Saturday, July 12, 2008

Arte y Pico

For whatever reason, Becca has seen fit to award me with the Arte y Pico Award. It goes something like this:

1) Pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.

2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.

4) Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of “Arte y Pico” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award which is here: Arte y Pico.

A number of blogs I read have been given this award already. I'm going to pick five, and my apologies to anyone who feels slighted in the least. It does feel sucky getting passed over, even for something like this.

First, I want to give this award to MC, who inspired me to be more creative in my first year of blogging.

Second, to Allen L., whose new series of Listening Post entries have been some of the most fun reading I've had online lately.

Third, to Jaquandor, who has one of the most interesting blogs I read (and, since he's been around longer than anyone, the most packed with great articles).

Fourth, to Johnny Yen, not least of which for his fascinating, insightful history posts.

And fifth, John and Jana at Shuffleboil, a great blog that features one of my favorite daily treats, My Year Writing This Book About My Year Writing This Book.

I don't expect everyone to jump on it; I'm just passing it on.

Banner Concept

Too bitter?

Friday, July 11, 2008


Seriously, just watch it. Wonderful. (Or go watch it at the main site, where the quality's better.)

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Throwdown 7/11

Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Walmart’s new logo is Kurt Vonnegut’s asshole? No, seriously, it is, isn’t it? Check here and here. This does put a whole new spin on Walmart, I guess.

2. To every critic posting their reviews of Meet Dave today: shaking your head that Eddie Murphy repeatedly stars in shitty special effects comedies is no longer a legitimate criticism. You’ve known for a long, long time that Eddie Murphy makes shitty movies aimed mainly at kids. You have to get over it now. Please deal with this and stop embarrassing yourselves. You all ripped on him for Pluto Nash and whined about Daddy Day Care; you acted like The Haunted Mansion was the end of film as a legitimate art form and you all actually, stupidly, embarrassingly expressed genuine surprise that Norbit was a bad movie. You really need to get over this.

3. Has anyone else tried to watch this live action version of Charlotte’s Web? I’ve tried to watch it on cable about four times, but I just can’t do it. The spider is creepy. It’s the arachnid response; spiders are pretty loathsome to humans on a biological level, and I just can’t watch the spider and be sympathetic to it the way this movie wants me to. I’m just thinking about wanting to squish it. This is the power of books over movies; in E.B. White’s novel, Charlotte A. Cavatica becomes a person. Seeing that spider… yuck.

4. Not to get all militaristic on you, but I ended up gawking a couple of episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and there’s really nothing wrong with those kids that some deprivation and a good rap to the mouth at a younger age wouldn’t have helped. Why are parents so afraid to hit their kids anymore?

5. Jessica, darling, come on. Getting into a war of words with Pamela Anderson is like beating up a crippled kid. Let Pamela enjoy being 78 years old in peace. That way she can nurse her fifteenth beer of the night and remember the brief time when anyone gave a shit about her in peace.

6. Dear Daddy’s Girl,
Do you think your tattoo is sending the message you really want to send? And if it is, are you Brooke Hogan?

7. After going to WizardWorld a couple of weeks ago, I have to single out a group. Could the video gamers—the ones who are socially awkward but still aggressively male—please stop wearing so much damn Axe Body Spray? Seriously, I know the commercials make you think otherwise, but girls are not going to jump on you and rip your clothes off because you wear it. It smells awful and desperate, and after inhaling the pure aerosol smell for a few hours near the video game demos, I can tell you this, too: you still need to wear deodorant. Because the Axe ain’t covering it.

8. Des Moines has become the latest city to ban smoking in public buildings. Now they’re worried about what to do about all of the smokers out smoking on sidewalks. Folks, I’ve said it before: I don’t appreciate secondhand smoke, I don’t like smoke, but it’s not illegal, okay? It’s not a crime. You’ve got the buildings and the airplanes and the restaurants now, what is it you still want? You want to move the smokers into their own parallel cities? Didn’t we try something like that with Japanese-Americans once?

9. According to a new poll, dog owners are more likely to vote for McCain than Obama. Jesus, can we just have the fucking election now, please? I’m so sick of this shit I can no longer put it into words. By the way, McCain is pulling a Bush and will now only answer questions from McCain-friendly reporters. Which is certainly what straight talk is all about. And Clinton’s big money backers are “underwhelmed” after meeting Obama, which seems to be code for “he won’t sell us ambassadorships and political appointments.”

10. This is the new milk jug. It’s squarer and can be stacked so that they’re more space efficient. They don’t need to be put in crates and can be shrink-wrapped on a pallet, which means less water spent cleaning the crates, more jugs can fit in the truck, and less delivery trips (which means less fuel spent). Someone from Sam’s Club says they could reduce the amount of trucks on the road by 11,000 this year, reducing the number of milk deliveries a week from five to two. And they can fit 224 milk gallons into a cooler that could only fit 80 before. And it saves you, the consumer, about 10 to 20 cents per gallon. Consumers are pitching a fit because the new jugs don’t pour as well as the old ones. And that’s just America in a nutshell, isn’t it? Something could be cheaper and more efficient and save resources, but because it may be just a tiny bit inconvenient, people don’t want it. There’s not going to be change without some level of sacrifice, people, and this is a tiny, tiny thing. My advice is to either fix the pour spout in some way that doesn’t compromise the shape so the bumpkins will stop their whining, or just start putting it in bags like the civilized countries do.

Now THAT'S Gonzo!

I'll talk about it more on Wednesday when I do Film Week. For now, I just want to say: The Machine Girl is 100% pure mainline gonzo. A certain kind of movie fan will know exactly what I mean.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Grow Up

In what idiotic simulacrum of the adult world does Jesse Jackson have to apologize for what he said about Barack Obama?

I saw this all over the news this morning, and it just got more and more idiotic each time I heard it. The typically courageous and adult media is reporting that Jackson made a "crude comment" about Obama; what he actually said was "I'd like to cut his nuts off."

Where do I start here?

First off, this comment was made during a break for a Fox News program. He didn't know the microphone was still on and, in a whispered conversation, expressed frustration that, he felt, Obama was treating black people like children on the "faith-based" programs issue (can we just be realistic and call them religious programs yet?), and said "I'd like to cut his nuts off."

Of course, O'Reilly couldn't miss this opportunity to once again make the presidential campaign into a sideshow and decided to air it, and now Jackson has to apologize for making "hurtful and wrong" remarks that "will not be helpful." Even Jackson's own son has denounced his remarks, as though anyone is somehow responsible for anything anyone else says.

Give me a break.

Are we now so oversensitive that people have to apologize for whispered remarks made in private conversation out of frustration? Was somebody afraid that Jesse Jackson really intended to get himself a pair of hedge shears and clip of Obama's testicles? I mean, if anything does need to be addressed here, I'd think it was Jackson's feeling that Obama has been talking down to black people about morality.

Give me a break.

This is one of the ways in which Obama's campaign has totally lost me: the way he reacts to remotely hurtful words. Wesley Clark was, I think, making a somewhat legitimate point. How does McCain getting shot down in Vietnam qualify him to lead the country? It's not just being mean, because there's a real point in there: if McCain is going to keep campaigning on his being a prisoner of war in Vietnam as though it means something, why shouldn't someone be able to ask him what it means? For Obama to then throw Clark under the train is ridiculous. He should've just ignored it and let Clark make his point. McCain couldn't even explain to a reporter why it matters to his political career that he was once in the military. That's a much bigger deal.

The liberals who focus on the words and not the actual points being made are just doing the work of the Republicans. Force an insincere apology, denounce someone for speaking their own mind or expressing any sort of opinion, and then ignore them: yeah, that's a real war of issues here, isn't it?

The Obama campaign has lost me, really. And not because of this "sudden" shift to the center; if you looked at the guy's record beforehand (something I commented on and got fucking vilified for it), then you knew he was pro-gun, pro-death penalty, pro-funding for religious programs. He voted for FISA, which means he believes corporations that agree to break the law on the order of the president shouldn't be prosecuted for breaking the law. And that's okay for the president to change the laws he's broken after the fact so that there is no longer any crime at all. Even Nixon didn't get away with this kind of shit. So there's two parts of the Constitution he isn't really interested in defending: the Fourth Amendment and that pesky separation of Church and State dealie. And, arguably, freedom of speech, since he's so concerned with banishing anyone who isn't nice to the opponents...

But you know what? This is politics. There's no place for idealism here, is there? Pick your battles. Jesse Jackson complaining about Obama is not a battle, and the media's attempts to make it one don't make it one. If Obama's going to get us out of the war, I'll vote for him. Bush ran this country so far into the ground that it's going to take a lifetime to get us back out.

Seriously, America, grow up. Choose your outrage well. Obama acts like just another politican... well, guess what? He's a fucking politician and that's all he's been all along. He's going to disappoint you, because they all do. I liked Bill Clinton, too, but you could fill a book with all of the shitty political things he did.

But Obama ain't Bush, and he ain't McCain, and that's what's important.

For Your Meme Only

I saw this on the A.V. Club, and it looked kinda neat. You basically just pick an album for every year you've been alive. They can be your favorites, or what you liked then, or what you like now, or whatever. So here are my choices for the years of my life. Mostly I just went by what I would listen to now rather than what I remember from the time, although there's some mixing.

I had to use Wikipedia "years in music" pages to do this.

1976: Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life

1977: Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell
* This has been one of my favorite albums since I was very, very young. My dad used to play it a lot. He's sick of it, but I think it's one of the greatest albums I've ever listened to.

1978: Blondie, Parallel Lines

1979: David Bowie, Lodger

1980: John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy

1981: Billy Joel, Songs in the Attic

1982: Madness, Madness Present The Rise and Fall

1983: The Police, Synchronicity
* I like the Police a lot, but I probably wouldn't have jumped right on this album. There surprisingly wasn't much from 1983 that I felt was strong, album-wise.

1984: The Smiths, Hatful of Hollow
I cheated a little; this is a singles collection.

1985: “Weird Al” Yankovic, Dare to Be Stupid
* This and Then & Now: The Best of the Monkees were the first cassettes I ever bought with my own money. I was nine, so I think it was birthday money.

1986: Genesis, Invisible Touch

1987: New Order, Substance
* Another singles collection.

1988: The Traveling Wilburys, The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1

1989: Peter Gabriel, Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ

1990: Oingo Boingo, Dark at the End of the Tunnel

1991: Guns ‘n’ Roses, Use Your Illusion (I and II)

1992: Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes

1993: Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell
* Not the classic Bat is, but as you may have guessed, I like Jim Steinman's over-the-top songs.

1994: Hole, Live Through This

1995: David Bowie, Outside

1996: Tori Amos, Boys for Pele

1997: David Bowie, Earthling

1998: The Donnas, American Teenage Rock ‘n’ Roll Machine

1999: Moby, Play

2000: Johnny Cash, American III: Solitary Man

2001: Tenacious D, Tenacious D

2002: Badly Drawn Boy, About a Boy

2003: The Darkness, Permission to Land

2004: Brian Wilson, Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE

2005: Sufjan Stevens, Illinois

2006: Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere

2007: Ringo Starr, Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo
* This is how much I was disappointed in music last year: my favorite album of 2007 is a collection of mostly-seventies songs.

2008: She and Him, Volume One
* My favorite of the year so far, though it'll probably stay on here.

No tagging, but feel free to have your way with it or rip on my choices or recommend something or whatever you feel like.

For Fred Gwynne's Birthday

"Dry Bones"

I Promise to Help Celebrate Yours If You Help Celebrate Mine

Hey, just because we're exes doesn't mean we can't be friends. I need someone to help comfort me since ScarJo dumped me for a Chevy Chase impersonator.

Happy 28th Birthday, Jessica!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

I have a feeling I might have enjoyed this more when I was younger. As it is, it's a kinda fun, overheated, silly, dated sci-fi monster movie. I really enjoyed Ray Harryhausen's work on his creature, the Ymir, which is wonderful. The rest is, as often in these kinds of movies, forgettable. **1/2 stars.

IN BRUGES (2007)
This movie actually did take me by surprise. The previews sold this as a comedy; even though it's very funny, it really isn't. This is one of those weird movies about lowlifes that I thought they'd actually stopped making (thankfully, I was wrong). Colin Farrell stars as a hitman who accidentally killed a kid and is sent with his partner to Bruges, Belgium, which he immediately hates. His partner, Brendan Gleeson, is struck by the history and beauty of Bruges; Farrell, when he's not brooding over what he's done, is more interested in a dwarf actor (Jordan Prentice, who was once the body of Howard the Duck and is absolutely wonderful in this movie as a racist cokehead) and a girl who deal drugs on the side (sexy Clemence Poesy from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and a bunch of naked French movies). Ralph Fiennes plays their boss, a man with a real problem controlling his anger and who, even until the end, sticks by his principles. I'm almost at a loss to describe it without giving everything away, but I absolutely loved this film. Well acted (even by Colin Farrell--that's two movies in the last couple of months I've liked him in; when did he learn how to act?), well directed, well written, and completely compelling. It's almost like a Sam Peckinpah movie. Take my word for it. **** stars.

Victor Fleming's take on the Stevenson novel is very, very sexual. Spencer Tracy stars (slightly miscast, I think) as the Victorian doctor who tampers with dividing the nature of good and evil. The real break in his research is due to his meeting a lower woman, a barmaid who comes on to him directly and excites him, though he refuses to admit it (this is Ingrid Bergman, absolutely stunning and beautiful). As Mr. Hyde, of course, he's able to indulge his brutish, bestial side, a side which Bergman is scared of and wants nothing to do with; he terrifies her, makes her doubt herself, and makes her his abused, kept woman. The triangle is completed by Lana Turner as Jekyll's beloved; but Hyde, of course, is attracted to her moments of pain and sadness. It's all very psychosexual and it's mostly good (very well shot, especially the scenes that make use of the London fog), but as I said, I think Tracy was kind of miscast. He's cruel, but not brutal, the way Frederic March was. He's not wholly believable as either side of the same personality. Ingrid Bergman, on the other hand, is excellent; Lana Turner rounds out very well (although the role of the prim beloved is somewhat thankless), and I always love to see Donald Crisp. *** stars.

EQUUS (1977)
Do you know what this movie is about? Oh, man, this movie's about... damn. I had no experience of this before, never read the play, never heard overly much about it. I'd really just wanted to see it because Peter Shaffer wrote it and Richard Burton was in it. But, wow, this blew me away and creeped me out. I won't spoil it for you, but this was quite the psychosexual drama, and it's surprisingly intense. Peter Firth plays the troubled young boy obsessed with horses and religion, and he plays it very well, almost in an alien sort of way. Richard Burton, as the psychiatrist who takes his case, shows that he has lost none of his skill as an actor. The rest of the supporting cast is quite good, especially Colin Blakely and Joan Plowright as Firth's creepily detached parents. Eileen Atkins is a favorite of mine, and I always love to see Jenny Agutter as well, especially when she takes her clothes off, I must admit. **** stars.

This is one of Sam Fuller's less interesting films, I think. It's about two police detectives, a white man and a Japanese-American, both Korean War veterans who have been best friends since the war. Like brothers. While trying to solve a murder case, the white one falls in love with an artist who may be a witness, but she falls in love with the Japanese one. It's really a love story, and inside that, it's really about racism. I think it does a disservice to the character played by James Shigeta, intimating in a way that racism is a paranoid fantasy on the part of its victims. It's a little disappointing coming from Fuller. Victoria Shaw is very good as the artist. *** stars.

Madge Bellamy stars in this excellent production directed by Maurice Tourneur (father of Jacques). A great adventure film about a woman kidnapped and raised by a band of thieves and who is rescued by a young man she knew briefly as a child. Gosh, there's not a whole heck of a lot more to it than that, but what a film. Great cinematography, too. **** stars. Brief side note: it was a little freaky to see John Bowers's character introduced while trying to survive river rapids, knowing he drowned himself later.

Kurosawa's film is like an understated, subtle version of Hamlet. It's an examination of the problems of corruption in the public offices and corporate greed, wrapped up in a noirish plot involving fathers, sons, and revenge. Unlike Hamlet, Toshiro Mifune is very restrained. He's very compelling in a film that is paced so deliberately it threatens to become maddening. Still, it's masterful and rewarding. I don't want to discuss too much of the plot, because a lot of it hangs on its more mysterious elements. I'll just say that I've yet to see a Kurosawa film I wasn't convinced was masterful, Mifune is excellent as always, and so is Takashi Shimura, as always. **** stars.

I hadn't realized that this great Japanese suspense film was based on an Ed McBain novel; Kurosawa fascinates me with his ability to take a story and apply it to his country. Toshiro Mifune stars as a business executive who mortgages everything he owns in order to stage a boardroom coup and take control of the shoe company he works for. But at the same time, his daughter is kidnapped and a ransom is demanded. Which is more important: his career or his child's life? The whole of the drama hangs on how he plans to resolve that dilemma, even as the police search the streets for clues to the kidnapper's whereabouts. The final scene is one of the most interesting resolutions to a police drama I think I've seen yet. **** stars.

Well... I didn't know much about Beatrix Potter going in, so I was surprised by how sad the whole affair was. Let me say this: it wasn't a bad movie, I liked Ewan McGregor in it, and Zellweger had her moments. And I loved the animation of the paintings. Now, I can't talk about this without spoiling it, so, you know you know... Okay, Beatrix Potter was a spinster who fell in love with her publisher Norman Warne (McGregor); he proposed to her, and her parents didn't approve; she agreed to spend the summer in the country with her parents and not announce the engagement in case she changed her mind; while she was gone, Norman grew ill and died; she didn't know until she returned to London, thinking he was ill, only to find she was too late and his funeral was the day before; except for Norman's sister, no one else knew of the engagement. She couldn't share it with anyone. That struck a deep, deep chord with me. Very deep. And the movie fairly devastated me as a result. Overall, it's a good movie, a solid one, but also a trifle. **1/2 stars.

MURDER! (1930)
I love Hitchcock, but I've decided that he doesn't get particularly cinematic until The 39 Steps. This is the least of his early movies I've seen so far (I haven't seen any of his silent films), just because it didn't really hold my attention. I found it ponderous, talky, and dull. Not my least favorite Hitchcock (I think that's still Mr. and Mrs. Smith), but not a movie I hold in high esteem, either. ** stars.

That's much better. I really enjoyed this Hitchcock movie, with beautiful Maureen O'Hara as a woman who goes to live with her aunt and uncle, who runs an operation of thieves who deliberately crash trade ships on the Cornish coast. Robert Newton, the future Long John Silver, stars as one of the thieves who is more than he seems, and who wins the sympathy of O'Hara. Meanwhile, there's a magistrate, played zestfully by the great Charles Laughton, who also becomes involved. I think Hitchcock makes a real mistake in this film, revealing a key fact within the first 30 minutes or so that would've been a real shock at the moment it should have been revealed. I know, I know, who am I to give advice to Hitchcock? But still, revealing it so early does cut down on the drama to some extent. ***1/2 stars. This is sandwiched between better films of Hitch's, The Lady Vanishes and Rebecca, and seems to have been unfairly forgotten. It's not one of his best, but it's not a bad movie.

Working class kid in 1984 wants to dance. Dad says no because of unspoken fears of gayness. Kid dances in secret. Dad finds out and gets angry. Kid proves himself. Dad comes around. Some kind of political thing as a backdrop. Lots of great T. Rex music. The end. Not uncute, but not surprising and not really special. **1/2 stars.

CAPE FEAR (1962)
This somewhat taut thriller is really held together by the committed performances of Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck, both of whom were fantastic actors. Robert Mitchum is truly sleazy and scary as an ex-con set on getting revenge on Gregory Peck and his family for sending him to jail eight years ago. Peck is suitably stolid and upright as the law-abiding man who needs to protect his wife and daughter. Unfortunately, a lot of bad things happen simply because Peck's character is colossally dumb. Your daughter is being stalked and you leave her alone on the marina? And then your wife (Polly Bergen) leaves her alone outside the high school because she has to go to the store? You just want your 15 year-old girl to get raped by Mitchum, don't you? This is a sleazy, sweaty, angry, almost cruel film; Mitchum's character, Max Cady, really delights in being an animal, but acts as if he is only what society made him. Meanwhile, he manipulates that society and its laws to commit violence and brutality and laughs it off. Mitchum was a great actor, and this is a great performance. It's enhanced by the classic Bernard Herrmann score. Still, I think the film doesn't quite come off; it's not completely satisfying for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe it's because Peck's character, Sam Boden, can be such a dope. He sides with the law to the detriment of his family; it's nice to see a character with principles, but his conflict didn't quite feel real enough to me. Maybe a better director than J. Lee Thompson would have helped. Still, it's better than the Scorsese version. Martin Balsam and Telly Savalas are good in supporting roles, and Barrie Chase has an almost hypnotic scene as one of Cady's victims. *** stars.

Robert Donat has quickly become one of my favorite actors; until two weeks ago, I'd only ever seen him in one movie (but what a movie, Goodbye, Mr. Chips). It's exciting to discover an actor you've never seen much of. In this film, Donat stars as Andrew Manson, a doctor who starts out in the countryside and moves up to be a rich London doctor. He's an ambitious young man, sometimes pompous, but driven to help people as best he can. He meets and very suddenly marries a pretty schoolteacher (Rosalind Russell) in order to get another post as a doctor, and as they move up in the world he gets more and more cavalier to the sufferings of the people he's supposed to be helping. It's a great story of dehumanization and redemption, and Donat and Russell are equal to the task. Ralph Richardson is great in a supporting role, and it's nice to see Rex Harrison looking young and energetic. **** stars.

Robert Donat again, this time as one of my favorite fictional characters, Edmond Dantes, the Count of Monte Cristo. This version of the story, ably directed by Rowland V. Lee (director of one of my favorite movies, the 1939 version of Tower of London), spends a lot of time on the Count's intricate revenge, which ends in a trial and a duel. Good supporting cast, including Louis Calhern, Sidney Blackmer, and the mighty Raymond Walburn as the objects of his revenge. **** stars.

As a side note, did Bob Kane ever talk about The Count of Monte Cristo as an inspiration for Batman? I know he mentioned The Mark of Zorro a number of times. It just occurs to me that Batman and Monte Cristo are very similar stories; Dantes and Bruce Wayne are both changed by a personal tragedy and motivated to seek justice; they both spend years of their lives learning to fight and think and become sorts of detectives to carry out this justice; they both have servants who are loyal friends, confidantes, and often partners; they both have fortunes at their disposal which they use to finance their endeavors. Christopher Nolan seems to be one of the few directors who understands that the Batman story is a story of revenge and justice (as well as a crime drama with superhero trappings and not the other way around). It's an interesting and satisfying parallel.

Edy Williams

Edy Williams turns 66 today, so I'm just saying Happy Birthday. I've been a Russ Meyer fan for a long, long time, and I love Edy in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. She's that perfect combination I love a little too much: sexy, slutty, and very bitchy. I saw her recently on an episode of Batman (she was one of Liberace's minions), and was just thrilled. I love her.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Health Report, Year 2: Week 30

Just trying to relax and enjoy my summer.

I haven't really talked about my health in a while, I guess. I'm still overweight, and I'm still trying to eat okay (although I've had pizza and fast food more often recently than I should've, setting back some more actual progess I made). I'm trying to exercise more often when I'm not doing anything, just watching TV, etc. It's made me feel lighter, springier, more energetic, and that's good. Now if I can get back to eating decently and cooking as often as I should be cooking, it'll be great. I need to go back to walking, too. I tried to be up and active all week before WizardWorld so I wouldn't go through the bad cramping again, and it worked. I didn't overdo it at WizardWorld. Then I stayed active for a few days. Then, after just one day of not doing anything, all of my energy disappeared. That's all it takes: one day off the wagon, and it's a fight to build back up to where I was. It's ridiculous and annoying, but it needs to be done.

I'm still not working, and I don't know if I will be. My parents are both hammering at me to work, which just makes me want to work less, like it's really their business, anyway. I get it, you want me to do well and be financially secure. You don't need to bring it up every single time we talk in order for me to get your damn point, okay? And I understand that you think I'm not taking your advice if I don't wave my magic wand and fix the problem RIGHT FUCKING NOW, but let's have a little patience, shall we? Jesus fucking Christ, adults are worse than the kids at school when it comes to wanting everything this fucking second. Take a pill, yeah?

Otherwise, there's not really much at all to report. I'm preparing for the fall--finally remembered to notify the regional office that I want to be back on the list for subs this year, although I think I'm also going to try to see about getting a regular job with one of the schools as an assistant. Benefits would be a nice change from, well, nearly every job I've ever had...

Just relaxing, trying to get healthier, and blogging for the six or seven people still reading it. But at least I know I've got a job to go back to this summer!

Indy Shot First!

Check out some leaked footage from Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Special Edition.

If you like that, have a look at Michael Bay's rejected script for The Dark Knight.

How Would He Know? He Doesn't Even Know What a Computer Is...

Dear Mr. McCain,
The feeling's mutual.
Why don't you go and lie down and take a nap and we'll wake you in January, okay?

[Video via Crooks and Liars.]

The Pixar Touch

NOTE: I don't know why I've never made a habit of reviewing the books I read on this blog. I read constantly and don't say much about the books. Over the Spring, I was part of this year's Spring Reading Challenge. Now that that's over, and I don't know of any Summer Reading Challenge, I've decided I'll just keep doing it here. The Spring Reading Challenge blog is gone, so I moved all of my reviews on here; I finally read a few Roald Dahl books and some other stuff. Anyway, Chthulhu knows I don't need more stuff to talk about on my blog, but there it is.

I tore through The Pixar Touch, a much more honest look at the development and history of the company than their previous book, To Infinty and Beyond. The early chapters are the most interesting, I think, because they're all about the struggle: how men like Ed Catmull and Alvy Singer worked as hard as they could to develop computer animation in the hopes that one day they could make a computer-animated feature. What I was especially interested in was the company's time as part of Lucasfilm, when they had to develop animated shorts in secret because they were supposed to be developing new technology for shooting, editing, and adding sound to films (much of which they also did; the book at least gives George Lucas his due as a man who revolutionized the methods of filmmaking itself, an important achievement that is apparently going to be dwarfed unto his grave by "Han shot first!")

Granted, I'm already biased in favor of Pixar (and so are most people; polls have frequently shown in the 21st century that Pixar's brand is trusted and deemed reliable more than Disney's is, which is really Disney's own fault), but I thought everyone came through in a warm and likable way. Especially John Lasseter, who is, I really believe, the modern equivalent of Walt Disney. Not to say that he's the same person, and not to diminish Lasseter's achievements, but now, finally, in animation, we have the same kind of man again, devoted to storytelling excellence and narrative integrity and advancing the medium while never forgetting that computer animation is not the entire show, but a means of telling a story.

The author, David A. Price, even manages to present Steve Jobs in a realistic light; there are some things about Jobs that are impossible to ignore and make him look a little nuts. Price doesn't ignore those things, but gives Jobs his view as a visionary and smart when it comes to marketing (eventually... he did try to push Pixar animation software onto a market that wasn't ready for it). There's no ass-kissing, which isn't bad.

Eventually, after the making of Toy Story and the fight with Jeffrey Katzenberg over ripping off the idea of A Bug's Life with Antz at DreamWorks, the book does sort of settle down into your average film-by-film type of biography. (And then they made Finding Nemo, and John Lasseter really liked cars so they made Cars.) I guess it's inevitable, and the book never becomes unreadable or even unenjoyable. And it's filled with warm little memories from guys like Lasseter and Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton and Brad Bird who just seem like really creative people who haven't flown up their own assholes like other creative types have.

Also, I'm a little surprised that Price spends so much time on the lawsuits over Monsters, Inc. and doesn't mention any of the accusations of plagiarism that surrounded Finding Nemo.

And if I have one real complaint, it's that after Geri's Game, Price doesn't talk about any more of the great Pixar shorts. What's interesting to me about the shorts is that they seem primarily used to experiment with new software, new algorithims, new techniques in computer animation. Boundin', for example, seems like some kind of experiment (both with the bouncy wool on the sheep and the creative tracking shots that circle around three-dimensional objects), and Lifted, directed by Pixar and Lucasfilm sound man Gary Rydstrom, seems like an experiment in sound technique.

There's also no mention of Pixar's moves towards traditional cel animation and possibly live action. Maybe that can be in the second book.

But those early chapters can't be topped. I'm not a tech nerd or a computer geek, really, but I'm excited by people on the forefront of the new. I'm fascinated by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and Bill Gates and Nolan Bushnell and, hell, Ed Catmull. After the revolution, I guess it's hard to be excited by the aftermath. But it's a great book, very informative, and it's not like reading a tech manual. It's a good record of the building of an animation company that has, in a short time, become the best animation company in the world.

It Continues!

From Sunday: It Begins!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Bury My Heart Under Shub-Niggurath

If I wanted to be buried, I would absolutely want to be buried here. What better resting place than a cemetery where some kind of Old One rises out of the mist at dusk?

Peace and Love

Today is Ringo Starr's 68th birthday. He said he wanted today to be a "Peace and Love Day," and that at noon today, noon wherever you are, he'd like for everyone to show the peace sign and say "Peace and love." Naive? I don't think so. Idealistic? Certainly.

So here I go. I'm a big fan of peace and love. Peace and love, everyone.

Some Thoughts on FISA

According to this CBS news story, "a federal judge said that President Bush does not have the constitutional authority to overstep the law establishing the government's ability to conduct warrantless wiretaps on American citizens." That the president has no right to overstep the bounds of FISA.

I'm just going to enjoy this one for a moment until the Supreme Court overturns it and Congress votes to grant the telecoms immunity. Actually, if a U.S. District Court has said the president essentially committed an illegal act (massive wiretappings) and Congess grants immunity to the over 40 telecoms that are the target of lawsuits, isn't Congress then somehow participating in the illegal act? I mean, how can you shield a company from lawsuits resulting from something that was illegal in the first place? Good old Congress. Hey, even Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama are going to vote for telecom immunity, so we once again have government acting to protect itself from, you know, American law. You should really call your Representatives and ask them about this. After all, the many Democrats who are changing their votes to support FISA said they did so because they wanted the FISA court to have exclusivity over these things, but according to the decisions just made, that exclusivity already exists. So... void?

The new FISA bill isn't only about telecom immunity. It actually will broaden the power of the president to ignore FISA and circumvent the Constitution. This is really an issue of the Fourth Amendment, isn't it? The new FISA bill, which many Democrats now support, allows the government to continue to wiretap an retain all collected information even if it loses in FISA court. This is illegally siezed information.

And don't sell me on that trip about how Bush isn't the first president to use wiretapping. I know that. I'm not worried about that. That doesn't matter to me. What does bother me is what's happening NOW, in my lifetime, in my name, paid for with my tax money. And I think this is wrong. I think this is a case of the government treating American citizens as though they've already broken the law, and I think that sucks. I don't think it's a democracy, that's for sure. We need modern precedents. Just because someone did it before doesn't mean it's okay now. Doesn't mean it was okay then, either.

The Bush Administration has grabbed so much power for themselves that Dick Cheney can claim that his own office is a separate branch of government outside the law, and get away with it. Now the executive branch is acting, through FISA, as if it's okay for them to monitor calls with their own personal law enforcement branch and fuck the FBI.

The Bush Administration has misused nearly every government department in a clearly partisan manner. These guys were actually caught firing lawyer after lawyer attempting to prosecute Republican corruption and are still in power. They tell us that they need to spy on us for our own good and we say okay?

All I know for sure is that the administration will continue to circumvent and defy the law, Congress will continue to say it's okay, and we will continue to just watch and not really do anything. And that there will always be people willing to give up their freedoms to someone who tells them to be scared.

Meanwhile, In Cedar Rapids

I was in Iowa one year when it flooded, and it wasn't nice. I hope everyone over there is dealing with this as best they can and getting their lives back in order. There's more rain in the forecast this week.

Didn't John McCain veto a bill to shore up the levees in Iowa? Said it was pork?

Make levees, not war.