Saturday, August 16, 2008

News of Doctor Who Specials

According to Blogtor Who, there is noise going around (again) that we might see the return of the Sea Devils in one of the upcoming Doctor Who specials. I really hope so; I've been itching to see them come back, and thought the fourth series might be the one to make it so.

The old rumor of a Paul McGann appearance as the Eighth Doctor has also been revived. I think it would be well neat if McGann appeared, but I'm not going to hold my breath. Really, I think I'd just like to see Peter Davison as the Fifth again; I enjoyed him so much in "Timecrash."

Also rumored are the returns of Jenny, Brian Blessed, and the Master. I think the Doctor needs a Time Lady out there to match wits with; a sort of Catwoman character, one who loves meddling, and not in a serious or spiteful way, but in a completely flighty and playful way. Sort of an Anti-Doctor. That would be fun. Just a thought. Not the Time Meddler himself, but something similar.

Anyway, I'm open for the return of any old characters, as always.

Well, not any. If we could be spared the return of the, um, "terror" of the Zygons again... well, I won't say boo.

Then again, the daft old Macra came back, so who knows?

Stuff White People Like

I recently checked out Stuff White People Like, the book outgrowth of the popular (and hilarious) website, and I thought it was absolutely hysterical. I can see a lot of people I've known in Christian Lander's description of what a stereotypical white person likes, in friends, in family, in myself, and in those yuppies I just love to hate.

I guess ultra-white people are probably the last "safe" stereotype to make fun of, and Lander does an excellent job of poking holes in the pretension that seems to come naturally with activities like shopping for organic food, playing children's games as an adult, and putting Belle & Sebastian or The Beatles on the iPod. The thing about the stereotypes in the book is, of course, that they're all exactly right on. Yes, there are people who genuinely like whatever he might talk about because they genuinely like it, but there are so many others who do things just because they're cool and want other people to acknowledge their coolness.

And, let's be honest, isn't that a lot of what a white guy's life is? Proving they're cooler than someone else because they like or own or know about something more obscure than anyone else? Cop to it; everyone's done it at some point or another, and the entire foundation of yuppie neighborhoods seem to rest on it. They're just built on outdoing each other. Grow up in one, you can see it.

The great thing about the book (and website) is that the humor isn't particularly hostile. It's sharp, and Lander sees the trends in gentrification and obscure restaurants and hating your own parents with ease, but it's not presented in a way that belittles someone who acts like that. It's a send-up, not a tear-down, and you see less and less send-ups these days because they're harder to do. In fact, I'd recommend this as a great gift for a white person, because if there's one thing white people do seem to love, it's people making fun of white culture. Somehow, every white person is convinced the jokes are all about someone else.

The book is also worth checking out even if you're a fan of the site. The book has 150 entries, and they're the same as the website up until you hit somewhere around number 102. So you haven't read nearly a third of the content already. Plus there are some nice asides and hilarious flow charts (such as guides to how white people name their kids and where they move).

It's not a lot these days that you find someone so adept at picking apart a culture in a way that doesn't come across as mean and idiotic and Dane Cook-like. When you get the chance to read someone who can poke a little hole in the mass of hot air, you should go for it.

A Sexual Icon Turns 75

Happy Birthday, Julie Newmar!

And, uh, thank you...

Speaking of Julie, Becca recently posted about an episode of The Monkees with Julie Newmar.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Throwdown 8/15

Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Ian Ziering, the actor known for playing Steve on 90210 and for nothing else, says he won’t appear on the new 90210 series because it would be a “step backwards” in his career. He’s probably more focused on moving from the grill to night assistant manager, anyway.

2. Paris Hilton is being sued for not promoting National Lampoon’s Pledge This. Because it would’ve helped if she had?

3. Why is it so hard for animators to work out the fact that computer animated characters too often have dead, expressionless eyes? Pixar really is the exception; hell, even DreamWorks usually does better than this. That thing almost has deader eyes than the real Hayden Christensen.

4. Lynne Spears’s book on Christian parenting is finally seeing release, having been retooled as the story of a woman who kept her faith despite seeing her children constantly screw-up. See, like all stage moms, Lynne Spears isn’t a Machiavellian opportunist, she’s a victim of the adult decisions she let her children make. Aw, poor Lynne Spears, she tried her best to raise her children to make good choices while she sold them for all she could, and now she only gets a book deal to pick her kids’ moneymaking potential clean with.

5. So, Samuel L. Jackson has this movie coming out called Soul Men. It co-stars Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes. So, if I’m Samuel L. Jackson, I’m starting to get a little nervous here…

6. Madonna is trying to abduct a second child from Malawi. They always return to the scene of the crime. Despite the fact that the girl’s family don’t want to give her up, Madonna insists that only she can raise this child, because apparently she thinks she’s a medieval queen and can raise whomever she wants in her court for their own good. Didn’t the family of her first stolen Malawian child want to keep their kid, too? What do you think: is it some Pokemon-like obsession where she has to get them all, does she not want to be caught with last year’s Malawian abductee for the new fall season, or does she just need a breeding pair?

7. I’m sick of the Girls Next Door. I don’t watch The Girls Next Door, I’m not interested in them, they kind of make Hugh Hefner look like a pathetic, doddering old man (who used to be one of my personal heroes), and I don’t even know all of their names. Can we please keep them out of Playboy magazine? I don’t care if they’re fucking the founder, that doesn’t mean I need to see them in every other issue modeling lingerie or some new fashions. I don’t care. I don’t dig it. I’m not into them. I don’t find them attractive. It’s like Playboy is one of your oldest and best friends, and suddenly you don’t get to hang out with him much anymore because he’s got this new girlfriend who’s become the main focus of his life, and you don’t get along with the new girlfriend (or girlfriends, I guess), and every time you actually get to hang out and play a video game together or go grab some fast food, she’s there making it obvious that she resents your guys’ friendship and doesn’t want you hanging around anymore. The Girls Next Door have become the Yoko Ono of Playboy.

8. Warner Bros. have announced that they’re moving the release date for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, so instead of coming out this November, it’ll be coming out next July. So, a movie that’s nearly finished, which they’ve already started advertising with trailers and posters, and there’s going to be eleven more months until it comes out? And not because the film is in trouble, but because Warner Bros. doesn’t have a big family release ready for next summer? Anyone who finds the inevitable illegal download in December, let me know.

9. Apparently, Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza might lose her crown because of sexy pictures of her which have just emerged. My God! How could she smear the hallowed name of beauty pageants with sexual objectification?

10. Timothy P. Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, is giving Tropic Thunder all kinds of free publicity by calling for a boycott of the film which, through the use of the word “retard” to describe retarded people, “is an unchecked assault on the humanity of people with intellectual disabilities—an affront to dignity, hope and respect.” Which is interesting talk coming from the guy who organizes the annual retard parade, in which disabled people are trotted out to make people feel better about themselves for treating people with disabilities like people. Alright, maybe that was harsh, but I’m tired of people being told that there’s something wrong with them for using words that some people find offensive. You know what I find offensive? The idea that somehow, by making the word “retarded” a “bad” word, then magically all of the retarded people won’t be retarded anymore, and then we can stop caring about them because they’re only disabled and it’s no big deal. I don’t know what exactly is gained by obfuscating language in this manner, but I find that a majority of people would really rather make themselves feel better than actually do anything to help someone else. (The funny thing, of course, is that the whole point of using this poster and the word “retard” in the movie seems to be a shot at Hollywood’s infantile treatment of retarded people, but hey, what’s the point of outrage if it isn’t misdirected, right?)

11. Franz Kafka’s pornography is finally being released. It’ll be interesting to see how this gets worked into his legacy. I mean, I like porn, but it’s not really the driving interest in everything I do. The pornography itself is supposed to be quite dark; huh, who knew the author of The Trial and The Metamorphosis would have a dark side? Dr. James Hawes, the Kafka expert, warns that some of the material Kafka had “is quite dark, with animals committing fellatio and girl-on-girl action... It's quite unpleasant.” In other words, nothing that anyone couldn’t find with internet access and one minute of free time. Does that really sound that dark? I don’t I so inured to porn that the idea of a guy having bestiality and lesbian imagery doesn’t even faze me? I like to think so.

12. The guy in this very unlit photo is David Henrie, from Disney Channel’s That’s So Raven and Wizards of Waverly Place. He’s lying in bed with his girlfriend. Yes, a Disney Channel star is lying in bed with a member of the opposite sex, but here’s what you won’t hear about this picture: you won’t hear anyone crying that he’s a role model for young boys and he should know better, you won’t hear anyone talking about how kids need to know about safe sex and how this is a disgrace, and you won’t hear anyone calling this wrong and dark and wild and how he’s on TV so he should be better about this. You won’t hear any of it, because unless it’s an underage girl, no one cares. It’s not sexy enough for the mainstream media to plaster it everywhere while pretending to condemn it.

13. According to CNN, Iraq has no debt and an $80 billion surplus. America is trillions in debt and is running hundreds of billions in deficit. How was this war supposed to benefit us, again?

14. John McCain’s recent attack on Obama in a campaign ad begins “Life in the spotlight must be grand, but for the rest of us times are tough.” Does he think he’s managed to keep it a secret that he owns eight homes and has $20 million? Wow, John McCain, he’s so like us. Oh, by the way, back when the McCain affair with a lobbyist was reported and the media broke down into salacious gossip over an old man’s pecker, I kind of urged everyone to find out the important bit of business: whether or not McCain’s relationship had led him to make backroom deals on behalf of whomever the lobbyist was lobbying for. Glad to see that somebody else has finally brought that up.

15. My mom won’t stop talking about how disappointed she is in John Edwards for having an affair, and how that says a lot about his character. I keep pointing out that just because he fucks around, that doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t have good ideas about health care. That’s his personal life, and in their personal lives, people are going to fuck up. I don’t care about McCain fucking around, either, except when he tries to set himself up as a values guy, because that’s just hypocrisy. Hell, I have a much bigger problem with Obama caving on the FISA compromise and McCain voting with Bush nearly all of the time than I do with who’s fucking what. To borrow a quote from a pissed off Rude Pundit (who probably wrote the best of the “I don’t care if John Edwards had an affair, but here’s nine paragraphs of why I think it was wrong” posts that I read this week): “who John Edwards fucks won't get anyone job training, education, food, or health care.” And isn’t that marginally more important than the gossip over who puts their penis where?

16. I love seeing stories ridiculing Ralph Nader for trying to run for president, because America’s shuttered two-party system has certainly worked out great for everyone and not turned politics into a joke at all.

17. Attorney General Michael Mukasey: “Not every violation of the law is a crime.” Well, you know, not if you go by such outdated standards as a dictionary. This is what’s so much fun about Bush appointees; they know they have a job, they just don’t know what it entails.

18. Resident Bush is going to relax the rules on protected species by allowing federal agencies to decide for themselves whether construction projects might harm endangered animals and plants. The plan doesn’t require the approval of Congress, and there will be significantly less mandatory reviews by government scientists. We’re not getting out of this without some real damage; we’re going to see just how much disaster a dictator can perpetrate on his own people in just five months. Still, it’s nice to know that environmentalism doesn’t really matter because, as Representative Michelle Bachman pointed out for us, the planet is already saved: “We all know that someone did that over 2,000 years ago.” I guess it’s supposed to be refreshing that when Earth dies, at least we can know it’s going to heaven. Enjoy your planet while you can.

Fan Made

As much as I found The Dark Knight to be quite flawed, this fan made image is all it took to get me excited about the next possibility. (And all it took was the ongoing rumor about Angelina Jolie playing Catwoman for me to get much, much less excited, honestly.)

A Sexual Icon Turns 60

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag,
Uschi Digard!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Tone of 97% of the Olympic Coverage I've Seen Online

Misty May and Kerri Walsh are on the American Beach Volleyball team.


And they're such an inspiration to women who are taught they can't compete. Or would've been, if they'd been born in the 1940s.


They're also really good at sports.


Political Commentary

More Arte for Me Greedy Sidebar

Chris at Exquisitely Bored in Nacogdoches has bestowed on me the honor of the Arte y Pico Award!

Chris has a great blog, and this week alone he's had a post on one of my favorite singers (two, technically), and last week posted this gorgeous picture of Ann Miller that I've been looking for an excuse to re-post.

Like there.

So, onwards with the rules:

1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community, no matter of language.

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

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

4) Award-winning and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of "Arte y Pico" blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5) To show these rules.

I know you may get tired of seeing me do these tags, but someone likes my blog and acknowledged it with a gift, and I like to say thanks for doing so. Plus, it gives me the chance to do the same with another five blogs (11 through 15 now). Spread the love!

The Imaginary Reviewer, whose imaginary reviews are in actuality fantastic.

M. Yu at The Jade Gate who is one of the few people I've seen on the 'net who finds the truth and the universality in the erotic, and finds a lot of imagery that is disturbingly beautiful and beautifully disturbing.

Fairlane, whose artfully random posts express a lot of my own frustration with the state of the state.

Fellow Muppet fan JA, from whom I get a surprising amount of my geeky movie news (and certain pictures)...

And the reclusive PJ, whom I call reclusive not because her blog is called The Urban Recluse, but because she's poisonous like the recluse spider.

No, not really. That just sounds like something witty you say. Okay, so my one-liners aren't all winners. Move along. Move along.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


That's just brilliant.

My 10 Favorite South Park Episodes

Way back in April, MC posted a list of his 10 favorite episodes of South Park. I never commented on it because it looked like a fun list to answer with a list of my own. I saved the post in my Bloglines and always intended to finally go back and do my list, and for some reason I never have. Until, well, now.

I will say that there are a lot of other episodes that nearly cracked the Top 10, but, alas, didn't make it. Narrowing it down to ten was hard. But, you know, subjectivity and all that.

10. Free Willzyx - When a prank convinces the boys that a whale in a local aquarium is an alien from the moon, they go to extreme measures to sent it home. I don't really know how to explain this choice; it's just an episode that works really well for me. I love these episodes where things go to hell because everyone is making the stupidest choice possible, even if it ends up with a dead orca on the moon.

9. Christian Rock Hard - Cartman, Butters and Token become Christian rock stars so that Cartman can win his bet with Kyle. Meanwhile, Kyle, Stan and Kenny learn the sad consequences of illegally downloading music from the Internet. Two parodies in one. Not only is it hilarious to see musicians telling Stan and Kyle that downloading from the internet is wrong because it turns the super-rich into the merely rich, but the idea of Cartman rewriting love songs and turning the word "baby" into "Jesus" is hilarious (leading to one of my all time favorite lines, "I want to get down on my knees and start pleasing Jesus. I want to feel his salvation all over my face.").

8. The Passion of the Jew - Cartman leads a campaign against the Jews after seeing "The Passion Of The Christ." Meanwhile, Stan and Kenny try to get their money back from Mel Gibson and discover that he is completely insane. Mel Gibson was busy coming across as completely insane at the time, too. If ever a movement deserved to be savaged by this show, it's those insane zealots who saw Mel Gibson's barely-a-movie and were guilted into becoming fervently religious. That Cartman could use that to lead a campaign against the Jews is probably closer to reality than I'm comfortable with.

7. AWESOM-O - Cartman dresses up as a robot from Japan, sent to Butters. Tricks him in to believing it and cant give away his identity because he finds out Butters has a video of him dancing to Britney Spears kissing a Justin Timberlake picture! It gets more and more out of hand as the military decide to try to capture 'the robot' to make it a weapon. There are two lines from this episode that are in my mental rotation: "Initiate fart sequence" and "Are you a pleasure model?" This episode is hilarious, with Cartman finally getting humiliated and Parker & Stone getting in some digs at where the film industry seems to get their ideas.

6. Cartman's Incredible Gift - Cartman mistakenly believes he is a psychic, and is recruited by the police to help them with investigations. It never fails to make me laugh how stupid the adults are on this show, especially the cops, who take Cartman's advice as gospel just because he says he's a psychic. I also love the way this episode goes after people who claim to be psychic and offer up their services for cash.

5. The Wacky Molestation Adventure - The boys tell the police that their parents molest them and soon there are no adults left in South Park. However, without authority figures, society crumbles. It takes on the idea that adults are afraid of children and that society very often makes snap judgments without having all of the facts. Crazily close to reality; as a teacher, I've seen it when a kid realizes the power a few words can have over someone's life, whether a lie or no. I also love the guy who keeps screaming about the job interview of his life, and it turns out to be the manager of a Denny's.

4. The Biggest Douche in the Universe - Stan tries to disprove psychic John Edwards after a reading messes with Kyle's mind. Meanwhile, Cartman and Chef travel to Scotland to exorcise Kenny from Cartman's body. I just hate John Edwards so very fucking much, and I have for years and years. I despise these charlatans who make their money off of your suffering and claim they're doing it because they just have to. As far as I'm concerned, John Edwards IS the biggest douche in the universe.

3. Fat Butt and Pancake Head - Cartman makes a Jennifer Lopez hand doll and turns her into a music star, which draws the furious anger of the real Jennifer Lopez as well as the sexual advances of Ben Affleck. The fact that it's all an epic attempt to put one over on Kyle is just so damn sweet.

2. Butters' Very Own Episode - Butters' mother snaps and tries to kill her son after the revelation that her husband frequents gay bath houses. I love Butters, and the way he keeps his cheery resolve no matter what abuse is heaped on him.

1. Osama bin Laden Has Farty Pants - The boys come face to face with Osama Bin Laden after they are mistakenly shipped to Afghanistan. Remember when bin Laden was the real enemy? What I love about this episode is that it advocates understanding of the complex root causes that lead to terrorism, while at the same time being a savage parody of bin Laden himself that takes the form of one of those great old Warner Bros. cartoons where Bugs Bunny would run afoul of Nazis. For a brief time, there was room for both.

Sustainable Energy, Carbon Credits, Etc.

Johnny Yen has an interesting post up about sustainable energy, in particular wind power, that has got me thinking. A week or two ago, there was an episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit! that was about the green energy movement, and this has all been making me think yet again about the idea of sustainable resources and where we're heading. It's an interesting issue that has really started to rival religion and war for heated, perhaps overly passionate response.

The episode of Bullshit started out as an attack on people who are worried about global climate change. And I have to concede, based on conflicting reports and conflicting arguments, that I'm still not 100% behind the concept. That's not to say that I don't believe our planet is getting warmer and that it's causing havoc with our weather that will lead to problems in the future (well, more problems, we've already got problems resulting from weather). I think you'd have to be a fool not to concede that there is something going on with the global climate (look at the photographic evidence from the Arctic and Antarctic alone). What I'm not yet convinced of is that our use of resources is creating enough carbon to destroy human life (and let's be clear, yet again, that as George Carlin said, the planet isn't fucked, we are).

The planet produces carbon naturally, especially from volcanoes, forestry, and forest fires. According to John Charles of the Cascade Policy Institute (and the former director of the Oregon Environmental Council), only 3% of the carbon produced per year is human-made. And we know that the planet experiences periodic ice ages in which the climate changes drastically; the last ice age was something like the fourth such period. So, I'm not sure that we're doing it to the planet and that this isn't a normal part of the planetary cycle that's naturally occuring. And I'm not sure that we can stop it, either.

What I am sure of, however, and what seems perfectly obvious to me, is that the bigger danger is that we're using up so many resources that will very soon become a thing of the past. Fossil fuels can't be replaced. And there has to be an investment made into sustainable energy. Johnny talks specifically about wind power, which seems like a good idea, but is still disappointing to me, just based on what I know of the wind turbines in the area here. There are a number nearby in Paw Paw, and the residents hate them; they're noisy, they break up the land, they run on gasoline, and the power all goes somewhere else. It doesn't even stay local. Still, I think wind power is important to develop, I just don't think, as I've seen some say, it's the solution to the entire problem of sustainable energy. (Refreshingly, Johnny concedes that it's only part of the answer, but makes an excellent case for investing in it that I'd heartily support.)

Quite frankly, I think a lot of what is going on right now as far as "saving the planet" and recycling isn't doing much for anyone. I know people like to believe that the little differences they make are making larger differences in policy, but they really aren't. That's not to say that every dent against the corporate system we're trapped in right now doesn't help, because it certainly does. Honestly, and I've said it a million times on this blog, I wish more people would act as though consumerism is like voting; when you give a company money, you are giving its corporate dealings your support. (Although, too, it has to be said that economic realities don't always make it possible to stand on that kind of principle.) People who make personal changes in order to not contribute to the waste of resources are, well, not wasting resources, and that's an important thing.

But it's my personal belief that important change, the kind that leads everyone into a better future, doesn't happen on the personal level, it happens on the local and national level. Take what Chicago's been doing with eco-efficient buildings. That's the kind of change that really makes a difference. So, while I'm not trying to denigrate people who make green living an important issue for them--not at all--I am saying that I think we need more sweeping reforms.

What I am sure is total bullshit, though, is this idea of eco-guilt. This was the main thrust of the Bullshit episode, and they touched on something that's been bothering me ever since I first heard the words "carbon credit" and "carbon footprint" a few years ago. I think a lot of what's going on, like the useless Live 8 concert or Al Gore jetsetting around the world to warn people about wasting fuel, is an attempt to either build careers or salve peoples' guilt to make them feel better about wasting resources...but not so much better that they change their lifestyles. I think it's wrong to make people feel bad for availing themselves of resources, especially when you're making money off of that guilt. America is currently the most prosperous and technologically advanced civilization in the history of the world, but you woulnd't know it to look around the place. Not only do we have a wide gap between rich and poor, but we've also got this weird, innate sense of guilt that we somehow have to be forgiven for enjoying what prosperity we have while others suffer. It's like a Billy Joel song: people are successful and wonder why it's not making them happy. I don't think the answer is doing what a lot of people do and trying to live like a Native American might have (if they'd had TV and central air conditioning), and I don't think it's right to make people feel guilty about not living like that. Is that really the answer?

And I'm not advocating greed, either, or the callous disregard of those who have less. But, really, what's the answer? Why does everyone in this country always have to feel guilty about something?

We also have more people on the planet than ever before; good thing we're teaching that safe sex is wrong, because we could always use even more demand on our dwindling resources...

On Bullshit, Penn and Teller showcased a woman who was buring carbon credits to offset the resources she's used, and that just seems ridiculous to me. It's more guilt-profiteering. It's trying to make yourself feel better for driving to Starbuck's by dropping a few extra bucks into someone else's bank account. You're still using the gasoline, so what's the point? How can you offset that by planting a tree somewhere? This is the most ridiculous sort of non-thinking, and it's all one big sham. It's like burning someone's house down and then spending some cash to buy a homeless person a box to sleep in. How does one make up for the other?

Penn and Teller had a much better description for it: a plenary indulgence. They compared buying carbon offsets to the Middle Ages practice of paying off the church to forgive sins; the sin is still there, but at least anyone with the money to bribe a bishop could feel better about it and not have to change their behavior in any way. (Some of the terms they used to describe both: "voluntary guilt fine," "fun tax," and "sin credit.")

Furthermore, the woman was giving her money to something called Atmosclear Climate Club, a "company" which she owned. The whole point of a carbon credit is that you're paying someone to invest in renewable resources in order to assuage your guilt, but she's really paying herself. She even admitted that she is not a scientist, that her calculations are not based on any scientific standard, and that there is no oversight (though people can "avail themselves" of it). Hell, the woman drives an SUV ("unfortunately," she said, wishing she had a hybrid) that she apparently pays herself to feel better about driving. And she's done nothing with the money she gets from herself or anyone else (Becca said it was probably going towards buying her a hybrid). As Penn summed up: "Carbon credit companies can make up their own formula for charging people whatever they want; not only that, they can spend the money on whatever project they want." How is this progressive, exactly?

Hell, even Al Gore owns the company he buys carbon credits from, Generation Investment Management. Penn and Teller go as far as to suggest that An Inconvenient Truth was meant to scare people into buying carbon credits from his company, but I'm not sure I'd go that far.

So, this is a long time to blow wind and not really have a definitive stand on the issue of global warming. Like I said, it's very real, but I'm not convinced we're doing it to the planet. But I am sure we're wasting resources we can't replace, so we've got to work damn hard on finding sustainable ways to live on a national and local level. Johnny Yen is exactly right when he says that this is going to take industry and new technology and we need to embrace it. I think what makes it hard work especially is when you have people who have taken up environmentalism as a religion and want to punish those that they see as the perpetrators of environmental ruin. We have to find a way to work together for real change, and some of that is probably going to have to be convincing industry and corporate interests that there is real money to be made in sustainable energy while convincing the consumer that here is money to be saved. Raising energy taxes to punish the companies will punish the consumer far worse in the form of higher prices. And that could be disastrous in less fortunate parts of the world.


Film Week

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

Meh, it's okay. Actually, it's astoundingly dull, and even the presence of Greta Garbo doesn't do a whole lot to help (although, to be honest, if she hadn't been in it, I probably wouldn't have made it to the end). Marie Dressler in one of her best roles, which is kind of unfortunate, because I didn't like the movie. ** stars.

KINGS ROW (1942)
A wonderfully overwrought soap opera about two friends in a small town and what happens to them as their ambition moves them forward. It's a pretty silly movie, but pretty in a delightful way and with a majestic Erich Wolfgang Korngold score that is way too big for the movie. Ronald Reagan is actually really good in this movie, and of course, there's Claude Rains, always great (in an all too small role). For sheer audacity and goofy self-assurance, ***1/2 stars. (Lots of people have pointed out how the score to the film "inspired" John Williams's Star Wars themes, and there's not much getting around it. I don't find it an interesting thing to point out, but I feel like you sort of have to.)

Meh, it's okay. John Ford goes out with a whimper rather than a bang; I don't think he directed anything really pleasant after Donovan's Reef, or anything really great after The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. ** stars.

Meh, it's okay. Started off potentially interesting, quickly became a write-off. ** stars.

Unfolds more or less as you expect; hmm, the girl falls in love with the guy who treats her the most like shit, I never get tired of being "surprised" by that one. Kevin Smith is nice and funny, but hardly worth seeing the movie over. A waste of time. *1/2 stars.

The Princess and the Frog

[images via]

Also, for the animation enthusiast, check out Michael Sporn's post of Ward Kimball drawings which I should've linked to some time ago.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Health Report, Year 2: Week 35

Goodness me, I've made a casserole. I never really thought I'd do that in my life, but there we are. Casserole. And yes, another Rachael Ray recipe, and very filling and delicious.

The casserole was actually the side effect from some other cooking we've been doing. On Sunday, we made, as a sort of small lunch (it's actually a snack recipe, but it's also pretty filling), mini-pizzas. You make them with portabella mushrooms instead of crusts; you just put some sauce and one slice of cheese and some sausage on a mushroom cap. Hey, it turns out I like portabella mushrooms! I'd never had them before; juicy stuff.

Then we made this sort of pizza soup (Rachael calls it a "stoup," but Becca and I both think that's kind of a lame word), which uses some sauce and some cheese and meatballs. Basically, it's like having Spaghetti-O's again, only with no noodles and with carrot and celery and much lower in sodium. I still remember the weekend it was discovered that my blood pressure was high. I had eaten Spaghetti-O's that weekend, one of my favorite foods, but I felt like I was going to die after I ate it. Seriously, the best way I could describe it is that I felt like my veins were just thicker and getting harder, and I was in pain and worried that at any second my heart was either going to start beating too fast or just stop completely. A blood vessel popped in my eye; I thought it was pink eye and went to the clinic. Nope--you have high blood pressure, congrats! So, I stay away from anything with an insanely high sodium count (like Spaghetti-O's, which has over 1000 mgs per serving).

The sodium is actually the reason we ended up having casserole. The recipe for the soup called for chicken stock (or "chicken squeezin's" as I call it, or "chicken soakin's" or "chicken juice," or whatever bugs people more), and all of the prepackaged chicken stock was very high in sodium. Not as high as Spaghetti-O's but still very high for me. I try not to have anything around the 500 range, which is where they were all at. So we decided to just buy a chicken and make our own stock. My job was then to find a recipe that called for a bunch of chicken meat so we could use the rest of the chicken (or, failing that, chicken sandwiches). Becca actually found a recipe on Rachael's website for a chicken casserole with gravy and some biscuit cooked into it. It was good. Really good.

The funny thing is, I know this stuff all sounds fattening and high in carbs, but it really isn't. It's good, it's filling, and it's better for me. It's more satisfying, too, because I'm making it myself. It doesn't make me sick like so much other food does.

Gosh, 32 years old and finally cooking for himself. That boy might just make a grown-up yet!

I actually ended up having some pizza on Saturday night; just a small pizza, ordered out for convenience. It made me sicker than hell. Back to the way I used to feel in an instant, tossing and turning all night long and wanting to die in the morning, coughing stuff up and wanting to puke. So now I know for sure what that is. I thought it was soda, but I've been having a little bit of Coca-Cola again, as an occasional treat with dinner. And that hasn't been making me sick at all (although the moderation certainly helps, my goodness). But that one bit of takeout... damn.

I don't miss fast food at all. That feels good to say and mean.

Questioning Boba Fett's Sexuality

There's a fun, short video interview up at Collider with Simon Pegg, Jessica Hynes, and Edgar Wright regarding the Spaced DVDs. Actually, it's incoherent and all over the place, but I thought it was pretty funny little thing.

The Classic Movie Meme

Becca did this meme and there wasn't a tag, but I thought it would be fun to do. I can't ever not do a movie-related meme, I guess.

So, get the American Film Institutes's 100 Years... 100 Movies list and answer the following questions:

1) Your favorite 5 movies that are on the list:
This was really hard to narrow down to only five.

Duck Soup
The Godfather
Lawrence of Arabia
The Wild Bunch

2) 5 movies on the list that you didn't like at all:
Much easier. It's only about 10% of the list I don't like.

The Birth of a Nation
Doctor Zhivago
My Fair Lady
On the Waterfront

3) 5 movies on the list you haven't seen but want to:
I've seen every movie on this list except for 3.

All Quiet on the Western Front
High Noon

Which I've always figured I'd see someday. Now I guess I should because I'm a completist.

4) 5 movies on the list that you haven't seen and have no interest in seeing:

5) Your favorite 5 movies that aren't on the list:
Well, assuming I should only pick movies that it would be reasonable to call one of the hundred greatest American movies of those 100 years, I think these five.

Captains Courageous
In a Lonely Place
Ride the High Country

Showbiz Pizza and the Rocka-fire Explosion

For me and my sister, who never got to go to Disneyland or some such place, Showbiz Pizza was the greatest place in the world. Oh, God, how often we would beg our parents to take us out for dinner at Showbiz Pizza, home of Billy Bob and the Rocka-fire Explosion. Every time we went, it was a big, big deal. When I refer to hanging out at the arcade when I was still in the single digits, I mean Showbiz Pizza.

And Showbiz was an arcade. It was probably the first and last time in my life I was ever good at video games. I even sucked on my Atari 2600 (except for Asteroids and Combat, I ruled at those games). I used to be able to make level after level after level on Pac Man, Defender, Galaga, Space Invaders, and Donkey Kong. There's nothing like standing in front of an arcade game, feeding in token after token, and playing a game through to the end. Hell, man, I was still doing that when I was in my early twenties.

Except for that damnable Dragon's Lair. Oh my God, what a headache that game was. Cool to look at, sure--hell, I've got the DVD--but oh, man, so hard to play.

And Skee-ball! Holy socks, the amount of time I'd spend playing Skee-ball and getting the high scores and getting all of those redeemable tickets, hoping that some day I'd get enough to cash in for the big stuffed version of Fats, the leader of the Rocka-fire Explosion! I could never wait that long, though; I never took them home and stockpiled them. Instead, I always got something small, like a plastic frog or something. But I liked those, too.

And then you'd go in the dining room and have a pizza, which I would completely drown with that parmesan cheese they had on the table (I think Jayne went the opposite way, with the peppers, but I can't remember now), and the lights would darken, and Billy Bob would come on, or the Explosion itself, those great animatronic creatures who would perform to all kinds of great music. I loved that place. I loved it so much. Because, you know, I was a little kid. Simple things like pizza and video games and plastic frogs and animatronic gorillas made me inestimably happy with little effort.

I can't imagine what it was like for my parents. My mom especially; I wonder if she totally hated it or what. I mean, it's got to be headache-inducing for an adult. Showbiz Pizza became Chuck E. Cheese when I was still a kid, and it wasn't the same. Who wanted to see a rat tell jokes when they'd touched the heavens with a gorilla-led rock band singing Beach Boys tunes? Who cared? It stopped being fun, and the Explosion was in the past. As an adult, I've been to Chuck E. Cheese a few times, when my half-sisters would have birthdays there. It was hollow. But it was nice seeing the girls have fun of their own, even though there would always be that part of me that missed the sounds of the arcade games.

There's a documentary coming out now about Showbiz and the Explosion, and for nostalgia's sake, I think I need to see it. They'll always be a very happy memory for me; Showbiz is a place that takes up a significant space in my childhood memories (along with E.T., Atari, the Muppets, and a ton of old commercials that I still can't get over). The Rocka-fire Explosion makes me smile. It's in the past but, you know, every once in a while it's nice to remember.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I'm Arty and... Beaky?

Johnny Yen has seen fit to bestow upon me a second Arte y Pico Award. (The first time I was given this award, I picked Johnny's blog as one of my five, so it's nice to see him return the compliment; he's got a great blog.) So, I'll pass this thing on to five more blogs.

Again, the rules:

1. You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award through creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community, no matter of language.

2. Each award should have the name of the author with a link to their blog.

3. Award winners have to post the award with the name and link to the blog of the person who gave them the award (done at the end of Paragraph 1).

4. Please include a link to the “Arte Y Pico” blog so that everyone will know where the award came from.

5. Show these rules.

My five...

Distributorcap, who helps me make sense of an increasingly tyrannical government.

Splotchy, who has just ventured into filmmaking.

Peter Lynn, who doesn't do tags but who has one of my long-time favorite blogs.

Gilligan, with a blog of skiffy, robots, and cult movies.

and John, whose Matterings blog really matters if you like, you know, good writing and fantastic images.

The Worst Movies of the Last Decade

In honor of its tenth anniversary, Rotten Tomatoes has posted its list of the worst-reviewed movies of the last ten years. I went through it just to see what I thought, and I thought I'd mention some choices of my own and comment on the choices they made (since, sadly, I've seem most of the movies reviewed).

I think there's a couple of things to keep in mind (or that I kept in mind). First off, a lot of truly awful movies don't get screenings for the critics. They're just dumped on the unsuspecting populace. So this isn't the list of the worst movies, just the worst-reviewed. Second, all criticism is subjective and relative; movies work or don't work for an individual for myriad reasons. And third, critics love easy targets. Very often, critics will savage movies that are certainly lame but not in a harmful way; movies that are completely forgettable wastes of time. And I think a lot of this is by way of embarrassed apology for lavishing heavily flawed films like Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers, and The Dark Knight with, if not praise (or, in the case of Dark Knight, overpraise), then a sense of uncritical detachment. Somehow, it doesn't matter that Transformers is bad, something that millions of people are going to turn into a hit; it matters more that something like Alone in the Dark, which it seems you'd kind of know going in is going to suck, ends up turning out to be stupid. I don't really get critics but I don't see a lot of them doing what Roger Ebert does anymore: being honest about his opinions.


Worst-Reviewed: Jawbreaker
Runners-Up: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer; 54; A Night at the Roxbury

Was Jawbreaker just ahead of its time? I'm surprised to see that's the worst-reviewed movie of 1998, a year that yielded The Avengers. I thought it was a pretty decent movie, despite the lame ending. It's the same thing as Mean Girls, just not as well-written; now, we get something like four of these movies a year and everyone acts like this is a new genre. Lifetime's been doing it for years... So, Jawbreaker, not really that bad, and Rose McGowan's actually pretty good in it. It's got my beloved Judy Greer in it (and Pam Grier and P.J. Soles!).

As for the runners-up, they all suck, but 54 in particular sucks in a completely unmemorable way. I mean, I just saw 54 for the first time about two years ago and I barely remember anything other than Salma Hayek and Mike Meyers. It's harmlessly bad; the worst thing it will do is waste your time, but I can't see it sparking any real animosity. It's so passionless, what's the point of feeling passionately about it?

The other worst movies I've seen from 1998: Analyze This; The Avengers; Bulworth; Celebrity (a rare disappointment; I actually like Woody Allen so much that I almost never thoroughly despise one of his movies as much as I hated this piece of shit); Deep Impact; Deep Rising; 8mm; Enemy of the State; Ever After; Godzilla; Great Expectations; Holy Man; Jack Frost; Kissing a Fool; Meet Joe Black; Mercury Rising; Patch fucking Adams; Phantoms; Practical Magic; Six Days, Seven Nights; Star Trek: Insurrection; Stepmom

Worst-Reviewed: Chill Factor
Runners-Up: Eye of the Beholder; End of Days; The Mod Squad

I've never seen Chill Factor, but it looked heavily stupid; I sure hate Cuba Gooding Jr. I couldn't even make it through all of Eye of the Beholder, and End of Days is so bad that I'd even forgot I'd seen it until right now. Haven't seen The Mod Squad, and even though I like Claire Danes, she's just not the kind of actress you see a movie just because she's in it.

The other worst movies I've seen from 1999: American Beauty; Anna and the King; Arlington Road; Bicentennial Man; The Blair Witch Project; Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo; EdTV; Forces of Nature; Happy, Texas; The Haunting; In Dreams; The Matrix; Mumford; Pushing Tin; Ravenous; Stigmata; The Whole Nine Yards

Worst-Reviewed: Battlefield Earth
Runners-Up: Bless the Child; I Dreamed of Africa; Lost Souls

Well, yeah, Battlefield Earth is one of the worst movies ever made in the history of space and time. I sincerely hope that one day, in the future, after the human race is gone, alien archaeologists don't come to our planet and find a copy of Battlefield Earth among the ruins of our civilization. It's that embarrassing.

I think it's hilarious that there are two Kim Bassinger movies in the runners-up. Has she finally given up? And two of the movies there are more of that religious horror that I just think is so fucking stupid.

The other worst movies I've seen from 2000: Bounce; Chocolat; Drowning Mona; Finding Forrester; Hollow Man; It's the Rage; Meet the Parents; Mission: Impossible 2; Requiem for a Dream; U-571; What Lies Beneath; What Women Want

Worst-Reviewed: Corky Romano
Runners-Up: Glitter; Say It Isn't So; Summer Catch

I haven't seen Corky Romano, and I don't know who would. Kiss your career goodbye, Chris Kattan. I have seen the three runners-up, and they're pretty damn stupid, especially Say It Isn't So, which isn't even made less bad for me by the fact that my darling Heather Graham is in it. Glitter is, I think, kind of an obvious choice; it's bad, but it's not memorably awful.

The other worst movies I've seen from 2001: AI; Daddy and Them; Dawg; I am Sam; Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (the only movie I've actively tried to fall asleep during in the theater); Monster's Ball; Moulin Rouge! (the worst movie of this or any other year); Planet of the Apes; Riding in Cars with Boys; Rush Hour 2; Town and Country

Worst-Reviewed: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever
Runners-Up: The Master of Disguise; Rollerball; Serving Sara

I've never seen Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, but I couldn't ever believe it was as purely, offensively awful as the critics said. I mean, it looks pretty stupid, but is it just an easy target or something so bad you wish it would take human form so you could strangle it to death? I haven't seen The Master of Disguise ("turtle, turtle"), but I sure hope The Love Guru does for Mike Meyers's career what The Master of Disguise did for Dana Carvey's. I never saw Rollerball, either. Serving Sara is bad but, come on, it stars Matthew Perry. Even with Bruce Campbell in the movie, the terribleness of Perry can't be overcome.

The other worst movies I've seen from 2002: Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights; Chicago; The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course; Crossroads; Life or Something Like It; Minority Report; One Hour Photo; Queen of the Damned; The Ring; Simone; Spellbound; Sweet Home Alabama; The Sweetest Thing; Swept Away; The Time Machine; Two Weeks Notice; The Tuxedo; White Oleander

Worst-Reviewed: Gigli
Runners-Up: Darkness Falls; A Man Apart; Gods and Generals

I saw Gigli on cable; I know, I know, but even after everything, I still like Jennifer Lopez. I don't know, I didn't think it was the offense to humanity most critics seemed to paint it as. I think people were really just tired of Bennifer and decided enough was enough, for which I can hardly blame them. The movie itself isn't one of the worst movies ever made, it's just not good at all. Not even close. But worth getting upset over? Meh.

I've never seen the runners-up. I can't really even remember what Darkness Falls is.

The other worst movies I've seen from 2003: Anger Management; Bringing Down the House; Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle; Cold Mountain; Duplex; Elephant; Gothika; Honey; How to Deal; How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days; The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; The Matrix Reloaded; The Matrix Revolutions; My Boss's Daughter; Something's Gotta Give; SWAT; Tarnation; Timeline; View from the Top

Worst-Reviewed: Twisted
Runners-Up: Godsend; Christmas with the Kranks; The Whole Ten Yards

I've never even seen Twisted, which is weird considering I love Philip Kaufman and Ashley Judd. In fact, I think since this movie came out, I haven't seen a single movie with Ashley Judd in it. I wonder what happened? I've never seen the runners-up, either, though they all sound perfectly believable.

The other worst movies I've seen from 2004: The Alamo; Alexander; Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera; Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason; The Butterfly Effect; Chasing Liberty; Collateral; The Door in the Floor; First Daughter; Garden State; I, Robot; Junebug; King Arthur; A Love Song for Bobby Long; Man on Fire; MirrorMask; National Treasure; Night Watch; Paparazzi; The Polar Express; Raising Helen; Shark Tale; The Stepford Wives; Surviving Christmas; Taking Lives; Taxi; Trauma; Troy; Van Helsing; We Don't Live Here Anymore; Wimbledon

Gee, maybe I'm not so unhappy I don't go to the movies more often these days...

Worst-Reviewed: Alone in the Dark
Runners-Up: The Perfect Man; White Noise; Yours, Mine & Ours

I've not seen Alone in the Dark and I don't bloody plan to (although, as I've said, I don't think Uwe Boll is this great evil so much as a guy who makes movies that aren't worth seeing). It is the movie that finally stopped me from seeing every movie that came out with Tara Reid in it. I don't know why, I just can't bring myself to not like her. I haven't seen White Noise (it's another kind of supernatural horror I think is lame), but The Perfect Man (which I think killed poor Hilary Duff's career, although if she ends up in more interesting movies that could be a good thing) is awful. Yours, Mine & Ours is harmless and forgettable.

The other worst movies I've seen from 2005: The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl; Bewitched; Blade: Trinity; Crash; The Exorcism of Emily Rose; The Family Stone; Fantastic Four; Flightplan; Hitch; Just Friends; Just Like Heaven; Kingdom of Heaven; The Legend of Zorro; Madagascar; Mr. & Mrs. Smith; The Pacifier; Prime; Stealth; War of the Worlds; Wolf Creek

Worst-Reviewed: Basic Instinct 2
Runners-Up: All the King's Men; The Covenant; Deck the Halls

Basic Instinct 2 sucks, but again, it's not the kind of movie that inspires animosity so much as eye-rolling and amnesia of the experience of seeing it. Nice try, Sharon, but you were at the very least 12 years too late. All the King's Men looked pretty bad, so I skipped that one; I actually caught the opening credits of The Covenant yesterday--left the TV on a cable channel too long--and it looked pretty laughable. Deck the Halls, what little I've seen of it, looks like the kind of movie that makes you want to burn someone's house down.

The other worst movies I've seen from 2006: Babel; The Break-Up; The Da Vinci Code; Eragon; Grandma's Boy; Hard Candy; Lady in the Water; Last Holiday; Little Children; The Nativity Story; Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest; Silent Hill; United 93; The Wicker Man; You, Me, and Dupree

Worst-Reviewed: Because I Said So
Runners-Up: The Number 23; Good Luck Chuck; Premonition

Because I Said So is a truly bad movie. Hey, you know what I've noticed? There are way too many Mandy Moore movies on this list. Why? Because I like her and I keep seeing her movies. But, shit, what's the good one? I don't think I've seen a movie of hers that I'd rate above two and a half stars, and yet I keep seeing all of them. Fuck.

I've never seen the runners-up, but I did catch a scene from Premonition on cable yesterday, too, just flipping around. I can't accept a movie where someone actually runs around trying to stop Julian McMahon from dying in an accident. Shit, Julian McMahon, is that the best calibre of co-star Sandra Bullock can get now? (Or as Becca calls her, Sandra Bullcrap.)

The other worst movies I've seen from 2007: Atonement; Becoming Jane; Elizabeth: The Golden Age; Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer; The Golden Compass; I Know Who Killed Me; License to Wed; The Nanny Diaries; Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End; Shrek the Third; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Viral Marketing Lameness

If How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is anywhere near as completely unfunny as this fake trailer for the movie within the movie, then this will be the second Simon Pegg movie I skip this year. Get it together, boy!

[Trailer via Cinematical.]

There's just no joke. Apparently the hasty "rated NC-17" at the end of the movie is supposed to be hilarious, but it isn't. And have you seen the posters for the movie itself? Ouch. More and more suck.

Watchmen Posters

Other than a few moments in the trailer, this is the first thing I've seen for the movie that looks pretty decent: the inevitable character posters. Character posters really need to go away; for a movie like this, I get it, but the whole trend has just gotten out of hand. Anyway, I can't decide if these posters are really good, or if I'm just used to how badly miscast I think the movie is. But here they are. The quote on the Rorshach poster is especially good.

[Via Cinematical]