Monday, February 26, 2007

Movie Log 2007 9-18: B-Fest wrapup
I was pretty pleased with B-Fest this year. The few things I'd seen before were either things I wanted to see again, or were placed in places where I could get a little sleep. Or else they were the first movie, The Brain that Wouldn't Die. Meh. A censored print, and a brittle one to boot-- the film broke right when the proto-Sloth creature got out. Next up was that TBS classic The Beastmaster. I hadn't seen it since I was a kid, and was surprised at how well it held up.

After a terrific Ub Iwerks Flip the Frog cartoon, it was Revenge of the Creature in sorta 3-D. I admire the NU folks for trying, but their projection equipment and poor print quality available to them make 3-D efforts a headache-inducing nightmare. I had the glasses off through most of the movie.

Off to sleep during Wizard of Speed and Time and Plan 9 From Outer Space before...Savage Sisters, this year's exploitation offering. Pseudo-exploitation, that is. A grab-the-cash caper film set in a banana republic (though the auto plates clearly say PHILIPPINES); Savage Sisters was notable for its constant near-nudity. I think it ended up more entertaining than if it had served up real T&A.

Invasion of the Star Creatures
- For many people, this was the fests' soul-crusher. And indeed, there was not much to recommend in this tale of horrible comedy stylings and aliens wearing leotards and vegetables (seriously). I did find one running gag sorta funny: the characters all belonging to a serial-hero fan club, and displaying the decoder ring at a moment's notice. I an event that's all about bonding over geekiness, I'll buy into similar actions onscreen.

Street Trash - This year's Troma-esque offering was a vile tale of a box of ancient hooch causing homeless people to melt. There were some worthwhile bits, plus one guy whom Vincent Gallo has apparently based his entire persona upon.

The Hypnotic Eye - Women are inexplicably lighting their hair on fire or washing their faces with acid. The incidents get traced to a hypnotist's act. This was one of the more coherent films shown, except for an extended fourth-wall scene. I'd see it again. It was better than Cats.

Tarantula - Seen it before, so I slept. I needed to stay awake for...

Krull. Through means I don't remember anymore, in 1982 or so I acquired movie posters for three upcoming Columbia Pictures attractions: Blue Thunder, later a TV show eclipsed in popularity by Airwolf; Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a 3-D flick starring Peter Strauss and a newcomer named Molly Ringwald; and...Krull. Somehow of those three, Krull is the one film I'd missed until this year, so I was eagerly anticipating it.
Yeah, that was a mistake. Krull was a real-time travelogue about walking, climbing, walking, riding horses (so why all the walking earlier?!), walking some more, climbing a little, capturing and riding new horses (what about the old horses?!), letting the new horses catch fire and fly (that was actually sorta cool), and a little more climbing for good measure. It was also about not bothering to use the ultimate weapon that the hero recovers in the first act for most of the film.

Invasion USA - Chuck Norris beating back communists, who manage to launch an invasion less plausible than the one in Red Dawn. No small feat, that.

Teenage Doll - Roger Corman gives us the straight dope on girl juvenile delinquents.A girl is on the run from a rival girl gang and the cops. I like Corman. He manages to create silk-like purses, and I'm still not sure if one character's "kid sister" was actually supposed to be her kid.

Incredible Melting Man
- Neither Jack Black in Heat Vision and Jack, nor Bob Denver on Far Out Space Nuts can top Alex Rebar's ridiculous astronaut performance. The best thing that can be said for IMM is it doesn't waste time becoming an effects extravaganza.

King Kong vs. Godzilla - Classic guys in suits. Shown via DVD; probably a harbinger of B-fests to come.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

here's hopin'
There is both a Wild Oats and a Whole Foods within walking distance of our place. I shop at neither. With their pending merger, perhaps Trader Joe's will finally get the parking-enhanced space it's been looking for in Evanston.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

More questions, and possibly the last. These are from JC:
1. What is your favorite outdoor activity and why? (I'm not going to allow curling as a response, as I believe you at least usually do it indoors, even if it started as an outdoor sport and could be played outdoors.)
It's probably walking. Okay, call it "hiking" because it sounds more rugged, even though we're in suburban Illinois and I'm not fooling anyone. It's active enough but doesn't require a lot of concentration, so I can have a conversation with a partner or listen to music/get lost in thought if alone without getting hit by a truck. Swimming's fine, but you can only do it outside for a small part of the year. I have a bike and blades, but haven't been on them in over two years. I think I'd like orienteering, and often mean to go once during the window where that and the curling seasons don't overlap.

2. Is there a question you missed or didn't get to answer on Jeopardy that still haunts you today? If so, what was it?
I'm actually pretty well over Jeopardy. You'd think it would be the final question, but it's not. Because timing is such a big deal, I was more frustrated by getting beaten to things I knew cold. There were two things. The first is I almost ran the table on a category that was right in the wheelhouse: foreign films. I got beat to the buzzer on one question. The other was in the episode just after mine. Had I won, I could have feasted on another category right up my alley: John Cusack films. Blast!

3. Death is not an option: Pick three board games that will be the only board games you play for the rest of eternity.
*18VA. Ever since I was a kid I've reacted very strongly to maps and logos. the 18xx games have had a strong pull even before sitting down to play. 18VA wins out because of its length and the better opening auction.
*Catchphrase, assuming this "eternity" clause allows for updated editions now and then. I'm a bit rankled when my non-gamer friends ask me to bring stuff over, and this gets played instead. But in my circles it does induce the strongest seizures -- seriously, seizures -- of laughter.
*Ingenious. One of these has to suit two players, and you'd call BS if I tried to claim that the Project GIPF games were a single game. This scales equally well with 2, 3, or 4, and is a nice solitaire diversion on BSW, too.

4. Who is on your list? (that is, the list of around 5 people, famous or not so famous, that you are allowed to sleep with if given the chance with no spousal guilt or consequence)
I highly doubt I'm "allowed" any such liberty. But I'd seek forgiveness after -- not permission before -- dalliances with, in absolutely no order (all links are SFW, though I can't vouch for anything beyond the pix):
*This obscure actress named Scarlett Johansson; perhaps you've heard of her. Yeah, I know it's almost a cliche, and I understand I'd likely have to get vaccines afterward.
*Shu Qi. She was in this silly HK action flick we rented some years ago, and she hasn't left the list since.
*Aishwarya Rai and Preity Zinta Yeah, that's for actresses who aren't allowed to *kiss* in their films. Surely that's diagnosable.
*Alicia Witt.

5. If you could re-do any portion of your life, would you? Why or why not?

Well, no "spend more time with [dead relative/friend]", because no matter how much time you add it'd never feel like enough. There are two things I would do over. One is practical; the other is completely frivolous, but still haunts me.
The practical: I would insist that my parents send me to a different orthodontist, and I'd be a better patient. After all that drama with my teeth as an adult, I still don't know if it stemmed from that guy's medieval methods, my lackadaisical care, or my biological fate. But undoing two of those would be nice.
The frivolous: After a college visit to Boston, I arranged to visit an aunt and uncle ouside of NYC, and bum around Manhattan alone for a day. While I was there, matinee previews were going on for a musical adaptation of Stephen King's Carrie. Despite the idlest of afternoons, I did not seek out tickets for this show. I should have. Carrie, of course, turned out to be a legendary flop, closing after only five performances. Given my love of pop culture and trainwrecks, missing this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle is one of my great regrets.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

from Julie:

1. You went to college in Boston. What did you like most about the Hub of the Universe?
I loved having a city as my campus, and being able to get where I needed to without driving.

2. What are your favorite and least favorite things about quizbowl and the QB community?
The competition is still interesting, but less important. I stand by "anti-retirement," but if I ever were to win TRASHionals with a near-full Gerbil squad, I wouldn't be surprised if I hung it up afterward. My favorite thing about quizbowl is the excuse to see people I only get to see once or twice a year. And I can safely say that's nearly always been the case for me. I played exactly one year of "collegiate" qb, but have played "masters" qb for 12. I think because I played so little as a college player, I have less and less patience for my least-favorite part: what I call the collegiate-protest mentality; the "what do we want? (more hockey! less hockey! clocks! no clocks! etc.) when do we want it? (NOW!)" attitude, where if you disagree then you're some sort of fascist out to destroy quizbowl.

3. What attracts you so much to the music of the 1980s, and what aspects of it do you consider unique and important?
Though the time period may vary, I think the attraction is near-universal: the music of one's formative years (in my case, 1980-89) had the most impact on me. The things I think are important about the era are not necessarily the things that strike visceral chords with me: The rise of hip-hop and sampling have had lasting importance, as have the birth of underground labels that sought to treat artists ethically.

4. This one's a little more personal, so I understand if you'd rather not answer. You've indicated in your blog that (like me) you're half of a voluntarily childfree couple. Have you ever had to explain this decision to family or friends, and if so, how did you navigate this often-treacherous path?

I haven't had to do much explaining to family. My sister had her first of her four kids before we were engaged, so the pressure's been low on my side since before we got hitched. And the family knows I'm stubborn as hell. Kirsti has had it a little rougher, as the only child of older parents. After a few years of not-so-gentle suggestions, she gave them The Talk not long ago. They played on the fact that she ended up the most important thing in their lives. As I recall, the response was something like, "that's nice if you want kids." We have one friend who had a kid and decided we absolutely needed to have one. It was getting pretty bad for a while, but then he had his second kid. Then he got too busy to hassle us, but you never know when the pushy gene will relapse.

5. If you could do anything for a living other than what you're doing now, what would it be?
From what I've read, the funnest work atmosphere I can imagine was the MAD Magazine staff in the Bill Gaines era. But barring a time machine or a talent-bestowing fairy-godmother, I think it would be cool to be the programmer at a repertory cinema.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

These are from Stan:

1. If you were giving advice to someone from outside the area, would you say there's enough to do in Evanston that's not affiliated with the University to justify living there?
Without question. Evanston's gotten much more lively since you were here for school. The university is really only on my radar two or three times a year; for B-Fest and perhaps another random event (but keep in mind I don't live in, or have much cause to go to, North Evanston, where the stadium is). On the other hand, it's ridiculously expensive. Our realtor told us seven years ago that we got the last good deal in town. Not that I've been looking that hard, but I haven't seen evidence to the contrary.

2. On your blog a while back, you mentioned deciding to be childless. In a world which seems to pressure people to procreate, did you and Kirsti encounter much opposition to that decision?
Julie asked me a nearly-identical question, and I'm trying to answer them consistently but differently. In nearly every step of the relationship we haven't done much in a traditional manner: we got engaged later than most people, married later than most, then eloped...I guess we made it pretty clear that we were going to do things the way we wanted. We've had to have The Talk with a few people, but it's not like anyone's trying to throw me on top of Kirsti or anything. Well, there's one person, but i'll get into that later.

3. What's the most played song in your home -- either on the computer or on a CD?
I will either shuffle iTunes or listen to an album in its entirety. Kirsti will listen to three or four songs several times in a period. According to iTunes, the most-played song is "Walking with a Ghost in Paris," which is a mashup involving a Tegan and Sara song. But that hasn't been played in over a month. I've heard K. play the Nina Gordon CD a lot, but I'm not sure what songs from it are in heavy rotation.

4. After graduating college with a journalism degree, did you ever work in a newsroom in any context?
During school I had a paid internship at the Boston Herald, working in the sports department. This was mostly answering the phone, writing high-school recaps and entering things for the agate page, but was a lot of fun. After graduation my focus was on college sports information.

5. If you could eliminate one word or phrase from the language, what would it be?
"My bad" really irritates me. "I'm like" instead of "I said" is also annoying, but I'm as guilty as the rest of my generation.

Monday, February 19, 2007

we get sacks and sacks of questions

These are from Brian:

1. What one card or board game would you suggest for a group "game night" outside of the typical selections one could find at the generic MegaloMart?
There are so many, of course. If you aren't talking party games, maybe Ticket To Ride Europe. It's a good gateway game for people used to the Hasbro/Mattel fare, and the Europe version corrects some potential problems in the US version.

2. Of the places you've lived, what town/locale had the strongest feeling of a "neighborhood"?
Probably Camden, the neighborhood in north Minneapolis I lived in from third grade until leaving for college. I think when you're not old enough to drive yet, the friends you make and businesses you can get to within walking distance feel most neighborhoody.

3. In your opinion, has the advancement of technology over the last 10-15 years made it easier for lesser-known but high-quality musicians to find a wider audience or has it made it easier for "corporate rock/pop" to dominate more musical outlets, forcing lesser-known acts to more obscure outlets?
I think what it is is while the corporate outlets still control megastardom, they've become less and less relevant. It's become much easier for musicians to get an audience. The most shining examples right now are Dangermouse, who wouldn't have become half of Gnarls Barkley without the buzz of his underground Beatles/Jay-Z mashup; and Lily Allen, who chafed at her label delaying her album -- both here and in the UK -- and became a Myspace star.

4. Of the state fairs you've visited, what was the strangest experience you've ever had, whether visual, event-related, gustatory, or other?
It was probably the llama costume contest: handlers and their respective animals dressed as: Union/Confederate soldiers, prince/princess, and priest/nun.

5. What would be the one "highlight reel" moment of your curling career to date?
I've started to skip more, so lately I'm more proud of some of the calls I've made than the shots. One shot that does stick out was a tricky double I made the other week to score five en route to a shutout win to advance to a tournament final.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

And now the interview questions are pouring in. Next up is Mark:

1. You've alluded to your inner city high school at times. How did you wind up there, and what cinematic inner city high school would you compare it to?
Minneapolis was very segregated in the seventies -- lots of redlining going on in housing, and this of course was reflected in the schools. As I completed sixth grade, the Minneapolis Public Schools went through a dramatic reorg, gerrymandering districts, closing several schools and creating a number of magnet programs in the remaining high schools. The high school in my district, Patrick Henry, got no new programs; while North, right in the heart of black neighborhood, got a very rigorous sci/math program, the school district's radio station, a TV station, and a visual/performing arts magnet. TV production was what attracted me.

I don't think I have a movie to compare my experience to. Most movies set in "rough" schools are about Earnest Teachers trying to Make a Difference, and those never ring true to me (sorry Alexis), so I skip them. None of the John Hughes films, that's for sure.

2. Sticking with movies, AMPAS gets you on the phone and tells you that they've finally given Gil Cates the heave ho - you're in charge of the Oscars telecast. What changes would you make?
First of all, instead of scolding winners to keep it short, I would advise that the show is going to go as long as it needs to be, so get over it. I'll move the event up earlier if necessary, say 5 pm CT. More clip reels. SOUND in the dead reel. Bruce Vilanch will be fired, if not summarily executed. Song nominees will be performed sans dance accompaniment, either by the original artist, or by Bill Shatner. Finally, in order to generate more general interest in the event, I'd work behind the scenes to encourage gambling on the Oscars. I'll plant Oscar-pool prediction stories in more nontraditional areas, like ESPN2.

3. Finish this sentence: "If I stuck with sports information as a career, I would currently be..."
Underpaid, overworked, and bitter. Aside from the job taking up all my leisure time, I have found, through the ongoing quizbowl experience and generally being an old crank, that I don't have the disposition to deal with college kids on a regular basis.

4. What would it take to get you and Kirstie to relocate back to the Boston area?
The Great Chicago Fire of 2009? It'd take some crazy-ass relocation package that would allow us the wherewithal to live in the thick of things, but that's never something either of us would seek. I thought Boston proper was a pretty cool place to go to school, but not once did I feel like anything but the outsider. And it'd be a pain to live someplace more remote, like Braintree, because Kirsti hates to drive. She misses her folks, but she's happy to have some distance from the extended family gossip and drama.

5. You asked about my parents, so I'm going to ask about yours. What have been the most and least positive aspects of your current parental set-up?
There are many more positives than negatives. My stepmoms are pretty different (gee, ya think?), but they complement their partners very well. And I like their adult kids a lot. The best thing is that my sister's kids are getting the right messages about same-sex relationships. While the Christian Taliban's reach seems to grow all the time, at least I can have hope in those four. Least positive: I wish we could get the whole gang together for family gatherings, if only so we didn't have to schedule separate playdates when we're up visiting. Also, I think my sister can still play guilt cards on mom. That's not cool.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Movie Log 2007: Jesus Camp
You know how every couple of years there's a news story about a child who's been locked up in a pet kennel in a basement for years? Remember how those stories make you feel? That's how I felt when watching Jesus Camp. Only it was funnier.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Interview meme

Stolen from Craig:

If you want to be interviewed:
1. Leave me a comment to that effect.
2. I respond by asking you five personal questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

And Craig's questions to me:

1). I'm getting to the stage in my life where crankiness may be a virtue...How does one act curmudgeonly while at the same time remaining tolerable?

I guess you'd have to ask people who see me regularly to determine how cranky and/or tolerable I am in real life. As much as I've cultivated a cranky persona at its worst in blog tournaments or online comments, I'm probably more social now than I've ever been. I'm pretty calm and easygoing about most things, and I think I've got an outstanding life, which I undoubtedly take for granted. However, that makes for a blog even less interesting than what you see here.

I dunno..."pick your spots" is my answer, I guess. The things I get het up about online -- whether Bender is a better sidekick than Jerome Benton, for instance -- are utterly ridiculous to begin with, so my railing against contrary views on such matters should not be taken seriously in the least. (answer: Jerome!)

2). Not looking so much for a guilty pleasure, but you've seen a number of films that most people haven't. What movie did you like that didn't receive a great deal of discussion, good or bad, that you wish more people knew about and why?

Two recent films by Yoji Yamada really moved me: Twilight Samurai and The Hidden Blade. They're period-era samurai films, but they deal more with class and the bureaucracy than with swordplay. The former was a best-foreign film nominee, but I don't think either made it past the film festival circuit. Both made it to DVD, at least.

There are films I'm more evangelistic about, but those have a better chance of finding an audience.

3). What is the greatest song ever by a Minnesota musical act? If they are different, what is your favorite song ever by a Minnesota musical act?
I should first apologize to Bob Dylan fans for ignoring him here. I'll never work in a hip record store now, but I'm shamefully clueless when it comes to his body of work, plus I view him as a "Minnesota musical artist" the same way Eric Lindros is a Nordiques great.

For greatest, I'm going to go with Prince's "When You Were Mine." It's free of Prince's more annoying quirks, was straight-ahead rockin' enough for Mitch Ryder to cover, turned out suitably kinky when Cyndi Lauper covered it and didn't change the gender pronouns; and despite the early-80s cheeze keyboards, it has a punky rawness that reflects the different things going on in the TC scene at the time.

For my favorite, I'm going with "Celebrated Summer" by Hüsker Dü. It used to be "Left of the Dial" by the 'Mats, but each time I've revisited the New Day Rising album I've found something more to appreciate amidst the wall of noise.

4). What's the secret to getting a good deal on a car?
We had great luck with the method espoused by In short: bone up on invoice price, dealer holdbacks, other incentives, and what the market for a given model actually is. Then fax a number of car dealers in the region and give them 3-5 days to bid for your business. Whether the intel in the website's $35 info pack is worthwhile may vary depending on how knowledgeable you are about the car market. We aren't, and thought it was completely worth it.

5). Of the three other Gerbils, which one is the most likely to be killed on the reunion tour in 2017?
"Reunion" assumes a breakup, and when it comes to quizbowl and retirement I operate on Too Much Joy's theory of breakups, which is: Too Much Joy will never break up. It may never make another record and it may never play another show, but that doesn't mean we've broken up....I'm not trying to be diplomatic or anything; the thing is, if you go out and say, "Oh, we broke up," and then you feel like playing a show later on, all of a sudden you're like The Who. Who wants to be The Who? I want to be The Who in 1965, not The Who in 1999.

But it'll be Rosenberg, of course. The three of us will have a hand in the execution, a la Murder on the Orient Express, and we'll do it solely for the dead pool points.

Monday, February 5, 2007

*went off to a bonspiel this weekend. Our strategy was to build up huge leads and then piss them away in the final three ends, and we executed that strategy to near-perfection. Only once did we falter in that mission, wrecking a perfectly good streak with a victory.

*Because of post-'spiel exhaustion, and also because of the not caring about boringball, I slept through most of what had everyone else bummed at work today. I tuned into the fourth quarter, and caught the Prince show later on YT. The set demonstrated once and for all that he's a preeminent rock -- yes, ROCK -- guitarist.

*Over the weekend my teammates and other clubmates let it slip that I was on a game show. Considering I can rattle off at least ten friends and acquaintances who've done better on the show, I'm always surprised when people are impressed by this.

*Yeah, you'll have to wait for the B-Fest recap. I thought the films were more palatable on the whole, but the audience reaction was not as energetic as in the past. Anyway, there is another addition to the Movie Log 2007: #7, Hail the Conquering Hero. Eddie Bracken reunites with writer-director Preston Sturges, this time as a guy booted from the Marines on a medical discharge, who reluctantly allows himself to be regarded as a war hero when returning home. Such an odd mix of deep patriotism and equally deep cynicism. Some top-notch Sturges dialogue, as well as a usual dollop of period racism. This time the eyerolling comes from frequent references to "Japs" and "Nips." There was a war on, I suppose...