Saturday, July 30, 2005

Welcome To My Blog, Mark Cuban

So, I'm reading wealthy spaz Mark Cuban's blog tonight, because I have absolutely zero better things to do. Turns out, he's a major investor in Icerocket, a rather handy little blog search engine that I have actually used from time to time.

Cuban spends a lot of time on his blog hawking his own companies and the goods and services they provide. If he's not boasting about the Mavs, he's fondly recalling the time, during the Internet bubble, when his bullshit company went public, netting him millions of dollars. I love that there's no moral to Cuban's story, no point to his blog post. He just remembered it was the anniversary of the day he became really rich for designing that website that Yahoo bought and took apart, so he thought he'd remind everyone in Bloggerland that he's still really rich, and a spaz.

But that wasn't even the point of this blog post. I'm responding to this post, where Cuban talks about his investment in Icerocket and why it's a cool website. Basically, he points out (quite accurately) that people searching for blogs want information returned based on timeliness rather than popularity.

When you do a Google search, the top items are the ones that are guaranteed to give you the best overview of the topic. If you type "muffins," you'll get a encyclopedia entry and some Betty Crocker recipies. If you type in "Tom DeLay," you'll get his personal website and two or three articles from major publications about why he's a crooked lying asshole.

But when you search blogs, you want to find out what's being said about topics right now, as opposed to what most people are reading about the topics. So when I type in "Tom DeLay," I want to know why he's a crooked lying asshole this week, not just in general.

Anyway, Cuban refers in the article to his habit of, each morning, checking around the Web for anything said on blogs about his companies.

I like to do what I call my “daily searches”. I search for references to the Mavs, to HDNet , to Icerocket, to any of the films we are releasing or are in theaters and more. I want to know what is being said online about the businesses I am heavily invested in. If I know what is going on in the web, I can track any issues, and where necessary, respond.

So, this gives me an idea. You see, Crushed by Inertia is linked on Icerocket. In fact, if you type in "Ben Affleck" and "fruit basket," you'll notice that the VERY FIRST ENTRY is a blog post by yours truly.

So, if I were to write a long post about Mark Cuban and his various companies...there's a good chance Mark Cuban himself would read that blog post. Or at least skim it. To wit:

Mark Cuban owns the Dallas Mavericks, also called The Mavs. They are a team in the NBA, an organization in which I have little to no interest. He also apparently invests in something called HDNet, which I think has to do with HDTV, which I don't have. So I don't care about that either. Also, he references his film company, Magnolia Pictures. I wasn't actually aware of his affiliation with this company, but they released the incredible Muay Thai movie Ong Bak last year, as well as that Enron documentary, both of which seem fairly unassailably cool to me.

So, now that that's over with, welcome to my blog, Mark Cuban. Might I interest you in some movie reviews over there to your right. Or, if you prefer, astute political commentary. I'd like you to also note that, even though I gave up on your reality show about halfway through the season, I never wrote mean things about it on my blog, or implied in any way that it was a rip-off of any other show that may or may not have been hosted by a silly real estate tycoon with a ridiculous wig.

Anyway, long story short, I live in a very small apartment, and it's hot here and there are ants. Now, I don't really own any companies you could buy, but I'm sure we could work out some kind of deal. I could write your biography, maybe, like a Boswell kind of deal. Sound good? E-mail me...

Maimed by Myopia

Every time I go home and hang out with my family, they ask me if our current conversation will make it on to the blog. In a way, it's flattering - I'm glad they all read and enjoy the blog, and that they seem to find it entertaining.

But in another way, it's kind of weird. Whenever someone mentions it, I feel like I should really start paying attention to what happens. Because if it is blog-worthy and then I don't write about it, will they see it as a personal slight?

Or then there's the other side of the coin. Maybe people are bringing it up specifically because they don't want me to talk about them so much on the blog, and they're hoping they'll kind of queer the spontaneity of writing about something later if it has already been mentioned as a possible blog subject.

With my parents, there's always an added odd dimension to these conversations. They embarrass rather easily, and often ask me not to write about this or that thing in the blog. Usually, it's something uninteresting that I wouldn't mention on the blog anyway.

Like, "Oh, Lonnie, I talked to your grandmother today and she has a doctor's appointment tomorrow and I promised to go with her, and I'll probably stop at the market afterwards and get some grapes to snack on later after dinner. Please don't write about any of this on your blog."

So it has become quite a complex situation to navigate. They are often asking if I'm going to include certain things in the blog and also frequently telling me not to include certain things in the blog. Plus, my uncle tonight told me that by far his favorite blog content are the humorous autobiographical stories about my life.

But every time I want to write something like that, I have to watch out not to offend anyone or embarass anyone or upset anyone. It's pretty difficult. Add into that a desire to actually be funny, and a desire not to come off on here like too much of a whiny self-involved egomaniac, and you get a fairly limiting style of prose in which I can write.

Which kind of defeats the purpose of having a blog in the first place. Maybe I'll invent a new blog for my really deep, dark, personal thoughts, the kind I don't feel comfortable sharing here, and not tell anyone that it's mine. Like "Maimed by Myopia." Yeah, that's not bad.

On Republican Scumbags, Part 2

I don't know how many of you are following the special election in Ohio. Probably not many. I haven't been. I mean, who follows special elections in Ohio?

Anyway, the old Congressman is vacating his post to take up a position with the Trade Commission, so now there's a vote to decide who will take his place. Iraq War Veteran Paul Hackett is running for the Democrats and Cruel Harpy Jean Schmidt is running for the Republicans.

Now, District #2 of Southern Ohio is a very conservative district, so Schmidt ought to have a decided advantage in this election. But she happens to also be a brainless shrew who parrots GOP talking points and is quick to lose her temper.

Check out this interview Schmidt did with David Gregory on Hardball, courtesy of Crooks and Liars. In it, she makes the following arguments:

  • Paul Hackett should not call the president a chickenhawk or an "S.O.B." (NOTE: Hackett has done both, although he actually said that, though he thinks the president is a son of a bitch, as a military man he would be willing to die for him.
  • People in Ohio like the President
  • The best defense is a good offense
  • Paul Hackett sounds like Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi
  • People in Ohio hate the Death Tax
  • She's more of an authority on Iraq than a veteran because she attended a military funeral
  • People in Ohio like ethanol
  • David Gregory should shut the hell up

Seriously. Check out the video. It's insane.

And it brings me back to my point from this earlier post. It's not that being a conservative makes you a scumbag. It's that all these conservatives just want to parrot the president and his cabal, and those guys are massive scumbags.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Alexander: Director's Cut

Oliver Stone makes epic historical films, but they are rarely satisfying as history. Take his greatest film, JFK, one of the best movies of the 90's. It's a stunning impressionistic work of paranoid imagination, a penetrating insight into the fevered fears that gripped America in the wake of the JFK assassination and the looming Vietnam War.

Platoon, as well, says more about the psyche of Oliver Stone when he was a soldier than it does about the realities of the Vietnam War. And The Doors deconstructs nearly everything about the 1960's better than it does the inner life of Jim Morrison.

These are great films not because they explore the past in an informative and accurate way than because they show us a perspective on history, and use recent events to examine the relationship between human weakness and the movement of civilizations.

Now he gives us Alexander, a large-scale retelling of the life of one of history's great conquerers, and again the film fails as education or historiography. Unfortunately, it's also one of Stone's least compelling personal narratives, a thinly-sketched portrait of an unknowable man, cluttered with incident but surprisingly short on insights.

The material would seem to suit Stone perfectly. Alexander's story calls into question traditional ideas about masculinity, about the will to power, about cultural domination and Manifest Destiny and about mythmaking, the transformation of verifiable reality into legend.

Yet, as he often does when taking on an ambitious, oversized project, Stone gets easily distracted. Rather than find a focal point for his story, he drifts around Alexander's life, cherry-picking specific moments without giving the film any sort of framework.

Take the film's opening. We start with an odd opening credits sequence, filled with animated hawks (used throughout the film to represent the pull of Alexander's destiny). Then we get an overlong monologue from Anthony Hopkins as Alexander's confidant and historian Ptolmey, explaining to us Alexander's family life and importance in history. Then we get young Alexander under the tutelage of Aristotle (Christopher Plummer), and playing with his mysterious and beautiful mother Olympia (Angelina Jolie).

This brings us to about 20 minutes into the movie, and we're provided with almost no context or narrative. We're told a lot of information about Alexander, but without seeing anything for ourselves or experiencing his world in any way, they remain disconnected factoids. Worse, Stone seems to want to push boundaries but without offending anyone.

He said that with this DVD Director's Cut, he wanted to make the film more accessible to American audiences. I did not watch the movie theatrically, so I have no point of comparison, but it's possible he has trimmed too much sensationalistic material, making the relationships vague and ambiguous.

Alexander appears to be gay, sharing his love only with his lifelong friend Hephaistion, and yet they don't seem to share any sort of real phsyical intimacy. It's as if Stone wants us to hold out some belief that these two may in fact just be close friends, even though he constantly refers back to Alexander's failure to impregnate the barbarian he took as a bride (Rosario Dawson).

Likewise, Stone implies that King Phillip (Val Kilmer) was prone to rape Olympia, which may have led to her telling Alexander he was fathered by Zeus, but he never makes any of this material explicit. Could this help explain Alexander's coldness towards his mother, even before he learns of her possible role in Phillip's assassination? Who knows?

For such a long and involved film, a movie with so many ideas floating around (and indeed, so much talking), there just isn't much to grab on to in Alexander. It's a few set pieces and basic themes in search of a movie.

That isn't to say it doesn't look spectacular. Like most Stone films, it's well-shot, a robust visual experience highlighted by the kind of expansive, elaborate sets and costumes that once were the norm in big Hollywood historical epics. The battle scenes wear far better than comparable sequences in Gladiator or Troy. There's none of the shaky, indistinct camerawork of Ridley Scott's bloated blockbuster, nor the cartoonish CGI of Wolfgang Peterson's comic book "Iliad" adaptation.

But still, the film doesn't feel very consequential, and it's a film about the overtaking of the entire known world. After nearly 3 hours, I couldn't tell you Stone's core theory about Alexander. Was he a noble conquerer, trying to unite the world under a just and fair central government, or a savage colonialist? Was he a neurotic gay man, threatened from outside and tormented within by his inability to produce an heir, or was he a brave bisexual unwilling to accept the roles placed on him by an uncaring world? Was he a sensitive ruler with the best interests of his people in mind or a crass opportunist after only plunder and his own glory?

I have my own theories, but I honestly don't know what Stone thinks. And shouldn't that be the point of a 3 hour Alexander the Great movie? It certainly isn't to give the audience a clear idea about Alexander's campaign, because none of that is made evident by the movie. In fact, after Persia has been conquered, Stone provides us no real reason at all for Alexander's continued ventures across the globe.

Part of the problem is Colin Farrell, who is woefully miscast in this role. Farrell's just a really boring actor. I know the girls like him because he's cute and kind of dangerous or something, I guess (although how anyone who appeared in Daredevil could be considered dangerous is beyond me). The guy can get by in films like Minority Report. It's an important but not too large role that relies on him being businesslike and a bit weasely. Okay, done.

But here, playing one of history's greatest icons, a larger-than-life figure capable of leading an army into uncharted territory and decimating several world empires, he's out of place. It doesn't help that he keeps his Irish accent intact for no good reason, that he's not believable for one moment as a blond, and that he seems embarrassed whenever he's called upon to share a tender moment with another man.

So he talks occsaionally about his oversized dreams of uniting the world, but there just isn't really any passion in his words. When Kevin Costner risks his family, his job and his reputation to put Clay Shaw on trial, we believe that he cares about the truth. When Tom Cruise gets behind that microphone to share his experiences, we believe that he needs his voice to be heard. But when Colin Farrell has his William Wallace moment in front of the troops, telling them to go kill a bunch of Persians, the moment has nothing behind it and the actor has no real presence.

Alexander is a flat movie and a dull movie, and though he's had some misfires before, I've never really thought those things about Oliver Stone's work before.

Leaving My Apartment

I hate it. Not like I love my apartment so much. For one thing, it's full of ants. We bought some bug spray, and so I'm capable of killing the ants whenever I see them, but even after you do that, you're still surrounded by dead ants that you have to scoop up with a paper towel. It's like taking part in a tiny little genocide, but what choice do I have? I'm already sharing this apartment with two other dudes, I can't handle millions of insects.

But despite these apartment drawbacks, I still prefer hanging out in myapartment to going anywhere. This point was driven home this afternoon, when I was supposed to go to a meeting-of-sorts over in Burbank.

I was all set to go, dressed in office-appropriate attire, walking to my car, when I got a call from the person whose office I was set to visit. A problem had developed there, everyone would be busy all afternoon, and the meeting would need to be pushed back to next week.

Now, this was not really a big deal, but I have to tell you, it felt like being granted a mini-vacation. The entire day suddenly opened up before me - I could do with it whatever I want! (It looks like it will be blogging and watching Superman, just so you know).

I hadn't even realized before that it bugged me having to go to someone else's office on my day off. I really hadn't even considered it consciously. But now, not having to do it, I felt so relieved, so glad to have the extra time to myself. So happy to not have to go anywhere or do anything.

I am a profoundly lazy guy. Quite possibly the second-laziest in Los Angeles County...which, as you know, would put me rather high in the running for laziest worldwide.

He is the Champion, My Friends...

Yes, Richard Santorum is the Worst Person Alive. So far, he hasn't responded to any of my e-mails or my letter, informing him of his win and asking him to please accept the trophy I'll be mailing out to him personally.

And, just so you know, I wasn't just going to take a dump in a box and mail it to him under the auspices of sending a "trophy." That's juvenile. I was going to use a dog turd.

Anyway, Santorum's on his book tour for his new treatise, "It Takes a Family." I haven't seen anyone comment as of yet on his book title's obvious reference to Hillary Clinton's book, "It Takes a Village." The sentiment she expressed, a shortened version of the African saying "It takes a village to raise a child," commented on the need for a strong infrastructure of social services to assist in the care of American children.

Rick of course wants to mock this sentiment, insisting that rather than a village, it takes a strong, Christian family organized and structured traditionally to raise a healthy child, and if this means alienating everyone else in your community, so be it.

It's very telling about Rick's psyche that there mere idea of community upsets him so. He has no respect for anyone's perspective or lifestyle other than his own. You know, psychiatrists have a word for people who are utterly incapable of empathizing with others or seeing things from different perspectives..Sociopaths.

Want proof? Here's a video of Santorum explaining that, though he has voted for measures which support contraception, he personally thinks it harms women and society. Thanks to the fantastic resource Santorum Exposed for the link.

So, okay, you see what I mean, right? The guy obviously hates sex and sexuality, probably stemming from some repressed childhood trauma. Now, I'm not saying the 2005 Braffy winner was definitely diddled by a priest or a dirty uncle growing up. I'm just saying it's really super-likely. I'd like to put on The Who's "Tommy" and hang out with him for an hour or so to scope his reaction...

But it's not enough that he hates sex and wishes it didn't exist...He has to go on television and say that sex before marriage leads to "problems in society." Well, you know what, Rick? That sounds like an interesting experiment. Why don't you go find a society where no one has sex with anyone outside of marriage, and even has sex within marriage purely for purposes of procreation, and then we can use that as a "control" group.

Oh, wait, that's never happened? You mean, even in the theocratic societies of the Middle East, where such laws are already firmly in place, people still cheat all the time and have sex outside of marriage? Why, it's almost like such things are human nature!

I also like how, in the video, he comments that he's against "artificial" birth control. He wants you to know he's fine with simply Pulling Out. Skeet skeet skeet.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Excessive Gore

Al Gore in '08? I've just been assuming it will be Big Hil in the Presidential finals myself, but Matthew Yglesias makes a pretty strong case for a Gore candidacy in 2008.

At the heart of his analysis is an astute observation about Gore - he could be the most convincing anti-war candidate imaginable. Gore voted for the First Gulf War under President Bush I when most Democrats did not, and he was more militaristic in nature than most of the other members of the Clinton Administration. So he has credentials as something of a "liberal hawk."

But he has also been staunchly against the Iraq War from the beginning, and has strongly made his case since before the conflict began.

So he's not a Howard Dean type candidate, who kind of seems like a Johnny-Come-Lately, using an anti-war stance to launch himself on to the national scene. Don't get me wrong...I like Howard Dean. But I recognize that he's vulnerable as a candidate in many ways that Gore is not.

I'm not sure Yglesias really deals with the fact that Gore never really successfully countered any of the Republican smears against him. If he were to run again, we'd get the same bullshit tropes that have been floating around forever - he's boring, he's a hippie environmentalist, he exaggerates and lies about stuff, um did we mention he's really boring.

Also, I have to say, I'm not terrifically thrilled with the idea of Democrats running a previously failed candidate in '08. I realize that Hillary is kind of a Blast from the Past candidate herself, and that troubles me, but at least she has won some recent elections. Gore hasn't been elected to shit on his own merits in well over a decade.

Still, I kind of like the guy, and he certainly seems to me a more patriotic, resolute and intelligent man than the mutant we have running the show right now. Seriously, if you are reading this thinking in your head that George Bush seems a better, more stable leader than Al Gore, I would highly recommend you make an appointment for a CAT Scan.

The Bad News Bears

The first thing you notice about the new remake of The Bad News Bears is that it looks cheap. There are no establishing shots. We're told the film takes place in the San Fernando Valley, but you never get a glimpse of anywhere but the local baseball field. The central cast is limited to the Bears team, plus Billy Bob Thronton, Marcia Gay Harden and Greg Kinnear. And the entire affair feels rushed and incomplete.

I can't say I know why the film comes off this way, whether it's a result of director Richard Linklater being denied a reasonable budget, a sped-up timeline necessitated by someone's schedule or last-minute changes. But it throws the film off from the first moment, giving it an awkward, perfunctory feel. That never helps with a comedy.

But the bigger problem is the film's schizophrenic sense of humor. Bad News Bears is truly a movie without an audience. The 1970's original, rated PG at a time when the ratings board was far more lax, is fondly remembered as a family movie despite some rather offensive language and content. The Matthau character was a drunk, many of the children were racially insensitive, and there are many jokes made at the expense of the team's lone female player (the charming Tatum O'Neal).

The new film admirably tries for the same balance, but fails to capture either the light entertainment of family fare or the edgy satirical humor that made the original film stand out. Instead, you get an odd mix of abrasive, crass humor and milquetoast "feel-good" blather.

Admittedly, the movie has some funny moments. Star Billy Bob Thornton, as a washout ex-minor league hero drafted to coach the world's worst Little League team, squeezes the most possible out of the premise. Though this film never reaches the inspired, crude heights of Terry Zweigoff's Bad Santa, this kind of character is perfectly designed for Thornton's weary, sly redneck persona.

In one scene, he's shocked when a black child (Kenneth Harris) cites Mark McGuire as his favorite player.

"But, he's a white," Thornton blurts out in surprise. It's a very funny little moment.

And Bad News Bears definitely has a few. But the funny bits are far outnumbered by the scenes that simply don't work. Kinnear plays the same smarmy character we've seen time and again in these sorts of films, the overzealous sports dad who coaches Little League with an intensity generally reserved for Space Shuttle launches. In fact, we've already seen Will Ferrell and Robert Duvall riffing on this very same lame caricature in this summer's even less successful (but decidedly more odd) Kicking and Screaming.

And Harden, too, is demeaned by a small, unfunny role as a stressed-out, overprotective mom who is won over by Thornton's greasy dirtbag charm.

This whole subplot is just totally flat, and feels false from the first moment. It's a problem with much of the Bears screenplay - things tend to happen out of plot convenience rather than the natural movement of a story. At first, Thornton is a miserable drunk, but he's able to magically sober up just when the team needs to start winning. Once he's grown as a father and coach, he must suddenly abandon his newfound love of children, so that he can later rediscover it during the big game.

I'm not saying a genre film like Bad News Bears should free itself from these cliches. Let's face it - these cliches are what make great sports movies great. Even the best movies in this genre - like the original Bad News Bears or Major League or Bull Durham or Hoosiers - follow the formula. It's how you integrate that formula into a setting and a story that matters.

I'm reminded of another film with a great Billy Bob Thornton performance, last year's wholly underrated Friday Night Lights. That movie was based on a real story about a football team's triumph over setbacks and conflict, and it followed every sports movie formula there is, but it felt unique, original and immensely satisfying.

Bad News Bears instead feels rote and somewhat tiresome. This is not the worst film from director Richard Linklater - that would be his atrocious Western The Newton Boys. But it's still pretty disappointing, a major step down from his last big studio comedy, the charming School of Rock.

Special Guest Blogger: Michael Bay

Hey, gang, what's up? Everyone's ADD-ravaged teenage neighbor's favorite director, Michael Bay, here. Lons is out watching a movie, so I thought I'd log on and rap at ya for a little while. I don't really know what he's seeing, but I hope it's my new film, The Island, cause it got beat last weekend by Fantastic Four and that Candy Factory bullshit from that goth weirdo, which just makes me look bad.

I mean, did you see The Thing in that Fantastic Four trailer? I've seen more realistic rock formations in a game of Rock Paper Scissors.

Anyway, you may have seen the article in yesterday's LA Times where I blame the marketing department for my movie's miserable disgusting box office failure. I figured that was the classiest movie, short of finding the highest-ranking black guy who worked on the set and blaming him.

Speaking of which, I told Ahmed 5 times that if he didn't start key-gripping better, the movie would wind up a flop, but did he listen? No!

I also, in that article, compared myself to Stanley Kubrick. Here's the exact quote:

"Everyone from [Steven] Spielberg to [Robert] Zemeckis to [Stanley] Kubrick — they've all had big flops," he said. "I was five for five. You know it's going to happen."

Now, yeah, I realize that comparing myself to Kubrick isn't really fair. I mean, that guy had almost no hits, and he directed movies for, like, 40 years. I mean, Barry Lyndon? Ryan O'Neal can't open a tentpole movie to save his life. Dr. Strangelove? They spend the whole movie talking about explosions, and then nothing blows up until the very end! And even then, you only get one perspective on it, it's in black and white, and I think it might have even been stock footage. Plus, they're playing that old stupid song over it so you can't even hear the thing go BOOM! What was that Kubrick fag thinking? The ball-rattling boom is the best part!

If it were me, I'd have Sterling Hayden start blowing shit up within the first 10 minutes of the movie. And instead of that cowboy guy, I'd have Will Smith pilot the plane. And he wouldn't just ride the bomb down to the target, he'd bring some fly honeys with him and do a little dance number set to a song he's recorded specifically for the movie. With a title like "The Doctor Is In (Theme from Doc Strangelove)". Cause that guy's got style.

Which brings me to my latest awesome idea for a movie. As you may have heard, next I'll be working on a small indie film called The Transformers. It's a sweet, personal movie about a group of robots staging an intergalactic battle for supremacy who hide out on Earth disguised as trucks and weapons. The kind of low-profile, rewarding project I've wanted to tackle for years.

But after I've got an art film like Transformers out of my sytstem, I'm all set to blow your ass out of your seat in 2007.

The idea occured to me while I was casting The Island. What are my movies missing that other popular movies have? I've got big movie stars, explosions, loud blaring nu-metal songs, explosions, 10-ton items being hurled from moving vehicles and explosions. I mean, what more does a movie need?

And then it occured to me...retards. People love movies about inspiring retards, like Radio or Forrest Gump or the dude from Shine or Paul Walker. And what goes better with a heartwarming story about triumph over adversity than 500,000 massive, fiery explosions?

So in 2007, I'll proudly bring you Tardpocalypse. Here's my latest treatment, along with some of my dream casting. It's a Crushed by Inertia exclusive:

By Michael Tiberius Bay IV, Esq.

We open in a peaceful grassy meadow. Some kid in a helmet rides around on a tricycle, giggling. He runs into a tree and falls over. After rubbing his head for a moment, the kid explodes, giving off a huge fireball that ignites all that surrounds him.

We get the title in huge flaming letters - "TARDPOCALYPSE!" Maybe two exclamation points, I haven't decided yet.


A research laboratory. Dr. Randolph Thackeray (Sean Bean) inspects a test tube. It has red liquid in it (we can use Kool Aid!).

"The formula is still unstable," he says. "We'll need more test subjects."


Pleasant Springs Hospital for Retards. Two happy retarded guys, Ben (Ben Affleck) and Josh (Josh Hartnett) are, I dunno, playing around like doofuses or something. Whatever those guys do. I'll have to do some research. But I bet they play handball, cause it's not that hard and you can't really get hurt doing it, plus it's super-fun.

Suddenly, about 500 agents swoop in on them in helicopters and squad cars. Oh, and I'll whizz the camera around them in slow motion to show that they're, um, surrounded and scared. Oh, man, this movie's gonna ROCK! YES! KICK ASS!

So Ben and Josh start kung fu fighting (we can set up that the retard school had a karate class!) and they do okay, but eventually they are captured by the big, tough, mean head agent guy (Djimon Hounsou, or Michael Clarke Duncan, or Ving Rhames or somebody...)


In the underground laboratory, Sean Bean has Ben and Josh all tied up and stuff. He's talking to another science nerdy guy (Steve Buscemi...duh...) We can totally see Ben and Josh's awesome pecs. The girls will love it. I wonder if it will be less sexy because they're acting like retards. Maybe they can sort of half act like retards, but still half be kind of cool, so girls will still dig them. No drooling, I gotta remember to tell them that.

Sean Bean injects Ben and Josh with the serum. He says it's supposed to, like, make them super-smart, but instead it has a horrible side effect - the same side effect it has had on all the other test subjects. It makes them highly explosive!

Okay, so after Ben and Josh have been injected, they get scared and decide to escape from the underground facility. So we get a huge action scene where tons of stuff blows up. Tons. But not Ben or Josh because we need them for the rest of the movie.

Then, they escape on a freeway, and when Djimon or Michael or Ving chases them, they throw something really big at them. Like a horse. Or maybe a whole herd of horses! Or old-timey 1960's computers! The kind that used to take up a whole room!

Oh, man, that's awesome, and it's totally never been done before. Old-timey 1960's computer parts flying towards the camera in slow motion? That's hot shit!

And those things would really explode if you threw them out the back of a van hauling ass at 90 mph on the LA Freeway! Holy shit, just describing this scene is giving me an explosion boner. Truly, this will be my greatest work.

So, in black-and-white flashbacks, we find out that before Ben was a retard, he was a normal cool guy with a hot stripper girlfriend (Ashley Olson). So he and Josh go to his girlfriend's place to hide out, and she's all "no way, you just left me to become a retard," and he's all, "I'm sorry, baby, but that was a long time ago, and I still care about you." And she's like, "well, you chose to be a retard, so now you have to live with the consequences." And he's all, "Look, if you don't help me out, I'm gonna explode, alright? So later on, I'll apologize the way you want to hear it, but for right now, you're gonna let me and my retard buddy in this apartment, and that's all there is to it." And then they totally start making out.

I don't know, maybe I can work in some animal crackers or something to make it more interesting.

Anyway, this all leads to the final chase, where Ashley Olson and Ben and Josh have to escape Sean Bean and his minions in a rocket ship en route to Jupiter, except that they get knocked off course and have to fly through the Asteroid Belt, until they finally emerge on the other side and set off a series of massive explosions that I can cut between really super fast to make it seem way more exciting than it actually is.

Then they crash land on the Las Vegas Strip and have a foot chase through the Mirage Hotel, narrowly evading being eaten by CGI white tigers before they get into an alien spacecraft and fly at four times the speed of light to a far-off universe identical to our own except that everything is constantly exploding all the time.

I haven't quite figured out how to wrap up that last act, but Jerry Bruckheimer always has good ideas for that sort of thing. I figure, I'll kill off either Ben or Josh, or maybe just the counselor back at the mental hospital who always gave them extra cookies on Wednesdays. You know, to tug at the heart strings. And I learned my lesson from The Island, guys, so don't worry...Ashley Olson is totally getting topless.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

You're a Mean One, Mrs. Grouch

If you add up the amount of time I spent managing a Barnes & Noble and now working at Laser Blazer, you would get approximately 2 years. That's a lot of customer service, and I can honestly say that I have only exchanged harsh or angry words with 2 members of the public during all of my retail experience.

Today was the second time, and it was particularly intense. I have never before in my life had to kick someone out of a store where I was working, but I suppose these things happen.

Here's the background - a few days ago, an older woman came into the store and purchased a marked-down copy of His Divorce/Her Divorce, an old Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor drama, for $4.98. It's one of those random, cheaply-produced DVD's that come from a small distributor. As anyone who regularly buys DVD's that don't come from regular studios will tell you, the picture and sound quality vary greatly from title to title.

Apparently, this woman was not aware of this fact, and today she came in with (I presume) her daughter and two grandchildren to return the movie.

Now, it's store policy not to take back an opened movie for full price, unless of course it's defective.

And it'ds the definition of this term, defective, that caused all the problems. I was using the term properly - to indicate that the DVD was scratched, flawed or physically incapable of being played. This woman and her daughter took up the position that any DVD which does not meet an overall standard of quality - that is, DVD's with fuzzy pictures, poor transfers or muddy sound - is defective and should be returnable.

At first, I resisted. I offered $3 for a trade-in of the title, which would mean that the entire misadventure would cost a grand total of $2. This was insufficient. The woman and her daughter continued arguing, repeating the same two or three inane statements and getting increasingly agitated.

I was pretty proud of myself. I didn't get angry or visibly upset, and neither did the two guys with whom I was working. We all took a decent amount of verbal abuse from these woman before I conceded.

Yes, that's right, I gave in. I offered the woman store credit in the amount of $5, just to shut her up. But it didn't work. My concession only seemed to make her more angry. I think perhaps it was my choice of wording.

Here's what I said, as near as I can recall:

"Okay, I'll give you the full credit this time, but in the future, please bear in mind that we can't be held responsible for things like picture and sound quality. Those are up to the company authoring the disc."

And here's how the woman's daughter, who had by now taken the position of consumer advocate to heart, responded:

"What? No, that's ridiculous. This is the worst service I've ever had. I shop here all the time. You can't hear the movie. It doesn't work. That's defective. You shouldn't sell discs like that. I shop here all the time. This is ridiculous. I can't hear the movie, you can't hear what they're saying. Why would you sell something like that? This is ridiculous. It doesn't work. It's defective. I shop here all the time. IT'S DEFECTIVE AND IT DOESN'T WORK! I SHOP HERE ALL THE TIME!"

At around this time, I finished ringing up the transaction, giving her $5 credit that she immediately used towards the purchase of Season 1 of Paris Hilton's reality show "The Simple Life." This is staggeringly appropriate, as she and Paris Hilton seem to share a perspective and worldview.

So I bring the purchases to the end of the counter and think to myself that I'm finally done. At this point, the woman flips out once again, runs over to our bargain used section, and begins to verbally accost two perfectly innocent young girls who happen to be browsing for DVD's.

Seriously. She knocks discs away from them and loudly announces that they shouldn't buy discs from our used bin, that they are all defective and that we won't take them back. At this point, I finally raised my voice, announced to the woman that they and their children were no longer welcome in the store.

My co-worker joined me in telling them to "go home," and all three of us behind the counter made it quite clear that it was time to leave.

Thinking about it later, I wondered if this woman would have any pangs of regret later for her behavior. Maybe she was having a horrible day, suffering from some tragedy, and this incident was merely the final frustration that broke her spirit. I can't be sure.

If she has any sense at all, she'll later be embarrassed about how she acted. If it were me, I could never show me face in that store again. And all over a matter of $2! And in front of her young children!

Sometimes you come face to face with the truly ugly side of humanity. Usually, it makes me frustrated and angry, but tonight, I just feel sad and disconnected.

Monday, July 25, 2005

On Republican Scumbags

This morning, on this post, my friend Cory accused me of being unfairly prejudiced against conservatives. He noted that, whenever I'm discussing a conservative commentator or Republican Party member, I use adjectives like "odious." (One of my favorites). Also "assholes," "rejects," "fuckwads," "scumbags," fartknockers," "spacefegs" and "chode-lickers." I should really use that last one more often.

He's both correct and incorrect. He's correct in that I always describe conservatives as despicable monsters, greedy amoral villains abusing their powers for personal benefit and, occasionally, out of pure unadulterated misanthropic malice. He's incorrect in assuming that they don't all deserve it.

Now, I'm not saying that affiliation with the rightwardly side of American politics automatically makes you a scumbag. It doesn't help my overall opinion of you, but it's certainly possible to overcome this initial repulsion and win me over as an individual (as is the case with Cory, a good friend and solid dude who has chosen his political affiliation based on reasonable-enough ideological precepts).

What I am saying is that, for whatever reason, all notable conservatives in public life in America right now happen to be complete douchebags.

Bear in mind, I think a whole lot of notable liberals in public life in America right now happen to be complete douchebags. There are plenty of exceptions, but as a general rule, America is teeming with morons and fools who can't wait to speak whenever a microphone is placed in their immediate vicinity.

I'm not just saying this for comic effect, either. I've been sitting here for a few moments now, trying desperately to think of a famous, principled, honest conservative with the betterment of Americans at heart. Really. Haven't got one yet.

John McCain? He's certainly got a background that's admirable and deserving of praise. Honestly, this guy's about as close as you can come to a palatable conservative. I like how he's willing to challenge the authority of this administration, particularly through is recent support of legislation in Congress that would limit Rumsfeld's ability to beat the fuck out of Arabs in captivity for no good reason.

But he's chosen to prop up our current president, helping to get him re-elected for a disasterous second term. And he, in general, is kind of an asshole, calling out Michael Moore during the Republican Convention, railing against violent video games and movies when he knows damn well from personal experience that violence is the result of public policy and human psychology and not "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas." And, COME ON, how can he even still be in that party after that Swift Boat nonsense.

I think this gets to the heart of my problem with every Republican public figure in America. Their association with the present administration. It's true that one can simultaneously be conservative, have conservative political values, and be a good person. But I can't help but feel that vigorously and publicly supporting Bush's disasterous Iraq War, racist and homophobic domestic agenda, disgraceful lack of fiscal discipline, appointment of radical ideologues to major positions and embrace of the corrupt corporate elite kind of just makes you a scumbag.

As for conservative commentators, I'm hard-pressed to think of one who hasn't taken several positions without any reasonable or solid evidence that could withstand even basic scrutiny. The conservative in question, the one I called "odious" when Cory took offense, was Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post.

In fact, here's precisely what Cory said:

Krauthammer is (to me) a good writer and fairly balanced commentator on the political scene. Of course he has a conservative take on things, but does that inherently make him evil?

Having a conservative take on things of course doesn't make someone evil. There are a few "conservative" positions I even hold myself. (For example, I'm against hate crime legislation. I have never seen any indication that hate crime legislation prevents hate crimes, and I don't feel like your motive for beating someone up really has much to do with how you should be punished for beating that person up.)

But is that the truth about Krauthammer? Is he just a guy who leans conservative, who has a different take on things? Does he really think independantly before he writes every column, taking all perspectives into account?

Let's take a look at a column Krauthammer wrote for Time Magazine in March of this year. It's called "Three Cheers for the Bush Doctrine." And the sub-head reads "History has begun to speak, and it says that America made the right decision to invade Iraq."

I don't even have to get into the article to start explaining to you why this guy's a hack, do I? First of all, any reasonable person would know that it's too early to declare victory in Iraq. GWB learned that, as we all remember, the hard way.

Krauthammer was referring to the democratic votes which has just occured in Lebanon, and the January 31st "election" in Iraq. Based on these two events, which somewhat coincided time-wise but not necessarily in terms of importance, he declares that the Middle East problem is solved.

(He actually goes so far as to refer to 2005 as an "Arab spring." What a jackass. If by "spring" he means "their heads spring off when you shoot them from a way's away," then yeah, I could see the accuracy of that statement).

You see what I mean? Krauthammer's an asshole, and I didn't even need to get far past his sub-head to figure it out! I could keep mining this and other articles for more examples of his mindless, Bush-suckling idiocy. He spends the entire article acting like the trouble in the Middle East is now totally over, and that a glorious new day of democracy is here, all thanks to the heroic, sage and intensely studly GWB.

The Administration went ahead with this great project knowing it would be hostage to history. History has begun to speak. Elections in Afghanistan, a historic first. Elections in Iraq, a historic first. Free Palestinian elections producing a moderate leadership, two historic firsts. Municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, men only, but still a first. In Egypt, demonstrations for democracy--unheard of in decades--prompting the dictator to announce free contested presidential elections, a historic first.

Turns out, the critics, liberal and "realist," got the Arab street wrong. In Iraq and Lebanon, the Arab street finally got to speak, and mirabile dictu, it speaks of freedom and dignity. It does not bay for American blood. On the contrary, its leaders now openly point to the American example and American intervention as having provided the opening for this first tentative venture in freedom.

What really changed in the Middle East? The Iraqi elections vindicated the two central propositions of the Bush doctrine.

And, of course, we all know that, thanks to GWB, everything worked out great. Now, if we can just train a massive Iraqi Army and police force, broker a lasting peace between Palestine and Israel, get those 100,000 troops home, stave off that near-certain coming Civil War, and help stop the growing number of terrorist bombings not just in the Middle East but in Europe, we're totally done!

Is he insane? People are dying in the streets every day over there, the police are vanishing faster than we can recruit new ones, American kids are dying in far-off deserts every single day, and this guy's throwing a victory parade for Bush and proclaiming that Arabs don't want to kill Americans any more!

That's reasonable journalistic commentary, free from demagoguery and deception?


Trimspa, Baby

Couldn't resist posting this picture, found over at Immoderation. If you're not yet clicking on that link and visiting Immoderation, you're a bigger fool than I thought. Funny, funny, rather brilliant stuff, nothing at all like the semi-coherent allusion-heavy rants you'll find here. And she knows how to use Photoshop!

This is Anna Nicole, um, enjoying herself during the Trimspa-sponsored party at the Passions Nightclub of Hollywood, Florida.

This picture is amazing. Not because Anna Nicole is obviously doped out of her gourd. Everyone knows Anna Nicole Smith is a drug addict. But because a company selling a product they want you to ingest daily thinks that this will be good marketing. So this supposed health product has chosen, as their public face, a burnout ex-stripper who looks as if she's spent the last 24 hours with a plastic bag over her head, huffing gasoline fumes in an apartment being fumigated for cockroaches.

The photo reminds me of that ad for Trimspa Anna Nicole did about a year ago. It ran all the time during "Howard Stern" re-runs on E!. You may remember the ad yourself, as it's the only ad running during that show not endorsing "Girls Gone Wild."

In the ad, Anna's newly-thin and we're getting a look at her fast-paced hip Hollywood lifestyle. She's driving fast cars, attending premieres, that sort of thing. During the commercial, she keeps offering you, the viewer, fabulous prizes. "Want a million dollars?" for example. Or "want a Humvee?"

I should note that Anna and the commercial rhetorically assume that the viewer's answer to all the questions will be "yes." However, the trouble one would encounter attempting to regularly park a Humvee on the streets of Palms and Culver City, California, would far far outweigh any potential status one would achieve by driving around an expensive modified former military vehicle. I would take this into account if, in real life, through some odd twist of fate, a former Playboy Playmate offered me a free Humvee.

[I was going to make a lame Humvee-Hummer-Playmate joke right there, but decided against it. Now I think that may have been a mistake, as it's a rather good set-up for such a joke. But alas, the moment has passed.]

Back to the commercial. In the end, Ms. Smith is dressed in some manner of skimpy outfit. She looks into the camera with bedroom eyes and asks "Like my body?"

Once again, the assumed answer is "of course!" And the commercial proceeds to inform you how, for the low low price of whatever the fuck Trimspa costs, you too can have an amazing body like Anna's.

Regrettably for Trimspa, the desired sensual effect doesn't really come through. Even though Anna's body does in fact look much better than the bloated form she featured on E's own "Anna Nicole Smith Show," she seems very disoriented during the commercial, so the result is not so much "sexiness" as, um, well, "pity."

When Anna leans into the camera and mewls "like my body," the effect is subtly terrifying, like that scene in The Shining when Jack starts making out with the hot ghost chick in the bathroom, only to discover she's really a rotting corpse.

Wow, reading over this description, the commercial sounds fairly tragic. When my roommate Chris and I first saw it, our immediate response was to laugh. Hysterically. And then to rewind the thing on the DVR to watch it a few more times. I suppose we're just cruel by nature.

The Taste of Cherry

I was just sitting here, sipping on a Cherry Coke, when a thought occured to me. No, it wasn't that I gave up on my pledge to stop drinking so much soda. This is the first can of soda I've had today, thank you very much, and it's after 8 pm.

I was thinking about how I don't really like eating actual cherries, but how I love eating stuff with chemical imitation cherry flavor. I mean, I don't hate cherries or anything. On the off chance I'm presented with an ice cream sundae, I would not necessarily remove the cherry from on top.

But I don't really have a passion for sitting down and eating a bowl of cherries. I doubt if, in my lifetime, I have eaten more than 50 individual cherries.

And yet I love Cherry Coke, Ben & Jerry Cherry Garcia ice cream, and I even prefer the cherry-flavored Mike & Ike's to all the other fruit flavors.

So why is it that the imitation cherry flavor is so universal, and yet it doesn't actually taste anything like real cherries? It's like some guy in 1950 or whatever invented "fake cherry flavoring" and it's still the same recipie used in everything today. A "Fake Cherry Standard," if you will. That would be pretty weird, but I can't think of any other explanation how Cherry Coke and Cherry Mike & Ike's manage to taste so much alike without tasting anything like their namesake fruit.

The New Nightmare

So, okay, I know you're probably all sick of bitching about my car, but it's really really really hard to function in this city without your own set of wheels.

I've been reflecting all week on the people I know who live in LA without cars. At my old job, my good friend Steve had to constantly get rides from other people or even (gasp!) take the bus all the way from his Silverlake home to our West Hollywood office.

No idea how he handled it. The entire ordeal would have driven me batshit insane within a week.

Take yesterday, for example. I went out early, to catch the bus, forgetting that bus schedules and routes change on Sundays and holidays. So, naturally, the bus didn't come. Or rather, it did come, but not to the stop I had positioned myself by, leading to a hilarious scene in which the bus pulled up across the street, I took off like a screaming maniac in a fruitless attempt to hold it there, the bus driver takes off, oblivious to my cries, and I wind up stranded, alone on Overland Blvd., with 15 minutes to get to work.

Now normally, this would not have been too horrible a situation, even when you factor in that it was approxmiately 500 degrees outside in the shade yesterday. You know that scene in Terminator 2 when Linda Hamilton has a vision of the end of the world, and then turns into a flaming skeleton? It was kind of like that, only hotter.

Thankfully, I had my cell phone on me. "No problem," I thought, trying to keep my mental state optimistic. "I'll just call a cab and they'll be here in 10 minutes."

So I dial 4-1-1 on the phone, which I realize is over-expensive but, hey, it's for situations like this one.

So I call. And I wait on hold for about six eternities. I used to have AT&T Wireless, and the few times I used their 4-1-1 service, it worked beautifully. But now AT&T has been sold to Cingular, also known as the Stupidest and Worst Company in the Entire World.

And being the Worst Company Ever, they naturally program their 4-1-1 directory to hang up on your after making you wait 15 minutes. Here's a transcript of your conversation:

CINGULAR: 411. What city please?
ME: West Los Angeles.
CINGULAR: Hold please.
ME: Okay.
[Cue musak versions of old Sting songs]
CINGULAR: What city please?
ME: Um...West Los Angeles.
CINGULAR: I'll put you on hold.
[Cue musak versions of old Cyndi Lauper songs]
CINGULAR: What listing?
ME: I just need a cab.
CINGULAR: Okay, thanks.
[They hang up]
[I redial]
CINGULAR: 411. What city please?
ME: West Los Angeles.
CINGULAR: Hang on.
[Cue musak versions of old Doobie Brothers songs]
CINGULAR: What listing?
ME: The Beverly Hills Cab Company.
AUTOMATIC COMPUTER VOICE: Please hold while we connect you for no additional fee.
[They hang up]

I'm not sure what happened next. Between the heat, and my frustration, I'm pretty sure I did something rash like murder a transient, but I honestly don't remember.

All I know is, I came to and realized that the 7-11 right behind me had a pay phone! And some pay phones actually have phone books attached!

So I raced over there, and sure enough, dangling from the pay phone stall was the answer to my prayers, a West Los Angeles Yellow Pages.

Have you figured out the exciting twist ending to this anecdote? Well, here is comes.


I guess this isn't that surprising. I'm guessing TAXIS is probably one of the first sections to get ripped out of a pay phone directory, at least in my neighborhood. Right after LIQUOR and before ESCORTS.

It was intensely annoying, though. Eventually, I had to make the trek to my apartment, look up a cab company on the Internet, call them and wait, and then take a taxi to work for about $10. Fortunately, I was only about 20 minutes late to work. Nice.

In a little under an hour, I'm heading out once more to a bus stop, although I have somewhat more confidence that the bus will actually show up where it's supposed to this time. Otherwise, I may just have to murder another transient...Only time will tell...