Tuesday, July 31, 2007

 

Name That Tune



There may be three or four people who'll be interested in this ... and for those three or four people, here ya go.

Here are the specs on the following video:

  • Three and a half minutes

  • 34 song clips

  • One (and one only) appearance on the charts for each of these acts.


How many of these one hit wonders can you name from these clips?

If you're interested the complete list of songs sampled is here.

The first person to guess all the clips correctly without looking at the cheat list will receive a valuable prize package, including:


And any number of other things I'm not authorized to give away.

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Those Test Thingies



Just a few tests I've found, most of them today at the Nexus and at least one at the Hidden Blog:

84%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

I'm convinced that the only reason I scored so high here is that I own my own domain. I don't update frequently enough to be that addicted, right? And why can I hear my wife smirking in the background?



I figured I'd get a PG-13 since I occasionally use the word "sh*t" (and usually don't censor it), but as a parent, I'm cool with the PG. I'd actually prefer a G, but PG is groovy. Maybe I'd get the G if I'd watch my potty mouth.



I am 81% Addicted to Coffee


They say that coffee has the same addictive properties as heroin. That worries me, because I'm seriously addicted to coffee, so it's going to be pure hell when I finally give up heroin. (Har har.)

And why won't this one center? Dammit.




How smart are you?
Am-I-Dumb.com - Are you dumb?

OK, so I are not as smart as The Unseen One, but I knew that going in, and that's cool. I am, however, insecure enough that I know I'll spend the night wondering which questions I missed (since the test doesn't tell you). Oh, well... I guess I can comfort myself with the knowledge that outcome based educators would cushion me in the "doesn't test well" group.



90%The Movie Quiz

FilmCritic.com - Movie Reviews

Alright, I have an excuse here. One of the questions was about Old School and I missed half of that movie. The other question I missed was about The Terminator and I screwed up and clicked the wrong friggin' link! Doh! Other than that, I guess 90% is acceptable for a film geek.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

 

Whatever



It seems like there have been a lot of things I've wanted to blog about lately, but every time I sit and look at the screen I get a big case of "Ho. Hum."

So, in the meantime, here's a baby orangutan in a plastic laundry basket.


I don't know if the baby orangutan came free with the basket or if the basket came free with the baby orangutan. Either way, it's a hell of a deal.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

 

Now THAT'S A Split



In order to keep my embedded video clips fairly uniform, I'm just gonna tag this with my "YouTube" tag. Anyway, check THIS out:



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Martyrdom



Please go read the important and compelling story that accompanies this photo at Michael Yon Online Magazine. It isn't very long and it's definitely worth your time.

It's important that we all understand why our troops are still in Iraq... and that we understand as much as we can about the people in Iraq who need protection, and the people our troops are protecting them from.

It's just as important that we recognize the bravery and motivation of average Iraqis who deal daily with circumstances most of us couldn't imagine.

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Obama: "I Know You Are But What Am I?"



Watching the Democrat Party's candidates scratch and claw at each other is really becoming a great source of entertainment:

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama exchanged barbs over foreign policy Wednesday, amping up the once-cordial rhetoric between the two camps.

Obama tried to turn rival Clinton's words back on her, saying her vote to authorize the Iraq war was "irresponsible and naive." Clinton had used the same language a day earlier to criticize Obama for saying he would be willing to meet with leaders of nations such as Cuba, North Korea and Iran without conditions within the first year of his presidency.


In a carefully crafted response, Hillary said "I'm rubber and you're glue!"

Is "naiver" a word? I can't wait until one of these two actually uses it.

It'll be even more fun watching them try to spin this stuff the other way 'round again when one of them is the other's vice presidential candidate.

Oh, wait, what am I thinking? They won't have to do the reverse spin. The mainstream American media will never hit either of them with the hard questions that make that kind of spinning necessary.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

 

News N' Such





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Movie Review: Zodiac



Synopsis

This film is based on a real and notorious string of brutal murders, committed in the late 1960's and early 1970's in the San Francisco, California area. The serial killer, who called himself the Zodiac, was never caught. This movie focuses on the investigation of the murders and how the case affected the lives of those who sought to bring the killer to justice.

Pros:


Cons:


Generally:

4.5 on a five scale. Stellar. If you can handle the frustrating truth of the story, you'll love this film.

Extended Review:

Although David Fincher's outstanding Zodiac is named for a serial killer, those who see it looking for gore will be disappointed. The film isn't at all concerned with the violence of the Zodiac's murders, and is only marginally concerned with the killer himself. Instead, this is a movie about those who make solving crime their business and their obsession. This is a story about cops and newspaper reporters, handwriting experts, lawyers, etc. Zodiac is primarily interested in those people and their families, and how obsession can be just as devastating as a bullet, just as suspenseful as a darkened hallway. It's damn near impossible to take your eyes off of this movie. I enjoyed every scene, every frame, every line of dialogue.

David Fincher has been a favorite director of mine for a while now. His films Se7en and Fight Club have been some of the smartest and most stylish eye-candy of the past ten years. Even his relative flops, like the underrated Panic Room, have been artistic successes. So when I find out that Fincher is working on something new, I think I'm usually justified in getting excited. I was excited to see Zodiac, but the movie is honestly far better than I'd had reason to hope it would be. It might be fair, in fact, to call this Fincher's best film yet. With Zodiac, Fincher is focusing for the first time entirely on story and character. There are none of Fight Club's gimmicks, none of Se7en's goth atmospherics. If Zodiac succeeds or fails, it's entirely on the strength the story and the cast. I'm happy to say that, in my opinion, Zodiac is quite a success.

You could almost call it two successes, in fact, since Zodiac can almost be called two movies. At more than two and a half hours, Zodiac has plenty of time to contain two distinct acts, and it does. The first act, focused on the investigation as the murders are taking place, is taught and engrossing. The second act, focused on an ongoing investigation of the case four years later, is even tighter, more suspenseful, and just as engrossing as the first half of the film. It's rare that I can say this about a long movie, but at no point during Zodiac did I find myself checking the time or wondering how much was left of the film. In fact, when it ended, I wanted to know more, see more, spend more time with the characters. How's that for artistic success?

Fincher's movie sticks very closely to Robert Graysmith's book about the case and the investigation, and Graysmith is played in the film by Jake Gyllenhaal who renders his character with the best work I've seen from that actor. Gyllenhaal's performance, however, is matched by his peers in the film. There's not a bum performance in the bunch. Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards are great as the two cops who find their lives hanging on the hopes of catching the killer. Robert Downey Jr. gives yet another of his always outstanding performances as a reporter who gets drawn into the case and eventually targeted by the killer. And a cabal of reliable character actors (Donal Logue, Chloe Sevigney, Dermot Mulroney, Elias Koteas and others) are strong in performances that fall short of the others only with regard to screen time. It's said that Fincher often makes his actors reshoot any given scene sometimes seventy times or more. If so, they should thank him for his demands. Fincher has quite simply captured some of their best work in this film.

What's amazing about Zodiac, however, is that the film never slows down or becomes predictable, even when we're sure we know how it is bound to end. Graysmith is sure in his book that he knows who the killer was, and the movie gives him the benefit of the doubt, following the source material to it's conclusions. Along the way we see Graysmith lose his job on the editorial staff at the San Francisco Chronicle and drag his family into his investigation with him, alienating his wife and bewildering his children. The audience follows Graysmith as he crafts his own amateur investigation into the murders, getting far too close for comfort to finding the answers he seeks. Through Fincher's lens we tag along with Gyllenhall's character to prison interviews, dusty police record rooms, and at least one believably scary, dark basement. These sequences provide the movie's tensest frights, and they happen years after the Zodiac killings have stopped.

At one point, Gyllenhall's beleaguered Graysmith tells his frustrated wife that he'd be able to finish his book and put the case behind him if only he could decide who the killer is, look him in the eye and know he's guilty. I won't tell you if he gets that chance or not. I'll say, though, that in a way it's relevant and in another way it isn't. Finding the killer becomes the principle obsession of Graysmith's life … but keeping cold cases alive is a matter of constant second-guessing, lost sleep and endless obsession. There'll always be another angle to consider, another possible suspect, another bit of evidence that changes everything when considered in the right light. For the Robert Graysmiths of the world, the catch will never be as satisfying as the chase. Like the Zodiac himself, his pursuer can never quit playing the game. It surely wouldn't make for much of a life … but it has made for one remarkably good film.


Trailer:






PS - If you saw it in the theater and loved it, don't go buy Zodiac just yet. There's a director's cut DVD, jammed with extras, scheduled for early next year. Wendy and I look forward to buying that cut of the film. The current Zodiac DVD is strictly for renting.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

 

Is It Just Me...



...or do you see it, too?



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Monday, July 23, 2007

 

Mohawk Boy



Liam has begged for a mohawk for months. His mom and I talked it over and, what the heck. It's only hair. A month from now a new haircut will easily hide the fact that he ever had a mohawk. And so we're proud to present ...

My parents fought me tooth and nail when I wanted to grow my hair long when I was a kid. Now that I'm raising kids myself, you know what I realize? My parents really were wrong. It's only hair. Give in on the small things like this and maybe they won't want to rebel later when it comes to the big things.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

 

MCFAT 18



Once again, MCF asks the questions and his readers answer them.

1) What aspect of aging do you dread the most?
I live in mortal fear of Alzheimer's Disease. It's crippled several people in my family, leaving them barely-alive shells for the last ten years of their lives. I am terrified of the possibility that I'll get it. I'd honestly rather die (fairly) young than burden my family with Alzheimer's. Every time I forget something, lose my keys, etc, I mildly panic about it being the onset of Alzheimer's.


2) What's the wildest ethnic celebration you've ever participated in or encountered on the street?
I'm having a hard time coming up with an answer for this. Ethnic celebrations aren't really commonplace in this neck of the woods. It's not that there's no ethnic variety, it's just that large-scale celebrations tend to be community-focused rather than focused on one specific ethnicity.

So I guess I'll say that the wildest ethnic celebration I've ever encountered on the street was when the little punk sk8er kids from up the road spent most of a night doing jumps off the steps of the church down the road, cursing loudly and keeping a number of people awake until someone ran them off. Is "sk8er kid" an official ethnicity?


3) Which characters would you like to see in the sequel to Transformers? If you're not familiar with the series, you can just suggest vehicles or other alternate forms you'd enjoy watching turn into robots.
I'm not really familiar with the series, so I guess I'm on my own here. So how about …
  • A tricked out 78 Lincoln that turns into Pimpbot 5000.

  • A three year old Xbox that turns into a brand new Xbox 360.

  • A swan that turns into a dress.

  • A new Metallica album, to be released in February, that turns into something worth waiting for.

  • A week thread of one liners that turns into a funny post.


4) Do you ever just go crazy or lose your temper and, if so, how do you cool down and regain rationality?
The only thing that helps me when I get to the snapping point is to get in a car, drive away from whatever/whomever I'm irked at, and play music LOUD until I chill out. Then I can go back and talk.


SPECIAL BONUS QUESTION: What is “Purple Monkey Dishwasher”?
It's from The Simpsons. I'm not going to bother hunting down the exact season/episode. As I remember it, the kids were at school whispering a rumor each to another and passing it on. When it got back around it was no longer as it had started and now ended with the words "purple monkey dishwasher." Which, by the way, would make an awesome name for a band.

And by the way, if you plug the phrase into Google Image Search, the image to the right is one of the ones that pops up.


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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

 

I Love Snopes



In case you don't know (and you should), Snopes is the internet's awesome urban legend clearing house. You know those e-mails that people forward to you with warnings about supposed new computer viruses and supposed essays by Jay Leno and Captain Kangaroo's status as a war vet and how atheists want religious broadcasting banned and etc, etc, etc? Well, when you get one of those e-mails or hear one of those rumors, go to Snopes and look it up and you'll find out if there's any truth to it. Usually, there isn't.

A lot of the e-mail, etc, that floats around involves video or pictures, like the infamous fake pictures of skeletal fashion models or the nefarious fake image of John Kerry and Jane Fonda.

Sometimes, though, the pictures are verifiable. Snopes goes to great pains to research the pictures sent to them, and they post the information they turn up.

I go to Snopes once every few months and I can easily spend an hour or more just looking through the archives. Below, you'll find a set of pictures I saw at Snopes tonight. Each of these pictures has been verified by Snopes as a real picture with an interesting story. If any of the ones below catch your attention, click them and read the story behind them.













This last one isn't yet verified, but it looks real and it's pretty impressive:





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Monday, July 16, 2007

 

Randomness



Some of the best / worst / and most weirdest of what's around:



Wheeee!

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

 

eBay Movie Treasure Hunt



Did you know that a number of actual props used in notable movies are for sale at eBay? A lot of them are charity auctions, with the proceeds going to worthy causes. Some of them, though, are just for sale by companies which manage to acquire movie props, have them authenticated, and sell them on eBay. If you've got some spare cash you blow, you can pick from a number of props from some of your favorite (?!?) films. For instance:

You know, a lot of people still think that the internet is mostly a waste of time and that eBay is a just a place to buy useless junk.

Tell that to michaeladams1970, the current high bidder for the severed finger from Gigli. There's just no better use of $29.99.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

 

So Long Film Geeks



After considering my options for a while, I've closed film geeks. the site is still up and will remain so, but I think of it as a dead blog. If Wendy gets interested in blogging again, who knows? In the meantime, I'll post film reviews here from time to time when I get the urge. I've even come up with my own new format for reviews, and the first one is immediately below this post.

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Movie Review: Transformers



Plot Synopsis

A race of sentient robots called Decepticons comes to earth in search of a cosmic cube thingy. If they find the cube, they'll use it's power to enslave mankind. Another race of sentient robots called Autobots, cousins to the Decepticons, comes to earth to attempt to stop the Decepticons. Both races of robots have the ability to camouflage themselves as vehicles and other mechanical devices. When disguised as vehicles, the robots take on the vehicles' abilities and functions. A war between the Decepticons and Autobots breaks out on earth and the fate of mankind hangs in the balance.

Pros:


Cons:


Generally:

3.5 on a five scale. Lots of fun for parents and older kids.

Extended Review:

After watching Transformers, on the way out of the theater with a big grin on my face, I realized just how long it had been since a big summer action film really delivered the goods.

Last year, Bryan Singer brought us a Superman that only Dr. Phil could have actually enjoyed. Singer's Superman Returns was long, sterile, actionless and lame. I went into the theater contemplating the rumors I've heard that Bryan Singer is gay. After Superman Returns I had to wonder if maybe the whole world was gay.

The previous year George Lucas capped of the Star Wars franchise with a meandering, unwatchable mess of a film that managed to trash both the Star Wars legacy and the intelligence of any audience unfortunate enough to sit through it. Revenge of the Sith? More like Revenge of the … well, let's just say that sith has all the right letters, just in the wrong order.

A few recent summer films (Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins) have succeeded by playing down the bombast and focusing on character; but when was the last time a movie really delivered as a huge, fun, over-the-top summer blockbuster? Until last night I'd have had to go back possibly as far as Jurassic Park to name a summer movie that got it right.

I should disclose that I have never seen the cartoon that Transformers is based on, so fanboy nitpicking will be beyond me in this instance. However I did get the feeling while watching this film that the old cartoon must have really been good. I'd have probably loved it, I bet, if it had been around when I was growing up in the late '70's.

Transformers the live-action movie is a big, loud, silly blast of fresh air. If the only reason to recommend it were the movie's outstanding action-packed last hour, I'd recommend it enthusiastically. But there's more here than special effects and thrills.

For one thing, the Autobots are actually fun and endearing characters. I was surprised to find myself liking them quite a bit. How does a Transformers newbie like me describe them? How about like this:


Then there were the Decepticons, giant-sized hybrids of the Terminator and Godzilla. These bad guys were vicious and hateful. I was as emotionally invested in seeing them get what was coming to them as I was in seeing the Autobots triumph.

Now, Transformers isn't a perfect film. Nor is it a life-changer. It's a movie about giant robots that turn into cars; not high-brow art. Put simply, this is a kids' movie, but the kind that brings out the kid in anyone who can remember being a kid. I stayed on the edge of my seat for at least the second half of the movie, and I found myself laughing out loud and rooting for the characters, too.

Rooting for the robots, that is. The human characters were one-dimensional. Poor Shia LaBouf, as the teenage human hero, was saddled with a role that was little more than one one-liner after another … but LaBouf played the role with such earnest enthusiasm that I ended up liking him, too. Other characters played by noteworthy actors are really just there as filler. I'm a big John Turturro fan, for instance, but the best thing about his character is his underwear. (See the film, you'll know what I mean.)

No, this movie is all about the robots, and those characters are full of charm, fun and humor. Yes, humor. There is a lot of genuine humor in this movie. One improbable scene, wherein the teenage hero tries to hide the giant Autobots from his parents, was a riot. Another scene that made me laugh out loud involved a robot … uh, lubricating a human nemesis. And there were some heartstring pulling moments, too. My wife actually teared up during a scene wherein one Autobot was captured and tied down by government agents, bringing to mind King Kong's capture on Skull Island.

All in all, our family left the theater happier than we've been since we saw 2005's Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Transformers gave us our money's worth and then some. I wish I could say that about more films.




Oh, by the way, about half an hour into the film, a guy in the theater stood up and shouted "This sucks!" and stormed out, presumably to spend the night at home playing bitterly with his action figures. I'll admit that the movie does start slow, but it's not that bad. If you find yourself feeling that it's dragging, just wait it out.

Trailer:



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Friday, July 13, 2007

 

More Than Meets The Eye



Today we spent the day in Lynchburg, Virginia, where we saw not one but two astounding things.

The first astounding thing we saw was a sign, which I took a picture of with my crappy cellphone camera:


I don't know if you can quite make it out or not; like I said, it's a crappy cellphone camera. It's picture of a Biscuitville restaurant sign and it reads "Fried Bologna Is Back."

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that the sign simply has to be the most wonderful thing we saw all day, right? I mean, come on! A message heralding the second coming of fried bologna in Lynchburg, Virginia? Forget about it! There's nothing cooler than that, right?

Wrong. We also saw the Transformers movie and we all enjoyed it thoroughly. All of us, adults and kids, men and women, the whole crew. I have to say that Wendy even enjoyed it more than I did. She actually got emotionally attached to the big robots and actually cried.

I'll try to write a review in the next day or two. In the meantime, suffice it to say that the movie made me feel like a ten year old kid again for all but the slow first hour. During the second hour and a half I had a great time. I laughed, I sat on the edge of my seat, I cringed, I hooted on the inside, etc. Three and a half stars and a hearty recommendation for this movie. It was the big, fun summer blockbuster that Spidey 3 really should have been.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

 

Book Review: The Mote In God's Eye



I mentioned the other day that I was reading The Mote In God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. I don't read much science fiction, but this novel got my attention after a favorable mention in the National Review:

This 1974 novel of first contact carries lessons for conservative hawks and liberal doves. (Robert) Heinlein called it “possibly the best science-fiction novel I have ever read.”


I finished the book yesterday and I'd recommend it, especially to readers who enjoy science fiction and fiction concerned with the military, politics and philosophy. The Mote In God's Eye is an entertaining, engrossing read; at times reminding me of such disparate writers as Kurt Vonnegut, Clive Barker, Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, John Gresham and Franz Kafka. If that sounds like a rambling, incoherent mess, it's not. This novel is really quite complete and satisfying … and what it has to say about human nature is worth reading.

…Mote… takes place some two-thousand years in the future, with mankind's Empire Of Man having colonized much of the known universe. After a series of bloody and disastrous wars of secession, the Empire finds itself weakened but focused at the start of the book, intent on putting down rebellions and reuniting mankind in the name of peace and progress. The Empire of Man is a militaristic and aristocratic one, but the aristocracy is benevolent and the military is concerned almost primarily with finding new worlds and with maintaining peace. It's in this environment that mankind makes first contact with a new species of intelligent life from another world.

There are, of course, any number of "first contact" stories out there, but few of the ones I've read or watched are as complete and well imagined as …Mote… While there are thrilling action passages in the book, there are also important and engrossing subplots involving the politics of first contact. The way contact with an alien race will effect everything from human law to religion to commerce and art is pondered, and more often than not the conclusions the novel reaches seem at once logical and amusing.

I was really quite surprised at how well the novel manages to succeed simultaneously within it's own science fiction framework and within the context of other genres. The elements of the novel concerned with the Imperial Navy are smart and entertaining, as are the elements that present themselves as political thriller and as theological fiction. A love story between the primary male and female characters is a bit less satisfying … at times it's a bit of a distraction. Nonetheless, the relationship between those two characters reminded me of something from a 1940's movie serial, and it wasn't without it's charms.

It's amazing how thoroughly Pournelle and Niven touched on topics that remain relevant today. If you'd told me that the novel had been written in the last year (instead of the early '70's), I'd have been sure that the war in Iraq had been a major influence. One character is a Muslim trader, and as the relationship between mankind and the alien race changes (sometimes violently), that character's religious faith becomes more prominent. Other characters, including a Christian Naval Chaplin and practitioners of a new astrology-based religion, are rendered fully and believably. In fact, none of the human characters fall into stereotype, and the way they develop is one of the best parts of the story.

Most satisfying of all, however, is the way …Mote… treats the alien race itself. This is a wholly "alien" race, unlike anything I'd seen or read before. The race is given motives and logic that readers can relate to, but it never dissolves into anthropomorphic symbolism. These aliens are believably alien; sometimes mysterious, sometimes horrific, sometimes plainly obvious with regard to their actions. The passages where living aliens and living humans first attempt to find a way to communicate are real page-turners.

The novel's action climaxes in the third of it's four acts: Miscommunication culminates with a bloody and downright horrifying battle that results in the loss of a Naval spacecraft. It was difficult for me not to think of video games like Halo and movies like Aliens while I read that section. While that might speak badly of me and might indicate how stifled my own imagination has become due to movies and games, it should also indicate that the movie hit all of my excitement buttons. Suffice it to say that I was totally "into it" during the battle sequences.

The fourth act might be a bit of a letdown to some readers after the climactic third act. The novel ends with a protracted and dry focus on the political implications of what's come before. Some might not like it, but for political junkies like me, it was (to borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis) red meat and strong beer.

The Mote In God's Eye isn't for everyone, and if you have no interest in science fiction at all, you should avoid it. Nonetheless, fans of fiction involving espionage, war, theology and philosophy will find much to enjoy within this space tale. If you're looking for a summer page-turner that's fun and smart, you probably can't do much better. The Mote In God's Eye gave me lots to think about and kept a perpetual smile on my face.

Up next for me … after cleansing the pallet with a a political autobiography, I might take on the sequel to …Mote…, called The Gripping Hand.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

 

News And Other Such Junk



A few items from the news that I thought were worth mentioning:



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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

 

S.C.A.T. Answers



Here are the answers to the random trivia quiz from the other day. I think all of them have already been answered correctly except by one ... and MCF came up with the lion's share.

  1. What was significant about November 19, 1999? (By the way, 11/19/1999 was on a Friday, not that it matters.)

    It was the last day that any of us will live to see that had all odd numbers in the date. The next one won't be until January 1, 3111.


  2. Robert Heinlein was the noted science fiction author behind classics such as Stranger In A Strange Land, Starship Troopers and The Puppet Masters. What novel did Heinlein praise as "possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read"?

    (I'm currently reading this novel, which is why Heinlein's appraisal has been on my mind.)

    Yep, it's Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven's The Mote In God's Eye, an extremely entertaining and smart science fiction novel that I'm close to finishing (expect a book report). By the way, MCF said he once designed a cover for an edition of the book. How cool is that? I'd love to see a pic of that edition (hint hint).


  3. Buddy Ebsen was cast as the Scarecrow in The Wizard Of Oz, but surrendered the role to Ray Bolger when Bolger demanded the part. Ebsen was then recast as the Tin Man, but had to leave the production and wasn't in the film. Why wasn't Ebsen able to play the Tin Man?

    Several people knew that Buddy was alergic to the Tin Man makeup.


  4. Merriam Webster defines stigmata as bodily marks or pains resembling the wounds of the crucified Jesus and sometimes accompanying religious ecstasy. Stigmata is sometimes thought of as a uniquely Catholic phenomenon, although it isn't. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church only believes one reported instance of stigmata to be wholly verifiable. Upon who's body did that stigmata manifest? (Hint: It wasn't Padre Pio.)

    The only case of stigmata that the Church officially believes to be valid is the stigmata experienced by St. Francis of Assisi. The 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia has more information: "The first mentioned (instance of stigmata) is St. Francis of Assisi, in whom the stigmata were of a character never seen subsequently: in the wounds of feet and hands were excrescences of flesh representing nails, those on one side having round black heads, those on the other having rather long points, which bent back and grasped the skin." Gnarley, huh?


  5. Who sang the line "I was young and foolish then and I'm old and foolish now"? (I've made a slight change to the lyrics so that it won't work if the quote is just plugged into Google.) Bonus Question: What was the slight change I made to the lyrics?

    The song is "Lucky Ball And Chain" by They Might Be Giants, and the exact lyric is "I was young and foolish then I feel old and foolish now".
  6. <


There ya go!

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

 

S.C.A.T. (Number One?)



With apologies to MCF for the blatant rip-off, this is the debut of S.C.A.T. … the Southern Conservative's Astonishing Test.

I've noted and/or thought about a few trivial matters over the last few days and this is really just an excuse to post them without the post seeming like a pile of non sequiturs. If you want, see if you can answer any of these trivial questions, I'll post the answers in a few days whenever the mood strikes me.

  1. What was significant about November 19, 1999? (By the way, 11/19/1999 was on a Friday, not that it matters.)


  2. Robert Heinlein was the noted science fiction author behind classics such as Stranger In A Strange Land, Starship Troopers and The Puppet Masters. What novel did Heinlein praise as "possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read"?

    (I'm currently reading this novel, which is why Heinlein's appraisal has been on my mind.)


  3. Buddy Ebsen was cast as the Scarecrow in The Wizard Of Oz, but surrendered the role to Ray Bolger when Bolger demanded the part. Ebsen was then recast as the Tin Man, but had to leave the production and wasn't in the film. Why wasn't Ebsen able to play the Tin Man?


  4. Merriam Webster defines stigmata as bodily marks or pains resembling the wounds of the crucified Jesus and sometimes accompanying religious ecstasy. Stigmata is sometimes thought of as a uniquely Catholic phenomenon, although it isn't. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church only believes one reported instance of stigmata to be wholly verifiable. Upon who's body did that stigmata manifest? (Hint: It wasn't Padre Pio.)


  5. Who sang the line "I was young and foolish then and I'm old and foolish now"? (I've made a slight change to the lyrics so that it won't work if the quote is just plugged into Google.) Bonus Question: What was the slight change I made to the lyrics?


I may do this again from time to time, I don't know. I'm sure I won't do this with anything like the reliability of MCF's M.C.F.A.T. Given my tendency to add and immediately forget about features at this blog, it's hard to guess what I'll do.)

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Friday, July 06, 2007

 

Sympathy For The Devil On Screen



I don't imagine that it's easy to play the devil. How could it be? The devil is seen as the incarnation of evil in a myriad of religions. That's pure evil, something nonhuman, something eternal and eternally vile. How do you find something in yourself, as an actor, to make a role like that tangible?

I'm sure it's hard, but it's been done and done well in a number of instances I can think of. With that in mind, and with a little help from the Rolling Stones, here's the official

SouthCon Top Ten Screen Devils



presented in no particular order:

Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste…
Wealth, yes, but taste? I suppose taste is relative. Daryl Van Horne, as portrayed by Jack Nicholson in The Witches Of Eastwick, is a devil that embodies all of the seven deadly sins. Even the unsexy ones, like sloth and gluttony. The "witches," everyday women who are eventually seduced and lead astray by Van Horne, are played by Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon. At first, each of them is repelled by the Devil; Cher tells him "You are physically repulsive, intellectually retarded, you're morally reprehensible, vulgar, insensitive, selfish, stupid, you have no taste, a lousy sense of humor and you smell." But evil is nothing if not patient, and eventually the three women and most all of Eastwick is under Van Horne's grungy spell.

I've been around for a long, long year… stole many a man's soul and faith…
It's kinda surprising that it took Robert De Niro so long in his career to play Lucifer … or, as his character is known in Angel Heart, Lou Cyphre. Yeah, it's a fairly corny name, and the movie is far from perfect, but it has it's charms. Not the least of which is De Niro's imposing and relentless performance as a devil who's … ahem… hell bent on collecting on a debt. As Harry Angel, Micky Rourke gives one of his most entertaining performances. Harry is a private eye hired to track down Johnny Favourite, the man indebted to Mr. Cyphre. But exactly what is owed, and exactly who is Mr. Favorite in the greater scheme of things? It's often predictable but never boring, and Angel Heart's devil, in the form of a bearded De Niro, is always engrossing.

I was there when Jesus Christ has his moment of doubt and pain…
Rosalinda Celentano's androgynous and unsettling version of the Devil in The Passion Of The Christ is really something to behold. This film's vision of Satan represents one more smart casting and directorial decision by Mel Gibson. Celentano is neither really quite the Prince, nor the Princess, of Darkness, and with vocal work by a male actor providing this Devil's voice, it's all the creepier. Brilliant, though. Think about it: What's the devil's job? Collecting human souls. So the devil is going to have to potentially appeal to everyone, regardless of any given person's sex or sexuality. Celentano's performance is captivating, at once repellant and seductive. You can't take your eyes off her when she's on screen, and the devil comes close to stealing the show … much as he/she/it would have liked to have done at Golgotha.

But what's puzzling you is the nature of my game…
A dying Hungarian ship's captain's final words: "He is the Devil… Keyser Soze. The Devil himself." With that, The Usual Suspects transforms from a standard crime-caper movie into something else. Something darker. The police investigating the destruction of a boat at a San Pedro pier have tracked those aboard back to the criminal activity of five New York conmen. How are they involved? Who was their mysterious employer? More importantly, where is he and what does he know about the men who died on the ship? I won't tell you who plays Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects, or exactly what kind of man he is. The movie wants you to decide that for yourself. So would Keyser.

I rode a tank, held a general's rank…
In the world of South Park, there's one being who's even more evil than Satan himself. Saddam Hussein. In South Park, Saddam is portrayed as a liar, a manipulator, a misanthrope who even mistreats the Devil himself. That's remarkable because South Park was portraying Saddam that way in the late '90's, when everyone in the world had seemingly forgotten the Butcher of Baghdad. Oh, sure, now and then there'd be a random, punative missile strike by Clinton … or a speech about how evil Saddam was by one or more Congressmen or Senators… but only South Park kept waving Saddam's bloody history in our face. It's no wonder that phrases like South Park Republican entered the common lexicon. I have to think that Trey and Matt are probably glad that Saddam is now in Hell, where he belongs, with his girlfriend the Devil.

I watched with glee while your kings and queens fought for ten decades…
And who could enjoy human conflict more than a lawyer? In The Devil's Advocate, Al Pacino plays Satan as, what else? The head of his own law firm. And that makes perfect sense. Nobody has benefited more from the strife, conflict and hatred in this country than our lawyers. In many ways The Devil's Advocate is my favorite movie about Satan and his power to seduce. Theologically, this film approaches themes that other movies about the Devil shy away from. Themes like the real destructive power of lust, the Christian theme of the "death of the self," and the importance of sacrificing those things that are leading you astray, even if it's a career you've worked hard to establish. Of course, Pacino dominates the film, playing Satan with a wink and a nod and chewing on the scenery. But why not? Wouldn't the Devil be a ham, too?

I shout about who killed the Kennedys, but after all, it was you and me …
Ah, self righteousness. It's one of the Devil's most seductive tools. Fans of The Simpsons know that Homer's holier-than-thou neighbor, Ned Flanders, often borders on self righteousness. Now, usually Ned is a very earnest guy … but sometimes he gets on a high-horse and is as prideful and self obsessed as Krusty himself. So it was an ironic but logical twist in one of the Treehouse Of Horror episodes to see Ned as the Devil himself, on Earth to collect Homer's soul, which had been traded for a doughnut. How clever! The devil, living next door to his prey, guarding his claim and disguising himself as an overzealous Christian! It fits. After all, we're told that when we make a prostylite we make him twice as much a child of hell as we ourselves are.

So, when you meet me, have some courtesy …
A little courtesy is all that Lucifer wanted in 1995's horror flick The Prophecy, staring Christopher Walken as the angel Gabriel. A little professional courtesy between a current angel and one of his former colleagues. Theologically, The Prophecy is all over the road. Even in terms of a coherent thread of story, it's not quite right. But it's not entirely awful, thanks in part to yet another fun and commanding performance by Walken. And fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy will enjoy this early performance by Viggo Mortensen as a Satan who's simply trying to protect his interests as the Host of Hell.

Just call me Lucifer, I'm in need of some restraint…
Personally, I think that Satan works best in films when he's presented as human-like, sympathetic, even likable. After all, that's how Satan would have to present himself. He can't just take souls who resist him, we have to be drawn to him. And who could be drawn to a devil who shows himself to be a monstrous demon with horns and a tail and a pitchfork and everything? Nonetheless, Tim Curry's Lord of Darkness in Legend is my favorite of the over-the-top versions of Satan. For one thing, I'm a big Tim Curry fan. For another thing, look at that guy! Now that's evil! And with good reason. After all, if I had to endure the stiff, painful neck that would come with having to haul those gigantic horns around all day, I suppose I'd be fairly evil, too.

Tell me, baby, what's my name?
Last by not least, here's Mark McKinney as the incompetent, goofy rock and roll version of the Devil from a number of Kids in the Hall skits. I think it was Martin Luther who pointed out that the Devil is very proud and can't abide mockery. With that in mind, Mark's balding and distracted Lucifer is one of the funniest mockeries ever.

Of course, each of these versions of Satan is a bit of a mockery. Even the most serious movies listed above fall short of a serious examination of the nature of evil. Nonetheless, I think that they're each valuable in their own way, if only for the opportunity that they provide for casual reflection. For some of us, if it weren't for casual reflection, we'd do no reflecting at all!

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

 

Ooh. Aah.



Today is the fourth of July. On this day in 1776, the first Continental Congress of the new United States of America approved a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. It was a bold, risky, dangerous move ... but in spite of the odds against the revolutionaries, that July day gave rise to a great nation that changed the entire world.

This evening my family and I celebrated the anniversary of that day by standing in a Wal-Mart parking lot with a bunch of slack-jawed rednecks, watching gobs of aluminum, magnesium, charcoal and titanium explode in the sky.


There's a continuity in that, but it's faaaar to complex to explain to those who don't understand it instinctively.

Happy Fourth, everyone.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

 

Netroots



You guys know that I've been enthusiastic about a certain nonofficial political campaign. Well, many people say that the man himself might make a formal announcement in the next couple of days. Meanwhile, articles like the one below make me all the more enthusiastic:



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Monday, July 02, 2007

 

Randomly Amongst The Blogs



Just a few things that caught my attention as I surfed today:



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