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.