Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Love for Stallone

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it or not, but I have a huge love for Sylvester Stallone. It just sort of happened at some point when I was in high school, and I've loved Stallone in movies ever since. I don't care how bad it is, if it's Stallone, I'll watch it. I may not always like it, but I'm way more forgiving than a lot of people I know when it comes to his movies. Hell, I like Oscar. I thought Rhinestone was funny. It's stupid, but it's funny. And I love Dolly Parton. And I have the soundtrack.

Everyone has given me shit for digging Stallone at some point or another.

Then, earlier tonight, Becca and I were watching, for the first time, Rambo on Showtime. The new one. And it is just incredibly violent. Even for a Rambo movie. And I say to Becks, "That is the most insane thing I've ever seen."

Becca: "Yeah, but it's done in an interesting way. Stallone's gotten interesting as a director. Is he directing The Expendables?"

Me: "I don't think so..."

Becca: "Rats!"

Another human being who would actually express disappointment that Stallone didn't direct a movie! Holy shit! If I wasn't already married to her, I'd have to marry her right now.

So I looked the movie up online.

Me: "Oh, wait. Stallone is directing The Expendables."

Becca: "Awesome! I can't wait to see it!"

I am so glad I'm married to this woman. She's the only one who gets my Stallone love. Among many other things no one gets about my nerd tastes.

Second El Superbeasto Trailer

Want this. Want this now.

Yo, Joe! Episode 25

Where the Reptiles Roam

Hey, this episode was written by Gerry Conway and his wife.

We're dropped right into the action here, with Alpine, Bazooka, Breaker and Snake Eyes crawling through a cornfield to infiltrate a Cobra communications center and get some financial records that will lead to Cobra's dummy corporations. (Another Cobra base on American soil? What the hell, G.I. Joe?)

My single favorite moment in this episode is when Bazooka cuts off three Cobra soldiers by blowing the room's ceiling and trapping them in. Alpine yells at him for blocking the only door; Bazooka brandishes his rocket launcher and says, his voice dripping with sarcasm, "I'll make another."

The four (plus Timber) escape into the cornfield, where Flint and Cover Girl are waiting in the Wolverine tank, and Wild Bill leads Dragonflies in and the Joes get away with a floppy disk (remember those?) that has information that Cobra just bought a dude ranch in West Texas. Time for Lady Jaye, Bazooka, Alpine, and Wild Bill to infiltrate.

Wild Bill is way too excited, but he is going home, so I get it.

Hoo, boy! It's suddenly an episode of Dallas here.

Here's something kind of cool: a solar farm. Antennas receive microwaves from a space station and transmit the energy to power plants in cities. Okay, that's plausible, I guess. But I'll bet you dollars to donuts that Cobra is using them for something... Lady Jaye does mention that the beams could fry a city.

At the El Loco Toro Dude Ranch (nice), we meet owners Ma and Pa Joad (no points for originality there) and their bouncy daughter, Mary Belle. Wild Bill is immediately taken with her and turns all country gentlemen on us. He introduces himself as Bill Austin, Lady Jaye as his sister Jane Austin (ha) and Alpine and Bazooka as Big Bob and Little Bob. Mary Belle is giggly and teasing and takes Wild Bill off for a private tour.

"That Texas tease," Lady Jaye murmurs. "'Call me Mary Belle.' Jezebel's more like it." Wild Bill's not even her guy, and still the insecure show-off cannot fucking stand it when she's not the center of all male attention around her. God, I hate Lady Jaye.

Well, guess who's watching?

That's right, Cobra Commander's got cameras all over the place and knows that G.I. Joe is butting in where they're not wanted.

Not only that, but the Joads' ranch hands are Zartan and the Dreadnoks in disguise. The Commander warns them to watch the Joes, but not to kill them. In 18 hours, he plans to have control of the solar satellite, and then the Joes are fair game. They decide to show the Joes what a day on the ranch can really be like: to them, that's nearly getting Bazooka and Alpine trampled by a bull, Lady Jaye nearly crushed by a horse with a burr in the saddle, and setting off a stampede that nearly destroys the solar power control room.

Wild Bill turns the stampede himself. He's pretty tough, even when he's not in the cockpit of a Dragonfly. I have to say, I'd forgotten how much they used Wild Bill on this show and just how cool he really was. I'd definitely put Wild Bill on the list of my favorite Joes.

Meanwhile, Zartan steals the control chip to the solar farm.

Things are heating up between Wild Bill and Mary Belle, in stereotypically Texan style.

There's even a square dance! Is Wild Bill ever going to want to leave the farm again?

While that's going on, Bazooka and Alpine are captured by the Dreadnoks and Lady Jaye discovers the Cobra computer room, where -- hey, look at that!

Female Cobra technician. Cool, that's new.

Anyway, Destro and Cobra Commander are talking about what to do with this chip (and expressing surprise that a microchip so small could control something so vast--guys, it's the eighties, catch up) and the Commander then demonstrates the power of the solar space station on a model city. The whole thing goes up in flames, and the Commander is cackling like a simp, yelling "I'm the new fire department! If they don't pay, I start fires!" Destro, playing along, asks how much the world will pay, the Commander laughs "Oh, fire insurance is expensive. I'd say billions! Billions!!!"

I think the Commander really needs a nap, or something.

And then Lady Jaye gets captured. Oh, well.

Well, Wild Bill's really losing his head over this Mary Belle, so it's a shame when the truth inevitably comes out.

Yes, like every woman the Joes ever meet anywhere, Mary Belle is really the Baroness in disguise. She even mocks him, saying in a very droll voice, "At your service, y'all."

Yep, that's Wild Bill's heart breaking, right there in this frame.

And this is why you don't toy with Texan affections. He even takes out Zartan for good measure.

Back at Joe HQ, Breaker has been receiving some bizarre telemetry readings from the satellite. Then Cobra Commander breaks into television again (is there no safeguard against this? every day with this clown) and demands a billion dollars in gold bullion or he will burn a city to the ground. To emphasize his point, he actually uses the solar satellite to melt the Golden Gate Bridge. Nice. I mean, you know, it sucks, but it's nice to see the Commander really taking the initiative with a doomsday device and taking out something big. No more dicking around here.

Flint mobilizes those Joes standing immediately nearby--Scarlett, Airborne (ugh), Footloose, Spirit, Shipwreck, Snake Eyes, and Breaker--and heads straight to Texas. Almost immediately (where is the Joe base, again?) Cobra is surrounded by G.I. Joe, but Cobra Commander isn't worried: they have the "weapon of the century," and it was developed by NASA. It's too expensive and important for G.I. Joe to destroy.

I'll tell you, though, G.I. Joe brings enough artillery, ground forces, air support, and tank power to overthrow Nazi Germany. And, of course, they've got to fight these energy beams from outer space, which are just taking out huge amounts of Joe equipment, including Cover Girl's Wolverine. (Always nice to see a lot of Joes; Recondo is one of the ground leaders, and I saw Roadblock and Rock 'n' Roll among the troops present, as well as Ace leading his squadron of highly flammable Skystrikers--hey, guess what? he crashes).

Recondo gets the idea to attack on foot because the beam can't track small targets. It works, of course, because there's always some massively important detail the Commander overlooks. He orders a counter-attack, led by the Dreadnoks, those masters of strategic planning. Still, they actually pin down the Joes until Wild Bill gets the bright idea to start a stampede and chase off the bad guys.

Destro and the Baroness try to escape in a Stinger jeep that gets overturned by the stampede. The Baroness actually rushes off, leaving Destro behind, and heads into the ladies' outhouse.

Well, shee-it!

There are Flight Pods all over this damn farm. Again, love the cartoony fist-shaking.

Later, Snake Eyes and Timber offer Wild Bill some sympathy over having his heart ripped out by the Baroness. "Aw, heck, Timber, I should've known she weren't no real Texas peach. She was just too sweet. Anyone from Texas knows we grow our peaches sassy!"

I think it's roses in Texas and peaches in Georgia, but what the hell do I know?

Not a bad episode. A little cheesy, especially with the romantic music, but I enjoyed Wild Bill here and in several recent episodes. Not bad.


Clair de Lune

Today is Claude Debussy's birthday. All I have to do is see his name and immediately Clair de Lune floods into my mind. I know this music has a tendency to be over-familiar, but I quite love it. The quiet just pulls me right in, and the flights that follow... this is real moonlight music, something to hear at two in the morning and just calm and excite my soul all at once.

Since it came up, I thought I'd search YouTube and find this video I'm posting. It's the Clair de Lune sequence of Fantasia. It was the only fully completed sequence to be cut out of the film for time, with the intention of putting it back into the next version of Fantasia. Unfortunately, that next version of Fantasia ended up getting abandoned by Walt, both for financial reasons and a sort of disillusion with the audience. And when the next version of Fantasia finally did come, 60 years later, Clair de Lune was nowhere to be seen. Well, that's not quite true; the animation was used and the popular song "Blue Bayou" was put over it for the film Make Mine Music. It is not remotely the same effect.

Here, beautifully, is the segment itself, with Leopold Stokowski's score restored, from the deluxe Fantasia DVD.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Won't Be Long 'Til Summer Time Is Through

Hard to believe the kids go back to school on Monday. I could potentially be at work next week. Where does the time go, man? Hope everyone else had a decent summer. All things considered, I enjoyed it. Get some fun in this weekend.

Unless, you know, you worked all summer, in which case I'm sorry to rub my time off in your face. Kinda.

This Is Pretty Much the 4Chan Experience

But it's still pretty hilarious.

500 Faves

476. With You – Jessica Simpson
477. Word On a Wing – David Bowie
478. Word Up – Cameo
479. Wuthering Heights [new vocal version] – Kate Bush
480. Year of the Cat – Al Stewart
481. You’re Sixteen (You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine) – Ringo Starr
482. You’re So Vain – Carly Simon
483. You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere – Bob Dylan
484. You Belong to Me – Dean Martin
485. You Can’t Always Get What You Want – The Rolling Stones
486. You Can’t Hurry Love – Phil Collins
487. You Don’t Have to Let Go – Jessica Simpson
488. You Don’t Know Me – Ray Charles
489. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – Aretha Franklin
490. You Never Can Tell – Chuck Berry
491. You Still Believe in Me – The Beach Boys
492. You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night) – Meat Loaf
493. Young Americans – David Bowie
494. Young at Heart – Jimmy Durante
495. Young Girl – Gary Puckett & the Union Gap
496. Your Roots Are Phony – Brian Woodbury & His Popular Music Group
497. 1234 – Feist
498. 1979 – Smashing Pumpkins
499. 5D (Fifth Dimension) – The Byrds
500. #9 Dream – John Lennon

Well, that's that, then. Not that anyone asked, but my 500 favorite songs right now. Maybe one day I'll take stock and do a new list. But I need a several-years break from this list first...

Maybe another 500 Faves list next summer instead of skipping a year, like last time. Who knows? Who cares?

Today's the Cheerleader's 20th Birthday

From the looks of this poster, someone got her some new boobs for her birthday.

Seriously, NBC? Seriously?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Venture Bros Season 4 Trailer

I have to wait until November? Oh, man!

500 Faves

451. The Village Green Preservation Society – The Kinks
452. Violet – Hole
453. Virginia Plain – Roxy Music
454. Walk, Don’t Run – The Ventures
455. Walk Away Renee – The Left Banke
456. Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed
457. The Way You Look Tonight – Bryan Ferry
458. We’ve Only Just Begun – Paul Williams
459. We Close Our Eyes [live] – Oingo Boingo
460. We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) – Tina Turner
461. We Have All the Time in the World – Louis Armstrong
462. The Weight – The Band
463. What’s New Pussycat – Tom Jones
464. What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
465. (What a) Wonderful World – Sam Cooke
466. When We Was Fab – George Harrison
467. Where Have All the Flowers Gone? – The Kingston Trio
468. While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles
469. While the Earth Sleeps – Peter Gabriel & Deep Forest
470. White Room – Cream
471. A Whiter Shade of Pale – Procol Harum
472. Who Are You – The Who
473. Who Made Who – AC/DC
474. Wild Horses – Old and In the Way
475. With or Without You – U2

Random Thoughts

The new Playstation 3 Slim looks kind of cool, but it doesn’t support compatibility with Playstation 2 games, so I don’t see the point in upgrading to it. I can’t really afford any of the earlier PS3 consoles anyway, but if I was going to upgrade, I think I’d want a console that can play all of the games I already have. Besides, it’s not like they stopped making games for PS2, anyway. Becca and I just bought Ghostbusters, and it is AWESOME. And it was only $19.99, which is hella good for a brand new video game.

:: Okay, this makes twice now I’ve seen Halloween stuff already for sale in stores; I’d complain about how this is too early in August, but the first time was in the last week of July. Crazy. At this rate, I guess I expect to see Christmas stuff out for sale in the next couple of weeks.

:: Am I the only person in the world who just thinks Mad Men is boring?

:: I see ABC is doing a TV series based on The Time Traveler’s Wife. Except NBC already did it and it was called Journeyman and it really, really sucked. I am curious to see who the off-model TV version of Eric Bana turns out to be, though. That's always kind of funny. Like when Robert Hays substituted for Jeff Bridges in the TV version of Starman.

:: How about that “Rebecca Gayheart Threesome Sex Tape” that’s going around? It’s everything you love in a threesome sex tape except for a threesome and sex. Seriously, since when is a tape of three naked people sitting around talking a “threesome sex tape”?

:: I agree with Scott Kurtz’s assessment that the new multi-colored Lanterns of the DC Universe sound more like the Care Bears than the Green Lantern Corps. What’s next? We turn the Legion of Superheroes into the Get-Along Gang?

:: My favorite warning on any food is when you see a frozen pizza and it says “Cook before eating.” You just know some idiot ate a raw pizza and complained or threatened to sue because the box didn’t warn them not to be stupid. What a case: "Your Honor, Connie's should have been able to anticipate my stupidity and total lack of judgment!"

:: Boy, how about those Family Guy Emmy campaign videos? In the first one, they make fun of The Office, asking “Six years in and they’re still making a documentary about that place?” I love it when Seth MacFarlane makes idiot logic jokes like that while casually ignoring that Stewie’s been a baby for something like 12 years now. And then it’s just an explosion of violence that isn’t funny. It’s pure Seth MacFarlane—unfunny, self-righteous, completely gutless, and incredibly stupid, but it thinks its edgy when it's just pathetic. So, you know, if that’s what you think the funniest thing on TV is, by all means, Emmy voters, give Family Guy the award that Seth MacFarlane is so clearly in tears over. Anything to plug the cry-hole of a man who claims to be hard-hitting, edgy maverick outsider but is really just incredibly desperate to be accepted by the establishment. Congratulations, Seth MacFarlane, you're the Perez Hilton of TV... let's be charitable today and call it "animation," even though at times it's less animated than Clutch Cargo.

:: When I see that an older man who was stalking Miley Cyrus and said they were going to be married has been arrested, it really makes me hope that people see me talking about Kristen Bell or Jessica Simpson as my girlfriends and take such things for the humor they’re meant to be and not think I’m crazy. You make it harder for those of us who know the difference between humor and reality, jerk.

:: I’ve been reading various reactions to noted animal abuser Michael Vick getting signed by the Eagles. I don’t follow sports, so my opinion is probably meaningless, but in art I’ve always said it’s imperative to separate the art from the artist. Vick is a reprehensible person for what he did, but he did do his time and it really has nothing to do with his ability to catch a ball and run around a field. What I find more amusing is that, on some level, people still refuse to abandon the charmingly naïve childhood fantasy that athletes are supposed to be heroes worth looking up to, as though making a field goal was some kind of moral indicator. I just think of every douchey jock who pushed me around in high school for gaining weight and reading comic books. No matter how many drugs they do, no matter how much they cheat, no matter how many dogs they set on each other, no matter how many hookers they beat up, people still want these overprivileged, overpaid, self-loving jerks to be heroes. And certainly not every athlete is like I describe, but they sure aren't discouraged to be that way. And lots of sports fans are willing to whitewash it. It’s weird.

:: “Motion comics” crack me up. People are so lazy they need the comics to read themselves?

:: Bob Dylan was wrong. “Everybody must get stoned”? More like “Everybody must get paid.” Including Bob Dylan.

:: The issue of Archie where he marries Veronica came out. Surprise, surprise, as many of us predicted, it doesn’t have anything to do with anything and doesn’t disrupt the status quo at all. It takes place “in the future” and is basically the equivalent of when DC used to do imaginary stories. Gee, who could have guessed that this was just a publicity stunt to raise awareness of a comic book? I mean, other than nearly everyone. Everyone except, I guess, that guy who sold his ultra-rare Archie #1 in protest. Wow, what a protest. In American milestones, it’s pretty much the Boston Tea Party, the march from Selma to Montgomery, and some guy selling his copy of Archie #1 because a fictional indecisive weenie might put an end to 70 years of not being able to make up his mind. Nice way to get Archie Comics some free publicity, though.

It reminds me of the people who were vomiting in disgust when they changed the art for some of the Betty & Veronica comics into something different in an attempt to make it look like something a modern kid might be able to relate to. Because, you know, Archie and Betty & Veronica are exclusively published for men in their fifties, who are really the majority of Archie readers, right? Does anyone realize that the Dan DeCarlo look didn't become the style of these comic books until 20 years after the book started? And that what he did was popularize the comic for a new generation by redesigning the characters so they looked like contemporary teenagers? I guess Archie finally decided they'd like to sell some books to someone not a half-centenarian for a change.

The funniest part of all, of course, is that the people who made such a big deal about both of these developments are, in the vast majority, people who don't even read Archie. People just don't want anything to change, no matter how insignificant it ultimately is. Why should a business have an audience when I'm terrified of being reminded that everything isn't made exclusively for me?

:: Robert Zemeckis is still enamored of his incredibly shitty motion capture special effects (it’s not animation, Bob!), and now plans to use it to deface the Beatles by making the Beatles movie no one was asking for: a mo-crap version of Yellow Submarine. Sorry to be Mr. Unforgivably Negative, but I used to like Robert Zemeckis, and now I just wish that he’d died shortly after making Contact. Why take John Hughes when Robert Zemeckis is long used-up?

:: Becca’s Law of Internet Use: “Everyone on the internet is a fucking idiot except for me.”

TV Report: Alanis

Can I just say how much I'm enjoying Alanis Morissette on Weeds? The show's been suffering from a lack of more emotionally mature characters on the show, and she's been refreshing as hell. I really hope she does some more acting in the future, because I've really just been digging her.

Happy 35th Birthday, Amy Adams!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

500 Faves

426. That'll Be the Day - Buddy Holly
427. That's How You Know - Demi Lovato
428. There Is a Light That Never Goes Out - The Smiths
429. This Night Has Opened My Eyes - The Smiths
430. The Time Tomorrow - The Kinks
431. Throwing It All Away - Genesis
432. 'Til I Die - The Beach Boys
433. Time After Time - Cyndi Lauper
434. Time of the Season - The Zombies
435. To Be By Your Side - Nick Cave
436. Tonight - Iggy Pop
437. Tonight We Fly - The Divine Comedy
438. Too Much in Love to Care - Sarah Brightman & John Barrowman
439. Town Called Malice - The Jam
440. The Trail We Blaze - Elton John
441. Tribute - Tenacious D
442. True Colors - Cyndi Lauper
443. True Faith - New Order
444. True Love Ways - Buddy Holly
445. Try to Remember - Ed Ames
446. Turn the World Around - Harry Belafonte
447. Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season) - The Byrds
448. Under Pressure - Queen & David Bowie
449. Valerie - Steve Winwood
450. Vienna - Billy Joel

Film Week

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

Meh. * star

I love Asia Argento, but I really wish she wouldn't do American movies. American filmmakers (Sofia Coppola notwithstanding) can't really think of much to do with her but try and turn her into Milla Jovovich; she's so much better in movies she can act in. Here she plays another fully-clothed stripper and she gets kidnapped and kept in a cage by Dennis Hopper, who is obsessed with her. American films don't know what to do with women, and have little to say about them beyond being objects. Stupid, stupid, stupid. * star.

PSYCHO II (1983)
I've heard over the years that this is a really stupid movie, but I quite enjoyed it. Yes, it's not the classic the original Psycho is, but it's not a bad movie at all. 22 years later, Norman Bates leaves the asylum and returns to his old life, but soon becomes convinced that his mother is still trying to reach him. There's a great Gaslight plot twist going on in here, and Vera Miles returns from the original movie as well. What sells it all is that the script by Tom Holland is pretty good and Anthony Perkins' performance is flawless. God, he was a good actor. Not a bad movie at all. ***1/2 stars.

This one picks up right after the second one, but it's a lot sleazier and much, much less good. Oh, it at least tries--it's not empty and cynical, like Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho, which is like watching someone trace the Mona Lisa. But as interesting as it wants to be, it doesn't really cap off a trilogy the way you can tell Anthony Perkins (who also directed) wanted it to. **1/2 stars.

Terrible. * star. The only way it could have been worse would've been for Michael Meyers and Dr. Loomis to show up again. Of course, that's what I thought might've made this more interesting... I haven't seen any of the other Halloween sequels and I don't plan to.

Ewan McGregor stars as an accountant who is inducted into some kind of anonymous sex club by Hugh Jackman. He soon falls in love with another club member, played temptingly by a very sultry Michelle Williams. And what almost looks for the briefest of moments like it could have been an interesting character piece about the way people connect in the 21st century, and the temptations of love over sex, instead devolves--predictably and pathetically--into yet another bad crime/sex thriller. A waste of a good cast, which is especially highlighted by McGregor and Jackman doing some of the worst movie accents I've ever heard. What is that? Jersey? *1/2 stars.

Trying to Argue with a Dining Room Table

I sure as hell enjoyed this video. We've been forced to internalize this lie in America through our self-esteem-over-facts-and-learning education system that everyone's ideas deserve to be taken seriously and that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But when it comes to matters of policy, I have to agree with Harlan Ellison that people are only entitled to their informed opinion. Does everyone deserve to be heard in the political process? I would argue that if you're a big, steaming pile of stupid, then no.

I'm sorry, is that harsh? I don't care. We have things that need to get done in this country, and we can't get them done because people actually feel obligated to take the kind of people like the woman in this video seriously, as though they have some kind of counter-argument. You know, if you equate "social programs" with "Nazism," you're a moron and you don't deserve to be heard because you've got nothing to say but the reactionary, ignorant, imbecilic, fear-mongering rhetoric you've already been fed, and there's no reasoning with you. How the hell is anyone supposed to reason with a person who honestly believes Obama is like Hitler and that government-run health care is the same thing as Nazism? Ask those people to explain Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the VA, all government-run health programs, and they tend to crumble, anyway. These people don't understand the purpose of taxes and what their taxes actually pay for. (Like, for example, the "socialized medicine" of their government leaders.)

I'm sick of people acting like we have to take their criticisms seriously. People show up at these things with unconcealed weapons and racist threats, and we're supposed to treat that as political discourse? Fuck that.

The Democrats and the White House have made a huge clusterfuck out of trying to present a public health option to America and Congress. They've just done it so poorly, as only the Democrats can. They've never had a clear message and stuck with it, they haven't explained it properly, and they've tried too hard to get some kind of sweeping support for something the Republicans will never support. Someone could come up with the cure for AIDS and Republicans would block all funding for it simply because Obama would want to fund it. They have no interest in running the country in a way that's actually helpful, so we need to stop treating them as though they do. They've proven time and again that they don't want what's best for the country. They don't care. They don't care about actual conservative values; they care about racism and money and making sure Obama can't get anything done. Stop treating them like they have something to contribute.

The fact that a country can actually be divided over the issue of getting low-cost access to health care is fucking ridiculous enough.

And the Democrats and the White House have played right into the hands of the media and helped to legitimize these crazy people, like this idiot in the video (who went on to talk about the "death panels" as though they exist and as though the insurance companies aren't already doing that themselves), and now we have to listen to the craziest crap as though this represented a serious political thought. But it doesn't. Ignore it and focus on the policy and what it actually represents instead of taking unreasonable people who will never be swayed seriously. Those people will get distracted when American Idol comes back on, anyway.

Why can't the Democrats sell this shit? They're as bad as the Republicans, only they don't have the spines to fight for what they want. (Distributorcap has an excellent post this morning about what the Democrats should be doing to sell this to the American people.)

Here's the worst-case scenario, to me: the health reform ends up as nothing but concessions to the insurance industry and does absolutely nothing to change health finance in this country. People continue to go bankrupt paying for their health care and people who need it continue to be denied because of pre-existing conditions. And it becomes Clinton all over again. Americans decide Obama is a weak and ineffectual leader who can't affect any real change after all (and if he keeps wasting his time chasing after Republican approval and trying to protect his re-election chances, that'll be true, anyway). So, since they elected Democrats and didn't get what they want, they decide to vote in more Republicans, who will then really have the power they only think they have now to stand in the way of anything Obama wants to do. And then we just go right back to the Bush years, and things get worse because the criminals are running the store again.

I hope Obama enjoys his single term as president. Because he's sure hellbent on wasting whatever political capital he built up. He's not doing anything to justify all of the faith people had in him. And people are getting fed up.

I know I am.

Stop arguing with the dining room tables and just cook the meal already.

TV Report: Fuck You, Andy

I try not to write a lot of posts about how people on a reality competition show piss me off, but sometimes I just have to. Reality shows put some of the worst aspects of human behavior on display, and I tend to talk about those kind of things.

The new series of Hell's Kitchen has been interesting and intense, but once again, it seems like only half of the contestants are really interested in food and in being good at it, and half of the contestants are really interested in demanding that you think everything they do is great whether it is or not. We overproduce those kinds of people in this country--people who think everything they do is terrific and wonderful no matter what, and that they've got nothing to learn because they're already great at everything, "so just shut up and leave me alone and let me do this!"

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Hell's Kitchen, and I dig Gordon Ramsey. Again, I know Americans hate to be told in anything but the most vague and affectionate Care Bear manner that they might not be doing something right; it's something I have to deal with as a teacher, so I appreciate people who can be bluntly honest about something without caring about hugging these people and helping them pick up their broken feelings. There's too much coddling in this country as it is, and Ramsey's the real deal when it comes to food.

It's just clear to me who the frontrunners on this show are, and the frontrunners are the people who aren't acting like not being able to cook good food consistently and follow directions and not serve people raw food is just no big deal. This is one of the major sicknesses in America: the idea that not being able to do your job at a reasonable standard is just, y'know, not a big deal. Calm down, dude. It's just raw chicken.

So, here's the specific thing that pissed me off about Andy last night.

I'm sure Andy can cook. He's demonstrated that in the past. I think his real problem on this show is that he can't handle the pressure, which he basically admitted last night. And there's nothing wrong with being unable to handle the pressure of the competition, but it does mean he's in the wrong place. He can't win if he can't handle the pressure. He's not going to win, because at this point being able to cook is only one of many factors in winning. Too many contestants on this show (and I'm not sure if he feels this way or not) make the mistake of assuming that the ability to cook and cook well is the end-all be-all of the competition. But you also have to prove that you can work with a team, that you can lead a team, that you're creative, and that you can handle the pressure.

And Andy just can't handle the pressure.

And it made him try to throw Robert under the bus.

Here's the back story to that.

Robert was on the last series of Hell's Kitchen and made it pretty far in the competition. Dude can cook. But he had some kind of issue with his heart and he had to take himself out of the competition for health reasons. He's a big, big man. I have a lot of sympathy for him, not only because he's obviously talented and can generally handle the pressure, but also because a) he knows Gordon Ramsey's style and purpose and (most of the time) lets Gordon's screaming roll off his back, and b) because I'm also very overweight. And I'm not as overweight as Robert--frankly, the idea terrifies me just considering the health problems I already have--but I know what it's like when pushing yourself to catch up with what healthy people have no problem doing feels like you're pushing yourself much too hard.

Robert was invited back this series after--in a kind of shitty move by the show--one chef was pushed out in the middle of the first episode. Since he had to drop out the first time for health reasons, it was nice to see him get a second shot. But Robert, even with his heart condition, didn't seem to have lost any weight at all (and I'm not sure what the window between series was; both series aired just months apart) and I was worried we were in store for another episode. And we were.

On last night's episode, the men lost a challenge and were forced to ride a bicycle up a hill to get ingredients for dinner service. It was some kind of fucked up bike that all of the guys sat on and pedaled. Too his credit, Robert didn't slack off; he pushed as hard as everyone else did. But he also pushed himself right into the emergency room and couldn't come back to Hell's Kitchen in time for dinner service.

So, we cut to competition and, as usual, there are the leaders, and there are the people who keep fucking up and acting like it's no big deal and resenting the fact that the leaders are doing well. Both teams do so badly that they are each forced to pick someone for elimination.

Now, if you were watching, clearly Andy and Jim were the worst on the men's team during service. Jim just doesn't seem to give a shit; he thinks he's reached the peak of perfection in cooking and doesn't care to be told anything else. He's dead weight. And he failed repeatedly to cook satisfactory appetizers; he failed so badly that he had to be replaced by the sous chef, something I've never even seen happen on Hell's Kitchen.

Andy, on the other hand, just sucked. He kept trying and trying and trying, but he couldn't get it together and just couldn't hack it. He performed terribly at dinner service, and he knew it.

But rather than own it (though he at least acknowledged it), he simply pointed out to the other men that Robert should be up for elimination because he didn't even show up for service.


Are you kidding me?

He royally fucks up a dinner service, and he's got the balls to hide behind someone who wasn't even there? He puts the blame on a guy who missed service because he may have been having a heart attack? That takes a special kind of cowardice, I think. A very craven sort. If Robert had flaked out and just not shown up, or had thrown a fit and walked out and not come back, then yeah, Andy would've had a point. But Robert was in the freaking emergency room.

Wow, Andy. Fuck you. Fuck you for that, you coward.

And the fact that he convinced everyone to go along with this was just so, so disappointing.

Look, this is a talent competition. You're going to stand or fall on your own ability. Time and again people have tried to be savvy playing this game, and it never works out for them, because ultimately, if you can't cook, you can't cook. Or if you can't hack the pressure of a dinner service, then you can't hack it and you fall by the way. You have to have real faith in your ability and prove yourself over and over again, night after night.

And instead, Andy takes his terrible, wretched experience in that service and treats it like too many people do on this show: like it's no big deal. "Sure, I fucked up, but Robert was too busy having a heart attack to even show up!"

What a joke.

And that's why Andy's not going to win this thing. Because he's not a winner. If he was, he wouldn't have had to try and throw Robert under the bus in order to step away from his inability to handle the intensity.

Understand, he's on a team with a guy who won't quit even though he fractured his hand, and a guy who wouldn't quit after spraining both ankles. That's real dedication to proving themselves.

Andy should be ashamed of himself for what he did. And the others should be ashamed of themselves for going along with it.

For his part, Gordon wasn't having it, which I really appreciated. He told the men to nominate someone on the back of their performance instead of blaming a guy who was unable to perform. Good for him. He saw right through it and didn't stand for it, and handled it beautifully, shaming them without berating them at all.

I hope Robert's okay. I think it would be really shitty for him to have to quit again because he injured himself doing one of these idiot punishments that have more to do with TV and less to do with actual cooking. I think I know what he's going through in some aspects of his health, and it feels terrible to be that limited, especially when you have a talent that could potentially exceed those limits. It would be terrible if he had to give it all up again. But, of course, it would be terrible if he had to pursue it so hard that he really did some damage to himself. Or worse.

But at least he won't be throwing anyone else under the bus for it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Inglourious Plummers

I would pay to see this movie.

500 Faves

401. Summer, Highland Falls [live] - Billy Joel
402. Summertime - The Zombies
403. Summertime Blues - Eddie Cochran
404. Surf's Up - The Beach Boys
405. Surfer Girl - The Beach Boys
406. Surrender - Cheap Trick
407. Suspicious Minds - Elvis Presley
408. Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond
409. Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns 'n' Roses
410. Sweet Lorraine - R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders
411. Sweet Soul Revue - Pizzicato Five
412. Sweet Talkin' Woman - Electric Light Orchestra
413. Swing Interpretation of the First Movement of the Concerto in D Minor by J.S. Bach - Django Reinhardt
414. Sympathy for the Devil - The Rolling Stones
415. Take a Chance On Me - ABBA
416. Take Five - Dave Brubeck Quartet
417. Take It Off - The Donnas
418. Take Me Home - Phil Collins
419. Take On Me - a-Ha
420. Take the Long Way Home - Supertramp
421. Take Your Mama - Scissor Sisters
422. Tarzan Boy - Baltimora
423. Tell Her About It - Billy Joel
424. Telstar - The Tornadoes
425. Tenderness - General Public

Tumblr and Blogger and Me

Gilligan has a post up in which he weighs the relative merits of Blogger and Tumblr. It was very interesting, and I wanted to just sort of mention my own end here.

I have two Tumblr blogs, TumblFrog and The Ladies at Court. The Ladies at Court is for candid and red carpet photos of women, they way I used to do the same posts here, but TumblFrog is a sort of stream-of-consciousness that is basically overloaded with stuff that I dig--videos, quotes, pictures, etc. It's a lot more like what this blog used to be.

I'd honestly consider switching over to Tumblr permanently except for a couple of things. First, that I started this blog nearly five years ago and don't want to just abandon it and start over somewhere else. And second, Tumblr is just too ephemeral right now. It doesn't lend itself to long-term use as far as really building up a blog. Things just kind of disappear after a couple of days. I mean, they're still there, but they don't feel permanent the way Blogger does. You have a sort of body of entries on Blogger; I like the immediacy of Tumblr (you often get a response as to someone liking or reblogging your post right away), but it's so immediate that it's impermanent.

(Of course, impermanence is relative; I've deleted over a thousand of my old posts on this blog lately, partially because they've become irrelevant, partially because I'm sick of contentious comments, and partially because they just don't matter to me anymore.)

But I like Tumblr because it just allows me to sort of have this stream-of-consciousness as it happens, blogging and reblogging, instead of cluttering up Electronic Cerebrectomy with them. I post too often for some people, and they do complain to me about it, so I've taken a lot of the visual element and moved it over there. I just got the sense that people were feeling inundated and disinterested here, so I just divorced it from the site. So it's nice to have a place to that, especially since Tumblr is so very easy to use.

Gilligan also raises the issue of unsourced pictures on Tumblr; I see a lot of people on Tumbr talk about this, too. Many people (myself included) take pictures from around the internet and often post them on Tumblr without any kind of citation reference. To me, it's just business as usual on the internet. I didn't take the photo, I didn't scan the picture, I didn't do the art--if it came from somewhere in my C drive and I've long forgotten where I took it from, I just post it and that's that. It doesn't bother me. I'm sure it would if I had actually created whatever image it was, or said whatever was being quoted--that's a different story. But some people get crazy over this.

When you're on Tumblr, you do have the option to reblog someone's post, and it will automatically credit the Tumblelog you took it from. There is an outbreak on Tumblr, for whatever reason, of people who will actually take the time to erase that credit. I don't know why they do it, but I know this really burns a lot of people. But as Gilligan also points out, 99% of what's on Tumblr is not original content. So if I blog a picture from a movie I like or a Neal Adams picture of Green Lantern, and someone reblogs it and cuts off my credit, it's not like I care very much. I enjoy that I posted something someone liked enough to reblog it. I don't chase these people down and make sure I get "my" credit for stealing a Neal Adams picture.

It's just a sort of ridiculousness that has bothered me before. It's funniest if you, as I do, check out sites of Disney media, and you see people getting really upset for not being "credited" with their illegal download link of Hannah Montana: The Movie. I'll bet Disney just loves that.

It also bothered me when, a couple of months ago, I posted an animated gif based on a Threadless Tee design for a reimagined Pac Man shirt. I love Pac Man, and when I saw it on Darius Whiteplume's blog, I had to put it on my own. So I did, and put up a link to where I found it--on Darius' Adventures in Nerdliness. He, in turn, had a link back to where he found it, at the Daily What. And then someone in the comments gets on me about giving proper credit to the people who created it, etc etc, and my first thought was: I did link to where I found the image, and so did Darius--why don't you make sure you give credit to Namco, whose intellectual property you are essentially ripping off for profit.

So I guess Tumblr does sort of bring up discussions about intellectual property, especially since pop art on the internet is usually a reimagination of copyrighted pop culture imagery.

At least Tumblr isn't afraid of adult content. So that's nice. I keep thinking something's going to ruin it at some point, but let's just be realistic and get over our fear of dicks, okay?

Gilligan also mentions Tumblarity, which is some kind of rating that tells you, I don't know, what your Tumblr rank is, or something. I joined Tumblr when it was still new, and lots of people were bitching about how much they hated it. I don't know why Tumblr need to introduce this arbitrary popularity contest, but it sure upsets people. My Tumblarity has been 0 for a long time, mostly because I post so often, so I don't really give a damn about it.

What Tumblarity did is introduce an element of negativity to something that's generally positive. I like seeing people "like" or reblog my posts, because it's an instant way of noticing that someone digs something I post. On Blogger, it's too often that you're met with a sort of indifference by the people who read your stuff. On Tumblr, you get positive notices or none at all. It's nice. Like Gilligan says, it's instant gratification.

The problem with all of these social networks and such is that they get you into this popularity contest mindset. I look at my Blogger followers, and I've got 84 (for now; I lose people all the time for reasons I'm unclear on--sorry, but my mind wanders and I've got a lot of interests, so chances are I'm not "just" going to write about whatever it is that got you hooked here over and over again) and my wife has nearly 200. I just don't connect with a lot of people on whatever level. Oh, well. I've still gotta be me. I look on Tumblr and I have less followers, but it's fun when you have the rare post that hits with a ton of people and gets reblogged and liked endlessly. So that's something that's good about the immediacy of Tumblr, too.

So, like Gilligan said, both platforms have their strengths and weaknesses. Tumblr is easier to use than Blogger, but Blogger seems more steady and thoughtful to me. I guess I'll be using both for the foreseeable future.

Lucy Pinder Break

Monday, August 17, 2009

500 Faves

376. Sloop John B - The Beach Boys
377. Smile - Nat King Cole
378. Sniper - Harry Chapin
379. So Long, Marianne - Leonard Cohen
380. Solitary Man - Neil Diamond
381. Somebody to Love - Queen
382. Somethin' Stupid - Nancy Sinatra with Frank Sinatra
383. Something to Talk About - Badly Drawn Boy
384. Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
385. The Song Is Over - The Who
386. Songs of Love - The Divine Comedy
387. Sound and Vision - David Bowie
388. The Sound of Silence - Simon & Garfunkel
389. Spanish Flea - Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
390. Stardust - Nat King Cole
391. Starman - David Bowie
392. Strangers When We Meet - David Bowie
393. Strawberry Fields Forever - The Beatles
394. Strawberry Letter 23 - The Brothers Johnson
395. Street Fighting Man - The Rolling Stones
396. Streets of Philadelphia - Bruce Springsteen
397. Strip - Adam Ant
398. Strutter - KISS
399. Suedehead - Morrissey
400. Summer Breeze - Seals & Crofts

Heidi Montag Is an Indicator of How Bad It's Gotten for Playboy

This is as risque as it gets for Heidi Montag's layout in the new issue of Playboy. I hate these pictures, and I'm going to delineate exactly why.

It's not that it's Heidi Montag. I know she's one of the young ladies we're all supposed to hate because she doesn't "deserve" her "fame" because she was just on a fake reality show and isn't remotely talented. I know she's an attention whore and her and her douchebag husband are personifications of evil.

But that's not why I hate the pictures. I mean, Heidi's not a bad-looking woman. I'll be honest, she's fuckable. And I wouldn't mind seeing her actually nude.

And it's not necessarily the lack of actual nudity that makes me hate these pictures, either. I mean, it is, but it's not because I'm feeling burned over not getting to see someone naked.

It's what the lack of nudity represents.

This is a time of ongoing debate about what Playboy has to offer America and what it can do to save itself. There are suggestions from many that they should drop the nudity and focus on being, well, Esquire, which is a nice magazine but always felt like the watered-down, trying-too-hard-to-be-cool-and-sophisticated poor cousin of Playboy. They've made some, in my opinion, bad editorial decisions, like moving the political content to almost the very back of the magazine.

In short, Playboy is slowly losing its identity, and these pictures--PG-13 rated pictures of a reality show famewhore who sees being in Playboy as a pop culture status symbol but won't actually pose for real Playboy photos--represent another step on Playboy's slow, inexorable slide into another flavorless Maxim clone.

Seriously, Playboy, what is this shit?

(And wasting interview space on Seth MacFarlane is a great example of what I'm saying. Who is this issue for? Let the illiterate frat boys worry about Maxim and keep Playboy a sophisticated, current, intelligent alternative for those of us who have grown up.)

To K. Bell, Re: When in Rome Trailer

You are adorable, talented, funny, and you can sing. Please don't waste that on any more movies that look as incredibly shitty as this one. Leave this kind of garbage to the Kate Hudsons of the world, who are either incapable of doing better or just not interested. You're better than this. Much, much better.

I also second these thoughts on the trailer at Mightygodking and Slash Film.

Like Kristen Bell has to really on a magic fountain, indeed!

Kristen Bell Mondays