Saturday, January 17, 2004

Random Musing
I don't know why I just thought about this... Years ago, in a social gathering involving SCA members* and RPG freaks (with lots of people over 40 who were still heavy into both scenes), there was a guy who showed up with about a hundred chicken wings from Hooters. Now, I'll be the first to admit that Hooters wings are pretty damned good, albeit expensive. (For the record, I tend to seek out hole-in-the-wall Mom & Pop hot wing joints where I'm the only white person in the establishment. Yeah, that sounds racist, but the same goes for some BBQ places. If you know what to ask for and are prepared to deal with some good-natured teasing, the food is well worth it.) They're a bit unique in that they're battered and fried before being sauced up, which just adds more grease and starch to the dish. I personally prefer regular hot wings (I generally go for the "nuclear" option or whatever is hottest), but I'll attest to the fact that Hooters wings taste great in their own way.

What I'm getting at, in a roundabout way, is the following: Who the hell gets Hooters take-out? What's the point? Overpriced greasy food is fine when there are hot chicks bouncing around, but for take-out? Why bother?

As long as I'm dredging up memories here, I'll point out my favorite Hooters moment, out of the half-dozen times that I've set foot in that establishment. In February 1996, my girlfriend at the time dragged me to Hooters (seriously, she had a craving for their wings). As if that wasn't weird enough, while we were there in the mid-afternoon, the only thing playing on ESPN was the Kasparov�Deep Blue chess competition. So I was sitting in Hooters, watching a chess match against a computer with my rather feminist girlfriend who demanded that I take her there.

One day in the future, when the courts have mandated that I see a psychiatrist before trial, I'm certain that this event will be heavily investigated.

*For the record, I never participated in a single SCA event, nor was I a member. I just had a lot of friends who were in it, and I got dragged to a lot of functions.
Movieblogging: Drumline
Time for some file organization on the old hard drive... While taking care of said housekeeping, I'm watching Drumline (2002). It's a fairly predictable but pleasantly enjoyable movie about a college marching band. The most surprising thing about it thus far is the unusually restrained and dignified character of the band leader/professor played by Orlando Jones. I'm a big fan of his, and it's nice to see him acting in a somewhat dramatic role.

I played trumpet in the school band for a couple of years way back in the mists of time, but never really got into it. (I wanted to do more jazz band/symphony work, and the program only played at athletic events.) The military-style regimen that the kids go through in this movie is pretty rigorous, and it's obvious that the actors put a lot of work into this movie.
Movieblogging: Underworld
This is a little belated... Technically I could backdate this post so that it looks like I wrote it last night, but I try not to do that. Last night The Ring Bearer and I watched Underworld (2003). My feelings towards the movie before seeing it were best summed up as "low expectations and high curiosity", and I ended up really enjoying it. Granted, it's stitched together from dozens of previous movies, books, and other works, but the story was quite good and the cinematography was spectacular. And I'm a sucker for Kate Beckinsale.

It's a lot like the two Blade movies, in that it fuses classic vampire elements with modern Hong Kong-style action and a dash of science fiction for good measure. Underworld also adds just enough of a sense of Anne Rice vampire aristocracy for the sake of style and design.

The rest of the cast is made up of mostly-unknowns (to American audiences, at least), but everyone fits their roles quite well.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Great Jumpin' Gilgamesh!
BoingBoing carries a story about converting the works of Elvis Presley into Sumerian with one of the coolest titles I've seen in a long time:

Elvis lyrics in Sumerian: the Nam-Shub of El-vi
Site News
Posting may be light in the days to come; I have a new camera to test out and, thanks to The Roommate, a third dog is joining our household tomorrow morning. What little free time I have will probably be spent with the camera. Will this blog someday include photos? Perhaps... Even if I don't start posting photos, I'll do a writeup on the camera.
Movieblogging:The Exorcist
Would you believe that before tonight I've never seen The Exorcist (1973)? It's #178 on the IMBD Top 250 and is one of the few critically acclaimed horror movies. I might as well explain here that the horror genre--both in film and literature--does little for me. Even as much as I enjoy bad movies, I seldom enjoy horror of any quality level. This is most likely due to my mother, who sought to protect me from such demonic influences by telling me how stupid and fake and pointless they were. I became too much of a skeptic at a young age to get scared of such movies, and instead I just tend to get really bored. I obviously don't have the same problem with fantasy or science fiction, but those tend to take place in worlds that never existed or far off futures in which anything is possible. Horror asks us to make assumptions about the present day world that defy all reason or logic. That's not to say that I hate all horror; I've enjoyed a lot of Stephen King's books, but I think he would be a great storyteller in whatever genre he ended up in. And I've enjoyed really well done horror films like Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow and Interview with the Vampire.

Back to the movie... This one again suffers from a bit of the same problem as The Godfather: so much of it has been referenced or parodied in popular culture that I feel like I've already seen it. But I'm committed to this self-education, and look forward to seeing this.

The cast and plot are well known to everyone, so I won't go into depth there except to say that I always enjoy the work of Max von Sydow. It is interesting to see the opening scene in Iraq, given current events... I'm also glad I finally get to hear "Tubular Bells" in its original context.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Movieblogging: Opportunity Knocks
After all of my posting earlier today about memories of the late 80s/early 90s, it's fitting that I now watch and make notes on Opportunity Knocks (1990). This was the first leading role for Dana Carvey, who at the time was still on Saturday Night Live, playing the roles of George H.W. Bush, the Church Lady, and Garth. Wayne's World came out in 1992, which I think was the first SNL sketch to movie adaptation. Although this isn't the greatest movie in the world, it's pretty good for a movie starring an SNL alum in a leading role--though there have been many made (both from sketches and just using the actors), most are pretty awful. As it is, it's essentially an 80s movie--a clever con man, stupid rich people, cheesy pop music, bad haircuts and worse ties. I love it. It's also the source of a great quote that I've never had the opportunity to use: "As Pericles said to the Athenians, where do I drain the lizard?"

As for other actors, we've got Robert Loggia, who's always great, and Milo O'Shea, a classic character actor. After them, there's Todd Graff, who played the "Hippy" character in The Abyss, the nervous guy with the rat. James Tolkan is the main bad guy, best known for his role as the principal in Back to the Future. Beyond that, you'd be hard pressed to recognize a soul.

I'm watching this not so much because I love it, but because I've only seen it once before, and that was in the movie theater a couple of months before it came out. Backing up a bit, I saw The Hunt for Red October two weeks before it officially opened. This was because Nestl? was doing a marketing promotion with the movie, a friend's father was a low-level executive with the company, and bada-bing bada-boom, we got to see the movie early. It was a unique experience, because there were no trailers--the first thing we saw was the first frame of the movie. As we were leaving the theater--did I mention we got loads of free Nestl? Crunch Bars?--the ushers handed out free passes to a months-early screening of Opportunity Knocks. Back then, we didn't have this handy IMDB, so I didn't know anything about the movie before going in, but had a great time anyway. Part of the thrill was just being on the "leading edge".

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Great Moments in Customer Service
The Ring Bearer recently e-mailed me with a forward of his confirmation letter from the online music store CDBaby.com:
Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved �Bon Voyage!� to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Saturday, January 3rd.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as �Customer of the Year�. We�re all exhausted but can�t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!
In case you're wondering, the CD ordered was Unearthed by E.S. Posthumus. The Ring Bearer compares them to Adiemus and Enigma; when he played a few tracks for me, I recognized their work from numerous movie previews. Good stuff, and I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the album.
Wisdom from George Will
George Will points out in an upcoming issue of Newsweek that in 1988, Michael Dukakis got 45.6% of the popular vote in 1988. It was an electoral blowout, though--Bush won 426-111, with one additional electoral vote going to Dukakis' running mate Lloyd Bentsen (an elector from West Virginia did it in protest against the Electoral College).

Just from memory, I didn't recall the election being that close, but I'm glad to have been reminded of it. The 1984 election was the first one I remember, but I was only vaguely aware of it at the time. My family votes pretty strongly Republican, Reagan was in office and won, so I don't remember much anxiety or worry about it. (Had I grown up in a Democrat family, I imagine it would have been a vastly different experience. And my name would be Rainbow or something. Just kidding!)

During the 1988 election, I remember being pretty excited about backing Bush, despite the fact that at the age of 12 I hadn't become a current events junkie. (That kicked in around 1991.) So I wasn't really informed, I couldn't vote, my school was solidly Republican as were most of my teachers at the time, and it was more of a "going with the winning team" feeling rather than anything else. I do remember making up some embarassingly stupid pro-Bush campaign jingles with a blonde in class who was paying attention to me that week for some weird reason. In 1992, she became one of the strongest Clinton supporters in school. This tied into a JFK fetish she'd developed, and she damn near had an orgasm in class when a video featured a quick shot of JFK wearing only his swimming trunks. She had to leave the classroom.

And because the old brain cells are working right now, I also attended a speech given by Kitty Dukakis in the early 90s at a local church on the subject of co-dependence and her own struggle with alcoholism. (I had to attend a speech for speech class, and since I waited until the last minute, I had to take what was available.) She seemed like a nice enough woman, and it was interesting to be in the same room as a potential First Lady. I remember almost no details from her speech except for when she talked about being so desperate for a fix that she would drink hairspray. Though I have a healthy appreciation for the demon rum, that nightmarish memory lurks forever in the back of my mind and has probably done some good in terms of moderation (I didn't touch the stuff until I was 19). So thanks, Kitty! You were the drunk aunt I never had.

To wrap this up, it's way too early to figure out how November's election is going to go. I figure the popular vote will be close, but I hope that it's not as close as last time and that whoever wins manages to win both the popular and electoral votes--it doesn't even have to be by a huge margin. Otherwise, we might end up with some Constitution-tinkering, massive changes to the way our elections are held, or some revolution within the government. If the Wall Street Journal opinion pages think that the left is angry now, just wait until another Bush electoral win and popular loss. Streets will burn and cities will be smashed, mark my words.

Note to the Secret Service, NSA, FBI, and associated federal and state authorities: that last bit wasn't a threat, nor is it what I want to happen. Let's call it the Law of Preservation of Political Energy, and that energy has to go somewhere. I still think if the exact opposite had happened in 2000, the right-wing militias would have gotten much larger and more vocal and much ugliness would have ensued. Democrats don't tend to be as well armed, but riots are low-tech affairs.
Monologist Spalding Gray Missing
This is just odd... Spalding Gray, perhaps one of the only people in the US who has actually made a living as a monologist, has been officially declared missing. He suffers from depression and had a recent suicide attempt.

Of course, back in 1926, mystery author Agatha Christie went missing for eleven days and turned up in a different town with no memory how she got there or what happened during her absence. Unfortunately, I don't think this will have a happy ending.

Gray's monologues are wonderful, but he's also been in a lot of movies, mostly in bit parts. He's also been referenced in the Simpsons on several episodes, most noticeably during the episode in which Homer becomes smart after having a crayon removed from his brain. Quoth Homer, upon deciding to reverse the procedure by jamming a crayon back up his nose, "I'm a Spalding Gray in a Rick Dees world."

Monday, January 12, 2004

Movieblogging: The Road to Perdition
Based off a noir-styled graphic novel, tonight we have another Tom Hanks film, The Road to Perdition (2002), #240 on the IMDB Top 250.

It was directed by Sam Mendes, who also directed American Beauty. Mendes is obviously one of those select few who made a deal with Satan: from the 90s to the past few years, he dated (in order) Jane Horrocks (Little Voice--he was the director of the stage version), Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal--too scrawny for my tastes, but still famous and many men lust after her), Rachel Weisz (The Mummy--hot Jewish/Austro-Hungarian chick with a British acccent), and finally dated and married Kate Winslet (Titanic), and they just had their first kid. And he's not what one would particularly call a good looking man. I normally don't go in for this kind of People magazine crap, but all of those actresses (except for Flockhart) are women that I admire and respect for their intelligence and acting choices, not to mention that they're all gorgeous.

Back to the movie... It was a big hit, and I'm a usual goofus for not seeing it until now. It's a damned good picture, though, and deserves all of the acclaim it's received. As usual with the big ones, I'll pass on detail, but Tom Hanks and Paul Newman are as wonderful as you'd hope, ditto for Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh. I suppose I can point out that the movie was based on a great graphic novel. Unfortunately, they couldn't really use that in the advertising, because the kind of people who go see Tom Hanks and Paul Newman movies are the kind of people who won't go to a "comic book movie". This was also the third movie in as many years made from a critically acclaimed graphic novel but not advertised as such--the other two were Ghost World in 2000 and From Hell in 2001.

Highly recommended, especially if you live in an area where a real winter hasn't arrived in a decade. The scenery is beautiful, both urban and rural. Great costumes, great sets, perfect music, and brilliant cinematography. What more could you ask for?
Tattoo Removal
Robert Cockerham of Cockeyed.com fame has recently posted a fun and informative article about the process of laser tattoo removal. Food for thought when you think about getting a tattoo...
And So It Begins...
I just know this is going to be a wild, weird year. Just check out a headline that would have seemed like a crazy joke a few years ago:

ACLU defends Limbaugh's privacy in prescription drug case
In reward for my efforts this evening, I get to review another silent film... In a manner of speaking... Flicker Memories (1941), an 8 minute short that pieces together several unrelated silent film clips and adds humorous commentary on top. Keep in mind that at the time, our narrator was making fun of movies that were less than 30 years old at best. Nevertheless, it's actually quite funny, and stands up well.
Movieblogging: Chelovek s kinoapparatom

Tonight's TCM silent movie selection is Chelovek s kinoapparatom (1929), known in English as The Man With A Movie Camera. I have a pretty high tolerance for weird stuff in silent films, but this... It's a series of unrelated images strung together to fill 70 minutes of film. I was pretty excited about it on the front end, because I love looking at Russia when it was solidly behind the Iron Curtain. And the movie was supposed to focus on the machinery and technology of Soviet Russia at the time. But it was hard to figure out what was going on, because there was a greater attention paid to being surreal and artistic than making sense. That's fine, but I might as well be looking at a slide show of life in the Soviet Union.

Which is precisely what I got to see back in... 1988 or so. There was a local museum exhibit of Russian art and culture, and we were trucked off to look at it. I don't remember much, except that the classic Russian pottery and art seemed to focus on black, red, and gold, and that there was a weird photo of young Russian boys in swim class during the "educational" slide show. The boys in question weren't wearing any trunks, and it elicited plenty of giggles and groans from us sixth graders. Come to think of it, this montage of scenes reminds me a lot of that damned slide show. I just had to endure the sight of some Russian woman giving birth--a surprisingly graphic sight for 1929. It was filmed in Moscow and Odessa, for what it's worth.

Don't get me wrong, this stands as an important historical document, but I've seen better silent Russian films from the era. And as far as the whole montage business is concerned... Do you remember the parody in the Simpsons with Kent Brockman's "Eye on Springfield" that showed a lot of short clips of life in Springfield accompanied by groovy music? Imagine that for 70 minutes and you have this movie, except not funny and more depressing. (I would have really appreciated a documentary approach rather than this.) There are a lot of cool images presented, but without context or explanation, it's really not that useful.

OK, I've just gotten to the beach scenes of Odessa. Lovely young women, fit young men, lots of sun and sand... Yeah, tell that to the tens of millions of peasants who are slaving under a medieval agricultural system.

For those that care about such things, at the 51 minute mark, we get topless heavyset Russian women smearing mud over each other in what is evidently some sort of spa. Sadly, there is probably some dark corner of the Internet where people salivate over this sort of thing. (Though I will admit that an early scene with a hot chick pulling on her stockings and fastening her bra was surprisingly alluring. But a hot chick is a hot chick, regardless of her godless Commie affiliations.)

There are some interesting techniques employed in this movie, including stop action animation, but again, it's way too confusing without explanatory text. Indeed, much of it seems like a bad parody of a Filmmaking 101 class project.

OK, I have to give a brief standing ovation to a stop motion sequence featuring a dancing tripod, as such images formed the bedrock of a Rum Smuggler Classic and one of The Best Movies You've Never Seen, The Wizard of Speed and Time. I'll ge taround to reviewing it on this blog one of these days... That reminds me, I probably ought to do blog reviews of all of the movies in my DVD collection. Oog...

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Numerology or Threat?
Photodude muses that the recent chatter among terror networks about "Flight 223" that led to the cancellation of those British Airways flights may in fact mean something is scheduled for February 23. He bases this idea on the story that the phrase "Porsche 911" popped up quite a bit before 9/11.

Who knows? My only quibble would be that the rest of the world tends to put the date before the month, so is March 22 a better guess? But that kind of nixes the 911 connection. I'll keep my eyes open for anything resembling this idea.
Tensegrity Sculptures
Slate carries a story about the amazing tensegrity sculptures of Kenneth Snelson, with the idea that it's art loved by mathematicians and hated by art critics. (Follow the link for the slide show--there are twelve images and good accompanying text.)
Regulatory Nightmare in Louisiana
Were you aware that in Louisiana you have to pass a test and be licensed just to get a job as a florist? Reason has the scoop.

I can just barely tolerate this kind of licensing with barbers and hair dressers (there is a public health issue involved there), but with flower arranging? My late maternal grandmother competed in flower arranging contests around the country and won a lot of awards, all without the benefit of being licensed by any state authority. I'm not sure if the Louisiana regulations apply to non-commercial situations, but it's still absurd.

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