Saturday, April 28, 2007

A long time ago, on a cell phone far, far away...

Once I was having a conversation with someone (who was actually standing there) and some poltroon was on his cell speaking in his going-for-the-balcony voice. That in itself was bad enough, but he was pacing, and he'd pace right up to us, turn and pace away. So every time he orbited, we'd have to halt our conversation and wait till he walked away again. Looks that would normally melt crayons didn't seem to bother him either. If only Darth had been there.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


My mom had a little Benji named "Kid," now gone to doggy heaven, but he was a good boy.


See, he had one problem. Let me explain.

One summer my brother and I were back in our hometown for something, and we were over at mom's. We were shooting the breezed when Kid dragged a teddy bear into the room, nosed it around until it was rump up, and then mounted it.

My mom sighed and said, "He always does that when I have guests."

My brother asked, "Why a teddy bear?"

Mom said she'd gotten it for one of our kids, but before she could send it, Kid found it and did what we were witnessing. She said after that, she didn't feel right about sending it, so it became Kid's.

For the record, he was fixed, so he never got the gold, as it were, but he usually pounded away for a good few minutes.

My brother inquired, "What's its name? Star?" ("Star" after a typical stripper's name.)

Mom laughed and thereafter the teddy was known as Star.

When we'd visit, Mom would invariably have to say, "Kid! Take Star in another room!" And sometimes he would.

Apparently, it's a common problem. (Mildly NSFW)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Apologies, dear readers, for the dearth of posts. Work stacked up like status cars on the LA highway and only now do I have a moment to collect a thought or two.

Here we go...
JFK - this theory makes sense

Rolling Stone, like MTV, should give up their delusion that they have anything relevant to say about music, having changed horses long ago. Rolling Stone is actually mostly a liberal political mag (I know I'm surprising no one, here), and those are about the only articles worth reading.

Recently, they offered up perhaps the most plausible scenario of the machinations behind the JFK assassination. I've always been intrigued by the JFK thing because it was, like 9/11, a pure crimson mushroom-cloud of evil that was so blatant it capsizes the mind if you really dwell on the enormity of the event.

Many players have been under suspicion: the mob, Cuba, a cabal of powerful JFK-haters within the govt. itself, and the man who would get the job were JFK gone. E. Howard Hunt, a slimly government operative on the inside during the time, confessed his understanding of what went down on his deathbed. Short answer: It was all of the above, plus a wrinkle I've not read about before.

E. Howard scribbled the initials "LBJ," standing for Kennedy's ambitious vice president, Lyndon Johnson. Under "LBJ," connected by a line, he wrote the name Cord Meyer. Meyer was a CIA agent whose wife had an affair with JFK; later she was murdered, a case that's never been solved. Next his father connected to Meyer's name the name Bill Harvey, another CIA agent; also connected to Meyer's name was the name David Morales, yet another CIA man and a well-known, particularly vicious black-op specialist. And then his father connected to Morales' name, with a line, the framed words "French Gunman Grassy Knoll."

So there it was, according to E. Howard Hunt. LBJ had Kennedy killed. It had long been speculated upon. But now E. Howard was saying that's the way it was. And that Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't the only shooter in Dallas. There was also, on the grassy knoll, a French gunman, presumably the Corsican Mafia assassin Lucien Sarti, who has figured prominently in other assassination theories.

"By the time he handed me the paper, I was in a state of shock," Saint says. "His whole life, to me and everybody else, he'd always professed to not know anything about any of it. But I knew this had to be the truth. If my dad was going to make anything up, he would have made something up about the Mafia, or Castro, or Khrushchev. He didn't like Johnson. But you don't falsely implicate your own country, for Christ's sake. My father is old-school, a dyed-in-the-wool patriot, and that's the last thing he would do."

Later that week, E. Howard also gave Saint two sheets of paper that contained a fuller narrative. It starts out with LBJ again, connecting him to Cord Meyer, then goes on: "Cord Meyer discusses a plot with [David Atlee] Phillips who brings in Wm. Harvey and Antonio Veciana. He meets with Oswald in Mexico City. . . . Then Veciana meets w/ Frank Sturgis in Miami and enlists David Morales in anticipation of killing JFK there. But LBJ changes itinerary to Dallas, citing personal reasons."

So, JFK boffed Cord Meyer's wife. There always seemed to be a missing piece, because mere political ambition only seemed to be part of the picture. Revenge on the man that made him a cuckold throws in that final spice of verisimilitude.

And, of course, we have the famed gunman on the grassy knoll ID'd.

The print version has some good pics, plus a nice one-page summary of the players.
For Your Convenience

Rolling Stone also has videos of the famed spooky coincidence between Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz, the "good parts" version.

Found here.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Saw Kiss Kiss Bang Bang starring Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, and this total hottie named Michelle Monaghan, and dug the hell out of it. But then I like self-referential movies that break the fourth wall. When it's done well, as it is here, it actually sinks me deeper into the movie because it feels like I'm in on the joke.

The premise is Downey is a small-time thief who evades arrest by happing into a film casting session. The scene he reads so closely resembles what's really happening to him that they cast him on the spot as a detective. The movie folks hire a real detective, Val Kilmer, to train him to act more like a private eye. Hilarity ensues.

Besides the fact that the movie is funny and sexy, I love the way two of the characters are handled. First, the female lead is refreshingly complex and has some great twists to her character, and some great laugh lines. Second, Val Kilmer's character is gay, and FOR ONCE, it's not the "obligatory gay character" that has infiltrated too many recent films (if you don't know to what I refer, then I prolly couldn't explain it). The fact that he's gay is just that, a fact, and all the plot points that touch upon that fact are crucial to the plot. In other words, it's realistic. And damned funny.

When looking up some info about the film (re what in the hell else did Shane Black do?; ans: Lethal Weapon), I discovered that the original casting choices were Hugh Grant and Benicio Del Toro. Downey and Kilmer are both so perfect for their respective roles, it simply would not be the movie it is without them.

It's odd this movie wasn't bigger. If you haven't already, you should check this little jem out.

A few minutes into watching Crank, my lovely wife, sitting behind me at the kitchen table doing some sewing, said, "Where did you get this freakin' mind garbage?" I was kind of digging it, in a car-wreck sorta way, and said, "Uh, the library, like most movies." Still, that was my clue to shut it off and plan an alterative viewing time.

So I found myself with some precious free time and fired it back up. I'm ashamed to admit I enjoyed it.

Ashamed because this is the exact kind of amoral (hell, immoral) action flick marketed at teenage boys anymore. There have been many movies where a bad guy is the "hero," but usually the movie does not expect us to identify with him even if we empathize a bit. This movie squarely paints the lead, played by unlikely action hero Jason Statham, as the sympathetic character, even though he's a hit man and a hardened criminal.

The movie opens with him waking up feeling terrible. In his living room he discovers a DVD he's clearly supposed to watch, and when he does, he's told - in a gansta Mission: Impossible style - that he has been injected with a Beijing cocktail which will kill him within the hour. We later learn (via the hero's doctor, played by my boy Dwight Yoakam) that the exact mechanism it uses is it blocks adrenaline, and the only way he can stay alive is to overdose on adrenaline.

So, he goes through a series of extreme things, including screwing his dimwitted girlfriend in the middle of a busy public square. (Again, teenage boys would just love this scene; I was just lightly amused, but somewhat embarrassed for the actors.)

The humor in the movie is very Tarantino-esque in that it's all keyed off of violence or tawdry circumstance. For instance, the scene mentioned above where they boff in public ends when he gets a phone call that distracts him and you hear the wet pop as he pulls out.

I watched it on a computer, and the DVD player that came with it isn't a very good player, and the subtitles were stuck on for most of the movie. (I figured out how to shut them off 2/3 of the way through.) This was a fortunate accident, because they went through the trouble of making the only subtitle joke I think I've ever seen. Two characters are in a conversation, and they're cutting back and forth furiously as they bark out their lines. One interrupts the other, and when we switch around to view the interrupter, the subtitles of the character who was just interrupted are in the foreground and blurry, as though they really existed as letters hanging in the air. It's quick and subtle, but I laughed out loud.

Ironically, this movie comes with a "family friendly" soundtrack, where all the bad language is looped into clean words. But, all the scenes of extreme violence and sex are still very much intact. What good does it do to change a line to "Frick! You stupid freaking frick!" when they're spraying bullets or having graphic sex? It's kind of like shellacking a turd and claiming it's now hygienic.

Like I said, I enjoyed it, but I wasn't proud of myself. You might like it too if movies of dubious moral viewpoints and gratuitous everything don't bug ya too much.

I'm one of those who think that while global warming may be happening, given the evidence, I still doubt that we are to blame for the recent warming cycle. I've followed the concern for years now, read about everything I can get my hands on (even fiction on it, State of Fear, by Michael Crichton), and nothing compelling has convinced me that we are at fault and can really do anything about it. (When I first heard about it, I was. But most of the stuff since has convinced me it's a natural cycle.)

I had it on my list anyway, but at a friend's urging when I told him the above, I made sure I saw Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.

Well, I'm still not convinced we are at fault, but I am now convinced there's no reason not to take steps to reduce emissions wherever possible. Gore does a great job of making a case that there won't be significant economic impact if we do take such steps.

And, if you haven't seen it, it's worth a few minutes of your time. It's a good show. Make sure to catch the updates in the extras.
Pan pan

Also saw Friends with Money, and what a slab of turkey that was. When you get that much talent in a room, you wonder what could have the original draw. Was it good on paper? Was the script complete? Is it because it's an "actorly" movie, meaning they have juicy scenes? I can't tell why this thing was even made.
Top 10 Sci-fi Movies

In an interesting upset, Sci-fi mag "SFX" in Britain had a vote on the top 10 sci-fi films of all time.

1. Serenity (2005)
2. Star Wars (1977)
3. Blade Runner (1982)
4. Planet of the Apes (1968)
5. The Matrix (1999)
6. Alien (1979)
7. Forbidden Planet (1956)
8. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
9. The Terminator (1984)
10. Back to the Future (1985)

On its own, Serenity doesn't rate that high (imvho), but as a payoff to the series, it is powerful.

It's about the only sci-fi series that comes close to the golden standard - the original Trek series - in terms of story-telling, action, and humor.

You can get the whole shebang - Firefly, the series, and Serenity, the movie which ends the series - for about $35, plus whatever shipping, and for as many hours of great entertainment you get, it might be one of the best tickets out there.
What would Jesus really do?

Folks often admonish moderate Christians like myself for not taking the fundies (or the Christians-in-name-only, like Unitarians) to task more often in the media. The obvious reason why that doesn't often happen is that moderate, sensible views aren't interesting reporting. The nuts are interesting.

But, it is nice when someone does manage to float a great article that does articulate what the vast majority of Christians really believe.
The Music Business' Continuing Death Spiral

Constant readers know that this is one of my "broken record" posts. (For those of you in the cheap seats, and those who are chronologically challenged, when a vinyl album would get cracked, it would often skip and play the same groove over and over again.)

The music biz is not just in a slump, it's headed for a terrain conflict (as a pilot friend of mine used to describe a crash). You don't even need to count past fingers and move onto toes to enumerate the number of albums that sell over a million copies anymore.

What confounds me is why these articles never connect the dots between the terrible state of broadcast radio and music sales - even when news of payola scams abound.

But beyond radio, what's offered as the latest and greatest pop is often just dreck. (Yes, we have standouts like "The Flaming Lips" that put out great stuff, but they're decades into their careers and follow the beat of their own drummer. I'm talking about mainstream pop music here.)

I gave Justin Timberlake's (a former boy-band member) FutureSex / LoveSounds a spin, and boy did it suq.

The best way I can describe it is like someone ate disco singles, a drum machine, boy band clichés, and lengths of master tapes from Michael Jackson doing those weird vocalizations he does and vomited them up for 60 odd minutes, while barking out sexual euphemisms in the intermittent the dry heaves.

The new Gwen Stefani has a similar problem in that she's trying to ape the more brain-dead and monotonous end of the hip hop scene, doing the million-tenth version of singing the melodies of children's ditties like "nyay-nyah" and "Frère Jacques" to the same freakin' canned beat, which is too bad because she's more talented than that. The whole CD isn't a waste, though. Like the Star Trek movies, every even-numbered song is the good stuff she usually does.
This is kinda cute and mildly NSFW

Pictorial representations of rather blue phrases by artist Agnes Kunz Vigil.
The Infamous Green Flash

I've probably fried a certain portion of my retinas looking at sunsets waiting for the green flash that's supposed to happen just as it sets. After a while, I wondered if the green flash was really the burned-in afterimage on your retina. Never did see it in person.

But, heck, someone got a picture of it:

Source: Galax Lux