Friday, September 26, 2008

Fragmented Friday - Suicidal Penguins Complect the Formular

  • Second week in a row that I've managed a M-F posting schedule; I told Zinger I'd have to be careful doing stuff like this, otherwise people might start to expect it. He replied that he supposed he'd let me get by with a M-T-F posting schedule; he's quite the magnanimous soul, isn't he?

  • The other day I headed to the post office to pick up my mail, since they still haven't replaced the missing mail box. Having learned my lesson the first time, I made sure to bring a book to read to help pass the time; due to this, I didn't notice that one of my coworkers was in line a few people behind me until I passed by him on my way up to the window to get help. After the postal worker went in the back to retrieve my mail, I turned around to say hi to the coworker when out of the corner of my eye I noticed some weirdo donning the Junior Birdman goggles.

    No, not that weirdo; Li'l Weirdo! Which was a surprise to me, since the last I knew he was out on deployment. I went over to say hi and before I could even think to give him a hard time he blurted out "I just got back into town, I swear!" It's like he was expecting me to accuse him of hiding out from me or something; why he would think such a thing I have no idea . . .

  • Last Friday we had our final cook-out at Cap'n Cluck's parents' house. We did most of the usual things; roasted hot dogs, roasted marshmallows, played Mafia, watched the Mafia game devolve into a mass of confusion and chaos . . . y'know the usual.

  • While discussing old TV shows at the cook-out, I mentioned M*A*S*H*, which prompted Angel to ask "Do you know what the name of that theme song was?" I answered immediately: "Suicide is Painless." One of the newer, nickless Singles got a confused look on his face and asked "Did you just say 'Suicidal pandas'?" It does have a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

  • I'm proud to say that after my Victoria Jackson post, CoIM is now the number one Google hit for the search term "eagleboob." On a related note, this week also marked the first time I ever received a blog hit from someone Googling the keywords "paraplegic porn" which took them to this post. Truly, accomplishments to be proud of.

  • In preparing for yesterday's Amberbama post, I tracked down the email I had originally sent out to family and friends describing the experience at the time, as well as the Essence of Amber message board thread; you can read Rebel Monkey's version of events there. Going back through all the posts I was amazed at what all I had forgotten; six years is a long time.

  • Miss ArkanSass should be flying in to town this evening, and I'm still not 100% sure what movie to pick for her first Odd Squodd movie fest; should I try to introduce her and Li'l Random to horror comedies Murder Party or Student Bodies? Should I pick one of the Netflix that should be here by then, like Run Fat Boy Run or The Foot Fist Way? Decisions, decisions!

  • My favorite spam email of the moment is one which promises me a tax refund from the IRS if I can receive on my credit card if I just, and I quote, "Complect the Formular."


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Incidence of Coincidence; or "The Misadventures of Cap'n Passed-out and Pity Mint in Amberbama"

Back in September of 2002, Rebel Monkey and I made plans to go to the 4th Annual Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham, Alabama. Why make the 11 hour drive to Alabama for a film festival? Because that festival hosted the world premiere of the writing/directorial debut of Amber Benson in the film Chance, in which she also starred. Now, if you're not familiar with the name, it's not surprising, as her most notable role was that of long-time recurring character Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Rebel Monkey and I, both being big film buffs who had never been to a film festival before as well as big Buffy fans, decided that this opportunity to not only attend a reasonably priced film festival but also possibly meet a Buffy/Angel cast member or two -- the film also featured James "Spike" Marsters, Andy "Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan" Hallet, and the then-wife of Nicholas "Xander" Brendon -- could not be passed up. So, the plan was for Rebel Monkey to drive from Stillwater to Denton after work that Friday; get a few hours of sleep; hit the road really early so we could get to Birmingham at a semi-decent hour and catch a few of the films playing on Saturday; get some actual sleep at the hotel and then get up in time to get in line for the theater where Amber's film would be premiering Sunday afternoon; and maybe possibly hopefully somehow actually meet Amber. All in all, things went according to plan, with a few twists along the way.

Coincidentally, the evening Rebel Monkey came down just happened to be the series premiere of the latest show from Buffy/Angel mastermind Joss Whedon, Firefly, so we two Whedonites were both able to experience that first episode together and share a mutual "What the heck? That couldn't really have been the first episode, could it? It's like we missed out on a whole two-hour pilot or something" feeling. After the show was over, the local news started playing and was running as background noise as we were comparing notes on the show. During a lull in our conversation, one of the newscasters -- I think it was the weatherman -- made a comment about an "incidence of coincidence." I couldn't begin to tell you what he was referring to, but the phrasing caught our attention, and was to be bandied about throughout most of that weekend, especially after the events of Saturday night.

We both tried to get some sleep, but I don't think either of us got more than a couple of hours before we got up and hit the road at 4 AM. The trip down just zipped by, and I never hit that wall of exhaustion and giddiness that usually accompanies my times of sleep deprivation, although I did run into some, um, gastrointestinal issues at our lunch stop. We got to Birmingham around 3:00, checked into our hotel, and then hit the festival, at which point we discovered that there was nothing open food-wise in downtown Birmingham during the weekend; kind of weird. Think we finally found a little sandwich place, but I still had a bit of an upset stomach so didn't eat much. We went to see some short films in a little bitty movie theater, which is when I saw Fits and Starts, and then moved on to our the next movie-watching venue, a little below-street-level cafe that had been set up with a screen and projector. We got there just in time to see the tail-end of Washington Heights, a movie notable mainly for the "Hey, isn't that Carla from Scrubs?" factor.

Next up was the documentary The Back Yard, which is all about these white-trash "backyard wrestlers" who mutilate each other weekly in home-made wrestling rings because they think it will help them get into the world of professional wrestling; I found it highly entertaining, in an American Movie, "let's laugh at the self-deluded" sort of way. The film is pretty graphic, since these guys are using bricks wrapped in barbed wire and flaming tables as weapons; seriously, check out this f-bomb laden clip. Craziness, no?

Suddenly, about halfway through the flick, I started feeling a bit nauseous, even though it wasn't at a particularly violent part; in fact, they were just showing the story of this one wrestler called Scar whose parents let him partake in the backyard wrestling scene because he had been so sick as a younger kid and had had so many horrible surgeries that they were happy that he was healthy enough to take part in something like this. Of course, this was accompanied by pictures of young Scar all cut up and mutilated after surgery which were much more disturbing to me at the time than the actual bloody violence. Then I started getting a blinding, needles-stabbing-behind-the-eyes headache, so I put my head down on the table . . . and the next thing I know, I'm on the ground, and these two guys are asking me if I'm all right, except they seem to be talking to me from the end of a long tunnel. Yes, that's right, I had passed out.*

After a minute or so, I came around enough to get up, and Rebel Monkey guided wobbly me towards the stairs and we headed outside for some fresh air. My head was sore from where I hit the floor (and possibly the table as well), and my ears were ringing, so as I sat down on the bench right outside of the theater, it took me a minute to understand what Rebel Monkey had been muttering to me for a couple of minutes: "Amber Benson is right over there." I turned my head, and not five feet away was a group of people all wearing official film-festival i.d. badges, and at the center is Amber "The reason we're in Alabama" Benson, who was being castigated by all of these folks for thinking The Backyard was funny. She defends herself by comparing it to another film: American Movie.

So, there I was, still light headed and not fully in my right mind yet, and this TV-star is standing near me -- the TV star who is the only reason I'm even in Alabama, mind you -- and was just in the same theater I was in watching the same movie I was and enjoying it like I was while comparing it to the same movie that I was, and the only reason I'm getting to see her now is because I just passed out, and it all feels like a dream or an episode of the Twilight Zone, a real life incidence of coincidence, and did I mention I was still light headed and so I, of course, start laughing hysterically from the sure weirdness of it all.

It just so happened that the instant I started to laugh coincided with Amber laughing, so she thought I was laughing at what she was laughing at, so she turns around and says to me "It was funny, wasn't it?" I replied that yes, it was funny, but that I was really laughing because I had just passed out downstairs and wasn't sure why, and so was a little giddy. She made a little "awww" sound and asked if I was all right. And then, as she started to return to her group, I -- and here is the part where you will go, "yup, Todd sure was out of it, because he'd never do this if he was in his right mind" -- proceeded to say -- much to Rebel Monkey's chagrin -- "Amber, just wanted to say we love you, we think you're great." So much for any chance of appearing cool; I was now relegated to "crazy fan-boy/possible stalker" status. But she was really nice, said that I was sweet, shook my hand and asked my name, then did the same to Rebel Monkey. We then talked about the movie for a couple of minutes, and she went back to her group.

Rebel Monkey and I sat there for a few more minutes as I tried to get up the strength to go back to the hotel, and Rebel Monkey tried to tear herself away from being so close to Amber. Then, as I glanced back towards Amber's group, I caught her looking at me, and she asked "Would you like a mint? Would that help?" To which I responded "Sure." So, Amber pulled out a package of Altoids, which elicited a chorus of groans from her companions who began to give her a hard time about being an "Altoid-pusher," and she gives me one, and then offered one to Rebel Monkey as well; this second offer would become known to us as "The Pity Mint."**

After partaking of the mint, I actually started to feel a lot better, whether due to the restorative properties of the wondrous Altoid or some placebo effect, I couldn't begin to tell you. But as I started to sit up straighter and stopped cradling my head in my hands, Rebel Monkey finally said in a resigned tone "Are you ready to go?" And, loathe as I was to cut our brush with a celebrity short, I was also pretty freaked out by the whole passing out experience and was ready to head back to the hotel and call my father the registered nurse to get his take on things. So, we both reluctantly got up and headed away from Amber and her friends, both certain that this incidence of coincidence would not repeat itself.

The rest of the festival was a lot of fun; while we were not the first people in line for the film the next day -- that honor belonged to MsKittyFantastico and company, a group of girls from Missouri who were wearing Amberbama t-shirts and video-taping interviews of people talking to their stuffed fish who had camped out front at 6:30 AM even though the doors didn't open until that afternoon

The Amberbama Girls and theSoul Fish

-- we were definitely in the first dozen or so. We got to visit with the Amberbama girls for quite a while, and they were the first to pose the "Did you eat the mint?" question; they then had me repeat the story for the fish interview, and asked Rebel Monkey questions about Amber's wardrobe since I was unhelpful on that front.*** Soon the line to get in was getting pretty long, since quite a few Amber fans had made the trek just to see the film,

The venue

Look, it's the back of my head! You can tell by the scar! And it looks like I was wearing my OSU hoodie that day.

and it was pretty obvious that as soon as the doors opened the semi-orderly line was going to collapse like nobody's business; those of us who had been waiting together the longest had agreed to work in concert to get good seats, so with the aid of the Amberbama girls Rebel Monkey and I got some primo seats for the show. Of course, Chance wasn't the only movie showing in that venue that day, so a theater filled with Amber fans had to wait patiently through a series of shorts before the movie we were all anticipating was played.

How was it? It's really hard for me to say objectively. I mean, first of all, that was six years ago, and the movie has never been released on VHS or DVD, so I've never been able to see it again. And second of all, so much of my memory of the film is tied into the experiences leading up to it that it's practically impossible to say how much that influenced my opinion. That being said, at the time I loved it, and was eagerly awaiting a chance to see it again.

After that, everything else was a bit of a let-down; sure, Rebel Monkey and I got to see Adrien Grenier of Entourage fame back in the same cafe theater where I'd passed out the night before as he presented his documentary A Shot in the Dark about the search for his birth father, but this was years before Entourage, back when pretty much all he was known for was playing Melissa Joan Hart's love interest in Drive Me Crazy, so not exactly something that made me all that excited, although Rebel Monkey was looking forward to bragging to her teen-aged sister. But soon enough the festival festivities were over for us, and there was nothing left to do but catch some shut-eye before heading back to Denton the next day.

We tried to keep in touch with some of the friends we made that day through email and the Amberholic message board****, but sadly I've never been good at maintaining friendships through message boards, and I soon found my time spent there growing less and less as I became more and more involved with The Singles, and soon my Alabama experiences were little more than a memory . . . an incredibly surreal memory, to be sure, but a good one nonetheless.

*At the time I had no real clue what had happened, chalking it up to low blood sugar or exhaustion or the like, but since then I've had the same thing almost happen to me at three other times, and each time it was while I was watching something overly graphic incredibly intensely, including The Passion of the Christ; I've pretty much figured out that all four times I was so engrossed in what I was watching and so overly empathetic to the pain I was witnessing that I hyperventilated unto the verge of unconsciousness. This was the only time I actually passed out completely, but a couple of the other times I became woozy and blanked out for a second or two. Fun stuff!
**Now, this is generally the point of the story where people ask "Did you eat the mint?" and then act surprised that we did and didn't save them for posterity. To which I always respond that (a) Rebel Monkey and I may have been crazy fans, but we weren't that crazy, and (b) when Amber gives you a mint to eat, you bloody well eat the danged mint!
***Or as Rebel Monkey refered to it "A pity interview for Pity Mint."
****The message board is how I found the few pictures shown above; sadly, most every picture link posted in the Amberbama thread is now broken; amazing what can happen in six years, huh?


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Saturday Night Surprise

As I mentioned last Friday, I had made plans to go visit Clan Stoneheart on Saturday and they, in turn had formulated some sort of secret evening activity, the only clue to which was the instruction to bring nice clothes to wear. When I mentioned this to some of the Singles on Friday night, somebody suggested that they were going to drag me to the ballet, but I knew it couldn't be anything like that, or else Zinger wouldn't have gone along with it. My thoughts were running something along the lines of a play, but I really had no clue what the night might bring.

I met up with Zinger and Pooh-bear in McKinney for lunchat Scotty P's, and then headed to Casa de Stoneheart where I got to see their puppy Drake and play Guitar Hero for the first time. After awhile we had dinner at Ralph and Kacoo's, an experience which was made especially memorable by the fact that Pooh-bear and I saw a large dead rodent out front as we were walking in; nothing to whet your appetite like a decaying rat, eh? After that we headed back to their place and changed into our nicer clothes and headed out to the mystery event. By this point all I knew was that it was nearby and that they'd purchased tickets in advance. We wound up in downtown McKinney, and headed to the McKinney Performing Arts Center, which is housed in the old McKinney courthouse. It wasn't until we were at the main entrance to the theater that Pooh-bear handed me my ticket and I got to find out what we were there to see: an evening of comedy with former Saturday Night Live cast member Victoria Jackson.

Yeah, never would have guessed that in a million years.

As we were waiting for the show to start, Zinger and I were discussing our memories of Victoria Jackson. I mentioned how she always used to do handstands during the Weekend Update, usually with some sort of festive pants on; he remembered her wearing something patriotic, and I remembered her becoming a Christmas tree. Sadly, couldn't find pictures of either of those, but I did find her declaring her love for her then-boyfriend/now-husband, a Miami, FL, police officer.

Zinger then mentioned that she is a "close personal friend of Al," and wondered if she might mention this; and if you're wondering just who this "Al" is, then I must stress that if Zinger or I ever mention an Al, the odds are pretty good that it's this Al

I then asked "Hey, wasn't she in that old skit 'Their eyes were on their breasts'? I"m pretty sure she played the marksman, Eagleboob." Zinger agreed that he seemed to recall that as well.

By the time the evening was over each of these memories would in some way be reference in her show.

But before we got to enjoy Ms. Jackson, we first got to listen to the spiel of the MPAC director who talked about the upcoming events and raved about the new McKinney Hilton -- "Where the Stars Stay." Then we got to listen to the warm-up act, a local "comedienne"* named Laura Bartlett. Oh, did I say "got to"? I really meant "had to." Wow, was that painful. Never been so glad to see someone leave the stage in all my life. But that train-wreck was quickly washed out of my mind by the joy that was the comedy stylings of Victoria Jackson. Now, her comedy might not be the most cerebral, but her delivery is golden.

I won't bore you by trying to recreate her stand-up routine here, but I would be remiss if I didn't at least talk about the portions of her act where she addressed the things Zinger and I had been discussing prior to the show

  • Early on in the act she recited her poem "The Life of a Gymnast" while doing a handstand; sadly, the microphone placement made it impossible to actually hear the poem

  • While talking about her early days dating her now-husband the cop, she discussed how the first time he came out to see the show was the day after the first time he was forced to kill someone in the line of duty, and how odd it was for him to be coming up to New York in the wake of that and see his girlfriend playing in the skit where she had eyes on her breasts** and how that kind of made them think they lived very different sorts of lives . . .

  • She not only mentioned playing Weird Al's girlfriend in UHF and how it made her actually fall in love with him, she also briefly mentioned her experience filming it in the bustling metropolis of Tulsa, OK, Pooh-bear's old stomping grounds, and how Fran Drescher summed the city up thusly: "There's nothing to do here!"***
There were two other items of notice in her performance. The first was her descriptions of her relationship with her husband, wherein she talked about how she brought necessary chaos into his overly ordered life, and how he had told her that the only possible outcome to their marriage was that whichever one of them slipped into dementia first would be tortured by the other; these and other comments elicited much knowing laughter from Pooh "Necessary Chaos" bear and Zinger "Overly Ordered" Stoneheart.

The other interesting thing was when she stopped in the middle of the set-up to one of her songs to suddenly ask "How many of you here tonight are Christians?" After a good portion of the audience clapped, she exclaimed with great relief how nice it was to be somewhere where people understood her, and how she had been yelled at twice in L.A. for saying she was voting for McCain. She even did an encore where she played not one of her silly songs, but one which she had written for a friend who had just lost her child, a song which was filled with Christian imagery and ideals.

All in all, a very entertaining night, and a very welcome surprise. Muchas gracias, Zinger y Pooh-bear.

*Quotation marks added at Zinger's request; he also would have accepted a footnote of "I use the term loosely"
**When she mentioned this skit, it took all of my willpower not to yell out "Eagleboob!"

***For extra enjoyment, please imagine Victoria Jackson doing her Fran Drescher impression while saying this.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TV Tues - The Season's In Full Swing Now

Think I'll continue my format of reporting on previous week's viewage followed by list of the upcoming week's planned viewing schedule which, if nothing else, helps me keep track of what I want to watch and what I need to review.



(Fox, 8:00) - Second episode held my interest fairly well; the lead still needs to develop more of a personality, but watching the crazy father and snarky son dynamic play out more than makes up for a lackluster lead.

Wipeout (ABC, 7:00) - Extremely disapointed in the season finale, which was basically just another clip show. Plus, the thing about the hosts running the course? Totally a gag. Oh, well; maybe they're get enough complaints that they'll force Jill and the two Johns to do it in season two.

Privileged (CW, 8:00) - After a really strong first episode, the second ep was a bit of a let down. Still enjoyed it over-all, but felt like both Laurel and Megan made some boneheaded moves defied their characters actual intelligence.


UFC Fight Night
(Spike, 7:00): Taped, but haven't watched yet

Ultimate Fighter: Team Nogueira vs. Team Mir (Spike, 9:00): Man, did Clay Guida's brother come off as a dope or what? And while Junie seems to be right on the border between "annoying" and "entertaining," I'm really glad he beat the crap out of Mr. "I should have lived during the time of Napoleon, Gengis Khan, Alexander the Great, I should be out there pillaging and #$*&#, y'know, straight up gangster." Anyone who makes a speech like that deserves to get beat down; the fact that he gave up in between rounds when his head had stopped ringing long enough for him to realize he was getting his butt stomped made it even better. And Junie's comment on it -- "I was hoping he'd go another round so I could work on my cardio" -- tipped him slightly onto the "entertaining" side of the line for now. Oh, and I agree with Nogueira and Mir: foot stomping sucks*

MONDAY, Sept 22

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox 7:00) : Yes, I'm finally caught up on this show; we'll see how long that streak lasts once Chuck comes back next week. Enjoying this season quite a bit so far, especially the idea that Cameron is a little damaged in the CPU, which makes for some interesting moments.

Heroes (NBC 7:00) : Will keep this as spoiler free as possible: the identity of the shooter took me totally by surprise, but a very interesting twist, as was the "return" of two supposedly dead characters. Not so surprising, however, was the fact that I still hope that the next time they promise a character's going to die, it'll be Mohinder; every time I think he's as annoying as humanly possible, he finds new depths of aggravating behavior to drive me to distraction. I was also pretty peeved at how Hiro reacted to what he saw in the future; I know he can by myopic at times, but come on!

Big Bang Theory (CBS 7:00) : So glad this is back. Sheldon rocks; doped up Sheldon rocks even harder.

How I Met Your Mother (CBS 7:30) : Yeah, don't quite agree with the "be willing to lie about liking something just to appease your crazy fiance" philosophy, but other than that, an enjoyable enough ep.

Two and a Half Men (CBS 8:00) : Nice to see Rena Sofer running around, after she was so critically under-utilized as Nathan's paralyzed wife on Heroes; too bad her character probably won't be coming back. And how about Jake, all tall and deep voiced and stuff? Puberty's coming at him hard, and sadly it seems like he's entered the awkward phase . . . I mean in terms of his acting. The same thing that's happened to tons of child sitcom stars over the years; once the hormones hit and the cuteness factor declines, you suddenly find it much harder to overlook their inept line readings.

Worst Week (CBS 8:30) : Got to the part where the main character urinated on the meal meant for his future father-in-law's birthday dinner and decided I'd had enough.




(Fox, 8:00) tonight's ep has psychic phenomena and fossilized corpses; who could ask for anything more?

Privileged (CW, 8:00)

The Mentalist (CBS, 8:00): New procedural about a former fraud psychic who now uses his observational skills to help solve crimes; sorta like Psych meets CSI. Has gotten some fairly positive reviews so far so I'll probably give it a try, although why it has to be on at the exact same time as the only other two show I'm watching on Tuesday is beyond me.



Ultimate Fighter: Team Nogueira vs. Team Mir (Spike, 9:00)


Knight Rider (NBC 7:00): Unless I hear from reputable sources that this show kicks major butt, I shall be giving it a pass

Gary Unmarried (CBS 7:30): New sitcom starring Jay Mohr as a single dad.



My Name Is Earl (NBC 7:00, 7:30): Back-to-back episodes are supposed to bring the show back to its original mission statement after last year's jail-driven detour. The 7:00 ep will feature Seth Green as a former Make a Wish Foundation kid who had his wish ruined by Earl.

Survivor: Gabon (CBS 7:00, 2 hours): Can you believe we're up to season 17 of this now? Craziness.

The Office (NBC 8:00, 1 hour): The main plot revolves around the office crew taking part in a weight watchers program, which should be fun; also looking forward to seeing how the Dwight/Angela/Andy triangle plays out.

Grey's Anatomy (ABC, 8:00, 2 hours): Here's hoping that Shonda Rhimes' promise that those promos where Rose tells Derek she's pregnant with his kid are full of crap is true.

SUNDAY, Sept 28


The Simpsons (Fox 7:00)
King of the Hill (Fox 7:30)
Family Guy (Fox 8:00)
American Dad (Fox 8:30)

MONDAY, Sept 29


Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
(Fox 7:00)

Chuck (NBC 7:00): Chuck's back! Woo-hoo! And he asks Sarah out on a date! And Michael Clark Duncan is the episode's villain!

Big Bang Theory (CBS 7:00) : Next week's ep features the return of Sara Gilbert to the show, which has signed her on as a regularly recurring character this season.

How I Met Your Mother (CBS 7:30)

Heroes (NBC 8:00)

Two and a Half Men (CBS 8:00)

Life (NBC 9:00): I never saw any of this show last season, but Li'l Random was a big fan, so I'm sure it's got to have something going for it. But having missed all of season 1, won't be jumping into season 2.


Worst Week (CBS 8:30) : Seriously: guy urinating on a cooked goose is a deal-breaker for me.

*The toenail on my left big toe is still messed up from a particularly vicious foot stomp from The Lovable PigPen a couple of months ago.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Movie Mon. - "Annubis, Egyptian Jackal God? Or Melted Football Shape?"

Speed Racer: Big screen live action adaption of nostalgia laden cartoon which was not only filled with striking visuals, but also nowhere near as bad as I had feared it would be. As a matter of fact, I actually wound up liking it. Yes, during a couple of the races the CGI was a bit too much like watching a gigantic video game; and sure, once or twice I was worried the flashy lights might trigger an epileptic seizure or two; and, of course, there were times I wanted the comic relief younger brother and monkey to just drop off the face of the planet. But, on the whole, the Wachowski Brothers managed to create a film that captured the style and energy of the animated series without totally compromising the reality of the film, something that other live action attempts at adapting cartoons (The Flintstones, Scooby Doo) weren't able to accomplish. Not sorry I waited for it to come out on video, but also not sorry I rented it.

Snow Angels:
Fairly depressing drama that tells two parallel stories: the first about a teenage boy struggilng with his parents' separation, and the second about the boy's former babysitter (Kate Beckinsale) who is struggling with being a single mom after kicking out her volatile (and suicideal) husband (Sam Rockwell). Although well done and well acted -- especially Rockwell as the down-and-out ex trying to get his life together and failing pretty misearbly -- I just never connected well enough with any of the characters for their dramas to effect me on a deeper level. Can't really pick out any glaring reasons why this was; could have just been that I was watching it while fighting off a major sinus attack. But, for whatever reason, I can neither condemn nor recommend this film Kind of ambivalent towards it.

Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film:
Documentary about the popular horror sub-genre, chronicling the many ups and downs in the popularity of the slasher genre over the last 50 years or so. Probably only interesting to fans of the genre, but if you are a fan, then there's some nice interviews here with some of the big names in the biz, from Wes Craven to John Carpenter to Tom Savini to the screen-writer of Psycho. Also, the girl who played the main character in Sleepaway Camp, who reveals that she had no clue about the ending until she saw it on the big-screen with friends; bet that gave her nightmares. Some may quibble about the films it focuses on and the films it ignores -- trust me, there are some really heated threads on the IMDB boards -- but whether you agree with the pool of films that it draws from or not, there's some interesting information to be gleaned here.

Documentary about the Young@Heart chorus, a group of senior citizens who travel the world performing songs by The Beatles, Sonic Youth, Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, etc. The film is at its best when it allows the seniors to just be themselves; anytime the director steps in to ask questions or do the voice-over narration, the film just came to a screeching halt for me. I also found the director of the group to be more of an annoyance than anything else, and often wished that some of the sassier seniors would tell him off, but I guess none of them wanted to kicked out of the group; either that or they actually like the guy. A lot of the success of the group comes from humor garnered from the juxtaposition of the elderly boogieing on down to James Brown or doing a disco classic

while other times they capitilize on the extra poingentcy added to more sentimental songs, such as "Forever Young" or this Coldplay tune

And then there was this nice cover of a Talking Heads song*

which made me track down the original version

which in turn made me want to go and rent the Talking Heads movie True Stories which I haven't seen in ages, and which contains one of my favorite non sequiter musical sequences of all time

But I digress . . .

The Plague Dogs: Animated film based on Richard Adams' novel about two dogs who escape from a government lab and must learn how to survive in the wild while being hunted down by farmers who have become convinced the dogs are savage beasts infected with the plague. Pales in comparison with Adams' much superior Watership Down.

Quirky comedy about Salman, a terminal screw-up (writer and director Scott Penergrast) who moves in with his semi-estranged sister-in-law (Lisa Kudrow, playing the uptight-and-bitter part of her acting range) to help her with the kids while his brother is overseas and who, when his help turns out to be more of a hindrance, gets a job as mascot for her company BlueNeXion

Defintiely my favorite movie of the week; would have been prime Odd Squodd material if Li'l Brother hadn't gotten shipped off to Lufkin. Kudrow's character did grate on my nerves at times with her short temper with Salman at the beginning, but all of that was washed away as soon as he put on the mascot costume. I don't know what it was, but pretty much every sight gag based around that costume cracked me up, as did his oldest nephew's homicidal tendencies.** Throw in some hilarious random pieces of dialogue -- "Alright, now, which night-light? Annubis, Egyptian Jackal God? Or melted football shape? " -- and a realtively dark outlook on life with just a tinge of hope, and you have a film that was made just for my people.

*With just a sprinkling of The Isley Brothers' "Shout" thrown in for good measure
**If you don't listen closely you might miss him whispering "When Uncle Salman's asleep let's burn down the house."


Friday, September 19, 2008

Fragmented Friday - Five for Five

  • Earlier today I got a message from Zinger: "This could be your first full week of posting in a long time" Well, despite being nearly overwhelmed by a desire not to post just to be contrary, I finally decided to buckle down and type something up, making this my first M-F posting schedule since last June.

  • Despite the great benefits of the saline nasal rinse, I have been having a horrible time with my allergies these last couple of weeks. I've had to restock on Claritin-D and antihistamines to keep things under control; when I went to watch PigPen and Cap'n Bumper play softball on Wednesday I barely made it through the first game of their double header, and had to bow out of the second one. I'm afraid I might also have to cut short my time at the Single's campfire at Cap'n Cluck's parents' house tonight, which is a shame, since they're selling the house making this our last one there.

  • Tomorrow I'm heading down to Lucas to visit Clan Stoneheart. All through the week Zinger's been asking me what I was wanting to do while I was down there, and my answer was pretty much a consistent "I dunno." Well, a little while ago he called me to tell me that he and Pooh-bear had come up with something for us to do that night and that I'd want to make sure I brought some slacks and a polo-type shirt with me. Haven't the foggiest idea what we'll be doing, but with luck it will help with blog fodder for next week.

  • Speaking of blog fodder, when I was typing up yesterday's post about short films, it dawned on me that, although I've made passing comments about it and have pledged to go into greater detail several times, I still have not done a full-fledged post about my trip to the Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, AL back in '02. Look for it next Thursday; if it's not here, then I will have failed in my duty as a faithful blogger. But, what else is new?

  • I mentioned that I'd watched one of my tapes with PigPen and Cap'n Peanut on Saturday, but I didn't mention that although PigPen had originally said they would try to make it up here, I wound up watching it at their place. See, during the heaviest part of the rain dumped on us by Ike on Saturday, I texted PigPen to see if they were still coming up; he replied that it would depend on the weather, plus Peanut's parents were taking him out to dinner for his birthday, and there was no telling when they'd get done, but if I wanted, he could let me know when they were back and then I could come down there and watch it. My first thought was "doubt I'll go," since I hate driving in the rain and I hate driving at night, and I really hate driving in the rain at night. Almost immediately following this thought, however, was a practical question I quickly posited to him: "Did you guys get a VCR?" He quickly replied in the negative, saying I would have to provide that as well. Glad I asked, huh? By the time he texted to see if I was still wanting to come down, it was no longer rainign, and I was so restless after a day of botched plans* that I didn't even let the worry that it might start raining again keep me from hopping in the car with my VCR, which I had stuffed in my backpack to help keep it dry. No sooner had I started the car than I got another text from PigPen reminding me that I needed to bring the VCR. I shook my head at his lack of faith in me and backed out of the driveway, not realizing until I was half-way there that while I had remembere the VCR, I had forgotten its remote control.

  • Only one more week until Miss ArkanSass comes to visit; hopefull Li'l Random will be back from deployment by then . . .

  • There's been a small explosion of familiar faces popping up on Facebook recently, both from high school** and college. Two of the Wyandottians, neither of whom I've seen or talked to in ages, both mentioned that they've read my blog, which surprised me; I have this mental image that my blog only gets read by people I have regular contact with. Of course, one of them mentioned she found it through Redneck Diva, which explains it.

  • One of the Facebook features is a "People You May Know" suggestion, which shows you the names of other Facebook members who have at least two friends in common with you. Most of the time I have no idea who the suggested people are, and so have to look at the common friends to find out why they've been suggested; generally, the common friends will make sense (Zinger and Pooh-bear; Cap'n Bubbles and her roomied Brown-Eyed Girl; etc.), but every once in a while there will be one that throws me, like when I saw that one of the suggested people was friends with my long-time Parkerite friend Coronela and also with my young cousin who's a senior in high school; turns out the suggested friend is classmates with my cousing, and one of Coronela's step-sisters. Last night I had four or five suggestions pop up who were all friends with a Wyandottian who was a Senior when I was in 8th grade and also with my college roomie Wrath teh Berzerkr's younger sibling; not sure where the connection there comes in.

*This was also the day that my movie watching and costume shopping with Li'l Random got scrapped due to his being deployed.
**So far, only two people from my graduating class have joined, one of whom pretty much joined, accepted my friend request, and hasn't been back one since. Was it something I said?


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Would You Like to See My Generic Movie Child?

One of the things I love about living in the Internet age is how much easier it is to get access to films it would have previously been next to impossible to see without attending numerous film festivals. For example, when looking for clips of the film Kabluey to use for my Movie Monday post, I stumbled across two of the director's early short films, both of which are very odd, and both of which made me laugh out loud: the prosaically titled Anna is Being Stalked

and the more esoteric The Delicious (part 1)

(part 2)

Sadly, his first film, Group Therapy, doesn't seem to be available at this time.

Anyway, while watching this examples of oddity in short film form, it made me think of my favorite short film from The Sidewalk Film Festival*: Fits and Starts.

Can't explain why I love that so much, but I do; hard to wrap my head around the fact that the writers of it later penned the script for License to Wed.

*A.K.A. "The Only Film Festival I've Been To," or "The Film Festival Where Amber Benson of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Gave Me an Altoid"


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Written Word Wednesday - Playing Catch-Up Again

Man, I am sooooooooo far behind on book reviews it's not even funny. Thanks heavens I've been using the Visual Bookshelf application on Facebook to keep track of what I'm reading since my last review post about three months ago.

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff: Paranoia-fueled SF novel about Jane Charlotte, a woman in a mental institution relating to her psychiatrist the story of how she was recruited to a super-secret organization devoted to fighting the forces of evil as part of their more militant division, nicknamed "Bad Monkeys." And as the novel progresses and the psychiatrist tries to dig through the maze of contradictions and consistencies in the story, the question that is raised again and again is just how reliable a narrator is Charlotte? All in all, an entertaining read, although I was a bit let down by the ending.

Blood Follows: a Tale of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach by Steven Erikson: A companion novella to Erikson's Malazan books, this is the first in a series of brief tales focusing on the eccentric and deadly necromancers from Memories of Ice. This one tales the story of how their manservant Emancipor Reese first came into their employ. Each of the Bauchelain and Broach are short, easy reads, and a bit more humorous in tone than the bulk of the Malazan series proper, albeit gallows humor more often than not.

The Healthy Dead: a Tale of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach by Steven Erikson: The second Bauchelain and Broach novella centers around a city where all vice has been stamped out, a condition that doesn't really sit well with our titular characters. This one ramps up the dark humor quite a bit.

Blackburn by Bradley Denton: The story of Jimmy Blackburn, a serial killer who operates by his won warped code of ethics. The novel jumps back and forth in time, with the main chapters detailing his life and how he came to be a killer, with the interludes between chapters giving snapshots of his various victims. Very dark sense of humor, which I liked.

From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain by Minister Faust: Novel written in the form of a self-help book for super-heores: Unmasked! When Being A Superhero Can't Save You From Yourself: Self-Help Guide for Today's Hyper Hominids. When I first heard about the book, I assumed it would be a collection of self-contained vignettes -- one chapter focusing on a Superman-analogue, one chapter on the Batman-analogue, etc. Instead, the various stand-ins for the various super-hero archetypes are part of a therapy group and therefore interact continuously, even more so as one of the greatest heroes of their age is found dead and some among them suspect foul play. Loved this book, not only for its super-hero aspects, but for the send-up it gives of self-help books and pop psychology, as the "author" Dr. Brain creates incredibly detailed (and entertainingly absurd) metaphor after metaphor with no hint of irony - well no hint from Dr. Brain, that is, but buckets of it from Faust. I was a bit disappointed in the ending, but over-all, well worth my time.

The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad by Minister Faust: After finishing From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain I immediately tracked down this, Faust's first novel, which is the story of the self-named Coyote Kings, the writer Hamza and the engineer Yehat, two highly intelligent best friends who find their world turned upside down by the appearance of a mysterious woman whose interest in Hamza masks a deeper, mystically driven purpose. The book won me over almost instantly with its use of clever RPG-style Character Sheets inserted throughout the novel whenever a chapter suddenly introduces a different character's POV for the first time; to see an example, click here and then click on "Excerpt." Faust juggles quite a few different character POVs, and does a great job giving each one a distinctive and equally engaging voice. This one is still very much aimed at SF/Fantasy fans.

Flicker by Theodore Roszak: Requested this novel from ILL when I read that it was going to be adapted by Darren Aronofsky; sadly, I'm not sure that's going to happen now, which is a shame, because I think of anyone could do justice to the book, it's Aronofsky. The plot revolves around a young film student who becomes fascinated with the work of Max Castle, a deceased B-movie director whose uncut films seem to contain a strange power over their audience. Not what I was expecting, but a very well-written book; one of those that sucked me in and contribute to sleepless nights as I found it increasingly difficult to put down. Definitely recommended for those of you who are film buffs.

The Prestige by Christopher Priest: The novel which served as the basis of the Hugh Jackman/Christian Bale film about feuding stage magicians in the late 1800s. As should be expected, there are quite a few changes from the novel to the film, such as the reason for Angier's hatred of Borden and the way Angier's version of the Transported Man trick lead to the deadly resolution of their feud; subsequently, even though a few of the surprises in the book might be spoiled by seeing the film, there are still enough differences to keep fans of the film guessing while reading the novel.

Curfew by Phil Rickman: British horror novel about Crybbe, a small village on the border of Wales and England whose dark history is about to be revived by a millionaire record mogul whose obsession with turning Crybbe into the new center for New Age mysticism, little realizing that he is tampering with deadly forces beyond his control. Another of those books that I found hard to put down once I started it; once I was done I put in ILL requests for the rest of Rickman's supernatural novels, and am expecting the first two to arrive in the next day or so.

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman: Super-hero novel that alternates between two different POVs: Dr. Impossible, the mad scientists arch nemesis of the world's greatest super-hero, Corefire, as he escapes from jail and begins his latest plot for world domination; and Fatale, a rookie super-hero who has just been drafted into the premiere super-team The Champions who have just reformed with one major purpose -- to find CoreFire, who has gone missing. I enjoyed the Dr. Impossible sections more than the Fatale sections, if for no other reason than it's always fun to read the ramblings of a madman. Plus, the novel's tendency to deconstruct the super-hero genre alway felt more natural coming from the hyper-intelligent and experienced Impossible, while Fatale's observations came across more like exposition. Regardless, a highly entertaining book for any fan of super-heroics.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

TV Tues - Shout Out to Uncle Ben

Okay, here are my thoughts on the few shows I said I'd watch in last week's post.


(Fox, 7:00): It took a little while for the show to get going for me; I really hated how horribly the bigwig treated what's-her-name (yeah, I'm not vested enough now to remember character names, and am at this moment too lazy to look it up) early on, and the mad scientist was just a little too mad in his early scenes. However, by the time the episode was over, I was mostly won over, largely thanks to Joshua Jackson's wisecracking self. That and the little touches of pure oddity, like the trio watching Spongebob with a cow standing right behind them, definitely show me that the show has potential.

Privileged (CW, 8:00): Was very pleasantly surprised by this one, liked it quite a bit more than I expected. Cheyenne from Reba did a great job in the lead and, well, I just can't help but like a show that includes the "with great power comes great responsibility" line followed immediately by a "Shout out to Uncle Ben" accompanied by a little raise-the-roof gesture. As long as the next few episodes maintain the snappy writing, I'll be in for the long haul.

Wipeout (ABC, 7:00 and 8:00): Laughed and laughed and laughed. And laughed some more when I re-watched the tape with PigPen and Cap'n Peanut on Saturday. Dang, I love this show.



World Extreme Cagefighting
(Versus, 8:00): Well, PigPen's softball game did get rained out, so I wound up taping and not watching it that night so I could watch it with PigPen and Cap'n Peanut on Saturday. I also made sure to avoid Versus the rest of the week so as not to accidentally catch the results of any of the fights. Therefore, it wasn' t until we started to watch the tape that we discovered that the fights had been canceled due to Hurricane Ike and is now scheduled for the first Wednesday in November.

FRIDAY, Sept 12

America's Toughtest Jobs (NBC 7:00): Despite the best of intentions, I didn't wind up watching this once I realized that I could probably watch the first few episodes on Hulu and watch the show unfold naturally with no spoilers of who's getting kicked off when. Sure enough, they're all available for online viewing. Now I just need to find the time to watch them . . .


Burn After Reading
Maybe I jinxed myself by including a movie in my TV Tuesday post last week; I got a call from Li'l Random about an hour or so before we were supposed to meet up for the movie telling me that he was on his way to Austin for work. So, still no new Coen Bros. goodness for me.

MONDAY, Sept 15

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
(Fox 7:00): Still have not watched the season premiere, so am now two weeks behind on the show.

So, that's the week that was . . . what about the week to come?



(Fox, 8:00) - Note the move to its regular time

Wipeout (ABC, 7:00) - This is the season finale, which will be an hour and a half long. Biggest draw is that this week the two hosts will try to run the course. Don't know if that means just one leg of it or all of them, but as long as I get to see the two Johns face-plant on the Big Balls, my week will be complete.

Privileged (CW, 8:00)


(Fox, 7:00): Flunky Lover wouldn't forgive me if I didn't mention the season premier of House on here, even though I still haven't become a regular viewer.

(CW, 7:00): Probably the last time I'll mention this on here, but figured I'd give a heads up to all of you old-school 90210 fans that tonight they'll be revealing which old school 90210 heart-throb is the father of Kelly's son.



UFC Fight Night
(Spike, 7:00): Here's hoping tonight's live fights -- including a bout between form Ultimate Fighter champ Mac Danzig and one of The Lovable PigPen's favorite fighters, Clay Guida -- actually happen.

Ultimate Fighter: Team Nogueira vs. Team Mir (Spike, 9:00): This season the show's going back to it's old "two weight class" structure with 16 lightweights and 16 light heavyweights. While I always look forward to the show, I can't help but feel that neither of the coaches will be even a fraction as entertaining as Rampage and Forrest were last season.



(No channel at no time) Still one more week until my Thursday night schedule starts to fill up


(CW 8:00): As much as I loved Supernatural, I'm afraid it was a victim of the horrible pile-up of shows I wanted to watch on Thursday nights, and I'm now a season and a half behind. One of these days I'm going to rent the DVDs, I swear . . . Anyhoo, tonight's the season premiere, for those of you who are still faithful fans.

FRIDAY, Sept 19


America's Toughtest Jobs
(NBC 7:00): All depends on if I find the time to watch the other eps online or not

SUNDAY, Sept 20


60th Annual Emmy Awards (ABC, 7:00) My general policy on most awards shows these days is to tape them and then fast-forward to the parts I care about; in the last couple of years, these tapes have largely gone unwatched. We'll see if this one is any different.

MONDAY, Sept 22 (a.k.a Beginning of The Big Week)


Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
(Fox 7:00): No, really, honest, I mean it this time! Oh, all right, I'll probably be taping and not watchin

Heroes (NBC 7:00): Three hours of Heroes goodness, although the first hour will just be behind-the-scenes interviews and such, with Chapter 3: Villains actually starting at 8:00.

Big Bang Theory (CBS 7:00): The return of last season's best new sitcom -- which, granted, isn't saying all that much considering the dearth of quality sitcom premieres last year, but the fact remains that Big Bang Theory kicked butt. The premiere promises to be entertaining as Penny confides something to Sheldon in confidence and he, unable to reconcile his promise to secrecy with his obligation to share information with Leonard, puts him into a typical Sheldon meltdown.

How I Met Your Mother (CBS 7:30): Following up on the two big cliff-hangers of last season: will Stella say yes, and how does Barney cope with his realization that he's in love with Robin? I'd be lying if I said that second storyline didn't have me a tad concerned, but I'm going to give the show the benefit of the doubt.

Two and a Half Men (CBS 8:00): The season premiere finds Charlie wondering if an ex's son who looks suspiciously like him could be his. Not exactly ground-breaking plot material, but I'm sure the writers will do something original with it *knock on wood*


Worst Week (CBS 8:30): This new sitcom adapted from the BBC sitcom The Worst Week of My Life starts out by chronicling the disaster-filled week leading up to a couple's wedding day; subsequent story arcs will follow other disastrous weeks. This one has gotten some positive buzz, but just what little I've read makes it sound like the comedy will be of the Meet the Parents variety, which means it will probably make me want to kill myself two minutes in. But, I'll give it at least 1 minute 59 seconds of my time to prove me wrong . . .


Monday, September 15, 2008

Movie Mon. - "You Have the Vocabulary of a Drunken Spice Miner and the Hairstyle of an Arrakeen Whore."

The Burbs: 80s comedy about a group of suburbanites who become convinced the their reclusive new neighbors are up to no good. This is one that I just never got around to seeing when it first came out, but which got added to my queue after it got mentioned a recent Onion A.V. Club article about Joe Dante's work on Gremlins 2* -- and yes,that's why I re-watched Gremlins 2 last week. Anyway, I appreciated the obvious horror film touches throughout the film, and was mildly amused by most of the humor. Think my favorite aspect of the film was Corey Feldman as the neighborhood kid who keeps inviting friends over to his house to watch his paranoid neighbors pursue their witch-hunt.

Masters of Horror: The Screwfly Solution:
This installment of MoH got moved in my queue due to the fact that it was directed by Joe Dante. The plot revolves around a strange virus which only effects men, turning them into vicious killers anytime they become aroused. Not one of the stronger installments of the series.

Be Kind Rewind:
Mildly disappointing film from director Michel Gondry about a couple of dim-bulbs who start to make their own versions of movies after an accident destroys every film in their video store. The sequences where they're busy making their movies work really well -- especially the first big montage which is filled with trademark Gondry goodness -- while pretty much everything else falls flat. Although, maybe I just expected too much from it.

Who Can Kill a Child?:
70s horror film about a British couple who go to a quiet island off the coast of Spain on holiday only to find that all the children on the island have become homicidal and wiped out all the adults** -- yes, I thought of Children of the Corn too when I read the synopsis, but Who Can Kill a Child predates even the King short story by several years. This movie had a lot of potential, but ultimately I was put off by the idiotic behavior of the two main characters, which was often extremely moronic even for a horror movie. It's never good when you're actually relieved that the protagonists are getting bumped off.

The Forbidden Kingdom:
Chinese mythology fueled fantasy about a kid obsessed with Kung-Fu movies who gets mystically transported to ancient China where he is tapped to fulfill a prophecy to release the Monkey King from the clutches of the Jade Warlord with the help of a drunken master (Jackie Chan) and a mysterious monk (Jet Li). Mildly entertaining film has some nice fight scenes with Chan and Li, which is really the only reason anyone wants to see this anyway. I also really enjoyed the initial Monkey King/Jade Warlord duel, some good stuff there.

My Science Project:
80s SF-comedy about a grease monkey who stumbles across an alien artifact and decides to use it as the basis of his school science project, only to have said artifact unleash a space-time warp that brings people and creatures from the past and future into the present. This is one that I saw several times when I was younger, and it holds up better than I thought it would, but still not one I'd urge you to rush out and rent.

Baby Mama:
Slightly uneven comedy from Tina Fey who stars as a successful business woman who hires a surrogate mother (Amy Pohler) after being told that she herself is incapable of becoming pregnant. Fey and Pohler both do their typical shtick here, which isn't necessarily a bad thing if you're a fan of their work, which I typically am. However, my favorite parts of the film were those dealing with Fey's New Age-y boss, played by Steve Martin; the scene were he "rewards" Fey for her good job with five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact had me rolling.

The Grand:
Largely improvised mockumentary about a group of poker players vying for the winner-take-all stakes of The Grand poker tournament.

A little uneven, as many of these highly improvised films can be, but overall a pretty funny little movie. The biggest point of interest is that the final table of the tournament was played for real; going in, nobody knew which of the six actors would wind up the winner and in fact, the director says that he was really surprised by who the winner was. My favorite scenes in the film were those dealing with Chris Parnell's character, the brilliant but socially awkward player who still lives with his mother -- upon whom he heaps copious abuse -- and who likes to pretend he's a Mentat from Dune, reciting the Mentat creed while comparing other players to Arrakeen whores and Romulan Birds of Prey.

The Fall:
Visually engaging film from the director of The Cell tells the story of a hospitalized stunt-man (Lee Pace from Pushing Daisies) who tells a fantastical tale to a little girl in order to get her to steal morphine for him

Definitely my favorite of all the films I watched this week, well worth watching for the visuals alone.

That particular column, "The New Cult Canon" is one of my favorite weekly features of the A.V. Club, and has given me much in the way of fodder for Odd Squodd movie nights.
**If this sounds familiar but you don't recognize the name, it's probably because the movie was originally released in the U.K. and U.S. not with the English translation of its original title --
¿Quién puede matar a un niño? -- but under around six different titles including Death is Child's Play, Island of Death, Island of the Damned, Lucifer's Curse, Trapped, and The Killer's Playground. Out of all of the titles, I think the original works best


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Heat, Nor Gloom of Night . . .

Yesterday evening, as I was coming home from work, I decided that it was raining lightly enough that I would go ahead and stop at the corner mailbox to pick up the mail, which was to include at least a couple of Netflix. So you can imagine my surprise when I started to pull over to the curb and realized that the mailboxes serving all of Benjiman Street were there no more. All that was left was the concrete slab with holes in it to indicate where the mailboxes had been.

I was, to say the least, nonplussed.

My perplexity soon turned to frustration when I got to the house and tried to contact the post office, only to find that there were no phone numbers available in the local phone book other than the generic 1-800 number for the US Postal Service, and that the number I finally found online for the Denton office gave me nothing more than a listing of the hours and address. Still, at least that listing reminded me that the Post Office was open until 6, so I hopped in my car and headed over there to find out if anybody knew anything; upon reaching the building and seeing the long line of people waiting to be helped, I quickly regretted not grabbing my copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell to read while I waited.

After about 15 minutes, one of the workers who had been helping only people there to pick up packages and certified letters and the like finally ran out of people to help, and so called out "Does anybody have any quick questions?" I indicated that I did and walked up to her saying "So, I got home from work and found that the corner mailbox for our street was gone --"

"Benjiman Street?" she said immediately, which was an instant relief for me, since it meant that I wasn't going to have to wait for someone to track down information. Although, I quickly learned that while she was aware of the problem, she wasn't all that well informed on what was being done about it, quickly scribbling down a number for me to call the next morning and leaving two names that I should ask for. "Call around 8:30" she said. "That's usually a good time to catch them." She started to turn to the next person with a question behind me, but I couldn't let the encounter go without asking "Do you know what happened to the mailbox?" She mumbled something about a city truck crashing into it, but wasn't much more forthcoming, so I headed home, still a bit put out at the inconvenience of it all*, but satisfied at least to know that I had a lead on some answers.

Until this morning, that is, when my call to the number she provided just gave me the same recording about hours of operation. At the end of the message there's a beep, almost like an answering machine, but nowhere in the message does it say "leave a message and we'll get back to you" or anything even remotely close to that, but I went ahead and spoke my name and number into the phone anyway, just in case. But, the end of the day came around, and still no call from anyone from the postal service, so I once again headed to the main post office, this time armed with my book to help pass the time in line. The lady who helped me this time was only slightly more informative -- it was apparently a City of Denton water truck that took out the mailboxes and there was no word on when the boxes would be replaced-- but vastly more helpful, as she actually retrieved my mail for me. Unfortunately, until the boxes are replaced, I'll have to go down to the post office and stand in line to pick stuff up. Pretty sure my trips will be timed to coincide with the arrival of new Netflix.

*Luckily I soon found the cure for my frustrations: two hours of people face-planting and falling in mud and water. Wipeout: the cure for what ails ya!


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

TV Tues - Preparing for the Fall

It's that time of year again, when the non-cable networks roll out their new shows and bring back their old faithfuls. Still not in full swing yet -- the bulk of the returning shows won't be back until the week of the 22nd -- but there's enough to catch my interest. Here's a brief look at what shows I'm planning on watching this week, as well as a few that I'll be skipping but which others might want to try



(Fox, 7:00): Latest show from J.J. Abrams, he of Felicity, Alias, and Lost fame/infamy, this one is about a group who investigates scientific mysteries. One of the most anticipated of all the new shows this season.

Privileged (CW, 8:00): Hour long comedy about a bright and morally upright aspiring writer (Joanna Garcia, playing the opposite of her role as the ditzy eldest daughter on Reba) who is hired to tutor two spoiled brat, Hilton-sister-esque girls. This one has a bit of positive buzz as being both smart and funny, so we'll see how it pans out.

Wipeout (ABC, 7:00 and 8:00): Okay, not exactly a brand new show at this point, but I figured I should at least mention the most entertaining network show to come out over the summer, especially with its two brand new episodes on tonight.


(CW, 7:00): Never really watched the original, so don't have much need to watch the new version, but figure long time 90210 fan PoohBear might be disappointed if I didn't at least give it a shout out



World Extreme Cagefighting
(Versus, 8:00): Assuming his softball game doesn't get rained out tomorrow, The Lovable PigPen will probably be stopping by my place to watch one of his favorite MMA fighters, Urijah Faber, defend his title. Gotta love the WEC with their non-pay-per-view live title fight airings. Also fighting: Jens Pulver.


Do Not Disturb
(Fox, 8:30): Yeah, pretty much every review I've seen for this new Jerry O'Connell vehicle screams out "Don't waste your time!" but I figured I'd be remiss not mentioning it.



(No channel at no time) Yeah, while my glance at the upcoming Fall Schedule grid tells me that Thursday will soon be one of my busiest nights of TV watching, none of the shows I plan on watching will be back for another couple of weeks.


Hole in the Wall:
(Fox 7:00): While this import of the popular Japanese game show revolving around people trying to squeeze through holes on a moving wall is mildly entertaining, I just don't see myself tuning in every week.

FRIDAY, Sept 12


America's Toughtest Jobs
(NBC 7:00): Yes, the show does come on Monday nights, but I missed it last night, and am planning on catching the rerun on Friday. Still haven't been able to catch this at all, but am very intrigued.



Burn After Reading
Okay, technically I plan to be watching this at the theater at some point on Saturday, but since there's nothing on TV worth mentioning, I figured I'd mention this instead. Coen Brothers with George Clooney and Brad Pitt? A must see!

SUNDAY, Sept 14


Nothing!!!!!!! (No channel at no time) Again, there will be stuff to watch eventually on Sundays, but this week, not much, unless you miss tonight's airing of Fringe and want to catch the encore at 7 on Fox.

MONDAY, Sept 15


Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
(Fox 7:00): The season premiere was last night, which I have taped but not yet watched, but as long as it has even a fraction of the quality of the first season, I'll be in it for the long haul.

America's Toughest Jobs (NBC 8:00): Will actually try to catch the new episode on its first airing; wish me luck!


Monday, September 08, 2008

Movie Mon. - Coffin Filled With Chaos

Wizard of Gore: Disappointing sub-par remake of the semi-classic cult film about a stage magician who hypnotized his audiences so they don't realize that the deadly deeds he does on stage are real. Long-time blog monkeys might vaguely recall how excited I was when I first heard about this film due to the director having cast The Creepiness Trifecta, a.k.a. Crispin Glover, Jeffrey Combs, and Brad Douriff, who turned out to play the killer magician, his geek (in the original "bite the heads off of live animals" definition of the word), and the shady dealer in alternative medicine who is somehow involved in all of the crazy business, respectively. However, Glover comes off more goofy than creepy; likewise Douriff is more of a thug, and Combs is so totally hidden in wig, fake beard, and makeup that I wasn't even sure until the end that it was him and not Glover in a double roll. Grnted, all three did a good job with what they were given, but sadly, what they were given wasn't all that much to go on. Add to this the fact that there's not a semi-likable character in the whole film (including nominal "hero" Kip Pardue) and a pretty incomprehensible and pointless plot, and you have a film that I could have gone without.

Automaton Transfusion:
So-so super-speed-zed-word flick focusing on a group of high school students who are on the run from a town filled with the ravenous un-dead. Annoying characters and shakey/jerky camera-work made this one a big turn off for me.

American Crime:
True life story that was more disturbing and horrifying to me than the previous two reviewed films put together; heck, it was more disturbing than just about any horror film I've seen, period. The movie tells thereal story of Sylvia Likens, a 16 year old (Ellen Page) who in 1965 was imprisoned and tortured by the unbalanced woman (Catherine Keener) who her parents were paying to look after her. And when I say "torture" I don't mean calling her names and making her go to bed without supper, although those did happen; no, I mean out and out physical abuse including brutal beatings and burning . . . and that was by far the least of it. The film is not overly graphic, leaving most of it to your imagination, but just the realization that this woman not only did such horrible things to this poor girl, but also recruited her children and their friends to join in . . . well, let's just say that the reminder that such evil really does exist in the world made for a compelling film, but one that, much like with Schindler's List I never really want to subject myself to again.

Next Avengers:
Animated film that tells the story of the children of The Avengers who have been in hiding for over a decade after their parents were slain by the evil Ultron, who is well on his way to taking over the world until the super-powered kids come out of hiding to avenger their folks. Pretty entertaining film which I enjoyed more than I have most of the recent Marvel straight-to-DVD animated fare -- particularly the previous two Avengers films -- but what really got me excited was the behind the scenes looks at the upcoming DVDs of Hulk vs. Wolverine, which will also feature the animated debut of Deadpool, and Hulk vs. Thor, which is actually more like 'Hulk vs. All of Asgard" Looking forward to both of those.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day:
Enjoyable comedy about a down-on-her-luck nanny (Frances McDormand) in pre-WWII England who bluffs her way into a job as the social secretary of the flighty would-be starlet Delysia Lafosse (the always awesome Amy Adams) who is busy juggling three different men in her attempts to make it on the London stage. A fairly predictable film to be sure, with a very obvious and traditional three-act structure, but neither of those are really detrimental to the enjoyment of the film, as they act to conjure up the spirit of an eariler time which the film strives to capture. Plus, while its plot may be predictable, its still a fun ride getting to the end. Plus, did I mention that Amy Adams is always awesome? She is, y'know.

Rock and Roll High School:
Over-the-top but nonetheless entertaining anarchic 1979 film about the power struggle between a domineering new principal at Vince Lombardi High and the rock and roll loving student body, a struggle that takes place largely to the musical stylings of The Ramones. Sort of wish I'd saved this one for an Odd Squodd movie night; the odd-ball humor of this one fits right in with our sensiblities. Have been really wanting to buy some Ramones music ever since I finished this one.

Gremlins 2:
Sequel to one of my favorite movies as a kid. Despite having a ton of cool varaitions on the Gremlin design, this vastly different take on the misadventures of Gizmo and his malevolent off-spring didn't really rate high on my list back when I first saw it due to its more tongue-in-cheeck, satirical tone, but coming back to it as an adult I could much better appreciate what director Joe Dante was going for, and enjoyed it much more. Plus, that scene with Kate's speech about her hatred of Lincoln's Birthday which blatantly rips on her speech about her hatred of Christmas -- a.k.a. my least favorite scene in the original -- cracks me up just as much now as it did the first time I saw it. Saddened that it's not available on YouTube.

Son of Rambow:
Another "Should have been an Odd Squodd selection" film, this quirky British comedy tells the story of two outcasts boys -- one the school troublemaker and the other a quiet boy from an overly protective religion -- who are inspired by the new smash hit film First Blood to make their own film about Rambo's son. Loved this movie, highly recommended to one and all.

In the Land of Women: Serio-comic film about a heart-broken young writer of soft-core porno* who escapes from L.A. to take care of his ailing (and possibly crazy) grandmother and becomes involved with his new neighbors, a stay at home mom freshly diagnosed with breast cancer, and her rebellious daughter. Li'l Random and I watched this one together, and subsequently whenever I think of Olympia Dukakis' role I will forever remember how Li'l Bro compared her to the hissing possum he had to expell from his garage a while back; every time she's pop up on screen he'd do his possum impression, and I, of course, would die laughing. So, kind of hard to give this one an objective review, seeing how tied in it is to my Odd Squodd viewing experience; still, overall think it was a pretty good flick.

One of the prototypical Spaghetti Westerns -- recently sorta-remade by Takashi Miike as Sukiyaki Western: Django -- this film centers around the steely-eye anti-hero Django, a man in torn up Army gear who drags around a muddy casket** on his quest to find revenge on the racist Major Jackson who was responsible for killing the only woman Django ever loved. Think I safely say that most people agree this is the best Spaghetti Western made by someone not named Sergio Leone and scored by someone not named Ennio Morricone. High praise, there, right? Seriously, though, an interesting and fairly well-made example of the birth of a sub-genre.

*Yeah, that tidbit somehow never made it into any of the press for the film, did it?
**Or as the florid prose of the Netflix synopsis described it, " a coffin filled with chaos"