Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Grove Street 4 Life

In recognition of yesterday's release of Grand Theft Auto IV, I have once again gone back to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, in an effort to finally, finally finish it. I've made it to the final, riot-filled missions, so I'm almost there! Well, I'm almost to the end of the main story, that is; I've still got less than 50% of the whole game completed, what with the races and hidden items and special jumps and photo opportunities and graffiti tags and whatnot remaining.

My point is, I'm gonna be working on that for a while, which is about the best (read: saddest) reason I've ever had for not posting here much. I know you understand.

Speaking of GTA IV, has there ever been a better-reviewed game? I spent a lot of time reading through various reviews on the net yesterday, and they're all superlative in the extreme, 10 out of 10 or five stars or A+ or whatever way that particular reviewer expresses "best of the best." This is a real console-seller of a game -- I know, because I now desperately want a Playstation 3! Sadly, four hundred bucks is still out of my range. Maybe by my birthday in August!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sidebar Update

Time for another of my world-famous Sidebar Updates!

The new Object of My Affection is a longtime Object of My Affection: Corinne Bohrer, whom I've loved since E/R. No, not the TV show with George Clooney -- the other TV show with George Clooney! The sitcom from the '80s which also featured Elliot Gould, a pre-Seinfeld Jason Alexander, a pre-Battlestar Galactica Mary McDonnell, and yes, the adorable Ms. Bohrer. Here's a bonus picture of her, being all cute, '80s-style:

Note the necktie. Damn, the '80s were stupid.

And she's also featured in one of the new "Mac/PC" commercials, as PC's therapist:

Still hot! She's turning 50 this year, yet she looks like she's barely aged a day since 1985. Them's good genes.

Stephen King's The Dark Tower is still under Reading. I'm a couple hundred pages into it, and I have to say, it's not really wowing me yet.

For Watching, I continue writing my unabashed love letter to Turner Classic Movies. Best run channel on TV, bar none. This week, I watched a couple great Danny Kaye musical comedies, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Court Jester, and an absolutely brilliant Buster Keaton silent, Our Hospitality, which had me rolling with laughter when it didn't have me gasping in shock at the dangerous stunts. And I've got several others recorded and ready to roll, including The Misfits (the last completed film for both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe), The Asphalt Jungle (a John Huston classic I've somehow managed to avoid), and what may be the only Scorsese film I've never seen, the musical New York, New York.

Listening to Asking for Flowers, the new album from one of my recent favorites, Canadian alt-country darling Kathleen Edwards. I've actually heard a couple songs from the album getting some radio play in Austin, so hopefully she'll finally gain the American popularity she deserves. And the Lyric of the Moment is taken from the first single, "The Cheapest Key."

And after replacing it with "Loving" in the previous Update, I've restored the Hating entry. Currently, my hate is focused on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who are doing everything in their power, with their increasingly vicious infighting (and let's face it, especially on the part of Hillary) to the exclusion of all else, to sabotage their own party and give John McCain huge boosts in the polls. Once again, we see there is no election so in-the-bag that the Democrats can not give it away.

And that's about the size of it. Go away!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I think he's lying about his age

Here is today's crazy Austin event, which I of course will be attending:

Sad? Why should I be sad? It's my birthday. The happiest day of the year.

The 45th annual celebration of Eeyore's Birthday.

It promises to be a real hippie-fest, with plentiful drum circles under a cloud of patchouli-stench. But it also promises many young women clad only in body paint. So I'd call that a break-even.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Quick Battlestar question

Here's something I suddenly began wondering tonight, even though I should have been wondering it after last week's episode:

When the four of the Final Five Cylons on Galactica were activated, did it change them physically, above and beyond any mental or emotional changes it may have made? What I'm thinking about specifically was the end of last week's episode, when Tory smacks Cally, and she flies across the room. Tory wouldn't have been able to do that before she was activated, would she? I mean, that would be something a person would notice, having super strength and all. "Oh, no, I swatted a fly and accidentally punched a hole in the wall again. Clumsy me."

Was she formerly programmed to repress her strength, or did her body only gain that strength after she was activated? And if the former, wouldn't her body's power have been noticeable in other ways, such as unnatural resistance to injury?

One to ponder. Okay, time to finish the rest of tonight's episode.

Oh, one more thing. Here's something I discovered today: at the Alamo Drafthouse nearest me, there's going to be a free midnight showing every Friday of the previous week's BSG episode, for the entirety of the final season. I'm not going tonight, but I think I will next week, just to check it out. How much fun would that be, watching the show in a theater full of other fans, eating popcorn and drinking beer? Answer: a lot of fun, is my guess. (Also in my "must check it out" file: free screenings of Lost episodes on Thursdays.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

And Now It's Sad

Welcome to a new feature on Tom the Dog's You Know What I Like?, which I call, "And Now It's Sad." The premise, as you'll see, is fairly self-evident. The introductory topic:


'We rob banks!'
Bonnie and Clyde
A landmark film which practically reinvented American cinema. Her iconic role as notorious outlaw Bonnie Parker catapulted Dunaway to stardom and earned her her first Oscar nomination.

She has a nice cameo in the Pierce Brosnan remake, too.
The Thomas Crown Affair
Dunaway scorched the screen and cemented her status as the intellectual's movie siren: her most erotic scene is played over a game of chess.

'Greatest bath I ever had in my life.'
Little Big Man
I'm just now watching this film for the first time, and it's fantastic, and stunningly bizarre. Also stunning: Dunaway, as a Bible thumper aching to give in to her savage desires.

Seriously: so, so great.
I've often called this the best film ever made. Dunaway is brilliant as the deceptive femme fatale with a dark secret. Her second Oscar nomination.

Who's prettier?
Three Days of the Condor
Dunaway earned her fourth Golden Globe nomination in this smart and thrilling film channeling the paranoia of the Nixon era.

'I'm Diana Christensen, a racist lackey of the imperialist ruling circles.'
Dunaway finally won her Oscar in this influential and powerful indictment of the news business, which resonates with cutting truth to this very day.

You must read HOLLYWOOD, Bukowski's thinly-veiled fictionalization of the making of this film.
Another Golden Globe nomination for Dunaway's brave performance in this down and dirty, totally unglamorous, brutally frank depiction of two souls wallowing in the depths of alcoholism.

I recently watched the first ten minutes of this piece of garbage on Showtime. That was at least ten minutes too much.

And now it's sad.

I would also accept for the final spot:


Beverly Hills Madam

The Temp

Dunston Checks In

...and I will allow arguments for Mommie Dearest.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Molly Erdman

I have developed a weird little crush on the woman in the husband-and-wife commercials for Sonic.

If you don't have a Sonic in your area -- and really, where isn't there a Sonic anymore? -- here's a sampling:

I'm not really attempting to explain or justify this crush on a random snarky woman in some fast food commercials. Just stating the facts. Also, I really don't like the word "snarky," and I apologize for exposing you to it.

Anyway, Google, the stalker's buddy, has led me to discover that this actress is named Molly Erdman. And it turns out she's been keeping a blog for over three years now. It's pretty entertaining. She was in Second City! This is her:

It ain't stalking if you don't try to find her address.

And here's an interesting tidbit for How I Met Your Mother fans: she recently auditioned for a part on the show, then discovered she had been beaten out for the role. By whom, you ask? Britney Spears.

Ouch. Frankly, I'd rather have seen Erdman in the role, despite the ratings bump Britney achieved. Oh well.

Speaking of which, did you see Britney is returning to HIMYM? Hope Sarah Chalke also reappears, to lessen the sting.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ave Atque Vale

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye to Dave's Long Box, one of the titans of the comics blogging world.

David Campbell is one of the sharpest, funniest, and most flat-out entertaining contributors to Blogworld, and the Long Box will be missed (though he promises a new blog is forthcoming). And Dave's a class act, too: dig the shout-out to yours truly (among about a thousand others) in his final post. Thanks for throwing me the traffic, chief!

Dave also makes his living as a blogger for ABC, which makes him one lucky son of a bitch, and sends me into a jealous rage, but I don't like to dwell on that for very long, or I get woozy.

The Long Box is dead. Long live Dave Campbell!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sandcastles in the Sand

SPOILERS for tonight's How I Met Your Mother. How weird is it to have spoilers for a sitcom post? Anyhoo.

Hopefully, the full video will be posted on YouTube soon, but for now, here's a snippet of the new, wonderfully awful Robin Sparkles video from the latest HIMYM:

As for the rest of the episode: WHOA. I think we all expected they'd be heading there eventually (I know I did). I just didn't think they'd be in such a rush to get there. But dang if Robin and Barney didn't hook up!

I appreciated the fakeout before Robin showed Barney her second Robin Sparkles video -- the suggestiveness of Robin's invitation, the double entendres, everything suggesting that Barney and Robin were actually going to do it, when of course we knew they were not. And the show backed away from it like it always does, revealing that no, they weren't going to do anything naughty, they were just going to watch a videotape.

And then: pow! They go for it! I did not expect that. The show fooled me by telegraphing the fakeout, then sneaking in the real twist at the last second. Well played, show, well played.

Now, where do they go from here? Does it stop at the makeout session, or do they "go all the way," as Robin Sparkles might sing? Do they instantly regret it, or keep it going? How long before the rest of the gang finds out? I have to say, I'm genuinely keen to see what happens. I really dig these characters, and this potential relationship, and I really, really dig this program. I swear, I'm loving it more every week.

Lyrics Quiz 2: The Answers

Thanks to everyone who played along with my second Lyrics Quiz (and thanks again to SamuraiFrog for inspiring it).

And a big congratulations to Gordon, who won this round with three correct answers! Nobody really dominated this time; the answers were spread out pretty evenly among several guessers, which is nice.

Hope you liked playing. I'm already collecting lyrics for part 3! And here now are all the answers to the quiz, presented in video form.

"He loves the world, except for all the people."

1. Men at Work, "Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive"
Hey, remember the '80s? When every band felt compelled to act and dress up as characters and try to be funny in their videos? Yikes. That said, I like that slow zoom toward the end, with all of the band sitting in tuxes on the couch. Reminds me of The Shining, for some reason.

"I was just 34 years old, and I was still wandering in a haze."

2. Pete Townshend, "Slit Skirts"
Oh, Pete, Pete, Pete. What the hell was up with your fashion sense in 1984? Were you trying to be New Wave? Oh, that's Phil Collins on drums, FYI.

"Didn't it feel good, sitting there talking, or lying there not talking."

3. Joni Mitchell, "Help Me"
God, that voice just knocks me out. This era of Joni Mitchell is some of the most beautiful music ever made. Roger made me aware that a cover version of this song by Mandy Moore exists. I gave it a listen, and honestly, it's pretty good. I know, I was surprised, too.

"You know waking up to the daily blues from waking up to the daily news ain't nothing strange."

4. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, "La Costa Brava"
Nobody guessed this one. This is a live performance for Sound of Young America, sans the Pharmacists. If you only watch one of the videos for a song you've never heard before, make it this one. Ted Leo is awesome.

"Tonight the windows are watching, the streets all conspire, and the lamppost can't stop crying."

5. Bad Religion, "Stranger Than Fiction"
Low quality recording, but hey, they actually made a video for this song! How come I never saw any Bad Religion videos on TV, like, when they were current releases? Every time I find one of their videos on YouTube, it's the first I've ever heard of it.

"She's some kind of angel, if you know what I mean."

6. Matthew Sweet, "Evangeline"
Pretty crummy video of a live performance, but it's the best one I could find. And it's still a damn fine song. And it's based on a comic book by Chuck Dixon, if you didn't know.

"You fucked it up, you should've quit."

7. Aimee Mann, "Long Shot"
Another weak recording of a live show, but a bitchin' song. Aimee even throws in a bonus guitar solo at the end. If you consider that a bonus.

"What do you do when all your enemies are friends?"

8. Foo Fighters, "Monkey Wrench"
Rockin' video for a rockin' tune.

"I'm not black like Barry White, no, I am white like Frank Black is."

9. Bloodhound Gang, "Fire Water Burn"
The extended version, with the Matt Pinfield parody at the top. Hey, he's dressing up as a character, carrying on the tradition of the videos of the '80s! Kind of lame, actually.

"You are the reason I've been waiting so long; somebody holds the key."

10. Blind Faith, "Can't Find My Way Home"
As covered by Yvonne Elliman (Mary Magdalene from the Jesus Christ Superstar film adaptation). Lovely rendition. If I could've found a clip of the end credits of Fandango, I would've used that instead -- the end of that movie, with this song playing over the credits, always breaks my heart.

"I start making a deal inspired by gravity."

11. Indigo Girls, "Airplane"
Sadly, the only YouTube video featuring this very fun song is a fanvid for Supernatural. I recommend hitting play, then looking at something else. Perhaps a picture on the wall, or the TV.

"She left her pills in the glove compartment."

12. Fountains of Wayne, "Mexican Wine"
Drew Carey! Love this video. If there were any justice in the world, this song (my favorite by FoW) would've built on the popularity of "Stacy's Mom" and made Fountains of Wayne superstars. Oh well.

"Should be more to learn from this; can't say I know what it is."

13. Tom Petty, "Flirting With Time"
Unguessed. Not too shocking; it was pretty darn obscure. Another doggone fanvid, but at least this one is for a show I liked. And seriously, it's just a tremendous song, off his great but little-heard recent album, Highway Companion. Give it a listen.

"And then he waits, and then he fakes, and then he bends, and then he shakes."

14. Los Lobos, "Kiko and the Lavender Moon"
What a weird-ass video. Boy, I haven't heard from Los Lobos for a long time. They're still together, right?

"I could give you a star, you could give me one too, and that way we'd be even."

15. The Refreshments, "Down Together"
Another song I was amazed to find a video for. This band was so much fun.

"Don't just call me pessimist; try and read between the lines."

16. Tool, "Aenema"
I'm really surprised this one wasn't guessed. Thought there'd be more than a few Tool fans out there. Love this song, but only watch the video if you want to have nightmares.

"You get to me, you're always outta champagne."

17. The Replacements, "Waitress in the Sky"
As performed by Paul Westerberg solo.

"White cane lying in a gutter in the lane, if you're walking home alone."

18. Neil Young, "Don't Let It Bring You Down"
Wow, this is a knockout of a live performance. Geez, Neil Young wasn't always an old man! What a shocker.

"What is truth? Is truth unchanging law? We both have truths -- are mine the same as yours?"

19. Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack, "Trial Before Pilate"
Including the 39 Lashes. Pretty intense stuff, even for this atheist. I always say, I love the story of Jesus, I just don't buy into it. And it is perhaps best told in musical form.

"Well, sir, I guess there's just a meanness in this world."

20. Bruce Springsteen, "Nebraska"
I don't know what the deal is with the Spanish subtitles -- but man, what a chilling song, based on the Starkweather murders. Way to end on an up note!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I'm high on life, buster!

Okay, here are three facts which would seem to contradict a fourth fact.

1. I live in Austin, home and inspiration to many many folks such as this:

Red Eyed Stranger

2. Today is 4/20.

3. I am going to a Reggae Festival.

And the final, incongruous fact:

4. I am not going to smoke pot.

I'm a man without a country!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

This is what I do when I'm on hold


I call this one 'Snail Bowling Ball Machete Ox'

I can do a much better Garfield. This was a rush job.

The Kubert-esque five o'clock shadow shading didn't translate well in the scan, sadly.

There very clearly is something wrong with me.

Meanwhile, don't forget my second Lyrics Quiz is still under way. There are five lyrics left to guess. Don't give up yet! In fact, I fully expect Roger to guess #3 as soon as he sees it. Same for Ian and #4. As for the others, let's see... #7 is an early solo song from an Oscar nominated songwriter who was in a band that scored one-hit wonder status in the '80s. #13 is from one of the most popular artists on the list, but it's from a lesser-known song off a recent, lesser-known (but awesome) album. And #16... no hint! Somebody should get that one!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lyrics Quiz 2

As threatened, here is my second Lyrics Quiz. Again, it's hard to judge the difficulty of the quiz from inside my own brain. They all look easy to me! We'll see how you do.

Rules: in the comments, write the number of the lyric, and then the artist and song title from which the lyric comes. No Googling, or God'll getcha!

1. "He loves the world, except for all the people." Men at Work, "Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive" (Greg Burgas)

2. "I was just 34 years old, and I was still wandering in a haze." Pete Townshend, "Slit Skirts" (franko)

3. "Didn't it feel good, sitting there talking, or lying there not talking." Joni Mitchell, "Help Me" (Roger Owen Green)

4. "You know waking up to the daily blues from waking up to the daily news ain't nothing strange."

5. "Tonight the windows are watching, the streets all conspire, and the lamppost can't stop crying." Bad Religion, "Stranger Than Fiction" (nicholas)

6. "She's some kind of angel, if you know what I mean." Matthew Sweet, "Evangeline" (Gordon)

7. "You fucked it up, you should've quit." Aimee Mann, "Long Shot" (Nik)

8. "What do you do when all your enemies are friends?" Foo Fighters, "Monkey Wrench" (Gordon)

9. "I'm not black like Barry White, no, I am white like Frank Black is." Bloodhound Gang, "Fire Water Burn" (nicholas)

10. "You are the reason I've been waiting so long; somebody holds the key." Blind Faith, "Can't Find My Way Home (Sitruc)

11. "I start making a deal inspired by gravity." Indigo Girls, "Airplane" (PhilipF)

12. "She left her pills in the glove compartment." Fountains of Wayne, "Mexican Wine" (blair)

13. "Should be more to learn from this; can't say I know what it is."

14. "And then he waits, and then he fakes, and then he bends, and then he shakes." Los Lobos, "Kiko and the Lavender Moon" (Johnny B)

15. "I could give you a star, you could give me one too, and that way we'd be even." The Refreshments, "Down Together" (Davinder)

16. "Don't just call me pessimist; try and read between the lines."

17. "You get to me, you're always outta champagne." The Replacements, "Waitress in the Sky" (spencer)

18. "White cane lying in a gutter in the lane, if you're walking home alone." Neil Young, "Don't Let It Bring You Down" (Sitruc)

19. "What is truth? Is truth unchanging law? We both have truths -- are mine the same as yours?" Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack, "Trial Before Pilate" (Greg Burgas)

20. "Well, sir, I guess there's just a meanness in this world." Bruce Springsteen, "Nebraska" (Gordon)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sometimes, there's a man...

Great moment in tonight's My Name Is Earl:

Beau Bridges: Don't call me "Dude."
Drug dealer: Easy, Lebowski.

Wrong Bridges brother! But very, very funny.

The Philadelphia Story

From the front page of Salon this morning, regarding last night's debate between the contenders for the Democratic Presidential nomination:

Hooray, Barack!

Obama wins!

And from the front page of Slate:

Way to go, Hillary!

Clinton wins!

Whaaa?? Now I don't know what to believe! Make up your minds, left-leaning online newspapers!! YOU'RE TEARING ME APART!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New Lyrics Quiz

Just an FYI: I'm planning to post a new lyrics quiz on Friday morning. So be sure to stop by to prove your superior musical knowledge! Or if you're bored.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Night of Too Few Laughs

Having now finished watching Comedy Central's Night of Too Many Stars, which was an evening of mediocre entertainment at best, I have a few more random thoughts:

--What happened to Kristen Bell? She was listed in the credits, but I never saw her. Was she answering the phones at some point? Or was she one of the people singing the musical number at the top of the show? Maybe she was the short blond woman on the right whom I had taken for Amy Poehler. I'll have to double check.

--I got a weird kick out of the fact that two of the biggest stars to have gained their first real fame via The Daily Show launching pad, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell, couldn't be troubled to show up in person. Though both of their remote bits were pretty funny, I have to admit, with Carell's guzzling gin & tonics and shoveling cake into his mouth being a highlight of the show.

--Oven mitts and ski masks as gifts for donors? Really? Even as a gag, that's incredibly lame.

--The only real "surprise" appearance of the night --as in, from someone not listed in the credits -- was Jerry Stiller. Weak.

--Man, I wish I were an executive at White Castle!

Well, for $100,000, you can hold my boob from now till Sunday!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Night of Too Many Stars

Okay, so I just started watching the 2nd of approximately 800 airings this week of Comedy Central's autism benefit special, Night of Too Many Stars. And I noticed something weird about the credits: everybody is billed in alphabetical order... except Fred Armisen! He fits into the credits as though he were being alphabetized by first name, rather than last.

I'm not kidding. Here's the lineup:

Will Arnett
Kristen Bell
Blue Man Group
Matthew Broderick
Steve Carell
Stephen Colbert
Larry David
Senator Chris Dodd
Susie Essman
Will Ferrell
Tina Fey
Will Forte
Fred Armisen
Kelsey Grammer
Jonah Hill
Kevin James
Maroon 5
Jack McBrayer
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Megan Mullally
Conan O'Brien
Rosie O'Donnell
Amy Poehler
Chris Rock
The Roots
Andy Samberg
Adam Sandler
Susan Sarandon
Rob Schneider
Sarah Silverman
Ben Stiller
Triumph the Insult Comic Dog
and your host Jon Stewart

Okay, firstly, Stewart's out of order, too, but that's because he's been given the final position of honor for being the host. Secondly -- Susie Essman? Christopher Mintz-Plasse? The fact that these total nobodies have actually been acknowledged with a listing in the opening credits makes me think this should've been called, Night of Too Few Stars. (And don't defend Essman because she's on Curb Your Enthusiasm. She's about the seventh best reason to watch that show, if that.)

But my point is: why the hell has Fred Armisen been insulted by getting dumped down in the F's, when everyone else is listed by last name (or first name in the case of groups, not individuals) -- you know, like alphabetization is supposed to work? I'll tell you why: because if he'd been listed by last name, he would've been first. And somebody didn't think that was appropriate. I don't know who kicked up a fuss -- the producers, because he wasn't a big enough name to lead things off; Will Arnett, who isn't exactly a household name, either, but whose name is supposed to come second; the Illuminati, for reasons clearly spelled out on the back of the one dollar bill -- but I'm telling you, somebody didn't want Armisen's name going first.

What a screw-job! There's a conspiracy going on behind the scenes here, and I don't like it! This smells of typical corporate sabotage you can expect from those corrupt bastards at Big Autism!!!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Another entry in the "Austin is awesome" file

Last night I went to Stars Across Texas, a huge food and wine festival in the Grand Ballroom of the Austin Hilton. An incredibly fancy, exclusive, and expensive event (for which I happened into a complementary pair of tickets for my buddy and I) all about eating and drinking to your content and beyond. Row after row of tables from the best restaurants and wineries in Texas and elsewhere, with samples of their finest wares to enjoy. I had, like, 40 tastes of the most scrumptious food I've ever eaten in my life -- Kobe beef, crab salad, brisket that almost made me cry with joy, ribs, a ridiculously delicious apple and bacon biscuit (who knew those were two great tastes that would taste great together?), rabbit, even whale! And those were just the entrees. I also pigged out on desserts, never fear. There were three chocolatiers on hand. Three chocolatiers! I didn't even know that was a thing to be until yesterday, and now I realize how paltry and poor my life prior to that point must have been. And then there was the wine, O! the wine. Heavenly. Don't worry, I was responsible, and limited myself to only 80 glasses. Plus there were samples of tequila, whiskey, rum, and a variety of liqueurs to boot. I was one happy drunk, stuffed to the rafters with ambrosia.

After that, my buddy and I met another friend and some lovely ladies at another fancy, exclusive, and expensive locale, the hot spot night club Qua, at which I danced on top of a swimming pool filled with sharks. I kid you not:

Dancing with beautiful women + sharks = AWESOME.


You may all be getting sick of me saying this, but I must again reiterate: Austin is frickin' awesome. That was one of the greatest evenings on the town I have ever experienced.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I keep watching good movies!

I'm happy to report that I'm getting back in the habit of watching good movies again. After too long of satisfying myself with whatever dreck Showtime or Comedy Central offer up (hmm, should I watch Employee of the Month for the third time, or Tommy Boy for the tenth?), I'm making myself TiVo (and watch! That's always the hard part) some of the great films constantly being aired on Turner Classic Movies.

Last week was The Great Escape. A few days ago, I saw Ecstasy, a beautifully shot pre-Code film featuring an infamously erotic performance from Hedy Lamarr, including an extensive nude scene and what is allegedly the first onscreen depiction of a female orgasm, seen only in Lamarr's achingly expressive face. Something along these lines:

Denounced by Pope Pius XII, so you know it's GOT to be good!

Hot stuff!

I'm in the middle of Frenzy right now, one of the very last Hitchcock films, and one of the few remaining of his post-Code flicks (say, 1934 or so) I have yet to see (and by "few" I mean "dozen or so"). Tomorrow there are a couple of Jimmy Stewart films I've never seen, Come Live With Me and Ziegfield Girl (I don't know if they're truly great, but the former has Hedy Lamarr and the latter has Judy Garland, so they can't be bad). And last night was All About Eve, which I had never watched all the way through before. And holy cow, was that an amazing film! (As I'm sure you're all aware.)

Bette Davis is just epic as the tough-as-nails aging star of Broadway, and Anne Baxter matches her as the devious ingenue who connives her way into replacing her. And George Sanders, as critic Addison DeWitt, was quite a surprise; on looking back, you can see where his character is headed, but watching his scheming unfold for the first time was a powerful and disturbing revelation. And let's not forget a young Norma Jean Baker (working under a stage name) making a luminous impression in her brief screen time. That kid might hit it big one day!

I had a little trouble with the gender politics (as I often do with films of this era, though I try not to). It's hard to imagine a boisterous broad like Davis's Margo Channing wishing she could be "helpless," like Baxter's Eve, in order to better please her man. Yuck!

But all in all, this is very close to a perfect film. Wonderful writing, legendary acting. Just flat-out great.

Okay, back to Frenzy. Oh, wait, I just checked Showtime... Failure To Launch is on. Frenzy can wait!

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Dark Tower

I've moved on to the final book of the Dark Tower series, Book 7: The Dark Tower. The sidebar has been updated to reflect this. I enjoyed Book 6, Song of Susannah, more I think than I did on the initial reading, four or so years ago. And I'm looking forward to getting my teeth into Book 7, which promises a righteously brutal battle to kick things off.

I have to briefly acknowledge last year's Tower blogslinging of Sean Collins, which has helped refresh my memories of the series, and reinforce the fact that even when the story is at its most tedious, something unbelievably, thrillingly awesome is always just around the corner, ready to totally draw you back in again. I have high hopes for Book 7, and I hope other Tower fans will be inspired to give their two cents as I get closer to the end of it all. Remember the faces of your fathers!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Sidebar Update

It's been ages since the last Sidebar Update. October 17 of last year, to be exact. Dang, I've really let things slide around here. Hopefully this new Update is a sign that this blog is back on track for good. I guess we'll see.

If you don't recall, when last I updated the sidebar I was in the middle, or pretty much toward the end, really, of my Kurt Vonnegut Reading Project. My plan was to reread every one of Vonnegut's books in 2007, following Vonnegut's passing on April 11th. I made it through 17 books before real life derailed the Project, but I'd say that's pretty darn good. I fell short of completing the entirety of his published work by four books, if I'm judging correctly: two novels (Deadeye Dick and Timequake) and two essay collections (Fates Worse Than Death and God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian). And, weirdly enough, among those four are three of the only four books of his I had never previously read (the three other than Deadeye Dick). It's not likely I'll get to them all by the one year anniversary of his death (which is one week from today), but get to them I will. This I swear!

Object of My Affection: Tara Spencer-Nairn. She plays Karen Pelly, the rookie half of Dog River's two-person police force on one of my favorite shows, Corner Gas. She's cute enough in her cop uniform, but every time the show allows her to appear in her civvies and let down her hair, I'm taken aback by how tremendously lovely she really is. Plus, she's got an adorable bit of a lisp.

Reading: Stephen King, Song of Susannah. I've decided I'm finally going to finish the Dark Tower series, dammit! I've been a huge fan of these books for over two decades, but when the seventh and final book was released, I found myself unable to read it, for whatever reason. That was four years ago.

I knew that if I jumped into Book 7 (conveniently titled The Dark Tower) after four years away from the series, I'd be totally lost. So I decided to reread Book 6, Susannah, first. And I'm still totally lost! I should've started rereading with Book 5 (Wolves of the Calla) instead. Books 1-4 of the series are kind of the first half of the tale, telling mostly self-contained adventures in Roland and company's quest for the Tower (excepting the cliffhanger between Books 3 and 4). Whereas Books 5-7, the second half of the tale, are so inextricably interconnected, they may as well have been issued as one gigantic volume. I can barely begin to understand the language, characters, and events of Book 6, not having read Book 5 immediately beforehand. And since I don't seem to own Book 5 any more, I have no choice but to continue reading Book 6, hoping to piece it together as I go, though each new chapter seems to introduce (or reintroduce) new threads to confuse me.

That said, I'm really enjoying it. So there you go. I'm almost done with Book 6 now; as soon as I finish, I'll put a picture of Book 7 in its place on the sidebar.

Watching: Battlestar Galactica. With the final season premiere tonight, what else could it be? I can't wait. Less than two hours away! And here's a slightly larger version of the sidebar picture for you to enjoy:

Jesus is a Cylon.

Listening: Foo Fighters, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. This is the last new CD I bought -- actually, I didn't even buy it; it was a Christmas present. I literally have not bought one album in 2008. Dang, that's weird. I used to go CD shopping every week. Maybe it has something to do with that weird condition I've been experiencing since I moved to Austin... what's it called again? Oh, yeah: poverty.

Anyhoo, I've been getting into this album slowly; I don't listen to it often, but I like it better each time. I have yet to dislike a Foo album. I think I'd have to say they're my favorite band currently making music.

Loving: my record player. It's been about two years since I've had this thing set up, and I had no idea how much I missed it. I am just endlessly thrilled with it. Every day after work, I pick a record at random, and then it's 40 minutes or so of vinyl-assisted chill-out. Heavenly. I think I'm gonna go record shopping this weekend. Maybe I can find some more old Hoyt Axton albums!

Lyric of the Moment: The Cure, "Just Like Heaven." No particular reason, other than it's one of my favorite songs. And that's that!

More Whitest Kids U'Know

Star Wars VII: The Secret of the New Death Star, Boba Fett Goes To the Sun, and R2-D2 Fights a Lava Snake

Click for YouTube clip of whole sketch. CLICK, DAMN YOU!!!

Please note the sidewalk chalkboard sign at the L.A. restaurant: "Authentic Los Angeles Food!" I love that little touch.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Great Escape

I watched The Great Escape for the first time this weekend. I know! How could I have never seen it before? Well, I hadn't! So lay off!

In brief: loved it. In some ways, exactly what I expected -- a bunch of stand-up British chaps giving the escape plan the old college try for England and the Queen, with plenty of stiff upper lips and a dash of what-for. Plus a couple of high-spirited Yanks to liven things up, with their rash impulses and moonshine and baseball and motorcycle riding. Oh, Steve McQueen, you're so rambunctious! And James Garner, you're so darn rakish!

In other ways, very much not what I had expected, in re: the ending. I may be spoiling things for the two or three of you who are a little late in watching this flick, as I was, but I was assuming the POWs would actually, you know, escape. And I guess they did, for a while. But then they all got recaptured. Or shot! Like, 50 of them get shot! What the hey?! That's not supposed to happen! The dang movie's called The Great Escape, after all. Somehow I thought that meant more of them would escape for good than James Coburn and Charles Bronson.

I've never been the biggest fan of Steve McQueen, primarily because the first movie of his I ever saw was Bullitt, and I hated it. Boring! So damn boring. And he didn't make much of an impression on me in The Magnificent Seven. But I kind of dug him in The Thomas Crown Affair, I began to admire him in Peckinpah's The Getaway, and after Escape, I think I can now fully appreciate the Tao of Steve. Dude's just cool. And what more can be said about the awesomeness of James Garner that Dorian hasn't already said?

Now, as for the way in which I saw this movie: it was on TCM's The Essentials. You already know how much I love Turner Classic Movies. Best run channel on TV, bar none. Maybe not the one I watch the most or anything, but you can't take this away from them: the channel is run flawlessly. They present great movies, ad-free, completely uncut, 24 hours a day. And that's all they do. There's no call-in shows or "reality" programming or "I Love the '30s" or any other crap like that diluting the brand. It's just great movies, and short docs about great movies. Genius.

And The Essentials is the best of the best. It showcases the true legends, the films essential to rounding out a true movie fan's education. For example, The Great Escape. Or, next Saturday, All About Eve, which I also have never seen. (I know! I'm TiVoing it! Lay off!) And I enjoy watching the hosts discuss the films before they air. TCM mainstay Robert Osborne's vast knowledge is always impressive, and his enthusiasm catching. And co-host Carrie Fisher is a wonderful foil to Osborne's giddiness; she's funny and sharp and snarky and strongly opinionated, with decades in show biz, not to mention a royal Hollywood pedigree, to back it up.

But who should I see in Fisher's place when I started watching Escape this weekend? Rose McGowan. Rose frickin' McGowan.


Look, I enjoy ogling her as much as the next guy (and by "next guy," I guess I mean Robert Osborne, because I don't know how else she got the job). Here, look:

Take a picture, it lasts longer.

Ahh. Very pleasant. But there's no reason in the world she should be co-hosting a program on classic films. I don't doubt she's seen a lot of classic films; I don't doubt she appreciates them. I don't doubt it would be fun to talk to her at a party about, say, Rio Bravo. (I don't doubt that at all.) But she is not host material, especially not on a show which should be trading on prestige. She doesn't have the wit, experience, presence, or, frankly, vocabulary of Carrie Fisher. She looks like a little girl trying to impress her grandpa with her grown-up talk, but all that comes out of her mouth is a mush of "likes" and "ums" and "you knows".

I'm not pleased, to sum up. Bring back Carrie!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Whitest Kids U'Know

I had never seen The Whitest Kids U'Know during its first season on The Fuse -- come to think of it, I don't know that I've ever seen anything on The Fuse -- but now that it's on IFC, I never miss an episode.

If you haven't seen it -- and why would you, it's been on The Fuse and IFC -- it's one of the funniest sketch shows I've ever seen. It's very vulgar, very juvenile, and also very very funny. Since it moved to IFC for the second season -- where the show is now free of any censorship issues The Fuse may have had to worry about -- a typical sketch may involve nudity, gory decapitations, bestiality, and/or disturbingly explicit sexual dialogue. Maybe all of the above. And then it might switch gears into a weirdly sincere musical number about longing to be understood, in a duet performed by John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald. It can be uneven, but when it's on its game, I laugh harder at this show than anything else on TV.

Here, give it a try. This is a fairly quick sketch involving parents dealing with a seemingly inappropriate drawing by their young son. Warning: naughty words (and drawings)!

And this is one of my favorite sketches, a longer piece detailing a teacher's frustration with a stubborn student. Warning: even louder naughty words!

"What about permission slips?" The response to that has me rolling every time.

This show isn't for everyone, I know. You probably need to have a fairly sick and raunchy sense of humor to enjoy it. Which, fortunately, I do. If you do too, I guarantee this is a show you need to be watching. Hope you get IFC!

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