Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Rainbow Flag Connection

100 million thank you's to Pendagon for linking this adorable "Dear Abby" column. How this young, male liberal blogger came to read this "Dear Abby" column I leave to you, the reader, to decide.

A woman writes "Dear Abby" concerned because her neighbor has put up a rainbow flag on their home. The rainbow flag, of course, representing - mother of God - gay rights. Yes, a symbol of gay pride in a decent, suburban neighborhood. You can imagine her outrage...

Because we have a lot of families with young children who do not need to be subjected to that kind of thing, I have asked him numerous times to remove it.

His response is it's a free country and he does not subject anybody to his lifestyle.

Yes, that kind of thing repulses me, too. Can you imagine? Multi-colored flags representing abstract socio-political goals. Disgusting.

I strongly feel that in a neighborhood devoted to children's morals and the way life should be, he should not be allowed to have that flag in his front yard for everyone to see. I threatened if he didn't take it down, I'd call the police. I feel it's harming the children to see that flag flying, especially on a busy street that everyone travels on. What should I do? -- RIGHTEOUS IN NEW CASTLE, PA.

Righteous is understating it. Maniacally self-involved and delusional would be somewhat more appropriate.

I'd like to first point out that Abby actually lets the woman have it in her response.

Rather than picking a fight about something so insignificant, you should concentrate on cultivating your own garden and stop obsessing about what's going on in his.

Folksy as always, but accurate.

I'm just fascinated by the truly twisted, confused mind that would produce this kind of anti-gay hysteria. The way this woman views the world is completely 100% delusional.

Think about it. This is the thought process her brain took:

(1) I see a rainbow flag
(2) Rainbow flags represent gay pride
(3) Therefore, the men in that house are gay
(4) Gay men have buttsex with one another
(5) Gay buttsex is wrong
(6) Children must not have gay buttsex
(7) If children see that flag, they will know it represents gay pride
(8) If children find out about gay pride, they will start having gay buttsex
(8) Therefore, that flag will cause children to have gay buttsex
(9) Therefore, the flag must be taken down

Wow. That's complicated. And stupid. Really, really stupid.

Guest Blogger: Uncle Sam

You, out there, reading this blog...How old are you? 18-30? Maybe a little older, if you eat right and exercise regularly? Hmm?

You're not a queer, right?

Do you have any birth defects? Any disabilities that might prevent you from aiding your country in the war against evil abroad? Hmmm?

Cause, I have to say, from here, you look fine. Able-bodied. Free from any debilitating diseases or conditions. You don't have flat feet, do you?

Honestly, do you even know what it means to have "flat feet," and why that's a good excuse for avoiding military service? I say, get in a fucking tank or something, pilot that. You don't need attractive feet and ankles to blow up ragheads, sir or madam, only the love of freedom and the will to victory!

So, seriously, why not enlist? Your beloved U.S. Army needs you. Really. We really really need you. I don't know what happened, but it's almost like no young kids, just starting out in life, want to sign up to serve for 18 months or even longer in a forward area deep inside the Sunni Triangle. OMFG! WTF?

With this whole Iraq thing, there's been on question on my mind...When did all the young people in America become total pussies?

Who does it look like I'm pointing at right there...You, motherfucker. John Q. Poor Teenaged Minority. I know you can here me, Juan and Rasheed. Let's stop bullshitting and do this thing.

I'm doing my part. I mean, we're spending millions to advertise to you on your MTV2's and Comedy Centrals and whatever, telling you to become an Army of One, work on your sniper skills and kill dirty filthy disgusting loathsome freedom-hatin' foreigners.

But do you listen? Noooooo! You're too busy watching your Ashton Kooshball shows and listening to your podcasts and sneding your textile messages and distributing sex videos of yourselves.

I'm even trying to go above your head, and advertise to your parents, in the hopes they'll encourage you to sign up!

How's that for an act of hopeless desperation? I mean, yeah, maybe I can convince some forthright, honest, brave young people to enlist with promises of serving their fellow man and realizing their full potential. But to go behind their back to Mom and Dad, telling them that their child dying for some religious freak president's ill-fated crusade would somehow earn their family some pride or honor or something...

It never used to be like this, folks. It used to be easy to get kids to join the Armed Forces. All I had to do was point at people on posters, and occasionally make a splashy big-budget Hollywood action movie glorifying military service.

But, hey, desperate times, you know what I mean?

Aw, hell, what do I know? I'm just a clever expansion of the initials U.S., popularized during the War of 1812 and used as a recruitment tool during World War I.

The Ring Two

I thought Verbinksi's American Ring was way better than Hideo Nakata's original Japanese version, Ringu. Nakata, well, he's just not very good. He makes dull, dreary, uninteresting movies that happen to have great premises.

His original Ringu had a solid concept, and it was an okay movie, but it just kind of plodded along, without building much momentum. The imagery was there - washed-out visuals, creepy undead wet girl, black oily water, deadpan dialogue, nondescript urban settings - but the narrative was dead in the water. Which brings us to his Japanese follow-up, Dark Water (remade earlier this year with Jennifer Connelly). The movie was not only intensely similar to Ringu, but even less interesting, another waste of a solid set-up.

Now Nakata has come to America, and it's just getting worse and worse...The script for Ring Two was written by Ehren Krueger, who wrote the first American Ring, and it's loosely based on the Japanese Ringu sequels. Anyway, it's totally nonsensically bad. It takes one of the main assets of the first film - the strong central concept of a video tape that causes death a week after it's viewed - and ditches it in favor of some lame child-possession plot line.

In the first act of the new film, Rachel (Naomi Watts), the plucky reporter who first discovered the secret of the deadly video tape, destroys the only known copy, thus ending the evil ghost Samara's reign of terror.

Why shoot yourself in the foot like that? For the next hour or so, the film essentially has no story at all, nowhere to go. Ghostly things continue happening to Rachel and her oddball, quiet son Aidan (David Dorfman) for no reason. Cause the tape is destroyed, right? So the ghost has no power, right?

We know eventually all will be explained, but the whole affair seems rather pointless. If the ghost isn't imprisoned in the tape, if she can fly all around haunting whomever she pleases, whether or not they've even watched her little home movie, then there are no rules, no objectives, no conflict. You've got a story that makes no sense.

Eventually, we find out that the undead Samara wants to invade the body of young Adian and live on with Rachel as her mommy. Uh-huh...If she could possess people, why hasn't she been doing that all along? And why would she want Rachel for her mommy if Rachel just keeps trying to kill her? And if you had this kind of power over time and space, would you really use it to spook horny teenagers, precocious 8 year olds and their attractive, fragile and emotionally distant single mothers?

So, the set-up is fuck-all. Nakata is left with are a bunch of scenarios that play like a best-of of the first movie, recreations of the original Ring's best moments.

While the first movie had an intense encounter with a crazed horse on a ferry, this new movie has a ludicrous and poorly-handled sequence in which a large group of deer attack Rachel's car. (It's even sillier than it sounds, and the CG deer effects are atrocious).

While the first movie had an informational encounter with Samara's crazed father (Brian Cox), the new movie has an informational encounter with Samara's crazed mother (Sissy Spacek).

While the first movie had a bland boyfriend killed off in the film's only gruesome sequence...well, you get the idea.

But let's face it...what's enjoyable about Gore Verbinski's original film isn't the crackerjack plotting. It's the style. The movie is unsettling (if not actually scary). It's aided by crisp blue-black cinemtography, tight plotting, a coolly efficient performance from Naomi Watts and a genuinely surprising late-in-the-film twist.

Ring Two is a film lacking style. By the half-hour point, the film has become so ridiculous that it never again gets close to being at all chilling. Almost all of the attempts at scare scenes, in fact, rely on poor computer effects, including an odd sequence in which bathtub water defies gravity to rest against the ceiling. The technology, regrettably, isn't quite up to the task, and the result is a garbled and ill-defined liquidy mass. Not scary.

Nakata right now is publicly vying for the chance to try again with Ring Three. I think his sequel has pretty much killed the series, honestly. If they are going to try and keep this think afloat (har!), some poor screenwriter's going to have to work overtime to make anything work with this hackneyed mythology. Best of luck, DreamWorks...


Dario Argento fans tend to fade 1993's Trauma. They're not entirely wrong - it's not on par with Argento's twin horror masterpieces of the late 70's, Deep Red and Suspiria. (I'm also a fan of 1982's bizarre Tenebrae). Those films aren't really all that different from Trauma; they're just bigger, bolder, stranger and of course, far more gory.

That's what's most noticeable about Trauma (other than the obvious constraints of its low budget). Gore master Tom Savini (most famous for his work with George Romero on the Dead movies) did the make-up effects, but they're strangely muted. The movie is violent, but it should be far far more violent. I mean, it's a low-budget Italian serial killer movie! Come on!

For some strange reason, Argento's storyline has all the characters killed in exactly the same way, which doesn't really make for a thrilling and non-repetitive movie. Even though the killer's preferred method of death-dispensing - decapitation using an electric-powered wire serving as a noose - looks cool, it's hardly visually exciting enough to sustain 5 different murder scenes.

Argento had told essentially this same story countless times before. A young woman (his daughter Asia Argento) and her confidant (massive goober Christopher Rydell, best remembered for his roles in 80's teen comedies like Gotcha! and The Sure Thing) track down the serial killer who murdered her parents (Dominique Serrand and Piper Laurie, pictured above received shock treatments). Done.

So why does everything feel so off? There are several pitch-perfect sequences, including a delightful scene in which Brad Dourif, playing a sleazy ex-doctor, is killed using an elevator, but the movie just never amounts to anything. It never comes alive, despite a lot of ingenuity and energy that obviously went in.

Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't note that it's very strange Argento directed his own daughter in this role. She's playing a 16 year old anorexic sex kitten. There is gratuitous nudity and sex involved (which reminds me...Asia Argento has the nicest anorexic breasts I've ever seen!) I'm trying to think of another filmmaker who has directed his own daughter in such a role, and am coming up blank...Suggestions?

(And, no, Woody Allen doesn't count...Only publicly released films, please. No home movies.)

Thursday, August 18, 2005


I mean the Sufjan Stevens song "Chicago," not the movie or the band. Or, you know, the Midwestern city. Although during the few days I spent there a few years ago, it struck me as cool city, albeit one with an unfortunate tendency towards sideways rain.

This song is off of Sufjan's latest album, "Illinois," the second in a proposed series of 50 albums commemorating each US State. (Album #1 was "Michigan.") It's pretty much exactly the kind of indie pop that gets me every time. An infectious hook, production that's large and full of flourishes, yet lilting and delicate, clever lyrics. The sort of thing Elliott Smith conjured up on his later albums. Some of Stevens songs have the exact tone that Coldplay always tries for, and occasionally almost hits, on their way to being maudlin, posturing and overbearing.

I've been listening to it a lot tonight, while I'm sitting here and revising some script stuff and blogging. It's a good background song. Also, I'm waiting for Dangerdoom (the MF Doom/DJ Danger Mouse collaboration) to download.

Much More Than the Second Time Around

When I first took the job at the video store, I did so largely because I thought it would be a way to hang out and watch movies all day. This is, in fact, the standard activity you think of when you think of video store clerks - scruffy guys who know a lot about film, watching movies and hanging out all day, occasionally getting up to fetch someone a copy of Hot Shots Part Deux.

Unfortunately for me and my juvenile employment fantasies, we don't technically get to watch movies all day at the video store. Oh, sure, we have TV's in the back where we play whatever new releases are out that week. But on the big TV monitors all around the store, we play these old VHS tapes some guy from Tennessee made from laserdiscs for the store some time in the late 90's.

The tapes are composed of trailers, special features from movies like The Godfather and Notting Hill, big numbers from famous musicals, clips from old TV shows, music videos and concert footage. Here are some of my favorite bits from the tapes:

(1) The trailer for Copland

This isn't a great movie, but it has a clip from this one scene where De Niro is berating Sylvester Stallone. He says this one line of dialogue that has become my single favorite moment from any tape:

"I gave you a chance to be a cop, and you blew it!!!!!"

I think they use the "you blew it" part on Howard Stern as a sound effect. It's an awesome little moment from a forgettable film.

(2) Roxy Music playing a cover of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy"

This bit pretty much rules. It's from some old Roxy Music concert available on Laserdisc. The song just sounds terrific, Brian Ferry's kind of in the zone...It's a great rendition of one of my favorite Lennon solo songs.

(3) Louis Armstrong playing "I Cover the Waterfront"

This is an old scratchy black-and-white clip of Louis Armstrong and his band playing this standard. He even does this funny little introduction that goes like this...

"How y'all doing this evening...We're gonna play one of the good old good ones for you. I COVER THE WATERFRONT! 'I Cover the Waterfront.' It sounds like this."

Really terrific song.

(4) HBO First Look: Meet Joe Black

Man, Meet Joe Black sucked. I only like this feature, on the Meet Joe Black DVD, because both Claire Forlani and Anthony Hopkins come off like completely pompous, ridiculous egomaniacal asswipes.

Have I ever told you guys the Anthony Hopkins story, wherein Mr. Hopkins verbally abuses me? I was at the press junket for Mask of Zorro, covering it for the Daily Bruin, and I began a question with "Mr. Hopkins..." So Tony interrupts me, remember I'm a 19 year old kid, and instructs me to refer to him as "Sir Anthony."

Then, later, he told me he wanted to eat my liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

So, yeah, the guy's a real piece of work...In this featurette, he's really on a roll. "I love to make jokes on the set. Love jokes. I have a wonderful sense of humor," he says at one point.

If you unironically stay stuff like "I have a wonderful sense of humor," doesn't it kind of prove that you don't have a wonderful sense of humor? I'm just checking.

Claire Forlani, if you can believe it, is even worse. She talks about the script for Meet Joe Black, first of all, like it's goddamn "Notes from the Underground" and "Ulysses" combined.

"It was just this magnificent work of art. The first time I read it, every time I read it, I discovered something brilliant, something new."

Have you seen Meet Joe Black?

(5) The trailer for The Conversation

Great movie, great trailer. I like all the bits with Hackman yelling, but particularly right at the end, when he yells: "This is Harry Caul! Can someone hear me!"

(6) The trailer for Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

This Sam Peckinpah movie featured a soundtrack by Bob Dylan, and Bob's first-ever fictional film performance (in a career that would include such non-classics as Hearts Afire and Masked and Anonymous). So the trailer has a cool Bob Dylan song in the background, and at one point the narrator goes, "And in his first film performance, recording star Bob Dylan," and then Dylan spins around on a barstool and almsot looks in the camera.

It's just more enigmatic pseudo-ironic inscrutable Bob Dylan shit, and I'm a sucker for that stuff.

The only problem is, there's maybe a grand total of 8 working tapes in the store, each of which is only about 3 hours long.

So in any given shift, you see a tape repeat at least two full times, sometimes three. And in every two week period, you see each tape at least once. So I'm at the point now where I'm not only tired of all the clips on all the tapes, but I've actually memorized their sequence.

For example, I'll hear the trailer for Shaft and know...KNOW...that next will be James Brown and his band performing a song called "Too Funky." (The Shaft trailer and the James Brown song, by the way, pretty much totally rule...At the end of the trailer, the narrator goes..."Shaft is rated R. If you want to see Shaft, ask your mama." Sweet.)

It's getting pretty bad, though, my annoyance at these tapes. Apparently, my co-workers are able to successfully "block out" the tapes, and not pay attention to them, but it's pretty loud, and often it's the only real significant sound in the store, so it's hard not to hear what's going on...

Here are my least favorite bits on the tapes, in no particular order:

(1) A very long trailer for Fiddler on the Roof.

Man, I hate the songs from Fiddler on the Roof. Plus, there's nothing worse than working a job you don't feel like doing while Tevye is singing to you about pogrom life. It's so ironic, sometimes it causes me to feel physically ill.

A few months ago, that Gwen Stefani "Rich Girl" song, a take-off of the Fiddler tune "If I Were a Rich Man," was on the radio constantly. So I'd hear that goddamn obnoxious Topol version 3 times, and then on the rdie home, I'd be treated to Gwen Stefani and Eve's delightful, not-very-different rendition. Awesome!

(2) An Olivia Newton-John music video from the Two of a Kind soundtrack.

You may not remember Two of a Kind. It was the much-anticipated 80's re-teaming of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, who had charmed every fucking woman in America, apparently, with their surprise 70's smash Grease. Thank god there are no Grease songs on the tapes, or I'd have probably enlisted in the Marines at this point. ANYTHING to avoid having to hear "Beauty School Drop Out" even one more time.

The song, "Second Time Around" (get it?) is fairly standard 80's synth pop stuff, but the video is so cheesy and obnoxious, mixing footage of Newton-John dancing around like a spaz with footage from the "movie." Trust me, after 3 times a get sick of it...

(3) Tom Thumb excerpt

A long (LONG!) clip from Tom Thumb, with a young Russ Tamblyn loudly singing the stupidest, lamest song ever written. Here are some sample lyrics:

This is my song
My very own song
I can sing it short
Or I can sing it long

Dee dee dee dee dee
DEE dee dee dee
Dee dee dee dee dee dee
DEE dee dee dee
Dee dee dee dee dee dee
Dee dee dee dee dee
Dee dee dee dee
Dum Dum Dum

This is my song
My very own song
I can sing it loud
And I can sing it strong

Doo Dee Doo Dee Doo
Dee Doo Doo Doo
Dee Doo Dee Doo Dee Doo
Dee Doo Doo Doo
Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo
Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo
Doo Doo Doo Dee
Dum Dum Dum

And that's when I reach for my revolver.

(4) The Music Man featurette

I don't have a problem with the actual film The Music Man. Some of the songs are kind of annoying, but I know objectively that it's actually pretty good, and Robert Preston is a lot of fun in that part.

But MAN, this segment with Shriley Jones introducing a montage of songs from the film is SOOOOOO HORRIBLY ANNOYING. At first, it always reminds me of the Simpsons' Monorail episode, one of my favorites, and that's not so bad, but once it starts flitting between segments of "Shipoopee" and all those nonsense songs from the play's second really starts to get to me.

Plus that "Trouble" song! Argh!

(5) This PIXAR short called Knick Knack

I know, I know...It gives me no pleasure to pick on PIXAR. I love PIXAR. Toy Story 2 and The Incredibles are fabulous, tremendous entertainments, among the best animated films in recent memory.

But this old cartoon of John Lasseter's has this Bobby McFerrin song on the soundtrack and all these goofy sound effects...It's hideous. Having to hear it 3 times a day is torture. Actual torture. What on EARTH was this guy thinking when he put that on a tape to be playing on rotation in a store inhabited by human beings?

(6) Shania Twain performing "I Feel Like a Woman"


Shania's a nice looking piece of wool, no doubt about it. But this song is truly atrocious. Not to mention, it's all nerdy dudes working at this store. This type of song has no place there. The entire soundtrack should be, like, indie rock and fusion jazz. And not just any indie rock, either, but low-fi 90's indie rock and Ween.

Seriously. I get embarrassed when this video comes on. I figure the customers are probably smart enough to know that I, personally, do not program the tapes or select their content. But still, I'm a grown man, and I'm standing around in the middle of the day behind a counter listening to Shania Twain. Employment at the store is no excuse.

Let's Play Hardball

Chris Matthews is not a journalist. He tries to play one on TV, but he's not very good at it. His supposed "hard-hitting reporter" persona is about as realistic and convincing as Margot Kidder's in Superman. Chris Matthews has more in common with the Bernstein Bears than Woodward & Bernstein.

Here's a recent photo of him in which he appears paranoid:

Does he always look like that with no make-up on? Creepy...He kind of looks like this one really weird guy who comes into the video store all the time, who always wears the same stained old stuit and a really bad toupee, and who once told the manager that he "advised the heads of foreign governments" for a living.

Anyway, Chris has absolutely no idea what a journalist does or how to inform the public in any meaningful way, which is odd considering that he's a popular TV news personality and best-selling non-fiction author.

Actually, maybe it's not that surprising when you look at some other popular TV news personalities and best-selling non-fiction authors.

Right after this book signing, Bill enjoyed a delicious falafel with both of those ladies...if you know what I mean...

I know first-hand about the stupidity of Chris Matthews' book, cleverly entitled "Hardball," because I had to read it for a graduate Media & Politics class at U.S.C. Yeah, really...I took out $30,000 in student loans to drive out to U.S.C. after working for 8 hours, for the pleasure of being assigned a book I could go read for free at any Barnes & Noble store (with the additional benefit of possibly meeting Bill O'Reilly and his nun fans!)

That Media & Politics class was the largest chunk of bullshit, out of a two-year Communication graduate course composed almost exclusively of bullshit. We were all there to earn Masters Degrees or Ph.D.'s and this professor would show us old episodes of "Frontline" about how appearance was important in politics, and then assign us the Chris Matthews book as homework.

Anyway, the book is retarded, reducing politics to the level of a strategy game, where each "team" tries to "outplay" the other team. Perhaps this describes the mechanisms of politics, but Matthews has seemingly no sense at all of the real-world consequences of these "games." To him, it's all fun, like talking with your friends later about your guild's most excellent "World of Warcraft" conquests.

But it's not a game. Matthews is on TV every day talking about how fun and clever insider Washington politics can be, never once indicating to his audience that this shit really matters, that they're being lied to and deceived by the wealthy and powerful.

Check out this unbelievable excerpt from Chrissy-Poo's show on August 1st, helpfully pointed out by King Shit of the Lefty Blogosphere, Atrios.

MATTHEWS: Let me go, Paul, before you start. What I keep doing here is asking people on and off camera who come on this program, high-ranking officers, enlisted, former officers. I get sometimes, not all the time, two different versions, the version they give me on the air and the version they give me the minute when we‘re off the air.

The version they give me when we‘re on the air is gung-ho, we‘re doing the right thing, everything is moving along. The version they give me off the air is, Rumsfeld is crazy. There aren‘t enough troops over there. We‘re not taking this seriously enough, or, we shouldn‘t be there, sometimes.

If you look at the context of the conversation Matthews is having (with some rabid right-wing journalists, just returned from Iraq), he's trying to make a reasonable point...Military guys don't want to speak honestly about their experiences to the media, for fear of upsetting or embarrassing their friends and colleagues in the field.

But he unintentionally gives us insight into how he's not a journalist at all, how he's so unconcerned for telling the truth that he's perfectly happy to ignore it repeatedly and flagrantly.

He confesses, right there in the transcript, to allowing unchecked lies on his show. He'll have a guest say something directly contradictory to both (1) the truth and (2) that individual's own prior assessment, and Matthews doesn't call them on it! He just chuckles to himself, thinking about how "cleverly" this lying interviewee is "playing the game," and then goes on with the interview.

I mean, Chris Matthews has apparently had high-ranking military officials or former officials tell him that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is crazy. Now, that's not news to me. Just look at the guy. But that's still the sort of thing you'd probably report if you were a real journalist.

It all comes down to the basic fallacy on which stuff like Fox News is based. The idea that a journalist should only pay attention to "balance" in the news...I gave this person's perspective for a paragraph, now I should give this person's perspective for a paragraph.

But that's not what reporters do, reporters seek to find the truth. When you say that a journalist must be unbiased, you don't mean their article won't make any actual declarative statements for fear of offending someone. You only mean that they go in to initially write the article with a desire to be fair, and to hear both sides. Then, they will report on the facts that their investigation uncovered.

Chris Matthews knows this. He's an idiot, but he's an idiot who has been around for a while. He just doesn't care. He knows TV viewers are more likely to watch a political show if it's punchy, if it's confrontational, and if it uses a lot of sports metaphors.

So he turns stuff like a Presidential debate, a debate in which two candidates discuss vital matters of national interest, into the NBA (okay, more like the WNBA)...

"And Kerry grabs the rock, he's striding down the court...Oh, and he's rejected by Dick Cheney! In your face, dweeb! Stop crying, it wasn't a foul! You're just being a wuss, like that time you got shot but didn't really get shot and then you got that Purple Heart! And Bush comes up with the rebound, he takes out in front, it's a fast break...He shoots, he scores! Bush FTW! Four more years!"

Chick Flicks

Awesomely bizarre Christian whackjob site to show you guys tonight. This guy I've never heard of before, Jack T. Chick, has made a lot of money over the years selling yokels Jesus-themed cartoon books and DVD's.

His website talks a lot about his special gospel-relating skills. I believe it was Mr. Napoleon Dynamite who said it best..."Chicks only want to go out with guys who have awesome skills!"

Before you can share the gospel with someone, you must first get their attention. The world knows how to get and hold people's attention... with pictures! Television, movies, videos, comics, etc. Chick tracts use the same technique, using irresistible cartoon pictures to grab the reader's attention.

Of course! What better way to communicate the complex ideas of salvation through the living embodiment of God than with cartoons!

Once attracted by the cartoon, people are drawn into Chick tracts by the interesting real-life or dramatic stories. The combination of dramatic stories and cartoons make Chick tracts irresistible.

Just like Marmaduke!

Here's the stuff you really have to check out though. They have some clips here from their cartoon Bible video...Dude, this shit is totally sweet.

First of all, they make it sound like the thing is animated, but it's not. It's actually still pictures that they pan across while a narrator reads simplified Bible passages aloud in a booming, resonant, condescending voice, as you'd recite safety instructions to a 5 year old.

"Don't ride the tricycle into the street! Try not to run into your sister! Stay here for a second whiel Mommy goes inside to get another cocktail!"

It's so cheap. People are gonna feel ripped off. It's 78 minutes long and it's $20! You can buy a real movie for that. If you just gotta have Jesus in there, hell, get Jesus Christ Superstar or something. Oh, oh, or Life of Brian.

This one was my favorite video. It's entiteld "Lake of Fire." It's a very basic cartoon drawing of hell, complete with lava and stalagtites and people who seem to have some kind of lingering gastrointestinal problem.

Maybe you hardcore Christian weirdos can help me out with this...what's the real deal with Hell. Are you eternally miserable, in agonizing pain, all the time? Like, no breaks? Isn't that kind of a bummer for the imps that have to torture you? Or do they have some kind of trade-off system? Because an eternity of torturing lost souls would be almost as sucky as an eternity of being tortured, if you think about it.

Also, I've noticed that in a lot of drawings of Hell, people are being eaten alive or burned alive or buried in sulfur and the like...Even the Chick Video there mentions a "second death" once you arrive in Hell. So, are you, like, resurrected every time they kill you in Hell? And if so, doesn't that kind of intrude on Jesus' territory? I mean, if anyone can resurrect themselves once they've died the first time, then there's nothing special about the Lamb of God doing it on the First Easter, right?

Something to think about.

The video also features these ridiculous sound effects of screams and fire and stuff. And at the end, there's a maniacal laugh that I think is supposed to be Satan, but it sounds way more like Jabba the Hut.

"Ohhhh-hoo-hooo-hooo, Solo, gabba noggi naka doo Eternal Hellfire...ohhhh-hooo-hooo-hooo"

And there's that narrator. "Please, please, repent now before you get this awful place." If you watch this video and find yourself considering a conversion to Christianity, I'm going to have to go ahead and ask you to please step into traffic at your earliest convenience. We've no more need for your kind on the planet, thanks...we've got plenty already....

I've really been enjoying this site. I mean, how can you not love a website featuring the following advertising slogan:

You can almost feel the crackling flames of hell as you watch!

Actually, when I saw that, I thought the site must be a hoax. That's too over-the-top, even for the wackiest of wacky Christian wackos. But, no, a Google search confirms this dude is for real, and apparently quite well known in comic book and Christian moron circles for decades.

A lot of attention is paid to Chick on the Web because of his anti-Catholic and anti-Islam stance. Here's a few sample quotes from the website:

Since Islam came along many centuries after Christianity, Islam has the burden of proof and not Christianity. The Bible tests and judges the Qur'an. When the Bible and The Qur'an contradict each other, the Bible must logically be given first place as the older authority. The Qur'an is in error until it proves itself.

Whoa, man...whoa...By this logic, whatever is oldest has "authority." So, I guess we should all worship Isis? Or read that Gilgamesh poem?

After much prayer, he made the decision that, no matter what it cost him personally, he would publish the truth that Roman Catholicism is not Christian. He did it because he loves Catholics and wants them to be saved through faith in Jesus, not trusting in religious liturgy and sacraments.

You see where I'm going with this...Home skillet is a narrow-minded crazed hate-monger who wants to use cartoons to indoctrinate children and those with Gump-like levels of intelligence and the patience of a coked-up Tasmanian Devil. Perhaps it's not too early for 2006 Braffy nominations...

We Fucks You Ups, Man...We Takes the Money

As I mentioned in the blog not long ago, I recently won a screenwriting contest providing me with around $2000 of spending money. No, no, please, don't stand up and applaud at your's okay, really...

So, the money's not all gone already, or even mostly gone, but more of it's gone than should be. Honestly, I don't even know what I spend it all on, it just disappears. Not that I'm saying it isn't my fault - it's totally my fault. No one's taking any money out of there but me. I don't have some weird junkie friend who somehow learned my PIN number.

But I don't feel like I'm buying more stuff than usual. I suppose I's just that it's mostly not fun stuff like DVD's or video games or Escalades...Things I'd notice having around.

It's stuff like bug spray, which I've had to purchase a decent amount of lately, because otherwise the insects would have finished colonizing my room completely. Seriously, the insect community of Palms, CA apparently views my room as 17th Century North America. Unfortunately, in this particular metaphor, they're Europe and I'm the Sioux. You know where this is going.

So bug spray is all I have for my last stand. I've managed to hold off the hordes thus far, but the end is nigh. It's like Helms Deep...the Orcs can be kept at bay only so long before they simply overrun my barrier of toxins.

So, yeah, I buy that, and I guess I just buy lunch more often, rather than just skipping it and waiting until I get home to eat. And I did, in fact, buy a few DVD's in the past week or two. (Hey, come on, it's Season 1 of "The Muppet Show"! Who am I to resist?) And some concert tickets. (The Fiery Furnaces are playing the Troubadour...You gotta see that...)

And that's where the money goes. I was initially thinking of using a chunk of the cash for an all-region DVD player, but at the rate it's already going, I might just hang on to the rest of it for incidentals. You know, like more bug spray. And drugs. But mostly bug spray. If only they could find some way to combine the two...

The Man Who Copied

Two foreign film reviews in a row...Am I just asking for low readership tomorrow or what?

Anyway, I watched this terrific Brazilian film last night, which is out now on DVD, and I couldn't let the occasion pass without giving you guys the recommendation. This is a tremendously fun movie, a fresh and original, and very dark, romantic comedy.

The Man Who Copied reworks classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller material into a playful farce so deftly, you don't even realize what it's doing at first. Writer/director Jorge Furtado starts with creepy voyeurism, petty larceny, sexual obsession, greed and murder and winds up with one of the year's most consistantly funny and charming films. How did he do it?

Much of the success of the film boils down to a wonderful lead performance from young Lazaro Ramos (that's him on the far left). His character, Andre, an impoverished photocopy boy who dreams of great wealth, is a pretty shallow sort, and not exactly an upstanding citizen, and yet he wins us over immediately with his naivete and humanity.

Andre spends his nights watching a girl in a nearby apartment building through binoculars named Silvia (Leandra Leal). She works in a clothing store named Silvia, but it's just a coincidence. Andre occasionally stops by the store, using a potential robe purchase as an excuse, but his poor finances have made him self-conscious and afraid to ask her out.

It's only after he meets the shifty Cardoso (Pedro Cardoso) and discovers that he can counterfeit Brazilian currency using his color copy machine, that the film takes a dark turn, almost morphing into a crime thriller. Though the elements are all there for the movie to actually become a serious look at an increasingly tragic criminal enterprise, Furtado works overtime to keep things light and entertaining. The movie remains funny and optimistic the entire way through.

Andre and Cardoso's small-time counterfeit scheme leads to an increasingly far-fetched series of adventures, culminating in a simultaneous armored car heist and lottery jackpot win. The movie kind of stretches believability, but the film stays true to the spirit of its characters and its free-wheeling tone, and that's all that really matters in the end. Everything else is just nitpicking.

Like another recent Brazilian film, City of God, The Man Who Copied is a movie bursting with vitality and color. The cinematography is endlessly inventive, including an amazing scene in which Andre uses reflected images from a mirror to construct a mental picture of Silvia's bedroom. The movie just has that rush of energy, that buzz that lets you know you're seeing an exciting young filmmaker with a unique vision and natural ability.

This is the kind of interesting, provocative material that drives people to watch foreign films. My only real complaint about the film is that it's rather tame in terms of violence and sexuality. For a movie that contains so much amoral criminality and carnal lust, the film is almost prudish when it comes to crimes or sex. This is a Brazilian film, am I right? Has that country's penchant for flagrant nudity been overstated? Is the Brazilian wax, in fact, just a clever name?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


If you're a major fan of European movies, this next statement might piss you off, I'm not sure.

Lately, I'm kind of annoyed by Jean-Luc Godard. I recognize the man's genius - one would have to be ignorant of his contributions to film history to deny that his place in the pantheon. I'm not even saying there aren't films of his I admire, own and rewatch frequently. (Band of Outsiders is a personal favorite).

But Weekend, coming at the end point of his amazing 7-year burst of inspiration that started with Breathless in 1960, was really the clincher. It's a dazzling film, an inspired burst of cinematic energy that's dynamic, thoughtful, funny and frequently exciting. But it's also intensely obnoxious, like listening to an eccentric uncle harangue you about your choice of friends.

This was, essentially, the beginning of the end for fun, funny, entertaining Godard. After Weekend, the films got more political, more experimental, more sarcastic and more shrill.

Just as Godard's films are filled with ideas, they are infused with different sides of his personality. Sometimes, as in Breathless, he's feeling playful. Other times, he's feeling preachy, and still other times, he's feeling downright sadistic. Weekend combines all of those sides.

Weekend is the story of a nihilistic, greedy, angry couple (Mireille Darc and Jean Yanne) speeding across the country side en route to her father's house, in the hopes that he will die soon and include them in his will. What originally promised to be an idyllic drive turns into a nightmare, as their car is beset by all manner of chaos.

The France of the film has been embroiled in an End of Days, post-apocalyptic kind of anarchy. Abandoned cars and debris are everywhere, they are repeatedly and brutally attacked, and also attack others without fear of legal or moral consequences. At one point, they are seemingly drafted into a violent and aimless revolutionary movement.

Oh, and a guy dressed in French Revolution-era clothing shows up periodically to read from a manifesto.

The movie is gleefully all over the place. Godard's is a his spastic kind of film language - he's perfectly happy to flit between ideas, scenes, characters, even tones without concern for losing his audience. Even the music in Weekend is chaotic - the score starts and stops randomly, and grows louder and quieter mid-scene. Sometimes, it gets so loud, it drowns out the spoken dialogue.

There really isn't a Godard film I've seen that doesn't have at least 4 or 5 sequences of complete and utter brilliance, and Weekend is certainly no different. In fact, it probably has 8-10 maddeningly ingenious set pieces. One in particular, a looooooong tracking shot taking in a surreal traffic jam, is remarkable from a creative, practical and technological standpoint.

At its heart, Weekend can be seen as a proto-typical socio-economic screed against the West, America in particular. This greedy, self-involved couple speeds past all manner of devastation, caring not at all for the horror around them, focused only on their petty economic goal. They only worry about civilization coming apart all around them when it affects their personal safety.

Society in Weekend is a fraud, an illusion propogated by the rich in order to subvert justice. People are kind and polite only as a means to an end, as a way of taking advantage of one another. If a man asks about a woman's situation and well-being, it's only because he wants to rape her, never because he wants to help her. Civilization is built on an implicit lie to Godard, the lie that says forming societies makes life more tolerable rather than reducing human beings to mere drones in a grand and pointless hierarchy.

In reality, there is no greater meaning to civilization. The Rule of Law is an oppressive rather than liberating force. So why do sensible people remain within its confines, rather than revolting and replacing government with anarchy? Laziness, the film seems to suggest. And apathy.

Godard rather brilliantly reflects this idea by tearing down the fourth wall, by having his characters call attention to the fictional world of the movie. At one point, the man complains that he dislikes being in a movie, because all of the characters he meets are insane. At another point, a passing driver refuses to pick up hitchhikers because they are film characters.

Though they realize this predicament, the characters also realize they are helpless to do anything about it. They are inside a film, this bizarre film world is their reality, so there is nothing else to do but continue following the "plot," even though they know it is silly and pointless, and their quest will continue forever with no end.

So, to sum up, my problem with the film is one of attitude towards the material, not filmmaking. Godard by this point had developed kind of a smarmy way about him; he's the windbag know-it-all as master filmmaker, showing all us plebes the way through his biting, cynical movies.

A friend of mine once volunteered at the American Cinematheque, and told me a story about Godard. One night, Jean-Luc was scheduled to appear at a screening at the Egyptian Theater. A few hours before the film, a call came in from Godard's assistant.

"The Master will be unable to attend the screening," the assistant said.

Weekend is the kind of film made by a guy who has people refer to him as "The Master." It's a fabulous, fiercely intelligent and immensely important film, but also a sneering, hysterical and obnoxious one.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

You're a Rabid Anti-Dentite

I rarely have nightmares. Or, at least, I rarely remember having nightmares once I'm awake. Years of excessive pot consumption have kind of killed off my ability to have super-vivd dreams and recall them the next day.

But whenever I do recall my nightmares, they're always tooth-related. Frequently, I'll have dreams in which some or all of my teeth are falling out. Other times, I'll actually be pulling my teeth out for god knows what reason. Once, several years ago, I had a dream in which I woke up to discover I had no teeth, and then my roommates (at the time) forced me to move out, because my toothlessness reflected poorly on them. I'd rather not get into the psycho-social ramifications of that dream, now that I think about it...

This may be because I grind my teeth during my sleep. Or because I drink a lot of soda and my teeth are decaying slowly month after month, and horrific toothless dreams are my body's way of warning me about the future.

When I was in junior high, we had a music class that met, maybe twice a week. We had this really odd teacher, this middle-aged guy who used to just teach us songs he'd written on his guitar most weeks. Most of the time, they weren't even original melodies, but famous songs he'd repurposed. It was incredibly lame.

One week, he was showing us how to use a tuning fork, and mentioned the old saw that, if you were to touch a vibrating tuning fork to one of your teeth, it would instantly shatter.

Is this true? I tried finding an answer on the Internet, and I found some instances of people talking about this idea, but nothing that was 100% convincing to me. I mean, I get that a tuning fork works by vibrating really quickly, and it's made of metal, but why would it neccessarily shatter your tooth on contact? Maybe it would just chip it a little. Or maybe it would just hurt a lot.

Anyway, that image, of a guy inserting a tuning fork into his mouth and shattering all his teeth at once, has stayed with me ever since. If I ever get an opportunity to write a horror film set somewhere that reasonably might house musical instruments, the tuning fork/tooth concept will find a way in there, I guarantee it.

Dental dreams are apparently quite common. I think maybe it's the odd nature of teeth. They're hard like bone, and yet full of nerve endings and immensely sensitive. They're attached to us, but loosely, through this odd fleshy material. Also, they're these sharp implements, but inside our mouths. They are a part of our body, but also capable of inflicting damage on to ourselves and others (like when you bite your tongue).

Perhaps this is why so many films have used the visceral reaction people have towards tooth pain and dental torture so effectively. Consider the following sequences and how they employ damage to teeth, or worse yet, the looming threat of damage to teeth to enhance the tension or deepen the horror.

12 Monkeys

In the film, time traveler Willis is tracked by scientists through a mechanism hidden in his tooth. When he makes the decision to stay in th e present (long story...), he has to pull out the tooth to avoid capture. It's a pretty wonderfully disgusting scene (including a long, loving shot of Willis' post-extraction tooth in the palm of his hand, wreathed in blood).

Again, I'd point to the fact that his tooth is both a part of his body, and yet something that can easily be removed. It is "of" him, but it is not him - he can pull it out and stay himself. Just as Willis' character is "of" the future, but is living in the present. Awesome.

Wild Things

I couldn't find a good image of the scene from 12 Monkeys where Willis yanks out his own tooth. Likewise, I couldn't find a good shot of the post-credit sequence in Wild Things where Neve Campbell performs her own tooth extraction. Mainly because, when you type in "Wild Things" as a Google Image Search, you mostly get pictures like this:

Those are, in fact, wild things. With fairly out-of-control dental problems themselves. But they're not the "wild things" pertaining to this discussion.

As you may recall from the film, Neve's character has to pull out her own tooth so she can then leave it behind at a crime scene, to fool detectives. Like in 12 Monkeys, the loss of a tooth equals freedom, although in Neve's case it's in monetary and not existential terms.

What is it about having a tooth pulled out that symbolizes sacrifice so efficiently? I mean, having to remove a tooth would be really painful, but it's not really hard to go through life missing one tooth. Rednecks are frequently missing scores of teeth, and they seem to be doing alright. Toes, too.


Again, a film in which a character must pull out his own teeth in order to win the day. In this comic thriller, Martin's dentist must remove all of teeth and insert them into a corpse's mouth, as a way of swapping identities. (Hence the title substance, with which he must inject himself in order to pull off the caper).

The scene is super-disgusting, and rather shocking as well, and it also uses the removal of teeth to represent a move forward in a life. Maybe it's that we lose our baby teeth during childhood, so teeth falling out comes to symbolize change or something? I don't know...but it's gross and weird.

Marathon Man

Okay, finally a movie in which a guy doesn't actually pull teeth out, but just uses a drill on 'em. Dustin Hoffman is tortured by psycho nutjob Laurence Olivier, whose catchphrase "is it safe" is still famous even though most people don't even remember the movie that it comes from.

Here, it's really the high-pitched eerie whir of the dental drill, more so than any harm caused to actual teeth, that makes it so unsettling. The scene is a triumph of sound design, although frankly, I can't stand the sound of a dentist's drill in real life. How do dentists tolerate it in their ear all day?

My dad works sometimes out of a dental office, and he used to be a dentist himself, so I shall have to ask this question of him at some point. (Or, if he's so inclined, and reading this article, he could favor us with an answer in the comments section). How can you go to work all day and have to listen to that screeching buzzy drill noise for 8-10 hours? Do you eventually block out the sound, or is it that you begin to simply associate it with the workplace rather than the painful experience of having your teeth drilled?

Honestly, can't they come up with a different way for those things to sound? With the technology we have in the world today, you could have the fucking drill play mp3's or something. That would be way better. Instead of "wwwrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwww," the drill would feature Fergie repeating her request that you cease phunking with her heart.

Or maybe just stick with the whirring sound....


Arguably the most memorable scene in the film finds Tom Hanks' stranded island-dweller knocking out a bum tooth using an ice skate blade and a rock. Yeow. That would suck. If I were stranded on a desert island, I'd die in about 2 minutes. Forget extracting my own teeth if they caused me pain...I can't manage walking on hot sand in my bare feet.


As gruesome as it would be to knock out a tooth with a rock, using the ass end of a hammer might actually be worse. Yet this is the fate of the jailer in Oldboy, when a freed inmate of his motel/prison returns for information, and pulls out 3 or 4 of his pearly whites along the way.

This scene is goddamn disturbing. The use of wet, tinny sound effects really makes it nauseating. I'd say it's the most disturbing tooth damage scene of all time if it weren't for this next entry...

American History X

By far the most disturbing tooth scene in the history of cinema, hands down. Ed Norton's skinhead makes an unfortunate black man place his front teeth on a street curb, before slamming his foot down on the back of the man's head. I'm telling you, that sound they use, of the guy's teeth scraping sidewalk, actually makes my hair stand on end.

Horrifying. The rest of the movie is kind of bogus, but there's something to be said for any piece of filmmaking that manages to create such visceral audience response without using any actual on-screen gore or bloodshed.

The Dentist

This reprehensible mid-90's "ironic" gorefest finds dentist Corbin Bernsen going insane after realizing that his wife is having an affair. So then, for some reason, he decides to torture all of his patients. There are lots of dental torture scenes, and they're all pretty repulsive. I was going to put up a picture of one of the girls from the movie whose mouth is all torn apart, but I don't want to disgust you people...I'm just trying to make a point.

People are so horrified about dental treatments, they even doubt a dentist's motives in treating them. The Dentist seems to insist that only a total sicko would choose a career in which they were rooting around in people's mouths, causing them fear, pain and anxiety. See also...

Little Shop of Horrors

which also depicts the dentist as a cruel sadist.

Here, Steve Martin (again!) plays the evil and cruel dentist to Bill Murray's masochistic patient. What's with Steve Martin's fascination with playing dentists? I guess he's just happy for the rare opportunity to play a character in a Hollywood comedy who's not a lawyer or an ad executive.

Why are the main characters in movies always in marketing? Is it because movie marketing departments have to approve ideas before they get made into movies, and all of those executives are maniacally self-involved? Or is it just because being an advertising executive is a really easy job that any buffoon can do, and all the main characters in Hollywood films just happen to be buffoons. It's a lot easier to write a buffoon advertising exec than, say, a buffoon structural engineer.

So, you get the idea. There are a lot (a lot!) of cultural images of tooth damage. It's a notion that really resonates, for whatever reason.

I mean, I can't think of a lot of horrific scenes in movies dealing with damage to someone's ear, can you?

Well...there's Reservoir Dogs, obviously...and Wrath of Khan, of course...And Benicio gets his ear blown off in Sin City...And then there's Dolph Lundgren and his necklace of human ears in Universal Soldier...Hey, maybe I'm on to something here...

The Brown Bunny

Two things have made Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny infamous, and neither one has much to do with the experience of watching the movie.

(1) On its first screening at Cannes, the audience loathed the movie. Walk-outs were common, critics vocally complained afterwards; Roger Ebert went so far as to call The Brown Bunny the worst film ever to screen at the Cannes Film Festival. This caused Gallo to publicly wish colon cancer on Roger Ebert, which he then proceeded to announce that he already had.

(2) Gallo's ex-girlfriend, Chloe Sevigny, blows him on-screen at the end of the film.

I can't really imagine why the film was so poorly received at first. Granted, the version they saw at Cannes was about 20 minutes longer than the version I saw, which arrives today on DVD. Granted as well, the movie is quite slow, dull even, and includes a lot of extended shots of mundanity seemingly designed to tire the audience.

But still...Cannes attendees have got to be among the more patient audiences around. I mean, we're not talking about a Saturday matinee at the Universal CityWalk here...this is a film-literate group, right?

I can imagine why an on-screen blowjob demanded some attention. It's surprising to see a footage of a semi-famous actress with a penis in her mouth. (Now, a famous heiress with a penis in her mouth...that's not at all surprising to see.)

But how is the movie?

It's pretty good, actually. Well, allow me to temper that. It's pretty not at all bad. Misguided, yes, and as I said, occasionally quite dull. The film opens with a steady several-minute-long shot of a motorcycle race, but it's shot from such a distance away, we can't really tell one rider from the other. We can tell there is something dramatic happening, but we lack the ability to see through the muddle and figure out exactly what it is.

This is Gallo's entire concept with the film. He wants to show us moments from the life of a very sad man, but withholds the key to understanding his sadness until the very, very end. Usually, if a movie wants to save some sort of tragic backstory until the end, as a surprise, it will at least give you hints as to what's in store.

Brown Bunny takes a different tack. Motorcycle racer Bud Clay (Gallo) finishes up with the race in New Hampshire and heads in his van for California. The road trip will take the entire length of the film. He stops a few times along the way, talking to girls and trying to win them over. It works a few times, but then he always takes off after proving to himself that he can still win someone's affection. He reveals nothing of himself to either these women or to the audience.

Until the end, when he winds up in that motel room with Chloe Sevigny. It's a peculiar double-moment: we're seeing the sex scene, the much-discussed blowjob, but we're simultaneously seeing the explanation for Bud's behavior through the whole movie.

And this moment is where the film lost me. Because the explanation (which I won't reveal here) isn't terribly satisfying. I suppose this is maybe the point - Clay's behavior seems meaningful, deep to us, before we know what his problem is. We can always sympathize with random ennui, the general malaise associated with modern life so often in art house cinema.

But when you find out what specific action caused this sadness, it stops being poetic angst and becomes, well, a story about a bummed out guy who's still not over a recent tragedy. The movie suddenly makes more sense, but it loses the one thing that made it stand out - it's ambiguity.

Still, this hardly qualifies it as the worst film ever to screen at the Cannes Film Festival. I know from Overnight that Troy Duffy brought his film Boondock Saints to Cannes. I don't know if it played in actual competition, but it's far far stupider than Brown Bunny.

Monday, August 15, 2005

He's Dead, Jim

My printer died. And it did not go gentle into that good night, either. It made a churning, creaking sound, as if funneling a paper through its gears and depositing ink on to it was the most painful and impossible task imaginable. This is the sound I make when I'm asked to work 4 hours of overtime. Like, "whaaaaaaa.....unggggghhhh......grrrr............ppppfffffftttttt............."

The only difference was, the printer didn't ask if it gets time-and-a-half before refusing to continue working. It just died.

I have horrible, horrible, horrible, incredibly horrible luck with printers.

All machines, really. You should see me try to send a fax. Why do fax machines require that you feed in each individual page separately with precision timing?

Every time I've had to fax something in my life, I've had to do it at least 5 times to get it right. Either I wait too long, and the second page doesn't send, and so I have to redial and send the separate page as a different fax, or I don't wait long enough, and the two pages run together and the fax machine tries to print Page 1 and Page 2 on the same page.

True story:

When I was a UCLA undergrad, I tutored a high school student for the verbal section of the SAT. I don't remember her name, or anything about her, other than she was Indian and didn't know what a lot of simple words meant. Like "tact." It's hard to tutor people for the verbal section. You can teach them the basic tricks, how to best approach the questions, but you can't really TEACH someone vocabulary. They just have to, you know, read and stuff.

Anyway, as part of the program, I had to give this girl an official Kaplan Practice Test. Then I'd get her results, show them to Kaplan, proved she had learned SOMETHING from my time with her, and I get real paid.

So, of course, I forget the Practice Test at our last session. (She actually lasted an entire six month term with me as her tutor, if you can imagine...) So I told her I'd fax it to her the next day.

This was a ridiculous stupid lie, told to get away from her disagreeable, strict mother, who of course was very distressed that I had forgotten the Practice Test that she had paid for with her own money. I didn't have a fax machine. Or even access to a fax machine. Or, as you'll see in the following paragraph, the dexterity to operate a fax machine.

I eventually realized that somewhere, deep within the bowels of the Daily Bruin office, there was in fact a fax machine. It wasn't in my area of the office. It wasn't even in the editorial department of the Daily Bruin. It was all the way on the other side of our space, in the sales department (the people who sold advertising space in the paper).

I probably wasn't supposed to use it for personal business (or, let's be honest, know it was there). But, hey, I already spent enough time in that room - membership ought to at least have its privileges. So I go over there, brazenly using the sales guy's fax right in front of them, despite the fact that they didn't know who I was.

And, of course, I fuck it up. I first fail to turn it on properly, turning it to "copy" mode. So then when I push the phone buttons to dial, nothing happens. It's here that the sales guys have to actually come over and show me how to use their fax machine.

Then, when it's in fax mode, I totally have no idea you're supposed to feed in the pages one at a time, so I just sort of cram them all in there. The thing actually faxes to this girl, but it's just a garbled mess. I see a copy that comes out of the machine, reflecting the image I have to sent out, and it's impossible to read a single question. A full five-page practice test has copied on to a single page.

So I try again, feeding the pages in one at a time. But I'm doing it too fast, so the whole thing gets mixed up and illegable. It's here that the sales guys start to violently laugh at me, probably calling in friends from other departments to see how long it takes me to fax this thing. Naturally, they want to know what it is that I'm faxing, and for some reason I'm mortified to tell them that it's a practice SAT test for some high school girl.

Reflecting back, that's not very embarrassing. I could have been faxing in a prescription for gonorrhea medication, or booking a ticket for a gay cruise, or responding to a personal ad for Furries. SAT tutor is a fairly legit job.

Finally, after four tries...I gave up.

That's right, folks. I gave up. I believe my exact words were "fuck this horseshit." Although it may have been "fuck this stupid horseshit," or even quite possibly "fuck this stupid fucking horseshit." I can't be sure.

I then proceeded to quit Kaplan, never to be heard from again. Every few years, when I'm unemployed or underemployed for a decent amount of time, I consider going back to SAT tutoring for some extra scratch. But then I think, will they remember that many many years ago, I burned them and really pissed off some Indian lady? Were there long-term repercussions for the company for my behavior? Did that girl ever find out what "trepidation" means?

I don't know.

I also don't know how I managed to write so much about fax machines in a post that was supposed to be about my printer breaking down. This thing didn't go at all as planned. Fuck this stupid fucking horseshit.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Give the Man Some Room!

Fascinating, fascinating insight into the mind of our President today. I know, I know, it's amazing to contemplate that he even has a mind. I tend to think of him on the same level as a sock puppet - it has a little face on there, and it mimics human expressions and seems even to communicate, but you know it's really just some smelly piece of detritus which some other guy's hand up its ass.

So this will be one of those rare occasions wherein I concede that, yes, the Leader of the Free World probably does have a fuctioning primate brain.

Anyway, the Prez is on vacation right now in Crawford. For five weeks. Five! Seriously, when was the last time any of you had a five week paid vacation. Really. I haven't had one in years. The last time I didn't work for five weeks, it wasn't a vacation, it was unemployment. And even though I applied, I wasn't actually provided with checks from the government.

But it's not just me. Almost no one I know gets five whole weeks leave from work. I worked in an office for three years, and if you put all my paid vacation together you wouldn't get five full weeks.

I don't know if you guys know this, but we're in the midst of the longest Presidential vacation in 36 years.

Okay, fine, whatever. This is pretty much a good thing. I don't mind Georgie's not in Washington making decisions. I'd prefer he hung out in Crawford, clearing brush and taking bike rides, for the rest of his term. Leave the governing to the professionals.

But, of course, he can't spend all his time doing what he wants. He has to fight back against the bad P.R. of military mom Cindy Sheehan.

Ms. Sheehan, of course, is the mother of the late Casey Sheehan, who died when his truck exploded in Iraq. She has set off a media firestorm since August 6th, when she camped outside of Bush's Crawford Ranch demanding an audience with the President.

So now you're caught up. The insight we get into Bush's mind comes from journalist Ken Herman of Cox News Service (like Cox Cable? I don't know...) He reveals Bush's excuse for not meeting with Cindy Sheehan...he has to go on with his own life.

"But whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there's somebody who has got something to say to the president, that's part of the job," Bush said on the ranch. "And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say."

"But," he added, "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."


I'm not one of the people who thinks that Bush has no right to send men into battle unless he himself was in battle. Because those aren't the rules - the Commander in Chief is the Commander in Chief, regardless of his own military experience.

I'm also not one of the Michael Moore-ites who thinks that, in order to vote to send people to war, you have to be willing to sacrifice your own son or daughter in combat. Politicians are supposed to vote on what they feel represents the greater good, based on what they feel their constituents would want them to vote for. Not on what's important enough to be worth their kid's death.

But I am one of those people that feel like, if you're President and your decision costs thousands of kids their lives, you are then responsible to those parents. You better be able to explain to them, reasonably, why their children needed to be sacrificed.

This is a good reason I would never want to be President (along with about 500 million others). I don't think I could ever make that decision, regardless of the importance of the mission. Call it a personal weakness, whatever. Just as I could never actually go into battle, I could never vote to send others into battle, I don't think.

But, even if he can't provide a 100% solid reason why Casey Sheehan needed to die, even if he's unwilling to even meet with this woman for a few minutes (and, yes, I know he briefly met her once before), the very least he could do is speak about her case respectfully and with sincerity.

When a reporter asks him about it, he could say "I feel our meeting would only cause this woman and our nation more grief, and I feel that there is nothing more that I could say to Cindy Sheehan that would ease her incredible pain. All I can say is that I wish her the best in the future, and that I greatly regret the terrible cost this vital war has had on her family."

It's callous, sure, and opportunistic, and not the truth. But he could say it. At least it's respectful. But to respond that he's too damn busy enjoying life to meet with a greiving mother, a greiving mother whose son gave his life in the service of a futile and endless war...well, it's the kind of lowdown, skeezy bullshit we've all come to expect from America's Worst President Ever.

Lists of Fury

It's not often that the entire Internet can agree on anything, but it appears that the verdict is in on my Top 70 Most Profane Movie Quotes list...and it ain't positive.

As you may not have realized, about 10,000 people have visited this site in the last two days via Gorilla Mask, a big list of daily comedy and movie-related links. The 'Mask linked to my Profane Movie Quotes list, which far from being a definitive collection was more like a personal fun thing I had thrown together in my spare time. I had no idea it would be dissemenated to the Web At Large, and certainly no idea that my value as a person was at stake.

But, of course, it was. And I have failed at the appointed task miserably. That is, if you believe the comments left about me and my list all over the Intar-Web.

Most of the comments I read simply called the list "lame," but a few went a good deal further, maligning my personal character, knowledge of movies and even intention in publishing such a list.

It's odd. For as long as I've had this website, I've always had the goal of adding on more readers. It seems natural - you blog daily, you watch that counter go up and tick off your number of hits, and you want to see that number grow. Add on the fact that I only started this blog initially as a way to garner further interest in my writing, and you can see why I'm constantly trying to get more people to check out the site.

But now that I've had a huge number of readers, at least for one day on one article, I'm not so sure it's what I want any more. Because the fact is, the few people that visit my blog all the time are respectful, friendly, kind and insightful. If they have a disagreement with a contention of mine, they voice it in a reasonable way.

However, the random folks who were thrown my way by the very kind folks at Gorilla Mask were not quite so courteous or respectful. They represent the sad truth about the Internet; rather than foster greater communication between individuals, at times the Internet represents the ultimate tool in non-communication. You are capable of speaking out, saying a good deal, without actually having to say anything at all. Removing people from one another's physical or at least sensible presence removes any need to actually exchange ideas.

Let's take, for example, this thread concerning my list from DVD Talk, a forum I have not visited previously made up of angry, uncouth film fans.

The members of DVD Talk do not like my list. Among the adjectives they use to describe it are "lame" and "shitty."

When they agree with a movie choice on the list, like Blazing Saddles, Big Lebowski or Fight Club, they invariably claim that I have picked the wrong quote. This seems odd to me - I would imagine that just seeing a film you like on a list like that, regardless of the quote, would confirm your positive feelings about that movie. Apparently, the only reaction I caused in this group is sheer, unadulterated rage.

Here's a sample comment:

"My God. I haven't been fucked like that since grade school." - Fight Club is WAY, WAY more offensive than"Bob had bitch tits." in myopinion at leat.

This very well may be true. Maybe the use of "Top 70" instead of "My 70 Favorites..." or "70 Notable Quotes..." or something is what threw people off. I just picked the quote that made me laugh the most the first time I saw Fight Club.

In fact, I've always thought the "fucked like that since grade school" line in Fight Club was among the weaker one-liners. I preferred the original line Chuck Pahlaniuk told me he wanted to use, but which was vetoed by the studio - "Tyler, I want to have your abortion."

But you see what I'm saying...What does it matter if I included a line that's not your favorite? It's just for fun! Here's another sample:

These are terrible choices.

If I were to choose a Big Lebowski quote, it would be "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger up the ass!"

A good one, and one I considered. Hell, that movie has about 500 funny quotes I could have pulled for the article. I just picked one that I liked, and that my friends quote frequently. (Honestly, I say "Dios mio, man" in conversation more than "this is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass."

But, seriously, terrible choices? Terrible? We obviously agree that the movie is good, and worthy of inclusion. So the fact that I different slightly on which quote is the best makes my taste terrible?

Most of the negativity, though, results from my not including a few key movies that people tend to feel must be included on a list such as this. Here are the top picks for M.I.A. and unquoted films.

#1. Boondock Saints

I had no idea so many people loved this movie. Over and over again, on the comments section here at CBI and forums around the 'Net, people are complaining I didn't include Boondock Saints. Honestly, I have seen the film, and didn't loathe it like many people I know, but I didn't feel like it was any great shakes, or even particularly quotable. And those quotes that have been suggested, particularly one about "I can't walk down the street without seeing 9 people you fucked" probably wouldn't have made the list even if I remembered it.

#2. Shaun of the Dead

I just plain don't like this movie, so I wouldn't include it. The comedy totally didn't work for me, and it felt a bit limp as a horror film.

#3. Reservoir Dogs

This is an obvious one. I left it off the list because I already had Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction and True Romance on there, and I didn't want it to seem like QT was totally dominating the list. If I were going to include one, though, it probably wouldn't have been the big, obvious, popular choice. I would have likely gone with "They're not gonna catch you because you're Super Cool. You're fucking Baretta. They don't know shit."

#4. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Are you goddamn kidding me, Internet? This movie ain't no good.

But, again, do you see my point? It's not that I can't take some criticism. It's a silly list I threw up on the Internet, it's not really so important that people can't tell me it's stupid. My ego will survive.

It's that the criticism itself is so lame. I mean, calling me an idiot because I left Jay and Silent Bob off of my list? That movie's total dreck! If people are gonna call me a moron, there should at least be the semblance of a reason.

"What are you looking at butthead"
OMG I'm offended
that moron needs to lay off the crack pipes

That's a direct comment from a guy named Canadian Bacon.

Well, CB, if you'll look at the name of the list, it's not the Top 70 Most Offensive Quotes. The word offensive appears NOWHERE in the article. It's rude, profane or inappropriate. And calling someone a butthead is rude. Plus, I've always really liked that quote and that movie.

But you're right...I should lay off the crack pipes.