Saturday, January 31, 2009

SPORTS- SuperSunday

Well, today’s the big game and I don’t have a dog in the fight. Every team I might have wanted to see play lost out early. Hell, the Cowboys didn’t even make the playoffs. Which makes me think there is a curse associated with having your team on that HBO preseason football camp show. Kind of like The Madden Curse. (Which chalked up the last two in a row by having Vince Young on the ’08 box- you know, the guy who didn’t Quarterback the Titans to their best season this year and isn’t Fisher’s first pick for who he wants pitching next year either, and Brett Favre- nuff said).

So I’m going to watch the game. Though I may skip the five hour pre-game show. I imagine

Friday, January 16, 2009

SOLUTIONS- The Story of Stuff

This is the first of a new category.

I'm not a fanatical environmentalist or necessarily anti-corporate. And I realize that this little (at 20 minutes) video is simplistic. But I also realize that most people don’t give a second thought to where stuff comes from of what we’re doing to the planet. So I’m posting this as a sort of primer into further posts that will deal with some answers to the questions we are going to be faced with over the course of the 21st century. Plus, it’s entertaining and funny. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

MOVIES- The Mummy (III)- Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

I thought that EAGLE EYE was bad, even for a summer movie. But that was before I watched THE MUMMY (III)- CURSE OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR. None of the silly fun, or self-deprecating wit of the first movie is evident. I’ve read that this was a movie born of corporate synergy between Universal Studios and NBC’s Olympics coverage since both companies are owned by the same Uber-conglomerate. I don’t know if that is true but this movie is so formulaic and uninspired that I can easily believe it was dreamed up by marketing.

I could talk about how this movie occurs in a parallel universe where the first two movies were actually stories written by Brendan Frasier’s wife. Rachael Weitz’s replacement in introduced by denying any similarity between herself and the character in the books. But I’m not going to do that because it’s the best part of the movie and it still isn’t very good.

They even screwed up the fight between Michelle Yeoh and Jet Li.

Monday, January 12, 2009

POLITICS- And Now for the Other Baldwin

Quickie Post:

Last July it was reported that Stephen Baldwin (you know, the brother of Alec, the handsome talented one) said that he would leave the country if Barack Obama was elected.

Does anybody know if he’s gone yet?

And if not, why not?

Hell, it's the only reason I voted.

MOVIES- The Golden Globes

Turning 180 degrees from the real life drama of the gridiron, Sunday was also the Golden Globes. I’ve never watched the Globes before (Even though I haven’t missed the Oscars in years. My reasons why are here.) and I have to say that they don’t seem to have the same kind of tension that the Oscars do. What they do have is a much better track record for picking the actual best movies, and performances than the Academy. Perhaps the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have a little more objectivity.

So here are a few stream of consciousness thoughts:

Lots of well deserved love for the HBO miniseries John Adams, winning Best Miniseries. Best Actor was hard, any one of them could have won. But I have to admit that I was rooting for Paul Giamatti as I do anytime he is up for an award. I’ve loved him since before Crumb. This time he beat out Kevin Spacey! Laura Linney won for best actress and Tom Wilkerson for his natural and charming portrayal of Ben Franklin. (Beating another favorite, Neal Patrick Harris for his role as Barney on How I Met Your Mother.)

The other HBO standout was Laura Dern winning for her dead-frigging-on Susan Harris in Recount. I remember wondering if there had ever been a more spot on portrayal of a political figure when I watched it. Even Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin isn’t any closer.

Gabriel Byrne won for In Treatment, beating John Hamm in Mad Men and being the only winner from series. Mad Men was far from overlooked, though. It won for Best Dramatic Series. I reciently saw the first season on Blu-Ray and I highly recommend it. Full review to come later.

Sally Field looked a little different in person than she does in her Calcium supplement commercials, which airbrush her pretty severly. It didn’t wind up mattering that much since Anna Paquin beat her for Best Actress.

Ricky Gervais was charming as usual, beer in hand, giving a call out to Kate Winslet, “Told you to do a holocaust movie and the awards would come.”

Wall-E won for best animated picture, with the Jonas Brothers handing out the award and looking almost but not quite as real as the characters in the clip from the movie.

Emma Thompson (who somehow doesn’t look as much like Pete Postlethwaite as she used to) and Merryl Streep (the only person there with as much respect as Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg) both lost for best actress in a comedy or musical movie. Instead Sally Hawkins (who?) won and virtually broke down crying on the stage. I don’t know who she is but she was lovely and obviously had everyone in the crowd on her side. (for about the first five minutes) It’s moments of genuine emotion like that that make award shows worth watching.

It must suck to be Demi Moore’s daughter. Every boy you bring home falls in love with your mother.

Heath Ledger won for Dark Knight. Anything else would simply be a crime. Ledger’s performance as the Joker was simply one of the most riveting pieces of acting I’ve seen in many years. Riveting in the literal sense of the word. When he’s on the screen you can’t take your eyes off of him.

Alec Baldwin won best actor in a comedy for 30 Rock, which has the best theme music of any show on television. When 30 Rock won for best comedy the whole cast came on stage and Tracy Morgan informed the crowd that since Barack Obama won he would be speaking for the show in post racial America. Just a few minutes Tina Fey got a chance to talk anyway when she won for Best Actress in a Comedy.

Steven Spielberg received the Cecil B. DeMille award. A few years ago during an Oscar broadcast somebody joked that if the building caught fire Spielberg would go first and then everybody else. That’s about the size of it. It’s hard to debate that there has been a more successful or influential man in movies for the last 30 years.

Both The Dark Knight and Doubt were passed over. Slumdog Millionare was the big movie winner of the night, winning for Best Picture and with Danny Boyle winning best director.

Kate Winslet won both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress and also almost broke down on stage. She seemed genuinely surprised to have won.

So that’s it for the Golden Globes. See you on Oscar night.

SPORTS- Football Season Is Over With Two Weeks Left

I don’t post a lot of football posts because, while I love the game, I’m no expert. And even if I was an expert that’s no guarantee I’d have anything to say worth reading. Most of the experts don’t seem to. Oh sure, they get together an hour before the game and go over the injury report, talk about who’s playing well, which teams have the best defense, whether Payton Manning or Tom Brady is a better quarterback. But if you watch the games you know all that and the conversation really isn’t any different than what you’ve already had with your buddies that week. The big difference is that you didn’t have 60 hours that week to watch every game and you don’t get paid for the opinions you pull directly out of your ass. But they might be just as good as the pro’s opinions because they are getting them from the same place.

I find most of the talk in sports either boils down to either “did you see that catch” or some variation of “I believe that whoever is able to score the most points by the end of the game will emerge victorious” (the latter usually from some coach or player). Sure, I realize that the amount of planning that goes into a successful football team is as extensive as any endeavor possibly just short of a NASA launch. But I realize that anything I would think to say will eventually get said somewhere in the millions of words written and spoken each week.

But the last game of the second week of the playoffs just finished and I just wanted to say…


Every damn team I had any interest in seeing win is already out. My local Titans gave away their game by turning over the ball every time they got inside the 30. The NY Giants didn’t have quite as many turnovers but still enough to lose. The Cinderella Miami Dolphins, who nobody would have given you a rat’s ass for after their 1-15 season last year made it to the playoffs only to lose their first game. The staple playoff team Indianapolis, ditto. Their arch rivals the New England Patriots didn’t even make the playoffs after nearly going undefeated last year. Dallas bombed after being the smart money pick for Superbowl champs at the beginning of the season.

So I’m left with only two precious weeks of football left in the season and not a single team to root for. What a waste.

Well, there is always the football fan’s mantra- WAIT ‘TILL NEXT YEAR.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

POLITICS- Should Bush Be Investigated?

This morning on ABC, President-Elect Barack Obama was asked if he would investigate the Bush administration.

Barrack Obama seems to be a smart, reasonable, gentle man. And that may make him too pragmatic to launch the country into the inevitable Civil War that trying to bring top members of the Bush administration to justice would cause. The Bush White House has proven on more than one occasion that the laws, the constitution, and even subpoenas from Congress mean nothing to them. Is there any doubt they will ignore a warrant from federal court? And if they do, is Barrack Obama ready to start a nation wide manhunt when they disappear? Is he ready to have high officers in the previous government, perhaps even the president, brought into federal court in cuffs?

I don’t know, because I don’t know what I’d do in his place. Even if he doesn’t pursue convictions for Bush, et al, he may be faced with foreign governments attempting to prosecute charges for torture and other war crimes. As much as I think this administration has been criminally guilty of breaking numerous laws, I just can’t wrap my head around the image of Bush in an orange jumpsuit.

But, as much as I hate the idea of that scene transpiring, even if it is well and truly deserved, I know that letting them walk away isn’t right. I don’t think I could do it. I hope Obama is a stronger man than I am because the heart of the matter was pierced by the words of Dawn Johnson, Obama’s choice to head the Office of Legal Counsel.

“We must avoid any temptation simply to move on. We must instead be honest with ourselves and the world as we condemn our nation's past transgressions and reject Bush's corruption of our American ideals. Our constitutional democracy cannot survive with a government shrouded in secrecy, nor can our nation's honor be restored without full disclosure.”

Friday, January 9, 2009

POLITICS- Save the Porn Industry

I’m kinda amazed that the TV news has been reporting that Larry Flint and Joe Francis are petitioning the government for $5 billion on behalf of the porn industry with a straight face. I guess if they admit this is a satirical way to point out just how silly it is to give my tax money to failing businesses they are tacitly admitting that it’s a silly idea to give my tax money to failed businesses. It’s a no lose scenario for this pair of plucky entrepreneurs though (plucky, heh heh heh). And it’s obvious in this one question interview with Francis that he and Flint think it’s a pretty good joke. If they can’t get help from the gumment [then] they’ve exposed the hypocrisy of the whole thing. (Not that it’s hard to do so or anything. Finding hypocrisy in Washington isn’t so much like mining for gold as it is digging for dirt.) If they get the money, well, they get the money. If I had an interest group or a business I’d be trying it. But unfortunately, lame-ass-snarky-blogs-that-nobody-reads is a growth industry.

Maybe somebody should go to Washington and ask for help for the taxpayer industry. Oh wait, Obama is going to give us all back $500. The bank bailout (alone, that we know of) has cost every person in the country $2500 each and Obama’s plan will cost $3300 each and they are going to help by giving us back $500 per taxpayer. I’d ask how stupid they think we are but I’m afraid the answer is obvious.

So which is the stupidest? Giving tax money to businesses, the government borrowing money to give to us, or that we haven’t stormed the Bastille yet?

Maybe Larry and Joe could reduce their overhead by just filming the fucking we’re getting from Congress.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

POLITICS- George W. Bush is the Most Successful President EVAR

Eight years of Bush are almost over.

I’d say that this was a wonderful thing if I hadn’t lived through enough elections to realize that the American political system is basically the Pepsi challenge. Choose between two nearly identical varieties of un-natural empty calories, neither of which is good for you and either of which will take your teeth if they get the chance.

It’s tempting to pull out a laundry list of everything that’s gone wrong in the last eight years and lay it at the door of the Bush White House. But if you’ve been paying any attention to what’s been going on then you’ve already heard it, and if you haven’t then you obviously don’t care. Needless to say, plenty of other people have compiled such lists and a brief Google search will get you several thousand to choose from.

But what really interests me about the last eight years is that I still don’t know if our 43rd president and his cadre are megalomaniacal morons, too stupid to live and too rich, entitled, and intertwined into the plate of worms that is Washington to ignore, or if they are avaricious geniuses who figured out a way to dispense with mere graft and sweetheart deals and decided the best place to steal all the money was from the top down. A sort of trickle-down larceny.

Sure, even cursory examination immediately indicated that George W. Bush was a mediocre frat boy douchbag that had never worked a day or had a serious thought in his life. He projected that image like IMAX. It was on display during his first campaign and has never relented. The verbal gaffs, the nonsensical ideas, the shit-eating grin accompanied by the head bob and swivel (Kermit the frog did it better) every time he came to the end of a paragraph in one of his speeches- if they were part of an act then it was the best and most consistent feat of thespis in my lifetime. And my belief has always been that no one was capable of acting that stupid that long without slipping. But there are things that make me wonder.

The main thing is that Bush, and the neocons that created him, had a well defined plan in mind long before he got elected. Bill Kristol even published it before the election. They wanted to usher in a Pax-Americana. They intended to cement American hegemony by accomplishing several things that would make it clear that America was in charge and every other country in the world might as well just get in line. They would use America’s military might to fight not one but two wars simultaneously, proving to the world that even if we were busy kicking the shit out of somebody we didn’t like that there was still plenty of whoop-ass to go around, so don’t get any ideas. They were going to deregulate business, returning the country to a golden age of robber barons and, perhaps if they were lucky, feudalism. They were going to return God to government, not for the sake of making the country more like Jesus might want it to be but to unite those two age-old organizations for bending people to the will of their leaders- church and state. They were going to re-institute the divine right of kings by giving the president total power and making it not only improper but immoral to disagree with what he did. And they were going to do it all by finally proving once and for all that what arch cynic H. L. Mencken said was totally right- nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

And they simply can’t be as stupid as they look, because they did all of it!

And their final act was to finally acknowledge what people had been warning and they had been denying for years- that the result of all this was going to cause our whole economic system to collapse- just in time to panic and convince congress that letting them steal a few trillion more dollars as they were packing to leave would be good for the economy even if everything they had done up until then wasn't.

I am almost convinced that the presidency of George W. Bush is the most successful in history. I haven’t always thought that. I was convinced that they were just the kind of businessmen I had met numerous times when I was in business- idiotic con men who thought they were smarter than everyone else because they could double-talk, cheat, and swindle enough people to get rich. Those businessmen invariably wind up going from business failure to business failure, bankruptcy to bankruptcy, because even though they may be master salesmen they don’t know how to run anything. They may be able to talk some rube into buying a $40,000 SUV on a $27,000 a year salary, but the actual nuts and bolts of managing a business is beyond them. Invariably they wind up taking the money and running when it becomes obvious that it isn’t going to be possible to keep the game going any longer.

Well, maybe my first impression was right after all.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


I’m always hesitant to see Pixar movies for some reason. I think that it’s partly because the trailers are always so saccharine sweet that I withdraw a little. Or because I am so aware of the Disney Animated Movie Formula. (Child or childlike main character gets separated from parent figure, has various adventures, realizes the value of love, and is reunited and finds happiness.) I realize that the Formula is as good a narrative structure for children’s movies as any and that the lessons are timeless and particularly poignant to kids in early developmental stages. I just don’t care for it.

But I realize all of this is just prejudice and that I shouldn’t blame Pixar for what Disney’s marketing department does. Whenever I have watched a Pixar movie I’m reminded that the folks at Pixar are hellishly good at what they do and the prejudice is unwarranted. The de facto standard for a good children’s movie for a long time has been to entertain both children and adults. Unfortunately, a lot of kid’s movies try to take the easy way out. Like a Soviet factory with an order for 10,000 shoes making 10,000 left shoes all in the same size because it fills the order with the least amount of effort, they try to just cram two movies together. They entertain the adults with cynical asides in the dialog while spoon feeding the kiddies bright colors and poop jokes. The original Shrek was probably the best example of this kind of two-tiered approach. Your five-year-old could enjoy the cleverness of bubbles in the bathtub while you marveled at the undertones of Jeffrey Katzenberg’s revenge on Disney evoked by calling Pinocchio a “possessed doll”. The worst examples are everywhere. Characters in children’s movies who wink at the camera and almost provide MST3K style commentary on the action. It’s lame and a cheat and evidences a lack of imagination in the creators.

Pixar shows how to make a real children’s movie that adults can love with Wall-E. It is neither saccharine nor maudlin and there isn't a cynical wink in sight. Instead it's genuinely sweet and moving. It's also virtually a silent film but so good at it that you don't notice until people start talking in the last third. There are some people who didn't like the environmental message but, while I think that anything can be overdone- even working for a clean planet, if you are threatened by the idea that continuing to turn everything we can into landfill as fast as possible is a bad idea, I have to wonder what is really motivating you.

To risk a cliche', Wall-E is a wonderful movie for children and the child in anyone. It teaches lessons about love, sacrifice, and conservation. It's also genuinely funny. Well worth seeing if you haven't.

Monday, January 5, 2009

SCIENCE- ID and crazy X's

This post about the latest arguments in the as Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case prompted this entry. The fact that the case was settled almost three years ago seems to be lost on one of the lawyers. In response to this lawyers claims, Ken Miller, one of the Biologists who testified in court, gives an excellent explanation of why the ideas of ID don’t move more scientists to give up evolution. But rather than take on the science (or lack thereof) of ID, I’m going to talk about the psychology of believing in something being more important than really caring if it’s true or not.

My ex-wife is an unusually reasonable person. But you could tell when she was doing something that wasn’t reasonable because when she did she suddenly would lose all connection to reason at once. When it was brought up to her, immediately every random event she thought might possibly justify her error would become germane to the discussion with no thought as to actual relevance. The other day I mentioned that she consistently breaks appointments and when she does keep them she’s hours (frequently several hours) late. Her response was to bring up some woman she suspected me of having an affair with 10 years ago in spite of the fact that she knows I was faithful to a fault. Not only is every imagining and dream she ever had fair game, she will say things that are so directly contradictory to reality that they derail the conversation completely. There is simply no way to reply to them other than to stare in disbelief that you actually heard those words come out of her mouth. An example? When she finally left me (by emptying the house while I was at work one day and letting me know she was leaving via a message on my voice mail) she later tried to justify such a way of ending a 16 year marriage by saying she had talked to me before doing it. When I mentioned that if that were true I wouldn’t have found out when I opened the door and Styrofoam packing peanuts blew out past my legs, she had to fall back on the random imaginary accusation ploy.

It’s like the bungee cord connecting her to reality breaks and suddenly she’s in free fall clutching for any handhold that might present itself, no matter how desperate or unlikely.

I’ve noticed that this behavior isn’t unique to her. It usually seems to surface when someone finds himself or herself in an indefensible position. Unable to admit that they may not be right, they suddenly resort to the time honored tradition held dear by students taking essay tests the world over- if you don’t know the answer, just say anything and hope it sounds good. Colloquially this is referred to either as “if you can’t blind them with brilliance then baffle them with bullshit” or “the more shit you throw against the wall the more chance there is some will stick”. There also seems that the more important the impossible thing someone is defending is to them, the more likely they will go “full retard” and abandon reality to keep it.

"Touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will soon find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your legs and hands, and fly into your face and eyes." - John Adams, 1814

Which brings us to the ID movement. Anyone with an understanding of science sees Intelligent Design for what it is, an attempt for fundamentalist Christians to extend the God of the Gaps idea into the 21st century with it’s genome sequencing and gene manipulation. Faced with a God whose existence fits a gap that is rapidly closing, ID has launched an attack not only on evolution but on the scientific theory itself. Faced with no evidence, questionable rhetorical arguments, and a dearth of the kind of research and theory that would allow them to make a scientific case, proponents of ID are forced to make assertions which may not have any relation to reality. They declare that certain systems are “irreducibly complex” thus God is the only possible explanation (a new spin on the transitional forms argument- if you can’t show every step in your work any other answer might be equally right). They posit the existence of a vast left-wing scientific conspiracy that pursues a pogrom on evolution heretics (shame on you Ben Stein, you simply have to know better). They say that science is a religion like any other, based on faith rather than reason (one of those things that you just can’t believe really came out of somebody’s mouth). It’s easy to see the common denominator in these claims. It’s basically the same as the “secular humanism is a religion” meme. They suppose that there is no way to arrive at conclusions differently than they do. The think that if someone believes something there must be a building and a guy asking everybody for money every Sunday connected with it. And they think that anything they don’t believe must be just as impossible to prove as what they do believe.

What they are doing is simply trying to discredit science. They want to redefine science to mean anything that you can imagine without using logic, reason, or having to go through the steps of the scientific method. Start with a conclusion, gather evidence being sure to ignore anything that doesn’t fit your conclusion, Perform no experiments and gather no new data. Make completely unsupported claims and pretend they are unassailable. Oh, and be sure to misrepresent the opposition and outright lie about your own position when cornered.

If this is science, what I can’t figure out is why my ex-wife doesn’t get credit for inventing it.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

MOVIES- Eagle Eye and "on doing reviews"

In this review I break by two cardinal rules, one permanently. I never do a synopsis and I consider all my movie articles to be discussions of a movie rather than reviews to recommend a film so I assume spoiler warnings. But in this article I’m doing a synopsis and I’m going to mark passages with SPOILER alerts. So in case you don’t want to know how the movie ends, I’m going to give you the first and last sentences of the last paragraph and that is my spoiler free verdict.

“So I’m giving this movie a hearty recommendation. It’s almost a must-see.”

Past here there be SPOILERS but not for a while so continue, brave one…


Whoever said Eagle Eye was a movie about the first 20 minutes of THE MATRIX said everything you need to know about it. Except it’s a mediocre copy of the first 20 minutes of THE MATRIX. It’s not even the whole first twenty minutes. They didn’t even include the cool part with Trinity kicking everybody’s ass, just from where Neo goes to work, to after the interview with Agent Smith. You know, all the running between cubicles with a cell phone stuck in his ear. They even do a shot-by-shot homage during the interrogation between LeBeouf and Thornton (I’m sorry, there was never any need to learn the characters names.) The tagline for this movie should have been: The INTERNET! The most diabolical Frankenstein monster ever spawned from the mind of man… It can see anything… Do anything… Be everywhere!!! There is no escape… from… THE INTERNET!

THE DIRECTOR isn’t bad, aside from his inept stealing from the staging and composition of other movies. The camera is in focus and eye-lines are steady for the most part. This artistry makes the director a standout compared to…

THE WRITERS proved that one person could not create such a dreadful script- it took a committee. If you’re expecting a new Borne movie with Shia playing Borne then you need to be thinking more SPY KIDS. In addition to THE MATRIX, the script borrows from a number of other sources, most notably 2001, MXC, and every other movie like this ever made. I’ve seen Bruce Willis use a tollgate as a ramp to launch a car into a helicopter, so nothing in this movie is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen, but it tries real hard. But it’s not the writing that’s bad. The bad dialogue is the product of…

THE PLOT is the classic “idiot” plot. Every time the plot needs to move forward, someone does something idiotic. The best thing you can say about the writers was that at least one of them was able to follow Conrad’s law and make sure that the gun used in the third act was introduced in the first act. (SPOILER- it’s not actually a gun.) The script is an example of sub-mediocrity that is equaled by…

THE ACTORS apparently had a meeting and decided to play themselves rather than do any, you know, ACTING. Shia LeBeouf seems the only one to have put any thought into his performance. (I guess he thought he was the leading man or something.) He SPOILER plays two identical twins and seems to have decided that two expressions would be all that were needed- talking as loud and fast as you can or trembling in fear like a junky sweating it out. Luckily one of the characters was dead so he was able to lavish the other one with both mannerisms. Here again, the script doesn’t help. Here’s a hint, Shia. When your character starts hearing a magical voice that knows everything and can do anything, and your character disagrees with in at every turn and is always wrong, that’s probably not the leading man vehicle for you.

Michelle Monaghan plays a super-competent MILF who’s a little ditzy. Our introduction to her is watching her backtrack 20 complex steps to remember that she left her car keys in the fridge. As previously mentioned, Michelle plays her character as if she was Michelle Monaghan.

Billy Bob Thornton also appears as himself but does have the advantage that Billy Bob Thornton standing around and delivering stupid dialog is still more interesting than the other two combined. To give you the idea, his best line is, “If you’re looking at me I’d better be the suspect.” (I didn’t say it was good, I said it was his best line.) But then the writer(s) ruins even this dimly bright spot by having him go on for two minutes spewing lame ass threats to his subordinates. If it didn’t become a caricature the audience might miss the cliché, I guess.

Roxanne Dawson is also in the movie, so is Michael Chiklis. Which leaves us with…

THE MAGUFFIN is the central conceit of the whole thing, the big plot twist that the whole thing swings on. I wasn’t going to do a SPOILER of this- even though it was incredibly predictable and even though it was the second biggest rip-off after THE MATRIX. But then they made it into a monster movie and killed the monster in the dumbest most obvious way and took 40 minutes doing it. Oh, by the way the SPOILERS are- the monster is a giant military computer that has become independent, the rip-off is WARGAMES, and the way they kill it is to jab a big stick in it’s giant red eye. You see, the main computer core is inside a giant mechanical eyeball on a big mechanical stalk that moves around a ginormus* circular room looking at little convex mirrors all over the walls. (If you’re even thinking of asking why, you have missed the whole point of what I’ve been saying about this movie.) When they find out the computer has gone rogue, instead of taking out a handgun and blowing it away, they fret and run around and pull out “memory cores” (which are a dead ringer for the memory units in HAL 9000 except without the cool zero gee) to “slow it down a little” (I swear that I am not shitting you) and only wind up killing it by jamming a stick into the big red eye by accident finally. While all this happens, LeBeouf and Monaghan bounce from event to event like pinballs with him being alternately terrified or loud. It’s all just a mess.

Now I hate to give away the ending to a movie (Burt Reynolds makes it back with the beer and wins the bet), and I hate to do a plot synopsis (their only purpose is to fill column space for professional reviewers) and I’ve gone and done both. And I feel bad about it. Especially when I consider that I could have dropped the needle anywhere in the movie and found something equally inane (I’m running out of synonyms for shitty). A large hunk of the movie is devoted to something that could have been done by rerouting a CIA plane.

So I’m giving this movie a hearty recommendation. There are movies that aren’t good, and there are movies that are bad. This movie is bad enough in a good enough way to be worth watching. In fact, you should get a bunch of your friends together and go at it MST3K style. It’s almost a must see.


Friday, January 2, 2009

MOVIES- Watchmen Featurette From Last Year

Just before the end of the year a new Watchmen featurette was released on the web. No doubt to quell some of the fires burning up so many blogs about Fox’s win in court. This one shows a few more tantalizing seconds from the movie with the added goodness of having Zack Snyder do a roll call and brag some more about what a epic the movie is. The question is, will it be an epic FAIL?

Watchmen Exclusive

Yes, the film looks right and yes, Zach would never have been able to land a job as director if he wasn’t able to say the right worlds with a straight face. But there are substantial reasons the movie may be doomed to be a disappointment.

(1) Batman, or rather The Dark Knight which may have shot the public’s load for taking superheroes seriously. There has to come a point where the public is satiated with costumed silliness no mater how well it’s done. The Dark Knight may have been Peak Oil.

(2) Batman and Iron Man may have used all the comic book fan luck that exists. I cannot help but believe that three comic book movies done seriously and correctly that all get critical and public acclaim coming out in the same year is too improbable to happen in any universe I’m familiar with.

(3) Batman, which may have set the bar too high. There already seems to be a strong countercurrent of resentment which could be geekdom trying to protect itself from the inevitable disappointment. I knew a lot of people who didn’t go see Batman Begins even though they would have loved it, because they had horrible flashbacks to what Joel Shumacher had done to the character. Watchmen doesn’t have that baggage but the reverence of the source material is much higher. This is the comic that comic geeks give to smart people who don’t read comics. I’ve already read one set of blog comments about this video where two posters complain about the spots moving on Rorshack’s mask. One says, “Why does Rorschach's mask transform like that? Because it looks cool I guess, and that's exactly why this movie will suck.” having obviously never read the comic. The movie is primed for heavy criticism.

(4) The story itself (finally one that isn’t Batman). It looks good but it could look great and wind up just being the trailer for the 12 hour Watchmen miniseries it would have taken to do the book justice. Snyder refers to the book as “supposedly unfilmable”. That’s not the right word. Un-translatable is what it might be. And even if he somehow manages it and it’s a work of genius, you just can’t put a gallon in a pint jar without losing 7/8 of it. Think David Lynch’s Dune.

I’ve been guardedly optimistic before each of the last two Batman movies but Christopher Nolan has taught me that I can love again. I’m waiting to see if Watchmen is going to break my heart.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

This I Know

I thought I’d start the year with an infodump. Here are some of the aphorisms I’ve picked up or written over the years that have helped me to understand the world. Hopefully you will find something helpful for the New Year.

God is far too fond of irony.

Spirituality is inversely proportional to self-righteousness.

Over the long haul, correctness is proportional to doubt.

Quae nocent docent: Things that injure- teach.

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained as stupidity.

Common sense is not so common.

Never assume that everybody else is like you.

Argue with a fool and there are two fools arguing.

One of the primary purposes of religion is to separate people into us and them. One of the primary purposes of enlightenment is to break down barriers between us and them.

All too often, Christianity isn’t the religion of Jesus; it’s a religion about Jesus.

The opposite of love is fear.

You quit learning the minute you stop thinking that you might not be wrong.

Expecting gratitude when you help someone is ridiculous.

The more you love, the less you care.

The Democratic fallacy is that everybody’s opinion has equal worth.

Everything in the world conspires to keep you from actually being in charge of your own life. Including you.

Lotto is a tax on the mathematically challenged.

The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.

The only thing in the world you can be sure that you can change is your reaction to it.

We are stone-age brains dealing with twenty-first century technology.

The police work for the status quo. They are not employed to protect or serve the citizens.

Human society is an outgrowth of human nature.

One of the earliest things children learn is possessiveness. Lying is another.

Being sure is not the same as being right.

Psychology derives from biology, sociology derives from psychology, thus sociology derives from biology.

You are never in control as much as you think you are.

If you don't believe in luck, flip a coin and prove it.

It is never a bad idea to look for more evidence.

All governments eventually become malignant.

Gender roles were not imposed on either sex. They were inherited from biology.

No matter how wrong an idea is, there will be smart people who believe it, conversely there is no idea so right that it doesn’t have some idiot involved. (The popular expression of the second part of this is “even a broken clock is right twice a day”.

No person can be more than 50% of a relationship. A 50% correct relationship still gets a failing grade.

It may not have been your fault, but thinking that teaches you nothing.

One of the best courses in psychology you’ll ever have is driving in traffic.

Mentally retarded people rarely get angry. Stupid people get angry a lot. Smart people get angry less and control it better.

Democracy isn’t a system for making the best decisions, it’s a system for correcting the worst ones.

By the time they reach adulthood most people have figured out if they aren’t beautiful, athletic, or rich. However, they will go on thinking they are smarter than other people for the rest of their lives.

Insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results.

Class warfare has been being fought since the invention of money but it’s only called that when the poor fight back.

Life is a school. If you don’t learn the right answer to a problem you will keep seeing that problem repeatedly until you do get it right. This is why your cable keeps being turned off.

If you worry more about being respected than you do about respecting others, you’re doing it wrong.

Usually, not always but usually, when people are about to do something they shouldn’t do, they know it.

The golden rule isn’t “do unto others” it’s “love one another”.

We tend to dislike things in other people that we don’t want to admit about ourselves.

Spirituality is about making yourself better, making other people better is their job (not to mention impossible for you to do).

Unwanted help is always “unwanted” first and “help” second.

In college they taught me:
A class in statistics
And that generalizations were bad
These things are mutually exclusive.