Friday, April 30, 2004

Chuck Palahniuk
Survivor (the novel)

Ok, now that I've read 3 of Chuck's novels, I think I can comment fairly.

I think he's a great writer. He's nailed a specific, gripping style. He knows how to construct vivid sentences and stories. His characters - the main characters at least - are usually compelling and realistic. And he's one of the few American writers who seems to know how to do magic realism. (Well, I could argue that Stephen King does, too, but then I'd have to argue with lit. snobs, and that's definitely under the "Life's Too Short" category.) Yeah, Chuck's good, but...

Yes, it's time for the big but.

All of his stories are a downward spiral. Every one I've read begins right at the moment, well ... let me put it this way, there was this way popular one-panel comic that was printed endlessly for years on posters, t-shirts, and greeting cards that showed a sad, hapless schmuck half submerged in a toilet, grasping the flusher, saying, "Goodbye Cruel World." Chuck's characters are variations on that joke, with the tragedy cranked way up and the humor retained in a fetid sort of way. We get to watch them head for the sewer. The soundtrack to each and every one could be The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails. And judging from the synopses of his other novels on, they are variations on this theme.

Another way of thinking about it is: he's kinda like the literary version of Lou Reed, cranking out that particular brand of same ol' tune for his devoted following. Too bad for you if you don't dig that tune, though. And I do like some one-note authors because I like the note they play. (Paging Anne Rice!) But, I don't like "you wake up as a giant cockroach in Prague, and die of mortal wound caused by a rotting apple wedged in your back" plotlines. Many lit. major types just can't get enough of that cha-cha, however, so I'm sure Chuck's success is assured. Myself, I prefer my tragedy to be more along the lines of Lear howling at the winds than Gregor expiring in a doorway. Nonetheless, I'll probably give any new ones Chuck writes a try, just to see if he can do anything else. Flaubert would approve of his style, at least, and sometimes that's enough.

Another problem I have with Chuck's literary obsessions is they're kinda like rap music. If you're young, comfortable, affluent, and pissed at the world for no discernable reason, you can enjoy a dark tale of misery and anger because you yourself are safe and the world hasn't slapped you around much, yet. Misery is somehow romantic for a subset of the comfortably numb neophytes. However, if you've experienced real pain and tragedy, you know that the kind of suffering depicted in Chuck's books (and most rap) is ersatz pain. Real pain and loss have a different quality altogether, which is hard to quantify. However, you know the real thing when you see it. Despite its legion of faults, The Deep End of the Ocean does a good job at depicting real anguish, though I don't recommend the book. John Irving also knows how to write about honest pain.

*** WARNING: Spoiler-laden Plot Summary ***

The story of Survivor is the final survivor of a quasi-Christian death cult (think Jim Jones by way of the Amish) who is turned into a new age messiah by an enterprising agent, and with the aid of his reluctant girlfriend who just happens to have the family gift of being able to foresee tragic events, thereby giving him plausibility because he can prognosticate. Our hero ends up being alone on a jet airliner cruising along on autopilot waiting for it to run out of fuel and crash because his reluctant girlfriend told him the only way he could survive is if he survives the crash somehow. The page numbers of the book count backward to the end, to give you a hint as to how it turns out.

*** End of Spoilers ***

I didn't really enjoy the book. Show us something else, Chuck. I know you can.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Precious Science Dollars Being Put to Good Use

Now this is cool:

The recordings on old records are now being saved through "a light sensor, originally designed to track the paths of subatomic particles such as bosons, to capture images of the record's groove" which are then persevered as a digital recording. From there they can remove all artifacts like pops and scratches and get a clean recording. That, like, rocks, man.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Thanks, Roger

Ladies and Gentlemen:
Mr. Roger Ebert
Lost in La Mancha

The most interesting thing to come out of this documentary is that there does seem to be a curse on filming "Don Quixote." The nature of that curse, whether such a thing exists or not, or if it's just bizarre coincidence, doesn't really matter. Several who have tried to film the story, including Orson Welles, have had the most amazing bad luck. The bad luck that Terry Gilliam had was nearly Biblical: His hero struck down, hail and floods, drastic color and flora changes on the outdoor locations, all within the first few days of shooting.

I kinda enjoyed the flick - it was a little flat, even for a documentary, and the first 7 chapters (on the DVD) were pure filler. You can jump to the 8th chapter, not miss a thing, and see where all the havoc begins. If you dig watching what happens in pre-production of a movie, or have never seen what goes on, watch from the start. Otherwise, 8 it up.

It's too bad that the movie didn't get made. It looks like it would have been a fantastic movie. My only beef is they replaced Poncho with "Gordon" or something like that, a modern TV commercial actor somehow transported back in time to become Quixote's sidekick (played by Johnny Depp). Therefore, he drops f-bombs everywhere, and something like Don Quixote would be better served if this were somehow a "G" or "PG" version. Modern foul slang language can be hilarious in the right setting, and an epic historical farce is not that setting, imnsho.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Google Games

Much of my day, at home and at work, consists of sitting in front of a computer, staring at the monitor, trying to think of how to phrase or explain something. This is not a complaint, because this is exactly where I want to be. Yet, that does not make this "dark tea-time of the soul" (to outright steal the late, great Douglas Adams' title/phrase) any easier. (This way old article covers that little traipse through hell better than I ever could.)

The best book I have ever read about how the brain (probably) forms memories and thoughts, Mechanism of Mind by Edward de Bono, posits that one way to become unstuck in a dead-end thought is to introduce random stimulation, which will have the effect of picking up the needle from the groove, placing it elsewhere, and getting you past the "skip" in your head. (For those pups in the audience who have never heard a vinyl record play, sometimes the sound groove would get crud or a scratch in it, causing the needle to skip and play the same groove over and over again.) You needn't worry that your thoughts won't continue down the path you want by "moving the needle" because we typically have a direction in mind, and you're just forcing a new leaping-off point.

I've found that Google's image search is a great tool in creating this random stimulus to get yourself unstuck. You simply put in a word or phrase - a phrase is better because it creates more variables - and hit enter. Page through the images, and you'll likely see something that jars a memory, or creates a new thought, and voilà, you're off and running again. If you have trouble thinking of a phrase, just cut and paste one from whatever you're working on. For instance, cutting and pasting "whatever you're working on" got this funky result. Further, much like Mind Mapping, it provides a seemingly random stimuli or thought that's usually related to what you're thinking about. Cool, eh?

Once you've gotten your work done, I have another Google game for you to play. I call it "Bowling for Pink." I came up with it while doing the above, trying to get the mental attic door to pop open. I noticed that if you have Google's "SafeSearch" off, words and phrases that shouldn't (logically) pull up pictures of nekkid people and/or their pink parts often do. So, the object of the game is this: put in a word or phrase that shouldn't result in pinkness, and wager how many result pages you'll have to view before pink shows up. You could turn this into a drinking game for parties, too. Now, women's names and any synonym for "female" (and even the word "male") almost always result in a pretty quick pink hit, so you may want to have that as a rule for your party games. Or, modify it, see which women's names result in the quickest and highest (on the page) pink hit. If several names result in No. 1 - the first image on the first return page - then the most pink pics on the page would then win (or lose, if you're doing the drinking game thing). And there you have it! Surf and drink responsibly. Or sleep on your stomach, at least, if you don't.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Something's Gotta Give

Yeah, something should. And in the case of this movie, it's the commentary track by the director and Jack Nicholson.

The movie itself is a sweet, somewhat average comedy. You'd think with Nicholson, Frances McDormand, Diane Keaton, and Reeves (I think Keanu has his gifts, and the ability to do comedy is one of them), in that order, that this would be a can't-miss comedy spectacular. But, no, it's just a nice, middle of the road voyage. Some smiles and a couple chuckles and warm fuzzies. Nothing wrong with that.

I was charmed by the December-December romance, though. Grown-ups have all that complexity and baggage that makes the tortured mincing towards intimacy fun to watch. So, I guess I can throw that in as a bonus, making this a better than average movie.

Oh, and, Keaton's Oscar nomination was deserved.

**** Spoiler ****

There is a scene near the end when Keaton and Nicholson have run into each other in a restaurant after they've broken up but before they realize, well you know, and he chases her outside to make a half-hearted attempt at consoling her. Her reaction - the acting, mind you - was one of those jaw-dropping, goosebump moments when an actor has hit the mark so perfectly, rendered a fictional moment so vividly, that it feels entirely real, and it imprints on your memory permanently. Wow, Diane. Outtathepark, babe.

**** End Spoiler ****

For those of us who also want to see what Toto has for us behind the curtain, the real highlight of the DVD is the commentary track, as I've mentioned. Nicholson is a very very bizarre mix of humility and utter confidence. I bet he's a handful around the house. But, besides that freak show, he explains, in detail, why he does some things in a scene, what his philosophy on movement and movies is, and why he did a pratfall here, a butt-take there. Having one of our true great movie stars explain his execution of his craft is fascinating. The only other commentary tracks that have been as gripping are Ron Howard's on Apollo 13, which is a mini film school, and Kurt Russell's and John Carpenter's on John Carpenter's The Thing, which is just plain fun. (Oh, and it's not on the commentary track, but the "Ten-Minute Film School" offered as a featurette on each of the 2nd and 3rd Spy Kids movies, by director extraordinaire Robert Rodriguez, are worth the rental price alone. Or if you know someone who has kids, just borrow them.)

Yahmdallah Bob says check it out. Two breasts. Rock-fu. Gratuitous fridge-door gag. Honorable mention for Keanu playing a Doctor, and almost making us believe it while clearly being intimidated by Jack.
Dr. Strangeglove


How I Started Worrying and Learned to Hate Today's Mass Media

Being a guy over 40, my yearly check-up now includes the added humiliation of a prostate exam. For those of you who don't know what that means, it's essentially the doctor putting on a rubber glove gaining access to it by your "exit only" port. If the doctor has small fingers, like most women doctors, it's worse because there's some ramming involved in achieving the goal. Once the trauma is over, I have the same thought year after year: I simply do not understand those who voluntarily do that sort of thing for fun.

Now, I know that some hetero couples indulge in that activity, or so I've heard. (My wife is as baffled as I, in that regard.) But gay men have don't have a lot of choice on the issue, more or less. (Yes, this is where I'm going with this, so surf away now if you're appalled, because it just keeps happening.) There are a lot of behaviors I simply don't understand, but this one would have to be near the top of my list. That doesn't mean I condemn it though. My stance is pretty much whatever consenting adults want to do with/to each other is pretty much their business, as long as no one is harmed in a way they didn't want to be. Still, that doesn't mean I understand it. BDSM, bloodletting, etc., ick, etc., go beyond anything I care to truly comprehend. Simply knowing that it exists, and that it's not for me, is enough.

I could say the exact same thing about Brussels Sprouts. I hate those squishy, heinous little bastards. Why anyone would want to purposely eat, and be able to somehow enjoy something that looks like a miniature cabbage, has all the bad-tasting elements of cabbage (bitter, cloying) but none of the good (buttery, hearty), topped off by a seemingly rotten, yellow center that kind of oozes - or worse, squirts - onto the tongue, just defies any conception of enjoyment I could conjure. Yet, I've seen people put them right into their mouths! Without hesitation! And not gag! Go fig.

So, some of the things that other adults do for jollies confound me, too. But who cares, really? Live and let live.

Where it gets weird for me, though, is how it's all become so politically explosive. Yes and of course, no one should be subjected to violence or discrimination because of their sexuality. That's such a "well, duh" and a given, I shouldn't even have to have typed these two sentences, but there you have it. Beyond that, however, I continue to feel like a stranger in a strange land. To me, sexuality is automatically about adult behavior, and therefore should be treated and discussed as such. Thus, when kids are subjected to the concepts, the discussions, the terminology, and the reality of it all, it pisses me off to no end. I don't want to have to explain whores (or ho's), or bondage, or nipple piercing, or homosexuality, or sex of any sort to a child. Childhood is for innocence in that regard; end of discussion. That's where I draw the line.

And that's the only place I draw the line. As far as marriage is concerned, let any consenting adult who wants to get married, get married. This is not going to degrade or mock marriage. Tune in to about any "Jerry Springer" show if you want to see marriage truly defiled and mocked. This does mean, though, that if we are going to expand marriage beyond one man and one woman, we should just kick open the gates. Polygamy should be legal. Group marriages should be legal. And on and on. (I said that once in front of a divorce lawyer, and he nearly passed out in ecstasy contemplating the implications.) Marrying to another species, barring the discovery of sexually compatible sentient aliens, is right out, though. If your religion does not allow polygamy or gay marriage, as mine does not, that's fine. But don't expect the whole society to live by the tenants and restrictions of YOUR faith, or mine. And, let's not get all high and mighty on someone if their religion does not allow these things, and call them regressive or oppressive - that's just ignorant.

Nonetheless, let's keep it in the adult world. We have a clear demarcation in that regard for many things: alcohol, driving, voting, movies, language, serving in the military, marriage, and sex. And I, for one, want to keep that distinction, thank you very much.

You may ask, though, "Yahmdallah, what about a gay couple who adopts? How do you explain why Trish has two daddies?" Well, let me channel the late, great Bill Hicks to respond, "I don't have to, so you can stop your internal dialogue!" It doesn't matter what the sexual reality of any couple (or group of people) is who're raising a child. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, villages, communes, packs of wolves, single people, and regular ole hetero married couples have been raising kids for years without having to turn to little Billy and say, "Well, you know, Hal and Sally over there haven't done the horizontal bop in over five years, and are merely staying together for the sake of the kids and out of a combination of sheer fear and laziness when it comes to the possibility of having to date again, but understand that doesn't make them bad people." It just doesn't have to come up, dammit.

So when the credits of a kid's movie has to go and spell out that the two guys who own one of the dogs are his two "daddies," expect me to froth a little. It's just not necessary. When the commercial breaks during Cinderella keep pounding away that new episodes for "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" are starting next week, I'm gonna fire off an angry email to the network (where it will be ignored, responded to by a vapid auto-reply, and my email address will be sold to any comer for my effort). It's not necessary or appropriate to advertise that way. And the same goes for horrifying monsters, porn stars, gangsta rap, and puke, like I gassed on about in this post. Childhood should be about dolls, puppies, hotwheels, action figures, treehouses, stickers, bubble gum, and jungle gyms, Ok?

Simply put, let's be adults about it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004


Making Light

Holy Doodly Crap, Diddly

Sometimes my inner Ned Flanders gets yanked to the fore, as it did during the 4-9-04 show of "Entertainment Tonight," and I want to block out half the cable channels. (MTV and BET with the homeys and the ho's bling-blinging everywhere are already blocked. I'm eying Bravo with all the Queer Eyes, since it seems to be about 50% of their programming anymore.) We pretty much avoid the evening news as the spin these days is, well, absurd, and we are in another Vietnam (surprise!), so we don't need our 7-year-old seeing all the images and getting worried. She was old enough to remember 9-11, which still haunts her, so we don't want to further her concern over such things. Besides a broadcast news-fast is good for everyone; try it sometime.

We also typically avoid "Entertainment Tonight" because they are simply too interested in the sex lives of the stars, showing sex scenes in movies (with little ribbons of filmstrip covering the pink parts), obsessing over who's gay, graphically blowing stuff up, and splaying other stuff that we just don't want to explain right now. However, as we were flipping past, they had a teaser for Ella Enchanted, which my daughter wants badly to see, so we stuck with ET.

In that one show they had:

1. Previews for a new, scary movie with vampires and other monsters in it, which was essentially a quick montage of each monster baring its teeth, or something else that might give me, at 42, nightmares - let alone a 7 year old who had trouble getting through Monsters, Inc. the first time. Surf away! Surf back for Ella!

2. A montage of all the creepiest scenes from The Mummy movies with Brendan Fraiser. My wife and I love the first one, but again, the monsters are just a tad intense for kids. Why the hell were we seeing the scariest parts of the movie in prime time? Evidently there's a new ride based on the movie at an amusement park somewhere. Could they have shown the ride itself? No. We need pissed-off, rotting yellow-eyed mummies with fangs growling at the camera. Surf away! Surf back for Ella!

3. A segment on the new movie The Girl Next Door, which is about the wacky adventures of a young porn star, and the teenage boy next door who she torments. Even critics who don't usually delve into the morality level of the movies they review are calling this one a stinker in that regard; they say the movie sucks (ahem), too. But in this report, we get to hear the words "porn star" and "whore" and "hooker" a few times in quick succession before... Surf away! Surf back for Ella!

4. A segment on Sherry Stringfield on ER, who's now pregnant in real life, so they worked it into the show (and will probably eventually kill the fictional baby with a dread disease as a season cliff-hanger, given the general bent of that show anymore). What clip do they use to illustrate this miraculous event? The character Sherry plays walks behind the ER check-in desk, stops, vomits splashily all over the floor in clear view (next to an available garbage can), and then casually walks on whilst shocked onlookers look at her all shocked. Do teasers HAVE to have a puke-take? (We had just had dinner, too.) Surf away! Surf back for Ella!

5. The last freakin' segment of the show was just the pre-packaged teaser trailer for Ella Enchanted, which we've seen in regular ole interminable commercial blocks while waiting for ET to come back on and cross all reasonable boundaries yet again.

Needless to say, ET is now scratched off of our list, and if it weren't a major network, the channel would be blocked.

To reprise, in the 14 minutes of actual content that comprise an eppy of ET, we had two mindbending monsterfests with all the new verisimilitudinous scary hotness that digital movie making has to offer, a raft of vivid words about a young girl who sells herself for sex, and a huge regurge replete with gagging and splattering sound effects. Crikey. Makes a professional animal trainer holding his baby while dodging a crocodile seem wholesome.

Update: For the record, this is just the reason we (my family) are no longer watching ET, but this does not mean that I think the show should be taken off the air or even boycotted. I would hope that they would realize their timeslot and that kids are watching, but they clearly are not. So, as a parent, I have to make the difference.

Speaking of Cinderella

What iteration of this story are we on, now?

So far, I've counted:

- The Disney animated version
- The Disney live-action version with black actors in the roles (wait, I think the prince was Asian), starring divaette Brandy
- The 1965 TV version with Lesley Ann Warren, a fond memory for those who've seen it
- Drew Barrymore's version, Ever After, which is quite good, actually
- Ella Enchanted, the new one
- And last and least, Jerry Lewis' Cinderfella

What do you suppose is so alluring about this story that it's been done so many times, and the weird fact that it's been pretty good in all those incarnations?

Tell me, you script gurus! I think there's a nugget of wisdom, or at least a great secret here.

(And would a box set of these all together, except the Lewis one, sell, ya think? Provided you could work out the monstrous rights issues, of course.)

Friday, April 09, 2004

Top signs that your company is about to have layoffs.

They discontinue the free soda and juice.

They request a copy of everyone's resume to "update their files."

You get an email of any sort from the CEO or the President of the company (provided that person is not your immediate boss), particularly if it mentions how the company is doing. Positive messages about how the company is doing may be worse than cautious ones.

There is a sudden push for cross training, particularly when your company hasn't stressed it before.

Provided you are in the same building as upper management, you notice that ALL of them are gone for over two weeks on a "retreat," and it's not the week of Christmas or July 4th.

The company lowers their percentage of 401k contributions, or moves out the time it takes to vest. If they stop the 401k entirely, expect it within days.

You merge with another company (and don't assume you're safe if it was your company that bought another).

A large percentage of upper management leaves the company for "other opportunities."

There is a company-wide email about using printers and copiers for personal use. (They don't want to lose all that paper and toner on resumes and cover letters.)

You read about a big lawsuit against your company in the paper, particularly if that lawsuit is not mentioned via any internal communication.

Top signs that YOU are about to be laid off.

People cast pained looks at you during meetings, and you didn't even fart or anything.

Someone you don't know shows up and pretends to talk to you, but you notice they are really scoping out your cube/office.

You are suddenly not on mass emails you've always been on, or are no longer invited to meetings that you used to attend.

You notice any HR person noticing you. (Meaning, any glance at you that is more potent or significant than the kind of glance a farmer gives to his cows is bad.)

Hall conversations stop when you approach.

Someone inquires as to what kind of computer you have, and how powerful it is, how big the hard drive, etc. Especially if you have a laptop.

Your manager stops by and wants a written summary of everything you're working on.

People stop laughing at Office Space jokes.

The secretaries/executive assistants start treating you with more disdain than usual. Or, if they've always been very disdainful, they suddenly get very nice.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

I Wish I'd Never Even Met You

I imagine that invective has been hurled at as many people as have been told the lie, "I love you."

Back before Garth Brooks went insane trying to top the Beatle's sales records, he recorded this sweet, poignant little song called "The Dance" where the singer laments the ending of a love, observing that he could have missed the pain, but then he'd have had to miss the dance. Way before that, there was a movie about a guy who essentially regretted his entire life, and before he could rectify what he saw as a big mistake, an angel slamdanced his ass through what might have been had he not been there, leaving him sobbing with joy over Zuzu's petals (and I don't mean the band). I think every sitcom that made it past two seasons has done a very special episode along those lines, with the possible exception of "Seinfeld" as that would have been about something. My personal favorite was "I Dream of Jeanne's" treatment of it, because I like gazing upon Barbara Eden in a pink harem costume, primarily.

Suffice to say before I actually reach the molten core of the earth on the way to China, it's been done a few times.

And then along comes Charlie Kaufman with The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Now most of us know that there are only somewhere between 6 and 30something total plots in fiction ever, depending on whom you ask and which seminar you pay for. That's why when a one detects a unique voice warbling in the chorus, it's such a joy that it sends you out to the concession stand because you actually want some popcorn as a companion for the voyage rather than traipsing out there from sheer habit.

It seems as if our best modern screenwriters find their muse by pondering a simple question:

What if you could be someone else?
What if you have to adapt a book to a screenplay that's impossible to adapt?
What if you were dead and didn't know it?
What if you were a superhero and didn't know it?
What would an alien invasion really be like?
What if the most evil guy in the world was your dad? (Both Lucas and Coppola got traction off of that one.)
What if life really was just a virtual reality program?
What does Diane Keaton look like naked?

... and then spinning out the possibilities from there.

So far Charlie Kaufman proves to be the master at this game. Granted, Shyamalan is good, but Kaufman's just a freak.

(Quasi-Spoilers ahead. If you've seen a preview, you probably know this stuff, but you may not know it to the detail presented here.)

The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a phenomenal movie. Two lovers who hit a waterloo in their relationship decide to have their memories of the other erased, one as a lark, the other in retribution. But, the latter changes his mind after he's committed to the process, so we watch in agony as he tries to hold on to his memories as they evaporate. We end up in flashback hell (in the literal and not the pejorative sense) where the flashbacks go out of focus and blip out while we are in them, as the guy actively tries to fight the process. The timeline confusion conundrums in this movie are worse than trying to figure out exactly when Sting disappeared, yoga-like, into his own anus - or how many times he's done it - which infinite digression he's on. (Btw, Trudy, aka Mrs. Sting, let it out recently that she and Sting swing, prompting me to have a nightmare about a gruesome tantric threesome with them from which I awoke screaming, "You can't touch this!" to which my wife groggily inquired, "Why are you dreaming about M.C. Hammer?") However, through a miracle of vivid storytelling, Kaufman has made the convoluted time-shifting comprehensible.

Kate "Queen of the World" Winslet reported on the "Actor's Studio" that she had to read the script several times before she could follow it on the page, so was all the more amazed when it was easy to follow on screen. She said sometimes a single line she had to speak would cross over three time boundaries. It's exhilarating to watch. So is she, btw. What a babe.

Jim Carrey proves again what everyone who's been paying attention knows: He can act, mang. Maybe he's finally broken that barrier that Robin Williams and Billy Crystal did, and will now be considered for more serious projects. Yes, Jim, I think the mask is finally off.

This is the first movie this year that's wafted me out of the theater all whacked on happy sauce (that's "endorphins" to you, Mr. Smartypants Science Geek). But, I might need to disqualify myself to an extent on any professional detachment about ESOTSM, as this is precisely the kind of story I'm going to love regardless: A Love Story disguised as Science Fiction. (In the same way that Michael Blowhard likes anything with naked ingenues slinking around speaking French, or the way Andrea likes anything with hobbits, or the way Steven likes anything with Japanese cartoon chicks with big ... eyes, or the way James likes anything with dames, fedoras, a two-pack habit, and a laconic voice-over. You get the point, methinks.) In the list of movies I love and watch about once a year are Starman, Altered States, and Brainstorm all of which are love stories covered with a shiny sci-fi plastic coating. Eternal Sunshine is firmly in that tradition.

As we know, sci-fi is really just a vehicle for isolating an element or theme (that may or may not be preposterous) in a way you couldn't if you used a more realistic frame. Love stories, Revenge stories, bad vs. evil, and so on can be made fresh and new, or dealt with in a startling way, simply by telling it through sci-fi.

Maybe you could make a tender love story about an estranged married couple finding love again by somehow realizing that they still love each other, but how cool is it to have this happen by these people playing actual recordings of their emotions for each other, literally proving what we just have to take on faith here in the real world. Or, as in Eternal Sunshine, exploring not only the loss of a love, but the loss of the beautiful memories of it? Nicholas Sparks attempts this trick "realistically" in his novel The Notebook, but unless you've got a strong stomach for raw sentiment, and somebody touching your heart without your permission, it's easier to take in the form of Eternal Sunshine.

Five stars baby, out of four.

Bonus! Answers to the above questions, in case you were wondering:

What if you could be someone else? - Being John Malkovich
What if you have to adapt a book to a screenplay that's impossible to adapt? - Adaptation and anything by John Irving
What if you were dead and didn't know it? - The Sixth Sense
What if you were a superhero and didn't know it? - Unbreakable
What would an alien invasion really be like? - Signs
What if the most evil guy in the world was your dad? (Both Lucas and Coppola got traction off of that one.) - Star Wars, The Godfather, Angelheart, Hellboy, Little Nicky, and My Father, the Wingnut - The Collected Stories of the Bush, Cheney, and DeLay Daughters (not yet in production)
What if life really was just a virtual reality program? - The Matrix and Vanilla Sky
What does Diane Keaton look like naked? - Something's Gotta Give and Looking for Mr. Goodbar
Lost in Translation

I don't really want to regurgitate what's been said about this movie, because it's all true. Particularly the fact that Sophia Coppola is a master of tone; now if she could only come up with a decent story.

So, with that dispensed with, let me say this:

Did anyone else notice how much this movie looked and felt like Bladerunner, or is it just me? I half expected to see Deckard bashing through the background of one of the scenes, taking out a replicant. Could it be that Ridley Scott really set it in modern day Tokyo and not future L.A.?

Friday, April 02, 2004

Trilogy of Terror

From the "Be afraid, be very afraid" files, come just three artifacts out of the many possible these days. I post them here because all three caused my jaw to swing whilst reading them.

The fact that voting fraud is so easy to commit, intentionally by design seemingly, on the e-voting systems offered so far, and that bitter, wingnut partisans are responsible for the creation and proliferation of most of these systems, and that we've seen how far they will go to steal an election, should just give everyone - even wingnut partisans - the fantods. Check this out, mang (and it's worth it to make it through the whole thing, even though it's long):

E voting nightmare

And in other "This is America, damnit!" bad news, one of the boils on the behind of Uncle Sam has now put out a book that just goes ahead and calls all liberals evil. Look, I don't think wingnuts are evil (just a couple of them are, *cough* Rove *cough* and *belch* Scaife *koff*), I just disagree with the direction they want to drag America. It really is going too far to call liberals (or conservatives) honestly evil. I often use the phrase "evil wingnuts," but I'm using it in the same sense as "evil calories" or "evil sitcoms" or something like that. Hannity is serious when he calls liberals evil. Crikey.

Deliver Us from Evil : Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism
by Sean Hannity
(Apparently the prequel to "It Can't Happen Here.") Deface a copy today!

Finally, is it just a coincidence that we have the Terminator himself in a prominent political office, and that flying killer robots in those movies are no longer just a wet dream of the Pentagon?

Killer Drones

I mean really. If we launch this plane that can just go hunting to kill people by itself, how many innocent people are going to suddenly be gunned down or vaporized by these things? It's like something out of a goth cartoon series. And according to the article, these things are supposed to be stacked to the rafters with bombs. I imagine these things aren't all that hard to knock out of the sky, and if someone does, won't they get a wonderful present of scads of bombs to use? Thank God one of the pilots of the current drones we use (just for spying) has said this is a very bad idea. I'm sure none of us want a future where, if we hear airplane engines, we not only fear them crashing into a building, but we anticipate it strafing us beforehand.

Voting fraud and wingnuts and drones, oh my!

I'm not sure if I've pointed this out before, so if I have, I'm doing it again; if not, it's time I did.

This is a sentimental article about a family of foxes that live in a graveyard. If you don't want to read the whole thing, at least skip down to the part about what the mother did with one of her kits who died. I keep running across this thing when I update my vanity site, and it gets me every time.

Wild in the City