Thursday, October 28, 2004

Saw a good movie

Watched the Ramones documentary End of the Century (Jim Fields, Michael Gramaglia) at the Dobie last night and was very pleased. We've all seen a million rock documentaries (and by we, I mean me), and most of them suck. An endless parade of admirers, fellow rockers, producers, fans, etc., spout platitudes about how great everyone was and how great they all were to work with, a timeline of chronological events is trotted out, and we learn about the rise, fall, and death and/or return to spotlight of said artist in the most generic way possible. This documentary is nothing like that. It follows a basic documentary template, a mixture of old footage and talking-heads interviews, but turns into something much greater due to a couple of factors. First, the editing is so sharp and efficient. They interview other rock people about the Ramones, including Blondie, Thurston Moore, John Frusciante, and Rob Zombie, but the editing slices away any ass-kissing or hero worship and leaves only the interesting points. They're not trying to sell anyone on the Ramones, just trying to figure out how they happened and who they are, and the
editor(s) know when to leave the footage alone and when to slice it up. Second, you could not find more honest guys than the original Ramones and the handful of replacement drummers and bassists interviewed for the film. Whatever the filmmakers ask them, they get honest, surprising, pretense-free, no-bullshit answers. I've never seen a rock band this unwilling and unable to spin its past history. The Ramones, especially the four original members, couldn't possibly be more different. Johnny was a tee-totaling, business-obsessed, right-wing Republican who forced the bandmembers to wear leather jackets, jeans, and bowl haircuts and kept written records of the money earned and the crowd attendance at every show they played. He also stole Joey's girlfriend in the early eighties and later married her. The two rarely spoke to each other again, even though they shared a van for eighteen more years touring the country. When the directors ask Johnny how he felt after Joey's death, his answer is blunt, cold, surprising, yet somehow respectable. Joey was a quiet, shy, strange-looking, sickly music geek with OCD who had to touch every other step outside his building before he could leave. He doesn't say anything bad about anyone, but he had a strained relationship with the rest of the band that was never resolved before his death. Dee Dee seems like a moronic drug casualty at first, but is so sweet, funny, sad, inarticulate, and shockingly intelligent he wins you over during the course of his interview. His self-deprecating comments about his rap album are especially funny. Tommy seems the most normal, into producing records and the first to leave the band. The other band members barely aged, but Tommy looks like a greying hippy. It's unfortunate that Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Joe Strummer (also interviewed for the film) are all dead now. In a way, this movie is like a big wake, for punk rock as well the dead Ramones, but it's funny, endearing, sad, and smart and definitely worth seeing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

One more funny thing about "Easy Living"

I was very surprised how little the audience laughed at the hilarious thirties' movie-slang. Words are funny. Language is funny. The fat banker character, J.B. Ball (Edward Arnold), is trying to get a room at the Hotel Louis. His character is always grumpy and shouts every line in the film. He's hitting the bell at the front desk impatiently, and shouts out, "What do you have to do to get a room in this shebang?" Kristy and I thought this was the funniest line in spoken history. No one around us did, which made us laugh even harder but also feel stupid. I'm giggling right now just reading about it. On second thought, "giggling" is an emasculating word. Let's say I'm tittering. No, even worse. Guffawing? Chortling? Chuckling? Hee-hawing? Snickering? Sniggling? Tee-heeing? None of these words are manly, with the exception of "chortling." But "chortling" is too frat-macho, too business fat-cat for consideration. We need a word for small, mischievous laughter that doesn't sound like I'm sprinkling pixie-dust on myself and dancing around in a pink tutu. Does anyone have any suggestions? That gives me the idea for a contest. Come up with a tougher word for "giggling" by Nov. 15 and I will use the best one in a sentence at some point in the future. Pretty awesome prize, am I right?

That's a spicy-uh meatball-uh

I'm feeling sluggish, sleep-deprived, ennui-riffic, and bored this week, and I don't feel like writing in the blog. I'm tired of writing about gorilla masks, robots, movies, etc. I have no enthusiasm. I just want to stay in bed and sleep, but I can't do that because I'm at work. I feel like I'm neglecting the blog, but I don't really care. I want to be lazy. Lazy. Laziness is good. I did manage to see a movie last night, Easy Living (Mitchell Leisen), at the Alamo Drafthouse downtown. "Easy Living" is a screwball comedy from the thirties and a part of the new Austin Film Society series about the career of actress Jean Arthur. It's the kind of movie they haven't made for a long time, full of twitchy, jittery character actors with rubber faces, clever puns, goofy slang, and one pratfall after another. In fact, the entire cast is made up of character actors, including Jean Arthur, an unconventional, unglamorous movie star who moved from shy embarrassment to huge bursts of action with an off-kilter timing all her own. The movie is an odd case for me because I generally prefer films where the director is the primary author/architect of the film's content, style, and form, and this one is a true collaboration. Preston Sturges, one of the all-time great directors, wrote the screenplay, and his humor and cadence are stamped all over the movie. Mitchell Leisen directed, and his placement of the camera and the actors has a style all its own, separate from Sturges's. The actors also function as co-authors, since much of the humor depends on the way a line is spoken or a facial expression is performed. Now I want to go outside so I'm going to cut this short. Goodbye, everyone.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Robot of the Week winner and new contest

Join me in congratulating this week's robot name winner, #54 Tangerine Lightning by Krouchdog. Congratulations, Krouchdog! Here's our new Robot of the Week. You know the rules. You have until Nov. 1.

My favorite Neil Hamburger joke

Q: What do you get when you cross Sir Elton John with a saber-toothed tiger?

A: I don't know, but keep it away from your ass.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Taking a break

Hey everybody. There will be no more posts until Monday because I'm going to lovely Columbus, Ohio to visit some friends and see the mighty Guided By Voices on their final tour! With Tobin Sprout opening! Whoo!

Bono says a lot of dumb shit

I like to read interviews and articles about U2 because, inevitably, Bono says something megalomaniacal and idiotic. I was reading an article about their new album, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," and the writer was speculating on the significance of the title. He then related the news that Christian singer and friend to Bono Michael W. Smith (what the fuck?) was hanging out with U2 recently. Bono asked Smith if he knew how to dismantle an atomic bomb. Smith said that he did not. Bono then supplied the answer: "Love. With love."

This Microwave World, Round 3

It's not often that I find myself sharing a drink with someone who I advocated punching in the face, but that's what happened to me last night at Club DeVille. As most of you reading this already know, I was not the biggest fan of local band This Microwave World, and I jokingly suggested that punching singer/guitarist Sean O'Neal in the face would get you into heaven. O'Neal happens to work at my favorite video store, and he found out about my little rant. We had a brief, mildly confrontational, awkward exchange about it at the video store a few weeks ago, and I worried about ending up on some kind of video-store blacklist. We both happened to be drinking at Club DeVille last night, and he bought me a shot and talked with me about the whole thing. We had a pleasant, respectful conversation, and he seemed like a very nice guy. I almost feel bad about all the nasty things I said about him and his band. I was definitely exaggerating my own prejudice against anyone sporting an indie-rock "look" and trying to make my friends laugh. At the risk of sounding like a back-pedaling wimp, I don't hate his band as much as I said I did. I think the reason they struck such a powerful chord of dislike in me is that they are a band too concerned with image and fashion and are good enough players to be doing so much more with the skills they have. They're good at synthesizing a small group of influences from a few eras in rock that are particularly fashionable right now, basically post-punk with a new wave beat. It's been done and done too often. If you want to create some art, why be so self-conscious about it? Why not throw every single influence you have in the blender and see what happens? O'Neal told me his band has a lot of different influences and the sound is evolving and that I should check them out in nine months and see what I think. That sounds interesting, though I'll look like a jerk if I still dislike the music and a pussy if I say it's good. I'll try to be honest about it either way. He told me my blog entry was the first negative criticism his band has received and that he appreciated it. He also told me a few people at the video store wanted to kick me out but I should feel free to continue to rent videos there, though I am listed on their computer as the customer who wants to punch Sean O'Neal in the face. This whole weird feud thing has turned into an interesting experience, and I've definitely changed my mind about O'Neal based on last night's conversation. He seemed like a thoughtful guy, and I've got respect for him for thinking about my criticism, buying me a drink, and confronting me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Las Vegas: The Belated Report: Part 2: The Las Vegas

Las Vegas is one weird son-of-a-bitch of a city. There are more fake breasts within one square mile of Vegas than in the entire city of Los Angeles. L.A. has been derided for being a phony, artificial city, but L.A.'s artificiality is just one layer, and a relatively recent one, of the city's rich history. Vegas is a completely artificial universe plopped down in the middle of a desert, surrounded by mountains. There's a purity in its artificiality that was very attractive to me. The whole reason this city exists is so people can gamble, drink, smoke, attend expensive and thrilling spectacles, and catch fading celebrities and entertainers in intimate settings on their way down the ladder of fame. Where else can you find mini-replicas of Paris, New York City, ancient Egypt, Roman palaces, and medieval castles? Where else will you find Cirque du Soleil, wealthy sleazebags, deluded white trash families dreaming of the jackpot, call girls, old retired couples, and terrible comedians like Rita Rudner and Howie Mandel inside these mini-replicas? I was glad to get the hell out of there after five days, but I really want to go back. We stayed in the New York, New York hotel and casino on the Strip, which is a miniaturized forgery of the NYC skyline. We had a hot tub in our room. This was awesome. I like to sit in hot tubs, but as soon as I sit in one at most hotels, large, hairy men with irritating wives and obnoxious kids somehow always seem to be close behind. With a hot tub of one's own, no hairy men show up unless you want them to. Besides the hot tub, comfortable bed, and great view, there really was no reason to hang out in our hotel room. Everything in Vegas is designed to get you back onto the casino floor as quickly as possible. The room's television had the weakest selection of channels this side of the Motel 6 in North Platte, Nebraska. And I'm convinced they're shooting chemicals into the food. I know we've all heard enough about my bowel movements on this blog, but allow me to give you even more information. My bowel movements, in general, are pretty regular, once-a-day occurrences. In Vegas, however, I needed to take a shit the second I was done eating after EVERY SINGLE MEAL I ate in the confines of the city. As soon as I got back to Texas, everything went back to normal. This is a conspiracy concocted to prevent gamblers from getting the urge mid-gambling session. Vegas wants you to shit right away, so you can gamble comfortably and uninterruptedly. It gave new meaning to their advertising slogan "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."
My other bones to pick with the city were the horribly dry climate and the people handing out information about the legal prostitutes outside city limits. As soon as I stepped outside, which one doesn't have to do too often on the strip because most of the casinos are connected by walkways, trams, etc., my eyes became severely bloodshot. I had to squirt Visine in my eyes several times a day so I didn't look like a degenerate. As most people know, prostitution is legal in certain parts of Nevada, and on every street corner, there are nearly two dozen people who try to hand you a card with a naked blonde on it and a caption reading something like, "I like to suck dick." These people all have the same technique. They whistle loudly, make some weird snapping noise with the stack of cards, and shove them in your face. This happens so many times that it's hard to refrain from grabbing these people by the throat and shoving the cards up their ass.
On the plus side, Vegas has no open container law and the casinos on the Strip all have the same glasses, so you can take any alcoholic beverage you buy or are given out on the street with you as you walk from place to place. This should happen all over America. Also, smoking is allowed and encouraged in most places. I don't smoke, but I like bad habits and I like to see people smoke when they gamble.
The Strip is fun, but it's also gaudy and overstimulating. Downtown Vegas was just what I was looking for. It's somehow sleazier and classier than the Strip. It's the Vegas you see in the movies. It's also the place where I learned that Jesus is constantly angry. My favorite casino is downtown, Four Queens. This place is exactly what a casino should look like. And they have cheap drinks.
We saw a show while we were there, too. It was called Zumanity, and it showcased the erotic side of Cirque du Soleil. It consisted of semi-nude acrobatics, striptease routines, dirty jokes, and a shirtless midget, and was hosted by a drag queen. I highly recommend it.
A couple of Vegas anecdotes:
The MGM Grand casino has a glass cage with two lions in the center of the casino floor. While we were walking through to rent my tuxedo, we saw the two male lions engage in 15 seconds of lackadaisical anal sex, to the delight of the crowd. I took this as a good omen.
Two of my friends gave me great toasts during the reception. I decided to get them some gag gifts from a magic and joke shop in my hotel/casino. I bought my friend Dan a fart whistle and a fake book entitled "Mr. Johnson's Sex Report" that makes a snapping noise when you open it. I bought my friend Aaron a whoopee cushion and a pack of gum that squirts people in the face. The man ringing up my order gave me a look of utter disgust when I bought the items, even though that is what the store he worked at sold and what he made his living from.
In conclusion, Vegas is great.

Las Vegas: The Belated Report:Part 1: The Wedding

As I mentioned previously on the "old Robot" (which is what I call this blog when mentioning it at business conventions, revival meetings, and Powerpoint presentations), I got married in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago. I've been meaning to write about the wedding and trip since I got back to Austin, but I'm also the kind of person who hates hearing about other people's weddings and I never envisioned this blog as a place to talk about my private life. I figure enough of my personality comes through without anyone having to read personal details about me. Some people do a great job writing about their private lives, but I don't think I'm one of them. However, it was a strange, absurd, wonderful week, and I feel like writing at least a little something about the interesting turn my life has taken. First of all, I can't fucking believe I'm married. I never thought I would be married at the age of 27, and I never really had the desire to get married before I asked my girlfriend late last year. So why the hell did I do it? I can't really answer that. It was an impulsive move, and it just sort of felt right. It's not explainable. I was having second thoughts a few days before the ceremony, mostly along the lines of "things are going good right now, we've been together for five years, why screw it up by getting married, it's just a bullshit phony ceremonial boring tradition, will I turn boring once I get married, etc., etc." Once the wedding actually started, though, it was really meaningful, it felt right, and I was happy about it. I made a good decision, and I feel really good about it, but I really have no way of explaining why. I'm also not a wedding advocate or zealot, so I won't be preaching to anyone about how great marriage is and how you should do it immediately. We had a couple of acquaintances and friends freak out on us because they had been dating as long or longer than Kristy and I, and they felt like we were putting pressure on them, which is a total crock of shit. Some people get so weird about weddings. I'm not making any value judgments about your life or pushing you to do anything. Stop being weird. I make all of my major life decisions by feel, not plan, and it works for me. If something works better for you, then do it and shut up about it. Everybody should do whatever the hell they want and everybody else should leave them alone to do it. Most people were supportive and happy and great, though, including everyone who attended, so I really have no complaints. Okay, enough about my personal life. If you want to see the wedding footage on the Internet, click here. If you would like to see what we looked like, click here. If you would like to see our name in lights (the best part of a Vegas wedding), click here. The next post will be more fun, I promise.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Watched movies

Guess what? I watched more movies this weekend. Guess what else? I'm not really in the mood to write about them, so, for the first time ever, I'm turning this blog over to an outside writer-- my friend, Over-Enthusiastic Tony. Take it away, Tony!

Wow! I can't believe I'm really on the Internet! I watched some movies last weekend with my pal, Josh! Holy shit, here's what we watched! Yippee! Or, since we're talking about movies, I should say Yippee-kai-yay motherfucker! Bruce Willis! Die Hard! Movies! Whoo!
Scene of the Crime (Andre Techine) Scene-riffic! Crime-tastic! Catherine Deneuve is one sexy older lady! Josh thought Techine's earlier film, "Rendez-vous" was dumb! Cool out, Josh! It's really hard to make a movie! Focus on the positives, why don't you, Negative Nelly! Then you can become a Positive Pete! Josh liked this one a lot more, but he still had a few bad things to say! As for me, I thought it was cinematic dynamite! And it was a French movie, so I learned a lot about the country of France and that crazy language they speak! What a riot!
Hail Mary (Jean-Luc Godard) Hail-riffic! Mary-tastic! I learned even more about France! I was very confused by this movie! That means it's art! Hooray for art! Art makes our world a nicer place to live and prettifies our country's rest stops and museums! French ladies in movies often take their clothes off! Europeans are more comfortable with nudity than us Americans! All I say to that is, knock yourselves out, sexy French ladies! I give this movie an 11 out of a possible 10! The video tape also included a short film, The Book of Mary (Anne-Marie Mieville)! I call that a bargain! Value for money, my friends, value for money!
The Third Man (Carol Reed) Third-riffic! Man-tastic! Orson Welles! Joseph Cotten! Vienna! Penicillin! Ferris wheels! Sewer chases! Fingers through grates! Put it together and what do you have? Cinematic gold!
Martin (George A. Romero) Martin-riffic! Martin-tastic! Vampires are scary! It's almost Halloween! Whoooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!! I love Halloween! See you later, guys and ghouls! Ha ha ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah! Back to you, Josh!

Thanks, Over-Enthusiastic Tony. To those of you wanting my opinions on the films this week, let me quickly say that I liked all five, especially the last two, though I had reservations about the first one. I liked "Martin" even more than I did the first time I saw it, five years ago.

New Robot of the Week

Here is our lovely new Robot of the Week. You know the rules. The winner will be announced on Oct. 25.

Robot of the week and month contest winners

I want to thank the participants of this week's robot-naming contest. What a top-notch collection of robot names. Unfortunately, only one can win, and this week's winner is Mr. Thor Jenkins for Gay Dr. Ryan w/ Right-Arm Recruitment Ray. Congratulations, Thor! It's also the end of another four weeks of robot contests, so one lucky winner will receive a prize package containing a lot of useless and baffling ephemera and effluvium. Just kidding about the effluvium. Calm down, everybody. Here's a recap of the month's winners:
Week 1: Lonely in Sacramento by Cuttyblacksow
Week 2: Legless Love Bot by Thor Jenkins
Week 3: Guy P. Pennycuffs by Kristy
Week 4: Gay Dr. Ryan w/ Right-Arm Recruitment Ray by Thor Jenkins
And the winner is ... narrowly defeating Lonely in Sacramento by virtue of a coin toss, my other favorite, Gay Dr. Ryan and I'm tired of typing this name, by Mr. Thor Jenkins. Congratulations, Thor! And near-congratulations, Cutty!

Friday, October 15, 2004

Bill O'Reilly is an idiot

Now that you've read all about Bill O'Reilly's penchant for phone sex and hot, steamy shower loofahs on, it's time to read his first novel, Those Who Trespass, about a series of murders of high-profile network executives. No one can crack the case until a tough New York cop who plays by his own rules named Tommy O'Malley steps into the picture. Hmm, I wonder if there are any parallels here? O'Reilly. O'Malley. O'Reilly. O'Malley. O'Reilly. O'Malley. Wow. That's really subtle, but if you look for it, the parallels are there. O'Reilly is truly a modern-day Renaissance man. In just a little more than a decade, he's conquered tabloid television, network news, radio, literature, shouting, interrupting, sexual harrassment, and our hearts, and I hear he's almost able to suck his own dick. He's set a November 1 deadline, and I, for one, believe he'll reach that goal. Bill, you're truly the living end. I leave you now with a user comment from about O'Reilly's novel and its book-on-tape counterpart:

"The audio version is recommended for the graphic oral sex descriptions, narrated with gusto and verve by the author."

This is really funny

Check out Query Letters I Love. Apparently, query letters are little two- or three-sentence plot synopses prospective screenwriters send to Hollywood studios to see if they can get financed to write a script. A guy whose job it is to read and discard the bad query letters puts up the most unintentionally hilarious of these queries on his blog. Pay special attention to "Baby, You Need Some Writing Lessons." If they're passing on that one, I want to finance it. By the way, thanks, Kristy, for sending me this site.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Man Who Refused To Take His Gorilla Mask Off, Part 9

Steve waits nervously behind a white curtained partition behind a makeshift stage in the center of Dickie Stoolz Park. Local historian Grizzly Jim McKiltner slaps him on the back and begins speaking in between bites of a Ritz cracker topped with cheddar cheese.
"I just think it's great what you did, rescuing those children," McKiltner says to him. "It reminds me of the summer of 1982, when good ol' Charlie Wilkes -- do you know Charlie? He's the gentle retarded man who mows lawns for the elderly -- good ol' Charlie saw the Flavins twins drowning at Lake Chichihawhaw and dove in and rescued them. Gotta love those Flavins boys. Always causing trouble, even then. Anyway, I think that piece of local history is a remarkable parallel to your own story, Steve."
"I'm not retarded," Steve says.
"Of course not," McKiltner says. "But the gorilla mask thing is a mental aberration that can be compared with Charlie's retardation. A lovable mental aberration, of course, but a mental aberration nonetheless."
"What about calling yourself Grizzly Jim and having a stuffed and mounted grizzly bear in your living room?" Steve asks. "That's a mental aberration, if you ask me."
McKiltner's face reddens, and he stares into Steve's gorilla-masked face with chilling intensity.
"Listen, motherfucker," he says. "I'm the local historian here in Fancytown. I own your legacy. You may be well-liked in your lifetime, but I'm the one recording this shit for posterity. I control future generations' perceptions of you, and I can say anything I want. Don't fuck with your local historian, monkey boy."
"You're a small man, Grizzly Jim," Steve says, chuckling quietly. "I have archivist friends who can preserve a little history of their own. And guess what else? How many keys to the city do you have?"
"The question is irrelevant," McKiltner says.
Steve grabs the historian by the throat and leans in close enough that the hair on the mask tickles the man in the face.
"How many keys to the city?" Steve asks. "Answer me."
"None," McKiltner croaks out. Steve lets go.
A young man with a headset and a clipboard appears behind the partition.
"Grizzly Jim," he says. "You're up."
McKiltner runs on to the stage and waves to a cheering capacity crowd. The park is filled with the denizens of Fancytown, Steve notices, from the prominent to the wasted, including the roughnecks he'd shared an uncomfortable Schlitz with a few hours previously. McKiltner takes the microphone and gives a predictably pompous introduction for the mayor. Steve zones out until the mayor's name is called.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm proud to present our mayor, Rodwyn Q. Brannigan!" McKiltner shouts. A middle-aged, thin, well-dressed man, Mayor Brannigan saunters amiably to the podium, where he shakes McKiltner's hand. He gazes at the crowd and pauses for a considerable length of time.
"Thank you, Grizzly Jim," Brannigan says. "And thank you, citizens of Fancytown, for filling this great park on this great afternoon."
He clears his throat and continues.
"Webster's dictionary defines heroism as heroic conduct especially as exhibited in fulfilling a high purpose or attaining a noble end. Today, we honor a man who, though he has taken his own strange path in life, truly exemplifies this definition. This man, though he chooses to spend his days and nights wearing a gruesome ape-like Halloween mask, is a hero. He is a great American, a great Fancytownian, and most of all, a great human being. On September 11, this great country was attacked by evil terrorists. We were down, but we were far from out. We came together and we are now working on being stronger than we've ever been. Heroes like Steve Smithers will ensure that we reach our optimal strength. I'm not gonna lie, Steve's a little different than you and me, but that didn't stop him from saving two small children from imminent death. He rushed into a burning home to save two kids he didn't even know. Two wonderful little children, and you know I believe children are our future. That was one of my platforms. Now Steve may be a little odd, a little different, but that's what makes Fancytown great, and, by God, that's what makes this country the greatest in the world. It's a true melting pot. Think about it. Where would be we be without the fine cuisine of our Chinese citizens, without the business acumen of the Jews, without the athletic and musical talents of our African American friends --yes, Lisa, I am trying to get into rap music--that's my daughter, everybody. She likes that rap music. And where would these two precious children, God's little wonders, where would they be without their apeman? Ladies and gentlemen, at this moment I would like to present the key to the city to a true hero, Steve Smithers! Come on up here, Steve!"
What a nauseating speech, Steve thinks. He contemplates going home, but a cheer rises up in the crowd and the blood rushes through his body. "Apeman! Apeman!" The roar is deafening. Steve feels as though he's been injected with enthusiasm intravenously and tears onto the stage with what his dead grandfather would have referred to as "gusto."
"This one's for you, big guy," Steve yells as he's given a hilariously oversized key by a neoconservative glad-hander. "This one's for you."

Next week: Steve enjoys his local celebrity and is the guest of honor at a parade. Everyone loves a parade.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Weekend movie report (speedy version)

I don't feel like writing in any depth about the movies I watched over the past few days, so here's the "quick and dirty" version, as some of my high school teachers and bosses like to say and which always gives me the creeps. First, I saw two films in the theater:
The Yes Men (Chris Smith, Sarah Price, Dan Ollman) This is a documentary from the same people who made "American Job," "American Movie," and "Home Movie," about a group of activist/pranksters with a fake WTO website. The website looks identical to the WTO's real website, except for the text, so they get a lot of invitations to speak at conferences on behalf of the WTO, which they gladly accept, even conning CNBC at one point. What's amazing about this film is the lack of reaction they get for their outrageous speeches from the rest of the conference attendees, even when those speeches include a tear-away suit revealing a gold jumpsuit with an extended inflatable phallus with a television screen on the tip so a boss can observe his workers when he's on vacation or at the gym and a plan to reconstitute McDonald's hamburgers from human waste and sell them to Third World countries. The documentary is slight (no background is given on the WTO and little is revealed about the Yes Men), but it's well worth seeing for the footage of the pranks.
I Heart Huckabees (David O. Russell) This movie is full of good ideas. It's also a total mess. It plays like a rough draft, with eight main characters and almost as many story lines fighting for air in a movie that is less than two hours, and sometimes the script feels too much like a Charlie Kaufman wannabe. Mark Wahlberg, weirdly enough, is the only actor who really gets it. He plays his very funny character completely straight, in the process acting circles around Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jason Schwartzman, Naomi Watts, and Jude Law, all of them trying to act as quirky as the script. He's the main reason to see it.
Here's what I watch on video:
The Thing (John Carpenter) I remember really liking this as a teenager. After seeing it again, I have to say I was disappointed with the script and its complete lack of characterization. But I loved the special effects, the atmosphere, and the scary scenes, and these things go a long way in a horror movie. In addition, fuck CGI. Modern special effects are so unbelievably crappy. The best looking effects were in horror movies in the seventies and eighties. Bring back hand-crafted effects, please. Also, Kurt Russell wears a hilarious, giant hat in a few scenes which my wife (that's so weird to say and type) and I dubbed the "Russellbrero."
Detective (Jean-Luc Godard) Light, breezy, cerebral, confusing, and funny. I liked it, but I did not love it. Sometimes Godard makes my brain hurt, sometimes he makes great movies, sometimes he's just fun. This one is fun, with a little bit of brain-hurt.
The Thin Man (W. S. Van Dyke) This is a great murder mystery/comedy with one of the most likable depictions of a married couple in American film. There's a great scene where the husband, William Powell, is being hugged by a woman, and his wife, Myrna Loy, walks in on them. The camera pauses on them both for several seconds, then Powell makes a funny face and Loy makes one back. No need for a big fight, an explanation, and a reconciliation. It's 1934 and the film has already deflated a generic scene we've seen too many times since.
No Telling (Larry Fessenden) What a disappointment. Fessenden makes intelligent, interesting horror films. "Habit" is one of the best vampire movies I've ever seen, and "Wendigo" is really good, too. This one, though, pretty much sucks. It's preachy, heavy-handed, and poorly acted. I'm glad I didn't see this first or I wouldn't have checked out his other movies. I can vouch for "Habit" and "Wendigo," though. Rent them. They are good.

Toni Bentley is an idiot

If you remember the quote I took out of context from a Salon interview about the connection between anal sex and spiritual enlightenment, it was from a conversation with Toni Bentley, a former Balanchine dancer and literary critic who has written a memoir about the 250-odd times she has had anal sex and how it turned her from an atheist into a spiritual being. In the interview, Bentley came across as a pretentious twit who thinks the entire world can benefit from her not very thrilling conclusions. She also seems to think she is the only person who's ever had her ass pegged, particularly in her references to the act as the "final taboo." Apparently, she's never heard of homosexuality. Hey, idiot, when you write a memoir about the wonderful things you've learned from bukkake or being mounted by a dead rottweiler, then we can talk about final taboos. Reading a few excerpts from the book on her website, the only enlightenment I can glean from Bentley is how to guarantee a book deal with limited skills and intelligence as a writer. The title of the book makes me laugh the most: "The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir." Have some dignity, please. Have some dignity.

In a related note, I recently discovered a list of alternate titles Bentley was considering before deciding on "The Surrender." Here they are:
"The Underground Railroad: An Erotic Memoir"
"Gone Ass-fuckin': An Erotic Memoir"
"It Puts the Dick in the Ass: An Erotic Memoir"
"Dark Passage: An Erotic Memoir"
"I Like it in the Butt: No, Seriously, I Like it in the Butt"
"Erotic Memoir: An Erotic Memoir"
"Being Toni Bentley's Ass: A Spike Jonze Film"
"Masturbate Here" (arrow points to inside of book)
"Dr. Stupid's Crazy Mixed-Up Erototorium (Anal Version)"
"Stokes Birdfeeder Book : The Complete Guide to Attracting, Identifying, and Understanding Your Feeder Birds" by Donald Stokes
"Toni Bentley's Ass Totally Got Fucked: An Erotic Memoir"

Rocker invades my home state

This is awesome. Apparently, NBC is shooting a reality series on the campus of my alma mater, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, in which "rocker" Tommy Lee goes to college for six weeks. The idea was born when Journey's Steve Perry told a television producer friend that he wished he had gone to college. Light bulbs went off in the producer's head: Rocker goes back to school! But Steve Perry is yesterday's news! Let's get Tommy Lee instead! Whoo hoo! Yeah!

Monday, October 11, 2004

Robot of the Week contest winner and new Robot of the Week

Hey everybody. This week's robot contest had the lousiest participation yet, only three people. They all had good names, though. The winner is Kristy for Guy P. Pennycuffs. Congratulations, Kristy. Here's our new robot of the week. You all know the rules.

Friday, October 08, 2004


I would like to present to you, completely out of context, a question taken from an interview in today's edition of
"Can you talk a bit about the connections you make in the book between being anally penetrated and finding God?"

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Robot extension

Hey, everybody. The robot of the week contest will be extended until Monday since I was out of town for a week and we only got two entries. There is still time to name our robot. Whoop!

The duality of man, Yahoo-news style

The top two news headlines on Yahoo news on Thursday morning, 12:46 a.m.:
"Bush blisters Kerry on Iraq"
"U.S. report finds no evidence of Iraq WMD"

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Bunny hop

Caught The Brown Bunny (Vincent Gallo) at the Arbor last night. It's unfortunate that this film is already infamous for a couple of reasons that don't really have much to do with the style, form, or content of the movie and have a lot more to do with the lack of serious thought in current American film criticism and the media in general. Let's get those two reasons out of the way right off the bat. Firstly, the film premiered at the Cannes film festival last year in an unfinished rough cut that was about 25 minutes longer than the finished, released version. Many critics at the screening, most famously Roger Ebert, got all hot and bothered about what a horrific piece of garbage the movie was and called it one of the worst films of all time. Several months later, the finished film hits theaters and many of the same critics quietly and sheepishly backpedal, most famously Roger Ebert, and announce that the re-edited film is great/good/mediocre and hardly the worst film ever made and what a testament the finished film is to the editing process. While I agree that editing can drastically and dramatically change a film, for better and worse, I also feel that one can't polish a turd. I've read about three changes Gallo made to the film in re-editing, and I agree they probably made for a much better movie, but I suspect that the critics who so violently hated the film (most of them American critics for mainstream newspapers and magazines) were deep in lemming mode and are a little embarrassed at their rush to judgment. Secondly, too much has been written about the graphic oral sex scene. Near the end of the film, Chloe Sevigny gives Gallo a blowjob onscreen in a scene that's about as far from erotic as you can get and a natural progression of the scene's events that hardly seems prurient or gratuitous. The obsession with and reaction to this scene (roughly a fraction of 1/31 of the film's total screen time) from American critics and audiences and the reason most of the people in the theater were there to see it last night makes it painfully clear that our society is still in the midst of the death throes of both Puritanism and early adolescence and we can't decide which one to kill off first. Some critics even seem offended/obsessed with Gallo's penis, wasting paragraph space debating whether it's real or prosthetic and marveling at its size, as if their impressions of the movie's worth would change if Gallo had a more modest package. These same critics have kept oddly silent about Sevigny's breasts, which are even more on display than the aforementioned wang, though if she were credited as the writer/director maybe the size of her tits would come under the same scrutiny as Gallo's cock. However, I seriously doubt it. Something about penises and aggressive sexual activity in a non-pornographic film makes everybody turn into giggly 12-year-olds. Well, forget all about these two controversies because they don't matter very much. What does matter is that "The Brown Bunny," despite its handful of flaws, is a very fine film that shows male loneliness and the American landscape in a way I've never seen before. It's a film in love with long, unbroken takes of dirty windshields, highways, rainstorms, road signs, hotel rooms, human faces, and the houses and cars we spend our lives inside. It's the kind of movie that bores boring people. It's a movie that lets you look, really look, in such detail and for such a long time that Gallo lets you decide for yourself what you think about the images you're seeing. It's a film that has more in common with a mood, a poem or a song than a cohesive, tightly plotted story. I don't think it's perfect. The final scene is hungrily, honestly, embarrassingly, and desperately acted by Gallo and Sevigny and would make a beautiful short film in its own right, but I'm not sure it belongs in this movie. It supplies an explanation and a motivation for Gallo's behavior when what I really wanted was a deepening of the mystery. It provides closure for a film that otherwise refuses to be enclosed, answers for questions that should be left open and frustrating. But the scene, like the rest of the film, deserves to be seen on its own merits, not attended like a circus of dick-sucking and wrestling matches with Roger Ebert.

Funnyman down

Rodney Dangerfield is dead.
So what?
So let's party! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Punching people in the face (Dos and Don'ts)

Hey everybody. Read an old post from August called "Rock Show" first. As you may be aware, especially if you just read the old post, I suggested that punching the singer/guitarist of This Microwave World in the face would get you into a Kirk Cameron-sanctioned corner of fundamentalist Christian heaven. Said singer works at the video store where I always rent my movies. When I was renting my movies today, he asked me if I still wanted to punch him in the face, and he let it be known that he thought I had gone way too far in telling others to punch him in the face. I told him he should be prepared for criticism if he gets on stage and that I thought it was pretty obvious I wasn't being serious about the whole fisticuffs part of the post. It was a fairly unpleasant conversation, especially since I don't enjoy conflict, and this particular video store has my favorite selection in town and is on the way home from my job. But, I have to admit, he might have a (very small) point. He chooses to get on stage and perform, opening himself up to criticism. I choose to print harsh criticisms of his band on a website that anyone in the world with an Internet connection can read, so I should be able to take it when I get some criticism of my own. Maybe he's right. Maybe I shouldn't have suggested punching him in the face. So, I take it back. Not what I said about his band. That still stands. Just about the punching in the face stuff. People everywhere, even affected hipsters, deserve to walk the streets of their cities and towns without fear of being socked in the face by random weirdos searching for a 1980s child star-approved fire and brimstone afterlife. So, please don't punch this guy in the face, dear readers, and don't punch anyone else, either. I apologize for suggesting a good punching was in order. If you have been punched because of my website, I will pay your medical bills or buy you a drink, whichever you prefer. Just ask me the next time I'm in the video store, if I'm not banned now. I hope you have a fulfilling, punch-free rest of your life, and I still dislike your band.