Friday, July 28, 2006

When MTV Mattered

After MTV got over its brief awkward stage (the first year or so) and before the cliches got established (jittery slow-mo, dancers, etc.), there was a golden age of video.

My personal fave is Donald Fagen's "New Frontier." Besides the fact that it's a great song and the video actually tells a story (related to the song, even), it's also a mini-review of the best of the 50s animation styles and the art that inspired them - which makes it educational, too.


I may have linked to this before, but this is one of the funniest things ever written: "The Three Most Important Things in Life," by Harlan Ellison.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

On Actresses

Ellie Parker
(the movie)

Constant readers might recall that I swore off little indie films about the little earthquakes in boring people's lives, but Ellie Parker was about an actress, so you see how it doesn't count. Ahem.

Anyway, it's kinda dull (surprise!), and it's very amateurish.

We get to see Ellie Parker pee, screw, puke, and emote, all in the first half hour. I'm not sure if the writer/director is just aping the worse elements of French films - or American indie films - or both! Seems like indie American directors feel that by showing those little excretory moments in life they are somehow showing us reality. Well, like the children's book tells us, "Everyone Poops," but we kinda know that going in, so you don't need to show it. Unless, of course, you're going to trot out that joke that's always funny, where someone emerges from the biffy with a dire warning to the next occupant; that one routinely kills.

I once read somewhere (probably the 2Blowhards) that actresses being reluctant about doing nudity in movies wasn't actually that much of an issue, but in fact the true problem is trying to get them to keep their clothes on, most of them being exhibitionists at heart. This movie would tend to prove that out since Naomi Watts produced and starred in it, and there she is, nekkid and pounding away on some guy in the tub. Had she compunctions about that stuff, she could've had changes made. Consider the "actresses like to get nekkid" myth deemed plausible.

From a larger perspective, if you've never been around theatre people or actors, this movie might contain some insights and be enjoyable, as it trots out many of the, uh, delightful tropes of what actors go through for their art. However, for those of use who've been around the creatures live and in person, we are all too aware of the struggle to be a realistic tree or the juiciest tomato (assuming one was a method actor, and not Brechtian, of course).

There is one bright shining moment, though. Chevy Chase has a cameo where, as her agent, he gives Ellie a great speech about confidence. It's one of the truer things I've ever heard. It begins at the 1 hour, 6 minute mark for the whole cameo, or if you wanna skip straight to the speech, its 1 hour and 7 minutes in.

So, if this little corner of the world interests you (actors and their plight), or if you'd like to see Chevy's great speech, check it out of you can get it for free at the library or have Netflix. Don't bother if it comes on broadcast TV though, as 33% of the content will be edited out.

Ava Gardner
(the biography)

This bio covers the beautiful Ava Gardner down to pretty minute details.

I think we even are told when her pubic hair grew in.

A lot of it is standard hick-from-the-sticks is discovered by someone with industry connections, gets signed by a studio, who then grooms them into a star, forcing them to speak in a Midwestern accent (save for the odd New Yorker who gets to keep his/her local flavor), go to the right parties, pretend they're not married if they are, do dah do dah and so on.

Luckily, author Lee Server has a breezy style and things pop along quite nicely. I always enjoy a good stylist.

For those of you interested in the trash content of this bio, all your twisted little needs will be met. Grocery lists of who slept with whom. Detail on genital size and quality; for instance, re Ava (according to Mickey Rooney):

"[T]here had never been anyone like Ava 'down there' - it seemed to have a life of its own, as supple and expressive as 'a little warm mouth.'"

Or re Frank Sinatra:
"[T]that first night Ava had gone to bed with Sinatra, she had been unavoidably reminded of the earlier affair and Lana's [Turner] giddy rants about Frank's priapic endowment; she found out that Lana had not exaggerated those dimensions in the slightest (Sinatra naked, said pal Jackie Gleason, looked like a tuning fork)."

One grand theme I've picked up from the bios of bands and stars that I've read is, among the many things that come with stardom, one of the most common is apparently you are provided the opportunity to boff every other current celebrity, and most take advantage of it.

And that must be something else, y'know? Imagine spending a year or two bumping uglies with all these stars you've been seeing from afar until your star rose. The mind (and other organs) must reel.

And it appears that everyone gets around to everyone eventually. Every big deal male star or power broker had their go at Ava (or she at them, being as much of a huntress as hunted) with the exception of Howard Huges because she didn't like the way he smelled. Consider how many guys in recent times have gone on about the talents and/or shortcomings of Britney Spears (bushy), Lindsay Lohan (stanky), or Agelina Jolie (scary).

Besides a few stints in rehab and a place near the top of the liver transplant list, one thing most stars must take into their golden years (assuming they make it) is the memories of everyone who was someone and what they looked like naked and how they were in bed.

"Ava" is also full of interesting factoids not related to the horizontal bop. For instance, about Sinatra's birth:
"He was born, as the story goes, too big for this world: nearly fourteen pounds, a traumatic breech birth, forceps tearing open the baby's face and neck, left for dead by the distracted doctor. His grandmother refused the physician's pronouncement and rushed the boy to the kitchen sink, a torrent of cold December water shocking him back to life."

Wow, huh? You can almost hear the lighting striking in the background and ominous basso chorus.

One rather big detail left out of Howard Hughes' recent biopic was that he had a bigger and probably more efficient private spy operation than rivaled anything by the FBI or CIA. He bugged the phones and bedrooms of anyone who interested him (particularly the women), and he had a staff of investigators who regularly filed reports on the behaviors of everyone on his interest list. Imagine having a look through those file boxes. (Perhaps those were the boxes that the Arc of the Covenant was stored amongst in Raiders of the Lost Arc. I mean really, where are all those records now? Sounds like a job for Jon Krakauer.

So, anyway, if you like this kind of star-fucker backroom gossip, Ava Gardner is a hell of a ride by all accounts. (Hardee har har.)

Friday, July 21, 2006

It's a scorcher

My lovely wife was at her company meeting the other day, when it was discovered that a vehicle out front of the store was leaking gasoline. The owner attempted to manage the spill for a while until it became obvious that there was nothing affective he could do. Someone said, "Call the fire department!"

To which all the ladies (the entire staff save the owner is female) responded, "Great idea!"

For those of you who might not have a woman around the house, or be a woman, firemen are like visual crack for most of the female population. Firemen are usually buff, tough, and (from what I've been told) cute.

The meeting was taking place in a room that had a direct view of where all the firemen hotties were going to be, so the ladies rolled up the blinds to enhance their view.

The firemen showed up did their thing, with the owner outside watching and probably being a nuisance.

He came back in, and since we've had record temperatures lately, he was fluffing his shirt saying, "Whew! Is it ever hot out there!"

My wife fluffs her shirt too, and says, "I'll say!"

It took him a moment, but when he got it, I guess he turned an alarming shade of purple, which only got worse when all the ladies burst out laughing.

Y'now if it weren't illegal, I bet a common occurrence would be false alarms that resulted from a bunch of women partying and wanting some nice scenery to show up.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

<irony>Trust me, the Titanic is unsinkable</irony>

Record Biz Crisis: Top 20 Misses 750G

The top 20 pop albums sold fewer than a total of 750,000 CDs last week.

You read that correctly. The actual total was 738,211. The number includes 220,000 copies of a greatest hits singles collection from all the labels, "Now That's What I Call Music! Vol. 22." Without “Now 22,” regular releases came in around 500,000 copies.

This is a crisis that no one acknowledges in the record business. But consider that recently dismissed Sony execs Donnie Ienner and Michelle Anthony were making $2 million a year, and that their income is typical of upper echelon management in any record company. If the half million CDs sold at full price — $15 — then they didn’t even pay for a small part of one salary.

Source:,2933,204314,00.html#2 (scroll down), via "The Fix"
They have force fields now


I realize this is Fox "News", so this may just be propaganda. But if it's real ... cool.
Business Opportunity

Some folks think the Rapture is due any moment, due to the recent uptick in tension over in Israel. (Via

I find the idea suspect that we (Christians) will all suddenly be sucked up to heaven, to say the least. The Bible says things that can be interpreted that way, so I'm not counting it out, but let me say that if it happens, I'll be surprised - and not only because I might suddenly find myself at the pearly gates in the midst of a bowel movement (and if that happens, at least I'll have the King to commiserate with).

However, there are plenty of people who think it's gonna happen (and soon!), so I have an idea for those of you who have no fear of hell.

Nothing in Rapture eschatology talks about pets. Therefore, a case can be made that Fido and Socks aren't gonna get snatched up to heaven when Ma and Pa do.

Well, who's gonna take care of all those animals?

Someone should offer a service to assume the care of those animals, for a small fee upfront and a mention in the Will for upkeep, because as a pagan/atheist/scientologist/Pastafarian they have no worry about being Raptured, and thus will be able to keep the water bowls filled and so on.

Keep in mind that most families have a black sheep, and I bet the rest are secretly assuming they will stay behind to take care of the animals during the tribulation, so you have to build that into your business plan.

But rest assured that there will be enough people who think they're ALL going, and you might be able to retire within a year. Plus, you'll probably get an interview on Fox News.

I myself have no intention on moving forward with this idea because I would never be able to keep a straight face during the presentation, so consider this a freebie.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on women in power:

"I'm not a person who thinks the world would be entirely different if it was run by women. If you think that, you've forgotten what high school was like."

From's "The Fix" of July 13.
Ebert's Rules of Movie Reviewing

As you may know, Roger Ebert, the only movie critic I've ever really trusted* ("enjoyed" is an entirely different thing), has recently undergone emergency surgery to remove new cancer growths. Reports say he's doing fine, but that's what they say about celebrities regardless of how they're doing. Since this is a recurrence, I'm not optimistic.
*Well, Siskel was good, too; and I like Lisa Schwarzbaum of "Entertainment Weekly" and Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News, though you have to put the fanboy/geekoid filter for him.

Even more ominous, his paper is publishing career summary kind of stuff.

Anyway, one of them contained something I thought was pretty cool. So in effort to make some lemonade out of the situation, here are Ebert's rules of movie reviewing, which I agree with entirely:

- Whether or not you write in the first person, criticism is all opinion, and your review is your opinion. I am very comfortable with first person.

- Remember that not all movies have the same audience, and therefore not all reviews have the same readers. Write in a way that seems appropriate to each film. That doesn't mean writing up or writing down, but writing in a way relevant to the film.

- Feel free to place a film in context with other films and other works by the same director. Films are not born in a void.

- Remember that your readers are not being paid to go to the movies, and you are. Do not give a movie the equivalent of a 4-star or 3.5-star review unless you personally believe that if you were not a film critic, it would have been worth your own time and money to leave the house, go to the theater, and buy a ticket.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Hola, el tiempo largo ningĂșn considera!

Wow, nearly a month and no posts. What the hell is wrong with this Y guy, anyway?

Well, I'm beginning to notice that at my current gainful employ, we have a panic cycle about this time every year. I have been so busy, all I've been able to squeak into my few spare minutes in a day is some reading. (Well, and some movies over the long weekend of the 4th when work wasn't sucking me dry.)

I get to read primarily when I'm watching the baby. As long as I sit on the floor, she's content to play with her toys. She circles around and crawls across me about every five minutes, or I have to help color a picture, or admire the doll or car she has clutched in her sweet little hand. However, if I sit on a couch or chair, she's over there like the Wile E. Coyote on the Roadrunner, saying, "Up! Up!" Then I have to make sure she doesn't fall. So, I spend most of my slices of free time on the carpet, reading a couple paragraphs, coloring a hat, reading a couple paragraphs, "What color is that car?" Etc. It's a happy existence.

TLD: Our littlest one this past weekend joined the pantheon of greatness reserved for babies learning the language who pronounce perfectly sweet words in such a way that they sound like the crudest profanity. Our oldest said the word "frog jump" (from one of her books showing that very thing) as "fucked up," clear as a bell. It was good for a few spit takes when we were in public. The little one now says "red shoes" (her favorite) as "asshole," again clear as a bell. We showed this off to our friends and neighbors this weekend, to their lukewarm amusement and uncomfortable looks. Apparently a 17-month-old saying "asshole," albeit innocently, is funny only to my wife and myself.

So, here's the reading I squeezed in:

jPod by Douglas Coupland
Mr. Coupland remains one of my favorite writers. Coupland is a consummate stylist. His words pull you through the narrative.

Not that he doesn't have good stories and characters, he does. But they way he tells the story is his best feature.

jPod is like his Microserfs, but a decade later - much like the movies American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused cover the same territory for different generations. Coupland has an uncanny ability to invoke the mindset of programmers (known as "Developers" in the industry) and the rhythms of their workplace. I've not read better, in that regard.

An interesting touch is Coupland inserts himself as a character in the novel, which seems to be the in thing these days in the lit circles. (Which I find a welcome change from the last meme/trope: rampant adultery.) The poster boy for sociopathic fiction, Bret Easton Ellis, made himself a character in his latest, Lunar Park (which I've just procured, stay tuned*), for instance.

Anyway, the main protagonist hates Coupland, to the extent that when he encounters Coupland the first time, he describes looking into his eyes like looking into wells filled with drowned toddlers. (A hell of an image, that.)

I enjoyed the hell out of it, and it's one of his best.

*Wasn't able to make it out of the first chapter. Basically, Ellis paints himself as a total schmuck. How much of it is fact and how much is fiction is known only by those who know him, I'd guess. However, a sympathetic character he does not make. I can't buy into a novel where I don't like the main character, or at least passionately dislike them enough to want to see how fate handles them.

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
This novel moved Christopher Moore onto my short, exclusive "I will read every book s/he puts out" list. I laughed hard at least once per chapter, and often every other page. This guy is funny.

I liked his The Stupidest Angel (titled accurately), but couldn't make it through Lamb (the story of one of Jesus' childhood friends) because it's a fine line you have to walk when you are irreverent about Jesus Christ.

Let me give you an example: the TV show "Southpark" does Jesus right. I mean, some of what they do is offensive (even very offensive, bless 'em), but the character of Jesus is consistent with what you read in the NT. Another way of putting it is Jesus himself is not mocked. In Lamb, Jesus himself was not dealt with appropriately, so only those who think the whole concept of Jesus is silly would be able to enjoy the novel. Now, to me, if you are going to start off alienating the very audience that might dig your novel, well, perhaps you should've just kept your bullet in your pocket like you were told to. But I digress...

Moore more than makes up for any past faux pau with A Dirty Job. The concept is that common folk are drafted as grim reapers, the same device used in my beloved Dead Like Me, and ( the original debut of the idea) Piers Anthony's On a Pale Horse. The interesting twist is even though his past two novels have used Christian tropes and symbology, this one assumes all mythologies are true, but takes a Buddhist view of the afterlife. And It was a refreshing change for the concept.

My favorite theme was that of the "beta male." We've heard a lot about the "alpha male," but here Moore defines the beta male, and swear to God, half the time it doubles you over in laughter and the other half the time you grimace in acknowledgement.

A great read. If you don't have much time for recreational reading, and only get one or two in in a year, pick this one up.

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
Read the "prequel" to The Da Vinci Code (prequel in the sense that the main character from "Da Vinci" is introduced in this novel). And, it was good. There's a reason Brown's been on the bestseller lists for years now.

The premise is that the Illuminati have resurfaced and want to take down the Catholic church, because you see, the Illuminati are on the side of science, and the church has just been so mean to science, so they've got to be given a cosmic wedgie. Hilarity ensues.

Every time I read a review of his books or even the movies, for crissakes, the reviewer slams Brown's writing. (Even Stephen King took a swipe in his "Entertainment Weekly" article and called "Da Vinci" a one trick pony.) Ok, the guy's not Shakespeare, but he knows how to construct a hell of a thriller, and his style pulls you along at a nice clip. That puts him in the very rare category of writers (along with King, Koontz, and the master of all: Robert E. Howard) who can grab you by a nostril hair and pull you along without your permission. So let's give the guy some credit, k?

Now, you can dislike him (or like him, depending upon your particular bent) for his obvious grudge against the Roman Catholic Church; holy cow he hates those guys. What's interesting is he thanks the church and various high-ups for giving him unprecedented access to their buildings and library at the Vatican so he could be accurate in his descriptions. I bet he's been disinvited since, though.

And, he floats the implausible once in a while. But hey, let's just enjoy the shit blowing up, k?

For the record, here's one of the big implausibles in Angels and Demons


A scientist who wants to prove that the Biblical account of creation is plausible inadvertently creates anti-matter - yes, the theoretical stuff that fuels Capt. Kirk's ride - in the process, thus creating something from nothing. (I don't know why we are handed the assumption that the creation of something from nothing would somehow line up with Biblical accounts anymore than evolution somehow balances God out of the equation, but maybe that's just me ...). Well, seems if anti-matter touches matter, you get a big badda boom. So, they create a container that suspends the stuff in a total vacuum so no touchy-touchy occurs. Here's the "you're shitting me" part: for some unexplained reason, this container, which generates magnetic levitation and has a battery that runs out in exactly 24 hrs to the nanosecond when separated from its recharger, is all completely plastic. Therefore, since anti-matter is undetectable with current bomb detection equipment, and since something without metal parts isn't detected by bomb detectors either, this canister is sneaked past the Vatican police. The scientists who created this thing had no reason to make it completely out of plastic other than to help the mechanism of the plot. Usually such things get past me, but this one was so blatant, even I caught it right away.


And, during the long holiday weekend, I actually got to see some movies:

Essentially Cape Fear in a house, with the kidnappers from Die Hard thrown in for good measure. The movie is a serviceable thriller, worth the two hours spent. But hit the Redbox or the library for this one. (I find the less I pay for a movie, the more I'm willing to give it some room to suck.) More interesting is the interview with Ford and the director in the extras, where Ford talks about character motivation and realism. Also interesting is the discussion of the big fight at the end of the film. I found myself wondering if Ford and the director don't realize how anachronistic a basic fist fight as the denouement is anymore.

Not Pixar's best. It's every sports movie you've ever seen, but with cars as the characters. Yes, there are some good jokes, but this is not a classic. Also, there's a segment where the cars lament the creation of the interstate highway system, which cut straight through the deserts of the west rather than wind around every hillock, as route 66 supposedly does. Gosh, trying to romanticize driving slowly through the desert on a winding, bumpy 2-lane highway that forces you to go through every Podunk wide spot in the road so you can feast your eyes on neon light overload rather than blowing through the desert on a flat, straight interstate so you can get where the hell you're going just didn't work for me at all. I snorted out loud at the concept. Still, take the kiddies. This one's fun for the time allotted.

This is Mr. Nancy Wilson's (of Heart) most recent effort. (I'm just trying to be cute. Mr. Wilson is Cameron Crowe in name.) It starts well, but kind of loses momentum when we actually arrive in Elizabethtown. From there, the only interesting thing is the character played by Kirsten Dunst, who sprays charisma on every scene like those temps who spray perfume one every hapless woman who strolls by the beauty counter at Dillard's. She's too good to be real, and is a bit of a mindreader, so even though she's charming, you get pulled out of the movie because she's so angelic. Apparently there's a theory about the movie that she's in fact a guardian angel, which Crowe doesn't deny. (And I can't help but think that with Cameron's vast knowledge and love of music, maybe he's too embarrassed to admit that he essentially wrote a movie inspired by the song "Undercover Angel.")

Walk the Line
Yeah, the performances were good, but this was your typical average joe with talent and a handful of good songs hits the big time, then hits the bottle and does drugs, but is redeemed by a good woman (or man), pulls life back together, tra-la. I think the Buddy Holly Story or even both versions of A Star is Born are superior to this effort.

Melinda Melinda
A lesser Woody Allen. The premise is the story of a messed up woman, the Melinda of the title, told two different ways, a comedy (of sorts) and a tragedy. Meh. Save yourself the two hours.

Blue Collar Comedy Tour - One for the Road
I think you either find this kind of humor funny, or just sad. If you're the prior, this one is as good as the previous two. My wife and I laugh so hard at these, we trade of remote duty to pause whilst we guffaw. Joe Bob would say check it out, if he still had a drive-in to see it at.

Superman Returns
I really liked it. Thought it was as good as, and in some ways surpasses, the original movie. This one is somehow more lyrical. You feel Superman's alienation and loneliness. And not only does the new guy look like Reeves (Christopher, not George), he sounds like him, too. Reeves still takes the cake for adding the amused spin that no one recognizes he's Superman.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Random Observation

Where I live (Colorado), veal is now cheaper by the pound than chicken or beef.

I think that speaks volumes.