Saturday, January 31, 2009

No setup

Friday, January 30, 2009

Year in movies: 1989

Inspired by Sinclair, who said that 19--(censored by memory) is the best year ever in movies, we have this feature. Limited research will be required, and requests are encouraged to a point. The idea is to examine the movies from some particular time to determine something, somehow. Results may vary.

Top 10 (gross)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Lethal Weapon 2
Look Who's Talking
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Back to the Future, Part II
The Little Mermaid
Driving Miss Daisy
Dead Poets Society

Random wiki note
License to Kill was released, last of the "old style" Bonds.

You know what came out in 1989? Do the Right Thing. And Driving Miss Daisy won the Academy Award. Hilarious, in that it proves the irrelevance of the Oscars. They for the most part do not reflect the "best" cinema of the year. Looking back its fairly easy to find a dozen movies better than the "best picture" but that's not the point. Driving Miss Daisy won because of Do the Right Thing. Only after film exposed the raw realities of pregentrified Brooklyn could a pseudoslave teaching a senile old woman about life be recognized as great.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Who doesn't eat spaghetti in the shower?

Best infomercial ever?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Warning requires effort

"We used to make shit in this country, build shit. Now we just put our hand in the next guy's pocket."
-Frank Sobotka

This makes sense in an everybody getting theirs kind of way. Noted war-profiteers Halliburton were caught bribing some Nigerian officials for access to their precious sweet crude fields, and the punishment is to pay the government some half-billion dollars. The penalty for U.S. companies bribing foreign nations is massive payouts to American regulatory agencies. Let's see here, something seems amiss. Let's consult an online dictionary.

Bribery (n) the practice of offering something (usually money) in order to gain an illicit advantage

So the punishment technically isn't a bribe, it's more like government-sanctioned extortion or "disgorgement" whatever that means. Still, good idea? The Department of Justice could use the money to fight assorted civil court cases brought by newly-released foreigners unlawfully imprisoned and probably driven insane. Could be expensive due to the lack of casework, because of the previous administrations apparent policy to "torture it out of them."

Hmm. Making sweeping generalizations off the cuff. Let's see if we can gnaw it down to the bone. The point is that this country runs as it does because everyone looks out for number one. The economy, among others things, is based on the idea that anyone can get rich, realize their dreams and read to achieve. Unfortunately most still feel queasiness over the disgusting things that run off an individualistic society when it ignores the good of many for the luxury of few. Call it liberal if you want, but Jesus.

After reading the narcissistic whining of New York banking whores, I can't really blame Uncle Sam for trying to get a little back for himself, when things look terrible. Suppose it is better that some of those slightly less massive profits goes to some faceless government agency than Dick Cheney's kin, even if it is small potatoes in the age of Obama money.

Almost earnest

I was nearly convinced this was a legitimate non-joke. But then, no. Still, it could be real, in that some certainly believe in it's message, if not it's tone. And that's what matters.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Comedic Gold

It's difficult to consume my DFW-mandated 6 hours of television a day. But fortunately you have shows like 30 Rock. So many jokes a few are bound to hit, like Alec Baldwin doing an impression of Fred Sanford. Kind of amazing this show is still on the air while getting killed in its timeslot. Demographic respite?

Kind of reminds me of Arrested Development, even though that show is way better. Both half-hour network comedies that don't get a big viewership despite critical adoration. The benefit 30 Rock gets is it is on NBC Thursday night, while Arrested Development was on Fox who knows what day of the week. The suits are more lenient because of the Seinfeld legacy, Lorne Michaels, etc.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Existentiovoyeuristic conundra notwithstanding

Surely I'm not alone in having acquaintances I hate to watch TV with because they so clearly loathe it -- they complain about the hackneyed plots, the unlikely dialogue, the Cheez-Whiz resolutions, the bland condescension of the news anchors, the shrill wheedling of the commercials -- and are just as clearly obsessed with it, somehow need to loathe their six hours a day, day in and out. Junior advertising executives, aspiring filmmakers, and grad-school poets are in my experience especially prone to this condition where they simultaneously hate, fear, and need television, and try to disinfect themselves of whatever so much viewing might do to them by watching TV with weary contempt instead of the rapt credulity most of us grew up with. (Note that most fiction writers still tend to go for the rapt credulity.)
-David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again

Friday, January 23, 2009

Book Club: Breakfast of Champions

This has been sitting in the unfinished queue for more than a month -- figured I'd bang it out right quick today. Breakfast of Champions is by Kurt Vonnegut, arguably his funniest book. As is pointed out right from the start, it has nothing to do with General Mills breakfast cereals, and should not taint the image of their fine products.

This book is hilarious, charming and scary. As the NYT book reviewer said back in 1973, "[Vonnegut] wheels out all the latest fashionable complaints about America -- her racism, her gift for destroying language, her technological greed and selfishness--and makes them seem fresh, funny, outrageous, hateful, and lovable, all at the same time."

Take this passage describing the importance placed on Columbus' discovering the New World. I laughed out loud.

Teachers of children in the United States of America wrote this date on blackboards again and again, and asked the children to memorize it with pride and joy: 1492. The teachers told the children that this was when their continent was discovered by human beings. Actually, millions of human beings were already living full and imaginative lives on the continent in 1492. That was simply the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them.

The deadpan description style and tone belies the sarcasm and wit therein. The basic story follows two men -- Kilgore Trout, an aged science fiction writer who is relatively sane; and Dwayne Hoover, a very well-off businessman who happens to be completely insane. The story follows these two til their inevitable meeting, when one of Trout's stories drives Hoover to a violent rampage.

There is a lot in this book, too much for a blog post. Questions of awareness and crude sketches. It gets pretty meta toward the end, when "the author" writes himself into the book. This author is a version of Vonnegut (presumably) who then meets Trout, who is also a version of Vonnegut (I think). And so on.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Well of course the rules don't apply to Desmond

Don't know if any of you are big "Lost" fans. I'm not, but still caught the season premiere last night. Actually the first hour was all I could handle because it appears this season they are finally resorting to that most confusing of plot elements -- time travel. Oh God why.

As if this show needed a more labyrinthine narrative. Even the writers seem to be struggling with it -- they already are exempting characters from the rules of space-time. So the character can wake up after experiencing a change in his past and say something like, "That wasn't a dream, it was a memory." It's gonna need a lot more of gun-toting Hurley to maintain its DVR status.

This got me thinking -- what TV shows have successfully used time travel. Quantum Leap and Doctor Who are the only ones I could think of that don't completely suck. Uh, Heroes? I guess that worked out OK for a while. Yeah wikipedia's got nothing. Seven Days? Christ. Although that Outer Limits episode sounds promising.

What's weird about this is that time-travel works so well in other media. There are tons of well thought out films and books that deal with traveling through time, from The Time Machine to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Something about the small screen seems to make it bad.

I think that inherent crappiness is because often traveling through time is resorted to as some kind of plot cure-all. Your basically granting the writer's god-like powers to sew up any dangling plot string. Shot in the leg and bleeding to death? ZAP, now you are in a time/place where there is someone with crack bullet-removing skills. It's just too easy, lacks the kind of payoff the viewer of such a convoluted show deserves. Explain the black fog monster and the polar bear goddammit!

They should make a show where a different person goes back in time every week to kill Hitler.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cynic is broken

A black man is president and the Arizona Cardinals are in the Super Bowl. Truly.

Not going to make any kind of observation here, except to say it's fun to look at all the frontpages of newspapers from around the world.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Wocka Wocka

All last week, listening to the local media and fans all but guarantee American football victory in the desert, all I could think was how hilarious it would be if the Eagles somehow fell short in the NFC championship game once again. Is it wrong to feel schadenfreude when "your" team loses?

Likely. But what's a bigger sign of mental illness -- getting so emotionally invested in the outcome of the most fascist game in the world that it makes you physically ill when things don't go the way you had hoped, or laughing (only on the inside, I don't want my nose broke again) at those that do just that? To put it another way: Fuck the NFL.

It will be mildly fascinating to see how the locals are going to react to this loss in leiu of recent events. After all the Phillies ended the "championship drought," such as it was, a couple months ago. And given the fact that the Eagles even making the playoffs was improbable at best, will fans still have the typical sky-is-falling, burn McNabb at the stake apoplectic over-reaction? Judging by this piece, the answer is yes.

And to all you die-hard Iggles fans, before you start raging look at the bright side: At least you didn't make a ridiculous bet on the outcome that will stay with you forever. Plus now you have something to complain about, and everyone loves to complain.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

There is always this

Where's your god now Kurt Warner? Oh.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Man up

Sorry for nothing this week, still dealing with fallout from the mugging. Namely visits to the doctor and the the police department. Worthless both, initially. But! Wheels were set in motion that got me to a "specialist" doctor yesterday, who actually knew how to fix a broken nose. Apparently standard procedure these days is get a hospital trip with the sedation and all.

I say, fuck that. Way too much drama for what amounts to the doctor shoving a metal stick up your nose and popping it back into place. So that's what I told the nurse, without the profanity. The doctor was all like, "It's not the most humane way, blah. But I'll do it." Five minutes and a bunch of numbing needles later it's all good.

No wonder health care costs in this country are so out of control. A 3-second non-invasive procedure requires a hospital visit. Christ. I guess its not the most pleasant feeling in the world, but still. People are such pussies.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Movies you haven't seen (probably)

Maybe you have seen these three, but I doubt it. One is barely in theaters yet and the other two are a bit obscure. Still, I highly recommend you check 'em out.

In Bruges
The plot of this one finds two hitmen hiding out in Bruges, Belgium. Which sucks, according to Ray, played by Colin Farrell. Weird hilarity and sporadic brutal violence ensue.
Criminal dark comedies have long been a favorite of the goats, from Pulp Fiction to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Unfortunately criminals witty banter has been so often used in Hollywood that sometimes it just comes off as rote and stupid (cough, Smoking Aces, cough). But this is somehow fresh. Hard to believe there are still original ideas out there in this genre.
A lot of it is just bizarre, especially the dialogue. Example: "An Uzi? I'm not from South Central Los Angeles. I didn't come here to shoot twenty black ten year olds in a drive-by. I want a normal gun for a normal person." Sure you do Ralph Fiennes. Or how about: "You can't sell horse tranquilizers to a midget!" Yes, there is a midget, or dwarf as he prefers to be called. Also there is a lot of anti-Americanism in the form of the two hitmen giving tourists a hard time. And don't forget about the darkness. Jokes about child murder usually aren't funny.

This is like Napoleon Dynamite only not retarded. Don't get me wrong -- I like delicious bass as much as the next guy -- but this has more going on than Uncle Rico and hilarious dancing.
Plot: A sadsack guy moves in with his sister-in-law to help out while her husband and his brother is serving in Iraq. The guy is unbelievably pathetic -- until he becomes the costumed mascot of a failing dot-com company, forced to stand on the side of a country road and hand out fliers advertising office space for rent, which allows him to kind of become a superhero.
Here is the final credit sequence. It doesn't really have anything to do with the movie.

The Wrestler
Rourke! Aronofsky! Absolutely!

That's it on movies till next time, after I see JCVD or perhaps Donkey Punch.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The jerk store called

And Donovan transferred them to Joe Buck.
Read some comment on the tubes comparing the McNabb-Warner matchup to Obama-Dubya. Not sure exactly how that makes any sense, given that Obama never ran against G-Dub, but I like it.

McNabb: Picks up phones on opposing team's sidelines.
Warner: Draws pictures of God that look like Jesus.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


via deadspin to here

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A pistol-whippingly good time

Here's a little hypothetical for you:

You ever have one of those nights where you don't really have any plans, and then all of a sudden its 11:30 and you are at some kids house and everyone is drinking Jack Daniels straight from the bottle and there is a skateboard without wheels set up as a balance board with which you can break your ass? No?

If you ever do find yourself in such a situation be sure to not go out to the bars and get so drunk that you can't even ride your bike home without falling in the middle of the street. Because if you do that and are lying there laughing at yourself some guy might come up and stick a gun in your face and demand that you empty your pockets.

But if that does happen mere blocks from your apartment you might want to just fidget in your pockets for a while in a vain attempt to only give the mugger a couple dollars. Of course he mugger will likely demand you go faster. When that happens you can respond with "Just shoot me motherfucker. Fucking shoot me."

This little bit of reverse psychology/drunken masochism will certainly throw your assailant off for a moment. Then he will pistol whip you in the face, breaking your nose, and run off. After returning home and cleaning up the blood, be sure to call a friend's voicemail at 2 am, saying something like: "Dude, just got jumped. I told the guy to shoot me. He didn't. [incoherent mumbling]. See you at The Wrestler."

And then you can enjoy several months of agoraphobia.

Friday, January 09, 2009

We took a perfectly useless psychopath and turned him into a successful executive

Last night Trading Places was on TV, I had forgotten its hilarity. It's one of those early 80s classics that was neutered and shown on Comedy Central so often that you forget how good it was in its original form. Amazing a few well-placed profanities can improve the comedy.

Its one of the best movies set in Philadelphia, and one of the best movies set around the holidays. I want to recreate the scene where Ackroyd the drunken Santa is walking down the middle of Market Street, gets on a Septa bus, then pulls out the huge hunk of jerky though his beard and starts eating it. Stupid santa, don't you know food and drink are not allowed on SEPTA?

It also makes you wonder what the hell happened to Eddie Murphy. Given the dreck he stars in now (Meet Dave? Really?) it's easy to forget he was once the funniest man on the planet back in the days of Raw, Coming to America or even Beverly Hills Cop. What the hell happens to comedians as they age? Yes Man aside, I can only think of two that aged reasonably well: Carlin and Don Rickles.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, Trading Places. You just don't get movies like this in today's Apatowed cineplex: A comedy that makes social points. Because once you get past the gorilla rape jokes, the theme at the heart of this film is nature vs. nurture. Can a street hustler become a successful investor when placed in the proper environment? Apparently the answer is yes.

Also: "I'll rip out your eyes and piss on your brain."

It's unclear if Norm Coleman ever said that to Franken during the course of their Senate race, but he was most assuredly thinking it.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Mmmm ... squirrel

Recently the news broke that British people are eating squirrels on a regular basis. In fact, according to this article, the Brits are now eating squirrel so much that butchers have begun stocking it in their shops. With the worldwide recession, squirrel seems to be a viable source of protein to those with a taste for rodent. Unfortunately squirrels are quite difficult to kill and skin appropriately for eating. Headshots, etc.

But apparently they are only eating gray squirrels, and not the beloved red squirrels. Like there is a difference besides color. Holy crap there are a lot of squirrel pictures and photoshops floating around out there. Fuck you, penguin.

Veering off track. The point is that this is the kind of faux-news bullshit that some newspapers love. So when the New York Times "breaks" the story, editors across the country scramble to assign their wackiest reporter to put together something on squirrels' rise in the culinary community across the pond.

Take this gem from the NY Post (bastion of evenhanded, rational journalism).

Squirrels. Cute, bushy-tailed, chase-each-other-around-the-yard squirrels.
Want one for dinner? Um, probably not.
But some people do.

Indeed. But where is the lede playing on the cliche about horrible British food? Pick up your game New York Post. Also I would have enjoyed some "man on the street" interviews or possibly video in which people are clearly revolted by the idea of eating a squirrel.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Internet justice, away!

A friend of a friend had a bunch of shit stolen from their Brooklyn apartment by their former subletter and Frenchman. So what did they do? Create a blog of course!

Peep it here: Remi Pinaud is a thief.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Happy now?

You asked for something on Pat the Bat, because you are gay for him I presume. Well the goat delivers.

I've long been a Burrell apologist. A better way to say it is that I've long been an apologist for just about every Philly sports figure maligned by the idiotic, yet knowledgeable fan base. McNabb, Andre Iguodala, Jimmy Rollins, David Bell -- the list goes on to include just about every athlete that has played in this town except for Willie Green, Todd Pinkston and the Flyers.

That said, Burrell is a unique case because the fans actually came around to embrace him this year, for a variety of reasons. Was it his renowned swordsmanship? The fact that he absolutely kills Mets' pitching? Ryan Howard's strikeout rate making Burrell's 6-pitch K's seem productive by comparison? The inevitable sucking of Raul Ibanez? Who knows.

What is known is that he is one of the few Philadelphia athletes shown the door who will get a good reception when he comes back through town. The rest of the list: Allen Iverson.

I knew the attitude toward Burrell was shifting this year while sitting in leftfield and the group of drunks behind us began referring to "Burrell shuffle," the slow-footed sluggers' patented foot-scuffle on every pitch that was remotely inside, which often resulted in a ball call from the ump. A far cry from a year or two earlier when his batting stance was openly mocked and derided by others in the section. Although I did enjoy yelling the number of outs at him.


A few quick thoughts while trying to determine whether today was a good day.

Finished reading Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail the other day. Could be my new favorite from Dr. Thompson -- right up there with Hells Angels, certainly. It'll get its own post -- someday when I have the book sitting next to me for reference, which may or may not ever actually happen. For now here's another quote:

At the stroke of midnight in Washington, a drooling red-eyed beast with the legs of a man and a head of a giant hyena crawls out of its bedroom window in the South Wing of the White House and leaps fifty feet down to the lawn ... pauses briefly to strangle the Chow watchdog, then races off into the darkness ... towards the Watergate, snarling with lust, loping through the alleys behind Pennsylvania Avenue, and trying desperately to remember which one of those fore hundred identical balconies is the one outside of Martha Mitchell's apartment. ... Ah ... Nightmares, nightmares. But I was only kidding. The President of the United States would never act that weird. At least not during football season.

Switching gears: Just when you thought the the era of indoor smoking bans meant you no longer had to fear the deadly cigarette, scientists discover something they are calling third hand smoke. You know how smokers smell bad when they come in from have in from their outdoor drags? Not to be an alarmist, but smelling that will kill you and everyone you care about.

If somebody gets me this shirt, I will be your best friend.

And last, is a video from some random British indie band, because Bon Iver videos are all boring and nonexistent.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Dance like no one is watching

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Crank was an underrated movie

Behold the red band trailer for Crank 2: High Voltage.
It's NSFW-ness is absurd.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Amateur Night

So how was your New Year's? Better than mine I trust? Let's just say having your first ever type 4 New Year's Eve is lame. But hey, at least the heat wasn't working in my apartment so I had to break out the champagne at 10:30, for warmth.

Since the details of that story be depressing -- here's a tale of which I am only cursorily involved and just about everyone who I see in person has already heard. A "friend" who we'll call C. Sinclair, no that's to specific, Chris S., was supposed to travel to New York City for a Christmas party a few Saturday's back.

The person who knew the party's location (yours truly) called him up on Friday to make sure it was still on with the Chinatown bus and what have you. He was in Baltimore to see some sort round robin electronic abortion. OK whatever, are you still going to New York? Yes? See you there. Give me a call tomorrow and I'll get you directions to the party.

Unfortunately that call never came and all attempts to reach him went straight to voicemail. Given that last contact was a slurry call around midnight that involved attempting to tell him where he was by looking it up in google maps, followed by descriptions of his location as "some Wire shit" -- prospects were not keen that he was going to get to New York.

So it with some surprise that there was a facebook wall post from Sinclair on Saturday asking the address and naming the specific street in Brooklyn where the party was being held. Apparently he had triangulated the location by looking at various photos and captions on flickr and facebook, eventually homing in the exact house by asking neighbors where the white people lived. And a good time was had by all. Bonfires.

You may wonder what happened with the phone. Well the answer is simple and obvious: He crashed into one of those metal fences they have out front of concert venues to control the line and his phone fell in a puddle. Because he was riding his bike (did I mention he was on his bike this whole time?) and the brakes weren't working because they were wet. There are other details that I left out for brevity, like trying to sleep at a McDonald's in Manhattan because he never slept Friday night. Also picture him wearing a bicycle helmet for the entire duration of the story.

Sinclair later described this as "the best weekend ever"