy Blume book. Zip it.

Overall, I like the list for acknowledging genre fiction as important (Chandler! Stephenson! PKD! Moore!). And as per usual, the reader comments are high-frickin'-larious. "Where's Harry Potter?! Where's Ayn Rand?! Waaah!"

Thursday, October 20, 2005

How to interest me in the World Series

Why, Turn Back The Clock, of course!


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

After a week off, the newly-rechristened Harriet Miers Sex Video stormed to victory at the Globe. Our frequent Achilles' Heel is the Dead or Canadian? round, but this week's topic (Dick Cheney quote or Monty Burns?) played to our strengths. We finally took the lead in the photo round. We missed Dennis Haysbert -- his skin appeared lighter in the shot, and the glasses, goatee and smile made him look like Denzel Washington. But we might have been the only team to identify the actor in the Cuckoo's Nest picture alongside Nicholson (Will Sampson), and my hunch on this image proved correct, as there had been no White Sox questions all night.

Here's a sampling of questions, a la Mark:

As of yesterday morning, which player led the current NHL season in goals scored? Simon Gagne (Ryan) - we were given Gagne, Jaromir Jagr and Eric Lindros as options, and decided to go for the guy we hadn't heard of. We didn't even know Lindros was still playing, in all honesty...

Who was Arthur Andersen's first-ever client? I don't think anyone's going to get this without Googling -- it was the Schlitz Brewing Company; as Brian alludes to, Schlitz is now owned by Pabst, along with a craptastic array of downmarket beers, including Olympia, Colt .45, Stroh's and Blatz. We guessed the City of Chicago, since the category was Corporate Scandals and we [heart] irony.

In what state was the Field Museum's "Sue" unearthed? South Dakota (Mom) - and no, you can't go to the bar with us.

Monday, October 17, 2005

This was a tough Out of 5 assignment. When it comes to "songs you secretly love by artists you publicly hate," if I dislike an artist, I typically dislike everything by that artist. If pressed I suppose I could pick the Creed song I find least reprehensible, but it still wouldn't be a song I like, much less secretly love. And it's not a guilty-pleasure assignment; that's an altogether different beast. Journey, for example, is a guilty-pleasure band; when I'm prone to yodeling like Steve Perry in the car, I can't very well call them a hated band, can I? Same for most '80s hair acts; the irritainment level is consistent enough to keep them in good graces.

So I went with Madonna, whose sole talent as far as I can see is signing the regular extensions on whatever Faustian agreement she has in place. "Burning Up" is just a more or less likable pop song from before she had figured out the pose; back when she was competing with the likes of Sheena Easton and Shannon. One could say the same for "Borderline" and perhaps "Lucky Star," but "Burning Up" never suffered from overplay.

Then there was finding the song. I thought maybe K. had purchased The Immaculate Collection somewhere along the line, but no dice. Who has the finest collection of crap pop (and more importantly, works from home and thus has access to said collection)? Dee, of course. She didn't have the song, but had procured it within minutes.

other front-runners:
"Big Log", Robert Plant (it's more indifference to Plant and Led Zeppelin than any strong distaste.)
"Jesus Built My Hotrod," Ministry (Al J. seemed to go from a Depeche Mode to a Big Black wannabe. But I always liked this song for the samples from the underrated film Wise Blood).
"Sorry About Your Penis," Smash Mouth (from the Orgazmo soundtrack. I re-spun it and decided it wasn't good enough for an endorsement).
"Tragedy", the Bee Gees (the memories of 1979, taping the "Spirits Having Flown" album off AM radio...but they're too close to GP).

Friday, October 14, 2005

The usually hyperviolent Takashi Miike has made a family film. I'm not sure just what family it's for, but The Great Yokai War plays like a live-action version of a Hayao Miyazaki nightmare. Tadashi is a little boy chosen during a lion dance as the "Kirin Rider," who must go up the nearby mountain to retrieve a sword. He then gets caught up in a battle between Yokai (spirits) and a once-human demon with some cool stop-motion robots at his disposal.

While the movie could have been 20 minutes shorter, I was entertained throughout. The yokai are all over the map. The first one Tadashi meets looks like one of those singing kung-fu hamsters. There's a Kappa, a traditional turtle-man. One's an umbrella with eyes and a tongue. Another is just a big wall. Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill also shows up, this time as a whip-toting, blonde-beehived Asian Paris Hilton in cahoots with the bad guy. Miike's made his most accessible, though not his best, film to date.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Greg needs carrying home already.
Greg needs to set up a more extensive experiment if he needs additional evidence.
Greg needs another arm.
Greg needs to listen to his basic fisherman instincts.
Greg needs a pipe to complete this ensemble.
Greg needs answers, fast.
Greg needs to kick Karen to the curb.
Greg needs a hunting companion to stalk the uplands of his native Montana.
Greg needs to be visible in the library.
Greg needs very little introduction within the legal web circles.
Greg needs to find a way to get it in the hole and try to save a shot or two a
Greg needs to update the amendments in the constitution
Greg needs the pick axe to trench through the hard sandstone at the titanosaur site.
Greg needs to dig a little deeper into Christian philosophy for the real Christian
reason to go to the Moon.
Greg needs a modest reality check and a tightening of focus, or an addition thereof.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The new Out of 5 is up; the theme is "one man, one (acoustic) guitar." My selection is "If Only You Were Lonely," the b-side to the Replacements' first-ever single and a precursor to Westerberg's solo output. Also in the running were several Robyn Hitchcock songs, but he overdubs his own backup vocals, and I considered that cheating. I also thought about bucking the "one man" bit and putting on a Shawn Colvin song, but you should all just go buy Cover Girl anyway.

Sunday, October 9, 2005

in honor of finally getting Some Like It Hot seen and out of the way, I've added the New York Times "1000 Best Movies" list to the movie links at left. I also freshened up the other lists.

The Times list was updated last year to accompany a new printing of its "Best 1000 Movies Ever Made" book. If you think this list is odd (The Flamingo Kid?!), consider the old one included Moonraker. I'm amused that the book includes Bosley Crowther's scathing review of Bonnie and Clyde ("It is a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick comedy that treats the hideous depredations of that sleazy, moronic pair as though they were as full of fun and frolic...strangely antique, sentimental claptrap...").

Thursday, October 6, 2005

After finally catching How I Met Your Mother, I'm pretty sure Jason Segel is Public "Envemy" #1 among males 18-34 right now. Consider: it is his job to make out with Alyson Hannigan (no, you don't get a link; you know who she is). Then after a hard day at the office, he goes home to Linda Cardellini. Poor guy.

The show itself is okay, though definitely a donut show.* They need to dial down the NPH a little, but the phone pics and security video gags were inspired, I must admit.

*Donut shows: I think I just made this up: a series where the ostensible main character is among the weakest things about the show. Sitcom straightmen can often be perceived as the donut holes, but I think in most cases the absence of punchlines detracts from the hard work in holding a show together. Although Jerry Seinfeld was often the straight man in his series (and his lack of acting chops were a joke in "The Pilot"), Seinfeld was not a donut show. I think Buffy was the hole in BtVS, because Gellar was...well, not bad, but everyone else was so much better. I'm sure Dee will have something to say on this...maybe there's a column in this somewhere.

Monday, October 3, 2005

and people wonder why I'm such a music snob...
The Ashlee Simpson show at Metro this Wednesday is sold out. Tickets are $40 a pop.

Sleater-Kinney plays the next night, tickets are less than half Ashlee's, and are still available. The hell?

ETA: this has now been corrected, as the hipster kids have purchased the remaining S-K tix.
I've been invited to contribute to Out of 5, a weekly themed-mix site. A new theme every Monday, but no archives, so get stuff before it disappears. This week's theme is "covers that eclipse the original." A couple of the contributors can be found in the list to the left.

BTW, the URL to download my song is incorrect. This is the one you want. UPDATE: link now fixed on the page.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Need some new desktop images (or wallpaper, as PC users call it)? Here's every Mad magazine cover.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Our pub quiz winning streak was snapped at 1, as we came in third last night. We shared the lead in the first half, getting a perfect score on movie quotes and doing well enough on bowling and hurricanes. Our downfall was "Macy's or Marshall Fields?" -- clearly we don't do enough department-store shopping, as we got all of three points that round to fall into second. The game-end tiebreaker, which was the selling-floor square footage of the Macy's flagship store, dropped us to third.

Third place got us a $15 gift certificate, which worked out to a beer apiece. And the winning team, the heretofore-aptly-named "Bringing Up the Rear," got their first win, so that's nice. The team that commented loudest about us being ringers last week were back again, and making some untintelligible comments. I guess we now have an official Enemy of the Team, so I was happy to finish ahead of those suckas.

I was less happy to get a parking ticket, which I think I will contest due to contradictory signage.

Monday, September 26, 2005

If anyone wants to hit some festival movies with me, this is what I'm planning on seeing. LM = Landmark Century Center, AMC= AMC River East:

10/8, Sat: P, 11:30 p.m., LM
10/10, Mon: Protocols of Zion , 6:45, LM
10/11, Tues: Shorts: Homegrown, 6:15, AMC
10/12, Wed: Shorts: Behind Closed Doors, 6:45, AMC
10/13, Thu: Shorts: Personal Revelations (6:45), The Great Yokai War (9:15), both AMC
10/15, Sat: Night of the Living Dorks (2 p.m.), Shorts: Animation (4:15), both AMC
10/16, Sun: Black Brush (1:45), Brick (4:00), Animal (6:30), The Hidden Blade (9:00) all at LM (same screen)

I'll be ordering tickets for the features tonight, and getting them for the shorts presentations later.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Matt recently opined that this time of year was his least favorite. I think it's become my favorite; more specifically October, between pennant-race and playoff baseball, the start of curling season, and the Chicago Film Festival, the schedule of which just came out. There are about 13 programs I'm interersted in seeing this year. Among the highlights: new movies by Takashi Miike and the director of Twilight Samurai. On the documentary side there's nothing as personally interesting as last year's Nomi Song, but theres a doc on Melvin Van Peebles, as well as Protocols of Zion. Then there's Stoned, a fiction film positing that deceased Rolling Stone Brian Jones was murdered, and something from Germany described as John Hughes meets Dead Alive. The title? Night of the Living Dorks. How could I pass that up?

The higher-profile movies this year are Elizabethtown, Shopgirl, North Country, The Weather Man, and Bee Season, as well as the new Lars Von Trier film. I'll skip all of these, as they'll most certainly get general releases soon. Instead, I'll try to go to three or four of the shorts presentations, because you just can't see them anywhere else.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Once again I spend time with Leah and end up with articles of her clothing in my possession. I speak of course of the t-shirts we were given as swag at the pub quiz last night, which I got back into after a multi-year hiatus. A strong debut, as we had a perfect score after round one (Muppet Show trivia) and never relinquished the lead. Flaxman gives a bit of the blow-by-blow, but doesn't mention the most freakish accomplishment of the night: his geography knowledge is impressive, and to an extent useful, but being able to rattle off 4,294,967,296 like Raymond Babbitt based solely on noodling around with a calculator was just plain scary.

The questions were pretty good for the most part, but relied too much on binary answers. A handful of T/F questions is one thing, but a whole round of "Tennis or Cricket term?" I like the bar; great tap selection, a focus on real football (that is, the kind where feet are used), not Trixified, and Tuesday specials that I actually enjoy drinking. Now how to properly juggle this with the upcoming curling season...

Friday, September 16, 2005

We had a birds-eye view at work. I'm on the 5th floor, facing the construction site. As far as I know, no one at work saw the scaffolding collapse -- as we're between two transit stations, the building is pretty well soundproofed. We've been watching the complex go up for over about a year, and taking a few minutes to see what's going on across the street becomes part of the routine. We end up inappropriately transferring our mundanity onto the hazardous work over there -- usually a highlight is watching the cranes hoist the portajohns up to the top.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

preview of coming distractions

These online single-elimination tournaments are fun, but as Craig points out, like democracy, they never fully satisfy anyone. The latest is the Rolling Stone 192 tournament Flax is wrapping up. He's disappointed at the Beatles getting some crazy number of berths and only having one song survive to the round of 8. I, on the other hand, am none too thrilled about the abuse the Class of '77 took at the hands of the unwashed masses. Sure, London Calling had a strong run, and rightly so. But still...God Save the Queen losing to Every Breath You Take? No. And Anarchy in the UK vs. Strawberry Fields...I disagree with Leah that SFF is a lazy song, but it was a lazy vote, to be sure. So starting in the new year, each Monday I'm going to post a punk/postpunk mp3 on the site for your possible enjoyment. And I'll take submissions -- have a favorite song in this genre, and something to say about it? Send it along.

And speaking of online tournaments, be sure to head over to The Road From Bristol and pour the haterade on horrid broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson. Since I don't watch much in the way of TV sports, this is the only pick I feel strongly about. Apparently my plea to include creepy Bud Collins in the mix fell on deaf ears, or was too late, or something.

Monday, September 12, 2005

My wife told me this weekend that Britney Spears is picking baby names. Since she's an idiot (Britney), she's suggesting ricockulous names: London Preston for a boy, and Addison Shye for a girl.

Addison!? As long as she's picking Chicago El stop names, why not go all out?

If she lived here, she'd probably be a trixie, so her progeny would need El-appropriate names: Wellington Armitage, perhaps. But she's going for sound, and nothing says upper crust like Ashland Morse, or perhaps Jarvis Granville. I suppose Lucas & Spielberg would sue if she chose Indiana Damen. Hyphenates are all the rage, so maybe somehing like Wilson Sox-35th?

But since this is Britney Spears we're talking about, clearly there's only one El stop name that would truly befit her spawn.

Friday, September 9, 2005

For the wrestling fans in my alleged audience, here is an interesting article (reg. required, or go to on Adnan Alkaissy, who was a longtime heel in the AWA as "The Sheikh" and in the WWF as "General Adnan" during the first Gulf War. Seems he did in fact wrestle in Iraq, and was a favorite of Saddam Hussein way back before the Reagan Administration cozied up to the madman.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Here's how I plan to reclaim my title in the Alison LaPlaca Open television dead pool. I read precious little about this year's new shows, so I mostly concentrated on returning shows that were long in the tooth.

10-Monday Night Football (ABC) - the only absolute gimme this year, as ABC announced this stalwart would jump to ESPN for the 2007 season.
9-Will and Grace (NBC) - slightly less absolute, all the sources I've seen call this season "eighth and final". None of them seemed to be from NBC, however.
8-Malcolm in the Middle (FOX) - Creator Linwood Boomer's leaving, the show's moved to the Friday FOX graveyard, and those kids are too old to be cute anymore.
7-King of the Hill (FOX) - Likely the final season. I'd be sorry to see it go, as I've always found it very sharp. Sadly, FOX has found it more profitable to emphasize animated shows that hurt both my eyes and ears (see McFarlane, Seth).
6-Head Cases (FOX) - Hm. "Monk" transferred to the legal realm, starring lightweight Chris O'Donnell, and in a timeslot opposite Lost and Veronica Mars? I think not.
5-The Night Stalker (ABC) - Stuart Townsend is no Darren McGavin. Alias might be a good lead-in, but it's on Thursday opposite The Apprentice and CSI:Original Recipe.
4-Bernie Mac (FOX) - Mr. Mac won a last-minute reprieve after last year's abbreviated season. Plus it moved to Fridays (see comment on Malcolm, above). All the same, in retrospect this seems like a gamble to me. The show isn't experiencing the creative drain the other FOX sitcoms are having; there may be some renewed interest in the show as it enters syndication; and the shortened season was due to illness, so perhaps the writers spent the time sharpening things. Or maybe they sat around playing GTA. Who knows.
3-Charmed (WB) - another last-minute renewal, plus all the leads' contracts are up at the end of the season.
2-WWE Smackdown (UPN) - final year in contract. Seems to me wrestling's in another decline (give it five years, it'll be back again, like Cher), and UPN's outgrown it (thanks, Kristen Bell).
1-That '70s Show (FOX) - Another show where everyone says "this is it" but the network. It placed higher in the top 10 than Monday Night Football, though, so maybe I've underseeded it.

So there you go. I sure hope there isn't a tiebreaker, since as of this writing the page says the tiebreaker is the predicted ratings for Super Bowl LX. I don't want to wait 20 years to find out who won.
(UPDATE: now corrected to XL. I'm still stinging over incurring a neg-10 at an early Ann B. Davis due to rules about giving years as 4-year digits, so I don't feel bad about poking fun at Mike's Roman numeral error).

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Music Exchange: Disc #3

I meant to be more prompt about writing these up, but there are actually three I have not even listened to in their entirety yet...including this one, as I type. I'm doing these in order of receipt, and it's time to write up Craig's CD.

When these upstart trash players from Michigan (and that's how long ago it seems) hit the scene, I was pleased to see that the one wearing the hockey sweater was the one other person on the circuit writing questions on the Replacements, one of the most important bands of my youth. But over the years, through various message board posts, blog entries, and music tournaments, my perception became that in the Venn diagram of my and Craig's musical likes, the overlap appeared quite small: 'Mats, IRS-era R.E.M., and that's about it. In particular, we're both, erm...passionate...about a certain veteran rock quartet from Ireland, only he's a fan and I am most definitely not. Since we're both very vocal about our likes and dislikes (okay, in all fairness, I'm much more vocal about my dislikes than he; he didn't give me the nickname "h8er boi" for nothing), this perception was most likely skewed.

So I started writing up his disc, and wondered if these preconceptions about our respective tastes were keeping me from giving it a fair shake. I decided that the best thing to do was start over, listen to it blind, liveblog it, and add the track info later. The theme, which we're invited to guess, is apparently a sardonic look at the compiler's adventures in "".


Bad Company, "Bad Company" - I think Bad Company is an underrated Classic Rock Radio band. Nowadays I can't hear their stuff without thinking of Scotland, PA.

Jamiroquai, "Alright" - Jamiroquai is often accused of being ersatz Stevie Wonder, but since Mr. Wonder himself can't be bothered to put out good stuff, I see them as performing a service. Similar to how When Harry Met Sally delivered the funny Woody Allen goods since the real supply dried up years before. The song itself is a pleasant groove; not as memorable as their megahit from a few years ago.

Maroon 5, "Woman" - this more Jamiroquai? Kinda smooth-jazzy, though not quite dentist's-office material. Not my thing at all. But it's...Maroon 5?! Hey, didn't Maroon 5 get some alt-rock airplay? Maybe I'm confusing them with someone.

Kasabian, "Club Foot" - Definite tone shift. I like the bass riff. A good Car Song. the spacey intros/outros go on a little long.

Counting Crows, "Hanginaround" - Don't like Counting Crows and Sideshow Bob Duritz's whining. This is one of their better songs, though.

Clint Black, "A Good run of Bad Luck" - I believe this is the only song to appear on two mixes. It's clever in that country-euphemistic way.

Old '97's, "Victoria" - I like my country with a side of alt, and this fits the bill. Oddly, it reminds me of a Material Issue song.

Gin Blossoms, "Allison Road" - I didn't like the Gin Blossoms much first time around, mostly because I got sick of "Hey Jealousy" very quickly. I like them better now (but still not that that song)

Johnny Cash, "I Won't Back Down" - The best of these Johnny Cash covers redeem songs that aren't so hot otherwise (like "Hurt," which is just whiny when Trent Reznor sings it), or take a different musical approach than the original (again, "Hurt"). Here, he takes a pretty good song to begin with and does a not-dissimilar version that's still pretty good.

Roy Orbison, 'You Got It" - Good song here, but the strings seem out of place; seems Roy should be backed by something rawer, "In Dreams" excepted.

Sarah McLachlan, "Solsbury Hill" - I wasn't sure what to make of this cover until I saw who it was by. McLachlan's voice is surprisingly strong here, and dare I say, rockin'; I'd given up on her around Surfacing when it seemed like she'd stay a yodely waif forever.

Paul Simon, "Slip Slidin' Away" - This song evokes memories of one thing; TV news montages of cars spinning around on icy streets after big storms. Maybe this only happened once or twice, but it sure seemed like an annual tradition growing up.

Starsailor, "Good Souls" - My first impression was "I don't care for this Verve song."

Snow Patrol, "Run" - This isn't too bad. I like the music more than the vocals.

Travis, "Turn" - This is what us 80's kids call a power ballad.

Oasis, "Cast No Shadow" - This Oasis? Sounds like Oasis. I don't mind them. Never felt a desire to own any of their stuff. Now that the hype's worn off, maybe they can be assessed rationally as sound, hooky pop.

U2, "Bad" - Aagh! I knew it was coming. I've heard the song before, several times, and always thought, "I'm wide awake, I'm not sleeping" was a lame lyric, especially for a refrain. But never knew that this was "Bad," the song it seems all the hardcore U2 fans call their favorite. Hm. so this is the cream of the crop, then. Ehhh... I suppose there was a point where my U2 hatred became more stance than passion. I can function in society when subjected to their music -- they're apparently the most popular band in the western world, so it's a survival skill. But I don't see myself ever understanding that popularity. I only pray that someday Paul Hewson will get the fiber in his diet that he so desperately needs.

Coldplay, "Warning Sign" - This is that huge Coldplay band. They're fiercely okay. They're just pleasing enough musically and vocally, and not as oblique as Radiohead. I don't think Chuck Klosterman is wrong whan he says they write "melodramatic alt-rock songs about fake love," but I don't find that particularly damning--in fact, minus the 'alt,' that sums up popular music since 1955, if not earlier. Still, I'm not sure what about them made them so ginormous. And it seems like more males like them than females (at least in my circles). Which strikes me as odd, because they sound like a band that guys would get into (or front on liking) just to score points with women.

And there you have it. The odds of whether a Greg/Craig roadtrip would end in a fiery crash appear lessened. Likes: Bad Company, Kasabian, Mclachlan, Oasis. Dislikes: Starsailor, Counting Crows, U2, Maroon 5. Thanks, Craig!

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Oh yeah, so I went to a Twins game this weekend, a 6-1 loss to the Tribe. And now I understand. It's hard to be a long-distance fan of a team, to get a feel for what's really going on in a box score in a paper or online. But seeing them in person, now I see how God Damn F#$king Infuriatingly Awful they are. Never mind that they came back to win the next two games in the series; then yesterday they waste yet another good Carlos Silva performance vs. the Rangers (7-0 shutout, 5 unearned runs). I'm now actively rooting against them in the wild-card race, just in the hope that hitting coach Scott Ullger gets the boot the day after the season ends.

UPDATE: Batgirl explains just what went wrong on Monday.
quick fair wrapup

Spaghetti & meatball on a stick: Not very good
cheeseburger wonton: if White Castle decided to make Asian food, this is what they'd come up with. As such, I wasn't drunk, so did not appreciate them fully.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

It's making its way around the web, but this is disturbing (I'm using the Kos version because it includes a second set of AP and AFP photos).

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I suppose I should mention that the new teeth are finally in permanently. I had the bridge temporarily cemented in for about six weeks, in between various fittings and readjusting. I'm relieved to have it all over with. Insurance ended up covering a tiny fraction of the whole thing and denied all of my appeals, so this year pretty much decimated my bank account. Parents, when you cart your kids to the orthodontist, be sure to ask about root resorption as a side effect.

Friday, August 26, 2005

I'm only posting this for the picture...
I hope Kevin's getting some royalties from okcupid!

Modern, Cool Nerd

52 % Nerd, 52% Geek, 34% Dork
For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

You scored better than half in Nerd and Geek, earning you the title of: Modern, Cool Nerd

Nerds didn't use to be cool, but in the 90's that all changed. It used to be that, if you were a computer expert, you had to wear plaid or a pocket protector or suspenders or something that announced to the world that you couldn't quite fit in. Not anymore. Now, the intelligent and geeky have eked out for themselves a modicum of respect at the very least, and "geek is chic." The Modern, Cool Nerd is intelligent, knowledgable and always the person to call in a crisis (needing computer advice/an arcane bit of trivia knowledge). They are the one you want as your lifeline in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (or the one up there, winning the million bucks)!


Also, you might want to check out some of my other tests if you're interested in either of the following:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Professional Wrestling

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender

free online dating
free online dating

You scored higher than 40%
on nerdiness

free online dating
free online dating

You scored higher than 75%
on geekosity

free online dating
free online dating

You scored higher than 61%
on dork points

Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on Ok Cupid

Monday, August 22, 2005

Worst. Fundraiser. Ever
I think we can all agree that Parkinson's is a terrible disease, and something should be done about it.

A rather fraught way to raise funds for Parkinson's charities: selling bobbleheads.

An even worse way: selling bobbleheads on which the arm also bobbles.

(if you don't get the "circle me" thing, click here.)
And finally, the answers:

1. The Bad Plus Smells Like Teen Spirit - Natalie
2. Blotto I Wanna Be A Lifeguard - Phil
3. The Cardigans Iron Man - JQ. I was trying to compile a covers CD at one point.
4. Digital Underground The Humpty Dance - JQ
5. The Drifters - Saturday Nght at the Movies
6. Carl Douglas Kung-Fu Fighting - Stan I can't believe it took this long.
7. The English Beat Mirror in the Bathroom - Mark. Yeah, it's from the GPB soundtrack, though I probably should also replace my cassette copy of What is Beat? at some point
8. Steve Goodman - Lincoln Park Pirates. I still have my theories about just what happened with the old car.
9. Isaac Hayes Theme from Shaft - Victoria
10. King Missile Martin Scorsese - Anthony
11. Massive Attack Unfinished Sympathy - Craig
12. MC Chris - Fett's Vette
13. Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant with My Two Headed Love Child - Anthony
14. The Presidents of the United States of America - Mach 5. For a bonspiel last year, I was asked to make a mix CD of songs about various forms of transportation.
15. The Runaways Cherry Bomb - Kris H. They recorded more songs?
16. Jill Sobule - Good Person Inside
17. The Specials Pressure Drop - Mark
18. Joe Strummer - Redemption Song
19. Tracey Ullman You Broke My Heart in 17 Places - Rebecca. It's part of the Stiff Records box set, which is a must-own.
20. Tom Waits - Downtown Train. See explanation for #14.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Today was our "annual" trek up to the Wisconsin State Fair, last year's being canceled due to the stolen car thing. Every year either here or in the Gopher State there's some new product where people apparently spent the winter throwing a bunch of sh*t in a Fry Daddy on a dare and trying to see what they could market. Most of the time I resist these "foods" for a couple of years and then cave, and usually find out that they're really good. Deep-fried pickle slices, for example. Or the Snickers bar, which is great if it's fresh. The DF Twinkie, on the other hand, is foul, as the frying brings out the chemical taste, and the Scotch Egg is bearable if you have five people to share the sodium with. I'm still in the resistance stage with the fried mac&cheese on a stick.

Anyway, this year's what-the-hell-are-they-thinking product: Deep-Fried Sauerkraut. I'm still not sure I saw what I saw.

Friday, August 12, 2005

I was surprised to hear at the Burns that some people there had no knowledge of the College of Coaches, the Cubs' ill-fated experiment in the early 60s. Now I know it's inappropriate to compare football to baseball, as the structure of football is already much more committee-oriented than other sports, which of course led to one of the few times I've ever agreed with George Will. But nonetheless, when I read about the Vikings' new "unique collaborative structure," the first thing I thought of was Mr. Wrigley's folly. If Dwight's looking for new FraughtWatch material, here y'go.

oh, what am I doing reading Vikings articles if I'm such a h8er? Comes with the territory when you look at the Strib site more than either Chicago paper site combined.
"Why isn't this man getting a genius grant?"
--Kirsti on Brent Hedke, the man behind Metallagher. (Strib article requires free registration, or go to This could be the greatest concept in all of rock, certainly since Dread Zeppelin.
UPDATE: they'll be in Milwaukee 8/20! Alas, I'll be out of town. If only Gen Con hadn't moved to Indy...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Well, that was quick
Got the postcard today saying that I have not been selected as a potential WWTBAM contestant. ah well. Guess I should have looked into those custom t-shirts.
CD Exchange: Disc#2

Rebecca's was the second disc I received. I had this 70% written, then I left the disc at work and the review fell by the wayside. Anyway, Rebecca's theme is "Good Love/Bad Love." Since we've all heard music before, this should need no further explanation, so away we go:

The Dan Band, "Shoop/Whatta Man/Never Gonna Get It" - So here's a bunch of guys covering Salt 'n' Pepa, with a touch of En Vogue. I'm not a huge fan of Salt 'n' Pepa, as they were derivative before being derivative was cool. So I thought this was a pretty funny kissoff.

Beach Boys, "God Only Knows" - Yeah, it's heresy, I know, but: I like Mandy Moore's version from Saved more than I like the Beach Boys version. The Beach Boys bother me. The harmonies soundy whiny to me instead of pretty, and I hate the bam-pa-pa-pa-pa crap. It's undeniably a great song, though, when even someone as questionable as Moore can turn out a good version.

Ben Folds, "B*tches Ain't Sh*t" - I'd heard this whiteboy version of the gangsta rap classic before and was a big fan, but Rebecca confused me by saying that "Ben Lea" appears on it. Whaa? The Redoubtable Ben Lea, QB legend out of NC and UM-Rolla? That'd be kickass wrapped in awesome, but I think she means Ben Lee, the performer who frequently tours with Folds (and according to the always-reliable Interwebs, the other singer is actually Folds' drummer, Lindsey).

Charlie Robison, "You're Not The Best" - Heh! This reminded me of a Weird Al song, "Good Enough For Now," but this was more to the point.

Rufus Wainwright, "Go or Go Ahead" - Rebecca says she doesn't know what Rufus is singing about. I don't either. Very good song, though. Rufus is probably batting .700 or so with me.

Elvis Costello and Burt Bachrach, "Toledo" - The Costello I know and like best is when he was Mr. Angry (up to and including Spike), so it's interesting to hear him on the other end, knowing he's not going to get forgiveness from the person he's wronged. Not sure what the whole Toledo thing has to do with anything. Damn public school education...

The Jayhawks, "All the Right Reasons" - I'm old enough to appreciate the Jayhawks now. When they first popped up I thought they were too folky and too country, compared to the stuff I favored from the Twin Cities scene. And then they lost further points by association with the supremely annoying Victoria Williams. Anyway, I like this.

k.d. lang, "Hallelujah"- Ehh...I've heard a few different versions of this (but never the original Leonard Cohen), and it's never done much for me. I like this version a lot better than the overblown Jeff Buckley cover, though, or the John Cale one.

Kelly Hogan & the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, "Papa Was A Rodeo" - I own this, and enjoy it. Listen for it in Lipstick and Dynamite, a documentary about the early days of female pro wrestling.

Dolly Parton, "Little Sparrow" - This is nice. Dolly Parton gets a bum rap, I think -- on one hand, the mainstream either thinks of her as a punchline, or only for 9 to 5 and "Islands in the Stream". Meanwhile, in country circles she doesn't seem to be taken as seriously as, say, Loretta Lynn or Tammy Wynette. I could be wrong about the last part.

Daniel Letterle, "Wild Horses" - This is my least favorite song on the collection. As covers go, I prefer The Sundays, even though it was used in a beer commercial and in an icky scene in Fear (y'know, "Feeah! Starring Maaahky Maahk!")

The Raveonettes, "The Christmas Song" - This didn't make too much of an impression on first listen, but it really grew on me thereafter. I particularly liked the tremolo guitar. While I haven't seen it, it's safe to say this song was probably the best thing about Christmas With The Kranks.

Kelly Willis, "Hole in My Heart" - This was pleasant enough. I've come to appreciate alt-country, but I think in this case there's not enough "alt" for me. Whatever that means.

Bitch and Animal, "Best Cock on the Block" - Ha! An "all the ladies want my lovin'" boast, but with a sapphic/polyurethane twist. As Rebecca says in her notes, "sisters are doing it for themselves." This is interesting, because I thought about putting Electric Six's "Vibrator" on my mix.

Unknown Hinson, "I Ain't Afraid of Your Husband" - Nice Jerry Springer anthem! Oddly enough, the fake cowboy drawl reminds me of the fake British accents employed by 80s R&B acts (cf. Midnight Star's "Freakazoid," Ready For The World's "Oh Sheila," and the entire output of Rockwell).

The Outlaws, "Girl from Ohio" - I'll be interested to see what Craig makes of this song, given his animosity for the Buckeye State. As for me, I thought it was okay.

Martha Wainwright, "Year of the Dragon" - I prefer Rufus to his sister, but she's not bad at all.

Mitch & Mickey, "When You're Next To Me" - I think one of the reasons A Mighty Wind missed the mark is that it was too sympathetic to its subjects. This is a sweet, competent song. Or maybe I'm not versed in 60's/70s pop/folk enough to get the joke.

Shakira & Alejandro Sanz, "La Tortura" - I don't know enough spanish to know whether the song fits the "bad love" designation Rebecca gives it. But listening to it was not la tortura.

Bonnie Raitt - "Feels Like Home To Me" - If there's a prototypical "wedding song" in the mix, this is it. That's not necessarily a bad thing. If I didn't have the track listing in front of me, though, I'd swear this was a Bette Midler song, only she never goes for the Big Finish.

Overall, I liked this disc a lot. A theme this big could lead to more problems than a narrow theme, and Rebecca picked a lot of artists who were either new to me, whom I'd heard about but never got around to checking out, or whom I'd written off long ago (Parton, Jayhawks). Of the snarky stuff, I like the Ben Folds song the best. Of the serious, I like the Jayhawks best.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Oh, since it's the new hot thing, here's how my football season will play out:

9/4 - I go to MN for the state fair. Since the Vikes play their last preseason game on Friday, I manage to avoid football on Sunday. Since I am not participating in Craig's football league, I return home to find his blog has begun its four-month stretch of unreadability.

9/11 - Someone says something inappropriate before or during a game about 9/11. Someone else says something even stupider about how there should be no games played today.

9/18 - Perhaps the last third-Sunday gaming date I can make before I have to juggle curling dates.

9/25 - Corpse Bride opens. Prepare to complain about Danny Elfman some more.

10/2 - Serenity (new Joss Whedon) and MirrorMask (based on Neil Gaiman stuff) open on the same weekend. National Guard is called in to quell theatre fights between fannish cults. Since both groups have significant overlap, many fans end up punching themselves in the face repeatedly.

10/9 - Chicago Film Festival is underway this weekend and next. Focus on Miike films, documentaries, and shorts.

10/16 - I feign interest for a week to tweak Bears fans, as the Vikings come to town. Curling season starts up. As it will still be warm out, the annoying football talk will play second fiddle to the even more annoying golf talk for another month.

10/23 - I kick the last of the visiting FOGHATters out of my home. Go watch football at the airport, you freeloaders!

10/30 - With trick-or-treating moved to weekend afternoons, this faux halloween yields few costumed kids, and the trick-or-treaters that are out there are greeted by drunks angry to be interrupted on "this huge drive." Oh yeah, Detroit burns down.

11/6 V for Vendetta opens this week. kickass!

11/13 - First big snowfall of the year. We settle in with a heretofore-unseen HBO series; either Deadwood or Six Feet Under.

11/21 - I prepare to return to work after being asked to take a few days off. Apparently the new words I learn from Deadwood do not go over well in a corporate environment.

11/27 - Thanksgiving/early Xmas in MN. Dean, Jane, and Todd disappear for three hours, come back pissed off.

12/4 - I see part of either a Falcons or Titans game from an airport in either Atlanta, Nashville, or Chattanooga.

12/11 - The golf talk finally stops at the curling club. Unfortunately, it's replaced with Illini talk.

12/18 - Maybe the lines for King Kong have thinned out enough to see it on Sunday.

12/25 - Christmas in the Boston area. Father-in-law complains about the Giants' woes and Patriots' success. Much smiling and nodding ensues.

1/1 - A minor scandal erupts as New Year's parties across Chicagoland wrap up at promptly 12:01, so people can stop vomiting in time for the noon Vikes/Bears game. Vomiting starts up again shortly after kickoff.
1/15 - Vikings stage their annual playoff collapse. I get periodic updates via the TVs in the University of Michigan's Modern Languages building.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Here's an amazing site with posters and/or video boxes for each movie ever given the MST3K treatment. "Movie" is used loosely, as occasionally MST would cut loose on TV episodes that were strung together for video release; thus, The Master became Master Ninja 1-2. In those cases, print ads are used.

Thanks to Roy for the link.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

This is excellent.

Monday, August 1, 2005

And now, the wait
Dee, Leah, and I each qualified for the regular Millionaire today. Additionally, I qualified for the "Million Dollar Movie Week" which is supposed to tape sometime this winter.

There is always interesting people-watching when you go to a casino; moreso when there are gameshow auditions going on. Lots of sequins about, and one woman wearing a custom NEXT MILLIONAIRE t-shirt. Hm. Okay. I am the most casual guy in the world. I wear polos, jeans and chucks everywhere, every day at work. This is maybe the one time in my life that the adage "dress for the job you want, not the one you have*" comes into play, and one would think that people would dress like contestants on WWTBAM and not The Price Is Right. Then again I've been on this show zero times, so what the hell do I know?

* The "job I want" is to not work, so by this logic I should be coming in in my jammies.

The test still seems easier than the Jeopardy! test. On the regular test I only had to make educated guesses on a handful of questions, but I correctly guessed that chromium is added to steel to make it stainless, and that the Levis logo involved horses trying to pull apart a pair of pants. On the movie one, the big guess was that the film that premiered at the Egyptian in 1922 was Robin Hood, also correct. I'm almost certain I didn't get a perfect score on either test, but I can't remember other questions that gave me a hard time.

My, who knows. I'm pretty sure my guy didn't take notes on anyone. I have decent stories on my app (redemption for the great lifeline fiasco of aught-three!), but my polaroid looks moronic. ehh, whatever. It's all arbitrary at this point, so there is no sense in dwelling on this any further. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Desperation is my friend
I've been sucking wind in Mark's Baseball Challenge league since the all-star break. Normally pitching a Pirate would have fraught written all over it; moreso when they're on the road vs. Atlanta, but I figured I'd take a chance on this Zach Duke kid and his gaudy ERA. Thank goodness I did. I got 36 points on a day with only four position players active (and of those, Mark Ellis was benched). If I could average 9 ppg on most days, I'd be sittin' pretty.
Here's something I don't get to say often
Leah, you left your shirt in my car.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

If DJs are the worst thing about weddings,
Then what's a wedding full of DJs like?

My friend Sean is a radio imaging director in Miami. What do images have to do with an aural medium, you ask? "Radio imaging" is creating all the annoying jingles and stings you hear on a given station (NEAL AND BOB IN THE MORNINGS...102.1 HOT FM!). Yeah, so maybe it's The Man, and what's worse it's ClearChannel, but it's a nice, good soul that he sold, whereas mine is small and worthless, and I hardly ever use it.

So Sean just got back from the wedding of another radio personality, and actually made jingles for the reception (his on-air name is Jake Redman). I might listen to #2 every day before I eat dinner.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Next Outing: Brew & View Thursday: Hitchhiker's Guide and Sin City. Yeah, it's a school night. Who's in?
And the toll: two mosquito bites on my hand.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was better than we had anticipated. Steve had said the songs sucked, which none of us found to be true. Elfman's score, on the other hand, was his usual mishmash of his two or three scores. The thing that did suck about C&TCF was the unnecessary backstory about Wonka and his father.

Fantastic Four was not the cinematic crime I'd been led to believe it was, but nor is it worth seeking out under circumstances not involving drive-ins, beer, or both. Johnny and Ben's personalities and relationship were right, anyway. Part of the problem is the FF themselves. They always operated completely in the open, without even mild-mannered secret identities to protect. Which right away makes them the least interesting outfit if you prefer, say, Spider-Man or The X-Men.

Friday, July 22, 2005

We're going up to the drive-in in Kenosha tonight! I was surprised to hear it was still open; it was threatening to close more than 10 years ago when I lived in Kenowhere. The last time I was at this venue I saw True Lies, Airheads, and Serial Mom.

There's an Eddie Cochran song called At the Drive-In. It's a silly song about a first date, but there's a lyric that was nigh-indecipherable. I swear it sounds like he's saying "tie my penis to a candy bar." What the HELL!? I mean there's the popcorn scene in Diner, but this is ridiculous! In another song, he sings that guys "gotta wear ties on the weekend," which I always hear as "gotta wear tights." Neither option sounds appealing.

Anyway, it turns out the candy-bar couplet is:

Bet my peanuts to a candy bar
You'll be cuter than a movie star

Okay, so that actually makes sense.

But I'm bringing string just in case.

Monday, July 18, 2005

CD Exchange: Disc#1
Today I chose to listen to and critique the first of the CD-exchange discs. Also today, this teacher's legal team announced she'd plead insanity for having sex with a 14-year-old student. Why is this significant? Because Alexis's disc is first. She's a teacher, and all of her songs include the word "teacher" in the title. Most songs with "teacher" in the title are about instructions in the ways of luuuuve, which is a theme I find rather squicky. Why? Because none of my teachers looked like Lafave, for one. So, with a bagful of "eeww!" at the ready, I delved in...

.38 Special, "Teacher, Teacher" - This is probably one of the better .38 Special songs, and that's not saying much at all. But I have slightly fond memories of Teachers, because it depicted teachers who were neither Crusaders Who Made A Difference or malevolent evil bastards (see Heaven Help Us) -- they were mostly glorified babysitters, just as C-plus as most

Louis XVI, "Hey Teacher" - Louis XVI reminds me of early Iggy Pop. I like early Iggy Pop. The pitch-shifted vocals don't work entirely.

Doris Day, "Teacher's Pet" - Creeps me out. Maybe less so than if it was Hilary Duff or someone singing, but the skeevy thing about it is that I'm pretty sure Doris Day was 30 years old when she popped out of the womb.

Electric Flame, "Preacher Teacher" - Utterly forgettable.

Elton John, "Teacher I Need You" - This is basically an endurance test for me. Can I stand 4:11 of an Elton John song? Oy, why do people hold Bernie Taupin in such high regard? Coupling "inspiration" and "graduation"? Oh, and a mention of birds and bees; no one's used that before. I got through 3:14.

Extreme, "Teacher's Pet" -Aw, man, I was hoping it was a cover of the Doris Day song. So far I'm most entertained by this track. Singing about MILFs is distasteful to me the same way "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" is. But this song thankfully injects the proper amount of sleaze. "Purely scientifically/Studied her ana-to-my" is pretty funny. Oh, hey, birds and bees again! Yeah, Taupin and Cherone, birds of a feather.

Johnny Mathis, "Teacher, Teacher" - Mathis trying to swing, Sinatra-style; not too bad. No B&B. Again though, bad images...I only know Mathis as older'n dirt, so I can only picture the teacher from my experience old enough to "make him teacher's pet" -- Miss Kougl, the 4th-grade crone at my grade school who smelled of band-aids. Yuck.

Leonard Cohen, "Teachers" - As to be expected, that was a big bummer.

Magnum, "The Teacher" - Ah, more Spinal-Tappish rock, but this time with the 10-sided dice instead of the double entendres.

Paul Simon, 'The Teacher" - Surprisingly insubstantial for Paul Simon.

John Matthews, "Teacher Teach Me" - So this guy wants the teacher to teach him how to write a song. okay, uh...I'll come back when the lessons are complete. This tops Elton for most annoying song on the CD.

Van Halen, "Hot For Teacher" - needs no introduction. This time around, I just listened to the drum intro and the guitar solo.

Boogie Down Productions, "Come to the Teacher" - KRS-One calling himself a "teacher" prompted a rap feud between him and of all people, PM Dawn. In this song, we learn...ah...that KRS is a vegetarian. And now my head is so full of knowledge I'll have to sleep sitting up, like the elephant man.

Mister Billy, " Creature Teacher" - cute kid's novelty song.

Screaming Headless Torsos, "Jazz is the Teacher" - A not-bad jazz/funk raveup. A little too jammy for my tastes, but they sound like their live set (this is a live track) is pretty entertaining

Big Country, "The Teacher" - I liked Big Country's first two albums a lot, but was unfamiliar with this track, from "The Seer." I never noticed it before, but take away the guitar heroics and Stuart Adamson's a male, scottish Stevie Nicks.

ABBA, "When I Kissed The Teacher" - I was just about to bail when I heard Agnetha and Frida sing "he was trying to explain the laws of gee-oh-metry" in very thick Sveedish accents. That amused me enough to finish the song. This must have been an early, phonetic-English song.

Big Mountain, "Soul Teacher" - Remember them? They had that unnecessary reggae cover of "Baby I Love Your Way" from the Reality Bites soundtrack? Hm. "I and I" are one of those people who believe you really only need one reggae album. This shouldn't be on it.

Burning Spear, "African Teacher" - See above. Well, okay, this is better. Or am I saying this only because I know Burning Spear has more cred than Big Mountain?

Rufus Wainwright, "The Art Teacher" - Pretty good. I know a bunch of people who really dig Rufus. In fact, I see he's on the second disc I received I'll keep an eye out for cheap used stuff. Actually what I think of when I hear Rufus is that I used to have a CD by his dad Loudon (the one where he's wearing an Islanders jersey on the cover) which I sold in a bout of college poverty. In hindsight, that was a mistake.

The German Art Students, "Science Teacher" -okay, this is up my alley. Looking at their Allmusic page, I see that they have songs called "Bjorn Borg" and "Disgruntled Figure-Skating Judge," and do a cover of Joe Jackson's "Happy Loving Couples." They're on the list to investigate further.

Adam Sandler, "The Beating of a High School Spanish Teacher" - heh...a 30-second comedy bit that's just the right length, and funny despite all my better judgment. Our high school Spanish teacher was rumored to come on to various athletes at school. Yuck.

So that was entertaining. I was most impressed with German Art Students. I suppose there are only a few other jobs that you could construct a similar theme around...doctors, cowboys, and folks in the military. Oh, sucka MC's, too, can't forget that noble profession. Anyway, thanks, Alexis, I hope you enjoy my ode to Production Coordinators as much as I enjoyed your disc.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

two movies
Mark's already talked up March of the Penguins, and I heartily concur. Really begs to be seen on a big screen, and it's one of those movies where you want to sit through a making-of doc immediately after watching.

Speaking of making-ofs, we finally got to see a movie I've always been intrigued by the story of: Peter Bogdanovich's first film, Targets. Roger Corman decided to let PB make a movie, with the following conditions:

1. Shoot approx. 20 minutes of footage with Boris Karloff, who still owed Corman two days of work.
2. Use approx. 20 minutes of stock footage from The Terror, a period Corman/Karloff film, also starring a young Jack Nicholson.
3. Do what you like for the remaining 40 minutes.

I suppose from this, the fact that the end product is at all tolerable is impressive enough. But it's actually a solid film through and through. Bogdanovich cast Karloff as essentially himself, an aging actor ready to retire, and wrote a suspenseful B-story inspired by Charles Whitman. The Terror footage became "Byron Orlok's" intended swan song. The whole thing holds up remarkably well.
Here is an interesting article on the new-look Battlestar Galactica. If you're not watching this show, you probably should.

Somewhat related, I'm surprised that searching on this earworm yielded as little as it did. Now I'ma have that damn jingle in my head all day.
As you may know, I'm a medium-to-large fan of mental hygiene and other ephemeral films. Thanks to the Prelinger Archive, I recently found the first social-instruction film I ever remember seeing, in kindergarten. My 30-year-old memories of it were naturally hazy, but I don't remember it being particularly effective. Here it is!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Stockholders approved Federated's (owner of Macy's) purchase of May Department Stores (owners of Marshall Field & Co. and Lord & Taylor). The contrivoversy (thanks, Jon!) in Chicago is whether or not the new owners will retain the venerable Field's name. According to this story, Federated is polling "customers in Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit about the importance of the Field's and Lord & Taylor names."

Don't hold your breath, Field's fans.

Only one-third of the people polled will consider the MF name of value. The name is relatively new and still unwelcome to people in Michigan and Minnesota, who shopped at Hudson's and Dayton's stores until 2001. That was when then-parent Dayton Hudson (now Target Corp) changed the names to the more nationally-known Marshall Fields. I can't speak with much authority about Hudson's, but I can attest that Minnesotans looooved their Dayton's. Fierce brand loyalty. Pretty much everyone's first charge card -- you could get 'em at 15 or 16. People still insist on calling them Dayton's, especially the 7th & Nicollet flagship -- "It still says Dayton's on top of the building," my mom says.

They're going to do this poll and most people are going to pine for one of the long-gone names. Respondents aren't going to prefer Field's to Macy's, since the old faves are not an option (Target still owns Dayton's and Hudson's trademarks). They're gathering data designed to lead them to the decision they've likely already made. So with the possible exception of the landmark State Street store, kiss Marshall Field's goodbye.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

So that's what was going on
The building where I work is situated right between the Davis El and Metra stops, and I live two blocks from the Dempster El stop. When we left work yesterday we noticed a number of helicopters flying around the area (and if you've been here, you know that Evanston is maddeningly far from the interstate, so I knew it wasn't the usual Shadow Traffic brigade). Once home, I could still see them hovering in the south. Turns out there was a bomb threat on the Purple Line.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Dean's Chicagoland Vacation has come and gone. The trip went something like this:

Sat: Arrival. Lunch at Superdawg, which he seemed to enjoy, although what's the point of a Chicago-style dog when you're at the age where you only like ketchup. Bought some groceries. Hit the beach. Play some PS2.

Sun: more PS2. Back to the beach. Party at the Haus house. Copious amounts of food consumption.

Mon: Six Flags with Scott & JC. This turned out to be a perfect day to go, despite (or perhaps because of) the ominous weather forecasts. Lines were short all day. Dean was just tall enough to go on everything, and he did. When the sky did open up for a few hours, we went to S&J's place nearby, got some dry clothes, and went out to lunch. When we returned, the rain had finished and our clothes were dry, so we went back to the park. S&J bailed around 8, but we closed the park. Near the end of the night Kirsti and I watched the park's (quite good) fireworks while Dean went on Batman again. Eventually there was no one else in line, so he got to jump to the front of the ride and go about 4 times that way. He ended up riding it about 8-9 times all day. I ended up on it twice, Superman and the giant-drop thing twice, and the other coasters once each.

Tue: Museum of Science and Industry. We finally got to do the coalmine, and also took in Game On (videogames, a nobrainer for the three of us), U505 sans guided tour, and BodyWorlds, which was interesting but creepy. I think Dean liked it the least of the three of us. In retrospect, we should have skipped BW in favor of the sub tour.

Wed: Lunch at Ed DeBevics (look, he's 10, okay?), then Shedd Aquarium, where we leeched off the generosity of Alexis and her membership.

Throughout the week was much Playstation. The little monkey beat me at whatever NFL and MLB games I have, but I won the home run derby and consistently thumped him at Katamari. So there. I should have hidden my GTA games, because about Tuesday he started begging to play them. He called his mom, and she caved, much to my surprise -- he could play it for a half hour. He had said something about how he was allowed to play if "he was good": no jaywalking, no instigating violence, only jacking parked cars. This of course went right out the window once he started playing. I tried to guide him to the innocuous taxi and pizza missions, but he wanted no part of them. Once he started chainsawing passersby, he was done. No more Rockstar Games until he's at least 11, I say.

Overall he's a pretty good kid, and I suppose he was easy to host. I was surprised how good he was with his spending money; some snacks here, souvenirs there, but frivolous stuff held no interest. I was worried about the games at Six Flags, but he didn't even look twice at them.

Thu: Drive to MN.

Fri: Hang out with my dad & stepmom. Attend a bookfair where we're surprised to run into a coworker.

Sat: Family reunion. It was okay. Grandma wants us there, and she's the last grandparent I have left. Plus you don't mess with grandma -- she killed a rattlesnake when she was a girl just to get the rattles. But the pattern is pretty evident that as members of her generation have passed away, the descendents in the given wings have stoppped coming. So under those circumstances, I hope to go to many more.

Sun: drive home, play with cats. sleep the glorious sleep of the childfree.

Friday, July 1, 2005

Today's lesson: always use the voicemail option indicating you're spending money.

I had to call the airline today to confirm Dean's info, which both Katie and I had misplaced. On hold for over an hour. Eventually I put that line on hold, used the second work line to call again, and this time hit 1 for Making a Reservation. I was connected in less than two minutes. I got what I needed, hung up, and sure enough the first line was still on hold. On the lighter side the office closed at 2, so my important afternoon slacking schedule has a venue change.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

music for you
In (dis)honor of the Live 8 concerts happening this weekend, here's John Wesley Harding skewering the original Live Aid shows. (windows: right-click on link, click on "Save Target As". Mac: option-click on the link to DL file to the desktop)

John Wesley Harding - "July 13, 1985"

Friday, June 24, 2005

Land of the Dead

It's reeeeal good. Somewhere between Dawn and Night as the best of the four. Short, though, or it feels that way. I've decided my "is that all there is?" feeling leaving the theatre was because of the pace and running time. I'm glad I got to Pittsburgh earlier this year, as the visit made me appreciate the film's geography (and damned if Fiddler's Green isn't modeled on the Cathedral of Learning).

This is more of a straightforward actioner than a horror film, and there are shades of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Aliens, hell, even Airwolf. The "class war" theme felt a little weak to me, still, Romero always tries to add a little more meat (pun intended) than other directors (save perhaps Larry Cohen, who came up with very interesting themes, but the execution was almost always shite).

Friday, June 17, 2005

Moviewise, my summer is nearly complete. Just need to see Land of the Dead. I don't care about War of the Worlds or Sith, or Fantastic Four.

Speaking of comic-book movies, it was nigh-impossible to go into Batman Begins with any expectations whatsoever, given what a vortex of suck the live-action franchise had become. So I'm still surprised at how much I enjoyed Batman Begins. The villainous monologues had K giggling now and then, but I was pleased that the baddie roles weren't overplayed. That was the problem with the previous ones -- even when Burton got the tone right, and Keaton was doing good stuff, there were still Nicholson-sized bite marks all over everything.

Katie Holmes wasn't the liability I thought she'd be, though she still looks way too young to be an ADA. I especially liked Gary Oldman, and didn't recognize him 'til the end credits, though his Sgt. Gordon is so beaten down it's a wonder he'll live long enough to become Commissioner without eating his service revolver. Gotham looks great...Chicago mixed with Shanghai.

Given that the Fantastic Four looks like it'll outdo the Corman version only in budget, a hack supreme has been handed X-Men 3, and I was one of the few people disappointed by Spidey 2, this could be the cream of the comic-book movies for a while.

On the other hand, my expectations might have been a shade high for Howl's Moving Castle. If you have the option, see the subtitled version. Billy Crystal's shtick really took me out of the film. It was suggested to me that the Japanese actor in the role was probably just as broad. But since I don't understand Japanese, nor would I recognize him as the guy who wrecks the Japanese Oscars every other year, this hypothesis is moot. Also, the ending was a bit rushed. For a 2-hr movie with pacing that is non-American, you'd think that would be enough time to develop things so the ending didnt feel so deus ex machina.

Much to enjoy here all the same. The film is gorgeous, of course; particularly the castle and strange flying contraptions. Sophie's age shifts take some getting used to, but are a sophisticated device and the best divergence from the book. I enjoyed Joe Hisaishi's score more than that of Mononoke or Spirited Away. Still. . . I don't know. I'll be seeing this again; the problem may be me.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

hey, who wants to do a mix-CD exchange? It seems to be working well over here.

Monday, June 13, 2005

As much as I have a rep for general crabbiness, it's actually quite rare that I want to have someone encased in concrete and fired into the sun within 30 seconds of encountering them. That happened Saturday night. I hope those trixie-shoe blisters pop prematurely, you tedious yammering freakshow. Other'n that, E's party was swell, and I hope she didn't get stuck with a huge tab.

In happier thoughts, go over to Craig's and hate on various TV characters. Take a stand for Schneider, people!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

As long as movies are on people's minds, I've added several of those silly movie lists to the sidebar. I'm trying to get the NYT 1000 up there, but geocities isn't taking it. I'll have to split it, I think.

We went to the Brandeis Book Sale Thursday night. As you may remember, I'm always amused by the one or two books that have seemingly fallen out of everyone's favor and are still lingering come half-price day. Last year's dubious winner was The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Going in, I thought this would be the year Dan Brown took the tumble -- if not DaVinci Code, then certainly his excrable first effort, Digital Fortress.

But no, this year's champs were:
nonfiction: The Perfect Storm is still to be had for a song. Jon Krakauer's works follow closely behind.
fiction: It looked like Primary Colors was roaring back to the lead, but the 2005 BUBS champ is the unheralded Wild Animus by Rich Shapero. Some background on this book: If you've clicked on my wife's link at left, then you're familiar with the Bookcrossing phenomenon. In a word-of-mouth campaign that seemed good at the time, some deal was reached where each BXer received a free copy of this book, to register and cross somewhere. Thing is, everybody HATED the book. I have a feeling Mr. Shapero will dominate the bargain-day tables for years to come. Look at the book's Amazon entry--lots of people selling new & used copies for the princely sum of one penny.