Wednesday, April 27, 2005

That Funny, Funny Internet

Okay, so have y’all heard about the exploding toads? Because it appears that frogs from this one pond in Germany seem to be . . . well, blowing up. And not in the J.C. Chasez sense, either. My favorite, of the myriad of theories to explain the phenomenon, is that menacing crows are swooping down and scaring the poor toads to death. Because that’s what you do when you get scared. You explode. It’s the funniest news story I’ve read this week, far surpassing the reports of Paula Abdul scarily seducing Corey Clark.

In other news, I was trolling around online trying to educate myself on Venn diagrams (Don’t ask. It’s not nearly as dorky as it sounds, but don’t ask. Okay, it’s exactly as dorky as it sounds. Still, don’t ask.), when I came across the second funniest thing I’ve read online this week. It seems Venn diagrams are, for all intents and purposes, the same thing as Euler diagrams. Still, they remain two distinct terms.

Quoth the Wikipedia: “It is likely that the Venn and Euler versions have not been merged because Euler's version came 100 years earlier, and Euler has credit for enough accomplishment already, while Venn is left with nothing but this diagram.”

Which . . . ha! I’m sorry, but the thought of the fierce politics of late 19th century mathematicians . . . of poor old John Venn clinging fiercely to his one claim to fame and can’t the Euler people just throw him a bone?! It's all he's got!

Also . . . “left with nothing but this diagram” is a choice lyric for the nerdiest country music song of all time: “Who’s Spheres Have Your Syllogisms Been Under?”

God, after writing that, even I’m like, “dooooooork!”

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Flickerstick: Live and Lazy

I can’t believe it’s been almost four years since the wonderful summer of “Bands on the Run”. The nostalgia got compounded tonight as I saw Flickerstick live for the third time. It’s the first of three shows that I’ve ever been disappointed by the band, which makes me sad. I think several elements came together to underwhelm on this particular evening.

For one thing, the sound at the Showplace Theatre was brutal. Not only was the lead vocal drowned out (inexcusable when Brandin Lea’s pipes are one of the best reasons to see the band), but the lead guitars, the actual melodies, were lost in a fog of fuzzy reverb. I don’t think that was the whole problem, though. I sort of realized that Flickerstick doesn’t need the three guitars (not counting bass) they generally go with. It’s too much and it unnecessarily blurs what’s recognizable about the songs.

It’s funny because Cory Kreig wasn’t at the show – he’s “not touring these days” or something along those lines – and the band had a replacement for him. Which I don’t think they needed to do because I’ve decided Cory is completely superfluous. You could tell during the show. When they dropped down to two guitars, or even one, the real power of the songs came through. It’s a cleaner sound without all the extra noise – noise that comes across more like overcompensation than enthusiasm.

Most damning, though, is how the band didn’t seem to give a shit about playing their old stuff. Yeah, I get that you’ve been playing these same damn songs for eleventy billion years, but if you’re gonna bother putting them on the setlist, at least care enough to remember the words. Seriously, Brandin duffed the entire second verse of “Coke”. And there were at least two other songs he fucked up as well, both off their 2001 album.

It’s really too bad because these guys are a kickass live act when they want to be. Don’t make me go running back to Soul Cracker, fellas. Don’t you dare do it.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Monday Top Five

Five things that impressed, appalled or otherwise held my attention for more than 15 seconds during the past week:

1) Wisconsin defensive end Erasmus James, selected 18th overall by the Minnesota Vikings, takes the prize as Best Name in the NFL Draft for 2005. Not only is it an imposing and intimidating moniker, he could also pass for a preacher in some sort of post-apocalyptic setting, or a drug kingpin in a 70s blaxploitation flick. Runners up? Fabian Washington (Oakland CB and the lost member of New Edition), Roscoe Parrish (Bills WR and Mafia stoolie), and Lofa Tatupu (Seahawks LB and former military dictator of Papua New Guinea).

2) Sean Penn took the top spot at the box-office this weekend with The Interpreter. He also continued to steadfastly stand by his reputation as the Most Humourless Prick in Hollywood. Penn tells “Time” that his problem with Chris Rock’s Jude Law joke on Oscar night wasn’t so much the joke, but that no one in the audience booed it. In other words, since everyone else seemed to take the jab in stride, Penn felt he had to fill the sucking void of “sourpuss” in the room. Bottom line, says Slap-Happy Sean, the joke just wasn’t funny. This coming from the guy who willingly appeared on “Viva La Bam.” Irony: It’s What’s For Dinner.

3) You can always count on Reality TV to bring in your weekly dose of moron. This week, fate made it a double as The Apprentice’s Alex and Bren turned in what may have been the dumbest idea in the history of the show (and coming from a program which once pushed shortbread flavored ice cream as a viable suggestion, that’s saying something). Asked to produce a product for Staples that would cut down on office clutter, best buds Alex and Bren decided that what we really need in our crowded offices is another desk. Specifically, a desk with a glass top that you can lift up, placing your inbox underneath. “So you can see it.” Yes, and apparently so it can laugh and point at you from the safety of its glass enclosure since if you’re placing anything else at all on top of your desk, you’ve got no way to access it. It’s a dated phrase, but “Smooth move, Ex Lax” fits the situation pretty well. Bren, thankfully, got fired while Alex lives to dumb another day.

4) Oh, Paula Abdul. You had me at “you were very nasally up in your nasal.” This week, she also had me at “I’m totally not on drugs, I’m really honestly totally not drunk during American Idol tapings, and the only reason it seems like I’m barely repressing the urge to molest the male contestants right there onstage is because I’ve got this nerve disorder, see.” Dear, sweet Paula. Does this explain away the “Rush, Rush” video, too? Not present in the “Entertainment Tonight” interview/damage control was the admission that Paula also suffers from a rare skim pigmentation disorder that causes her to drink gallons and gallons of alcohol before she appears in front of TV cameras. It’s called Vodka-ligo and you’ve probably never heard of it. You will, of course, when it’s used as a defense theory in the Michael Jackson trial in a week or so.

5) As mentioned in this week’s Happy Hour, I think I’m on speaking terms with Jennifer Lopez again. Don’t ask me when it happened because I think it was a gradual thing. All of a sudden, I’m downloading “Get Right” on iTunes because I loved it so much at the club. Who knew? Then, she’s in some sort of spat with Pam Anderson because Jenny loves her fur and doesn’t care who knows it. And anyone who refuses to buckle to the “Fur Is Murder” crowd is okay by me. I’m Libby McLiberal 364 days of the year, but that one other day is spent eating copious amounts of read meat, wearing chinchilla from head to toe and watching that “Simpsons” episode in which Homer adopts, accidentally boils, and then eats his pet lobster Pinchy. Suck on it, PETA!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Ten Word Movie Reviews

Melinda and Melinda: Radha Mitchell prefers tragedy over comedy. Will Ferrell is irritating.

Vera Drake (DVD): Imelda Staunton cries for the entire second half. Damn good.

Hotel Rwanda (DVD): True story overshadows any concern for "film" virtues. Faithfully rendered.

Spanglish (DVD): Good performances (Vega, Leachman) succumb to irritating ones (Leoni, Sandler).


p.s.: As Mathan proved by example, you can include your name in your comments by choosing the "other" option as opposed to "anonymous". See? We're all learning here.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Snow White, Black and Blue

Fairytales Linked to Violent Relationships

At first sight, this seemed like an excellent opportunity for making some fun. And then I read it, and it really kinda makes sense. It seems like the kind of article that would be prime bait for a women's sudies course which examines how women have been conditioned throughout society to accept more shit from the men in their lives.

My solution, naturally, is to start reading the Kill Bill script to young girls at bed time. Because The Bride would not have waited in a locked tower for her prince to come, I can tell you that. She'd have fashioned all that excess Rapunzel hair into a noose and then choked the shit out of the first tower guard to come her way.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Pope-a-Dope

Note: This entry has nothing to do with my normal ramblings about books, sports, movies or TV. Serious-minded political/religious ranting ahead. Scroll on past if you'd rather not.

Because another arch-conservative in a place of authority and influence is just what we needed.

Joseph Ratzinger - alias "Pope Benedict XVI" - was elected Pontiff today, and he's got liberal-minded Catholics dismayed at the rejection of anything close to a progressive agenda from the Vatican.

Here's the thing - and I'll grant that my perspective is skewed because I'm a non-practicing Catholic who has a vested interest in the Church humanizing their position on gays and lesbians (I don't anticipate returning to the fold even if their policies change, but such changes would be of tremendous help to the greater cause). But for good or ill, a lot of people look to Rome for moral guidance and then apply that morality to their practical lives. When that moral guidance is intolerant, when that moral guidance is rigid in the face of reasonable change, when that moral guidance will not even show basic respect for the women/gays/condom users who buy into their faith, then that causes problems for a whole lot of people who lie outside the Roman Catholic sphere.

And the shame of it is, liberal minded Catholics will be disappointed in this affirmation of closed-mindedness, but they will ultimately keep doing what they've been doing. They'll still go to church, donate to the collection basket, and recite "I believe in one holy Catholic and apostolic Church", and nothing will change.

It's hard for me to fathom that so many people who are so devoted to their faith would allow said faith to be guided by men who clearly don't represent them. It's hard for me to fathom that any feminist (yes, you are) would participate in a Church which views men and women as so fundamentally unequal that they will not allow a woman to minister to the faithful at the same level as a man. It's hard for me to fathom that anyone can look at a Church that is so backward as to not even budge on such reasonable reforms as condoning contraception and allowing priests to marry and think that it represents their values.

My question - in all sincerity - is: why don't they just break off? Why don't progressive clergy just break away from Rome and establish a newer, more representative church? Hell, they used to do it all the time! Try and count how many Protestant denominations there are some time. Schism was all the rage! Why not? If you think about it, for Catholics who are pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-married clergy, pro-women clergy, pro-contraception, pro-liberation theology, what else is there in Rome that is left for them? There's the Bible, Jesus Christ, and a doctrine of "love thy neighbor". Which can be found in countless denominations including one waiting to be established by progressive Catholic bishops with a little backbone and a pioneering spirit.

Look. I know the Roman Catholic Church does not have to change if it does not wish to. The Vatican is not the White House and Catholicism is not democracy. It's a top-down establishment, to be sure. They don't have to accept women priests. Or married priests. Or married gays. Or the Pill. My personal issue with the church (well, one of them) is why would I want to be a part of a club that doesn't want me as a member? I often wonder why liberal minded Catholics do.

Your belief in God, in Jesus, in the Bible, is a strong thing. I have a feeling it'll travel.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Link!

Mel Gibson! Shirley MacLaine! Lucifer! John Paul II! Idi Amin!

News and views on each and every one of these people (and more) in my latest 411 Movies column.

Read and respond, y'all. Read and respond.

Monday Top Five

Five things that impressed, appalled or otherwise held my attention for more than 15 seconds during the past week:

1) So, Doug Flutie catches a foul ball at the Yanks-Sox game the other day and all of a sudden America’s love affair with Captain Short Stack begins anew. *Sigh* The mean is nearing the gray side of middle age and he’s still bringing a mitt to ball games? He’s really made a commitment to being that guy at the ballpark? He probably spends half the game telling that same old Boston College Hail Mary story to anyone within earshot, and then when he snags a foul ball he pointedly avoids eye contact with any small child to whom he might feel obligated to give the ball. Give it a rest, Doug Flutie. Leave the mitt, and the Napoleon complex, at home next time.

2) Even before Joel Grey showed his face during the closing minutes of this week’s “Alias” episode, I knew there was going to be trouble. Just seeing his name in the guest star credits filled me with a kind of dread. Joel Grey guesting on one of my TV shows can only mean one thing: a character I love is gonna die. Happened to Buffy Summers. Happened to Kareem Said on “Oz”. So you can imagine my distress when Joel shows up as Fake Sloane (brilliant twist, by the way) just as Jack Bristow seems to have contracted Nuclear Exposure Genetic Mutations Syndrome or whatever it is that’s going to threaten his life by season’s end. Damn you, Joel Grey! You black widow harbinger of death!

3) The nice thing about HBO is that it allows multiple viewings of certain movies that require a second and third go-round to really appreciate them. Something like Love, Actually, for instance, which was too long and too sprawling on first view to take in all the good stuff that was happening. Case in point: I don’t know how I managed to initially overlook Emma Thompson’s staggeringly good performance. Because there are roughly 744 characters in the movie, all the parts are small, but she does so much in what amounts to, like, three key scenes. And it’s all this huge emotion coupled with equally huge restraint and if I didn’t already adore her I would have after this movie, and since I already did, I think I love her even more. She needs to be in more movies.

4) Of course, what cable giveth, cable can also taketh away. Thank god. Much to my delight, TBS aired The Long Kiss Goodnight this week, just as I had decided I was dying to see it again but not enough to actually pay for a rental. As Aaron Cameron and I have concluded, this is one of the best bad movies ever made. The acting is ludicrous, with Samuel L. Jackson and Geena Davis giving truly horrible performances and Brian Cox trying to redeem it all with one big swing for the fences (it didn’t work, although his “Eight years later and a good deal frumpier” line still slays me). And, of course, there is the coup de grace of suck that is Craig Bierko along for the ride. Renny Harlin couldn’t make another movie this enjoyably bad if kept trying for the next thirty years. Which it seems he’s determined to do anyway.

5) Horatio Sanz and his narcotics haze and refusal to act like a damn professional have claimed another victim. Tom Brady on “Saturday Night Live” wasn’t exactly abysmal, but it wasn’t exactly Derek Jeter in drag either. In fact, I’d place it south of Rudy Giuliani’s hosting, the line of demarcation for non-actors hosting SNL. A lot of it can be chalked up to the general crappiness of this season of SNL, but I also can’t seem to fathom why Brady was even asked to host. Football season ended months ago, he’s not exactly Captain Charisma in the media, and he’s shown no previous inklings that he might be in any way suited for it. Also? Tom Brady’s Falafel City? I liked it much better the first time I saw that skit. When it was Lucy Lawless doing “Stevie Nicks’s Fajita Roundup”. So there you go again, you say you want burritos. I sure hope you can keep ‘em down.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Kids Today! Saying the "F" Word!

Book: I Am Charlotte Simmons (Tom Wolfe)

I Am Charlotte Simmons starts off like the pearl-clutching exhortations of an old world outsider peering in on the debauchery of post-millennial collegiate life. By the end it’s more like a hatchet job on liberal education in America. In the expansive middle you’ll find a handful of the most hateful characters you’re ever likely to come across. Congratulations, Tom Wolfe. You’ve crafted a pretentious book about unpleasant people thatarrives at agenda-laden conclusions. Also? Nice suit, Orville.

From the very beginning, Wolfe seems scandalized by the state of college campuses: the language, the banality, the vulgar behavior. He couches this viewpoint in the character of Charlotte Simmons, naïve southern brainiac entering prestigious Dupont University without a single clue on how to cope with being outside her genteel mountain comfort zone. At first, the “why, I never” reactions seem perfectly natural coming from Charlotte, but we soon find that a) the tone spreads to characters who should know better, and b) Wolfe only seems comfortable writing from Charlotte’s point of view, both of which turn Charlotte’s point of view into Wolfe’s, which is just sad.

There was a big deal made upon the novel’s publication of Wolfe’s on-campus research and how it paid off in Charlotte’s astute observations. Which may or may not be true. I went to college at a school without a top-level athletic program or a significant Greek presence on campus, which are two of the most defining factors of the fictional Dupont. But I will say that it ends up hard to take Wolfe and his tireless research at all seriously when he appears to be so scandalized by kids saying “fuck” and “shit”.

He also suffers significantly from an old-fashioned vocabulary which, again, somewhat fits Charlotte’s character but is woefully out of place in the interior monologues of frat boys, athletes and aspiring Rhodes scholars.

Speaking of which, Wolfe is unable or unwilling to write a sympathetic character. Good thing we only have near on 700 pages to put up with them. Charlotte is snobby, selfish, hypocritical and – despite the titular mantra that should imply self-reliance – constantly dependant on the men in her life to rescue her. Hoyt Thorpe is your garden variety date-rapey frat boy. Adam Gellin is a caricature of weak-willed Ivory Tower intellectualism. JoJo Johansson is at least halfway tolerable as a basketball god with a newfound yen for Socrates. Half of a person is not enough to hold onto for such a looooong book.

It’s not all bad. Wolfe does seem to get to the root of the college male hierarchy, that at its base it comes down to those who can’t wait to fight and those who urgently avoid it. And the book’s compelling enough, so long as you stick with it. Don’t put it down for more than a day or two, though, because you will forget about this shit faster than your Prom Promise.

Near the end, Wolfe tosses in more than a few cheap shots at his more liberal characters. He seems to relish in Adam Gellin’s downfall, while giving what amounts to a “boys will be boys” pass to his other, more red state friendly, miscreants. There’s also more than a few hints of racism and sexism thrown in to taste.

It’s a worthwhile reading experience, if only to see what the fuss has been about. But it’s impossible to come away from the book without having your fill of Wolfe, of his repeated references to “fuck patois” and “the Land of Nod” and “mons pubis”, of his incessant need to spell out regional dialects (Like, we GET IT! She’s Southern!), of his contemptible characters and old-fashioned worldview. Shut UP, Tom Wolfe.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

86? I'll Give Ya 1,918.

Or, fine, 2,004.

86 Reasons To Hate The Red Sox.

Yeah, it's kind of whiny and kind of obvious, but it illustrates one of my long-held convictions about baseball fans: if you bitch and moan about the Yankees and their payroll and their ubiquity and the media's slobbery love affair with them, you HAVE TO bitch and moan about the Red Sox for the same reasons. Especially now. Especially with Fever Pitch and Johnny "Cover Boy" Damon and Curt Schilling's Celebrity Hot Tub Party or whatever the hell his two-years-and-counting press tour has been.

They're not the lovable losers anymore. They're just . . . there. On your TV. All. The. Time.

Unless you've been a lifelong Sox fan, it's gotta be irritating, right?

Also . . . Reason #9: "Cowboy Up". Fuckin-A right, man.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Happy Hour - Posted!

"Simon Pegg – last seen destroying a perfectly good copy of the Batman soundtrack (our children’s children will be doing the Batdance, people!) – has signed on to star in Paul Weiland’s Three Bad Men."

That news, plus Sin City and Upside of Anger reviews, the Bewitched trailer, Frankie Muniz as a murder victim and more in my 411 Movies column.

Read it - love it.

But Was He Chewing Tobacco?

Apprentice Chris had another anger moment.

Faced with the prospect of an admittedly steep $20 cover charge at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa, Chris proceeded to have one of his cutomary flip-outs in front of bar patrons and hotel security.

This is one of those perfect moments where a real-life outcome for a TV personality is exactly what you've always expected. Like Jerri Manthey posing for Playboy or Rose O'Donnell coming out of the closet. Gee, Chris acts like Anger Boy in the "Apprentice" boardroom when asked the usual probing questions (like the incendiary "are you a good negotiator?") and gets all up in his castmates' faces when there's a problem? You think he might get arrested for disorderly conduct at some point? Nah! Next thing you'll tell me that a boozed up Paula Abdul got into a car accident.

I hope the security guys didn't make the mistake of asking Chris if he was a homosexual, though. Because he most certainly is NOT. In fact, he's personally offended that I tried to appeal to that demographic just then.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Looks Like CBS Bet On The Wrong Pony

Locusts, my ass. Butterflies are the money swarm. If NBC is smart, they've got Mark Harmon and Anne Heche in negotiations right now to star in "Wings of Destruction: The Great California Butterfly Migration". Willem Dafoe can play the off-his-rocker (or is he?) pest control guy, armed with the biggest butterfly net in North America. Alas, no one will heed his warnings until it is too late.

Meanwhile, the yearly May Ladybug Invasion is no doubt poised to rock my neck of the woods. Again. "Oh, it's bad luck to kill them, Joe." *squash* "They won't harm you, Joe." *squash* "They're so pretty!" *squash*

I know, I know. I should count my blessings it's ladybugs and not snakes or scorpions or Africanized Killer Bees. But, damn. Out of my house and into a Pixar movie, ladybugs.

Ten Word Movie Reviews

The Upside of Anger: Joan Allen's a rock star. The movie's pretty funny, too.

Sin City: Filthy, gorgeous neo-noir. Impeccable casting. Not for the squeamish (duh!).

Vanity Fair (DVD): Mira Nair doesn't do nearly enough with this. Witherspoon's decent.

**Longer reviews to come in the 411 column, to be posted on Monday. I'll link from here.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3

No, I’m not going to post-mortem every one of these games, but so long as I got the chance to watch it, I might as well commemorate the fact that Jeter knocked a walk-off homer off Foulke for the win. That was nice.

I’m still petrified as hell of David Ortiz and I have a feeling that’s going to last me all through the season. My blood pressure just goes up whenever he’s at the plate. Maybe if I pictured him with Johnny Damon’s soft, manageable mane of hair (or perhaps an afro) he’d be slightly less petrifying.

Also sure to be a hazard to my health all season is Mariano Rivera. It’s only one game, I know, and he’s still among the best, I know that, too, but he’s unquestionably now on the downside of his career and I worry just how steep that decline is going to be.

That being said, as my Dad pointed out: they hit our ace, we hit their ace. Can’t feel too poorly about Rivera giving up a 9th inning homer when Foulke goes and does the same thing.

Finally, I have to point out that Bud Selig was interviewed by Michael Kay and crew in the press box during the game to talk about the steroid thang. Now, I understand spin and the need for Major League Baseball to begin rehabbing their image, but it just seemed like Selig was trying to sell this image of “it’s really not that bad” and the announcers were all to happy to back him up.

You know, I hate Gary Bettman and what’s happened to the NHL and all that, but Gary Bettman will go on TV and say “Look, we’re trying to put forth a policy that makes sense, and the players in the union are being obstructive dicks about it.” And I can respect the hell out of that because at least it’s honest. If Selig would say the same thing about the MLB players’ association, I’d have a bit more respect for him, too. For him and for Paul O’Neill and for whoever else to try and characterize it as a minor problem and lay all the blame at Jose Canseco’s doorstep . . . it’s just the same old wagon circling, isn’t it?

Anyway, Yankees win, Sox lose, all is right with the world for another day.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Newz You Can Uze

Paris Hilton and Jason Mewes are making a movie together. Well, of course they are. Because if there was anyone that was going to annoy me more than Jay (sans Silent Bob), it’d be Paris effing Hilton. It also somehow fits that they would one day team up on some project. They’re both famous for acting out some brazenly gross version of themselves onscreen, they both give off a definite but nonspecific aura of disease, and they’ve both extended their own gimmicky brand of fame well past their expected sell-by dates.

The story is supposedly Swingers-esque, which tells us exactly nothing since the line for screenwriters aspiring to write the next Swingers stretches round the block and halfway to Vegas, baby.

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New documentary to delve into obsessed fandom. Hey, it worked for the Trekkies. The Secret Life Of Superfans might sound like better fodder for an episode of “MTV: True Life”, but in this incarnation, it will include interviews with Rob Zombie, Bryan Singer, Gary Oldman and Malcolm McDowell.

Now, Rob Zombie and Bryan Singer I can see having obsessive fans. They’ve got stuff like heavy metal and comic books and horror movies that lend themselves more easily to crazed fandom. But . . . Gary Oldman and Malcolm McDowell? Because the cult of Immortal Beloved has gotten so unwieldy lately? Because McDowell is under constant siege by “Friends of Caligula”?

Err, not that I think “Friends of Caligula” actually exist, but if they did, I might have to add a couple guys to my security detail, too. Classics majors with an itch for the orgy? Sex-ay.

----

The Watchmen project is in trouble. All of a sudden, Paramount isn’t too psyched about the $120 million budget (frankly, I don’t blame them), and have moved production out of England, possibly to a more financially feasible location like Berlin or Prague. There are rumblings that the film – to be directed by The Bourne Supremacy’s Paul Greengrass – may not happen at all at Paramount.

This is one of those unfortunate occasions where I have to side with the concerns of the studio execs. A project like “Watchmen” is in a very specific catch-22. It’s not going to be able to make enough money to justify a huge budget. It’s too serious to be a popcorn superhero flick, but the fact that it is about superheroes will keep a lot of serious filmgoers away from it, unfortunately. On the flip side, though, this isn’t a movie that can be made on the cheap either. Not if you want to make it good. So the studio is left to make the extremely cynical decision to cheap out on the flick, to its detriment, in order to make a desperate stab at making a profit. Because the sad truth is, the people who are going to see this movie will see this no matter what.

See, this is why I’m sort of hoping that they never make a Sandman movie. It suffers from the same budget-vs-audience conundrum that “Watchmen” does. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, people: HBO 10-part miniseries. It’s the only way to get a movie done right and still have the chance to reap something of a reward.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Yankees 9, Red Sox 2

Well, after that resunding bit of triumph, I’d have to say that last year’s ALCS debacle has been justly and truly avenged.

Umm.

Okay, so it totally doesn’t make up for last October’s horror show, but a decent way to start off the new season? You betcha. Setting aside for a moment the fact that the weather at Yankee Stadium looked so cold and uncomfortable that you wanted to postpone opening day for another three weeks, it was good to see the boys playing ball again.

Best moment of the game was definitely Tino’s diving stab at first base. I can’t express just how excellent it is to have him back in the fold. Runner-up for moment of the night – also defensively – was Matsui’s over-the-fence maneuver to take away Millar’s homer.

Mostly, though, the win was nice because it set a tone. I know it sounds painfully stupid to talk about “setting a tone” after game one of a 2,341 game season, but honestly, the Yanks had lost the last four games to the Sox, in infamous fashion, and nipping any kind of “can the Yanks beat the Sox?” talk in the bud right off the bat puts me somewhat at ease.

Also? Say what you will about Jeter and A-Rod being pretty boys, but Johnny Damon’s hair is looking like he’s filming a commercial for Pert Plus. There are many an adjective that a major leaguer wants to hear applied to him, but I’ll hazard a guess that “fluffy” aint one of them.

Friday, April 01, 2005

TV: Project Greenlight

I’m catching myself up on the “Project Greenlight” season thus far. It’s being rerun on SciFi Channel, which . . . okay? I wasn’t aware that Bravo and SciFi were doing the cross-pollination thing. Although, now that I think about it, I could probably retrofit a theory about “Project Runway” and the costumes in the two “Dune” miniseries.

But anyway.

Does anyone else think that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon plan their entire year around the “Greenlight” season, when they can pop in for the premiere episode, maneuver to get the most socially inept director possible into the project, and then slowly back out the door while poor, overmatched Chris Moore has to stick around, deal with the fallout, and look all bug-eyed as he continually flips out on camera? They must sit down to watch these episodes and die laughing. Of course, from there, Damon goes off to film the next Scorsese movie while Affleck has to record the commentary track for Surviving Christmas, so we all know who’s actually earned that laugh.

As for “Greenlight” and their director, I’m having a hard time believing he’s for real. I mean, on the one hand, it’s certainly believable that an artist could be so talented while making small, personal short films with his family and yet so awkwardly unable to deal with people on any level at all once he’s outside that sphere. But this guy looks like a cross between Paul on “Cheers” and Eyore, what with the slumped shoulders and sad-sack demeanor. He’s a cartoon character of shlumpy indecision.

Thus far, the series had steered away from the writers (a mismatched pair of goofs, one of whom is so obviously on coke) and more towards the producers. Which is a necessity, I suppose, when they’ve been spending their time trying to keep the director from casting his entire fifth grade homeroom in the leading roles.

It’s gotten farther away from being a great look behind the scenes of a movie or closer to the freak show aspect of reality TV. But as freak shows go, I’ve certainly seen worse.

Glad We're Sprechin' The Same Lingidy

Book: Do You Speak American? (Robert MacNeil and William Cran)

If you grew up in a place like Buffalo and have ever traveled to any place outside of Buffalo, you’re familiar with the following exchange:

“Yeah, I’ll have a slice of pizza and a large pop.”

“A large what?”

“Pop.”

“Pop what?”

“A glass of pop.”

“Oh, you mean soda.”

Ahh, but we actually mean “pop” when we say “pop”. And half the time, the other guy will persist in his ignorance, like he can’t seem to decipher what you mean by “pop”, even given ample context clues, and will look at you with the kind of cross-eyed expression that would normally meet a request for a “large Tinker-Splat” or a “medium Googlehoffer”. Given the opposite situation, it’s not like we “pop” speakers would greet a request for a soda with a box of Arm & Hammer, you know?

Anyhoo, this diversion into territorial linguistics is part of what makes a book like “Do You Speak American?” so fascinating. MacNeil and Cran cut a pretty wide swath here, delving into the evolution and modernization of the American English language, as well as issues like regional dialects, the assimilation of the Spanish language into the melting pot, and whether it’s now okay to say “between you and I” (errgh, no, it’s really not).

Among other things, it let me know that the folks in Ohio are my brothers in “pop”.

The topic-hopping can appear a bit scattered at times, and the final chapter on pairing language with computers is a dreadfully boring way to end the book. But it winds up being a rather fascinating exploration of the pliability of the “American” language.

As a word of warning, this book wants to embarrass you at work. It just does. It spends a good two to three chapters dealing with matters of regional pronunciation, and while you may actively resist the urge to sound out the vowels in the word “caught”, you’re eventually going to succumb, and the end result is you reciting your “ay eee, eye, oh, yew” sounds in the break room while everyone else turns and stares. There were times I must’ve resembled Will Ferrell in Elf, repeating “Francisco” over and over.