Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tom Delay Indicted

YAY!: Freakin A!

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Wit and Wisdom of Roger Ebert

I've always loved Roger Ebert the movie critic since the day I found him and Siskel on PBS on a backwater show buried in the schedule directly after my favorite show at the time about Canadian Animation. (Winner: Most tortured grammar in one sentence for the week.)

Lately, though, he really seems to be coming into a new era of excellence. I think the interaction with everyday folks provided by the web and the political atmosphere in which we find ourselves (all of the paranoia but none of the intellect of the Nixon years!), plus maybe his bout with cancer, have made him one of those priceless elders chock full of wisdom and fun.

For instance, check out this recent exchange on his "Answer Man" column:

Andrew Zimmer, Los Angeles: Q. Recently you have come under fire from readers who don't get the humor in your columns, as in your "Dukes of Hazzard" and "The Aristocrats" reviews. The print media is the absolute hardest place to be witty. A little piece of me dies every time one of your witticisms is mistaken for a sincere attack.

Ebert: A. I hope it is a very small piece. A depressing number of people seem to process everything literally. They are to wit as a blind man is to a forest, able to find every tree, but each one coming as a surprise.


HA!

I'm dealing with an especially egregious example of one of these obtuse literal-minded people these days, and this describes them to a "T". Now, each time I deal with them, I'm going to be hearing in my head the sound of someone thwacking into a tree.

THUNK!
ow.

BONK!
ow.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Introducing: The Opinionated Homeschooler

Constant readers may recall the guest postings on the new Pope by Sharon, which I enjoyed very much. As I have also had the pleasure of reading many a cogent and entertaining missive from Sharon on many discussion groups, I knew she would be an awesome blogger, and so suggested she consider it. She did, and as usual had a great idea in addition to just blogging for the sake of it (comme moi): She would use it as a dual-purpose lesson discussion forum for her circle of home schoolers, focusing on Roman Catholic information.

Since that's the theme, I wanted to be able to properly introduce it, and so asked what kind of Catholic she was. See, all religions have many types (denominations/sects) within them who consider themselves part of the larger group (and who almost always think of the other types in their groups as misguided members, or not even members at all).

Frinstance, I consider myself a mainstream* Protestant, mostly of a Lutheran/Presbyterian bent. By "mainstream" I mean primarily "not fundamentalist", but someone who believes that the Gospels contain the true and literal story of Jesus Christ (with some leeway allowed for the typical amount of disparities found between the stories of eyewitnesses). By "but," (in the last sentence) rather than "and", I mean that many fundamentalists try to paint the Christian world as "us and them" - them often being other Christians - and they try to float the lie that if you don't believe their version of the faith, you don't believe at all, and therefore aren't Christian. Now, there are groups who call themselves Christian, but then qualify it by saying Jesus was just a great teacher, and not really God in the flesh and so on. And there are other groups who call themselves Christian, but really follow a charismatic leader that said only THEY have the true understanding of Christ and everyone before has gotten it wrong (including, presumably, the Apostles). These last two groups aren't really considered Christians by the rest of us Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox. See, you've gotta believe that Jesus was what he claimed he was to really consider yourself part of the body.

Anyway, Sharon considered the question, and said in a nutshell that she was just Catholic.

That works for me, so, here it is: The "just Catholic, thanks" Opinionated Homeschooler.

Do enjoy!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Intractable Problem

When I have a meal in a restaurant, I will usually order a diet cola, because I don't care which kind they have, but mostly because there's nothing I can do about it since most places only have one kind of diet pop (or "soda" if you hail from the south), and that's cola.

Invariably I get either the question, "Is diet Pepsi OK?" or "Is diet Coke OK?" depending on what they have.

And they only have one because the two big soft drink companies force anyone who signs up with them to not sign up with the other guys. I'm sure they think this is clever, and it does have the result that if you have no choice, you will choose them.

The point of my saying "diet cola" is to head off that particular additional inquiry, because if I said instead, "I'd like a diet Pepsi" half the time I'll get the response "We only have diet Coke, it that OK?"

I realize I will have this problem for the rest of my life, small though it is. Because a couple times I've even said, "I'll have a diet Coke or diet Pepsi, whichever you have" and still get "Is diet Coke OK?" Crikey.

In the name of full disclosure, I must say that I did once encounter the reason all seasoned waiters and waitresses ask this redundant (to me) question: My mother. Once we were ordering, and she ordered a Coke. The waitress said they only had Pepsi and (say it with me) was that OK? My mom wrinkled up her nose as though the waitress had suggested floating a turd in her refreshment, as a garnish say, and said, "No thanks. I'll just have tea," quite put out. It was a moment of epiphany for me, and when the waitress left, I pounced on my mom, "YOU'RE the one who has caused the endless recitation of redundant questions! YOU!"

At which point my mother played the "I brought you into this world so shut the hell up" card.

But still, I'd love to discover the correct, precise phrasing that would indicate the intention of my order, so we don't always have to do the "which corporate giant are you the slave of" dance.

Anyone got a suggestion?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Saw:

Layer Cake
Started with enough panache to be interesting, but then devolves into pretty standard gangster fare. The head gangster discovers that it's pretty much turtles all the way up.

Perhaps I'm just of the wrong generation in that I don't consider thugs either romantic or worthy of my empathy. I wanna see these bastards get it good.
But then maybe that's the point. Perhaps the story device of gangsters is used so we purposely don't care all that much about them, and when tragedy visits, it's more of a punchline than a sad moment. The third "Alien" film did this by setting it in a prison for that houses the most extremely violent criminals there are; you could care less when the alien munched them, unlike the previous films where you really really didn't want anyone to get hurt.

Still, didn't think Layer Cake was all that.


Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead
Another gangster film. Group of baddies goofs up what should be an easy job: Intimidate new fiancee of Christopher Walken's pedophile son's ex-fiancee so she'll take the freak back. Walken is wonderful as usual. Andy Garcia is not used enough.

But it's just two hours of thugs doing bad things and then dying, tra la. Who cares?

Well, I chuckled at how Walken managed to deliver the line "Next thing ya know you're chugging cock" in his unique way and still make it a believable thing that would pop out of his character's mouth, so to speak.

It occurred to me that my Dream Movie Pairing would be Walken and William Shatner. Wouldn't it be ... great ... to see the ... two premiere significant ... pausers ... chewing the ... scenery ... together ... ?


Kung Fu Hustle
I can see this had a very specific target audience, of which I'm not a member. I just don't like swat-fu for swat-fu's sake. And while I'm usually a fan of broad humor, I just don't enjoy the cliches of swat-fu films enough to enjoy the lambasting they receive in this film.

Besides, this was done first and much better in John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China, a much richer, funnier film. (And it wouldn't be fair to not also mention the Cato sequences in the "Pink Panther" films.)


Holy Smoke
Saw this mostly because Kate Winslet's on my "if she's in it, I'll see it" list. Also, so far I've deeply deeply loathed all of Jane Campion's films, and when I hate a director that much, it's almost like loving them. I worry at it like it's an infected sore. I keep hoping that I'll find the way into their world, or finally grasp something I must be missing.

I've concluded that Campion simply has a completely different perspective on the world than I do. We just don't have enough tropes in common that would allow me to enjoy her films. I'm tempted to say that her worldview is adulterated and fetid, but stop short because my lack of understanding of her is so complete I don't know if I'm capable of fair judgment.

I did like the way this one began. It pulled me in right away - which is a first for a Campion film for me. But I can pinpoint the exact moment it takes the turn that lost me.

Harvey Keitel plays the best cult deprogrammer in the world who's trying to pull Winslet back from the clutches of a Hindu David Koresh. They are in a remote house in the Australian desert so he can work on her. At the point he's supposedly "broken" her, he awakens the sight of all of her religious saris ablaze outside, and when he goes to investigate, she approaches him entirely nude (it was almost worth sitting through the film just for that) and crying. Since she's been "broken", she makes a pass at him, which he initially rebuffs (as he should). But as he's walking away, she inexplicably pees all over herself while pursuing him, and his reaction is to cave to her seduction(?), and in the next scene they're screwing, and she's saying, "Don't cum! Don't cum!" while he's obviously in the midst of that very spasm. From there it gets abusive like The Piano did, and Harvey winds up in a red dress ... and I couldn't really tell you what the point of the rest of the movie is.


Paparazzi
A fun, light snack from Mel Gibson, supposedly loosely based on paparazzi incidents he'd endured ("loosely" because he was not forced by the paparazzi into a terrible car accident with his family in real life; though he may have used Princess Diana's death as inspiration). Fun little popcorn thriller. The wife and I enjoyed it.


Sin City
Didn't really like it. The visuals were great, but the story was, well, juvenile. Odd, given that Frank Miller, the creator and writer, is in his late 40s.

Anyway, the one shockeroo was when Carla Gugino, who plays the mom in the Spy Kids movies, pops up topless with a gun. It took a while for me to realize who it was.

It was akin to slowly recognizing a girl from a forgotten one-night stand in the grocery store years later. First you think you should know this person, and the mind chugs away at identification, then it dawns on you who it is, and then the whole shock of "I saw you naked!" bitch-slaps you pink in the face. Since I primarily know and love Carla Gugino as Mom from those other films (though, granted, as a MILF of the first order), it was akin to seeing Mary Poppins' tits in Blake Edwards' S.O.B.. It just feels .... wrong.


The Upside of Anger
I saved the best for last. This is one of those sweet little sleeper film surprises. Heck, Kevin Costner even actually bothers to bring some acting to this one. (Though he's playing a variant of the zen/stoner jock he's done a few times.)

Joan Allen is the star (in a departure from the standard Hollywood formula where the woman is primarily "the girlfriend" - here, Costner is "the boyfriend" since the story is primarily the woman's) whose husband has apparently left her for his younger secretary. Very inconveniently, at the same time her four daughters are all coming of age and leaving the nest for jobs and men she doesn't approve of. Her life is falling apart.

Costner's life fell apart a long time ago, and he's just learned to cope with it, so he kinda tags along after her, being a convenient fuck-buddy and accidentally dispensing occasional wisdom.

My lovely wife and I laughed and sniffled and had a grand ole time during this gem. Do check it out. (If you're over 30, that is - I doubt young turks would enjoy or even understand what goes on).