Thursday, December 28, 2006

Morph the Cat

I've been meaning to post about Donald Fagen's recent offering, Morph the Cat.

When I first spun it up, I liked it, but wasn't blown away. Yet "Morph" proved to be one of the albums that "snuck up on me." I kept humming the tunes. I kept putting it back on the player. Finally, I played it twice in a row, which means I really, really like it, Sally.

I think it's one of the best things he's done since Steely Dan closed up shop for awhile in the early 80s after Gaucho. I've dug the occasional tune, like "Cousin Dupree," and of course The Nightfly was all-around good. I just think this is better.

Terry Teachout has mentioned it a few times as a great album, so I'm basically seconding his (e)motion.

Now, if you decide to get it, let me implore you to get the version I linked to above that includes a DVD version of the album in addition to the CD. This is a new and very welcome trend. The Beatles have done it with their recent Love mash-up. I think this is gonna be the way the industry goes, rather than DualDiscs, which don't fit in those slot-loading players.

I recommend that every time you are going to buy an album, see if they have the DVD combo. The sound is nothing short of stunning. If you've not treated yourself to one of these discs, you should.

Tres Cool

ice men by Nele azavedo
ice men by Nele azavedo,
originally uploaded by Lemoox.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Yeah, like that.

So I vault into the holiday season with a new Stephen King tucked under my arm, repeatedly vandalized Christmas reindeer display repaired yet again, happy kids in tow, up to the mountains to have a wondrously good time.

Colorado gets a record snowstorm so we can barely get around, and half a day is consumed by getting chains for the tires of the mommyvan. Then, after our one outing that neither child enjoyed, MPC2 - the two-year-old - power vomits at a restaurant (the only one open - literally) at the exact same moment the plates arrive at the table. Poor dear proceeds to hurf for the next 13 hours. Supermom prevents her from dehydration by staying up all night and spoon-feeding her water, but child is rendered a pale and limp rag after 24 hours, at which point we end up trapped due to the snow tsunami, but it works out since MPC2 could use just a day to rest.

The King,Lisey's Story, was my least favorite of King's ever. Once in a while King experiments with other genres and styles, some of which are amazing, like The Eyes of the Dragon, which he wrote for his daughter. This one - "Lisey" - is a dud a far as I'm concerned. Like someone on Amazon said, King has written some bad books, but he's never been boring before. Someone else said that it picked up after the first section, about 100 page in. They were wrong. Give this one a pass folks.

After we got back, I caught up on my web surfing, and turned up some fun stuff:

This clever parody of the atheist fundie Richard Dawkins: Professor Richard Dawkins Speaks at Fair Hills Kindergarten Regarding Santa Claus, December 2, 2006. (Via

I think Dawkins would be happier if someone got him this t-shirt.

Checking in with Dear Prudence, whose advice column is not to be missed, I happed upon her "best of 2006" article, which featured all the hell she got from folks by actually suggesting to a woman who'd turned up pregnant to - get this - go ahead and have the child. Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth! Oh, the slings and arrows flung at we breeders. Oh, go read it yourself!

I think those people need to watch more cartoons and just chill the heck out. (Be sure to watch "The Big Snit" and "The Cat Came Back.")

Oh, the in-laws came for Christmas dinner. We have about as much in common as duck-billed platypus(es) and actual ducks do, so usually it's a minor ordeal for me. However, pops-in-laws had some good one-liners. We were discussing all the vegetarians we know, and he said, "Here's a vegans breastfeed?" I had a good snort over that.

Finally, some perspective.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Scads of Free Music

If you didn't get any new music for Christmas (Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, etc.), then let me help you out.

This site is offering 2 CDs worth of free songs, in two handy zip files no less. (Via Free is good. From a brief preview, my verdict is: Some good stuff in there, certainly something for everyone. Worth the time to suck down the bits.

Also, Santa brought me a $25 mp3 player that holds 256 Mb of songs (which is 60 to 70 songs, depending on size and sample rate, or for old fogies like me, about 5 CDs worth of songs). Well, Windows 98 wouldn't recognize the drive, so I went out to the manufacturer's page for a software fix, which they had, bless'em. But, ensconced at the bottom of the page is a link to restore the music that the player is pre-loaded with (though it looks like they spliffed and didn't include the last 7 songs, oh well). It's of the "chill out" variety which I love; think muzak crossed with Windam Hill. Nice to read by, write by, and hang on a lazy day by.

There ya have it, at least 3 CDs of free tunage.

Merry belated Christmas (Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, etc.)!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Well, the Yahmdallah clan is heading for the mountains this week. We got the pet sitter set up, neighbors watching the house for suspicious activity and deer vandalization. Cooler's loaded. Sled's fueled. Etc.

We'll be back by Christmas, but just wanted to alert you to no updates whilst we Vay-Kay.

So, let me leave you with this: Entertainment Weekly has an article about the permutations of the 2nd favorite Christmas song these days, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Apparently the original version was kinda bleak, but Judy Garland ... ah, but that would be giving it away.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Oh, deer!

Someone rather cleverly vandalized one of our Christmas yard displays this evening.

Our neighbors across the street called and registered their offense at the sight, then burst out laughing.
Recent Media Consumption

Inside Man
Well, finally, Spike Lee has tackled a straight-ahead commercial film and proven he can bat it out of the park. This is not a great movie, but it's a darned good one. I've always admired Lee's prowess as a director in the way he can tell a story via camera movement, editing, etc. But his topics have usually left me ambivalent because they're ham-handed diatribes about race - though sometimes uses sexual politics as a guise. Now maybe She's Gotta Have It and Malcolm X can escape that generalization, but not may others until this film.

Another first for this film is that Jodie Foster plays a completely unlikable character; a first, I think, for her.

Inside Man is worth the rental and the viewing time, imvho, and will make for a nice evening. Let's hope Lee gets more regular gigs in between his after school specials.

TLD: Let me say this, though. I understand why Lee made a lot of the movies he did, and I think he achieved a lot of his goals. He accomplished substantive changes in Hollywood that were sorely needed. However, the movies themselves don't often stand on their own as good entertainments unto themselves. That's all I'm saying.

The Police - Everyone Stares
Stewart Copeland, the drummer extraordinaire for the famed demised band, bought himself a Super 8mm camera in the band's early days and started filming when the mood struck, eventually amassing an interesting document about the genesis of a major rock group from touring holiday inns to headlining arenas. It really does give you the feel for the change in their surroundings as he captures the first time they're mobbed by fans (when up to that point they've only been timidly approached by fans during record signings in stores) to when they essentially live in a bubble away from most of the rest of the world.

Highlights are Copeland's brief and to-the-point summaries and bon-mots. For instance, the one about such quandaries regarding band member roles in music videos that are not set on a stage during a performance. See, the singer has the job of mouthing the words, the guitarist can pretend to play the guitar, but what does the drummer do? "Jerk around a bit and mostly look like a dick," according to Stewart.

For music fans this is a must-see. Copeland remixed and in some cases re-imagined old Police tracks, so the music side of the movie is intriguing and something that you've not quite heard before. I hope there's a soundtrack someday. (For now, their live set that contains a concert from their early days and one from their height of fame days will have to suffice; one of my favorite live sets ever.)

For folks looking for a riveting movie experience, this is not the entertainment for you. (See "Stop Making Sense" by the Talking Heads for that.) But, for those who want a peek into what it's like to become a huge rock band through the intimate device of home movies, you'll walk away happy.

R.E.M. - And I Feel Fine...: The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987

If you like R.E.M., 'specially the early years, this set should be a wet dream. The song selection achieves the perfect balance between the actual "hits", the fan favorites, and the band favorites. A rare feat for a hits package. On top of that, this one of the best remastering jobs I've come across.

There is no entire career retrospective in one set from these guys, yet (but you can bet it's forthcoming if they're remastering, more on that in a bit), so if you want all their hits, you have to buy "In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003", too.

"R.E.M. - And I Feel Fine...: The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987" replaces the previous early hits compilation "Eponymous."

Fans should purchase this immediately.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Polymorphously perverse post on religion

The other day a buddy dropped by, and we ended up talking briefly about religion. And I said, "I wish that I could just discuss my views on religion openly on my blog."

But in hindsight, I realize two things, 1) it's so unnecessary because being the adherent of a particular faith kinda says it all in the first place, 2) when I do want to, there's enough stuff out there on the web that just covers it better than any nouns and verbs I could rub together to attempt to make a point.

I found this nice little comparison of the "Abrahamic" religions (the big three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christanity, and Islam), which is one of the better thumbnail guides I've ever seen. My only quibble is the supposed Christian view of "human nature" as "tendency towards evil." I don't think that's the larger view we hold, nor did my buddy. Other than that, it's a gem.

On that same site is a great rundown of the facts and fiction in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Especially nice is the tweaking of the central premise of the book:
- In The Da Vinci Code: A child of Jesus would undermine the critical notion of Christ's divinity and therefore the Christian Church, which declared itself the sole vessel through which humanity could access the divine.
- In Reality: Not necessarily. Official Christian teaching is that Jesus was fully God and fully man - if he had a child, it would be part of his humanity and would not necessarily endanger his divinity.

So there. (For the record, I enjoyed the book, because even though Brown may not be Shakespeare, he certainly knows how to put together a thriller. The movie was dull.)

At a party this weekend, some friends who are what I'd classify as (and they'd probably agree with me) non-denominational pagans were shocked that Christianity is the most popular religion in the world. I was shocked that they were shocked. But, nonetheless it made me look it up again, and here is the rundown of religions by adherents, if you're interested.

This year I had to request that the Mormon church excommunicate me because they would not stop harassing us at home.

I originally joined the church because the girl I was dating at the time said I had to be Mormon to marry her, which I thought I was going to do, so I started the classes.

Well, the relationship went bust, and what I was learning struck me as a big a pile of hooey as Scientology does (Joey and Ronny clearly made it all up; one for glory and chicks, the other for glory and cash, respectively).

So I showed up to my baptism with the intent to call it off, but they got real pushy, and I thought I'd get out of there faster if I just went along with it. There I was, in my white cotton clothes they provided, standing waist-deep in the baptismal font, looking at the cute, recently-dipped girls standing there in their wet and transparent white cotton clothes, vacillating between asking forgiveness for pervy thoughts and allowing myself to be baptized into a false religion.

Alas, my brilliant idea that going through with it would be the path of least resistance was way wrong. Those buggers showed up at my door everywhere I moved, and always ran down the list of where I'd been previously, just to show me they always knew where I was, the freaks. When I was single, it was just entertaining, particularly the time I asked them in and showed them verse and scripture as to why their religion was specifically something Jesus would've had a conniption fit about. They told me in the nicest way I've ever heard that I was going straight to hell.

And I thought that was the end of that.

But no, these two kids in their early twenties started showing up at my door this spring because they just built a HUGE temple in our town. (We hiss at it every time we drive by.) They said things to my wife like, "Did your husband ever tell you he was a member of our church?" and things even more inappropriate. Well, interrupting me in the middle of sitcom and a cold one is one thing, but scaring my wife is another.

One night, the doorbell rang, and there they were again. To say I put the fear of God in them would be to understate it a bit. I even used the phrase "if you ever darken my door again..."! I've never come unglued like that on anyone, especially a stranger. They were as white as their cotton shirts by the time they scampered away.

But that didn't take care of it. No, I had to formally request, via letter, excommunication from the local "Bishop." He even sent me an "are you sure?" letter, as if I were asking to close a computer program without saving. I shot back a "hell yeah" with a few "please insure your ilk never bother me again" hosannas.

Even after all of that, I got an invitation to a local "reading group" and found the titles a bit odd (didn't bother to go look them up first), and just called the number. Sure enough, it was the Mormons just wanting me to join their reading group, just a friendly little get-together with no pressure. I asked them if they were aware of my excommunication and my request for no further contact. Reluctantly, and belligerently, they said they did. I then inquired as to what it would take for them to leave me the hell alone. They said I didn't have to be rude about it.

I'm pretty sure this is close to the facial expression I had at that point.

Y'know, I appreciate the efforts some folks are trying to make to ensure we don't vilify Islam needlessly because of the actions of some of its followers. And, yes, the actions of a few do not represent the views of the majority, maybe. (Though this woman begs to differ, and I found her book convincing.) Yet, when it comes down to it, can you really deal with people who send hit squads after each other's children? It's the very definition of depravity.

Finally, this article by Ben Stein (former Nixon speech writer and the monotone-voiced guy who during roll call said the famous lines, "Bueller....Bueller") put the star on top of the tree for me this Christmas season. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Oh, and Merry Christmas!
Bashing Moment

This one's too crude for even this blog, but for those of you who aren't bothered by immensely crude humor, here's one for the books.

The punchline kills me: "You have lived more in that one moment than anyone else in their entire lives"

Monday, December 11, 2006

Definition of "clueless"

Or maybe just obtuse.

Here's a quip from Salon's "The Fix" on Mel Gibson's latest offering:

It may have gotten mostly lousy reviews (Salon critic Andrew O'Hehir called it "relentlessly gruesome, visually impressive and ultimately not very interesting"), but Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" still grabbed the top spot at this weekend's box office, though its take of $14.2 million is nothing close to last year's "Passion of the Christ" opening weekend of $76.2 million.

So, a movie about Aztecs hunting down an escaped sacrifice to the sun god didn't open as well as a movie about Jesus Christ.


Wonder why.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Well, I've been ruminating over a post about the recent trip I took to Florida for a convention on my particular (peculiar) profession. Y'know how some things seem like they will be great fodder for a post, but it never seems to quite gel? That's the case here, so here are the disjointed "greatest hits" that I wasn't able to work into a greater whole.

The elevators at the hotel we stayed were wired backwards. There were two elevators on each side of the lobby, and if you pushed the button on the south side, the north side doors would open, and vice versa. All day you'd see groups of people waiting for the elevator make the trek across the lobby to get the elevator on the other side. There was a person stationed at a desk who watched this all day. Finally I went up to him and said, "Have you noticed the elevator buttons are wired backwards?" He seemed legitimately surprised by the observation, even though he sat there all day watching folks go to and fro.

The trip took place during the election, so the TV news in Florida was brewing with nothing but the local controversies and bias. Florida is uber-republicanland, so you can imagine - Fox news everywhere, all the time. What was striking was how localized it was, as if the rest of the country didn't exist, and how little it had in common with the topics that were hot in Colorado.

We, of course, had to do Disneyland with the chilluns. It was mostly fun, so know that whilst I dive into the things that weren't so great. (The rides really are unlike anything else anywhere else.)

Most amusement parks have gone to this ridiculous practice of selling "premium access" tickets that allow the purchaser to jump to the head of the line. So on all the popular rides, we, the unwashed peasants, got to watch as Marie and the Antoinettes walked past in the walkway built just for them. It was especially galling when you'd be at the front of the peasant line and these croutons would walk up hop into the seat that should've been yours. That alone has assured the fact that the Yahmdallah clan will not be attending amusement parks very often in the future (our local one does that, too).

Disneyworld is huge, of course; you have to take 3 forms of transportation just to be delivered a city block away from the front gates. It's divided up into "worlds." Futureworld, frontierland, fantatsyland, etc. Well, each of those worlds typically has only one major food place that has something besides popcorn or pretzels. There are two restaurants at the front of the park, but you have to get advance reservations for those. So, we literally could not get anything to eat other than popcorn from 11:00 AM until 11:00 PM that night after we'd left and found a restaurant near the hotel. The baby had breast milk to subsist on, but the rest of us were beyond famished. Now, how come they can't figure out they don't have enough food places when the lines to each are over 30 people deep at all times, and the minimum wait was over a half hour. At Seaworld, the wait just to buy a soda from a cart was 45 minutes.

And they wonder why they're going broke. (And there's a master's thesis for someone - the politics of standing in line, and the results of hour long waits for a drink and letting the wealthy skip past everyone in line for the rides.)

UPDATE: Sleemoth tells me had I merely done my homework, I could have procurred the golden ticket without extra cost to moi. See comments for details. Thanks Sleemoth!

One of the more pleasant aspects of the trip was the flights. No kidding. We got major deals on Southwest, and were a little concerned about the "first come, first serve" seating, but actually, it made things nicer. You could move away from those people who harmed your soul. And our baby let out a few ear-splitting cries on the return flight as she was fussy (maybe the no food for a day thing had changed mom's milk), and we saw the seats around us empty out. Yay for them. But the seats themselves were the most comfortable I've encountered outside of first class (the one time I've been there via a lucky upgrade).

The best part, however, was the crew. They were allowed to have a sense of humor! When I worked for an airline, everything was deadly serious and any levity around passengers was shunned. (I have that situation, again, btw, in my current IT job. We've got a buffoon kinda high up who considers any levity to be a mark of unprofessionalism. Yes, he's an asshole in the first degree.)

On the flight out, as we were taxiing toward the gate after landing, the pilot came on the com and announced he had lost a bet and had to sing us a song. I thought he was kidding, but no, he began warbling away, and his voice wasn't half bad.

On the flight back, as the flight attendant was announcing all the safety stuff she threw in little bon mots that illustrated just how many people ignore said announcements. Only a few of us snickered. Here's a sample:

"We don't anticipate a sudden depressurization of the cabin, or we wouldn't have come to work today. However, should such an event occur, oxygen masks will (yadda yadda). Ladies, for those of you traveling with small children, please secure your own mask before assisting your husband with his."

The end result is that I've once again affirmed I do not like to travel if it involves any sort of waiting in line for anything (check-in, security, food). I think the Yahmdallah clan has officially moved into the era of short trips in the mommyvan to interesting places that can be reached within daylight hours.
Area 51

My wife sometimes chides me for being something of a conspiracy nut.

I don't think a lone gunman killed Kennedy, for instance.

For another instance, even though I don't believe that aliens are secretly visiting the earth and abducting people to perform proctology exams, I love most of the "X-Files" TV series, and recently bought the brilliant DVD collections of the "mythology" that gathers the "aliens among us" story arc from the series into one cogent group. (Like Whiskey, I think the series jumped the green shark when David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson left the series to be replaced by Terminator 2.0 and Xena: Warrior Princess (though the two did give it the old college try). I love the "X-Files" for its exploration of conspiracy theory and the mechanisms behind it/them all. It makes my conspiracy nut dendrites twinkle. (And, FWIW, there may be aliens out there, but I doubt we will see them in our lifetimes because their planet, should it/any exist, began most likely at the same time ours did, so how could they be that much further ahead of us? This is based on the assumption that only life forms similar to ourselves (or at least some variant from the amazing diversity evidenced during the "Cambrian explosion") can and would form via evolution, given the known components of our universe.)

But I digress...

Back when all the wingnut falderol whipped up around Clinton, where they spent years and millions trying to nail him with something so the Republicans could have their tit-for-tat Nixon revenge experience, I kept fuming to anyone who would listen as to why the press wasn't tearing the those pultroons a new one. Clinton was a popular president, save for the wingnuts. It was so clearly a witchhunt, but only the right wing echo chamber was getting airplay. The lack of journalistic response on the opposing side just didn't make sense. Also, Newt Gingrinch (yes, that's on purpose) and his little revolution seemed like so much BS from guys who really were just selfish, grubby, and mean-spirited bastards, rather than guys who honestly wanted to improve America. The chirping of crickets that accompanied that whole clusterfandango astounded me.

Well, now some journalistic mea culpas are quietly beginning to surface from the various media outlets. The majority of the journalist world still has the 'tude articulated by Lily Tomlin when she played an operator for AT&T: "We don't care. We don't have to." But it's nice to see some of those who don't assume the rest of us are stupid and unworthy beginning to fess up.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden of Making Light has constructed a great anthology of this occurrence in a post entitled "Why I blog".

Usually, I don't feel the need to be pushy about exhorting you to follow a link, because any links I provide are done so merely for your pleasure should the topic tickle your interest. However, this time, I think this one has enough importance and gravity (and it's fun, btw, this is not a homework assignment) that you owe it to yourself to at least give it a glance, even if right now it doesn't seem to be something you'd typically read.
Check Out the One Where Superman Guiltily Visits Tinkerbelle for a Little Lift.

Fanfic is almost always unbearable, but sometimes fan art can be illuminating. Here's a collective of artist who compete drawing iconic fictional characters.
Mr. "Purple" Nirpal
offers some opine on "How feminism destroyed real men."

Here's an excerpt:
"The female orgasm is the natural mechanism by which men assert dominion over women: a man who appreciates this can negotiate whatever difficulties arise in his relationships with them.

Last Christmas, my wife threw me out after discovering I'd been cheating on her. On the night we got back together, I made strong, passionate love to her. Unfaithful as I'd been, I was not going to let her have me over a barrel for the rest of our marriage. I needed to keep a sense of self and not allow her to mire me in guilt and a desperate quest of forgiveness."

This dude is confusing being a mean bastard with having strength. Real men don't cheat on their wives or have to play wolf pack dominance games to be good in bed.

Y'know, I'll readily agree that what gender feminism proffers as "the sensitive, new-age man" is silly at best and disastrous at worst, because the punchline is that nearly none of those kind of women want men in the first place.

But this guy was exactly the type shithead who helped put those goofy ideas in their man-hating heads in the first place (and in cases like Purple Nirpal here, it's justified).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Parts is Parts

I've been meaning to hunt up this commercial for a while.

Having watched it again after all these years, I still think it rates as the best commercial ever.

I love the way the guy says "fused."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I think it may be official

The Flaming Lips might just be the best band in the world right now.

Via digg.

In other news, the big labels have a rule now that they will not sign anyone over the age of 25. Just one more slouch towards the grave for those guys.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Grinches need not apply

Garrison Keillor grouses about holiday grumps. The man is a national treasure.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


hoscah hoscah
hoscah hoscah,
originally uploaded by Ian Gascoigne.
Happened across this and thought, my gosh, save for the wardrobe, this looks a lot like me. Had the lovely wife check it out, and she too says this has an uncanny resemblance to moi.


(It's a statue of Oscar Wilde in Dublin.)
In case you hadn't heard this one....

Bono, at a U2 concert in Ireland, asked the audience for some quiet. Then in the silence, he started to slowly clap his hands.

Holding the audience in total silence, he said into the microphone, "Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies."

A voice from near the front of the audience pierced the silence, "Well fookin' stop doin' it, then!"

(Not a true story, it appears, but funny nonetheless.)
Best Bush Bash, Ever


TriPod11: bush ain't THAT bad...he kinda knows what he's doin
idaredbeet08: Please, Monica Lewenski had more President in her than George Bush ever will.

And just for the hell of it ('cause it's kinda related):


Delanushorse: Dude, I was eating a chocolate bar in my kitchen the other day, when my mom walks in
Delanushorse: I was like "it's like an orgasm in my mouth" and my mom says "oh, believe me, you DON'T want to know what that tastes like".
Delanushorse: I guess she realized what she said, because she walked out really quickly.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


I've been at a conference the last week and have returned with a cold. I'll have a post on my travels soon, when I feel like sitting at a keyboard.

In the meantime, I couldn't sleep last night due to said dread disease, and discovered that VH1 sneaks videos on when they aren't trotting out C-level celebs on silly "reality" shows.

This one really amused me. One of the best videos I've seen. And the song's not bad.

It even looks like it was done in one take, which is amazing.

Oh, and btw, the group is called "OK Go" and the song is "Here It Goes Again."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I've got some ocean-front property in Ethiopia, if you're interested ....

It looks like a new ocean might be in the making.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Hell Yeah

Stuff like this has been needed to be said for years now. It's about freakin' time.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Matador

The Matador is about the chance meeting of a hit man and an average joe in a bar in Mexico. Sounds like the setup to a joke, and in a sense it is.

Most movies regarding this subject would make the hitman (Brosnan), too cool and intelligent, while making the average joe (Greg Kinnear) a nitwit. Even the wife (Hope Davist) has an interesting, storied character.

Things kick into gear when the hitman is reminded that it's his birthday. Time for a party! Right? Time to call old friends! Time to find out hitman don't really have friends!

Pierce Brosnan gives one of those vanity-be-damned performances that usually puts an actor in danger of getting an OscarTM. He's funny, moving, scary, touching and debauched as hell. One scene where he crosses a hotel lobby will forever stay in my "greatest movie moments ever" mental montage.

What's great about the movie is it never cheats on its premise. (Which puts it in the rare air of 50 First Dates and Primer.)

This is not to say this movie is realistic. I mean, it might be; but I'll bet the while real hitmen are probably this flawed, none of them are this benign.

So, if you can suspend disbelief - and I think this movie makes that easy - you will be treated to one of the great character creations I've seen on film.

I haven't enjoyed a movie with this much sheer glee since Just Like Heaven. I couldn't wait to see where it would go next.

This one goes into my top ten for the year. (My year anyway; it was released in 2005.)
It's getting ugly out there.

I wonder why so many wingnuts labor under the illusion that they can criticize Democrats all they want, but the second someone snarks about their boys/girls, it's treason.

Or they have to be escorted out by the guards.


Happy news. Sometimes a thrown beer is just a beer foul and nothing else.
30-Second Bunnies Theatre Troupe

The Exorcist in 30 seconds, acted out by bunnies.

More classics here.
In Honor of Roger Ebert's Continuing Recovery

And having just finished Awake in the Dark, his latest anthology (and I agree with Whisky - a nice little bon-bon of a book), I figured I'd go through his listing of the top ten movies of each year and see which ones I'd seen, and what I thought of them.

(Bold means I've seen it.)

1. Bonnie and Clyde: great movie, agreed.
2. Ulysses
3. Blow-up: thumbs up. Still engrossing. (And I love Blow-out, it's red-headed step-child.)
4. The Graduate: a classic.
5. A Man for All Seasons: saw this, but don't remember my impression.
6. The War Game
7. Reflections in a Golden Eye
8. Cool Hand Luke: decent movie, but aged. I still think of it when I eat more than one hard-boiled egg. Also, this was my younger brother's nickname.
9. Elvira Madigan
10. In the Heat of the Night

1. The Battle of Algiers
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey: Groundbreaking, but dull and impenetrable. I only know what happened at the end because I read the book.
3. Falstaff
4. Faces
5. The Two of Us
6. The Producers: cute, but not all that. Haven't seen the remakes (stage or film). I also have trouble with "FUN!" fiction with Nazis.
7. Oliver!
8. The Fifth Horseman Is Fear
9. Rachel, Rachel
10. Romeo and Juliet: great film. The score still haunts. It's shocking to see how young the stars were (but the director wanted realism).

1. Z
2. Medium Cool
3. Weekend
4. if...
5. Last Summer
6. The Wild Bunch: classic.
7. Easy Rider: dated, but worth one view if you haven't ever seen it.
8. True Grit: classic. The Duke at his best.
9. Downhill Racer
10. War and Peace

1. Five Easy Pieces: good, but somewhat dated. Still worth the Nicholson performance.
2. M*A*S*H: awesome classic. A must-see for anyone who likes movies.
3. The Revolutionary
4. Patton: good, but a tad dated.
5. Woodstock: still fun, but long. Make sure the stereo is on.
6. My Night at Maud's
7. Adalen 31
8. The Passion of Anna
9. The Wild Child
10. Fellini Satyricon

1. The Last Picture Show: still good, but muted. I recommend the source novel and its sequels more. Texasville is a comedy classic (the novel, not the movie).
2. McCabe and Mrs. Miller
3. Claire's Knee
4. The French Connection: great early action flick. Yes, that's Roy Scheider.
5. Sunday, Bloody Sunday
6. Taking Off
7. Carnal Knowledge: doesn't stand up. And a nekkid Art Garfunkel screwing a corpse is just gross. He should've left well enough alone with Catch-22. (Trivia, when Garfunkel went to make Catch-22, Simon wrote "The Only Living Boy in New York" about his missing Garfunkel. The lyric, "Tom catch your plane on time. I know you'll be ready to fly now," is a direct reference to Garfunkel, as they called themselves "Tom and Jerry" before they were "Simon and Garfunkel.")
8. Tristana
9. Goin' Down the Road
10. Bed and Board

1. The Godfather: fuhgeddaboutit. If you haven't seen this, there's something wrong with you, or you're 12 (and thus shouldn't be reading my blog).
2. Chole in the Afternoon
3. Le Boucher
4. Murmur of the Heart
5. The Green Wall
6. The Sorrow and the Pity
7. The Garden of Finzi-Continis
8. Minnie and Moskowitz
9. Sounder
10. The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid

1. Cries and Whispers
2. Last Tango in Paris: kinda ok. I see why it was revolutionary and groundbreaking at the time, but I don't think it holds up. And I still squirm through the butter up the dirt road scene.
3. The Emigrants / The New Land
4. Blume in Love
5. The Iceman Cometh
6. The Exorcist: still the scariest movie ever (upon first viewing).
7. The Day of the Jackal: not a bad action flick, worth a couple hours.
8. American Graffiti: one of the best movies of all time, and make sure you see Linklater's homage Dazed and Confused.
9. Fellini's Roma
10. The Friends of Eddie Coyle

1. Scenes from a Marriage
2. Chinatown: still a great flick.
3. The Mother and the Whore
4. Amarcord
5. The Last Detail: holds up, but is a tad dated. And it's excruciating.
6. The Mirages
7. Day for Night
8. Mean Streets: I know I've seen it, but my memory of it isn't clear.
9. My Uncle Antoine
10. The Conversation: ok, but slow going at first. I started this like 5 times before I finally got to the meat of the movie.

1. Nashville: ok, but I'm not a big Altman fan. I think his excesses show here. The stripping scene left a bad taste for days (as it was supposed to).
2. Night Moves
3. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
4. Farewell, My Lovely
5. The Phantom of Liberty
6. A Brief Vacation
7. And Now My Love
8. A Woman Under the Influence
9. In Celebration
10. Dog Day Afternoon: great flick. Still has the punch. One of the few movies that has everything but a musical number. Must-see.

1. Small Change
2. Taxi Driver: good movie, but still hard sledding after all these years.
3. The Magic Flute
4. The Clockmaker
5. Network: good, but dated. The speech - you know the one - is still fun.
6. Swept an unusual destiny in the blue sea of August
7. Rocky: still good, even after being done to death, and the latest zombie is in production now.
8. All the President's Men: still pisses you off. More relevant than ever. It's fun watching Hoffman trying to be pretty next to Redford. He almost does it.
9. Silent Movie: one of Mel Brook's successes. Still lotsa larfs. I love Madeline Kahn in anything, including a pantsuit that matches her car.
10. The Shootist: 'nother good Duke outing.

1. 3 Women
2. Providence
3. The Late Show
4. A Woman's Decision
5. Jail Bait
6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind: still holds up well, even though the clothes and hair scream '70s.
7. Aguirre: Wrath of God
8. Annie Hall: one of the best comedies of all time. I still quote this one.
9. Sorcerer
10. Star Wars: need I even waste another kudo on this one?

1. An Unmarried Woman: I liked it, even though I saw it when that stage of life (middle age and divorce) was still unimaginable. I'll never forget the guy reaching out and pulling Jill Clayburgh to him by grasping her nipples.
2. Days of Heaven: meh. It just doesn't move me. Thought it was dull and unrealistic.
3. Heart of Glass
4. Stroszek
5. Autumn Sonata
6. Interiors: boring. Go outside instead.
7. Halloween: I'm one of the few people on the planet who didn't find this very scary. I still quasi-enjoyed it, though. The Capn Kirk mask is a hoot.
8. National Lampoon's Animal House: comedy classic. Knowledge is good.
9. Kings of the Road
10. Superman: yes, a man flew. May he rest in peace. Currently getting the ultra-deluxe DVD treatment, and a new cut of the sequel.

1. Apocalypse Now: loved it and still do. I pull this one out about every few years, and am enthralled every time.
2. Breaking Away: "He smelled like breath mints and Lavoris." Cutters rule.
3. The Deer Hunter: I didn't get this the first 57 times I saw it (I worked it and I loathed the wedding scene because it took an entire reel), but eventually when my grandma said, "there's no story, it's just about friendships," that unlocked it for me.
4. The Marriage of Maria Braun
5. Hair: I don't like musicals as a rule, but love this one. There are some jaw-dropping scenes thanks to director Milos Foreman. Great flick.
6. Saint Jack
7. Kramer vs. Kramer: good, but dated. Very 80s (decades don't necessarily start on the date line). For the George Costanzas among us, full frontal on JoBeth Williams.
8. The China Syndrome: loved it at the time, still dig Lemmon's performance, but it is a movie of its time. Was Jane Fonda ever able to act?
9. Nosferatu
10. 10: still a hoot.

1. The Black Stallion: like Ebert says in his review, the first hour of this movie is perfection.
2. Raging Bull: meh, was Ok. Don't think it's the masterpiece others do.
3. Kagemusha
4. Being There: still moving and enigmatic.
5. Ordinary People: good, but dated.
6. The Great Santini: great, if somewhat hard-to-relate-to flick, unless you're from a military family.
7. The Empire Strikes Back: c'mon, it's Star Wars.
8. Coal Miner's Daughter: merely ok. I still like the line, "Wanna bump uglies?" Biography films are kinda the same, imvho.
9. American Gigolo: very dated. Kinda silly.
10. Best Boy

1. My Dinner with Andre: still fun.
2. Chariots of Fire: ok, but a sports film after all.
3. Gates of Heaven: great documentary on pet cemeteries. Check it out.
4. Raiders of the Lost Ark: Karen Allen still gives me the good shivers. The only lighthearted movie with Nazis that got that aspect correct.
5. Heartland
6. Atlantic City: meh. Yeah, it was nice what Sarandon did with the lemons, but this movie just didn't grab me.
7. Thief: great stylized fun. Good guy flick.
8. Body Heat: one of the best ever. Coming out now on a deluxe DVD.
9. Tess: boring.
10. REDS: a spinach movie. Good for you, but enjoyable only if you like spinach in the first place.

1. Sophie's Choice: most heartbreaking ever. I couldn't sit through it now that I have kids.
2. Diva
3. E.T.: still a classic.
4. Fitzcarraldo / Burden of Dreams
5. Personal Best: meh. So she's a lesbian. Next.
6. Das Boot: great action film, too bad you gotta read subtitles.
7. Mephisto
8. Moonlighting
9. The Verdict: good Paul Neman film. Still holds up.
10. The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time

1. The Right Stuff: great movie. Hasn't dated at all. I particularly love how it took time to show even the wives' stories. If only that were done more often.
2. Terms of Endearment: great movie.
3. The Year of Living Dangerously: meh. So the dwarf guy is really a dwarf gal.
4. Fanny and Alexander: odd then, odd now.
5. El Norte
6. Testament
7. Silkwood: dated but watchable, if not for the shower scenes (and Meryl's flash).
8. Say Amen, Somebody
9. Risky Business: still comedy gold. "Guido the killer pimp."
10. The Return of Martin Guerre

1. Amadeus: classic for all time.
2. Paris, Texas
3. Love Streams
4. This is Spinal Tap: more relevant and real than ever. See "cookie monster vocals".
5. The Cotton Club: nice try, total flop.
6. Secret Honor
7. The Killing Fields: harrowing, wouldn't want to see it again.
8. Stranger than Paradise
9. Choose Me
10. Purple Rain: how did this get here? The soundtrack is good, but the movie? C'mon.

1. The Color Purple: didn't really like it, but mostly due to the source story (kinda feminist dystopia stuff). However, I saw this with folks who were from the African country used in the film, and they translated the lines on the spot for me. That was fun.
2. After Hours: one of my favorites. A great circular movie. Don't know why this isn't mentioned more often anymore.
3. The Falcon and the Snowman: ok, but mostly for the performances.
4. Prizzi's Honor: third-tier gangster film. Only the performances are worth it.
5. Ran
6. Witness: still a wonderful movie. Unique in that it respects all the characters and their stories.
7. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome: meh. The Road Warrior is still the one to see.
8. Lost in America: Albert Brooks trying hard, but it's hit and miss unless his brand of humor connects with you.
9. Street Wise
10. Blood Simple: gripping low-budget film.
[Ebert excluded Shoah from his list, not because he thought the other ten films were better, but because he felt it was in a class by itself and it wouldn't be appropriate to rank ordinary movies against it.]

1. Platoon: one of the better war movies ever.
2. Round Midnight
3. Hannah and Her Sisters: still good. Michael Caine's part is still wonderfully sad.
4. Sid and Nancy: merely ok.
5. Lucas
6. Vagabond
7. Trouble in Mind
8. Down and out in Beverly Hills: I didn't like this movie. Thought the comedy was too broad.
9. Peggy Sue Got Married: great little comedy gem. Still love the line in math class, "I know for a fact, sir, I will never use this."
10. Hard Choices

1. House of Games: merely ok. Mamet being Mamet.
2. The Big Easy: big wet kiss of a movie. Still good. One of those rare guy flick/chick flick combos.
3. Barfly: meh. Bummer, then they die.
4. The Last Emperor: one of the few period epics I liked.
5. Moonstruck: still a classic.
6. Prick Up Your Ears
7. Radio Days: doesn't hold up.
8. Broadcast News: dated, but still full of fun performances.
9. Lethal Weapon: classic action film. It's edgier than you remember.
10. Housekeeping

1. Mississippi Burning
2. The Accidental Tourist: yawn.
3. The Unbearable Lightness Of Being yawn.
4. Shy People
5. Salaam Bombay
6. A Fish Called Wanda: one of the funniest movies ever made. I wasn't DISAPPOINTED.
7. Wings Of Desire: actually, kinda good if you watch it on its own terms.
8. Who Framed Roger Rabbit: merely ok. Could'a been a contender.
9. Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam
10. Running On Empty: meh. That's for sure.

1. Do the Right Thing: I thought this was preachy and annoying. Couldn't decide which it was more of.
2. Drugstore Cowboy: meh.
3. My Left Foot: good show. One of the few bio/disease movies that's uplifting.
4. Born on the Fourth of July: ok, but harrowing. One of the three times Cruse actually acts.
5. Roger & Me: I liked it at the time. But now it think the sentiment is kinda wrongheaded.
6. The Mighty Quinn
7. Field of Dreams: if you like baseball, this is your movie. I don't really like baseball.
8. Crimes and Misdemeanors: don't remember how this went.
9. Driving Miss Daisy: thought it was kinda cutesy, and I didn't like the black servant angle.
10. Say Anything: good romance, but not as good as Cusack's previous The Sure Thing.

1. Goodfellas: who am I to argue with the bazillion people who think this is one of the best ever. I found it entertaining, but find actual evil banal and scary, thus it taints the movie for me.
2. Monsieur Hire
3. Dances with Wolves: loved it. Still holds up, even it if is complete fantasy bearing no resemblance to actual Lakota Sioux culture. (Was filmed 5 miles away from where I grew up.)
4. The Grifters: cute con man film. And you get to see Annette Bening naked.
5. Reversal Of Fortune
6. Santa Sangre
7. Last Exit to Brooklyn
8. Awakenings: Ok, but any of Oliver Sacks writings are better than this was.
9. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover: hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it.
10. Mountains of the Moon

1. JFK: fun conspiracy theory stuff. Stylistically wonderful.
2. Boyz N the Hood: meh.
3. Beauty and the Beast: one of Disney's best. I think "Mermaid" is better.
4. Grand Canyon: nice try, but no cigar.
5. My Father's Glory / My Mother's Castle
6. A Woman's Tale
7. Life is Sweet
8. The Man in the Moon
9. Thelma & Louise: this was fun, but eventually the tone shift from fun road movie to tragic victimhood didn't work for me.
10. The Rapture: odd movie. Spooky. And the person who wrote it doesn't get Christian theology (any form of it) at all.

1. Malcolm X: good bio, for once. Longish. But if you want the story, here it is.
2. One False Move
3. Howards End: dear Lord, spare me from all costume dramas.
4. Flirting
5. The Crying Game: if the jack-in-the-box was your favorite toy as a kid, this movie might hold some interest for you. For those of us who find transvestites kinda tragic, this is a one-trick pony. (C'mon, was I the only one who figured it out the first time the character appears?)
6. Damage
7. The Hairdresser's Husband
8. The Player: Besides M*A*S*H, this is the other Altman movie I love. Opening shot is brilliant, and the rest of the movie follows suit.
9. Unforgiven: great western. Bit dour, of course.
10. Bad Lieutenant

1. Schindler's List: as good as it gets, but I just can't wade through something this sad more than once.
2. The Age of Innocence: dear Lord, please spare me from costume dramas.
3. The Piano: I hated this movie. One of the handful I walked out on (the part when she goes into the drink). I think Campion has spiders in her soul.
4. The Fugitive: great popcorn movie. Still a lot of fun.
5. The Joy Luck Club: read the book, saw the movie, got the t-shirt, but neither connected with me all that much ('cept the t-shirt).
6. Kalifornia
7. Like Water for Chocolate: liked it. Was unique and sensual in a way I didn't expect.
8. Menace II Society
9. What's Love Got to Do with It: meh. Performances are great, but again, most bio films are just big screen versions of VH1's "Behind the Music" - maybe partially because screenwriters feel the need to force messy real lives into the constraints of fictional expectations.
10. Ruby in Paradise

1. Hoop Dreams: didn't get what all the fuss was about. Yeah, it's a bummer when he doesn't make it, but, I dunno, most of us have some of our dreams thwarted, and there's always something else to take its place, if you look.
2. Blue / White / Red
3. Pulp Fiction: classic, of course. Still the only movie where extreme violence is always a comedic punchline.
4. Forrest Gump: classic. Doesn't age.
5. The Last Seduction
6. Fresh
7. The Blue Kite
8. Natural Born Killers: this one has aged. Still a fun ride if you can stomach the ultraviolence. It wears out with repeated viewings.
9. The New Age
10. Quiz Show: merely ok.

1. Leaving Las Vegas: I'm split because I see how it's a good movie in terms of movie making and storytelling, but the story is just a pocket of puss.
2. Crumb: great doc. The man is sick, but at least he's found people who are ok with that.
3. Dead Man Walking: harrowing, worth one viewing. I like the way it walks the line on its opinion on the death penalty. I expected a more biased view.
4. Nixon: ok. Fun if you know the story.
5. Casino: I didn't much like it. Yet another banal gangster story.
6. Apollo 13: amazing movie. This one will go down in history as a landmark. Not a false step anywhere. The director's commentary on the DVD is one of the few worth listening to - it's a mini film school.
7. Exotica
8. My Family
9. Carrington
10. A Walk in the Clouds

1. Fargo: you betcha, by golly, then. (I went to college where this take place - it just nails the accent and culture.)
2. Breaking the Waves: eh, kinda depraved for my tastes.
3. Secrets & Lies: rich decadent people being rich, decadent and incestual. And there are bugs, too. If that floats your dingy, dive in. (Notable for one of the few commercial movies to show a guy with a boner.)
4. Lone Star: kinda dry.
5. Welcome to the Dollhouse: an interesting attempt at a view into a girl's life, but smacks too much of being written by a boy. Had actual girls been involved in the writing, this might've been something.
6. Bound: stylistically it's cool, but the story is yer standard lesbians on a crime spree. Some folks can't get enough of the genre, but I find it kinda rote.
7. Hamlet
8. Everyone Says I Love You: nice try, and fun viewing for seeing how close it gets, but ultimately it just doesn't work.
9. Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam
10. Big Night

1. Eve's Bayou
2. The Sweet Hereafter: achingly sad, and boring, sadly.
3. Boogie Nights: outside of the titillation of being about the porn industry, and a glimpse of the stunning Heather Graham nekkid on skates, I didn't really dig this slice of underlife. Though Philip Seymour Hoffman's heartbreaking turn as a gay guy in love with someone who's not was stirring, but when is he not?
4. Maborosi
5. Jackie Brown: decent entry by Tarantino. Not revelatory, but he hasn't made a bad movie yet.
6. Fast, Cheap & Out of Control: another must-see documentary.
7. L.A. Confidential: great period flick.
8. In the Company of Men: meh. The cruelty kinda got to me. I guess if I'm gonna watch a story about mean people, there's gotta be something more for me than witnessing the evil.
9. Titanic: classic. One for the ages. I still hold my breath when the boat makes its final plunge.
10. Wag the Dog: was slapped together and it feels like it. Still, as a cultural reference, it's a must-see. And it is enjoyable. Dustin does a good job.

1. Dark City: great sci-fi visualization of a complex idea. Striking. Plods a little in the middle, though.
2. Pleasantville: clever concept, overdone. Were it more nimble on its feet and about 1/2 hour shorter, it would be golden. Still worth it if you're stuck at home and it comes on the tube.
3. Saving Private Ryan: great flick, but harrowing. A one-time viewing did it for me.
4. A Simple Plan: clever and fun.
5. Happiness
6. Elizabeth
7. Babe: Pig In the City: awesome flick. Kids of all ages will dig this.
8. Shakespeare In Love: fun re-imagining. Contains one of the few sex scenes I consider well-done and legitimately erotic.
9. Life Is Beautiful: Jerry Lewis lives! Again, I have trouble with comedy and Nazis in the same broth. Still, this comes close to getting it right.
10. Primary Colors: great artifact, but not much of a flick out of context. Except for the two performances of Travolta and Thompson.

1. Being John Malkovich: I liked it, but it's a love it or hate it kind of flick. For the record, I can't stand John Malkovich, and the fact that he would allow this kind of send-up made me finally enjoy him in something. The half-floor concept is brilliant.
2. Magnolia: meh. Biblical and nihilistic just don't mix. Great acting. Story - such as it is - sucks.
3. Three Kings: great gonzo war flick. Don't miss it.
4. Boys Don't Cry: I hated, hated, hated it, relaxed a bit and then came back and hated it even more. This movie essentially tries to make a career criminal a hero merely because she was gender confused. What's worse is there's a scene where they terrify a baby (babies can't act, so this child was really that distressed) only to serve the scene (they won't let animals be treated that badly for the purposes of getting a shot). Unforgivable.
5. Bringing Out the Dead: nice try, but ultimately doesn't adhere to its tone correctly and sorta falls flat.
6. Princess Mononoke: over the top, weird Japanese Anime. Compelling story, but only if you're a fan of the genre in the first place.
7. The War Zone
8. American Beauty: I loved this movie. It manipulated me exactly like it should have.
9. Topsy-Turvy
10. The Insider: good one-time viewing, just for the true story and the performances.

1. Almost Famous: good flick. One of the few bio flicks that's fun (perhaps because there're no big tragedies, and because the subject himself wrote and directed it).
2. Wonder Boys: meh. Nice try, but too messy, and doesn't gel in the end.
3. You Can Count on Me: I have no idea why this got the kudos it did. It's dull, meandering, and not one character in the movie is sympathetic.
4. Traffic: another nice try, but ultimately too scattered and stylized to be enjoyable. (Yes, the color coding of the stories was clever, but other than that...)
5. George Washington
6. The Cell: great visual feast that ultimately makes no sense, and not enough sense to persevere through the icky serial killer stuff. I can see impressionable teenage boys digging this more than they should, but that's about it.
7. High Fidelity: nice slice of life, with great performances by Cusack and Black.
8. Pollock: a grand misfire. Think it's accurate, but Pollock was kind of a jerk, apparently, and it's hard to watch a long film about a jerk (unless it's Steve Martin).
9. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: beautiful visuals, silly story. Basic swat-fu once you remove the flying ballet stuff.
10. Requiem for a Dream: critic's darling, but essentially mind-garbage. I don't know about you, but watching the beautiful Jennifer Connelly descend into a drug-addled, sex-show bimbette is just too much to bear.

1. Monster's Ball: I've always wondered if the title referred to the penultimate sex scene. I thought the characters were preposterous and rather flat.
2. Black Hawk Down: harrowing war movie about a real event - that manages to be a popcorn movie at the same time.
3. In the Bedroom: another critics darling about "real people" doing "real things" but duller than hell. I don't even remember what the plot was, if there was one.
4. Ghost World: mildly interesting slice of life that ultimately goes nowhere. Thora Birch in a batgirl mask is hot, though.
5. Mulholland Drive: the only contender in David Lynch's branch of abstract films that really works. Worth a few viewings. The first time should be "cold," then research on the web as to what people's guesses are for various meanings, then watch a few more times and get the soundtrack.
6. Waking Life: interesting if flawed experiment. If you like late-night dorm room philosophizing mixed with trippy visuals, get out the bong and fire it up.
7. Innocence
8. Wit: I don't like disease movies - Terms of Endearment being the only exception because it was so much more. She gets hardcore, inoperable cancer, has lived a quasi-squandered life, and realizes it before she dies. The end. Enough of our lives are going to end this way, so unless you watch this as a warning or as a kick in the pants to get going on something, don't watch it at all.
9. A Beautiful Mind: great attempt to portray insanity from the insane's perspective. I didn't enjoy much outside of that. (Will Jennifer Connelly ever be in a good movie? Let's hope so.)
10. Gosford Park: meh. Too long, too little mystery. Even my buddies who like Atlman gave this one a "meh."

1. Minority Report: good sci-fi, though this is one of those that movies on the unfortunate trend bandwagon that uses a tonal color palette to mute the colors because the director really wanted to do it in black and white. And then there's the Tom Cruise thing. Also, the mag-cars are completely unrealistic; they would make everyone hurl their brains out in reality if they moved around like that at that speed. Worth getting past all that for a decent story, though.
2. City of God
3. Adaptation: I really dug this one, but then I'm a fan of Charlie Kaufman's Chinese-box plots. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my favorite movies ever, another of Kaufman's. This one has a lot of great twists, and there's one mind-blowing scene with Meryl Streep grinding away on top of Chris Cooper. I dropped my popcorn. And of course, Nicolas Cage does one of his bravura performances.
4. Far From Heaven
5. 13 Conversations About One Thing
6. Y Tu Mama Tambien
7. Invincible
8. Spirited Away: see Princess Mononoke above. Same same.
9. All or Nothing
10. The Quiet American

1. Monster: interesting portrait, but she was such an evil and tragic character, you get to the end and want to take a shower and watch a few Disney cartoons to recover.
2. Lost in Translation: I liked this Bladerunner meets Save the Tiger tone poem set in Japan. Not the revelation critics said it was, but still a nice, sedate voyage.
3. American Splendor: interesting in the mechanics of telling the story using actors, the real people, and animation, but ultimately is about the guy on the bus whom you avoid, so it's knee-capped by an unlikable main character.
4. Finding Nemo: my family did not enjoy this at all, thus we were one of the three people in that tiny minority. We felt that EVERYONE being handicapped was a bit over the top. (I think the only character that was not damaged in some way was the baby turtle.)
5. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World: great ripping yarn. The rare guy flick that the chicks can enjoy.
6. Mystic River: harrowing topic handled well by surprise auteur Clint Eastwood. However, I don't like anything that deals with children being killed or molested, so that diminished it for me.
7. Owning Mahowny
8. The Son (Le Fils)
9. Whale Rider
10. In America

1. Million Dollar Baby: the controversy surrounding this pissed me off, and that may have spoiled the movie for me. I don't like boxing, so I couldn't get into it that way, either. I'll admit the movie is well done, but the topic just didn't do it for me.
2. Kill Bill Vol. 2: clever ultraviolence from Tarantino. I enjoyed it in spite of myself, but the harsher edges of the story derailed it for the most part. (Like when the nurse is selling Kiddo's body out while she's in a coma. Yuck.)
3. Vera Drake
4. Spider-Man 2: one of the comic-book-based movies done right. The scene where the crowd passes an unconscious Spiderman over their heads is iconic.
5. Moolaade
6. The Aviator: nice outing, worth a viewing. It does gloss over the more disturbing sides of Hughes' life, like his huge, personal espionage ring. So it kinda gold-plates a turd of a human being.
7. Baadasssss!
8. Sideways: perfect little movie that does what little movies should do. Very entertaining.
9. Hotel Rwanda: Couldn't get through it. Consummate bummers have to have a little something extra to get you through the bad stuff. Amistad has this same flaw. So if even Spielberg can't make this kind of material float, no one can. Well, maybe Spike Lee needs to try.
10. Undertow

1. Crash: I thought this was a contrived piece o' shite. I have no idea why this got the awards and the kudos.
2. Syriana: thought this was duller than an accountant's explanation of the new tax regulations. And this is about real spies!
3. Munich
4. Junebug: couldn't get through it. Started fast-forwarding after 20 minutes. Glad I did.
5. Brokeback Mountain
6. Me and You and Everyone We Know: I hated this movie because all the children say and do graphically sexual things while the adults merely have cute little flirty conversations. I don't like seeing child actors made to do adult things for the sake of a movie. Had this movie confined itself to the adult romance, it might've been something.
7. Nine Lives
8. King Kong: too long, too loud, too much. (Someone should trim this monkey down to about 90 minutes; that would be a great flick.)
9. Yes
10. Millions: nice try (the visuals are stunning), but the parents-being-dead topic has got to be handled just right in kid's films because that's their biggest fear, and this one doesn't achieve that.

So, I've notice that as time goes by, my tastes have diverged from Ebert's when it comes to the "little films." We still agree on the big movies and documentaries, but we just no longer have the same taste in indie films whatsoever.

If I had the energy, I'd go back and construct my top ten for each year (I'd have to start about 77, because before that I was just too young), but getting a list of all releases, combing through them, etc. is a mind-bending challenge. Recently when the blogs I visit attempted to name "The best modern American film," I found I wasn't up to it - because picking just one is impossible, and eventually riffling through the lists from each year is ... dull.

However, let me just say here are ones I would plop in there somewhere, in the place of lesser entries:
- Airplane!
- Alien
- Aliens
- Big
- Blade Runner
- Blue Velvet
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- Dazed and Confused
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Fight Club
- Groundhog Day
- Jaws
- Little Big Man
- On Golden Pond
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
- Peter Pan (The live-action 2003 version, done perfectly. No kidding. This story is as iconic as the Wizard of Oz and "Star Trek." Think about it, do you know anyone who doesn't know those three stories? A perfect companion movie to this is Finding Neverland, though I promise it will make you cry.)
- Primer
- Raising Arizona
- Silver Streak
- The Big Chill
- The Elephant Man
- The Little Mermaid
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
- The Matrix
- The Silence of the Lambs
- The Sixth Sense
- The Thing (John Carpenter's - my top fave movie of all time)
- The World According to Garp
- Young Frankenstein

Remember this list starts in '67, so it's missing top faves from way back, so no Philadelphia Story, Best Years of Our Lives, or Wizard of Oz.

Also, I almost put Smokey and the Bandit on the list, because for a redneck, over the top comedy, it still stands alone. I caught part of it on TV a couple months ago, and it's still funny. But, I just couldn't bring my self to put it up there with the other movies, so consider it the one runner-up.

My final impression is the sheer amount of great movies there really are out there. We've had a bad couple years in movies (and there is always a gem or two even in bad years - see The Matador above), and reviewing the greats is heartening. If you even see a third of this list, you've seen some great stuff.

Anyone else care to have a whack at this?

Monday, October 30, 2006

hey ya

I think the following shows to go ya that a great song is a great song, sometimes no matter the delivery.

Hirsute Mat Weddle does an acoustic guitar cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya!"

Isn't that wonderful?

Nab the MP3 here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

That Ubiquitous Dove Ad

By now you've probably seen that ad for Dove soap that's all over the video sites, but if not, see below.

What's so shocking is it looks like yer standard no makeup vs. makeup time-lapse thingy with the moral being "put some on before you leave the house," but then we flip into Photoshop and they essentially move all her facial proportions around.

So, we go from this (still a babe by anyone's reckoning, btw):

To this:

But here's a step along the way; they resize her eyes:

Watch the whole thing:
You're Pitiful

No, not YOU!

"Weird Al" Yankovic has a new album out, and you gotta give the guy his due, he has one or two parodies on every one of his CDs that make you laugh out loud.

Frinstance, "Canadian Idiot" on his latest just made me snort, especially this couplet:

They think their silly accent is so cute
Can't understand a thing they're talking a-boot

So I told you that to tell you this: one song he did for the album, "You're Pitiful," based on James Blunt's gag-fest which will join "Feelings" and "Run Joey Run" in the pantheon of "songs to end the party and clear the room at 3:00 A.M." classics, he had to leave off because Blunt's label freaked (even though Blunt himself gave approval) and wouldn't allow Al to release it. Fools.

History will record these times as having a three-way tie in terms of the most clueless entities on the planet at the start of the century: the George W. Bush administration, Big Record Labels, and Scientology.

Anyway, it's free on Al's website. Scroll down to "YOU'RE PITIFUL!" (and while you're at it, snag "Don't Download This Song"). Or, right-click on the title of this post if you just want "You're Pitiful." Lyrics are here.
The Hypocrisy Rattles My Bones

NBC won't show trailers for the new documentary on the Dixie Chicks, Shut Up & Sing because, "are disparaging of President Bush."

Do any of the folks at NBC people remember the Clinton years?

And, ain't this the country where we can disparage the president if we want to?

I think it's time we start taking away the price breaks the networks get for using public airwaves.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Musical Mystery Tour

Had some interesting musical voyages lately.

At this year's Guy's Campout (a much-needed yearly big-boys-only retreat), the musical selection leaned heavily towards metal riffage and a certain style of vocal based on those of James Hetfield of Metallica. Now, I sometimes like a steamin' slab of screaming guitars under attack by gatling gun drums, but when we entered the third hour of someone sounding like they'd deep-throated the mic and were trying to hork it up, I asked for a reprieve, which resulted in the discovery of Meniskus, a happy accident.

So, when I came upon this recent reviewlet of "Mastodon" by Blood Mountain in the Oct. 20 "Entertainment Weekly": "A concept disc about a quest for a 'crystal skull,' this is a slam dunk if you practice mixolydian scales and own 20-sided dice; for others, liquid arpeggios and rhythmic shifts may not outweigh Cookie Monster vocals." (Sean Howe) - I howled with recognition.

Ever since this vocal style regurgitated onto the scene, I've been trying to put my finger on what it reminded me of. Now and forever, when I hear it again, I will envision a blue-furred, google-eyed pastry abuser. Perhaps these bands should all get together and do a Sesame Street cover album.
Update: Whisky Prajer provided a great link to an article on the phenomenon of the Cookie Monster vocal. Thanks Whisky!

As a music lover, it just bothers the hell out of me that I'm increasingly out of touch with what I presume are the popular tastes.

Take Beyonce's lates release, "B'Day." Please.

It did great on the charts. Critical reviews were glowing. Amazon reviews are mostly positive.

But, to me, it trots out every freakin' hip hop cliché that I detest. Canned beats (which never fail to remind me of those sad fake drums available on electronic organs in churches everywhere). Song topics limited to "let's fuck," "I'm leaving you," "I have no self-esteem issues whatsoever." The melodies, such as they are, are often sing-songy retreads of established hip hop melodies, or variants on the schoolyard taunt "nyah nyah nyah nyah."

Y'know, even the blues, when is sticks to just eight bars of the same notes, can have complexity and shading of meaning I just don't hear in most hip hop.

Why is this compelling music for so many kids? The simplicity and repetition? Is it because it's like a lot of children's music in that regard?

Oh, on top of all that, Beyonce's singing is nothing special. If her voice was as pretty as she is, then she might have something.

Saw Jonathan Demme's Neil Young concert film Heart of Gold.

It was enjoyable. Neil's songs are good. It's amazing that Emmylou Harris is still such a hottie at her age.

But this outing is not the revelation that Demme's Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense is. And, Neil is a love'em or hate'em kinda guy due to that voice.

Fans should check it out. Everyone else should see Stop Making Sense, if they haven't.

Oh, and if you're a fan, Young's new greatest hits is a nice set. The remastering alone is worth the purchase. This, along with Lucky Thirteen, a compilation of his controversial Geffen years, will get you a good collection of his best stuff. (Completists will want to nab a copy of Everybody's Rockin' before they're no longer available.)

Finally, if you're interested in kind of an instant record collection, you could do worse than buying a used copy of this vanity set (it's not worth the full price): Capitol Records 1942-2002. I wouldn't go much over $40.

(Or do what I did and borrow it from the library and cherry pick the songs you don't have yet. This is the only place I've found Radiohead's "Creep" anthologized.)
Speak Up!

This is nothing short of amazing. Scott Adams, creator of "Dilbert," lost his voice about 18 months ago, but got it back by.... well, go read it. (Via

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Alfred E. Bush

Alfred E. Bush
Alfred E. Bush,
originally uploaded by Grabthar.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hello Mary Sue...

... Goodybye art. (With apologies to Ricky Nelson.)

Since I've never been a big fan of "Fan-fic" - stories written by rabid fans based on an existing series (TV, movies, books, w/e), "Star Trek" being the progenitor - I'd not heard/read the term "Mary Sue" until today, but what a beautiful coinage it is.

Via Syaffolee, here is a good definition of it, and here is a quasi-famous litmus test.

Since those two pages kinda say it all, that's about all I have to say about that. (I posted this mostly as part of my quasi-effort to bring to this blog things of interest regarding writing and fiction.)

TLD: Actually, the one piece of fan fiction I've read - and probably because I didn't know that what it was - involved "Star Trek - The Next Generation" - a series I loathed for the most part because it was so politically correct and took all the fun out of gallivanting around the galaxy. Ironically, the character who was most representative of what was wrong with the show was the character I liked the most (not for what her role was on the ship, but the personality of the character) - Counselor Troi. I mean, a freakin' shrink sitting right next to the Captain's chair? For crying out loud! How freakin' Oprah can you get? Had Kirk been in that situation, the original "Star Trek" would have had another first besides the first inter-racial kiss and the use of the phrase (then shocking in TV): "Let's get the hell out of here," it would've also been the first TV show where the Captain said to the bridge counselor, "Shut the fuck up!"

Anyway, I found this story on a CD that contained the latest shareware for the Macintosh. Back in the days before the web, several companies compiled freebies, shareware, pictures, and fan-fic onto CDs which you got by subscription. It was always fun to explore the goodies, because it was the first "surfing the web"-like experience available.

Anyway anyway, the story was they encountered a Borg cube, and when they finally get a look inside, most of Hollywood had been assimilated (apparently after a Borg sweep of LA in an alternate universe or something like that), which leads to the punchline, uttered by Data, "My God, it's full of stars!" (the famous line of Dave Bowman's near the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey), ignoring the fact that Data would never use an interjection, particularly one that referenced God, or use a contraction.

It was worth it wading through the turgid, amateur prose (common to the form) for that punchline.

Check out this wild picture.

I stumbledupon a page of quotes yesterday, and it reminded me of how much I like those kinds of things. Maybe you do, too.

If so, here's the one I found, and here's one I put together years ago.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Quickie Electronic Library

I'm pretty sure this is way illegal, so shame on you if you follow this link and nab the books out there, such as all of J.R.R. Tolkien, most of C.S. Lewis, Dan Brown, and Frank Herbert and so on.
Monday Morning Eye Candy

Some clever photos.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Recent Viewings, 10-13-2006

I am an Adam Sandler fan. I think he has a gift for understanding of the inner lives of the majority of regular, "salt of the earth" Americans - much like Frank Capra, Jimmy Stewart, Milton Berle, John Wayne, Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Carol Burnett, Johnny Carson, and Jerry Lewis.

Of course, this sets him up as a punching bag for critics, particularly those who sniff at anything that doesn't include glacial pacing and nude starlets.

But for those of us who face aggravating commutes, the corporate grind, and over-scheduled kids, he knows our fears and dreams and somehow manages to evoke them vividly and pungently. And he manages it without insulting anyone's intelligence.

Click is not a great film (like 50 First Dates is), but it is a good flick. As my wife pointed out, it's a bit flat and should've been funnier. But it's still plenty funny, imho.

It has been accused of being an update to It's a Wonderful Life with fart jokes, and it is if you consider Body Heat and update to Double Indemnity with a good dash of softcore. But if, like me, you appreciate the very different movies the "updates" are, then you'll probably enjoy Click.

Be warned though, it made my daughter, who's 10, cry because it deals pretty directly with the idea of the death of parents. (For the record, we covered her eyes for the two or three racy scenes.) So if you have children who are currently worried about you dying (and it is one of the most common fears children have), or if they're sensitive about such things, watch this when they're in bed.

X-Men: The Last Stand
Of course it's the "last" stand. [Innocent look.]

Sure. Garth Brooks is retired, too.

Anyway, this is pretty much like the other two. Very consistent (even though it has a different director than the first two). Watchable. Fun, if you like comic book movies.

But, it's a lot like a donut - enjoyable while it lasts, but soon forgotten once your body recovers from the sugar hit.

(I think one of the reasons X-Men doesn't do all that much for me is the built-in dues ex machina where any kind of superhero talent can and does surface for plot convenience. For instance, SPOILER ALERT this movie has a character whose power is that it nulls out any other mutant's powers END SPOILER ALERT. On my planet, only Bugs Bunny gets away with stuff like that.)

The last two Superman and Batman installments were better than this X-Men installment, but then it's been a pretty dry couple years for good movies overall, so if you want a decent popcorn movie, here ya go.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Laugh, thought I'd Die

On the "new arrivals" shelf recently was I Killed, a collection of road warrior stories from hundreds of comedians - wild and amazing things that happened to them on the road. I haven't been able to put it down.

Here's an excerpt from an experience of John Bowman's (edited for length):

I had a reasonable expectation that at the zoo I would see some dangerous and unfamiliar animals, but protected by a fence, a moat, or at least some plastic sheeting. I certainly wasn't worried about the animals in the petting zoo.

So I had no fear when this llama ran to this little three-foot-high fence, made eye contact with me, and started to make a gurgling sound in its throat. Its lips were moving. Trying to be funny for my date, I said, "That llama wants a kiss."

She said, "Oh look, he's puckering his lips."

I started mimicking the llama's lip movements and throat sound. Which of course in llama meant, "Let's throw down, bitch."

I found out later that the llama could have nailed me from a hundred yards away. But I turned it into a slam-dunk contest by getting about two feet from the fence and doing a funny little cabbage-patch dance. I kind of remember my last words were, "I'm turning him on."

It was like one of those terrible accidents when you see everything in slow motion. I actually saw something coming for my face, and instead of a decent defense reaction, like closing my mouth and eyes or turning away, I went slack-jawed and wide-eyed. The bile not only filled my eyeballs but shot down my throat. It lifted me off my feet. I landed on my back, completely blinded, choking and vomiting. What followed was a smell that I still can't describe. I would have huffed a skunk's ass to get away from that llama stink. A week later I noticed that flies still buzzed around my head.

I don't know why humor involving projectile vomiting amuses me so much; perhaps it's just a defense mechanism due to my phobia re the same.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Was thinking this morning...

Back on the old TV series "Mission: Impossible," it always began with Mr. Phelps getting a dossier and a tape recording which outlined the mission, then self-demised in a smoky hissy-fit. If you've seen the show, you know the drill.

Wouldn't it be funny if for once it went like this?

Tape Recording: "Good morning Mr. Phelps. Your mission, should you decide to accept it is to infiltrate the Bzyarmi tribe in southeastern Bukkakkistan. You will assume the undercover role of apprentice yak shampooer, using a traditional soap made from lye and sloth droppings. During your mission, you will be required to shave the yaks, as it is yak shearing season. A tradition among the men of the Bzyarmi tribe prior to the shearing season is a ritual that involves getting what is known in Hollywood as a "Brazilian wax," which considered a necessary purification rite before the shearing commences. You are to locate the Chief's Medicine Man, who is in actuality an uncover operative for a pharmaceutical concern from Austria and secretly poison him over the course of a year by slipping a few grams of the substance in the vial you're holding into his morning Kava Kava. He eventually will experience explosive and fatal diarrhea. Another Bzyarmi tradition is for the men to eat the scrotum of the deceased Medicine Man, as it is considered a tribute to the dead and an aid to sexual vitality. As always, should you or any of your I. M. Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in 5 seconds. ... SSSSHSHSHPT!"

Mr. Phelps (after a pause): "Well fuck that."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Superman - The Album

Back in 2001, after "Five for Fighting" had a hit with "Superman," it dawned on me that there were quite the handful of songs about Superman.

So, with my prodigious CD collection, I put together a CD for myself of all the Superman songs to see how it would hang together. Here's the song list:

Jimmy Olsen's Blues - Spin Doctors
Kryptonite - Three Doors Down
Non-Toxic - SR71
O Superman (For Massenet) - Laurie Anderson
Superman - Sister Hazel
Superman - Five For Fighting
Superman - REM
Superman's Song - Crash Test Dummies
Superman - Barbra Streisand
You Don't Mess Around with Jim - Jim Croce
Superman - Lazlo Bane

It was pretty good, except for the jarring inclusion of the Barbra Streisand track. If you're a straight guy, you've gotta be in the mood for Babs, and that's not often.

It then occurred to me that someone oughta release this commercially, because I bet it would sell. I sent an email to Rhino records saying maybe they should do this, included the song list (sans Babs) and included some homebrew legalese saying I was giving them this idea freely and didn't expect any compensation, except maybe a free copy if they were feeling generous.

Well, last week a buddy whom I made a copy of the Superman CD for comes by with this CD. From Rhino.

Apparently they used my idea!

And, no, I did not get a free copy.