Saturday, July 17, 2010

Birthday Pachyderms!

Pachyderms are my favorite animals, and Becca sometimes picks me up little ones like this. She made little birthday party hats for them this morning! So cute! Little hippo says "O HAI!"

The Correct Answer: All of Them

Khloe has my back.

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

Also me. I'm 34 today.

Friday, July 16, 2010

God Hates Fans

In a desperate bid to remain one of the more relevant hate groups in the US, Fred Phelps and his Westboro Church Assholes are going to protest at Comic-Con this year. Their main justification for this is that comic book fans are idolaters. How this works I'm not sure, honestly, except that Phelps and his people seem unaware that you can read about fictional characters without worshiping them as gods. I mean, look what they do with their spare time.

If this is really what your church has to worry about, you need something to do.

Han Solo's Horrible Realization


Another movie I'm excited for.

By the way, this is totally me and Carl at the Chicago ComiCon about 12 years ago.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Knowing Is Not Helpful Here

I've seen these before--the parodies of the PSAs they used to play at the end of every G.I. Joe episode, re-edited to be completely insane. However, I've never seen them in a nearly 11-minute stream, and I have to say, I love the experience. It's just so bizarre and unsettling, like a little David Lynch version of G.I. Joe.

On the Relativity of Time

Pulling up to the Comcast office to drop off our payment check.

BECCA: Oh, damn, there's people waiting in front. I thought the office opened at 9.

ME: Well, it's 8:51 now.

BECCA: No, it's not, it's 9. The clock is 9 minutes slow.

ME: What? What did you do to my clock that it's 9 minutes slow?

BECCA: Nothing, it's just 9 minutes slow. It's always been 9 minutes slow.

ME: And the clock radio in the bedroom is 15 minutes ahead. What is it with you and time? Don't you want to know what time it is?

BECCA: I do know what time it is -- it's 9 minutes ahead of the clock.

On Driving

Caught in a parking space, waiting for a street cleaning vehicle which is waiting for someone to back into a parallel space on the side of the street.

BECCA: What, she can't pull up in front of the red car where there are no other cars?

ME: This one's closer.

BECCA: It's, like, 25 feet away.

ME: What? No, it's not, it's about 150 feet away. Can't you tell relative distance? Didn't you take driver's ed? Oh, wait... sorry, maybe you didn't take driver's ed, because that would explain a lot.

BECCA: Oh, like there aren't things you do in traffic that bug me.

ME: I know there are. Would you like me to tell you what they are?

BECCA: No, they don't have to be spoken.

ME: Are you sure? Because I know exactly what you don't like about my driving.

BECCA: Okay, let's hear it.

ME: I drive too safely and too cautiously for you.

BECCA: Yeah, nice try.

On Washing the Dishes

BECCA: There are just so many dishes to clean.... I hate doing dishes.

ME: I'll make you a deal: you do the dishes, and after you've done them all, I will do the dishes for the rest of our lives.

BECCA: ... What's the catch?

ME: There is no catch. You do the dishes, all of the dishes we have, and after that, you will never have to do dishes again. I will do all the dirty dishes we have forever. Deal?

BECCA: I'm going to wait and figure out the catch.

Some More Pictures I Hope John Doesn't Mind Me Sharing

John, I love the pictures you send me from Liverpool.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Big Top Cupcake

BECCA: "There's no such thing as a giant cupcake! If it's bigger than your fist, it's not a cupcake! It's a goddamn cake! Just be honest, it's a cake!"

Film Week

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

Boredom breeds strange viewing habits in a man. Actually, this movie is better than it looks, though it does indulge in the usual Christmas movie stupidities, particularly in its championing of the genuine emotion-over-materialism that so many Christmas movies made by multinational conglomerates like to push. Vince Vaughn plays Santa Claus' older brother Fred--they apparently stopped aging when Nicholas was sainted--who hated being compared to his brother and has become the black sheep of the family. Down on his luck, he goes to work for Nick at the North Pole during a particularly tense time: apparently Kevin Spacey has come down from the Board of Directors to test the factory's efficiency and potentially shut it down. Now, see, that kind of thing is my problem with movies like this. The North Pole has a Board of Directors? Who are they? What organization is this? What exactly are they demanding in terms of quotas, etc. About the only efficiency problem they have that I can see is that Santa's route zigzags all over the place instead of just heading westward and staying in front of the terminator to get everything done by sunrise. But seriously, that corporate plotline is ridiculous and just raises a lot of stupid questions the movie has no answers to.

Also, a word about the elves. Is it that hard to find little people to play roles in these movies? The Head Elf is played by John Michael Higgins with his head shrunk down and put on a little person's body, and I just find that kind of insulting. And, of course, the elf he's in love with is some kind of freak elf played by Elizabeth Banks (who does, I admit, look amazingly sexy in her outfit) who is perfectly "normal." They would never do that with the actors or the genders reversed in these movies, would they? Because, apparently, the dream of any type of human is to be with a young white blonde. It's just... annoying.

Anyway, parts of this movie are actually pretty good. I liked the stuff about siblings and how hard it can be to maintain relationships with your family when they insist on still seeing you a certain way because that's what they're used to--or even because that's all you've given them. There's a funny scene that takes place at a meeting for men who feel overshadowed by more famous brothers, complete with Roger Clinton, Frank Stallone, and Stephen Baldwin in attendance. So it's a **1/2 star movie for me.

Pretty much your standard biopic, although it seems oddly detached from its subjects, which is one of my favorite bands of all time. Rather than focusing on the band, though, the movie mainly focuses on the relationship between Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) and the manipulations of their manager Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon). All three leads are excellent--Kristen Stewart is better here than I've ever seen her, Dakota Fanning finally has the kind of meaty role she's always trying to act, and Michael Shannon is excellent. As a Runaways fan, it's a little disappointing to see Lita, poor Sandy, and "Robin" (standing in for Jackie Fox, who wouldn't participate) given such little screen time. If you've seen Edgeplay, you know the story of the Runaways really starts and ends with the late Sandy West, and that all five girls have tales to tell, but the movie's not interested in them as a band or what they tried to accomplish or how they had to fight against male expectations and a manipulative manager to get their music heard. (And they give Joan Jett almost all the credit.) It's just... well, it's pretty to look at, the three leads are terrific, and the soundtrack is fantastic. But like I said, the filmmakers feel emotionally detached, like they're not interested in telling the story of the Runaways or even the story of a friendship so much as they are in just making a good-looking movie. I'm bumping it up to *** stars because of the leads and the music and the energy, but it could have been so much more.

EXTRACT (2009)
Well, it's not as flat-out bad as Mike Judge's previous film, Idiocracy, but it's not a good movie, either. It's just sort of... there. It's pointless, but god damn it, it is there. Like all of Judge's projects in the past 15 years, it's about the one reasonable guy (Jason Bateman here) who is being crushed by all of the stupidity and selfishness around him, until suddenly everyone magically agrees with him and everything turns out fine. (Like far too many later King of the Hill episodes.) Pointless, but Ben Affleck is pretty funny as Bateman's drug-dealing friend. *1/2 stars.

I almost missed out on this one. I started watching it a couple of weeks ago and got distracted by something, and then didn't finish the movie. That was my own fault, so I decided to wait and watch it again before saying anything about it. And I'm glad I did, because this is one of the better crime films I've seen in the last few years. It's about two brothers (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke) who attempt to rob their parents' jewelry store and end up tearing their family apart completely. It's a great crime thriller--what are these, exactly? Crime procedurals?--with some good performances, especially Albert Finney as their father and Marisa Tomei as Hoffman's wife. The narrative structure is great, opening with the motivation, then the robbery, and then jumping around in time as it shows us all of the events that led to one big mistake. I'm not the biggest Sidney Lumet fan in the world, but I think he really knocked it out of the park here. **** stars.

I've only seen one other Martin & Lewis film (Artists and Models), but I think I'm ready to stop here. I could go on about the awkward direction, the terrible pacing, my irritation with Jerry Lewis, etc, but the main problem with this movie is that it's just not funny. At all. * star.

Jenna Fischer (who also directed) and James Gunn play a husband and wife (as they were at the time) with too much money and too much time on their hands, and in a fit of white guilt decide to go develop a charity to give free lollipops to the homeless. It's cute, and the satire is amusing; it's the kind of thing that people do when they have access to Troma and are between projects. I'm also glad it doesn't push the premise too hard with its running time (it runs 65 minutes), and I like the way they set it up as sort of a late-night TV documentary. *** stars.

Michael Moore's latest is a scathing look at capitalism, democracy, and how we really have neither in this country. Moore looks at the political evidence and sees that every president from Reagan on has been a figurehead for Wall Street to get its hooks deeper and deeper into our wallets--just look at the amount of bankers who made up the Treasury Department under Bush Jr. What this movie really needs, though, is a follow-up, because Obama isn't any less in the pockets of the bankers, either. Well-made, with a more serious tone than some of his others. I don't really want to get into it on the subject of Moore as documentarian--I've always maintained he makes editorial films--so take this as you will. **** stars.

Dream Doll

I made this on a make-your-own-pin-up site that I've lost the link to.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

High Time to Meme

This was over on Byzantium's Shores, so I figured I'd give it a shot. It's book-related, which seems like fun to me.

Worst Books Ever, or Five Hours of My Life I’ll Never Get Back

Well, Twilight is the worst thing I've ever read. And yet, I actually did enjoy blogging about it, so it wasn't really a waste. I'd almost consider doing the same thing for New Moon, to be honest, except then I'd have to buy it, and I can barely buy groceries, so why buy that hideous thing?

The one thing I read in school that I can remember just really hating was A Separate Peace. And it wasn't for school, but Michael Crichton's The Lost World bored me to tears. I only made it halfway through. (Sorry, but my policy is that the onus is on the author to keep me involved; if they can't do that, it's their fault, not mine.)

Other books I didn't like: Nick Hornby's How to Be Good and A Long Way Down; The Golden Compass; Stephen King's The Tommyknockers; and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Books I Have Lied About Reading

I don't lie about reading books. It just makes you look stupid.

Books I Have Lied About Liking

Same answer as previous. Why would you lie about liking a book?

Book-to-Movie Adaptations Where, Frankly, the Movie Was Better

I agree with Jaquandor about The Bridges of Madison County: better movie than a book. Twilight was better than the book, since you don't have to sit through Stephenie Meyer's irritating attempts at descriptive prose. Nick Hornby's About a Boy is a way better movie; Hornby has a lot of trouble writing satisfying endings, I think.

Books I Used to Love, of Which I Am Now Ashamed

I don't know that I'm ashamed of liking anything. Sometimes my opinions change, but shame over liking a book is pretty silly.

Best Book Titles of All Time

A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters; The Stars My Destination; I, Robot

Books That I Expected to Be Dirtier

Lady Chatterly's Lover, perhaps. I read it for a college class. Excellent novel, but it amused me how dirty it wasn't considering how infamous it's supposed to be.

My Real Guilty-Pleasure Reads, and Not the Decoys I Talk About Openly

You already know my feelings on guilty pleasures.

Books You Must Read Before You Die, but Would Rather Die Than Read

I really don't know. There are a lot of things I want to get to, but nothing I look at and go "Ugh, do I have to?"

Books I Refused to Read for a Long Time Because too Many (or the Wrong) People Recommended Them

I'm still dragging my heels on The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay because I get annoyed at people weirdly looking down on me for not having read it.

Books I Read Only After Seeing the Movie

There are a lot of books I've read because I liked or didn't like a movie, but nothing where I purposely waited until after seeing a movie to read a novel.

Books I Most Often Try to Persuade Other People to Read

I keep telling people they should tackle Moby-Dick one chapter at a time. It really is one of the greatest books ever written. Also The Grapes of Wrath, which I do think of as the Great American Novel.

Authors I Wish Had Written More Books Already

Well, if George RR Martin wants to finally finish the next Song of Ice and Fire book...

Overused Plot Points That Drive Me Nuts

I dunno. A good writer can make anything work.

Books in Which I Liked the Secondary Characters Better Than the Main Character, or Books in Which I Wanted to Beat the Main Character Senseless with a Tire Iron

I want to smack Bella Swan into something approaching reality...

Books I Lied About Reading and Then Wrote an A+ Term Paper On

I don't remember doing that. I did lie about reading some books in school and wrote passing papers, though.

Books I Lied About Reading/Liking Solely to Look Smart/Pretentious

I don't care about looking smart as much as I care about being honest.

Books I Wish I Hadn’t Finished, or Worst. Ending. Ever.

I thought the ending of The Devil Wears Prada was pissy and self-serving.

Books I Read after Oprah Recommended Them

I don't know what the hell Oprah recommends. I knew when I worked in bookstores, but I didn't care then, either.

Books I Will Never Read Precisely Because Oprah Recommends Them

Again, Oprah doesn't really have any influence on me. It would be stupid to read something because someone whose opinion I don't care about it recommended it, and it would be stupid to not read something for the same reason.

Literary Characters I’ve Developed Crushes On

The title character in Robert Heinlein's Friday; Daenerys Targaryen in A Song of Ice and Fire; Kassandra in The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Books I Only Read to Impress Other People

Is there really a lot of this going on in the world?

Best Books Not to Read from Start to Finish, or Best Bathroom Books

Comic strip collections, essay collections, stuff like that.

Books I Shouldn’t Admit Made Me Cry Like a Baby

I'm not immature enough to care about what anyone thinks of me for expressing my emotions. I cried at the end of a number of books: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; Watership Down; The Lord of the Rings; The Little Prince; A Christmas Carol; Charlotte's Web; and I'm sure there are more.

Books I Only Read for the Title


Books I Re-Read When I Have Nothing Else to Read

I always have something else to read. Sometimes I read things over again because I haven't read them in a long time, but I don't default to anything.

Books People Keep Recommending That, Frankly, Sucked Ass

For the last time, I've read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and I didn't like it. Also The Golden Compass, although since the movie failed, no one really recommends it anymore.

Books My Teacher Made Me Read That I Really, Really Liked

Oh, lots: To Kill a Mockingbird; The Catcher in the Rye; Jane Eyre; Brave New World; Fahrenheit 451; Moby-Dick; The Plague; Paradise Lost; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Their Eyes Were Watching God; Of Mice and Men; Crime & Punishment; England, England; A Passage to India; Winesburg, Ohio... lots and lots of books.

Books My Teacher Made Me read That Made Me Question the Value of My Education

A Separate Peace.

Books That Made Me Want to Have Sex with at Least One Character

Those Ice and Fire books. They're pretty sex-heavy.

Books I Actually Read but Got a Poorer Grade on the Paper I Wrote on the Subject Than My Best Friend Who Did Not Read the Book

I can't even remember.

Books I Read Because the Author Looked Hot

I don't do that. But I do think Jhumpa Lahiri is hot!

Books I’ve Read Aloud

Oh, many. Sometimes I read to Becca while she's drawing. I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to my young cousin once.

Books I Love Even Though the Last Twenty Pages Made No Damn Sense

I tend to forget those. I'm sure they must exist, right?

Books I Have Written a Prequel/Sequel to in My Own Head

I'm not the type.

Books I Keep Meaning to Read, but Then I See Something Shiny

It could be anything. There are lots of books I want to read.

Books I Will Go to the Mattresses for, Even Though I Hate the Writer

I don't really have any. There are books I love, but if you don't, well... you don't.

Books You Must Read Because You Must Mock

Well, I guess that's what I did with Twilight, though I did approach it just to discover what was what and less with the intention to mock. And I did that series of posts about the Bible, so...

Worst How-To Books Ever

I don't read those.

Books That Were on the ‘To Be Read’ List the Longest

I need to make an actual, physical list.

Books I Hated Having to Read in School, But Love Now

I didn't hate being made to read anything, but I do hate being in classes where Shakespeare is read aloud and invariably butchered.

Books Whose References Have Worked Their Way into My Household Lexicon

I'd have to really track it. I quote things all the time--books, movies, songs, TV shows, comics...

Books I’ve Read Because I Liked Their Cover Design/Font

A lot of science fiction and fantasy novels happen that way, actually.

Books Which, When It Comes Right Down to It, I Would Have No Problem Burning

I can't bring myself to burn even something as crappy as Twilight. Still, the Bible might have no better use than as kindling...

Books Which I Read Only for the Sex Scenes

I read porn for that.

Books I Pretend to Like So People Won’t Think I’m a Snob, or Books I Pretend to Like So I Won’t Hurt Your Feelings

Give me a break.

Books with Covers So Embarrassing You Can’t Read Them in Public

Again, that's just being immature.

Books You Are Sorry You Didn’t Read Decades Ago

Anything I still have to read!

Because I Really Do Have Nothing to Do This Summer

Huzzah! I'm Transmundane!

My Attempted Return to DC Comics Is Not Going Well

I've been reading a little bit online here and there in the realm of DC Comics. I gave up on them a few years ago when the Inanity Identity Crisis began, putting up with what I considered an incredible insult towards certain aspects of DC fandom by taking characters I had loved and raping them, murdering them, turning them into fascists, pretending the funny stories of Keith Giffen's Justice League of America were some sort of pointed attempt to limit the power of superheroes, and finally turning Max Lord into a murderer and having him shoot Blue Beetle in the head.

Those things were bad enough, but the real insult--the real degradation--was when the plan for the future of DC Comics was revealed: Infinite Crisis, followed by a one-year jump in titles (including titles that were supposedly safe from this continuity masturbation, like Legion of Superheroes) and 52, a one-year long weekly series that explained what happened during the missing year. (And, though it wasn't planned at the time--maybe--we would have Final Crisis, the title of which will probably be a lie, and the current idiotic The Return of Bruce Wayne.)

The insult was not that all of this stuff would end being totally unreadable--I've checked them all out from the library, and I have tried, motherfuckers, I have tried. The insult was that DC had never before so nakedly treated their readers as walking wallets with an endless cash supply.

What kind of plan is that? Infinite Crisis itself, plus tie-in issues in regular continuity, followed by a 52 issue weekly series? There's a reason people steal this crap, that's all I'm saying. There's a reason I wait for these things to hit my local library instead of running to my shitty local comic shop and buying them. And it's not just because I'm broke, but because these things have no value for the money they're demanding of us.

Personally, I think it's insane that comics are still in the format they're in. Those digest-sized Manga books are selling like crazy, and those things cost about 10 bucks a pop, but there's more value for the money. DC recently announced a price jump; they're asking something like 4 or 5 bucks now for a thin monthly magazine, and they're demanding that their fans do it on a weekly basis in order to follow a continuity that seems to have turned every DC comic into a single story instead of several.

What touched this off is that I've been trying to read some of the recent stuff, and it's been disappointing as all hell because of DC continuity demands. As someone who came into comics loving the Keith Giffen & JM DeMatteis Justice League of America, which was arch and hilarious, I was excited to see the two were now writing the new Booster Gold comic. And you know what? It sucks. It sucks because instead of letting loose with the humor and doing whatever they want with it, they've got to fit it into DC continuity demands, and I just don't care about DC continuity. I'm not going with the "Max Lord is really a murderer" BS.

Even Paul Dini's Zatanna kind of blows, and Grant Morrison's The Return of Bruce Wayne was fun for one issue, then became a big Robert E. Howard rip-off, and then became totally unreadable. I admit, I've been enjoying some of his Batman and Robin series--enough that it almost seems unnecessary for Bruce to return at all--but I have lost so much faith in Morrison for what he's been doing to the DC Universe.

Then, today, I read that DC is supplementing its big Return of Bruce Wayne with a series of eight one-shots called Batman: The Road Home, which will deal with the reaction of eight different characters in the DC Universe to Bruce's return. Because what we really need is an overpriced series of "My god, it's you!" to ensure, I don't know, Green Arrow's canonical gasp at the return of the real Batman.

Good to see in the five or so years I gave up reading DC Comics, they haven't changed their views on their own perceived greatness or their low opinion of DC fans.

Jeez, guys, if you want my money so goddamn badly, why don't you just put a gun to my head and take it? It's more honest, and I don't have to rid your shitty stories.

Happy 70th Birthday, Sir Patrick

One of my all time favorite actors.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Harvey Pekar 1939-2010

I'm saddened to discover that Harvey Pekar has died.

Pekar is someone whose work I came late to, but I immediately felt an affinity for it. American Splendor sets the standard for indie comics--well, back when there were indie comics--with stories of Pekar's own life as a medical records clerk and comic book writer. They were deceptively mundane, but brutally honest. I could relate to a lot of them; they were so often stories about small triumphs over the insurmountable forces of life (illness, financial realities, cars that don't start, people who screw you over) or an almost noble acceptance of life as it is--being grateful for what you have because, let's face it, life can always be worse.

Pekar was also honest in his work about being his own worst enemy. His graphic novel The Quitter, probably my favorite work of his, is an autobiography in which Pekar recognizes that too often in life he quit simply because things seemed to hard or he felt like no one cared or he didn't matter. And though it ends in the usual Pekar way--with gratitude for the things he's been able to eke out of life--you can feel a palpable bitterness with the past. Or, more accurately, with the stupid decisions he made--and many of us make--during youth.

I'm sorry that there's no longer a Harvey Pekar in the world. He spoke for a lot of us, putting our own frustrations with life into words. He will be missed.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Song of the Week: "Wishing You Were Here"

I don't remember ever hearing this song before Roger mentioned it on a post. He compared it to the Beach Boys, and I can really hear that. A lot of it reminds me especially of Dennis Wilson's amazing Pacific Ocean Blue album. I haven't listened to as much older Chicago as maybe I should--I tend to know them more from the AOR hits of my own childhood, like "Stay the Night" or "Hard for Me to Say I'm Sorry." This is just lovely.