Wednesday, April 30, 2008

That's my pig

The things you miss when you leave the party early. I wasn't there (don't ask, I just wasn't), but Roger Waters closed the Coachella music festival Sunday night with several firsts:

the longest set ever (two and a half hours)

the only intermission ever (20 minutes

the first inflatable pig (the size of a school bus)

the first inflatable pig on the run (see ya!)

Really. It slipped its bonds and floated free into the night sky. "That's my pig," Roger Waters was heard to say, as he watched it sail away.

N.B. It has since been found, or at least, what is left of it - shreds and tatters scattered on driveways in a nearby desert town, never to be inflated again. Sigh.

Chitty Chitty Bang BANG!

So Henry Ford transformed manufacturing as we know it with that whole assembly line thing. So what? You should see what Mazda's got going on.

In the summer of 2006, 4700 (or so) Mazda vehicles spent a few weeks longer at sea than they were supposed to, at an angle they were definitely not supposed to (60° to be exact), and by the time they were brought to shore, Mazda faced the challenge of how to dispose of self-same vehicles. No amount of entreaties to sell them cheap, donate them to needy causes, or provide them to studious students could sway the stalwart automobile maker. Each of those avenues was deemed a potential, eventual threat to the Mazda reputation.

And therein lay the rub. Destroying o'er $100 million of automobiles is not such an easy task. Who knew? Engineers were brought in. Minds were bent. Plans were drawn. Gadgets were developed that would blow six air-bags simultaneously (saving oodles of hours, days, weeks, of work). Math problems abounded - if one airbag takes a half hour to blow up individually, and each car has six air bags, and there are 4700 cars, and the set up of each car requires 15 minutes, how many cups of Starbucks will the workers drink before all the bags are blown? Indeed. You know, someone should have told Mazda about the Dr. Goodspeed method of airbag destruction.

There's a pretty cool video here, by the way

Didn't we learn in school that destruction is easier than construction - or something like that? Inertia vs ertia (there's another one of those non-words that should be a word... can anyone tell me why "ertia" isn't a word?). Evidently, sometimes it is easier to build than to blow up. And isn't that special?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Having a candidate named "Mac" - priceless

Imitation is only the sincerest form of flattery if it's witty, intelligent imitation. Otherwise it's just a sad pathetic lack of originality.

If you don't live in Oregon, chances are you wouldn't see this witty, intelligent ad - and that would be a shame.

oh, for crying out loud - can you see the video? No? It's here.

P.S. Don't ask me how they got the other candidate to cooperate.

P.P.S. And don't ask me what they would've done if their candidate had been named PC Patton


I did post about the originals a while back... ain't they great? Here's another one of my faves:

can you see this video? No? It's here.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Coachella break fast

Sorry for the delay... I was, believe it or not, happily rocking out to the music (some of it, anyway) at Coachella.

Jack Johnson played Friday night - from Banana Pancakes to Eyes in the Back of My Head, I love his music. He's Jimmy Buffett for our generation. Just hearing his guitar puts me in a better mood.

To tell you the truth, Coachella is not so much my scene - if I had my druthers, I'd be there next weekend for Stagecoach - The Eagles, Trisha Yearwood, John Fogerty, Shelby Lynne, Tim McGraw... sign me up.

But my friends are Coachella all the way... we had a sweet (off the hook!) house and I had a great time. Great weather, good music, great friends - doesn't get much better than that.

And Prince played Saturday night. He played his stuff, and he covered some other stuff, and he evidently got paid $4.5 million for the performance. He put on a show. A spectacle. Unreal. He is Prince after all. Say what you will - that man is tal-ent-ed. I left early because where I was something was funky with the sound, but as I was leaving I could hear "Little Red Corvette" from behind the stage - unbelievable. And I heard he performed a cover of Radiohead's "Creep" that was off the charts.

Coachella is an experience. It's not for everyone, sure. But if you can live and let live, it is a spectacle that has to be seen and felt to be believed.

And by the way - same weekend, different state, a friend of mine shot a 75 - that's worth mentioning. And he had the best breakfast ever. Also worth mentioning.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bond, Jimmy Bond

"Quantum of Solace." The new Bond movie's title. Huh.

James Bond: Small Comfort strikes me as a tad off-message. But that's just me.

On the other hand, I did just read that some stunt driver plowed the movie's $240,000 Aston-Martin into a lake in Italy. And there isn't another one available. So small comfort may be all they've got.

I like this game

Jay Dyckman posted "If the Democratic Primary Were a Movie, Hillary Would Be:" yesterday on 23/6.

How could you (I?) resist that?

Biff Tannen - Back to the Future. "Hello... Hello... Anyone home?" The big, bad, blustering bully never wins -- at the end of the day, it's George McFly all the way. It's not going to happen, Hill. Face it.

Veronica - Heathers. She wanted to be popular soooo bad, but there are just some things you don't do. Really. No, really.

Tyler Durden - Fight Club. The super-ego triumphs in the end, but oh, the havoc Tyler the id wreaks before then. You don't have to destroy the world around you, Hillary, just to prove yourself. We know you're smart. We know you can. We just wish you wouldn't.

The Alien - Aliens. "Get away from him, you bitch."

Allie Calhoun
- The Notebook. No matter how many times she's told the story, she just can't seem to remember how it ends. Okay, babe, one more time... "once upon a time, there was this senator from Illinois..."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

He acts, he writes, he directs... he brought us FNL

Peter Berg first came to my attention on Chicago Hope - the bad boy you really wanted Jayne Brook to take home and tame. Or not. But at least take home.

Then he wrote and directed Very Bad Things - the sole aim of which was to out-LaBute LaBute as far as I could tell. It scored a 39. And, oddly enough, and I'd forgotten this, starred Jon Favreau - the director of the other superhero movie coming out this summer - Iron Man. Funny that.

He's still acting, but Mr. Berg has definitely made the leap to that hyphenate writer-director-producer. Now, I'll be honest, I watched The Rundown, in which Berg directed The Rock and Seann William Scott - and I didn't even need to look that up, scary, right? - and enjoyed it (RT: 70, by the by). But it was his next movie, Friday Night Lights, which Berg wrote and directed, based on the book by his cousin, H. G. Bissinger, that really made me sit up. RT? 81, thank you very much.

The next thing PB brought to the big screen was The Kingdom (director-producer). As an action movie, I was so there. As a political movie - hmmm, not so much. Then again, Toby Keith would've been proud. So what do I know? Well, maybe something... Survey says? 52.

Which actually gives me hope for Hancock (starring Will Smith, Jason Bateman - who was also in The Kingdom - and the eminently watchable Charlize Theron), because that should be an action movie in the best tradition of Die Hard (the first), Indiana Jones (the first)... get the drift?

PB is also responsible for creating what many of my friends argue, and I agree, is one of the best first seasons in TV history - Friday Night Lights.

And for that, we are forever grateful.

And you thought 6 was the sign of the devil

Nope, it's 3. As in Part 3. Number 3. Take 3. The 3rd.

I realized - actually, it was brought to my attention - that I had omitted the whole superhero genre.

  • Superman - how bad was Superman 3? No really, how bad? A 70 point drop, my friends - from 93 to 23. Well, really, they went from Gene Hackman to Richard Pryor. What do you expect? 70 points seems almost kind.
  • Spiderman - well, after Supe's precipitous descent, nothing is going to look so terrible, but 28 points from 90 to 62? Not so good.
  • Batman - poor Bruce. Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson directed by Tim Burton score a 72. Six years later, Joel Shumacher hands us Val Kilmer and Jim Carrey, and manages a measly 44. Shocker.
  • X-Men - the first one gets a respectable 80, the sequel gets an 87 (way to go!) and then, they just can't leave well enough alone, and wham! bam! the third installment sinks to 56. Will they ever learn?

And I'm not even sure how to discuss the sequels that aren't sequels, they're... do-overs? Sure, sometimes that's a good thing. Batman Begins with Christian Bale - that was a good thing. Served to make up (well, a little bit - okay, not really at all) for Batman & Robin, which for those of you who are counting, would have been Batman 4 of the first set (don't get all persnickety on me with the Adam West version) - a stellar example of why there exists the 11th Commandment ("thou shalt not make fourth sequels"). A 12 on RT, by the by. A 12.

Then Superman Returns? Did he have to? He only scored a 77 this time around. And also, could someone make up a superhero sequel naming convention we can all agree on? Because Batman Returned as the second installment of the first three and then he Began as the first installment of the second three, while Superman Returned for the first of the second three (if there are even going to be two more - seeing as he Returned to a 77, maybe we'll be spared). I'm just saying, it's confusing.

And it's not like there's a shortage of superheroes out there - I'm still waiting for a good Wonder Woman movie. And waiting. And waiting. Flash Gordon (the 1980 version scored an 82) is ripe. It's possible that The Flash is in pre-production. And that The Green Lantern may finally make it to the silver screen, courtesy Greg Berlanti (who wrote a fantastic Why We Write essay).

This summer we've got Iron Man, directed by Jon Favreau (writer - Swingers) and Hancock, directed by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, anyone? Anyone?).

With all that, someone please tell me - why do they keep breaking the 11th commandment? Why?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Just say no...

There should be a rule. Stop at two.

Let's just list the sins, shall we?

  • Terminator Three: Rise of the Machines, showing a 30 point RT drop from The Terminator's stellar score of 100
  • Lethal Weapon Three, dropping a good 27 points from the original's respectable 89
  • Die Hard with a Vengeance - ouch! That would be a 51 point plunge from Die Hard's rockin' 96 points
  • Alien 3 - falls even harder and farther, 65 points to 32 from Alien's 97.
  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi? 20 points down from the impressive 95 scored by Star Wars
  • The Godfather Part III actually scores a 65 - dropping only 35 points from the The Godfather's perfect score. I don't know anybody, however, who would give Godfather Part III a 65. Not a single solitary soul. That score seriously shakes my confidence in RT.

There are some exceptions. Well, one that comes to mind - Matt Damon as Jason Bourne only got better as Paul Greengrass took over and Tony Gilroy hit his stride -- #1 got an 83, #2 81 and #3 scored a well-deserved 91.

And let's talk about the elephant in the room... good ol' Indy. Raiders of the Lost Ark - a 95, Temple of Doom, a 91. And the third? a 93.

So, if "stop at 2" should be a rule, "stop at 3" has got to be a law. A commandment. Carved in stone somewhere. Break it and horrible plagues shall be visited upon you, I'm sure of it. They should be anyway.

Indiana Jones is old now. John McClane was old last year. Martin Riggs was old whenever that came out. Tina, baby, we do need another hero. Or at least some writers with some action adventure imagination.

Oh, and did you hear? Next year, we're getting Dirty Harry 6: Murder He Wrote.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Can't open a movie with a can opener

There are movie stars and box office stars - and they aint the same thing. There are yots and yots of movie stars. Box office stars? Not so many.

Those movie stars can't open movies, or so they say, because they are celebrities - because there is no longer any mystery behind the face, because when you feel like you know everything about the person on the screen, there's just a wee bit of ennui watching them up there - knowing what they LOOK LIKE WITHOUT MAKEUP, who's GETTING DIVORCED, who's CHEATING WITH THE NANNY, who's IN REHAB, who's OUT OF REHAB, who's BACK IN REHAB.

That's sort of true, but it's also sort of true that most of the movies just aren't any good. Look, the problem with Leatherheads (RT: 53) isn't that George Clooney can't open a movie, it's that the movie he was trying to open wasn't very good. Sorry. But there you go.

Are there actors (stars - whatever) who are so watchable they can save (or at least lift a few feet out of the dreck) bad material? You betcha. Me personally, I think Will Smith has a way with a line that is simply entertaining, almost regardless of what else is happening. There's some evidence I may not be alone in that opinion (see box office results for The Pursuit of Happyness, I am Legend, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera).

So now comes the "new" movie opener - not the star-star, but the behind-the-scenes star. Like the Judd Apatow machine. This is not a new concept. I don't know why this is being treated like it's a new concept. We've had writers and directors and formulas (formulae?) who surpassed and overcame their actors before. Frank Capra. Alfred Hitchcock. Billy Wilder. William Wyler. John Ford. John Hughes, for crying out loud. Not that I don't think the Judd Apatow machine isn't great, it's just not a new thing. Though I like the way he is apparently fostering a whole cadre of writers and directors in the school of Apatow-ism (scarily close to apathy). This seems nice in a work volume and a spread the wealth kind of way. At least from the outside looking in.

If video killed the radio star, did tabloids kill the video star?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Process of elimination

For the irretrievably moronic, there exist the Darwin Awards.

And for the irrevocably bored, there exists the Darwin Awards website, where you can be stupefied by accounts of some of the most imbecilic acts reported. I say reported, not imaginable, because until you read them, I defy you to imagine them.

Don't believe me? Read on, MacDuff, read on...

3 February 1990, Washington

The following mind-boggling attempt at a crime spree appeared to be the robber's first, due to his lack of a previous record of violence, and his terminally stupid choices:

1. His target was H&J Leather & Firearms. A gun shop.

2. The shop was full of customers - firearms customers.

3. To enter the shop, the robber had to step around a marked police patrol car parked at the front door.

4. A uniformed officer was standing at the counter, having coffee before work.

Upon seeing the officer, the would-be robber announced a holdup, and fired a few wild shots. The officer and a clerk promptly returned fire, covered by several customers who also drew their guns, thereby removing the confused criminal from the gene pool.

No one else was hurt.

All I'm saying is - when you're feeling a little less than brilliant, a quick stop at and you're back feeling like Einstein. It's that easy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ignorance may really be bliss (or not)

Did you know that Dave Matthews' tour bus is a diesel and runs on recycled deep-fryer restaurant oil? I'm not sure what about that is more twisted - the thought that Dave Matthews fills up his gas tank with Mickey D's left-overs, or that we actually eat food fried in something that can power a rock band's tour bus.

Remember that scene in Sleeper, when Woody Allen asks for wheat germ and organic honey? And they gently tell him that it's steak and hot fudge that are good for you, that the other stuff will kill you? The biofuel thing is like that - just when you thought you had it all figured it out (petroleum bad, ethanol good) - wham, bam. Strike that, reverse it.

"Any biofuel that causes land clearing is likely to increase global warming," says ecologist Joseph Fargione of The Nature Conservancy, lead author of the second study. "It takes decades to centuries to repay the carbon debt that is created from clearing land." (read it and weep)

Because, evidently, it's not all about what happens when you burn the's also about what happens when you make the fuel. Oh, right. That. Plus, it turns out some ethanol is more equal than others - soy may be better than corn. But still bad. And switchgrass (don't ask, I have no idea) better than both. Not sure if it's better and still bad, or better and good. But it seems to be better.

And, as usual, the politicians don't seem to be quite on the same page as the scientists (haven't we seen that movie before - just recently in fact, with Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal? It wasn't half bad, if I remember correctly, RT:46) - the EU recently made this announcement, and I must quote, because I couldn't paraphrase nearly as well:

Despite intense debate surrounding the growing global food crises, the European Union today defended expanding the use of biofuels in all 27 member countries...“You can’t change a political objective without risking a debate on all the other objectives,” meaning that changing biofuels targets could lead to questioning the entire climate change package.

You know what they say, "don't let the facts get in the way."

But wait, there's more...

None of these costly impacts get considered when politicians tout the alleged societal benefits of corn-based ethanol. Nor do proponents like to mention the huge amounts of petroleum needed to grow corn for ethanol. (Conventional fertilizers and pesticides are made from oil.)
By most calculations – including those of the new Swiss study – these energy inputs match or exceed the energy provided by ethanol made from corn. In other words, we are wasting public money and irreplaceable water and soil resources in pursuit of a false promise of energy independence. (
there really is more)

Repeat after me: Ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is bliss. Funny, no matter how many times I repeat it, I don't believe it anymore either. I guess I'll go figure out what on earth switchgrass is. And if it's better and still bad, or better and good. Check back - I'll share.

Monday, April 14, 2008

FUD... FUBAR...something's rotten in the state of you know what

I'm not big on foul language.

A) my grandmother used to say cursing is the sign of a small vocabulary - which is about the worst insult I can imagine, B) I'm just not really a fan, and 3) have you ever noticed, if you don't use something much, when you do, it really packs a punch? When my grandmother called someone a "bitch," it was like E.F. Hutton talking.

I am, however, a big fan of the foul language acronym and shorthand - FUBAR, SNAFU and Charlie Foxtrot being three of my faves - though, lately, that last has been replaced with "clooster fooken" - cribbed from the witty and wonderful staff at Knock Knock HQ. Ever on the alert for more and better, yesterday, while I was researching the biodiesel thing (more on that later), I stumbled upon this: "the recent FUD about biofuel sustainability." FUD? FUD? That's easy - "fucked up discussion" right? Turns out, no. It's so much better than that. According to Wikipedia,

Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) is a tactic of rhetoric used in sales, marketing and public relations. FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence public perception by disseminating negative (and vague) information... FUD is a manifestation of the appeal to fear.

The manifestation of the appeal to fear.

We couldn't pull off shock and awe and the Brits already had Bond, so looky, looky what we went with. FUD.

Sounds like a fucked up discussion to me.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Aliens to Avatars?

Aliens (RT: 100) is better than Alien (RT: 97). It's scarier. And faster. And funnier. It's just better. 3 points better, dammit.

Both movies, though - casting genius. Or ESP. Hard to say.

Alien, 1979, with Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, Yaphet Kotto, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Harry Dean Stanton, Veronica Cartwright (they look so young). Not to mention it pretty much put Ridley Scott on the map.

Seven years later, it's Aliens with Sigourney again, along with the yummy Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser (Helen Hunt so would not have been mad about this guy), Bill Paxton (also looking damn young). Written and directed by James Cameron. "Get away from her, you bitch." Nobody writes a toughened-up heroine better than Cameron (or marries them).

But where has Mr. Cameron been? What has he been doing? Who has he been terrorizing to put story and spectacle on the silver screen for our viewing pleasure?

Fear not, "a film by James Cameron" is coming - not soon - but it's coming. Avatars, starring Sigourney Weaver (shocker), is scheduled to open December 2009.

I told you not to hold your breath. After all, he is the "king of the world." He's going to take all the time he wants.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

This is for the car Bill Maher drives

Alright, I actually have no idea what kind of car Bill Maher drives.

But he wrote a blisteringly funny and worrisome post on the fallacy of bio-fuel:

Scientists have been on the biofuel bandwagon; how did they get it so wrong? As Time puts it, "It was as if the science world assumed biofuels would be grown in parking lots. The deforestation in Indonesia shows that's not the case. It turns out the carbon lost when wilderness is razed overwhelms the gains from cleaner-burning fuels."
Just as bad, apparently some people in the world still use land to grow real food, and the 800 million people in the world with cars are taking food from the 800 million people in the world who are hungry and putting it in our gas tanks. I, for one, think that's rude. Going up to a poor Brazilian boy, snatching the hot dog out of his hand and shoving it in the nozzle of your Prius, that's wrong.

A tiny sliver of transitional rain forest is surrounded by hectares of soybean fields in the Mato Grosso state, Brazil.He points to a cover article in Time Magazine - The Clean Energy Scam:

...several new studies show the biofuel boom is doing exactly the opposite of what its proponents intended: it's dramatically accelerating global warming, imperiling the planet in the name of saving it. Corn ethanol, always environmentally suspect, turns out to be environmentally disastrous...

Meanwhile, by diverting grain and oilseed crops from dinner plates to fuel tanks, biofuels are jacking up world food prices and endangering the hungry. The grain it takes to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year. Harvests are being plucked to fuel our cars instead of ourselves. The U.N.'s World Food Program says it needs $500 million in additional funding and supplies, calling the rising costs for food nothing less than a global emergency.

Have I mentioned you can't win for losing? Now what?

From the ridiculous to the sublime?

Diane Sawyer recently interviewed Randy Pausch on 60 Minutes - during which we saw this, an incredible experience in an incredible life, which sadly will be too short.

Can you see the video? Can you? If not, here's the link.

Luckily we have 23/6 to redress the maudlin and the mawkish:

...wait until every pompous idiot realizes America's insatiable hunger for inspirational advice and tries to copycat [Pausch's] success with a Last Lecture of their own.

And because the pompous idiots are not only pompous, they're idiots, 23/6 created the Last Lecture-o-Tron. Because that's just the kind of people they are.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Frauds and fakes

I saw a play last night - kinda sorta about the JT Leroy thing, and the James Frey thing, and the Stephen Glass thing and a thing I hadn't heard of - the Nasdijj thing.

All literary fraud things. Fakes. Hoaxes, really. But...

George Eliot wasn't a George, she was a Marian, who submitted her work as a man because she knew it wouldn't be considered for publication otherwise. And George Sand wasn't a George either - she was, in fact, a Baroness, who found going about as a female too constricting, so she didn't. And Mark Twain's real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. (Alright, that's not exactly the same thing, but I wanted to throw it in there anyway, because I happen to remember his full real name.)

I'll grant you that they then wrote fiction that didn't depend quite so, er, significantly on their assumed persona. Certainly not on being a teenage gay hustler (JT LeRoy); a recovered alcoholic, drug addict, and criminal (James Frey); a Native American raising a son with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (Nadijj); or a journalist reporting the news, or what was purportedly the news (Stephen Glass).


Seems to me that these days, every week is a new episode of "Which Lie Did I Tell?" (thank you William Goldman), offering a strong lead-in to the latest and greatest reality show we're all watching, "Fess Up or Keep Lying?" which could re-use the Jetsons' theme (sing with me now): "Meet Bill Clinton... his wife Hill'ry. Congressman Craig. Gov Spitzer. Fess up or keep lyin'?"

Political fraud, literary hoaxes. Fiction - clearly - doesn't hold a candle to the outpourings of courageous and valiant individuals who have suffered and survived, who have known hardship and heartache, and who, by the way, not only know how to string a sentence together, but who also happen to have a movie-in-the-making backstory. And I'm not talking about the Bush twins.

(Note: Those aren't pictures of Britney - those are pictures of the girl who posed as the boy who was supposed to be JT LeRoy, who turned out to be a 40 year old woman named Laura. And I'm not talking about the First Lady.)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

This is to make up for the car I drive

I found this very cool map, cool and rather disheartening at the same time. It's the US' carbon footprint - plotted by actual emissions. Which you'd think wouldn't be such a big deal.

Well, it turns out that CO2 emissions across the States used to be "calculated" (and let's use that word loosely) based on population... which seems massively unfair. And, as it so happens, also plain wrong. The Northeast? So over-blamed in the game, and the Southeast not blamed enough... well, those days are oh-ver.

Never underestimate the power of the map. Hey, my brother-in-law is a cartographer, and I'm telling you, don't mess with the mapmakers.

I read about the map on Wired's Science Blog:

the NASA- and Department of Energy-funded scientists can detail emissions across all 9 million square kilometers that compose the United States. For a full explanation, check out the video that Purdue's Kevin Gurney put together, which features a number of other excellent CO2 visualizations. Andy Revkin, the New York Times' environment-beat writer, put a memorable headline on a post about the video, calling it, "Breath of a Nation."

Oh yeah, my car? Well, let's just say, that red dot over there? That would be me. I am part of the problem. I confess.

Monday, April 07, 2008

I just had to add...

Judgment at Nuremberg (such a great movie, based on the 1948 Justice Trial) - with, as recently mentioned right here, Richard Widmark - was written by Abby Mann (and also, according to, Montgomery Clift?!?!?).

It seems Abby Mann died the day after Richard Widmark a couple of weeks ago, on Tuesday, March 25. Which was just too strange not to mention. I mean, what are the odds?

Mann won an Oscar for that screenplay (technically: " Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium" -- because, well, that screenwriting oscar title has been through some, ahem, changes. But we've already covered that.). And Maxmilian Schell won for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

"Ernest Janning said he is guilty. If he is, Ernest Janning's guilt is the world's guilt. No more, no less."

No more, no less. Perfect line. Perfectly delivered. Sweet!

And yes, here's the link to the video, if you can't see it.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Hollywood and baseball - postscript

So, we all know that Marilyn was married to Joe.

I didn't, however, know until today that Richard Widmark's daughter, Ann, was married to Sandy Koufax. My dad has talked about Koufax a lot over the years, so his name has stuck in my brain, though I am really, truly not a baseball fanatic. He played for the Brooklyn (and then the Los Angeles) Dodgers - though whether the LA version really counts as the Dodgers was enough of a topic to get my grandfather rather red in the face and loud in the voice. If you know what I mean.

Nonetheless, according to Wikipedia,

Among NL pitchers with at least 2,000 innings pitched who have debuted since 1913, [Koufax] has the highest career winning percentage (.655) and had the lowest career ERA (2.76) until surpassed by Tom Seaver, whose NL career mark is 2.73. His 2,396 career strikeouts ranked 7th in major league history upon his retirement, and trailed only Warren Spahn's total of 2,583 among left-handers. Retiring at the peak of his career, he became, at age 36 and 20 days, the youngest player ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Pretty impressive. I still think the fact that Richard Widmark was his father-in-law is cooler. That's just me.

RIP Charlton

Charlton Heston died yesterday. He was 84.

He was a screen legend. And in his day, he was buff. Of course, in my day he was Mr. NRA (could I have found a more perfect picture?), which makes him, in my opinion, not so hot.

Nonetheless, another one has passed and all that remains is what is on the screen. My list? Orson Welle's Touch of Evil (RT: 94), Ben Hur (if I left it off the list, you'd just think I was an idiot), The Agony and the Ecstasy (do you really think Michelangelo looked like that? really?), Planet of the Apes (one of those, so bad it's good - or is it so bad it's terrible? either way...), Soylent Green (what are they eating?) - and then the big leap to the small screen - by way of John Forsythe, I mean Dynasty, and onto his own little demesne, The Colbys.

Richard Widmark died the week before, at the age of 93. Not quite as high-profile as Mr. NRA, perhaps, in the general scheme of things - but that man could act. William Goldman wrote a tribute to him in Variety a few days ago, recollecting meeting him in London during pre-production on "Marathon Man" when Widmark came by to read the part of the sadistic dentist (memorably played in the movie by Laurence Olivier),

I can still see Widmark turning the pages of the script, and his voice was so frightening. He was not repeating his most famous role [Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death, for which Widmark was nominated for an Oscar], but you knew that evil son of a bitch was somehow still lurking, still inside him, ready and willing to kill you but, more than that, anxious to put you in agony.

High praise indeed. My Widmark list is short (an oversight soon to be corrected), but excellent: Kiss of Death (RT: 92), Panic in the Streets (RT: 94), and Judgment at Nuremberg (RT: 89) - one of my, and my sister's, favorite movies ever.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Sometimes, just a little slow...

Well, I was going to say that it just occurred to me, because sometimes I'm a little slow... that you don't have to be in a store to shop from your phone (as reported by yours truly here yesterday), you know. You could be in bed, or the car, or on the bus, or, well, you know, wherever, and someone asks you "hey, what's that awesome cream you put on my face the other day, I want some." Text Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream (which is amazing, by the way) to 262966 and lo and behold... it turns out that does not work so well. Mr. Bezos, you got some 'splaining to do, because first I get
1) "Marking Time Cazalet Chronicle Vol 2 - BOOK $11.20
what is that? No, seriously, what is that? Have you ever even heard of that book?
I text again with quotation marks and get:
1) "Frumpy to Foxy in 15 Minutes Flat: Style Advice for Every Woman - BOOK $12.21
Is that a hint? Well, I didn't try again after that - I was a little scared what they might send me next.

Amazon's site says: "Any item sold by can be purchased through TextBuyIt." Ya think? When I searched the same phrase on, guess what came up? You won't believe it. No, really. Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream. Go figure. I guess there are still some kinks in the system.

Then I tried texting "William Goldman screenplay" and got back
1) William Goldman: Five...-BOOK $14.96
2) Charlie Rose December 9...-DVD $24.95

I texted back "1d" (for more details on the first) and learned it was a book of five screenplays, plus essays, by WG himself, though it didn't tell me which ones. Seems like the intellectual part of the system is working better than the superficial part. Is Amazon trying to tell us something?

Anyway, so it's not just for comparison shopping. You can shop at Amazon anywhere you get cell reception - provided you want to buy a book and not a lipstick.

But did you know that you can also pay people on your mobile phone through Amazon? I'm still not exactly clear on this, but somehow you text Amazon with something like the following "pay 5" followed by the other person's mobile number, and it sends $5 to that person. I don't know how that works. But it seems kind of cool. And kind of Orwellian-ly creepy at the same time.

Friday, April 04, 2008

I'll keep you posted

This takes comparison shopping to a whole new level.

Amazon announced TextBuyIt on Tuesday.

Let me just pause to say that a) I think they could have come up with a better name, and b) do you really want to launch a new service on April Fool's Day?

Okay. Pause over.

So, the way it works is (...the train moves, not the station. Name that movie.)

Okay, for real this time. The way it works is, you're in a store. A real, honest-to-goodness store, and you see something you want, but not necessarily instantly - so you text the product name or UPC (universal product code, but you knew that) or, if it's a book, the ISBN (international standard book number, did you know that?), to Amazon on your phone at 262966 - ya know, Amazon on the keypad - and Amazon texts you right back with two choices. Right back. That's a better response than I get from the guys I date. Hmpf.

Anyway, maybe it's cheaper (sorry Grams, I mean "less expensive"), or maybe you don't want to carry whatever it is around with you the rest of the day, or maybe you just want to make sure you get the absolute complete MOST out of that Amazon Prime membership you pay for. Then, and could this be any easier?, to buy it in the magic that is the Amazonian ether, all you have to do is text back "1" or "2," (or text "M" to see more options). If you buy something, they call you right away to go over the details and make sure everything is copacetic. They call? When they say they're going to? To see if you're happy? I think I'm in love.

I haven't tried it yet - but I will. Believe you me, I will. And you'll be the first to know what I think. And if we're getting engaged.

And, for my next computer...

This may make my brother shudder. But my next computer? It's going to be a Mac. You know, that super-cool, super-thin one, the one David Pogue wrote a love letter to just the other day? He did. Seriously, if he could marry the thing... well...

I can't speak for Mr. P, but for me, I might say it's because of the commercials alone - have you seen the new yoga one with Judy Greer? The fantastic, under-rated, Judy Greer? (And MissGuided does not do her justice - though kudos to Ashton Kutcher for trying.) Well, anyway, the commercials rock. They're all of them on Apple's site. Remember Mac from Galaxy Quest (a 90, I'll have you know, on RT)? He was Brandon -- "You wanna take a left and then just straight on through the chompers."

Link to the supercalifragilistic video I posted - you know, in case for some reason you can't, you know, see it?

The commercials do indeed rock, but the truth is, I'm a pure sucker for packaging (ask my friends - it's sad but true). And for design. And well-packaged design? Or well-designed packaging? Fuhgeddaboutit. As they say.

In the meantime, at least I get to watch the commercials. And use my super-cool, super-small, super-designed, nano. Sigh.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Calling Dennis K.

$355. For a purple trash can.

Granted, my school mascot was the purple cow. But, $355?

It's a limited edition. But, $355?

It's even cool looking. But, $355?

It's a trash can. Where you put your trash. For $355. The mind boggles.

One line log lines

The log line is an old instrument for measuring the speed of a ship. A weighted piece of wood was attached to a rope (yep, the "log line"). In the rope were tied knots (one every 7 fathoms, or 42 feet) - and as the rope was unspooled, the number of knots that passed over the side of the ship were counted. And there you had it, the speed of the ship in knots. A metric, I'll have you know, still in use today -- remember Speed 2: Cruise Control? (A whopping 4 on RottenTomatoes, btb.)

Gotcha! Log lines are also one line summaries of movies and tv shows. (You didn't really think this whole post was going to be about some random nautical factoid, didja? Really?) You know what they say: if you can’t describe your story in a sentence, there’s something wrong with the story.

They're serious things, these log lines - you see them all the time on TV listings. Apparently they used to be (and who knows, maybe still are) written on the spines of scripts for easy reference. You need them to pitch your story, screenplay, movie, idea, concept, yadda, yadda, yadda. Some people even tell you to start with the log line as your story spine and take it from there. They are actually not easy to write. No, really - go ahead, try it.

Not so much? Ok, how about you try it in reverse? Let's play "Name That Movie" (as described in TV Guide):
"Popular country-western take on "Saturday Night Fever" about a good ol' boy looking for love from atop a mechanical bull in a Houston honky-tonk."

"A tyrannical fashion-magazine editor makes life hell for her new assistant in this caustically funny adaptation of a best selling novel."

"A Philly cop investigates a murder witnessed by the son of an Amish widow in a study of culture clash."

Fine. Dandy. Whatever.

Want to read some log lines with attitude? Check out ThatTVGuy, aka Richard Polito, he's got some:

“Troy” - There is a certain demographic that wanted to see Brad Pitt in a skirt.

“Mean Girls” - Lindsay Lohan plays the new girl in school who gets lured into the orbit of three high school beauties with cold hearts and great complexions, like sharks but with cell phones and credit cards.

“The Thin Red Line” - It turns out Guadacanal is not the vacation destination it was made out to be.

Polito used to write for the Marin Independent Journal - he's famous (and rightfully so, if you ask me, and even if you don't) for this twisted log line:

"Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets, then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again."

Go ahead - name that one.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Can you hear me now?

From today's NY Times:

Microwaves work in the same part of the radio spectrum as cordless phones, Bluetooth devices and wireless home networks. I’ve lost phone connections to oven interference. Sometimes that’s convenient, too.

So, I guess what they're saying is, next time, just push the disconnect button, and later (much, much later, like the next day or week later) simply say, "sorry, it was either microwave popcorn or talk to you." I mean, who wouldn't understand that?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Rounders + Good Will Hunting? Um, no.

I don't think "21" is as bad as all that (it scored a 32 on RottenTomatoes) but it could have been better, that's for sure.

Can we pause to consider that both Rounders (RT: 64) and Good Will Hunting (RT: 97!) starred Matt Damon? (Did you notice that if you subtract Rounders' score from Good Will Hunting's you're almost at 21's? Kinda weird.) Right there, enough said. But if you want to keep going, Rounders had Ed Norton. And Good Will Hunting had Robin Williams. And the Affleck brothers. And an awesome, rockin' screenplay. How do you like dem apples?

Seriously though, you can't just frost a Good Will Hunting plot onto a movie based on a somewhat similar true story... hello? I'm just saying, it would be nice if people would make the movie they have, instead of the movie someone else had. That's all. Why not take the true story you have and make the most of what it is?

Then again, I haven't read the book, "Bringing Down the House," and its reviews weren't great. Maybe what happened is a mediocre book got made into a mediocre movie. Which is a shame, because there are some seriously phenomenal books out there begging to be filmed.

By the way, did you know that 21 was directed by Robert Luketic, who directed Legally Blonde (RT: 68)? Now you do.