Piper started this fun meme and tagged me with it. The guidelines:
1. Explain to the world The Impossible Truth Behind Snake Plissken's Eye-Patch. Could be a one word sentence (pussy) or could be a seven page novella (boring). Whatever you choose, but tell us all why Snake got the eye-patch.
2. Tag five bloggers asking them to create their own stories about the eye-patch.
3. Of course link back to Lazy Eye Theatre so that people know where this originated. And to those of you who got tagged by someone other than me, post your link in the comments section, I would love to read what you came up with.
And I tag:
Darius Whiteplume @ Adventures in Nerdliness
Splotchy @ I, Splotchy
Reis O'Brien @ Geek Orthodox
Peter Lynn @ Man vs. Clown!
Bubs @ Sprawling Ramshackle Compound
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Piper started this fun meme and tagged me with it. The guidelines:
1. Leonard Cohen: The Lost Canadian (Un Canadien Errant)
2. Muse: Futurism
3. Errol Garner: I’m in the Mood for Love
4. Steeleye Span: Rave On
5. Tom Waits: Take It with Me
6. The Zombies: Summertime
7. Robert Mitchum: My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms
8. The Rutles: Cheese and Onions
9. Traffic: John Barleycorn
10. Edwyn Collins: A Girl Like You
1. Leonard Cohen is a longtime favorite of mine (nice to get two of his songs in Watchmen, although John Cale does the best version of "Hallelujah," a song which has suddenly become very overrated).
2. I'm kind of digging Muse; Becca likes them, so I've heard a bit, and some of it I really enjoy more than I thought I would.
3. Old ramshackle jazz from some Woody Allen soundtrack. I love old jazz, but there's a real cutoff for me at some point in the sixties.
4. I also dig a lot of folk rock. Steeleye Span is pretty damn good, although Fairport Convention is my real favorite.
5. From The Mule Variations. I love Waits as much as I love Cohen.
6. My favorite version of "Summertime." The Zombies are one of my favorite bands of the 1960s, and I dig their uptempo version of the Gershwin song.
7. I have two Robert Mitchum albums; this one is off Calypso--Is Like So, one of the two best calypso albums ever. (The other, of course, is Harry Belafonte's classic Calypso.)
8. Neil Innes' Beatles parody is so spot-on it's like having another Beatles album. For me it's the almost-perfect combination of Innes' Beatles influence and his Bonzo Dog Band years.
9. One of the classic folk rock songs of all time.
10. Takes me right back to 1994, when Becca and I were first dating. I wasn't a fan of most of the music on the radio at the time, but I guess it makes me nostalgic for the time now.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Speaking of blog awards (which we weren't, but what the hey), I've been awarded the Dardos Award by John at Smoke Rings & Matterings, one of the most wonderfully unique blogs I've ever seen, and Sunandheir at Knight and Stars, who sends me lots of good links and has one of the coolest banners ever right now. They both gave me this award long enough ago that I actually look like kind of a jerk for not acknowledging it sooner (my assessment, anyway), so I need to pass this thing on.
The award is described as "An award given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web." How I got one of these, let alone two, I'll never understand. Thanks, gentlemen. I really appreciate the vote of confidence.
There are some rules here, too.
1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.
2) Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.
Well, since I got 2 awards it's only fair for me to hand out 10 of them to the following blogs:
* Byzantium's Shores, a place of quiet thoughtfulness without the snark overload of a lot of the web (like my own blog, for example).
* Distributorcap NY, where the world of politics and banking makes a whole lot of sense to me thanks to reasonable explanations.
* Gatochy's Blog, which is always enlightening. I especially dig the collections of quotes.
* Here Comes Johnny Yen Again, not least of which for his great stories about Chicago politics and his candid discussions of his own past.
* Man vs. Clown!, because Peter Lynn makes me laugh and think at the same time.
* My crush JA at My New Plaid Pants, whose film commentary is more dedicated and insightful than mine. Plus, he keeps posting James Franco pictures, and those just enhance the internet.
* Retrospace, a blog of pure disco funky awesome.
* Septenary, because I love Allen's Listening Posts more than any other music commentary on the internet.
* You're Only as Good as Your Last Picture, one of Booksteve's many great blogs. It takes a very interesting approach to film history, and I love it.
* And, in memorian, the late home of the Undead Film Critic, cruelly deleted by Blogger despite bringing us the important combination of horror movies and boobs. May you rise again, sir!
Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.
1. I’m not one to care too much about the personal lives of celebs, but this is just the kind of second wife stupidity I see all the time. Yeah, Angelina, imagine that—the guy who cheated on his wife with you has tendency to cheat on his wife! Who could have seen that coming?
2. The “barreleye” fish has a transparent head. Not much to say about it, I just thought it was bizarre and awesome. So there it is.
3. Becca works with a guy who didn’t like Watchmen, but mostly because a friend of his, bitter over some perceived slight, texted him in the middle of the movie and revealed the ending. Dude, you need to check your texts during a movie? What, some twittering twat might tweet you to tell you he really likes strawberries? Or that he saw a cat and it was orange? Seriously, how connected to our electronic umbilical cords do we need to be? The fact that Twitter even exists says a lot to me about exactly how fascinated people are with themselves, and how little they have to say.
4. Iggy Pop is looking pretty skinny these days.
5. Apparently, now that Hayden Panettiere and Milo Ventimiglia have broken up, she finds it hard to work with him and is trying to get him kicked off of Heroes. This is why you don’t date co-workers. It’s a shitty thing to do just because you broke up with a guy and can’t be around him now (though I will say, reports of her diva-esque behavior don’t bug me, because it doesn’t effect me personally unless she gets kicked off of Heroes; then there’s a problem, Tim Kring—I still owe you one for killing off Elle). On the other hand, whatever finally gets Milo Ventimiglia off of that show… And while we’re talking dead weight, can we finally kill off Nathan and Mohinder, too?
6. Did you hear about the woman in Florida (where else?) that called 911 three times because McDonald’s was out of McNuggets? Latreasa Goodman got so pissed off about the lack of McNuggets she put herself in an excellent position to appear before a judge for misusing 911. What was underreported was that the cashier at McDonald’s couldn’t do her job; she took Latreasa’s money and rang her up, then found out there were no McNuggets left and, instead of giving her a refund, lied and said she couldn’t refund her money after the transaction was completed. So, at least there’s that. Still not a good reason to call 911, but she was getting screwed.
7. Star Magazine has been reporting on a story that sounds pretty made-up. They say that Jon Gosselin, from cautionary tale reality show Jon & Kate Plus 8, spent some time at his mom’s in Huntingdon, PA, and ended up partying with the girl’s volleyball team from Juniata College. And by partying, they mean getting drunk and making out with them. Man, I hope it’s true. I know an obscene number of women who dig that show, and I know Jon seems like a nice guy, but frankly all you have to do is watch one episode and wonder why it took this long. Kate is an insufferable bitch, nagging and controlling him and having more babies because of the same insanity that drives Octo-Mom on. I’m serious; I saw the first episode, and Kate said the whole reason she wanted more kids after the first two (twins) was that they were a year old and she could see her children growing up and pulling away from her (and basically, I guess, becoming real people and not little the little dependent satellites she apparently feels her kids should be). Seriously, having one baby because you want to feel love is bad enough, dragging your husband along to expensive fertility treatments over and over again to have eight children because you want to feel love is some kind of sickness. What she puts him through, dude deserves the occasional girls’ college volleyball team.
8. In a recent poll, it was determined that Utah is the state that consumes the most online porn. Can’t say I was surprised in the least.
9. Regarding the Jon Stewart interview of Jim Cramer: I didn’t know they still did network crossover stunts. Predictably, lots of liberals are up this morning celebrating the “evisceration” Stewart performed on Cramer, once again taking Jon Stewart far too seriously as a journalist—and, frankly, giving Cramer too much credit as a financial expert. There was already a study that showed Cramer’s advice was about as reliable as a coin toss. Why is Jim Cramer suddenly a stand-in for all of the shadowy Wall Street guys who did the real damage? It was entertaining, yes, and I think Stewart’s anger ambush resonated with a lot of people who are looking for someone to take it out on, but it wasn’t as important as people are making it out to be. Calling Cramer out on making bad predictions for something as notably unpredictable as the stock market is like calling out your local weatherman for not predicting something as notably unpredictable as the weather. It was frankly the equivalent of trying to hold Ronald McDonald responsible for the lack of food purity standards in the fast food industry. And at least Cramer had the guts to face the criticism, so I give him a bit of credit on one decent decision.
10. So, Meghan McCain went on Rachel Maddow Is Unbearably Smug or whatever they call that show and said she hated political extremes and continued her criticism of Ann Coulter. Because Mean Girls stick together when they’re not plotting against each other, Laura Ingraham mocked Meghan McCain for being “plus-sized.” And that about says it all about the right wing, doesn’t it? I wish I had a dollar for every time someone had responded to my criticism of the right with “you’re fat and stupid.” I love it when people respond to political discussion with personal attacks. Their stupid inability to argue on ideas is as delicious to me as the tears of fanboys.
11. In Brazil, a nine year-old girl was raped by her stepfather and became pregnant with twins. Her mother arranged an abortion and was excommunicated by the Catholic Church. The Vatican just upheld the excommunication, saying “The twins had the right to live.” No word on whether the stepfather deserves to be turned from God, also. So there are your Christian priorities: women deserve to be punished for having sex. Oh, and also that priests are above the law. In New York, there’s a fierce lobbying effort going on, sponsored by Roman Catholic officials (and Orthodox Jewish officials) to block a bill that would temporarily—temporarily!—lift the statute of limitations for lawsuits alleging the sexual abuse of children. Republicans have been killing this for years, but there’s a Democratic majority in the State Senate now. Governor Paterson supports the bill. The Catholic Church is fighting this because it would open the door to hundreds of claims against Catholic priests and the dioceses which responded to such allegations by protecting child molesters and moving them to a fresh pool of child victims. So justice is just not a Catholic priority. This is the kind of thing I think of when I hear President Obama is opening his political events (such as his address in Elkhart last month) with prayers. These prayers are commissioned and vetted by the White House. I’m not comfortable with this. I don’t think a government event is the proper venue for a prayer. I don’t believe in a god, especially not a god represented by an organization that tells us child molesters are more important than the well-being of women and children (at least, children who are already alive) because they talk to the invisible all-father—why does my government continue to ignore that a lot of other people don’t, either?
12. At least Obama lifted the ban on federal stem cell research, an important step in finding cures for many diseases and infirmities we suffer from. Too bad no one will be able to afford health care, anyway. And he signed an executive order creating a White House Council on Women and Girls. He also signed the Omnibus Spending Bill, which was the cause of this week’s hilarious tide of Republican faux outrage. They’re getting upset over earmarks, which are less than two percent of the entire bill, and a lot of those earmarks seem to be going to fight insect infestations to better protect our food supply. You’re right, what a bunch of pork. Seriously, the Republican pork fixation is just absolutely asinine. I love how it’s suddenly important to them to keep an eye on how tax money is being spent. Where’s that been for the last decade? Imagine if politicians actually cared about how money was spent all the time (part of what their job entails) instead of when they wanted to make the other party look bad. And anyway, it turns out that three of the top five senators requesting earmarks are Republicans. Six of the top ten are. Sarah Palin’s got her hand out, too, once again proposing to spend more tax money per capita than any other state. Why don’t the Republicans do an investigation into hypocrisy instead?
13. Thing to really get outraged over: in what world is it appropriate for President Obama to consider a plan that would force veterans to use private insurance—not the Veterans Administration—to pay for treatment of service-related injuries? It’s bad enough that we ask military personnel to injure themselves and maybe even die in conflicts started by men who don’t have to do any fighting. It’s bad enough, frankly, that anyone willing to put themselves in line to sacrifice their lives is considered somehow less of a person because they have a different sexual orientation. But to tell them now that the government isn’t even going to pay for the injuries sustained while working for them is one of the most callous things I’ve ever heard. First Bush reduces their benefits and sticks them in substandard hospitals while extending the amount of time they have to serve. Now Obama’s going to cut off their access to government health care? That’s pretty fucking cold. And doesn't it open up a can of worms about workplace safety?
14. In what possible universe is Rush Limbaugh allowed to challenge President Obama to a duel debate and be taken seriously? What, if Obama bests this Oxycontin junkie than he’s really the president now, is that how it works? How have Republicans let it come to this that they’re perfectly happy to look like absolute morons at the command of a guy who claims to be a master of four technologies ago? If Rush had ideas, that would be one thing. But he just wants to complain and get attention, and we’re doing a damn good job of giving it to him. Can you imagine a left-leaning entertainer being allowed to comment at a liberal equivalent of CPAC and saying what Rush said (including a tacit admission that the Republicans can’t—and shouldn’t have to—fight the Democrats on policy) and being taken seriously? Rush can’t argue a single point without suggesting that liberalism is some sort of psychosis. Why does anyone take him seriously? Republicans have no leadership, and the best they can come up with is a loudmouthed blowhard who only preaches to the already-converted—an ever-decreasing group—just because he wants to raise his ratings. This is what happens when your party runs out of ideas and your party members run out of spines. Good luck in the future, GOP.
15. By the way, Fox News finally unearthed an old interview from 2001 in which James Carville said he hoped George W. Bush “doesn’t succeed.” Apparently Carville saying this about Bush is supposed to make it okay that Rush Limbaugh said it about Obama. Like there’s some kind of moral equal ground to go on there. Well, there is—both statements are equally stupid. Carville’s a moron, and so is Limbaugh. Anyone who lives in the United States and wants their president to fail is a fucking idiot. I want my country to do well, and I don’t give a shit who leads it—Democrat, Republican, whatever—as long as they’re competent. Hoping the president fails is ridiculous.
16. Oh, and to that 13 year-old kid who actually spoke at CPAC and said Obama was “the most left-wing president in my lifetime”: go fuck yourself, kid. Yeah, I know, he’s only 13 and it’s mean to tell him to go fuck himself, but he wanted to be part of the political debate, so he’s fair game. Kid, go fuck yourself. First of all, no one cares what a 13 year-old kid thinks about politics. You’re just parroting your parents’ opinions. And second, President Obama is the only left-wing president in your lifetime, numbnuts. You’re fucking 13! I mean, really, Republicans? Really? You can’t see why we think you’re so ridiculous? Of course you can’t; you don’t realize how all of your pundits sound like a particularly stupid and uninformed 13 year-old. Honestly, when I saw the video, I thought it was a clip from Funny or Die.
17. Michael Steele told GQ that he believed abortion was a personal choice and that being homosexual is not a choice you can turn on and off “like a water tap.” Then he must have realized that sounding like a human being would jeopardize his future in the Rush Party and backpedaled on the whole thing, which included denouncing even civil unions for gays because it’s the same thing as marriage. What an ass. He makes Sarah Palin look like a genius.
18. So, Congress just voted themselves a $33,000 a year raise. Well, there’s your Democratic leadership. This is so lame it makes me want to puke. Tell me again how much you care about people in real financial trouble, Pelosi and Reid. Shit, it’s only our money, Congress. Help yourselves! How can these people get morally outraged over private jets and bonuses and then give themselves more money? At a time like this? Really? Wage freezes and pay cuts all across America, but these people, who’ve done just about nothing to help America during this economic crisis so far, feel they deserve a raise? Well… they don’t. They have control of the House, the Senate, the Executive Branch, and all they’ve done is get in a pissing match with Rush Limbaugh. I’m thinking pay cut, honestly. Thanks for wasting all our time and money, assholes.
19. When he was still campaigning, Senator Obama said in a letter to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club in California: “As the Democratic nominee for President, I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law. That is why I support extending fully equal rights and benefits to same sex couples under both state and federal law […] And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states […] Finally, I want to congratulate all of you who have shown your love for each other by getting married these last few weeks.” This was in June 2008. Now, that seems like something that could’ve swayed the vote against Prop 8 when it was important, but the No on 8 people chose not to use it. Nice to know that the gay political establishment is just as inept at winning as the federal political establishment. Democrats in action.
20. Distributorcap has an excellent post up about socialism and the hypocrites who decry government involvement while benefiting from it daily. (I also recommend a post sketching out the bare bones of the current banking mess. I’ve never been so happy to be so poor. There’s nothing the banks can take away.) I’ve been reading a lot of less enlightened posts lately about President Obama and our country’s supposed slide into communism, and most of it is bullshit. Are people genuinely shocked that Obama is going to do things he campaigned on, like climate change, healthcare, and, yes, wealth redistribution? He’s borrowing and spending, yes, as Bush did. But he’s borrowing and spending to counter a rapid economic collapse. He’s trying to forge a new path, and he’s (mostly) doing it in a very reasonable, pragmatic way. I think a lot of people realize that. I know he’s got loud critics on the right and the left, but at least the liberals are starting to realize Obama is a human being and not Jesus. Jesus could build a cabinet…
21. Why is the traditional media refusing to report on legitimate terror threats that come from inside America? Here’s a list of serious right wing terror incidents that took place in the US from 1995 to 2005. There are a lot of them. There was a white supremacist in Maine who was killed by his wife in December called James G. Cummings. He made $10 million a year and apparently had all of the radioactive elements needed to make a dirty bomb. Here’s a story about a couple who made and shipped terror supplies to right wing militia groups across the US. I think that the contentious campaign, the apotheosis of Sarah Palin by the most ignorant right wingers, and the election of a black man to the highest office on the land has really taken the lid off of the racism festering all across the country. The racism that we all like to think isn’t really there has suddenly become more acceptable among stupid people who think it’s some kind of legitimate way to express disagreement with the administration. I don’t like where we’re headed at all, and I think tasteless political cartoons are only the start of it. These people need to be exposed. We just had a nutcase go on a political shooting against liberals, and we’ve got Alan Keyes basically calling for Obama’s assassination and Rush Limbaugh wishing Ted Kennedy were dead and Sean Hannity saying Christianity is compatible with torture. Why isn’t the media doing their job and calling these people out?
22. This kind of thing is why I found it so hard to do a Throwdown last week: the Bush memos that have been coming out. Read them; it’s Bush’s Department of Justice basically working out a blueprint for a military dictatorship. They claimed Bush could send the Army anywhere in the States, arrest whomever he wanted without warrants, charges, arraignments, or access to counsel…basically, every civil right you had could, according to the DOJ, be legally violated by the president and the military. Suddenly, everything I said about Bush for the past eight years seems small. I didn’t go far enough. And thankfully, he didn’t either.
23. This is another type of story that makes the Throwdown so hard to do. I was reading the other day about Denise Prosser, a 39 year-old woman who has been fighting cancer since she was a toddler. I have a cousin who is just reaching her twenties and who has been fighting the same fight since she was an infant. My sister Ellen died three years ago yesterday at the age of 13, just 4 days before her 14th birthday, from bone cancer. I sympathize here more than you can know. Denise can’t afford cancer treatments anymore because she and her husband have both lost their jobs due to the economic collapse. She could die without this treatment, but she’s had to cancel it indefinitely. She’s dying and she can’t pay her medical bills. Meanwhile, companies like AIG and CitiGroup get billions of dollars as some kind of reward for losing billions of dollars. CitiGroup alone has received $250 billion in bailouts. AIG has received $173 billion. And they both want more money from the taxpayers to finance their bad business models. That’s absolute bullshit to me. No one will tell us where the AIG money is going, who the counterparties are. There’s no accountability here, just an endless line of welfare money going to all the wrong people. Americans are losing their jobs, their homes; AIG steals money from its customers and then gets taxpayer money so they can pay lobbyists to get them more taxpayer money. This is why I bristle so hard when I hear people screaming about how this is all the fault of people who took out bad loans that they could never pay back. As though Americans who want to own homes are all greedy criminals bilking the system for all they can get. Sorry, no. That’s AIG. That’s the financial institutions in this country who looked at poor people, saw a mortgage or some other kind of loan that it would take people decades to pay back, and thought they had a new source of income for life. It’s the financial institutions who preyed on people who wanted to live the American dream of owning their own homes; they acted unethically and now they’re paying for it. Or, more accurately, we’re paying for it. It’s just business as usual to them. They know they can keep coming back to the government and hold out their hands and get their money. Which has always been true; I guess the process of corporate welfare is just more nakedly streamlined these days. Ronald Reagan campaigned on the myth of the Welfare Queen who had no job but drove around in a Cadillac wearing expensive clothes. But that describes AIG to me. That describes CitiGroup. Gamblers who don’t have to pay their own debts. And they’re enabled by asshats like Ellen Tauscher and her New Democrat Coalition, proud of nakedly being henchmen for bank lobbyists and Wall Street rats, led by a former lobbyist for predatory lenders (Adam Pase), trying to protect banks from Congressional “punishment” by voting for a bankruptcy bill that made it more difficult for people with bills from catastrophic illness to file for bankruptcy. Tauscher said it “encouraged personal responsibility.” Funny how it’s always poor people and never corporations, still seen legally as persons, who are supposed to be so personally responsible. And then these goblins go on TV and encourage the working poor to believe that all of their economic problems are caused by people who are poorer than they are. Just like the anti-immigration people, it’s all about turning poor people against other poor people so that none of us demand to know where the money is really going. Well, you know, there are a lot of us out there--according to US News, 50% of Americans are just two paychecks away from serious financial hardship--so I don’t know why so many of us are wasting our time and our futures by turning on ourselves. We’re not the ones who lost all of that money, but we are the ones being asked to pay for it. We’re the ones being asked to ensure bonuses and corporate retreats and golden parachutes. We’re the ones being asked to take wage cuts or time cuts or just not come to work anymore. And Denise Prosser gets to die because AIG and CitiGroup are “too big to fail.” But those companies are too big to fail because of the deregulation that let them get so big in the first place. Our government didn’t stop them from getting “too big to fail,” and neither are they prepared to deal with the consequences of it. They’ve given the banks every incentive to raid the treasury and loot the nation. But it’s somehow our fault. Stop falling for it. Stop getting distracted by the sleight-of-hand while they fleece us. Demand accountability.
24. We came really close to none of this mattering the other night, though. Apparently on 2 March, an asteroid buzzed the Earth at a distance of about 41,000 miles. That’s incredibly close. It was about the size of the asteroid that exploded over Siberia in 1908 and would have destroyed several major cities if it had hit. So there’s some more borrowed time. Enjoy your weekend. You never know.
I've been seeing all of the commercials for this, the finally for reals final season of ER, and they're bringing back original cast member after original cast member. ER is a show I only watch sporadically now; they've said goodbye to every character I really cared about, and for years it's just felt like a dog dying in the heat--lots of people gawking but no one really doing anything about it. That show died when Mark Greene did; after that, it just got lamer and lamer. It really should've ended years ago, but that's the thing about American TV--it just keeps going and going long after the story's over.
Anyway, I watched it last night because Julianna Margulies was on it, and I figured that would mean George Clooney was on it, too. And he was. I love Clooney, and if he was going to come back as Doug Ross, I wanted to see it. And I got to see him act opposite my longtime love Susy Sarandon. I liked the non-linear structure of the episode, and the parallel stories with the organ transplants, but I was disappointed that there wasn't too much interaction between the old characters and the new characters. ER has, as far as I can tell, decided to make it's last couple of months on the air a real love-yourself fest, in which they try to grab enough ratings to go out on a really high note. That means everyone's going to come back and remind us of how much we loved the show before it got so lame. Fair enough.
So Carter and Benton had scenes together, and Doug and Carol had scenes together (and I was glad they're still together after all of that runaround in the earlier seasons), and then all of the newer people had their stuff going on. I liked that you could still see how much Benton really cared about Carter and how protective of Carter he really is. That was really nice. And I liked the little bit at the end where you could see how Doug and Carol--who had spent the episode trying to convince Susy Sarandon to okay using her grandson as an organ donor (and it was a really noble defense of the organ donor program)--found out that one of the organs went to "some doctor," never knowing it was Carter.
But separating the characters also underscored how different the show is. It doesn't even feel like ER anymore. Watching the old characters really did feel like the old ER, and that was awesome, but it felt like I was watching two completely different shows at the same time--one of them ER, the other a medical show with the same title and less soul.
And one other question really remains unanswered for me: why has Eriq La Salle had so much plastic surgery that he looks constantly surprised?
Thursday, March 12, 2009
There are a thousand cop procedurals on the air, most of them boring, rote, and poorly acted. This one at least is funny. By which I mean to say, Nathan Fillion is funny.
Fillion plays Richard Castle, a detective author who is somehow a superstar and who has just killed off his main character. Stana Katic plays Detective Kate Beckett, a fan who consults him when a series of murders appear to be based on Castle's detective novels. The rest is all pretty predictable and boring, rote, and poorly acted. And a lot of it rang false, such as Castle coming home at night and telling his 15 year-old daughter that some obsessed fan may be out there killing in people in ways based on his books (I was waiting for: "Sleep well and have fun at school tomorrow!" to be added at the end of that scene), or Castle pushing through police work because he's friends with the mayor; that just feels like a magic button for plot expediency.
But I liked some of it. I liked seeing Nathan Fillion play a total know-it-all smartass. I liked how nakedly parts of it (right down to the look of the police station) were ripped straight out of Wire in the Blood, the best cop show on television. I liked how the show didn't even try to pretend it was being realistic in any way. And I liked that it wasn't as dead-ass boring as any of those Law & Order shows. (Seriously, have you ever watched Law & Order: SVU? How much more poorly acted can a show be?)
It's probably something that work better as a movie. Instead, they're gonna try dragging it out and making their screwball romance subplot work. Which I can already tell it won't. But I'm going to keep watching it because I dug Nathan Fillion on it. I mean, I hate almost every show he's ever been on, so I'm used to seeing him in crap. But I enjoy him.
UPDATE 3/13: I was thinking about this last night and wanted to add it here. I find it interesting that after a decade or so of cold procedurals and overbearing scif-fi in both overserious (CSI) and underserious (Bones) forms, we're going back to Sherlock Holmes on television. Rick Castle is one of those characters who, because writers are apparently so observant of human behavior (and I promise you, I've known a lot of writers, it ain't always true), can look at you and what you do and tell you all sorts of things about yourself. (I've seen Harlan Ellison do it, and it really is exhilarating when someone's good at it.) We've also got this show The Mentalist (which I haven't seen) and The Lie Whisperer or whatever it's called with Tim Roth (which I also haven't seen). TV is suddenly trying to give us sort of flamboyant characters who can solve mysteries based on what they know about human nature and what they can tell just by looking at you. It's an interesting changeover from the years of DNA and semen databases. These things go in cycles, but it's nice to be on the less cold leg of it right now. Castle isn't the most believable show, but it is silly and funny.
I used part of my tax refund to buy Becca the DVD collection of Tenchi Universe. I'd always said I wanted to get it for her (she had all of the VHS tapes, but a couple were ruined years ago and our VCR doesn't really work right anymore, anyway), and there's finally been a set available for a while that is reasonably priced.
I'm not really a fan of anime or manga, but I always liked No Need for Tenchi!. I'm not sure why; maybe because it reminds me so much of Star Wars, or maybe it's just genuinely awesome. It was just being released on video in the US when Becca and I started dating, and it was the first geeky thing we really discovered as a couple. It's nice to sit and watch it with her again for the first time in about 12 years. I'm much gladder than I realized I would be that I thought about getting it.
(And, actually, the only other anime I ever liked--I don't count Miyazaki movies, which are a completely different kind of genius--was Pokemon. I just thought the Pokemon were neato.)
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
This is the kind of conversation you have when you think it's funny to occasionally tell your mom that your girlfriend is pregnant as a joke.
ME: Listen, what would you think if Becca and I were to get married?
MOM: I'd think it was wonderful! When are you thinking about doing this?
ME: Two weeks ago.
MOM: What? You got married?
MOM: But, really?
MOM: But, you're joking again, right?
ME: No, we got married.
ME: Two weeks ago. 26 February.
I should play jokes on my mom less often...
A review of the films I've seen this past week.
WONDER WOMAN (2009)
Bless Bruce Timm. For the last 16 or so years, he's really guided the DC Universe through some pretty terrific animated TV series and movies that were often better than sifting through the comic books themselves. As writers continue to pound everything good about DC into the ground, it's nice that Bruce Timm keeps making something you can actually watch and enjoy without having to worry about 70 years of continuity or whose batshit interpretation of whatever character is making you want to pull your hair out. Bruce Timm takes icons and makes them human, and I love him for it. This movie is the best adaptation of Wonder Woman I've ever seen. It just gets everything so right--the humor, the sexual politics, the Amazons, the Gods--and gives it an epic feel so grand that I really didn't want it to end. Honestly, I'd love to see at least two more Wonder Woman movies. Wondy is a character I don't see taken seriously very often, and it was nice to have something that finally made her something worth watching; I attribute that to not just Timm but the fact that Gail Simone worked on the story. Everyone in the voice cast did a fine job, but I especially liked Nathan Fillion as Steve Trevor (finally, a Steve that's not completely worthless) and Rosario Dawson as Artemis. Also, I'm glad there were some mature, adult touches in there; I noticed in Justice League: The New Frontier that they've taken a harder (but not disturbingly so) angle on violence, for example, which is somehow reassuring. They're meant to be taken seriously. Excellent work. **** stars.
ROLE MODELS (2008)
I've decided that what I like about Paul Rudd is that he's smart enough to know that just reacting to things can be funny. He never goes over the top or steals attention or winks at the audience, and I dig that about him. This was a very funny, very enjoyable movie, another bro-com about guys who don't have it together but get it together without having to give up everything. Not much more complicated than that, but I enjoyed it. ***1/2 stars. Oh, and for anyone keeping score (which is, of course, no one), this is the first time I actively found Jane Lynch funny.
TEX AVERY: KING OF CARTOONS (1988)
I actually ended up watching this accidentally on Ovation last week. It's a good overview of Tex's work and his style, and especially his technique. And it was great that Chuck Jones and Ed Love could be interviewed for it, too. Honestly, I would've liked for it to be a little longer and more encompassing, but I'd still recommend it, especially for animation buffs. ***1/2 stars.
I already talked about Watchmen in a lot more depth. I still think it's a masterpiece and I look forward to seeing it again. In fact, I'd like to see it again this weekend. There hasn't been a movie in a while that I've wanted to see more than once in the theater, but there's a lot in this movie to pore over and appreciate. **** stars.
ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)
I've never liked Abbott and Costello very much, but this movie makes me think a reassessment is in order. Boy, did I like this movie. Bela Lugosi plays Dracula, Glenn Strange plays Frankenstein's Monster, and Lon Chaney Jr. once again whines his way through as the Wolf Man (but I'm not sure I'd have it any other way, to be honest). This is, for me, the cap on the great Universal horror movies; I could sit down now and watch a lot of them in a marathon and end with the one and not feel cheated. What I loved most about the movie is that it's a horror movie with comedy scenes, instead of a movie where the monsters are supposed to be ridiculous. They really did this one right. **** stars, I enjoyed it that much.
MAN ON WIRE (2008)
At 98 minutes, how can this movie feel so long? I was interested from the beginning, but I had a few nags in my mind. First, I never care for "re-creation footage" or whatever they're calling dramatized staging now. It feels cheap. Second, the seriousness of Philippe Petit's stunts are made to seem much more important than they are. I will concede that what he does is kind of wonderful, but Petit and everyone involved take it with this sort of grand seriousness, as though they're solving world peace by trespassing and putting on a wire show. That said, though, Petit is damn good at what he does, and it's amazing to watch. But there's a sort of middle passage in the movie between the first attempt at crossing between the World Trade Center towers on a wire and then actually doing it that feels like it drags on forever. I don't know why. The momentum just sort of dropped. But then it picks up when they break into the WTC the second time. It's a slow passage that stops everything. But, for the most part, it was a fun documentary about an outsized personality with genuine talent, and I enjoyed it overall. *** stars.
THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1978)
I've seen this reviewed on a couple of blogs now and decided to check it out for myself. It's a fun Italian movie about five World War II soldiers on their way to military prison. They escape and try to find their way to the Dutch border, only to get involved in a mission to capture the guidance system of the V-2 rocket from Nazi hands. It's trashy and funny and kind of awesome. And Fred Williamson is one of the soldiers, which is pretty damn cool. It's a lot like The Dirty Dozen, only looser. ***1/2 stars.
BLACK MAGIC (1949)
More histrionic melodrama with Orson Welles. Honestly, as I get older I find myself more and more impatient with his hamming it up. I'm not sure why. Not that I don't still love a lot of his films, but there are some that I've come to see with more jaded eyes. I understand what he's going for, but it's not always successful. This is about Cagliostro the Magician, by the way. Disappointing. ** stars.
THE OX-BOW INCIDENT (1943)
Morality play set in a frontier cattle ranching town. Henry Fonda and Harry Morgan play two drifters who get caught up in a town's search for the cattle-rustling murderers of a local rancher. Fonda tries to help keep everyone from riding down and hanging the first poor bastards they can find, but the anger whipped up is intense. William Eythe is good as the ex-soldier who leads the posse out to discover the killers, possibly motivated more by a grandiose cruelty than a desire for justice. When they find three unknown men who claim to be new ranchers, the tension descends. The men protest their innocence, but few will listen. William A. Wellman's Western takes a hard look at civilization and the laws that build it, and the need to punish the guilty, even if the right men can't be found to punish. **** stars.
In case this helps anyone else, I found a useful website called OldVersion.com. They've got a lot of old versions of software online, so I downloaded version 2 of Firefox. So far, it's been working like a dream, so I'd recommend it for anyone who was having the same problems I was with version 3.
You know how I know my new blood pressure medication isn't working? Because when I went to the clinic today to get it checked it was higher than it's been. Because when I went to ask my doctor's nurse about getting a refill on the medication that ran out to get me through another month because I can't see a doctor before 6 April, it was like pulling condescending teeth. And because when the nurse kept trying to find new ways to say "Dr. Atta won't treat you anymore because we don't believe anything you say," I wanted to punch her square in the nose of her smug face and bust those oh-so-cutesy catseye glasses in half.
There's always been a very deep wellspring of rage inside of me, and I've done a lot to suppress it over the past couple of years. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. I went on medication. I went through a few different doctors. I went on different medication. We--by which I mean my old, better cardiologist, Dr. Patel and I--finally found something that not only worked, but which was something I could afford. I've tried hard to lose weight and am trying harder. I exercise. I've learned not to get frustrated by little things and by that fact that no one ever takes me at my word. So many people I deal with just see this fat, poor, quiet, uninsured guy who they decide at once isn't worth their time. I get looks of surprise when I turn out to be so polite, sincere, and easygoing.
I am so pissed off right now it isn't even funny. Over the past week, something to do with my blood pressure is way, way off. It's higher. I can feel my blood racing through my body. I'm anxious as hell, like I'm going to jump out my skin or explode. I feel like crying. I keep getting headaches and every light seems way too bright. I'm succumbing to depression again. I'm even thinking about suicide again. Worse still, suicide as a kneejerk reaction to all of the problems I'm having. I feel like no one wants me around. Every small problem is soundly a gigantic source of frustration. For the first time in a very long time, my reaction to the smallest irritation is the desire to just start throwing punches.
You know, I haven't hit anyone in a very long time. I really hurt a kid in second grade and felt so terrible about what I'd done that I stayed away from physical confrontations with an almost pathological compulsion. I once smacked a girl I was dating on the ass so hard that she fell on the floor. I still feel terrible about that. One girl broke up with me and I threw myself into a brick wall--ironically, to hurt her. This is the kind of rage build-up I refer to. It's always there, I'm just usually better about not feeding it. I got so frustrated the other day with my own inability to clean my glasses that I wanted to crumble them into a ball and throw them into a wall. Instead I pounded on the floor and nearly sprained my hands.
I hate this. I hate dealing with this. I can't wait until 6 April when I can go to my new doctor and not have to ever see Dr. Atta again. I don't know why it's so hard for people to just treat me like a human being with health problems who needs some slack and some patience. She and her nurse both act like I'm somehow stealing from them. Like I'm not taking them seriously because I'm not reaching into the giant money bin I must have in the backyard and am too miserly to dip into. All I've ever asked is for her to treat me like a patient who doesn't have great financial means. Instead, she's vain and petty and thinks the way to get to me is to cut off my prescriptions in order to push me into primary care.
I've never responded well to being pushed. Ever.
I'm not stupid. Maybe I'm a terrible person because I have a hard time getting motivated. You know why I have a hard time getting motivated? Because when my meds aren't right and I get frustrated like this, I think that life's not worth living and no one wants me around anyway so what's the point in taking care of myself? That's how I feel right now. I might as well have pizza for dinner because, you know, if I'm going to die anyway I might as well enjoy getting there.
Maybe I should just start punching people. Maybe that's all they respond to. If they're going to insist on seeing me only as a pathetic animal, maybe that's what they should get.
Either way, if there's suddenly a bitter, apathetic tone to a lot of my posts, this is why.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Today is the day Splotchy has designated as Adopt-an-Actor Day! Nearly two years ago, Splotchy created the Splotchy House Adopt-an-Actor Program, and there are many actors out there still looking for good homes. I myself have adopted four actors in the past--Man Man Clancy Brown, totally PJ Soles, Ashley Jensen, and Billy Dee Williams--but there's no need for you to take in so many. I have the room; I am the Emperor of Mars, after all. But on this special day, won't you take a look at the adoption roster and see if you want to add someone of your own?
In the spirit of Adopt-an-Actor Day, I'm going to take the unprecedented step of adopting a fifth actor. And, as some have done, it's an "in memoriam" pick:
The late, great David Rappaport, a favorite of mine. A terrific, underrated actor, he was excellent as Clancy Brown's co-star in the great parts of The Bride, as Randall in Time Bandits, and even as Lynn's elegant (yet murderous) brother on an episode of Mr. Belvedere. I'm proud to welcome him to our Martian home, but I'm never going to ask him what a Fetumsch is.
Man, I'm tired this week. As I get older, it gets harder and harder for me to adjust to Daylight Savings Time. I hate this stupid remnant from a more agricultural time and I really wish we could just get rid of it. Now I'm basically staying up too late and then sleeping in, and I really don't like it, because I don't feel rested that way.
I've reintroduced some more stuff into the diet, but I think there's something in there that I need to cut back on severely. I'm not sure what yet, but there's something that's making me anxious and easily irritated. I wish I could figure out what it was. I was doing really good, but over the past week I've just been so annoyed I can't even deal with it. I'm even grinding my teeth again.
I'm running out of one of the new pills and am seriously debating whether or not to call the clinic about a refill. I'm sick of dealing with my cardiologist and her nurse and would rather not have to ever do it again. I had trouble losing weight all last year because of a lot of factors, and my cardiologist doesn't have any sympathy for that. She doesn't understand how much it sets us back every time she wants me to go in for another $105 appointment or another $250 battery of blood tests. She doesn't believe me now when I tell her I'm serious, even though I've been doing every damn thing she's been telling me to do. It's going to take a couple of weeks longer than I thought it would to get my insurance situation straightened out; they act like I'm some kind of criminal because I don't have insurance. The final straw hit me when I went in to get my blood pressure checked (the clinic does it for free on Wednesdays) and talked to the nurse about the results. I know they look at me and see a big fat guy and think I automatically have diabetes and high cholesterol and a heart rate that's too fast and blood pressure that's too high. The truth is, ever since I started the medication, my blood pressure's been pretty good. I've never had high cholesterol in my life (certainly not to the dangerous levels they expect) and never even been close to diabetes. I've been lucky, but I've also been treating myself better than the clinic thinks I do.
So, once again, we find out that I don't have any of the things they think I do, and it's like I somehow cheated on the test results, which is impossible. And I ask the nurse if I should keep taking my blood pressure at home (I have one of the automated ones that I can read) and marking it on the chart she's given me. And there's some hemming and hawing at first, and I realize it's because they don't trust me to keep an accurate record of my BP. Because, you know, I'm an uninsured fat guy, which means I'm also a liar and probably a thief, too. And I am fucking sick of being treated that way. I need support here, and they are making it clear they'd just rather not deal with me at all.
In a few weeks, I should have insurance coverage and a primary care doctor. I hate to skip out on taking any of the medication I'm on, but at the same time, I'm sick of explaining myself to people who are just not listening to me and refuse to believe me when I'm being honest. I'm trying really hard to get myself healthy here, and it's shit like this that just makes me not care. This is why I don't like to go to doctors in the first place; there are always the few who take their role as God's healer too seriously and get offended when money is a factor in following all of their grand, lifesaving advice. I miss the cardiologist they used to have. He understood reality. He helped me as much as he could and didn't feel it was his duty to yell at me when I couldn't afford another appointment or a drug refill. He didn't have a God complex.
Yeah, it's my fault I'm fat. It's the result of ignorance and bad habits and not really caring. I'm also genetically predisposed to high blood pressure--it runs through both sides of my family in fat and thin alike. And I'm a member of the uninsured, working poor. Which of these things means I don't deserve to have a doctor who won't work with me to make sure I'm getting the best care I'm able to, as opposed to the care they want to force on me?
Forgive the pun, but it's a fantastic idea.
I hate those other two Fantastic Four movies so damn much that I've been hoping for a do-over since before the first one was actually released. I've thought a lot about what makes the characters work, and of course the big thing it comes down to is family.
The Fantastic Four is a family. I'm not stating anything new. But they're at their best when played as a family and their superhero/science fiction adventures are somehow symbolic of the crises a family goes through. I'd like to see whoever writes this new film keep that in mind.
The other big problem with the two Fantastic Four movies is that they were, like too many action movies these days, just trying to be cool rather than tell a story about characters. I didn't like anyone in the cast of either movie, and I think most people didn't, either. That's why you can get away with a reboot--those movies aren't popular, they're forgettable. And they're certainly not definitive. They turned the characters into assholes preoccupied with how badass they were. They took potentially interesting science fiction threads and left them out to dry while Julian McMahon, one of the worst actors in history, flitted around as the least threatening Doctor Doom in history.
Do them right this time.
In my own fantasy of Fantastic Four movies, there would be four modular movies and nothing more. The time for being skimpy with superhero movies and focusing on just a few characters is over. I think the right writers can do something interesting with four movies and an expanded group of characters, provided they use the characters well instead of cramming them into every corner long after they've outlived the purpose of the story (those damnable Pirates of the Caribbean movies are good examples).
The first movie features the entire Four, of course, with the origin and everything, but the focus should be more on Ben Grimm than anyone else. His is the most immediately compelling story because his is the most physical change. The classic story where Ben leaves the team because he can't take the way he looks is the one to do (I know the Roger Corman movie already did it--and even the maligned Corman version is better than Fox's overly-slick cash-in--but it can be done much better). And I'd like to see a big CGI Thing. I think they could do it well if they paid more attention to character animation and texture. I didn't care for the make-up and shoulder pads Michael Chiklis wore; he looked like a guy in a bad zombie linebacker uniform, and I swear you could see it cave in every time someone touched his papier mache shoulders.
Doctor Doom should be a presence in all four movies, but I think there is room for other villains, too. I'd put Mole Man in the first movie; I want to see Mole Man's giant monster rising out of the ground like on the cover of Fantastic Four #1. And I think Sue Storm's parents should be much more of a presence to underscore the family themes. The main arc, though, is that Ben Grimm feels alienated and inhuman, but embraces the FF as his family because, as his friends, they see the human in him and don't treat him like a freak. And there's room for Alicia Masters, too, which just drives it home.
The main focus of the second movie, then, is Sue Storm. She and Reed Richards are going to get married, and the obvious choice here is to focus on Sue's doubts. There have to be some; Reed is preoccupied by science and their conditions, and Sue is worried she's marrying Reed because no one else would accept her for who she is (and see only the Invisible Woman). This is where Prince Namor enters, attacking the surface and falling in love with Sue (and more than willing to fight Reed for her). And not to overload it, but the Mad Thinker and his Awesome Android would be neat to see, too. There's got to be more going on, probably with Doctor Doom in the background, manipulating things. But it should end with Sue and Reed's wedding.
That makes the focus of the third movie Johnny. And it's also the movie where the threats get bigger. I think a third movie would have to include the Inhumans and the Super-Skrull. I know, that's a ton of characters, but this is where the world of the Fantastic Four needs to get a little more cosmic. There should be something going on between the Super-Skrull, Doctor Doom, and Maximus the Mad that brings them all into the world of the Inhumans. And I'm even going to suggest that a pregnant Sue get sidelined by an overprotective Reed and temporarily replaced with the She-Hulk. Because that would be incredibly awesome. But attention should be paid to the love story between Johnny Storm and Crystal. I imagine here that Johnny, a celebrity who has his pick of women that just want to be near the spotlight, will have a chance to prove himself to someone who is unimpressed by him merely because he's got superpowers.
Then you could also start giving some hints about what Doom was doing colluding with these cosmic villains. Because, of course, the fourth movie is going to introduce the Silver Surfer.
The fourth movie's main focus is Reed, who finally has his sometimes-grandiose notions put to the test when he literally has to save the planet, first from the Silver Surfer, then from Galactus. And yes, fans, I know we're supposed to not have room for children in our movies, but I'd have Franklin Richards as a baby. Franklin's a great device to get to the core of Reed. He often seems distant and preoccupied, but he does what he does because he cares about his family, which includes a baby son. I think this final movie would make it clear why Reed put everyone in a costume and gave them a fanciful name and put them to work saving the world: because he didn't want them to feel like freaks who would forever resent him for getting them in the accident which gave them their powers.
In a perfect world, your family is supposed to accept who you are. The Fantastic Four has created their own family, one that depends on acceptance, and in an ideal world, movies would reflect that instead of just showing how cool it would be to have powers. There was a great moment in the comic book where Reed discovered that, deep down, Ben didn't want to be cured. He liked being the Thing and being with his family. And that's the note to end on. That's why Reed should go last.
The point I want to make is that all four would be basically about accepting who you are and that what abilities have don't define what kind of person you are. In the first movie, Ben falls in with the Mole Man and his minions because they see the Thing as something powerful and beautiful. But Alicia Masters and the rest of the four see Ben Grimm's soul, his essence, and accept him for who he is inside. In the second movie, Sue is attracted to Namor because he glorifies what she is--the powerful Invisible Woman--instead of thinking of her as a freak. He sees her as superior to humankind. But she wants Reed because he sees her as Sue, and that's more important. In the third movie, Johnny Storm, the sexy celebrity superhero who has women falling all over him, has to prove that he's a worthwhile man inside because Crystal comes from a world of superpowers and is unimpressed with his abilities in and of themselves. It's what he does that makes him a man. And in the fourth movie, you have Reed Richards, the only member who is comfortable with his new powers and doesn't feel like he's lost his humanity. He knows it's everyone's minds and hearts that make them who they are, and he's proud of his family. One of the big reveals is that he's turned them into celebrity superheroes so that the world will accept the Fantastic Four for who they are now.
Anyway, that's always been my interpretation of the Fantastic Four. Just something I've thought about.
I'm interested to see what the movies will actually do, because I love the Fantastic Four and would like to see them done well. I'm curious to see who will be cast; they couldn't do much worse than the last time... Although I'd push Kristen Bell as Sue Storm...
Monday, March 09, 2009
I normally don't like to dedicate a single post to reviewing a film, especially one that I think a lot of people who read this blog have seen, but there are a lot of opinions out there on Watchmen, and I wanted to put in my own two cents.
Oh, you know, spoilers will follow, so don't say I didn't warn you. If you whine and cry to me that I ruined the filmgoing experience for you even after I warned you, or because you're just skimming my posts, your tears will taste delicious and nourishing to me.
I don't have any real problems with Watchmen, to be honest. I've been reading a lot of reviews, many of them frustrating, and I'm seeing that even a lot of people who liked the movie have been apologizing for liking it and desperate to point out that they know the movie's not perfect, lest some imagined reader take some kind of issue with them for taking something so over-the-top at face value. And then there are the people who didn't like it and who have been acting like not buying into it makes them some sort of genius.
I've been saying for many, many years that Watchmen could be made into a movie as long as the people adapting it had the courage to cut things out of it. There was no way every detail of the comic book was going to make it into the film; better to recognize that and just charge ahead with it instead of making yet another obsessively-detailed exercise in joylessness that groveled at fanboys for approval. And I think Zach Snyder and his writers, David Hayter and Alex Tse, did a great job of cutting where they needed to. About the only thing I would've liked to have seen make it into the movie that didn't were the scenes between the news vendor and the comic-book reading kid. (JA mentioned in his review--probably the best review I've read of the film--that the scene where the two hug before being vaporized by a bomb was really touching, but really only if you've read the comic.) But I will say that, as I was watching the film, I didn't feel like there was anything that was left out that was sorely missing.