- opinions formed while-u-wait! -

V for Vendetta
dir. James McTeigue
I dug this movie, but the only other person I've talked to who admitted to liking it is my physician, which is a bad sign. Because she has terrible taste in movies. Ha ha! But seriously, folks,I did enjoy this movie. Like many people who ventured out to see this the night it opened, I enjoyed the comic on which it was based. Alan Moore demanded his name be removed from the credits and all promotional hoo-hah, so full credit for the movie's source material went to the artist, David Lloyd, which is weirdly dishonest, if unavoidable.
     You can't blame Moore for dissociating himself from a movie of his work. His excellent comic The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was turned into an absolutely fucking retarded action flick (whose posters hilariously showed the acronym LXG executed in a futuristically beveled (whatever) ingot of brushed steel, even though the story takes place in Victorian England) that ranks with the worst of the millennial spate of comic-based movies (Catwoman, Fantastic Four, and the so-bad-I-can't-look-away-must!-look!-away! stillbirth called Daredevil).
     The movie of his comic From Hell wasn't bad at all, but it took some rather drastic narrative and historical liberties for the sake of entertainment value, including a gripping final scene in which Prince Albert Victor corners Jack the Ripper in the bell tower of Big Ben, whereupon The Ripper reveals himself to be the tenth descendant of Oliver Cromwell, (raised, like the eight generations before him, in a fearful, self-imposed, and monastic exile) come to London to exact his family's revenge on the monarchy and restore himself to the Lord Protectorate; however, Jack (aka Oliver XI) and his plan were sidetracked when, confronted for the first time with the decadence and wickedness of contemporary urban life in London, he felt compelled to enforce a philosophy he calls Extreme Puritanism (E.P. for short) which involved pure thoughts, bland diet, and the disembowelment of whores. Jack is about to rip Prince Albert in a similar fashion when Queen Victoria appears out of nowhere just in time, lifts Jack over her head and growls: "We! Are! Not! Amused!" and flings him from the tower into the Thames.
     Whoops! See what happens to me?
     Back to the review at hand. The film was a reasonably faithful adaptation of a fairly cinematic original, though neither is what you'd call action-packed, both being less concerned with kicking ass than with making readers/viewers think about totalitarianism. I believe this is an important thing for art to do, and maybe it clouds my critical faculties. The dialogue is unquestionably silly at times, as are some of the plot points. But Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman were both really fucking impressive, expecially because you forget that the former is wearing a mask almost immediately.
     I know this review is late, so it may only help you decide whether to see it on DVD or whatever, and I'm sorry about that. I thought it was definitely worth it, and many people who I talked to who didn't like it seemed to be overly grumpy, impossible-to-please fanwads. They can always suck it. See the movie with people who like movies.
.: . . . . : .7.8. . :
4/27/2006 • link9 comments

Wonder Showzen
god knows when on MTV2

I don't really like this show. I hate the puppets in the studio, I really hate the puppet they use to assault people on the street (lacking as it does any of the wit or restraint of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog), and I super-duper hate when they use kids to be mean to old people on the street.
     The show is supposed to make the viewer cringe, and I know the creators are trying their damnedest to get something rejected, and so far only their ep with the "Little Hitler" bit has been removed from the air permanently. As a rule, I don't dig on the schadenfreude. What's the other show that makes people feel bad on purpose for viewer's entertainment? I had to call my sister to figure it out, and surprisingly it's The Daily Show: I hate the segments where they're interviewing somebody and making them look stupid. Whoop! She just called me back to say: The Andy Milonakis Show. Yup. She's on my wavelength.
     BUT! Some of their cartoons are just mind-blowing. I can't count the people I've shown "D.O.G.O.B.G.Y.N." -- which may be the most offensive, least redeemable cartoon with a cute dog in it ever. "WinoBot" is amazing for a) how close it comes to offending me without offending me, and b) how stupid it could have been but isn't. Or something. Still, not all the cartoons are winners; I saw one called "He-Bro", which was offensive and surreal without being funny enough.
     Again, one of the things that makes me uncomfortable about this show is that sometimes they hit me just right, and I don't want them to be able to do that.
.: . . .4.7: . . . . :
4/26/2006 • link6 comments

Hard Taco Project

This is the website of a guy named Zach London who writes a song every month and posts it to his site. I was referred to this site by a former roommate who knew this guy from his school (maybe?). I can't remember now whether the referral was positive (as in "check this out, I really dig it, man!") negative (as in "listen to how much my friend suxx!") or guardedly neutral (as in "I may have an opinion about this but I'm not saying what it is till you say what you think"). Neutral seems the most likely, as it encompasses the other two choices, too, huh? Fuck it.
     I admire and envy his dedication to his goal, and I think he's an M.D. too, which actually just pisses me off. A song a month didn't sound like much to me at first, because when I was making a lot of music I'd easily make 3 songs a week. But since I haven't recorded a song in, what, almost two years now, it drops my average a bit. If I count 1999, I may have made a song a month. Ugh. Maybe if I stop counting two years ago.
     Having never been a big fan of They Might Be Giants, I can't really tell the essential difference between this dude and those prolific fuckwads. His voice is nasal, he's overly clever (which you can tell from any list of his song titles), and he mimics various musical styles with ease. I don't know. Maybe that's more like Ween, but I've got a soft spot for Ween. This guy is like Ween, except not as good, and just one guy.
     I had so many things I was going to say, but I was gonna link to a couple of songs. Here:
• Kinks/Belle & Sebastian: Truer Than a Teardrop
• Take a guess: Surfin' Savant
• Folky confessional: The Only Serious Thing
• Beck? King Trucker
• TMBG, right? Egg Came First
     Some people might think this stuff is genius. I don't particularly agree, but I don't have the heart to give this the rating I would give it if it were an actual album. For a doctor's hobby, it's really not too shabby, I guess.
     I think what gets me about this site, what made me want to review it is this: I egomaniacally, but completely, believe that if I made a song a month, the results would be better, but I DON'T DO IT. Why not? What else am I doing? Pbbththbh. This site makes me hate myself a little.
.: . . . . :6.0. . . :
4/26/2006 • link2 comments

Pedialyte (Orange)
electrolyte-filled rehydrating drink

On their site, they call it an "oral electrolyte maintenance solution" which I guess you have to do if you're a bunch of assholes, or if you work for the pharmaceutical industry, which: [super-obvious joke omitted after "Popems are like crack" debacle -- Ed.] (neener).
     (Okay, indulge me briefly (ha!) in elucidating a pet peeve of mine: Stupid corporate websites. The Pedialyte site is stupid and practically content-free, but what gets me the most is how they spread their lack of content over four totally meaningless "sections," because I guess someone somewhere feels that sites with all their information on one page aren't taken seriously. And who knows? Maybe they've done research, and in fact, sites that don't make you click a bunch of hoo-hah to read their 6.5 paragraphs of information aren't taken as seriously. (Oh and those 6.5 don't count the FAQ, which contains all of this site's actual information.) But that idea just makes me mad. Fuck! I want to see that research! I bet it's true! Fuck! <old man voice>People want to go clickety-click, clickety-click! Well, phooey! I ain't codin' it!</old man voice> Glaargle. Somebody find me that study and I'll give you a free CD and a T-Shirt.
     The motherfuckers also tell you to throw it out after 48 hours, "...as beyond this period the bacteriological safety of the product may be compromised. The air we breathe contains many common contaminants (such as mold). As soon as the seal of the container is broken, the air contacts the product. Pedialyte should be used within 48 hours to ensure its quality." FAAAHCK YOOOUUUU.
     What was my real point? Oh yeah. This stuff tastes like shit, especially if you're all queasy from throwing up everything you've put in your stomach for the previous 24 hours. Sweeter than a Care Bear's nooners, and "Orange" apparently refers only to the color, because the flavor is twenty miles from citrus and hit every branch on the way down. Shut up, Pedialyte!
.: . . .4.5: . . . . :
4/26/2006 • link2 comments

a zit or zits inside your nostril
medical condition

Every once in a while, usually when the rest of my face is breaking out, I'll feel a strange tenderness on the side of my nose without an obvious external blemish to explain it. Well, by now I've learned to recognize the telltale signs, so I just batten down the hatches and wait for the pus-filled storm to arrive.
     Sometimes it appears as a big old whitehead just inside the opening of the nostril -- this least painful example of a Nostril Zit can be easily popped, but it hurts like a titty-twister administered with barbed-wire gloves.
     The other kind never develops a head and HOLY COCK these things are painful. They just sort of expand from the geometric center of one of the fleshy wings of your nose, swelling and hurting. Try to squeeze out some of the pressure-causing liquid and the resulting shockwave will familiarize you with the sensation of being one of Mike Tyson's opponents back when he was a boxer. See, nostril zits always form within some kind of head-essential, nose-based nerve bundle, like symbiote crabs protecting themselves with shells (except what the fuck, because: they're zits, not crabs). Squeeze these at your peril, Kemosabe.
     Since nostril zits do no good in the world, and they bring only pain, they are rated even lower than Tom Robbins.
.0:4. . . . : . . . . :
4/21/2006 • link15 comments

Villa Incognito
by Tom Robbins
In the sprit of open-mindedness I decided to give TR another chance when I found this book, written in 2003, at my friend's house (read the review of Tom Robbins below to understand the boundlessness of my magnanimity). Despite the fact that it starts by talking about a character's nutsack for a couple of pages [not kidding], I found myself enjoying it. Robbins seemed to have settled into the act of writing; it's less self-consciously show-offy than Still Life with Woodpecker, and he's learned to let the comedy come from the story instead of inserting slapsticky one-liners every other sentence. (I dunno, maybe he's been getting better for years, and maybe Woodpecker is uncharacteristically awful. But I don't think so; people love the fuck out of that book, call it his masterpiece. I think of it as another good example of how I don't need to read a book to know I'll hate it.)
     Villa Incognito is a light book whose characters think they're living in a heavy one. Despite painstaking physical description and copious detail, those characters come off as fuzzy and insubstantial, not people so much as jerry-rigged bundles of eccentricities, vocations, clothing, and identifying marks. The plot is shallow and abritrary, which might not have been a problem if the characters were interesting enough, but they're not. A pivotal character is supposed to come off as a Falstaffian version of Brando's Colonel Kurtz, but Robbins fails to demonstrate the character's charisma convincingly; it's like a movie whose main character is supposed to be a world-class artist, but when they show you the art on screen, it ruins it, because it was just made by the art department.
     In terms of the narrative style, I kept feeling like he kept a stitched sampler over his writing desk that said SHOW DON'T TELL instead of HOME SWEET HOME, like he internalized the cardinal rule of college creative writing classes and carried it with him into his professional career. He takes the doctrine to a chilly extreme, so the book contains an awful lot of what and not much why. I'm not saying that Robbins should explain every character's actions, but I'd prefer it if I believed that he could. As it was, the characters just did stuff, and might as well have done the exact opposite without a reader even batting an eyelash.
     So far this review may seem negative, but I did enjoy reading this book at the time, maybe because I kept expecting it to be horrible, and it was just mediocre. Faint praise, I know. But it means that there's hope for him -- having learned to quell the awful stylistic tendencies of his misspent (though lucrative) youth, all he has to do is learn to create characters that people care about, and he'll be on his way! Wa ha ha!
     Still, two things in the book reminded me of the older Robbins that I really hate. The first is the scrotal obsession of the first chapter, which I won't belabor. The second was a three-page reverie about mayonnaise. It starts as a description of a character's love for mayo (he's from North Carolina, and has been living for years in Laos without access to it), but when Robbins gets impatient, the omniscient narrator takes over and spins a wordy tribute to Hellmann's that's too clever by half, and feels totally out of place. It seems like just the kind of thing that you'd see mentioned in a review, like: "Look for the side-splitting elegy to America's favorite spreadable condiment, mayonnaise -- that section alone is worth the price of the book! Bravo, Mr. Robbins, you've done it again, with your keen observation of American culture and its obsessions!" Yarf. [by the way, imagine that made-up quote but stick DeLillo in it instead. Seems totally plausible, doesn't it? Double yarf.]
     All right, I've said enough. I can't really recommend it, because there are too many other important things to read in this life. But I honestly can't give it less than a 5. And that's pretty good!
.: . . . .5:2. . . . :
4/14/2006 • link5 comments

Tom Robbins
American author

I have hated Tom Robbins since freshman year of college, when my roommate was like "Dude, have you ever read Still Life with Woodpecker? Oh my god, it's sooo good; Tom Robbins is a genius! Here, listen to this," and he proceeded to read aloud the the first of many lines he would share with me, each of which he thought was the absolute pinnacle of wit. Here's what he read to me:
It might be noted here that Freudian analysts of fairy tales have suggested that kissing toads and frogs is symbolized fellatio. In that regard, Princess Leigh-Cheri was... not so naive as Queen Tilli, who thought fellatio was an obscure Italian opera and was annoyed that she couldn't find the score.
Oy. I hate everything about that quote: the stilted, faux-formal "it might be noted here"; the "funny" character names (Princess Lechery? Pphbbt.); the uninteresting observation about frogs and the gutless way he attributes it to "Freudian analysts" so you understand that he would never make such a banal observation; finally, the fact that it's all in service to a truly awful joke. I really hate that joke. It's a stand-up comic joke, begging for a rimshot. Not only do I hate this kind of lazy, formulaic joke, but I really mistrust anybody who finds it funny, and especially anybody who thinks it's great comic writing. At best, Robbins achieves a cheap pastiche of Vonnegut, but quirk for quirk's sake leaves me cold. He's juvenile, scatological, and tries to titillate and shock with ideas like the aforementioned Princess "[using] a papal candlestick for the purpose of self-gratification." Gasp! So naughty!
     Oooh! that opera joke still makes me mad. I know I seem a little unreasonable about this, because after all it's just one paragraph, but (apologies to Neal Stephenson) Still Life with Woodpecker is fractally annoying to me: the whole is a disaster; each chapter is a nightmare; zoom in on a paragraph at random and I'll be just as annoyed by it as I was by the book as a whole, and the sentences, oh the sentences -- innocent words strung together against their will into necklaces of crappy prose. To extend the arbitrary metaphor from the last sentence, Tom Robbins's writing looks from a distance like fine piece from Tiffany's, but when you get up close, it reavels itself to be cheap, gaudy costume jewelry, traded by the handful for a peek at a 19-year-old's tits.
.: .2.7. . : . . . :
4/14/2006 • link4 comments

misuse of the word "schwag"

Webster's Online says "swag" is "loot; spoils, profits." For obvious reasons, I prefer the synonym "booty." Everyone knows that "schwag" is slang for shitty marijuana (dry, full of seeds/sticks, or just low in THC), but more and more often (and especially on the West Coast) I've heard "schwag" used to mean "free crap from industry conventions" or "the stuff in gift bags from Hollywood award dinners." Drives me nuts.
      Google the word "schwag" and, as of April 2006, all but the first hit are pages about swag, including a typically long-ass story from Wired.com about the history of corporate-logo-stamped tchotchkes. That first hit is the page for a Grateful Dead tribute band called The Schwag, who may be a bunch of asshole hippies but who obviously take their name from the real, drug-related definition.*
     I'd like to be a more descriptive logophile, but my nature is prescriptive. Yeah, I know that usage changes the language, and that many things are acceptable now that were anathema to our ancestors. But some things in popular usage are just wrong wrong wrong, and I won't shut up while there's still a chance to stem the flow of wrongness. For only one example, "alumni" is still plural: say "an alumni" and I slap you with a knife. In fact, while we're on the topic, many words ending with an "i" are plural, especially if they arrived in English unchanged from Italian or Latin: Cacti, ravioli, gemini, etceteri.
     But hell! Back to the point of this review, which is that "schwag" refers to bad weed, so stop using it for "swag." I understand the desire to Yiddishize words when possible, because it just sounds funny. Cut it out.

*(BTW, you should totally look at the pictures on The Schwag's site. It's a very upsetting collection of snapshots from gigs, featuring the universally hippie-hideous members of the band posing with an endless stream of relatively cute girls with big smiles and bad taste in music. I find it helpful to look at the photos when I forget why I hate hippies. Gets me back on track.)
using "schwag" when you mean "swag":: .2.6. . : . . . . :
4/11/2006 • link4 comments

Lucky Number Slevin
dir. Paul McGuigan
I watched the trailer for this on Apple because I thought it looked cool. I was thrilled to see that a friend of mine is in the fucking thing, because it gave me an excuse to go see it despite lukewarm reviews from sources I had no personal reason to doubt. Well, the movie was not great, but I enjoyed it. Josh Hartnett is cute, Lucy Liu is cute, and everybody else is ugly (but they have character!). The plot maintains a certain coherence, and although it was obviously written by a fan of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, the guy didn't have grandiose delusions about his skill. The narrative moves forward with only a couple of indulgences in flashback, and the plot twists, such as they are, do not strain the bounds of credulity. So that's nice. Also, the guy I know who was in it was very good (but I'm not gonna name-drop).
     Otherwise, I feel I must mention that wallpaper played a bigger role in this movie than many of the actors -- and that's not an insult to the actors. The production designer covered every inch of wall in this movie with garish, geometrically patterned wallpaper, the kind you see a lot on walls behind British people in film or video footage from Britain (like, in poor British people's flats, not like Buckingham Palace). It was meant to be noticed, and remarked upon, but the reviews I read didn't seem to want to give the filmmakers the satisfaction of acknowledgment. But I'm easy: yes, production designer, I saw the wallpaper. Wallpaper wallpaper wallpaper.
.: . . . . :6.3. . . :
4/10/2006 • link0 comments

Entenmann's Glazed PopEms
sugar-coated baked goods
Entenmann's website says of these donut-hole products: "These sweet treats are perfect for popping in your mouth," which is true, but is not the whole story (no fucking pun intended), not by a long shot. Specifically, it fails to convey the lack of choice you will have in the matter of whether or not to pop another one in your mouth. These objects obliterate any cherished notions you may have about "free will"; they audibly mock your notions of self control, sounding like a box full of Gremlins from the movie Gremlins (the bad kind, the eat-after-midnight green scaly kind). In fact, I think it's clear that Popems are a baked tribute to Gremlins. (That sounds stupid. I really wanted to say that the other way around, that Gremlins are a metaphorical tribute to Popems, the fevered catharsis of a Hollywood screenwriter after he couldn't get a hold of his OA sponsor and ate five boxes in half an hour. But temporal reality is a spoilsport, because unlike Gremlins, Popems didn't exist until the late 90s.)
     (Somewhere in this oblique-ass review I should point out that I think Popems taste really good. After all, you never know when an Entenmann's rep could be trolling the web for the perfect recipient of the golden Free Popems For Life coupon.)
      I guess Entenmann's is a local brand, limited maybe to the East Coast, or the Northeast, or NY and PA. Count your blessings, desperate housewives of Privet Drive! Remember that slogan "once you pop you can't stop?" It was for a potato chip or something, and though it's gross to eat a whole bag (or tennis can-full) of fried potato slivers, a box of Popems is as heavy as a dictionary, and is made of sugar, lard, and highly addictive drugs. I'm not sure exactly how their scientists came up with the perfect mixture of nicotine, heroin, and crack cocaine, and I'm not sure how they circumvented FDA labeling regulations that should have required them to list these ingredients on the box -- or, for that matter, various laws making two of those ingredients illegal. And are they even allowed to put nicotine in food? Somehow I doubt it. But it is the only explanation for the effect Popems have on certain humans. A chemical "perfect storm." A chemical "dream team." A chemical supergroup, the Damn Yankees or Traveling Wilburys of the bakery aisle!
     I am so horny for Popems right now.
.: . . . . : . . .9.2:
4/09/2006 • link16 comments

. websites
A site dedicated, more or less seriously, to halting the public use of the font Comic Sans. I'm not so much reviewing the site itself as the concept of hating a font so much that you devote a website to its eventual destruction.
     The creators of this site are earnest as hell even as they joke; They have a manifesto, which as a form I always like because a it aspires to a rare directness, completeness, and (one hopes) honesty about its subject, even if the execution often falls short of the ideal; I'm just glad someone was game enough to give it a try. bancomicsans's manifesto is great: totally pompous and grandiose -- at one point literally calling for a revolution of the proletariat to aid in the cause -- because its writers know too much than to take themselves completely seriously. The ironic dance of "I'm kidding... no I'm not... just kidding... or am I?" may at first seem kinda childish or intellectually immature, but sometimes it's the only way for a serious intellectual to behave. (And to digress for a moment, the same thing happens in New York fashion all the time, this weird Schrödinger's Cat-dance of: "is that guy for real with that mustache, or is it ironic?") Who would take somebody seriously who really took this "Ban Comic Sans" crap seriously? Their ironic distance makes following their lead possible.
     (Hmm. I'm beginning to wonder how old this phenomenon really is. We tend to give our ancestors less credit for cleverness than they maybe deserve. Don't all movements start out as a bunch of drunken friends advancing a thought experiment, having fun, going along with the gag, daring each other into more blasphemous or extreme statements, until somebody whips out a pen, checks the spelling and grammar, and hammers it to the cathedral door, ruining the fun for everyone?)
     Anyway, read the site. Part of the case against Comic Sans is that it is fucking everywhere. If you walk two minutes in a densely populated commercial area of a major US city and you won't have to wait three minutes before spotting as many egregious applications of Comic Sans on handbills, posters, even professional signage. The fucking sugar packets in my local diner say "Sugar" in Comic Sans. This wouldn't be so bad if, like two of Microsoft's default fonts, Arial (a sloppy copy of Helvetica) and whatever they're calling their variation on Times Roman, it was fairly plain, and therefore almost invisible in most contexts (nobody says "nice use of Arial, dude"). Comic sans is a badly made comic book word balloon font -- in the wrong context (i.e. not a comic book word balloon) it stands out and stabs you in the eye with its inappropriateness.
     Anyway, I'm just recapitulating their arguments in less coherent and less complete form. Read the site. Live the message.
.: . . . . : . . .9.0:
4/09/2006 • link2 comments

This blog has moved
John from Cincinnati
Recent Movie Rental Roundup, Vol 1.
The Unicorns and Islands
Nicotine patches
V for Vendetta
Wonder Showzen
Hard Taco Project
rating approximate meaning
10.0Godlike perfection
9.5Mortal perfection
9.0Great! Classic!
8.0Pretty awesome
7.0Good stuff
6.0Don't knock it 'til you try it
5.0Exactly half good and half bad
4.0If it's on sale...
3.0Last resort
2.0You might prefer root canal
1.0Contact could lower your I.Q.
0.0May cause cancer

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