Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Second place again at the quiz. We went down on the tiebreaker, which was calculating the distance between the Globe Pub in Chicago to the quizmaster's old apartment in St. Paul in furlongs (we thought there were 6 to a mile; there are 8).

just two questions for you tonight:

What member of the Miracle on Ice team did not see any Olympic ice time? Steve Janaszak (Craig) - We, like Flax, figured it was the backup goalie, but apparently none of us had seen Miracle. We put down Kurt Russell to be funny, but the team that wrote Tonya Harding actually got points for the laugh.

Gale Norton, Donald Evans, John Ashcroft, and Anthony Principi have all served what position under GW Bush? The "designated survivor" (James D.), or the cabinet member not attending the State of the Union address for succession purposes. The question was worded a little differently, but the gist remained. We got this one, after initially thinking "herald" or "first in the procession"

UPDATE: Curling finally made an appearance in the quiz. The question was: "bonspiel and crampits are terms associated with what sport?" Naturally I knew it on bonspiel, seeing as how I'm going to one in two days and all. But crampit? WTF's a crampit? I've been curling for 4 years now and never heard of one. I asked the quizmasters, and they didn't know, they just picked it off a list of terms. Turns out a "crampit" is a spiked metal platform players stood on to throw the rocks, using a no-slide delivery. These are not used in international or Olympic competition any more, having been replaced by hacks embedded in indoor ice. Crampits are apparently still used in New Zealand as illustrated here.

Monday, January 30, 2006

3-chord Monday #5
As if every frame in Shaun of the Dead wasn't supremely brilliant, along came a cover of The Buzzcocks' "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" to seal the deal. Between popping up in commercials and movies (one of the Shreks, for cryin' out loud), it seems the Buzzcocks are finally getting their due. Unless you can find the out-of-print "Product" box set, the "Singles Going Steady" compilation is an absolute must-own.
The Buzzcocks - "Everybody's Happy Nowadays"
Movie Log 2006 #8-14: B-Fest
There were actually 13 movies on the schedule, but I don't count repeats in the annual log.
This year opened with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, with a screenplay co-written by Reeve. He didn't quite deserve his fate, but he did himself no karmic favors here. Lex Luthor uses a Superman hair to create a silly looking blonde superbeing to take on Superman. Meanwhile Superman goes to the UN and rounds up the world's entire nuclear arsenal (never mind that, as Frank Miller and Alan Moore have illustrated, the Cold War would have ended early with the presence of an invulnerable being in the US). Oh, and the Daily Planet gets bought by some Murdochian character, and his daughter is Mariel Hemingway, who has eyes for Clark. She ends up flying around in the vacuum of space sans any kind of protective gear. Except her shoulder pads.

Next up wasCreature from the Black Lagoon in 3D, which I'd seen. Still fun, but the print was a little washed out. The tints didn't match those of the glasses; the 3-D still worked to an extent, but was headache inducing. On to Godzilla (1998). Ahhh, remember when it was fun to think about NYC getting destroyed? I will give this movie credit for not wasting too much time setting things up; the ass-kicking begins almost immediately. But then we get bogged down in the backstory of the useless Maria Pitillo. The ending turns into a Jurassic Park retread.

Plan 9 From Outer Space Seen this too many times, so I went to the lounge to rest up. I also missed the first half of Coffy, which I saw the first time I went to B-Fest. Woke up in time to see the razor-blades-in-the-Afro bit; a fave.

This year's soulkiller was Gas-s-s-s!, a late Roger Corman vehicle. A nerve gas kills everyone over 25, and a group of hippies, including Ben Vereen, Cindy Williams, and "Tally Coppola" (yes, Talia Shire) go driving off in search of some Oracle. Along the way they meet a football team who practices raping and pillaging, and a group of bikers who specialize in golf. This was one of those films where every scene is supposed to mean something, but it all ends up meaningless.

There's an apparently-minority view that Troma pics don't belong at B-fest. I tend to agree; they try a little too hard to be bad and usually end up dull. Tromeo & Juliet was a step up, but I still gave up about an hour in and crashed for a while. It's the R&J story with all the dismemberment, nudity and lesbian scenes the Bard's tale was sorely lacking. Oh, and it turns out the star-crossed lovers are long-lost siblings. And they don't care and have mutant babies. Heartwarming!

So a few years ago at this event, I saw Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? At the time I thought "who since Anthony Newley has been given free rein to write, star in, direct, and compose the music for such a turd of a vanity project? Ah yes, Prince's Graffiti Bridge! I was wondering how this would go over. The movie is crap, but the music is actually quite good. So it's some time after Purple Rain and "The Kid" and Morris Day are vying for control of The Kid's club, Glam Slam. It's not drawing all that well because his songs are "too spiritual." (I've always found it interesting that while Prince wrote all the music, the songs he gives The Time are mostly better than the ones he performs). Along comes this doggerel-spewing woman (Ingrid Chavez) who is not-so-mysteriously supposed to be an angel trying to save both Morris and Prince. In a nearly-30-year career of looking ridiculous, this movie captures Prince's lowest point: long, straightened hair, a sad excuse for a beard, and some get-ups that defy description. Thigh-high stockings with no pants. Seriously. He also shortchanges himself as a performer -- what made Purple Rain bearable was the extended performance footage. Here he's cutting in and out of songs mid-number, staging too many songs as music videos, and is spending too much time dancing around instead of playing.

Earth Girls are Easy- Not too much bad to be said here. I'd seen this before and it didn't hold up all that well, but it's light, meets its low aims, and Geena Davis spends much of her time in a bikini. And I always liked Julie Brown. Up until Eternal Sunshine this was the best Jim Carrey film, though that's not saying much. Michael McKean is wasted as a surfer-dude pool cleaner.

Rhinestone - Plenty bad to say about this, the third quasi-musical in a row. Among the people who should've known better are Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams) and the late, lamented Richard Farnsworth. And Dolly Parton, of course, whom I think has a very likable performance persona, but with the exception of 9 to 5 it's never translated well to screen. Dolly's a singer who wants out of her contract with a sleazy bar owner (Ron Leibman). She bets him that in two weeks she can turn cabbie Sylvester Stallone into a singer able to win over the tough crowds at the bar's open-mic night. And since when is a NYC urban-cowboy bar the make-or-break place on the country scene? Light on the hillbilly stereotypes, but Stallone's-a gotta the parents-a straight out of a Joe Dolce song.

Cobra Woman An explorer finds his fiancee (Maria Montez) has been kidnapped and taken to Cobra Island. They track her there and finds the island ruled by an evil queen (also Montez), and that the good twin is the rightful ruler. Oh yeah, Sabu shows up, and may have top billing; I don't remember. This was good and dumb, and put the true "B" back in B-Fest.

Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 If not for Gas-s-s-s! this would have been the worst film on the bill. Having not seen the original Baby Geniuses, I thought I'd be completely lost, but it turns out the two have very little to do with each other. Okay, so babies speak their own language. Apparently in this language they talk about particle physics and Proust and things. You'd think if they were that smart they'd have figured out potty-training by now, but...well, Iet's move on. One baby in BG 1 was played by some triplets named Fitzgerald. They return in BG2, this time playing a kid superspy named Kahuna. It turns out Kahuna is actually around 70 years old and stopped growing. His full-grown evil older brother Jon Voigt -- that is, ACADEMY AWARD-WINNER Jon Voigt. He's got some nefarious plot to control kids, for all the good that's going to do.

King Kong (1933) Saw it very recently, and have seen it before at the best possible venue (Music Box), so we bailed. Besides, it was clearly too good to show at B-fest.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

"Shameful, shameful bronze..."
Friend of mine's launching an Olympic bronze pool: Fields of Bronze. Pick 5 countries; you score for each bronze and get docked points for each gold.

He's also promising snarky commentary on NBC's "prole coverage," as he's broadcast-only. And his other hobbies include shooting fish in barrels.
I wasn't initially upset to have the Sesame Street "Capital I" song stuck in my head, but it's been two days now and I've about had it. I'm warning you not to listen here. You may as well not listen to the sad tale of the Lowercase N, either.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Took second tonight at the quiz. We led after the first round (on the history of the Macintosh), but then took a beating on a Simpsons-based round -- specifically, one based entirely on the "Cape Feare" episode. We battled back to the lead going into the final round, but then dropped three questions, two of which are below:

1. what American composer and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member has an asteroid, a gene, a goby fish, a jellyfish, a mollusk, and a spider named for him? Frank Zappa (Phil) - we were hung up on more pioneering names, and because of the marine life mentioned went with Brian Wilson, rather than the weird noodly stuff mad scientists listen to. Once the answer was revealed, Leah asked if we would have come up with it had she said "the Gary Larson of rock." Maybe. I should have thought "spider" and remembered my conversation with Julie at ABD where she mentioned a co-worker who was a huge Zappa fan.

2. In what year did Mario Lemieux retire the first time? 1997 (Brian) - we guessed 1996. I had overestimated the usual waiting period for getting into the Hockey HoF, and then forgot that the waiting period was waived in Mario's case.

3. Who was the Apple engineer who headed up the first Macintosh project? Jef Raskin (Roy)- We got this.

Monday, January 23, 2006

3-Chord Monday #4
By the way, this project will have theme months. February is Black History Month, of course. And March is Women's History Month. April will be all noveltyish acts/songs.

January remains themeless. Today's act, the Suicide Commandos, are the godfathers of the post-Soma Records Twin Cities music scene. The album this track is from is worth more on CD than on vinyl -- rather than pay $108 for an out-of-print disc, I could get a cable from Radio Shack and digitize my LP. I may be falling back on the Commandos a lot in future months.
Suicide Commandos - "You Can't"

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Movie Log 2006 #7: The Red Shoes
Know what that one needed? Some diaries.
A common problem with movies where the plot revolves around creating something is that the "created" bit usually sucks. This was a common complaint about Mr. Holland's Opus, for instance (which I didn't see). And the "Broadway Ballet" sequence in Singin' In The Rain is the only draggy part of that film, Cyd Charisse notwithstanding. The Red Shoes has the problem reversed. There's a titular ballet in the middle, and it's indeed impressive. Unfortunately it takes to long to get to that point, the parts afterward are preposterous, the love story is clumsily wedged in there, and the whole thing is populated with thoroughly unlikable characters. But it's about ahhhhtists creating ahhhht, so it's IMPORTANT.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Movie Log 2006 #6: Bound for Glory
Given what a movie buff I am (or claim to be), you may be shocked to learn that until a few minutes ago I had never seen all of any given year's Best Picture Oscar nominees. Hell, I was surprised too, running the numbers just now. Anyway, 1976 (award year '77) is now accounted for.

The first name we see in the opening credits is cinematographer Haskell Wexler, and he deserved it. David Carradine was a revelation, especially when you only know him from Kill Bill and vague memories of Kung Fu.
Also of note is Melinda Dillon, who I think is wholly underrated in everything I've seen her in, and a babyfaced Randy Quaid, whom I didn't recognize until he showed up bloodied by anti-union thugs. "Oh, sure, now it looks like Quaid..."
Movie Log 2006 #5: Mad Hot Ballroom
I actually watched this a week ago, but forgot to blog about it because I watched at work. Watched it for work; partly as a fun thing to do for a product launch, and partly to show us what middle school kids are like, what engages them, etc. Not being a huge fan of dancing, and being opposed to judged sports, I was surprised to like it as much as I did. Cyrus rules.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Other things
It's been a whirlwind week. That new job I accepted started yesterday, so I spent last week tying up loose ends for the old gig. The new job has a tight schedule, but is seeming less and less daunting. That could change any minute, of course.

The weekend was spent at Michigan for the Ann B. Davis backyard cookout football party plus quiz tournament. My team took second, losing two very close games to the eventual champs. It'll be interesting to see how Mark & co. do in the BU mirror tournament. Special thanks to Kevin for offering up crash space both nights.
Movie Log 2006: #4 - Ong Bak
Or, "Bring Me the Head of our Buddha Statue," which is what the main character has to do for his village. Tony Jaa has the grace and athleticism of early Jackie Chan, but without the mugging. Actually as a character, Jaa doesn't bring much to the table, but that's all secondary to the action, done without wires or CGI. The trailer is too quick-cut to do it justice. Go! Rent! Now!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ah, that was more like it-- we righted the ship this week and handily won the pub quiz, thanks to some perfect scores on the final round, and in one called "In the Navy," which I correctly guessed would be all about Popeye.

Some questions:

How long did the Montgomery Bus Boycott last? 351 days (Craig) - he overshot a little, but that's okay. This was presented to us as a multiple choice question.

What's Olive Oyl's brother named? Castor (Rebecca) - This came from seeing the movie about a jillion times.

What was the name of the main character on Have Gun Will Travel?Paladin (Craig) - Mr. Barker's clearly seen Stand By Me one or two times...

Identify three of the characters (costumes) in the original Village People. Cop, Indian, (Craig), Biker, Construction Worker, Soldier (Brian) - still a few outstanding. Thinking that "In the Navy" might be more obvious than it was, I did do some Village People research beforehand and was able to add real names to the characters we guessed. Owning Can't Stop The Music didn't hurt either.

Monday, January 16, 2006

3-chord Monday #3
I had a few ideas about what to post, but then talked to Julie over the weekend and decided on a request.
Wall of Voodoo - "Ring of Fire"

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Movie Log 2006 #3 - Grizzly Man
Stupid Academy.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Independent Corroboration
Couture agrees with me: nickels suck.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I was in a meeting the other day and heard a coworker chatting up Settlers of Catan. It seems there was a recent NPR commentary about how Settlers was a better game than Monopoly for teaching kids about economics. Key quote: In Monopoly, getting rich and succeeding in business only comes from exploiting unlucky suckers who randomly enter your life....only Marxists look at the world of capitalism the way the game of Monopoly does—as an unrelentingly gloomy system of exploitation where the rich eventually wear everyone else down. Transcript at the guy's blog.

The piece has raised some entertaining comments at the Cafe Hayek link as well as here. Of course there are several valid reasons not to play Monopoly that have nothing to do with its economic model (and I sorta like the game). Do people even play Monopoly any more? It has been years, literally, since I played it. My gamer friends hate it because it's a predictable, unbalanced roll-move game. My nongamer friends hate it because it starts fights and/or takes too long (usually because of house rules designed to keep people from going bankrupt and getting into said fights). I get the idea that it's now a game to be purchased (there are all those special editions; I have the very nice Simpsons version) instead of played.

Not that Settlers is the perfect game, either. One of my gaming groups likes SoC a great deal. The other almost unanimously despises the Catan universe.
Not an auspicious return for the pub quizzers, as we took fourth. We held our own in all but two rounds, but sucked on Chicago El history, and on a "Bizarro World" (don't ask) on Bruce Springsteen song titles.

a few questions:

In what state (style points for city) did the first Church of Scientology open? Camden, NJ - Only Chris ventured a guess, but imagine his surprise to learn that the "epicenter of batshittery" was actually in his own backyard. Ha!

In what year was the Chicago Transit Authority (the company, not the band) founded? 1947.

How many El stops are part of The Loop? nine. Fortunately one teammate works downtown.

Monday, January 9, 2006

Today I accepted a new job at my company, moving back to editorial after a year in production. It was a tough decision, but I think the right one at the right time. Maybe I'll have more to say about it later and/or offline.

In other news, the B-Fest schedule is now out, and...it seems off. Can't quite put my finger on it. For one thing, I can't accept the '33 King Kong as a B-movie under any definition. Look and discuss.
3-Chord Monday #2

If Leah ever gets around to running her indie music tournament, this song would finish high in a kind and just world. Unfortunately it's recognized more as a band influence than, as Michael Azerrad says in his Our Band Could Be Your Life, "[t]he kind of song one plays three times a day for weeks on end."
Mission of Burma - "Academy Fight Song" (right-click or option-click to save to desktop)

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Movie Log 2006: #1-2

Finally got around to watching Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare on 1/1. During the Film Festival I saw and blogged about a movie called The Great Yokai War. The IMDB claims it was a remake of this Spook Warfare thing, (which shares a Japanese title, Yokai Daisensho) but the plots were quite different. In Spook Warfare, some humans enlist the help of yokai, traditional Japanese spirits, to defeat a Babylonian vampire (yeah, don't ask). Basically it answered the question of what would have happened had Sid and Marty Krofft been born on the Pacific Rim.

Then the other night we watched Odd Man Out (1947). During a botched robbery, a well-known IRA figure (James Mason) kills someone, is wounded, and is separated from his accomplices. He's then sought by the cops, his partners, and his girlfriend, as well as any number of locals who want him for their own ends. It had me until the third act, when it introduced a tediously over-the-top painter character. At that point it probably lost more of my goodwill than was necessary.
Of note to geeks: the bartender is played by William Hartnell, who would later go on to become the first Dr. Who. This was apparently remade in the '60s, this time with Sidney Poitier as a black militant. Sounds horrific.
One of my favorite Out of 5 (sob, sniff) themes was "original songs better known by inferior covers." If that theme had come up today, I'd give strong consideration to the original version of "Video Killed the Radio Star," by Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club. Read about them and get the song here.

Monday, January 2, 2006

It's 2006, and time for the first of the Monday music offerings I talked up a while ago. These will be available for a week or two; please right-click or option-click to save to your desktop. If bandwidth becomes an issue, we go to yousendit links.

No doubt you are familiar with the reputation of the Sex Pistols, if not the actual music -- but the first UK punk group to release a single was actually The Damned, thanks to the fast-moving folks at Stiff Records. For all the controversy about the then-new genre, the first commercially available offering is a giddy love song. Later covered by Tool and Guns 'n' Roses.

The Damned - "New Rose"