Monday, November 28, 2005

MUSIC: "Jet Airliner"

Here are several reasons why I love "Jet Airliner," by the Steve Miller Band.

1) "Threshold," the spacey, hippie-trippy synth intro track that sometimes gets played before it on the radio.

2) I find the term "big ol'" inherently amusing. "Big ol' jet airliner." It's such an old-timey, country kind of phrase, talking about such a modern contraption.

3) Steve Miller's many audible intakes of breath. Especially: "You know you've got to go through hell before you [gasp] get to heaven."

4) The fact that, even in this day and age, with radio stations terrorized into cowardice by the increasingly Puritanical FCC and its skyrocketing fines, most stations will still play, uncensored, the line "funky shit goin' down in the city" (as opposed to the watered-down "funky kicks" version).

5) "New England town." Where, exactly, is "New England town"? Is that a nickname for Boston?

6) "I've got to keep on keepin' on." Truer words were never spoken, brother Miller. Unless they be: "Keep on truckin'!"

7) The change of lyrics in the final chorus, and my mis-hearing of them. The last chorus goes (sans the "big ol' jet airliner" bits), "Carry me to my home/'Cause it's there where I belong." But until recently, I'd always heard it as, "Carry me to my home/'Cause it's there where I feel at home." Well, damn, that's stupid, I always thought. You feel at home when you're at home? No shit, Sherlock!

8) Uh, because it's awesome? Duh!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Saturday Sidebar Update: Now On Sunday!

I'm really digging the show How I Met Your Mother, and a large part of the reason for that is the appeal of the actress who plays Robin, Cobie Smulders. In the first episode, the hero of the show tells her he loves her almost immediately after meeting her. Understandable. Still, what's with that fake-ass name? Cobie? Cobie Smulders? That's not a name! That sounds more like some kind of crank call Bart would make to Moe's Tavern. (Although one whose punchline I don't quite get.)

Speaking of The Simpsons, I'm reading and loving Comic Book Guy's Book of Pop Culture. Any book that can use the phrase "Worst 'Automan' episode ever" is all right. I should finish it tonight, which means I can move on to William Kotzwinkle's The Amphora Project. Here is what I know about this book: it was in the Sci-Fi section at Borders. What's it about? Who cares! It's William Kotzwinkle! It's his first novel for adults since 1997's The Bear Went Over the Mountain, which is one of my favorite books ever. You should all read that book. I tried to demand that Ian buy the book, but I had just consumed several Jack & Cokes, and my powers of persuasion were shaky. But trust me, it's great. Kotzwinkle is awesome.

I was hanging out with Ian on his trip back down to SoCal for Thanksgiving. We wound up seeing The Ice Harvest, which was very enjoyable, if much darker and not so much a laff-riot as I was expecting. I tried talking Ian into seeing the Harry Potter movie, but he scoffed at the idea, and at the fantasy genre in general. "But you read comic books!" I replied. "How can someone who reads comic books possibly mock any other form of entertainment??" But Ian would not be swayed. He sneered at magic and dragons and swords and trees. Trees? Yes, trees. "When they get to the trees," he said of such fantasy fare as The Lord of the Rings and its Ents, "that's where they completely lose me." He went on to add -- and check me if I'm not getting the wording exactly right, Ian -- he went on to add, "Forests are stupid." Okay then!

But hey, Ian's the one who introduced me to Jim Gaffigan's Doin' My Time, which is one of the funniest things I've ever heard in my life, so I'll let it pass. Every single time I listen to this album, I laugh out loud, and I've listened to it at least thirty times. In turn, I've introduced it to many other people, and it has put every single one of them into hysterics. Funny, funny stuff.

Finally, we have Freddie frickin' Prinze, Jr. Still don't get this goddam guy. Not at all. His shitcom is just about the worst thing on the air. Yet Freddie gets picked up for a full season, while Arrested Development gets cancelled and Scrubs still hasn't started its new season. Stupid America. What is it about this damn guy? What?? Grrr.

Oh, and also there's the Lyric of the Week, from Juliana Hatfield. Man, I used to love her. I still have one of her concert T-shirts. But I haven't bought an album by her in at least seven years. Huh. Anyhoo, I've always wondered if this song was specifically referring to the band Nirvana (and more specifically, their song "Smells Like Teen Spirit") or not. I assume it is, but that's a pretty quick turnaround. Nirvana's Nevermind came out in September 1991, and the album this song is from, Hey Babe, was released April 1992. It definitely predates Cobain's suicide, though, which is damn creepy: "I'm so glad I'm not dead."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Yay Thanksgiving!

I'm about to leave for my Thanksgiving vacation, and will be without computer access until Saturday. So have a happy and safe Thanksgiving, everyone! Enjoy those turkeys! And if you're a vegan, please remember: vegans are annoying. Don't ruin turkey day for everyone else!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Brief Scenarios I Have Imagined Featuring Various Celebrities And Myself

ME: You should only make romantic comedies in which sports are involved. Or Westerns. But only if you promise not to make them over three hours long.
KEVIN COSTNER: Okay. But come on, be honest, wasn't The Postman actually kind of --
ME: No.
KEVIN COSTNER: Not even a little...?
ME: No.

J.D. SALINGER: Hi, I'm reclusive author J.D. Salinger.
ME: Hey, reclusive author J.D. Salinger. How's it hanging?
J.D. SALINGER: Low and to the left.
ME: Cool.

SARAH MCLACHLAN: Which one of my songs is your favorite?
ME: The one where you're naked in the bathtub.

HOWARD STERN: How big is your penis? How often do you masturbate? Have you ever had sex with an animal? You're retarded!
ME: I understand you pulled out of the race for Governor of New York because you didn't want to fill out the financial disclosure papers. Why don't you tell your vast army of low-income, blue-collar listeners exactly how much money you make?
HOWARD STERN: [awkward silence]
HOWARD STERN: What the hell are you laughing about?
ROBIN QUIVERS: I have no idea. I never do.

ALEX TREBEK: Tell me, contestant #2, how did you go about preparing for your appearance on Jeopardy!?
ME: Steroids, Alex. I am saturated with them.

KEANU REEVES: Would you like to Biggie size that?
ME: You suck.

DONAL LOGUE: I'd like an herbal tea with soy milk and honey.*
ME: I wish more people knew who you were, so they'd understand why this is so hysterical to me. [HINT -- this guy:]

Remember Jimmy the Cab Driver? No? Damn, how old ARE you?

ME: [six years ago] I think you should let other people write and direct the second trilogy.
GEORGE LUCAS: But it's my vision! Never!!
ME: I'm going to have to lock you in the cellar for the next six years now.
GEORGE LUCAS: That's only fair.

ME: I know.

*Actual quote, said to me at a restaurant in Ojai.

Monday, November 21, 2005

TV: Rome

[EDITED to note that there are big-time SPOILERS for the last couple episodes ahead.]

Last night was the season finale of HBO's Rome, and what a fantastic season it has been. Smart, sexy, violent, epic -- Rome is everything you expect of HBO, everything you expect to find nowhere else on television.

Those of you who watch Lost, and may have become frustrated with its slow pace -- Rome would give you whiplash. In just twelve episodes, it took us from the end of Julius Caesar's Gallic war victories (about 50 BC) to his assassination on the Senate floor (44 BC -- that's right, I did research, suckas!). Despite the enormous cast to keep track of, and its empire-spanning scale, and despite its relatively slow start, as all the characters and their political motivations were revealed to us, by the end the series felt like it was flying by, often in breathtaking fashion.

Last week's episode was quite likely the highlight of a series that's been filled with highlights. The gladiatorial battle was spectacular, with Pullo fighting for his life and the honor of his beloved XIIIth Legion, while his best friend Lucius Vorenus stands idly by, having been instructed by Caesar himself not to interfere. But as Pullo is finally beaten to the ground, and as the last gladiator stands ready to deliver the killing blow -- "Thirteen! Thirteen!!" Vorenus casts aside any thought of his political career -- or even his life -- and bellowing the legion battle cry, leaps into the arena to save his comrade's life, slaying the mightiest of the gladiators. I don't even have the words to describe how stirring and thrilling this scene was. I just keep coming back to: fucking awesome. Which I guess pretty well covers it, actually. It was one of the most exciting moments from the past year in TV.

And so we come to this week's finale, in which Vorenus and Pullo have become heroes of the people. Vorenus goes to Caesar, expecting he will be executed for his disobedience. But instead, Caesar tells him: I can not punish you without angering the people. And if I can not punish you, then I must reward you, or I will appear weak. And so instead of dying, Vorenus finds himself appointed to the Senate.

He serves more as bodyguard to Caesar than as Senator, with his fierce reputation keeping the conspirators against Caesar at bay. Which only leads to the inevitable tragedy that has been hanging over Vorenus since the first episode: Caesar's enemies inform Vorenus that his wife Niobe has been unfaithful, that the boy he thought was his daughter's child was actually his wife's, conceived while he was away at war. In a rage he leaves Caesar's side to confront her, and as he cradles a knife, struggling over whether to kill her or not, she takes matters into her own hands. "The boy is blameless," are her last heartbreaking words to him, as she drops herself backward over the balcony to her death. Even worse, as he watches her fall, you can see in Vorenus' eyes that his love for her was so strong, he would have forgiven her. And at that same moment, Caesar, now without his bodyguard, finds himself at the center of a storm of daggers on the Senate floor, with his beloved friend Brutus delivering the killing blow.

It was a chilling and powerfully moving ending to a riveting season. And this isn't even touching on the confrontation between Caesar's niece, the devilish schemer Atia of the Julii, and Servilia, Caesar's spurned lover and Brutus' mother. All season Atia has had Servilia under her thumb, slowly destroying her life. In the finale, Servilia calmly relates to Atia the steps that have been taken to destroy her family in turn -- Caesar's death leaves her utterly unprotected -- and rather than ending it there, Servilia gives Atia a chance to flee the city, that Servilia may have the pleasure of pursuing her to finish her off at her leisure. Damn, that is cold. Well played!

There's not a weak link in the cast, but Kevin McKidd has been especially great as Lucius Vorenus, so rigid he's in danger of cracking, as has Ray Stevenson as Pullo, the charismatic brute who befriends and humanizes Vorenus. Ciaran Hinds was fantastic as the doomed Caesar, the master strategist who dupes himself into believing in his own godhood, and Max Pirkis -- only 16 years old! -- gave an incredibly sophisticated performance as the young Octavian, soon to be Emperor Caesar Augustus (whose rise to power will probably be the centerpiece of the already confirmed second season). And Polly Walker as Atia has set a new standard for evil women on film.

Rome has joined the likes of Deadwood and The Sopranos as the best HBO has to offer -- which of course means the best television has to offer. At the beginning of this year, I couldn't imagine myself paying extra for a premium channel like HBO. Now, I can't imagine doing without.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Sidebar Update

With her Weekend Update co-anchor Tina Fey on maternity leave, Amy Poehler is pretty much the only reason to watch Saturday Night Live these days. She's smart, she's incredibly funny, she's fearless, and she's hot.

I've always heard how funny Dan Jenkins was, but had never read anything by him before. I figured Dead Solid Perfect was the proper starting place, and I seem to have been right so far. Hilarious stuff. But very pre-political correctness.

Haven't seen Goblet of Fire just yet, but I'll get to it sometime this weekend. It's playing at the theater two blocks from my house, after all.

I've been listening to American Idiot pretty much non-stop since the day I got it, and it still blows me away every time. It's easily the best album of the new millennium. Of course, I don't listen to a lot of new music anymore... but that doesn't mean I'm wrong!

And it's only appropriate that I listen to a Berkeley band today, since it's Big Game day! Upright and heroic Cal vs. the wretched villainy of Stanford. BOO STANFORD!! We hate Stanford! Did you know that Stanford University harbors no less than five Nazi war criminals? Did you know that Stanford football players can only get sexually aroused by strangling puppies and kitties? It's true! HATE THEM!!!

And the lyric of the week, from the American Idiot album, of course, is especially relevant, what with this city actually burning and all. As Mike mentioned yesterday, those fires in Southern California you were hearing about? Yeah, they were right on top of us, in lovely downtown Ventura. Me more so than him. It's a very unsettling feeling, standing outside your place of business and watching several fires sweeping down the brush on the hill at the end of your street. But never fear, the trusty fire copters doused the flames long before they were any real threat. To me, at least. Hopefully everyone else in the city was just as fortunate.

Friday, November 18, 2005

TV: Any excuse to post this photo again

What's wrong with California??

Found via Crocodile Caucus: Lisa Loeb, one of the first of my hopeless crushes to occupy the "Object of My Affection" space on my sidebar, is starring in a new reality series on E! about her re-entry into the dating scene. It's called #1 Single (cue trumpet blatt signaling corny pun: wah-waaaaahh!).

Okay, Lisa, the first step was to stop dating a guy named Dweezil, and I congratulate you on taking it. But if you're going to be building an entire TV show out of your search for your next fella, why did you have to set it in New York? Tom's right here in California, baby! Your next boyfriend is right here!!

Wrong coast! Wrong coast!! Why is all the good stuff on the wrong coast?!?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

TV: Smallville

Have you ever heard the joke: "I was watching the fights tonight, when all of a sudden a hockey game broke out"?

I was watching a car commercial tonight, when all of a sudden an episode of Smallville broke out.

There are product placements, and then there are product placements. And then there is tonight's Smallville, which might as well have dropped the pretense and spent the whole 60 minutes with all the characters shopping for, buying, singing the praises of, and making sweet, sweet love to the new Ford Fusion.

Hell, I'm surprised the Ford Fusion didn't cure Martha Kent's mystery disease. Or maybe Clark could've painted one red and blue with a big yellow S on the hood, and called it the Supermobile. Or maybe Ford and the WB could've sent a representative over to every TV viewer's house in America, to kick in our doors, pin us to the floor with a knee in our throat, and ask us if we want the rustproof undercoating with our new Fusion.

Rein it back a notch, is what I'm saying. I understand that product placement has become an essential component of funding for many TV shows and movies, however monumentally obnoxious it may be. But try, try to keep it a little more subtle, would you?

I wish I hadn't said Ford Fusion so much. Now I'm going to get Google hits off that phrase. Hey you -- if you came here looking for info on the Ford Fusion: bite me!

MUSIC: Epic Outros

Okay, so I've been thinking about rock songs that are renowned as much for their extended instrumental conclusions as for the remainder of the song. The beginning of the songs may be great on their own, but the epic outros (as my weird little mind likes to think of them) crank the tunes up that one extra notch to truly legendary.

The best example of this is probably "Layla," by Derek & the Dominos. Kick-ass electrifying rocker of an opening half to the song; it would surely be immortal for that alone. But then comes that abrupt transition into the piano instrumental, turning the song completely on its head. It's practically a whole new song. It's totally jarring, and it's unforgettable. Of course, it's even more powerful if you've seen Goodfellas. Scorsese has always been terrific at using music in his films, but the way he uses only that lovely instrumental ending to "Layla" to orchestrate some very unlovely business in Goodfellas is one of the best uses of a song in any film ever.

Another great example would be Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird." It's a good enough song to begin with, but I think it, as opposed to "Layla," wouldn't be quite so cherished without that epic outro. The front portion is a little tame, a little mellow, but then right at the close of the lyrics it starts to kick into gear, with the vocals building and soaring and finally exploding into that fierce guitar-driven ending that seems to last five times as long as the lyrical beginning did. I had a friend who liked to mock the song's seemingly eternal ending; at a bar one night, with this song on the jukebox, he turned to me and said, "We are now entering the 3rd hour of 'Free Bird.' Please kill me." I say bring on hour four!

"Hotel California" by the Eagles is another. It would still be a classic without that outro, but it wouldn't be nearly as good. As Don Henley's vocals conclude, with the protagonist of the song spinning into madness and horror, the guitars take over, and continue the disorienting journey. I mean, come on, how many guitars are there? Three, four? Twelve? It's dizzying to listen to them harmonize and contend with each other for that extra two or three minutes.

A Beatles song that almost fits the bill is "Hey Jude," which continues for several minutes after the main portion of the song is over. But it doesn't quite make the cut, because the chorus continues. "Na na na na, hey Jude" is repeated so often that it almost fades into the background, melding with the music to become another instrument (not counting the bit where Paul busts out with "Hey Judy Judy Judy Judy Judy WOW!!")... but lyrics are lyrics, so it's disqualified.

Another Beatles song that could take its place is "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." I love the ending of that song. It builds and builds into an oppressive repetition, droning and pounding relentlessly, as what sounds like a monster storm threatens to tear your stereo apart, until you think you just can't take it for one more second and then -- with no warning or reason it ends, and sudden blissful silence hits you like a bucket of cold water. This song isn't quite in the legendary category of the others I mentioned -- but hey, it's the Beatles.

There are some others I could name. "Comfortably Numb," by Pink Floyd. "One," by Metallica (which is so awesomely rocking it's got my head banging just thinking about it). The Who's "Baba O'Riley." All great songs, made even better by their outros, though perhaps not quite so memorable as those mentioned above.

Am I leaving any out? Did I foolishly omit an incredibly obvious one? Or do you have a personal favorite you'd like to suggest?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Woe is me

Just a quick post to let you know there will be no post today. I am sick, and far too wrapped up in feeling sorry for myself to write anything here. Except for this.

Also, I keep forgetting, but I wanted to take note of the fact that my Site Meter hit count surpassed 100,000 sometime this last week, probably Friday. There's not really any significance to that, other than the fact that big round numbers are fun. Plus, I'm very grateful to all you people who keep stopping by here. Even the ones looking for pictures of Misty May's ass.

Monday, November 14, 2005


I'm starting writing this post with no idea what to write about, simply because I feel like I should write something this morning. Hmm....

Okay, I could mention something about Smallville I probably should've mentioned a month ago. What happened to Jason Teague? You know, Lana's tool boyfriend who turned out to be evil? In last season's finale, he was holding Ma and Pa Kent hostage at gunpoint when the meteor shower struck, destroying the Kent farmhouse. (Speaking of which, they sure rebuilt that thing in record time.) In this year's season premiere -- no Jason. Was he killed? Did he escape? Who knows? I believe Lionel briefly mentioned Jason's mother, played by Jane Seymour, who had been murdered by Lana (while she was possessed by evil spirits or something, which seems to happen every other week), but nobody said a single word about Jason. Not that I care what happened to him: good riddance, I say. I just find it curious no one on the show cares, either.

Freddie was picked up for a whole season on the same day Arrested Development's episode order was cut in half, effectively marking the show's cancellation. Why are you so stupid, America? Why???

Thanks to those of you who told me the "Boot to the head" sketch I had always believed to have been from an early Kids in the Hall episode was actually created by a different Canadian sketch troupe, the Frantics. Although I can not imagine where I would've seen that sketch. I'm not Canadian. I've never watched Canadian TV. Why would I have seen an episode of the Frantics' TV show, Four on the Floor? I know I saw it (I definitely saw it, as opposed to listening to it on one of their albums or on the Dr. Demento show) in the late 80s -- was some American TV channel rebroadcasting this Canadian show back then? I'm baffled. No matter: I simply need to see that sketch again somehow. (The sketch involved the reading of the will of what was apparently a very bitter and eccentric old man; instead of money or property or possessions, he left each of his relatives a boot to the head. Which they received, in sudden and hilarious fashion.)

As if this weren't obscure enough already: does anyone remember the Funny Boys? They were a comedy duo from the 80s, made up of this guy (who writes for Arrested Development these days... or did, I guess) and this guy (whose most familiar onscreen role is probably as the snooty maitre'd in Ferris Bueller's Day Off). I remember them having a TV series, but perhaps it was only a one-time special -- either way, it's not listed in IMDb. Most likely it aired around the time Double Trouble was on the air, because they were both supporting castmembers on that show. (Which brings us to the question: who remembers Double Trouble? Twin redhead sisters? One's smart, the other's flighty? Anyone? Bueller?)

I remember the Funny Boys specifically for one sketch, and I only remember one thing from that sketch: "Potatoes!" It was something about the Irish and the potato famine and who knows what, but mostly it was just them saying, over and over, in this absurd mockery of an Irish accent, "Potatoes! Puh-taaaaaay-toes!!" My friends at school and I would crack each other up for weeks afterward just by saying that one word. (Which shows just how sophisticated we were.)

Wow, I went so obscure I think I alienated myself. Maybe tomorrow I'll write something with a coherent plan in mind. Or not. After all, why should I start now?

EDITED to add:

Double Trouble

Stars of Double Trouble Jean & Liz Sagal, younger sisters to Katey "Peg Bundy" (or "Leela," depending on your percentage of nerdiness) Sagal.

Cute! But man, check out that skinny leather tie! The 80s were weird.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

TV: Loser With The Remote

On Wednesday's The Daily Show, during Rob Corddry's segment, a list of programs the Republicans are trying to cut the budget for runs by the screen, slowly at first, but then so fast they're impossible to read. Using my trusty TiVo, I rewound the program and played it again at slow speed. Here's what I discovered:

School Dropout Prevention Program

Small Rural School Achievement

Adult Education -- Basic Grants To States

Loser With The Remote

Stop Pausing Your Tivo

This Is a Fake News Program

We Don't Check Our Facts

Read A Newspaper

Or Can't You Read

Preschool Grants For Children With Disabilities


Later down the list comes a string of Olsen twins movies, including You're Invited to Mary-Kate and Ashley's Camping Party and Passport To Paris. That's my favorite!

Sidebar Update

Evangeline Lilly is such an obvious, uninspired choice for the Object of My Affection. And yet -- what, am I supposed to deny that she's smokin' hot just because every other nerd in America lusts after her, too? I don't think so, buddy!

Bad Religion's The Gray Race is probably my second favorite of their albums, but I haven't owned it for a long while. Picked up a used copy this week, and it is rocking my face. (Although it amuses me no end that the guitar intros to the first two songs are exactly -- and I mean exactly -- identical. Geez, guys, at least put a song in between them!) I was tempted to use a line from one of its many awesome tracks for Lyric of the Week (most likely from "Come Join Us"), but I guess that'll have to wait, because the Matthew Sweet lyric was just too damn apt for me to pass up. (The chorus goes, "Evangeline, Evangeline/I think I love you/But Evangeline, Evangeline/I want you" -- which is a little too on the nose, don't you think?)

Also picked up a used copy of the season 1 DVD of Kids in the Hall. I'm confused -- I though I would be getting the episodes from HBO, and it looks like these episodes might start after their move to CBS. It's hard to tell; it's been a long time. I really, really need to have the "boot to the head" sketch, which I thought was in the premiere episode on HBO, but I haven't found it yet.

"Hating" was easy. DAMN YOU FOX!! DAMN YOUR EYES!!! But I did find something interesting on the official website: click on "Features," then "In Case You Missed It." It's an episode-by-episode listing of some of the more obscure or easy-to-miss lines and sight gags. Good fun. For example, did you notice that Steve Holt's mother is named Eve Holt? And her yearbook quote: "Eve Holt!"

Friday, November 11, 2005

TV: Arrested Development


Random thought

I'm sure I've asked this before, but...

Remember when Helen Hunt won an Oscar?

What the hell was that all about?

Wasn't that weird? The way we all suddenly loved Helen Hunt so very, very much that we had to give her an Oscar, and then we all totally forgot about her a year later?

Huh. It's a funny world.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

MOVIES: The Indy Top 50

Empire Magazine's 50 Greatest Independent Films. GO, MEME, GO!!

Bold the ones you've seen and liked.
Strike the ones you've seen and which you didn't like or which are just plain overrated.
Italicize the ones you haven't seen but want to.
Underline the ones you haven't seen and don't want to.
Don't do anything to the ones you've never heard of.

1. Reservoir Dogs: Damn fine, if obvious, choice.
2. Donnie Darko: I liked it enough that I can't bring myself to call it overrated, but there's no way it should be #2.
3. The Terminator: Unexpected, but I can't fault it one bit.
4. Clerks: I've seen bits and pieces, but unbelievably enough, I've never seen the whole thing.
5. Monty Python's Life of Brian: I'd actually rate The Holy Grail before this one, but I'm certainly not going to call it overrated.
6. Night of the Living Dead
7. Sex, Lies, and Videotape
8. The Usual Suspects
9. Sideways: A little too recent to rank quite so high (though I do love it). A few other films further down on the list are also a little too current to really be immortalizing them like this just yet.
10. Mean Streets
11. Bad Taste: I wouldn't rank it quite so high, and I'd certainly put DeadAlive ahead of it (assuming it also could be called "independent"), but this is one crazy bit of filmmaking.
12. Eraserhead
13. Memento
14. Stranger Than Paradise
15. Blood Simple
16. She's Gotta Have It
17. City of God
18. Withnail and I: I've heard so much good about this film, but have never felt the urge to see it. I think I'm ready to see it now.
19. Lone Star: Love this film. So criminally underseen.
20. Slacker
21. Roger and Me
22. Nosferatu
23. The Evil Dead
24. Happiness
25. Drugstore Cowboy
26. Lost in Translation
27. Dark Star: I love John Carpenter, but just have never seen this one.
28. In the Company of Men: Brutal, brutal stuff. Made me feel like I'd been punched in the gut.
29. Bad Lieutenant: Harvey Keitel is a freak.
30. Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song: I'd also like to see Baadasssss! (which is wrongly listed as How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass on IMDb), Mario Van Peebles' biopic about his father Melvin's breakthrough film.
31. Pink Flamingos: Never quite been in the right frame of mind to rent it, but I'm sure I will someday.
32. Two Lane Blacktop
33. Shallow Grave: I've always meant to rent this, but have just never gotten around to it.
34. The Blair Witch Project: I liked it, but it was way overrated. If you ever believed, even for a second, that it was actually a true story... you are quite the gullible one.
35. THX-1138: I rented the DVD and couldn't finish it. I don't think I'll be giving it a second chance.
36. Buffalo '66: Vincent Gallo is a freak. But not in a cool way, like Keitel.
37. Being John Malkovich
38. Grosse Point Blank: I kinda liked it, but I wouldn't rank it as a great independent film by any stretch. In fact, I'm surprised it's classified as "independent" to begin with.
39. The Passion of the Christ: Before the film opened, when it seemed destined to flop in a big way, I was interested in it from an objective standpoint: I don't embrace its religion, but I wanted to judge how well it told the story. After its release, when it became a litmus test for proving your faith, I lost any urge to see it.
40. The Descent: British horror from 2005. Sounds interesting. But again, it seems like Empire is stacking the list with a few too many too-recent movies.
41. Dead Man's Shoes: A British revenge flick from 2004 -- also too recent.
42. Swingers
43. Shadows: I don't think I've ever seen a John Cassavetes film, and I've never even heard of this one.
44. Amores Perros
45. Mad Max
46. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
47. Blood Feast: I have no specific memory of this, oddly, but I know I've seen it.
48. Cube
49. Run Lola Run
50. El Mariachi

Pretty good list. I disagree with some of the rankings and some of the choices, but it's not some crazy, out-of-left-field kind of list (like the ones Spin Magazine tends to put together). Gave me a couple ideas for rentals at the very least, both of films I've never seen and ones I need to see again. And I can't think of any glaring omissions. I mean, I can, but I'm not sure if they count as "independent" or not. Like Pulp Fiction, or This Is Spinal Tap -- not including Tap is a truly heinous mistake, assuming it qualifies under whatever terms Empire used to define "independent".

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

COMICS: Wed. 11/9/05 cont.

Well, that was a surprise. Of the three comics I got today, the one I expected to like the least was by far the most fun.

I'm talking about Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #2 (part 4 of "The Other"), by Reginald Hudlin. I don't think I've read a comic written by Hudlin before, but this will definitely change that. He's got a nice comedic touch, seems to have a pretty good take on every character in the comic (except the Hulk -- for Christ's sake, Marvel editorial, would you establish a consistent standard for ol' greenskin? Is he smart, is he mean, is he naive, is he just plain dumb -- what?? It would be nice if five different writers didn't portray the Hulk five different ways), he kept things moving (though still not really telling us anything about Peter's malady)... it was a thoroughly pleasant surprise.

Y: The Last Man was another fine issue in this great series. Bummer of an ending, though, with a closing line as timely as today's headlines. (Well, two days ago's headlines.) I am getting a little tired of Yorick and 355's dancing around their emotions. "Do you like me?" "No! Why... do you like me?" "NO! Why... do you like me?" Enough. Uncle.

The Walking Dead was a great character issue, with Rick and Tyreese violently confronting each other on their darkest secrets. Still loving this series, even though zombies in general are more played out than ninja pirate monkeys. (Don't tell you know who, though.)

Wow, 3 for 3. That's a good week in comics. Plus, I'm still reading, and loving, the Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex book I got last week. But Dorian is right about Jonah: he sure does like to take off his shirt a lot. And spurn the advances of women. Often at the same time. I imagine Jonah will really dig this movie.

COMICS: Wed. 11/9/05

I haven't posted a regular weekly comics entry here for a long time. Don't have much to post about today, either. My haul was only three comics: The Walking Dead, Y: The Last Man, and Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #2, aka part 4 of that stupid "The Other" crossover event. We're four issues into this thing, maybe something will actually happen this time, instead of the issue ending with everyone giving each other mournful silent glances regarding Peter's still unrevealed ailment -- again. But I'm not betting on it.

Why am I following this stupid thing? Actually, I know why: once this crossover is finished, and Peter David takes over the regular writing chores on FNS-M, I expect it will become a very entertaining title. And I don't want to start out in a hole, having missed the lead-in storyline, even if it means having to buy other Spider titles by other Spider writers I don't normally follow. Marvel couldn't get me with House of M, but they've gotten me with this one. Damn you, Marvel!!

More later, if I can find the time to read these books today.

TV: My sister is smarter than your sister

For those of you who watched this Monday's Arrested Development, I just want to remind you: my sister called it over a month ago.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

TV: Over There

Bad news from the fake warfront: according to Tim Goodman, Over There, FX's brilliant series about the war in Iraq, will not be coming back for a second season.

I don't think I've written about Over There, other than in passing. I know I didn't post a review when it first premiered because I somehow screwed up and didn't TiVo that debut episode. I was behind right from day one, which is a shame, because, as I discovered while playing catch-up, it was a truly great show.

It was the first American TV show ever based on an ongoing war, which at times made it tough to watch, but all the more essential. It wasn't about attacking any one political party or worldview; it exposed the brutality, sadness, stupidity and insanity inherent in any war, as most great war fiction does. Sometimes it did so through horrific images, such as the Iraqi soldier whose legs keep running after everything above his waist is blown up (eerily reminiscent of a moment in the film version of Catch-22). Mostly it did so through the characters, who swiftly transcended their stock cliche origins (farm boy, smart-ass, gruff sergeant who cares) and became vital, compelling, and unique. The show went to dark and unexpected places -- the soldier you expect to become the leader of the other men gets his leg blown off at the end of the very first episode, spinning his storyline into one of depression, denial, and grueling rehabilitation.

Over There was smart, funny, bold, and haunting. It was the best new show of the year on any network -- even including HBO's Rome. But it wasn't on HBO, it was on FX, which is probably why I'm writing its eulogy rather than announcing its renewal. FX has crafted some fantastic programming over the past few years -- it's got a track record nearly equal to HBO's. And this was one of FX's very best. But on standard cable (as opposed to subscriber channels like HBO), ratings matter, and Over There just couldn't muster enough viewers for FX to keep it around.

If you were one of the people who wasn't watching it, at least check out the DVD whenever it may come out. Over There was something special.

Monday, November 07, 2005

MOVIES: Coming Soon: Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot: Part the Second

I've got a problem with Sylvester Stallone's plans to star in Rambo IV. Above and beyond the very fact that Sylvester Stallone plans to star in Rambo IV.

No, my more specific problem is with the film's title: Rambo IV. I was similarly bothered when Rambo III came out 17 (!) years ago. What bothers me is that there was no Rambo I. The original film was called First Blood. The second film got it right: Rambo: First Blood Part II. But the third film decided to pretend the "First Blood" thing never existed, and dropped it from the title.

While I'm at it, two other title changes that bug the hell out of me: the first Star Wars film was not called A New Hope. It was fucking called Star Wars!! I don't care what changes Lucas made in later releases, Star Wars is Star Wars. I swear to all that is holy, if you refer to that film as A New Hope in my presence, I will smack the living daylights out of you.

Also: I don't care if it was Lucas, Spielberg, both, or neither, but whoever decided to retitle Raiders of the Lost Ark as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark on the DVD package deserves a swift kick in the giblets.

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Leave well enough alone, damn your eyes!!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

If it's Saturday, it must be a sidebar update

No inspiration today for anything other than a sidebar update. And that's already time consuming enough by itself. So back off, would you??

Yes, I picked two women as the Object(s) of My Affection. I can do that. Watching Emily on a TiVoed episode of Bones, and Zooey in my DVD of Elf -- well, how could I pick one over the other? I could not, and did not. Man, one of these days I have to get down to L.A. to catch Zooey's cabaret act, If All the Stars Were Pretty Babies. She performs jazz standards with her partner (Samantha Shelton, another actress). And she plays ukulele! That, I have got to see.

I wish I had appreciated Warren Zevon more while he was alive. What a crazy, unique talent he was.

And I'm finally getting around to finishing The Thin Man, which Dorian gave me as a birthday gift back in August. I'm a slow reader. And easily distracted. Ooh, something shiny!

Friday, November 04, 2005

You Know What I Like?

Whenever I post a review as negative as that last one, I always feel like I should make up for it by posting something positive. So allow me to present:

Tom the Dog's Abecedarian List of Things I Like.

Or if you prefer:

Frickin' Awesome Stuff from A to Z.

Apricot Ale.

Bullwinkle J. Moose.

C is for Cookie, that's good enough for me.
Cookie Monster.

Dodgers baseball. (When it's good. So, like, circa 1988.)

Evil Dead.

Now, fly! Fly! Bring me that girl and her slippers! Fly! Fly! Fly!
Flying Monkeys.


Hot Shots Golf 3.


Jacks to Open, Trips to Win.

Kill Bill.

She's purty like a flower.
Linney, Laura.

In this world, there's two kinds of people, my friend: those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.
Man with No Name, The.



You're such good puppies! Yes you are! Yes you are!
Puppies! (What? I'm only human.)

Quiet Man, The.

Regan, Brian.


Twain, Mark.

There's no need to fear! Underdog is here!

Velvet Marauder, The.

Who's Next.


Do, or do not. There is no try.
Yoda. (Pre-CGI.)

Zevon, Warren.

This seems like a meme. Did I steal it from somewhere? If not, please feel free to make it a meme, in honor of how much I rock your faces.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

BOOKS: The Colorado Kid

You know, sometimes when I write stuff here, I wonder what it would be like if the person I was writing about were to stumble across my blog. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. It makes me feel like I should stick to the blandest and most non-judgmental reviews I possibly can.

That said: Stephen King's The Colorado Kid is a pile of horse shit.

Hey, I gotta be me.

This book has no reason to exist. None whatsoever. As the Onion might put it, it's the least essential book I've ever read. As King himself says (via his characters) over and over again throughout the book, there's no story. And how right he is. It's a book of two characters telling a story, which is uninteresting and unnecessary enough itself, but this non-story they tell is boring, pointless, and completely devoid of any need to have been told.

Here's what they tell: 25 years ago, a man's body was found outside a small Maine island town -- the Colorado Kid, as he came to be known. It's page 50 of the 178 page text, by the way, before we get even this much, the most important part of an unimportant story. The preamble has all been about the two old newspaper men testing their young female intern's intelligence with inane questions, and patting her head when she gets something right, while she alternately beams, flushes, or shivers with pleasure at the condescending approbation of the old bores. (Sample line: "Stephanie thought that she loved these two old buzzards, she really did.")

So, an unidentified man's body is found. Who cares? Where's something to interest me in the dead guy? Nowhere. He's just there, and I'm supposed to care because the two old men care. That's not nearly enough. It's not anything, really.

On page 127, we finally get a tidbit of information that's meant to intrigue: the dead man had travelled from Colorado to Maine in an unusually short period of time the day before he died. And when I tell you that's it, I mean that's it. That is the entire story, right there. The rest of this ridiculously bloated book is the two old men filling in details and making conjectures, or having their intern do it for them.

The old men are condescending in the extreme, but even more galling to me was King's condescension toward the reader. He uses the intern to artificially inflate the emotions of the story -- above and beyond her constant, devout attention to every word that tumbles from their lips as though it were a golden nugget of wisdom. "This part's rather creepy," she says at one point, as though trying to convince the reader of that fact. (If that was indeed King's intent, he fails.) Or, when the old men quiz her on how they found out the man was from Colorado by his pack of cigarettes (emphasis King's):

"The tax-stamp!" she nearly shrieked. "There's a state tax-stamp on the bottom of every pack!"

They both applauded her, gently but sincerely.
First of all, you can cram your applause, you patronizing pricks. Second, her overreaction is nothing more than a transparent attempt to inject excitement into a story that has none. Her answer is hardly earth-shattering, nor thrilling to the point of near-hysterical outburst. It's just another dull clue in the dull story.

To me, a more relevant passage is King's clumsy attempt to inject mood and depth to the story:

"How long do you think it takes a man to choke to death on a piece of meat, and then be dead forever?"

None of them had an answer to that. On the reach, some rich summer man's yacht tooted with hollow self-importance as it approached the Tinnock town dock.
"Hollow self-importance." That sounds about right to me. It's almost like King is mocking himself, though I think that's giving him credit for too much awareness this time out.

The cover asks, "Would She Learn the Dead Man's SECRET?" Answer: no. Nor do we. The mystery of how the man came to be in Maine is unresolved at the end. And I wouldn't have minded that -- let me be very clear: I would not have minded, I wouldn't have questioned for one second the validity of leaving the mystery unsolved, if the mystery hadn't been so thoroughly uninvolving. I never cared about the dead man. I never cared why he died (he choked on some food, but the old men want to believe -- and King wants us to believe -- there's more to it than that), I never cared about the old storytellers, I never cared about their needy, slavishly obedient intern and her responses to their frequent tests. I never cared about anyone or anything in this book.

This book actually angers me for having wasted my time so blatantly. If it had been one of King's usual 8,000-page tomes, I'd have quit after 4 chapters. But since it was under 200 pages, I decided to gut it out. And I still lament the brief time I spent mired in every one of its worthless pages.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

TV: My Tuesday night quandary has been resolved

Tuesdays aren't as packed as Thursdays, TV-wise, but there has been a frustrating logjam at 8PM: My Name Is Earl and The Office on NBC, Commander in Chief on ABC, and House on Fox. So far this season, I've been watching NBC and ABC, and forsaking Fox, though I've liked the few episodes of House I've seen.

Then I rented the first disc of the first season DVD set of House, and watched the first five (of eight! Four on one side of the disc, four on the reverse) episodes.

Commander in Chief is outta here!

It wasn't even close, frankly. I just needed a solid block of Hugh Laurie's magnificently cantankerous M.D. to realize that House was by far the superior program.

It can be formulaic to the extreme:

1) Patient is admitted
2) House doesn't care
3) Patient exhibits unusual symptom
4) House gets curious
5) House and team brainstorm possible causes and remedies; House is a total dick to them
6) Remedy is chosen
7) Remedy almost kills patient
8) House and his team re-brainstorm; House is a total dick to them
9) Cuddy accuses House of reckless medicine, forgetting the previous 8,000 times he has eventually proven to be right
10) House is a total dick to Cuddy
11) New, radical remedy is chosen
12) See 7
13) House finally meets patient; House is a total dick to them
14) House makes breakthrough, 50% of the time aided by something suggested by a patient during clinic hours, 50% of the time aided by illegal activity
15) Patient gets better
16) House smugly watches General Hospital
17) Lisa Edelstein is hot

Note: 17) applies to any portion of the show.

It's formulaic, but it's carried with ease by a wonderful cast, and superior writing. Laurie is of course the anchor, and he's brilliant, but his supporting cast manages to keep up with him, from the lovely Edelstein, to Omar Epps, to the impossibly beautiful Jennifer Morrison as Dr. Cameron, to, yes, even pretty-boy blond doctor whose name I can't be bothered to look up, even though I've got the IMDb page open in another window.

By contrast, Commander in Chief has decent-to-great acting, some uneven but often very good writing, future sidebar Object of My Affection Ever Carradine... but it just can't match up with House. (Hell, House even featured Ms. Carradine as a new mother in episode #4.) I'll miss Commander in Chief, but not as much as I would miss House.

I skipped most of House's first season due to scheduling conflicts. This season, House has been promoted to the priority show.

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