Thursday, December 22, 2005

Yes, Your Evening News is Slanted. You Don't Want to Inconvenience Journalists, They Will Own You -- Lazy Trumps Balance Everytime. Read on.

A couple interesting items from today. 1) I was watching the CBS Evening News tonight and was a little taken aback by an obviously slanted news story. Now, any right-wing conservative will tell you that the network newscasts are hives of liberalism and that journalists use their positions to promote their overarching socialist agenda. Just ask one. Tonight, the lead story was about the NYC Transit strike that's made commuting impossible for lots of New Yorkers. This strike has gotten huge coverage all over the media map. Guess how much coverage it would have gotten if this strike had happened in Los Angeles? In Boston? In D.C.? Yeah, not too much. The media's made this out to be the major story of the week and the reason is because all these newspeople WORK in the city and have to COMMUTE into it. Because they are inconvenienced by the strike, it immediately becomes national news. But what's worse, and the reason I'm bothering to talk about this, is the slant the national media's using to cover the strike.

I was helping my folks pack some books this morning and I was listening to Air America, the liberal radio network. A woman from New York called in and immediately informed the host that she had no affiliation with any union, which of course made me think she was probably the Transit Union's PR person. Anyway, she was complaining about the coverage of the strike -- she said it was one-sided and the TV journos were only showing people who were against the strike on the news. I wrote the caller's worries off thinking of course some union flunkie isn't happy with the news coverage of a strike -- she probably wouldn't have been happy unless every citizen of New York staged a sit-in at their places of work in a show of solidarity with the Transit Union. Sense of contentment restored. I packed books blissfully; all was right in the world.

Then I watched the CBS Evening News. The report was heavily skewed towards an anti-strike bias. They showed five of the "man on the street" interviews they conducted that day, and each person interviewed expressed their discontent with the strike and wanted them to get back to work. 5 out of 5. The story they covered was not WHY the transit workers were striking (they didn't even mention it), but rather how it was killing the city during the holiday season. Restaurants empty -- stores with items unbought. The subtext was, "How dare these bastards do this to us?!" Does CBS really expect me to believe that not a single person they talked to in the city of New York expressed any support for the striking workers? In one of the most liberal cities in the country, they couldn't find one union-sympathizer in the whole city? Ridiculous. The news people are pissed about the inconvenience so they're going to do their part to end the inconvenience and restore their usual routine, nevermind what those striking workers were blathering about, walking off the job and all of that. I felt ill-served by my national media tonight, but I guess by now I should be used to that.

2) The other item I wanted to mention, more briefly, is more awesome news about Wal-Mart. They got hit with another stiff jury verdict, this time for $172 million dollars. They're required to pay this fine as back-pay for denying Wal-Mart employees in Alameda County, CA their state-mandated 1/2 hour unpaid lunch after six hours of work. Of course Wal-Mart is appealing the decision -- they've got lawyers and they know how to use them. In the article Wal-Mart's defense boils down to the fact that the employees didn't request their penalty wages (they're supposed to get a full hour's pay for every missed lunch) in timely fashion, and THAT's why they didn't get their money. It's not Wal-Mart's fault, you see. It's the employees' fault. Can you get more crass than this? So when people go to Wal-Mart to get that low low price, this is the sort of thing they're subsidizing.

Anyway. I write all of that just to get you all in the holiday spirit. Well, I'm taking tomorrow off from el bloggo (I know, I know -- I think I deserve a break from my demanding schedule, too. Thank you for your sympathy), and I will blog again sometime after Christmas. I may take the 26th to the 2nd of January off as well, but then again, I might not. I still have some movie reviews to post up, and I know you all are dying for those.

In any case, thanks everyone for reading this dumb thing I've been typing away at since the end of August. I'm still up on the whole blogging thing and I'm glad I haven't lost all of you along the way. I'm curious to see how much longer I can keep at this thing before I wise up and do something productive with my time. Maybe never. Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Has Mel Lost his Mind? It Would Appear So From This Freeze Frame. But Not In A Bad Way

Ok, this is hilarious. If you frequent, than you've probably already seen this: the teaser for Mel Gibson's new movie Apocalypto went up today and it doesn't make much sense. My guess is that it will eventually, but that it sure doesn't now. Just a bunch of so-so images that are supposed to get me tweaked to see the movie, but, sadly, don't. For my money the teaser's not that good -- there's a Lord of the Rings-wannabe shot at the end that's designed to put it over the top and make people want to see it, but it just looks weak and, to my eye, poorly imagined. But we'll see. Anyway, the funny thing is this: Mel Gibson puts in a single frame of himself into the trailer. And not Mel in Mayan (or Aztec, I dunno) costume, just him hanging out in his grungy director's togs. It's about 3/4 of the way through the trailer. After the stuff with the pregnant woman and right after the three guys with torches, start single-frame advancing through until you hit Gibson's crazy, Riggs-wild picture and you, too, can laugh as I did.

Ok. Off to the Chronic!(WHAT?) Cles of Narnia!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Probably One of The Laziest Blogs I'll Ever Post -- Read it And Rejoice

Not much for blogging today. Been busy (or busy for me) with writing, eating, writing a little more, then going to Ted's Montana Grill with Peggy and my in-laws, and now blogging on my father-in-law's laptop. Right now we're arguing the fate of the stray cat my in-laws took in. We're trying to figure out how to housebreak a cat who's been used to being outdoors 24/7 for most of its life. Cats. Anyway, I'm going to see The Chronicles of Narnia tomorrow and hopefully the movie will bring me to the Lord. At the very least, I hope it's entertaining. I'll prolly let you know how it was tomorrey. Peace out, Inanities-ers.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Brokeback Mountain: Not As Gay As You'd Think

Hola party people! Hope everyone had a good weekend.

Peggy and I went to the Midtown Art Cinemas in Atlanta yesterday in hopes of taking in a screening of Brokeback Mountain. They were showing it on two screens. As it turned out, every gay man in the city of Atlanta had the same hopes, so the 1:50PM show we'd been shooting for was sold out, as was every other screening until 4:40PM. We decided we'd come back today for the 1:15PM show and discovered a long line of gay men out in front of the box office. We'd assumed that on a Monday afternoon six days before Christmas we could see this movie without any lines or worries about sold-out shows, but we were wrong. While we were in line, an older man behind us muttered bitchily, "Don't people work?" A rangy blow-dried guy with perfect salt and pepper hair came up to the trio of gay men in front of us and expressed the same surprise about the length of the line on a Monday afternoon. He said, "Now I know these people aren't all hairdressers."

Anyway, we did get in (though we had to sit in the third row from the front and all the way to the right) and we saw the damn movie, finally. Firstly, Brokeback's good. I was surprised at how staid and reserved the movie was, considering all of the advance press from critics about the film's "frank" depiction of homosexual sex. This is a movie middle America can go to and not get the heebie-jeebies too bad. Aside from a couple of asses seen in profile, there is no male nudity. There is one sex scene which is more implicit than explicit, and a couple of scenes of Jake and Heath kissing. And then Anne Hathaway flashes her boobies, so there's something for men of all sexual orientations.

Afterwards, I resolved for the umpteenth time never to read a review or an interview with the filmmakers again before I see the damn movie. Critics said Heath Ledger acted his way to a sure Oscar for Best Actor. Prouxl herself called his performance "beyond description", and this is from someone who describes things for a living. And then it got all of these end of the year accolades. Going in I was expecting a lot, and I got some of it, but I didn't come away as moved by their doomed love as I was coming out of the other much-heralded year-end Oscar contender, King Kong. Kong put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

I guess I don't want to write up a big review here, I'll just say that it's not as gay as you've heard -- this is no Jeffrey. After a while, you just accept that these two cowboys are in love, and you really start pulling for them to stay together, or as together as they can in Wyoming in the 70's. It's a well-made, well-directed, well-acted movie, and worth seeing. My audience loved it -- lots of manly snuffling as the lights came up. My main problem with the movie, the reason I never got that into it, was because instead of Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar I could only see Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger. I thought of Ang Lee behind the camera directing the scenes, I imagined what Lee said to them before sayin "Action!", I thought of what filming up in the mountains must have been like -- I just never got that wrapped up in the story. But that's me. I think this film would have been better served by two unknowns, but the studios hate hate hate unknowns, so I guess that was never an option.

I do have one lingering question after seeing Brokeback: has Heath Ledger always sounded like Jame Gumb in Silence of the Lambs, or does he just pull out the creepy voice for certain movies? If you know, let me know. All right. That does her for Monday.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Stephen King's Christmas Wish

Stephen King has a very cool Christmas decoration up on his famous house in Maine. Right on, Steve. Right on.

Kong, 1857-1934. John Spencer, 1946-2005.

I saw King Kong this afternoon. It put me in a bad mood. Not because it wasn't as good as I thought it would be, but because Kong dies at the end. I knew that going in, of course, but watching it happen Jackson-style kills you. And no, I didn't cry. I'm a MAN. A MAN doesn't cry when a giant CG ape is machine-gunned by heartless soldiers in bi-planes. Though I kinda felt like it. What injustice! They take him to New York, what did they THINK he was going to do? Unbelievable. Like Dances with Wolves makes you hate the US Army, this movie makes you hate humans in general. We're kinda like ass-holes. Anyway, I'd post a full on review up here, but no one reads these things until they see the movie themselves so I'll give it a couple of weeks. Or maybe just 'till the end of this weekend. Did you know Kong is in danger of bombing? It made a little less than ten million on Wednesday and only 6 yesterday. This is well below expectations -- they're saying it's the 21st highest Wednesday tally, which is not awesome. I mean, it's long, sure, and it could benefit from some really obvious cutting (you can tell while watching it which stuff you should have seen on the DVD as deleted scenes), but the stuff with Kong is fantastic (Andy Serkiss is amazing as Kong) and well-worth the 3 hours and the $7 matinee ticket price. So go see it this weekend; help Jackson keep his clout in Hollywood. (By the way, Frank Darabont himself plays one of the heartless bi-plane machine gunners at the end.)

So after Kong's tragic demise got me feeling down, I get home and read on CNN that John Spencer died today. Spencer plays Leo McGarry on The West Wing, and he was an actor I never really thought about too much because he wasn't the kind of guy who really stole the spotlight, but he was really excellent in the role. He played the FBI heavy in The Rock (and cursed up a storm -- he spat profanity better than anybody), and Harrison Ford's unethical but loyal friend in Presumed Innocent. Great character actor. He was only 58 and he died of a heart attack.

Anyway. Have a great weekend er'rybody.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Thursday Hodgepodge Inanity

Peggy took her last exam of her first semester of business school (the most demanding of the semesters, they tell us), and she's done done done with classes until January 30th. She is now officially a quarter of the way through business school. She's wicked smart. She's being tested on material (accounting, economics, decision analysis, etc.) that I would need a mega infusion of new brain cells just to look at, much less comprehend. I'm going to have her finish my novel for me. It might start to read like a Jennifer Weiner book, but that's ok. People seem to like her stuff.

In other news, I've been slightly preoccupied in the comments section today with the hornet's nest I kicked up in yesterday's blog (a hornet's nest with two well-informed film-nerd hornets in it) when I said that Ron Howard has never, and may never in the future, make a great film. Good movies, sure, but classics? Not yet. I hope he does one day, I just don't think he has it in him. He has his millions to console him. But I am one man and, for the readers of the Inanities anyway, I am a man with a misguided opinion. Make that opinionS. I toil ever on. Anyway, check out the comments from yesterday's blog; they're read-worthy.

One last thing from today's news. CNN's reporting that Iraqi security forces had Zarqawi (the head Al-Qaeda sumbitch in Iraq) in custody last year, but let him go because they didn't know who he was. Does the news come any more infuriating than this? How do we even have a chance over there if after we capture the general, we then release him because they can't tell them apart? One possibility is that he may have been let go on purpose. A lot of the Iraqis really identify with the guy. Anyway. I just hope the Iraqi security forces don't get a hold of Osama. Even they would have a hard time trying to sell the "I Didn't Know Who He Was" excuse with him. Osama's mug is as notorious worldwide as Bush's is.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Two Trailers and a List: What A Beautiful Gift For a Cloudy Wednesday Morning

I got a few links for you folks today. New trailers for some big-budget 2006 releases came out last night. One of these I'm really looking forward to because I read the screenplay-- I mean novel, a couple years back and I'd like to see how it plays on a movie screen. I'm talking about The Da Vinci Code. Trailer's pretty good though I wish they could have pulled off getting Jim Carrey to play the Albino assassin. My guess is his agent talked him out of it, saying doing a big supporting role in a big movie would take however many millions off his asking price for leading roles. Agents. Pfff.

The other trailer that came out was for Poseidon. This is the studio's massive remake of the 1972 Poseidon Adventure which, in my view, never much needed updating. Anyway, it's directed by Wolfgang Petersen, he of Troy and Air Force One fame. Petersen's weird to me. He's like a poor man's Ron Howard (or a rich man's Renny Harlin). Howard, unless he pulls something crazy off (which I don't think will happen with Da Vinci Code), will never make a great movie (though Apollo 13 came pretty close). Though Petersen (and I'm talking about Petersen post-Das Boot), makes plenty of watchable, entertaining movies, I don't think he'll ever make a very good movie. Poseidon might be fun, but I doubt it'll be very good. But that big wave looks cool.

And finally, I saw this top ten list and I thought I'd post it for my four or so comic-book nerd readers. This is a fun list because it essentially runs the gamut of every, well, villainous moment in comic history. From Joker shooting and paralyzing Barbara Gordon (which I still think is pretty shocking) to Ozymandius's alien drop in Watchmen. Most of these comics came out before I got into them, but I caught up on them all since then. Some of the "Moments" listed provided some fun, clueless debates back in the day ("How did Wolverine get his admantium back after Magneto ripped out out of him?" -- IGN's list provides the first official, though unsatisfying, answer to that question I've heard), and others seemed more like publicity stunts to reinvigorate flagging sales. One of these stunts, the so-called "Death of Superman" produced a great comic book filled with violent splash pages of superhuman brawling in the streets of Metropolis. Anyway, fun times. Watch the trailers, read the list, enjoy your day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

If Mister Wizard Had Access To NASA's DC-9, AKA The Vomit Comet, This Is Something He Might Do

Thought I'd throw this up on-line quickly. Pictured to the left is the aftermath of a water-balloon explosion in zero gravity. Here's the link to the page with the mpegs. Scroll down a little to get to the movies. Pretty frickin' crazy. For whatever reason, I expected the water balloon to leak water when popped in zero gravity. It does not leak when popped. The movie files download in a jiff so take a gander.

Finally This Blogger Gets Why People Oppose Venezuelan President Jugo Chavez

Ok. I get it now. Though he purports to be "for the people" Jugo Chavez is actually for himself. Good for him. Thanks, Jugo, for doing your small part to renew my faith in humankind.

This from the article: "According to the current Venezuelan constitution, approved six years ago in a referendum, only one presidential re-election is allowed and a full presidential term is six years."

So Chavez was elected president for the first time in '98, and then re-elected in 2000. In 2000, Chavez and the Parliament ratified a new constitution that said the above, limiting Venezuela's presidents to two terms only. So he'll be up for the one re-election campaign permitted by the new constitution next year and, if he is elected, it would be his last term as president. Two-term presidencies. A good idea for countries that purport to have democratic governments. So far so good.

Then there's this: Parliamentary elections took place last week on Monday, Dec. 5th. Only 25% of the electorate participated because 5 opposition political parties boycotted the elections. Chavez's Fifth Republic Movement Party (MVR) win ALL 167 seats in the country's single-chamber congress. Two days after this illegitimate outcome, the President of the National Assembly says they will get rid of that pesky term-limits thing, and enact legislation that will keep Chavez in office until 2030. If that happens, that means democracy in Venezuela, the 5th largest exporter of the world's crude oil, is officially dead.

Suddenly, the idea of America becoming militarily involved in Venezuela sometime in the next ten years seems not so crazy. As the Bushes have been totally unembarassed about showing us, the United States goes where the oil is.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Bodybuilders Take Care of Their Own

Something else to consider: is Arnold denying clemency to Tookie because, back in the day, Tookie's physique rivaled his own? Is this some weird bodybuilding beef? Maybe Arnold believes so strongly in the purity of the bodybuilding ethos, that any bodybuilder who taints that purity by committing murder must then be sacrificed? Maybe Arnold became governor for this express purpose -- to make sure when Tookie's case came up, he'd be in a position to put a bad bodybuilder down. They take care of their own. Creepy. Just kidding, but seriously: creepy.

Slightly creepier, this guy's supposed to die tonight, at midnight Pacific time.

No Clemency From Arnold

Officially, Arnold Schwarzenegger has condemned a human being to death in real life, as opposed to just pretending to do it in movies. Tookie sounds like a bad dude, and in addition to the murders he was convicted of perpetrating, the legacy of founding the Crips, a gang responsible for hundreds of deaths over the years, is probably unforgivable. But if ever there were a convict who was rehabilitated, who had tried to atone for his crimes with positive action, it's this guy, Tookie Williams. By executing him, I think the US is sending a message to its citizens and to the world that the US Prison System isn't going to feed the public a line of BS anymore. There is no intention, nor was there ever any, in "rehabilitating" convicts. The purpose of prisons in this country is, exclusively, to punish individuals for crimes they've committed (or been convicted of committing) and to render them useless as people once they've finished serving their "debt to society". This convict in particular, beyond a shadow of a doubt, was rehabilitated, and for his efforts, he will be murdered himself. I think the death penalty is on its way out in this country -- I hate to see Arnold kowtowing to his conservative base and allowing one of the last state-sanctioned murders in the US to take place in his state.

I don't believe for a second that it wasn't a hard choice for Arnold to make. I just wish he'd opted for mercy instead of vengeance. I know he'd be sleeping better tonight if he had.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Captain Obvious Says: Pat Robertson is Way Nutty

I was watching The 700 Club today and a little bit yesterday, too. We happen to get that channel on our cable-less, antennae-less tv set in the kitchen, and sometimes crazy self-righteous Christians who have their own tv show are more entertaining than than whatever soap opera is showing on CBS. No wait -- I mean all the time. Those CBS soaps are Terrible. (I was baking and needed something to watch). Anyway, the format of The 700 Club is kind of great, especially if most of the viewers kind of half-worship the host, in this case, Pat Robertson, and want to hear any little thing he has to say. The format works like this: the very credible-looking "anchor", a guy named Lee who sits behind the desk and looks at the camera with a very concerned expression, reads a news item and when he's done, he looks to his left and says, "Pat?" And then Pat Robertson appears in all of his cozy, avuncular insanity, and tells the anchor and the viewers at home what he thinks of it. If you ever want a daily dose of the televised crazy, The 700 Club's your one-stop viewing source. This was the same guy who, appropo of nothing, called for the assassination of Jugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela.

Yesterday, one of the news items was about Yale Law School working to block military recruiters from operating on campus. After the "anchor" was finished with the news, Pat Robertson offered his take on it. In a jaw-dropping display of wild unpredictability, Pat said he actually didn't agree with Yale Law's efforts to bar recruiting. He called the Yale students who were protesting "little snits" (and he said this like the only reason he didn't say "shits" is because Jesus would be angry) and the recruiters "heroes". How dare Yale bar these soldiers from having a meal in the cafeteria? Pat asked. When he was finished, he looked to his right and said, "Lee?" And then Lee had the next item. Something about obesity and prostate cancer. Amazingly, Pat had something to say about this, too. They didn't have a doctor on-hand to talk about the linkage between obesity and prostate cancer, you know, to be helpful to viewers, but good thing they had Pat to weigh in.

Today, Pat's son Gordon was on. He's not as accustomed to being on-camera as his dad is, and he frequently flubbed his lines. He called Michael Medved, who was a guest on today's show, a film "cricket" instead of a film "critic", and them made the same flub at the end of the segment, though stuttering this time. He seemed ill-at-ease and he made me feel embarassed. Their segments included a long advertisement for The Chronicles of Narnia (they're all hot to see it, as you might imagine), and a Jewish woman who, as a young woman, was ostracized by her Holocaust-survivor parents when she converted to Christianity (what Jewish parent wouldn't?); and the last segment was about how the IRS is targeting a liberal church in Pasadena, CA where the pastor was accused of directing his flock how to vote. West Wing's Bradley Whitford goes to the church in question and was on-hand to denounce the IRS for attacking his place of worship. Brad's a liberal guy. He blogged about the church situation on the Huffington Post a week or so ago. But I'd think that if The 700 Club came to interview me about my views on a controversial issue, and they were being nice and agreeing with my position, that I would, right that second take the opportunity to completely rethink, and very likely reverse my position.

Anyway, I just think these guys suck. They put on a show that LOOKS like a regular tv show, but then, unlike regular TV, every now and again, the hosts join hands, close their eyes (really tight so everyone can see how much they really mean it) and pray their hearts out. It's like they know they're selling snake oil, so they have to dress the presentation up so the first-time viewer might believe they're watching an actual news show. Pat and his crew hope that maybe they can slither past people's bullshit-detectors and fool some casual viewers into thinking their opinions are mainstream opinions. Of course, they are not. What's worse is that this crap is coming over the public airwaves on free tv. Anyway. Thought I'd share a little useless info and follow it up with a mini-rant.

Well, it is Friday night and the weekend is upon us. I hope everyone has a good one. See Syriana and tell me how it is. Likewise Narnia. I'm out.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Call to Arms -- A Humble Request for the Countries of the World to Annihilate All Giant Jellyfish

Well, goddamn if this isn't something that needs to be wiped out completely and I mean quick. Why haven't I ever heard of these things before?! 6 feet across? Poisonous tentacles? A propensity to multiply at alarming rates? Screw the giant squid! We've got giant jellyfish and we've got them in huge numbers! Pictured to the left is the giant jellyfish, also called Noruma's jellyfish. According to this article, these dumb ropes of poison wrapped up in a sac of cheesecloth are doing what they can to kill the Japanese fishing industry. Generally, I'm all about protecting the food chain and the marine ecosystem's delicate balance -- everything in the ocean has its place and shouldn't be fiddled with and all of that -- but this is totally different. Jellyfish are gross, disgusting, inchoate organisms that exist solely to sting the hell out of hapless beachgoers and eat food otherwise meant for fish. (Not to mention creeping the hell out of people in general -- I mean, look at this thing.) Jellyfish deserve to be wiped out. Obviously we're not going to be able to go into the oceans and kill every one of them -- it would be impossible to get the world behind killing all the regular jellyfish. Per capita, they haven't hurt or offended enough humans. But what about giant jellyfish? These things are offensive on a primal level. I see this thing and I feel threatened. When something we humans only barely tolerate, like jellyfish for example, get this frickin' big, it's like they're asking to be wiped out. Jellyfish growing to this size seems deliberate -- sentient. Like they've decided to compete with the master species for primacy. They've obviously fired the first shot over homo sapiens' figurative bow -- I say we call their bluff.

Seriously though, those things are nightmarish. I hope the Japanese stop killing whales and start killing some giant jellyfish.

Also: check out the new trailer for the new X-Men 3 movie. They say it's a teaser but it's got a lot of footage, I thought. What's most interesting in this one to me, is Kelsey Grammar playing the Beast. You have to salute the guy for putting on this crazy blue animal-man getup and doing this role. He's perfect casting to most folks who've read the comics, but you know when he was sitting in the chair and saw himself as Beast for the first time, he thought to himself, "Well, that was a fun career." I hope the movie turns out well and Ratner doesn't embarrass Kelsey or any of the rest of them.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

An Evening of Blogging Mishaps Makes for One Truly Inane Inanity

(Deep sigh) Blogger's not letting me post photos, so I had to scrap my first post which was centered around one interesting image of a jellyfish. I'll probably post it tomorrow if I still think it's funny -- I may not, so don't get your hopes up. ( I know all of your hopes were going way up before I told you to keep them down.) Then I wrote about going to Party City this evening with Peggy, but she doesn't want me to blog about that until after tomorrow night -- long, not super-interesting story. So now I'm down to this: blogging about blogging difficulties. If there were an apathy combustion engine, surely posts like this one would make it run and power the whole world. Anyway. I've already spent too much time coming up with a marginally interesting post to spend more time trying to make this one seem interesting. So I'm out. Hopefully I'll have better luck tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I Don't Know How The Movie Will Be, But The Short Story May Have Some of You Batting for The Other Team in No Time

I read a short story today by E. Annie Proulx called "Brokeback Mountain". The film adaptation is coming out this month and it's getting positive reviews ahead of its release. The short story's up on the New Yorker website -- here's the link. It's not often you have to stop your reading of a story or a novel to look at a particular sentence to figure out how the hell they did what they did (a turn of phrase, some unexpected imagery, etc.), but reading her stuff I was doing it all the time. She's able to evoke time and place perfectly with what seems like no effort at all. I remember someone at NCSA told me once that what they thought most interesting and admirable about E. Annie Proulx was her ability to change voices altogether depending on the story she was writing. It's hard enough for a writer to find a voice that works well enough to get one through a whole life of writing, much less a brand new one each time out, which is what she does. She adopts a kind of rural, rough-hewn but eloquent voice to tell this story. She lives in Wyoming and the story takes place in the same state. She seems to have their cadence and vernacular down pat -- the dialogue never once rings false, or inspired fits of cringing. It's less like she's telling a story she came up with than it is her transcribing what really happened somewhere. And yet the voice in this story is totally different than the voice she used in writing The Shipping News, but they are both equally strong and persuasive, and entirely suited for the story being told. Kind of a genius. I'm inclined now to grab up everything she's ever written and read it all.

Anyway. Positive blather is never as fun as negative blather, so I'll cut short the adulation. I recommend you check out the story. I don't really gravitate to short stories, but this one's worthwhile. Read it (or some of it) and post up something on the comments. I shore love comments.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Unsatisfied with the Mediocrity of His First Effort, Tim Story Aims to Out-Mediocre his Original Mediocrity in a Blow-out Cinematic Tour-de-Mediocrity

I have some bad news for fans of movies adapted from Marvel comic books. No, it's not that Brett Ratner's directing X-Men 3 -- that's old bad news. This is freshly announced.

Tim Story is returning for the sequel to Fantastic Four.

I don't know who among you actually saw Fantastic Four this summer, but I was one of those guys who braved it in the theaters and thought the end result wasn't a total disaster, just a partial one. A mediocrity, if you will. It had some moments in it where one could conceivably be reminded of how fun the comic books are, but these seemed almost accidental. I think the main problem with the movie was its director: Tim Story. He's sub-adequate as a big-budget, summer tent-pole movie helmer -- he's a journeyman director, and a franchise like The Fantastic Four needs someone with an artistic vision. A Raimi, a Nolan, a Singer, an Aronofsky, a Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead 2004) kind of director. I don't know how he did it, but Story managed to make a 100 million dollar movie look like a 30 million dollar movie and you really can't blame that low-end production value on anyone else.

The screenplay was goofy in a way that suggested the screenwriter and director didn't actually "get" the material, or even try to -- like they thought their job wasn't to do what they thought was impossible -- namely make a comic book about four white people who get irradiated in space, come back and decide to wear spandex with little 4's on their chests, and regularly save the entire world every few comic books from the likes of villains named Mole Man, Dr. Doom, and Galacticus -- but rather to "have some fun" with the source material. In some aspects, they seemed to think they had to sexy it up, modern it up, to have a chance at the box office. Look no further than the miscasting of Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, or making Dr. Doom into a suave New York billionaire instead of the crazed, castle-living King of Latveria. They needed look only as far as Pixar's brilliant The Incredibles to see how something thrilling and stunning can be done with essentially the same story. Brad Bird knew the Fantastic Four was good stuff -- he stole all the Four's powers and gave them to his Incredibles family and made a great movie.

Here's the point: If the script isn't working, it often falls to the director to either rewrite the thing himself, or guide the screewriter(s) into writing a good movie. My guess is the reason Tim Story left the script as is, is because he doesn't actually care about the Fantastic Four. Not to say this is a character flaw by any means -- maybe he's rightfully more concerned with world hunger or the Iraq war than he is in a silly comic book. But there are lots of people out there just as capable as Story, and moreso, who actually do love these stories, and would have made a much better movie. (I do concede I may be wrong on this -- Story may love the comic books, it's just that it didn't show up anywhere on-screen). I think a genuine affection and knowledge of the source material is absolutely REQUIRED these days when making big-budget adaptations, whether they be novels or comic books. Peter Jackson adapting The Lord of the Rings is a perfect example of bringing in someone who has a reverence for the source material and the end result is pitch perfect. Ang Lee's The Hulk is a perfect example of bringing in someone who's merely fascinated by the subject matter, but otherwise couldn't care less. We know how that one turned out. I'm sure there are some exceptions that prove the rule, but I think, by and large, adherence to the source material really helps make an adaptation work.

When I saw The Fantastic Four in theaters this summer, I walked out with the idea that, yeah, the movie mostly sucked, but the studio was officially finished with the obligatory origin story, enough people who actually liked the FF had seen the movie to justify another big-budget installment, and now they were free to make a really great sequel, provided, of course, they jettisoned Tim Story. Everything was set for something great to happen. The fact that Fox was swayed by Story's "awesome" vision for the sequel and decided to keep him on as the director means the FF movies are always going to be the weak sister Marvel Comics movie franchise, when they deserve to be one of the best. Oh well.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Oprah and Dave: Reunited and It Feels So Good

I watched Oprah Winfrey's return to Dave Letterman's show last night, and it was a strange, and I'll go ahead and say it, exhilarating experience. (I know, I need to get out more.) Far from the genial and boring celebrity chat it could have been, there was palpable tension throughout the interview, and it was a long one. The tension, in this case, derived from a guest expecting at any moment to be mocked, and a host trying desperately to assure his guest that she was in safe territory.

Usually on the Late Show, before the first guest comes out, Dave does a dopey and not terribly funny gag of some kind, varying between dropping something in water to see if it will float (a kind of Mr. Wizard-style homage to bored, dumb-guy "science"), to having pre-selected audience members answer surrealistic trivia questions about cuts of meat. Then the top-ten list, and then the first guest. Last night, they ran through all of that as quickly as they could, and all of it was Oprah-related. No matter who the guest has been, politicians, heads of state, movie superstars, I've never seen the show roll out the red carpet like that. Dave Letterman's been hounding Oprah to come on the show for a long time. It seems every time I tuned in during the past year or so (which was infrequently) there's been some reference to Dave asking Oprah if she'd come on the show, and being rejected. Their doomed-to-failure quest was kind of funny and a good gag for them. And so, in the strange, rarified world of the Late Show, an actual appearance by Oprah would be akin to, say, George W. Bush himself appearing on the Daily Show. A huge deal. You could tell he and Paul Shaffer were both a little nervous before she came on. I was getting nervous vicariously. And then he calls her out.

It was very strange to see her in that setting. I've seen Oprah a bunch of times in the 20-some odd years she's had her own show, and it was weird to see her a) outside her studio, and b)in a place where she felt she wasn't safe. It was clear from the onset of the interview she was expecting sly, mean-spirited mockery from Dave, and she seemed ill-at-ease. But Dave was very solicitous and very complimentary, saying a number of times how "great" she looked, setting his hand on the arm of her chair to show her how sincere and engaged he was. He kissed her hand like five times before and after the interview. She wasn't shy about calling Dave out on one of his antics over the years. She said, and I'm paraphrasing, "Just to show you that it's over, whatever there was is now over, I brought you a present." He opened a box and before the viewers could see it, he laughed. "Are you sure it's over?" he asked. Then he took it out and held it so the cameras could see. It was a signed photo of herself and Uma Thurman, referencing his Academy Awards gag where he made fun of their names. By the end of it he was asking her to describe at length the charitable work she's doing in Africa. As she talked about it (a school for girls in South Africa, among other things) she kept asking, "You sure you want to hear about this?", thinking that their interview was supposed to be light and frothy. And at other times she'd break in with, "I can't believe you're being so nice to me." Judging by the frequency of this declaration, one might suspect Oprah was expecting Dave to pull out a gun and shoot her in the knees. He did not -- he made no jokes at her expense (though one small one at Dr. Phil's) and directed his mockery solely at himself. When it was over, he led her to the theater where her production of 'The Color Purple' is playing on Broadway. They held hands the whole way (pictured above), with flash bulbs going off non-stop-- kinda weird, but it made for soem good photos to show, with a single image, that the "feud" was now officially over. Anyway. It wasn't a funny interview, but it did prove that either Dave has put away forever his "Mean Dave" persona, or, more likely, that he's just put it away for Oprah.

All right, that's it for this week. Hope everyone has a good weekend.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thursday's Inanity: Here's Some Cat for You

This is my cat, Venkman. This post would have gone up earlier, but Venkman stretched his big cat-ass out on my desk, and knocked my pencil sharpener onto the CPU, which caused my computer to freeze, and pencil shavings to go hither and yon. Awesome. So I had a thing written up already, about Venkman coincidentally, but now it is gone. You know how it is, having to rewrite something after it's been inadvertantly erased. Just isn't the same. But, I'll summarize what I'd written: I said that Venkman, like most cats, is not only out of his mind, but completely preoccupied with the idea of forts; places he can sit inside and feel both hidden, and capable of launching a surprise attack, a Catz-krieg, if you will, against unsuspecting humans, namely Peggy and I. Today, while I was loading bottles of water into our fridge, before I'd taken the last bottle out of the thick plastic wrapping, the cat was inside it (pictured top), testing it out for fort-worthiness. He found it suitable for about 5 minutes before abandoning it. What he does enjoy climbing into for fort purposes are these "Fridge Packs" the soda companies are packaging cans in these days. You can see him testing out two of them simultaneously in this photo here. These aren't really so good for cat-forts, but I think there's something alluring about the tunnel-effect he appears to be enjoying here -- maybe he hopes it's a tunnel leading to his ideal fort. Anyway, good luck figuring out which end is in which box. Well, before the Inanities becomes one of those cat-centric blogs written by the lady with 87 cats in her house, I'll leave you with a link. To the funniest cat video of all time. It's awesome.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Drawin' People Right's Hard. Here's a Case In Point.

I drew this two nights ago. It benefits from reduction, believe me. After I'd drawn it, I could tell there was something very wrong with it: the girl in the drawing and the girl in the photo were obviously two different people. So, last night, I returned to the drawing, erased her eyes (because that was the problem area) and redrew them. By doing so, other things got screwed up. Nothing so drastic as to make me think I'd drawn some new, only vaguely humanoid species, but enough to make me think I was never going to get the woman's face right. Anyway, I cleaned it up, changed her jawline, moved her nose a little to the left, lifted her smile, reshaded in places -- generally got it as close as I could to the photo, and this is the result. I know -- still two different people. Oh well. Practice makes perfect I guess. Just needs a serious tweaking, but I can't figure out where or how. Waah.
I could go on, but even I know this drawing isn't worth all of this deconstruction. So let's move on.

In other news: School of Filmmaking alumni Jody Hill (1999), who graduated, as I did, with a concentration in screenwriting, will have a film premiering at the Sundance film festival this year. It will be non-competition entry featured as a midnight screening -- a lot of big films have gotten their start as midnight screenings at Sundance (Blair Witch Project, Super Troopers, Hard 8, Haute Tension, etc.) and then gone on to either big business, or their filmmakers to important careers. So way to go, Jody. There is hope for all of us.

That's it for today.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

This Barely-Begun (And Likely Never-Finished) Graphic Novel Concerns A Young Woman Who Kills Her Company's Competitors For A Living

Briefly I'm posting this unfinished comic book page up. This is the first (and probably last) page of a graphic adaptation of my second novel -- I started the novel a few years back and then abandoned it because I still had my first novel to write. I started this graphic adaptation sometime in August or September and all I've done is this one page, which should tell you something about my overall pace of work. I can't include the entire page here because I drew it on that BlueLine regulation-size comic book paper and it won't fit on my 8"X 11"-centric scanner. I got most of it here though. I sketched out the next few pages last week, but it'll be a while before I get anything drawn up. Anyway, let me know what you think -- is it even clear what's going on in this page?

[Ed. note: the last frame that was cut off at the bottom is another drawing of the woman, this time with her eyes closed.]

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Viewing of Walk the Line Prompts A New and Probably Fleeting Interest in the Man in Black -- This Post is Both Scintillating and Explosive. Really.

Hello everybody. Hope everyone had an awesome Thanskgiving. I'm back after the longest hiatus in the long, long history of the Inanities. Yeah, I know. I'm as disappointed as you are.

Anyway, over the long weekend, I saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as well as Walk the Line. Harry Potter was very good, though, while watching this movie, I was more aware of the storylines and moments the filmmakers cut out of Rowling's book than I had been during the previous three. Don't know if that's a good or bad thing, or if I just remembered this book better. I read an interview with Steve Cloves today. Cloves is the screenwriter who adapted the four books so far but opted out of adapting the next book in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. He apparently began to feel Potter-withdrawal symptoms because his life, suddenly, no longer revolved around a bunch of British kids named Harry, Ron and Hermione. So when he read the most recent book, Half-Blood Prince, he got excited about the story all over again and called Warner Bros. to ask if he could do the next one, and they said sure -- apparently they were happy to have two screenwriters working simultaneously on adapting Potter books because the studio and the whole production team are very aware that time is running out for the cast they have. They're trying to film the next two as close to back to back as possible so they don't have to recast, because if they do, Klove says -- well, take a look at the article. Blogger doesn't let me copy and paste right into the blog for whatever reason, so, you know.

Anyway, Walk the Line was very good. James Mangold did a great job -- he was smart enough to get out of the way of the story and let the actors do their thing and not clutter the film with showy camera angles and stylized editing. Joaquin Phoenix does a great job as Johnny Cash but he doesn't go exactly the way that Jamie Foxx did with Ray Charles -- Phoenix does more of a version of Cash -- sometimes he throws in certain Cashism's, like the sneer and the winks, but it never really feels like Phoenix is trying to channel Cash, and it works just fine for the movie, which is all that really matters. Though when it comes award time, the Academy may not give the Best Actor award to Joaquin -- they tend to like their depictions of real-life people to be as close to dead-on impersonations as the actors can get. Thus, the win for Jamie Foxx for Ray, the win for Ben Kingsley for Gandhi, and the nomination for Anthony Hopkins for Nixon (but surprisingly, no nomination for Jim Carrey's dead-on impersonation of Andy Kauffman -- maybe their apparent hatred of Jim Carrey trumps their love for impersonations. Hmmm) We'll see. Maybe the other dead-on impersonation will take Best Actor -- Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote. I liked both performances in both movies.

Comparisons to Ray are inevitable but also in this case, entirely warranted. James Mangold doesn't seem particularly eager to distance his movie from that one, in either style or tone, and why should he? Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, like a lot of super-famous musicians, had similar trajectories. Walk the Line is very much like a white version of Ray. It had everything Ray had: dirt-poor rural upbringings, the death of a family member that scars them for the rest of their lives, womanizing, and drug abuse, but one thing Walk the Line does not have, is the long shadow of racism that pervaded almost every frame of Ray. That Walk doesn't have that pervasive tension isn't necessarily a detractor, I think. Is Walk the Line better than Ray? It's tighter than Ray structurally, but Walk doesn't feel as rich or as lively as Ray, and that may be in part because of the personalities involved -- Ray Charles was an exuberant on-stage personality, whereas Johnny Cash seemed to be more of a shy, reserved performer, but that's just from my own 28-year old perspective -- he was definitely not a musician of my generation. I wasn't really aware of Johnny Cash as anything more than a peripheral country musician who'd been famous since the time of the dinosaurs until he started to get some acclaim in the late nineties from "hip" modern music critics (like the guys at Rolling Stone) for his body of work. I guess everyone was starting to realize that Johnny Cash was getting old and so some reevaluation was in order -- to understand his place in music history and the Rock and Roll firmament. According to the mainstream rock critics, Johnny Cash was either becoming a crossover artist in his later years, or he already was and they were finally recognizing that fact, I don't remember. And then, a few years ago, there was the "Hurt" video, where Johnny Cash covered the song originally written and performed by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. I don't know if Marc Romanek will make a better film in his life, but I kind of doubt it. Filmed after Cash had become gravely ill and before his wife, June Carter Cash, died, it's shocking and painfully honest. I think it probably helped get Walk the Line made.
The movie's kind of imbedded itself in my head since I saw it and I wanted to talk about it some. I downloaded some Cash songs in the past couple of days: "Walk the Line", "Folsom Prison Blues", "Ring of Fire". They're definitely in that country tradition of songs primarily interested in telling stories. His songs, at least those few songs I listed, aren't really to my taste, but they're good, I think -- I guess my interest in Johnny Cash isn't really fueled by a great love for his music, but rather because I admire him for appearing in Romanek's video in his condition (I believe he was then recovering from a debilitating stroke -- he looks markedly worse in the video than he does in the included photo of the elder Cash), and for recording "Hurt". Though the lyrics weren't his, he infused Reznor's rock-dirge with a gravitas Reznor never got close to. It's rare to find that musician who has something musically worthwhile to say all the way to the bitter end of their careers, but Cash appears to be one of them. I wished they'd touched on the video in some way in Walk the Line, but I'm guessing Mangold didn't want to let Romanek's work infringe on his own, no matter how apt it might have been. Anyway. If you haven't already, I would reccomend both Harry Potter and Walk the Line. More inanities tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Readers of the Inanities Say: "How Can We Miss You If You Never Leave?"

I'm going to take a brief, Thanksgiving-related hiatus from the Inanities. I'll be posting up on here again on Monday the 28th. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving. If you're driving, do it carefully. I know that no one who reads this blog is a bad driver, but that doesn't mean that there aren't bad drivers on the roads with you, going to and from grandma's house, so be vigilant. See ya'll in about a week.

Einstein, Time-Traveller, At the Moment of His Death

Here's something fun I found during my travels online. In order to make an image like the one you see here, click on the link and fill in your own stuff. They have other images you can use, like the Uncle Sam poster. Beneath "Wants You" you can write any brief thing you want. Goofy fun, and definitely a good time waster.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Monday's Inanity: Mamet, Blinky, and Napoleon Dynamite.

Ugh, it's Monday and it's been rainy and cold all day; the weatherpeople say it's supposed to keep up until tomorrow, so today turned out to be a great day to stay indoors and do laundry and vacuum all day, which is what I did. While I was folding laundry I watched David Mamet's House of Games for the first time. One of Peggy's fellow MBAs lent it to me after we got to talking about a Ricky Jay performance he'd seen in New York. Ricky Jay's pretty amazing -- he's probably the most accomplished sleight-of-hand man in the world, and he's steeped in all things related to confidence games. Scams. He's not a brilliant actor or anything, but he fits pretty good into a Mamet movie, which is probably why he's frequently featured in them. Anyway, House of Games (which is Mamet's directorial debut, which helps explains the film school thesis look to the thing) is a pretty good movie but it brings up all of those same "How in the hell can he get away with this stuff?" feelings I always have when I watch a Mamet movie. And by that I mean how is it people buy the crazy lines that come out of Mamet's character's mouths? The main character in House of Games actually says to another character, unironically, "Let's talk turkey." Totally straight face and she zips past it and starts saying her other lines like it's not actually worth stopping in the middle of the scene, turning to the guy behind the camera and asking, "You reallywant me to say that?" Any other movie you hear a clunker like that, you get walk outs (or Stop Button Pushes on the DVD Players in this case), but because it's Mamet, you're just supposed to go with the flow, and so you do. Good for him, I guess. He's carved out a niche for himself as the guy who's allowed to string any series of words together he wants, and have people like it. I'm one of those people. But still. I have these feelings of resentment.

Anyway, the image above is page one of a two-page comic I drew up in the last year or so. I don't much like the layout of the page, or the top three drawings very much, but I do like the bottom two drawings. I think they came out pretty good -- not too much inking, not too little. If I were so inclined, I would have liked to localize just the two bottom-most drawings and post only those, but I might as well give you the whole thing. Overall, though, page-wise, not so much. The horse looks retarded, for one, and it's a lot of page real estate to devote to a suspenseful stroll. This is what happens when you just start drawing comics without having anything written out beforehand. Comes out like this.

Also, before I sign off for the day, I wanted to mention this. If you hit the 'Next Blog' button at the top of this blog, usually you get seriously crappy blogs, but every now and again you get something pretty good, as I did with benerdwalkin's blog. He's a recent art school grad and does some really great stuff which he posts up on his blog. He also has links to a bunch of other art school grads who do great work. The image to the left is by an artist named Jeffrey Thompson. Here's the link. I thought this was a pretty great caricature of Jon Heder as Napoleon. A lot of the blogs linked to on Benerd Walkin's site feature good stuff -- I reccomend some browsin' if you get the chance. Anyway, that's all for now. More tomorrow.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Superman Returns Teaser Has Been Unleashed!

We've been getting some good teasers of late for next year's releases and today brings what may be the best of the lot. The teaser for Superman Returns. This thing is fantastic. I watched it four times -- the not what you'd expect John Williams score and the narration by Marlon Brando as Ja-Rel, really good, stirring stuff. I'm excited to see it. Click on 'full-screen' for the full effect, it doesn't take that long to download. If Warner Bros. keeps this up, not only will they have two renewed DC Comics franchises up and running with Batman and Superman, they'll have set the stage for that Batman Vs. Superman movie Wolfgang Petersen was once all set to direct. Allah knows there's plenty of material from the comics to draw from for that movie. Yeah, I know, I'm a dork. Anyway, check it out and post your responses in the comments. Have a good weekend, ya'll.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

What Began As A Heads Up on the Recipient of the National Book Award for Fiction Becomes a Weird Rant About How Author Photos are No Good

The National Book Awards were handed out last night and William T. Vollmann won the fiction award for an 800+ page tome entitled Europe Central. I had never heard of this guy until the interview Bookslut did with him this month. It's an interesting interview -- in it he says he wrote not one, but two adaptations of his own books in 10-12 hours. He got 50K for his trouble from some movie studio. Not a bad day's work. Bastard. But what he says about his intentions behind writing Europe Central make his novel, now National Book Award-winning novel, sound well worth reading.

Until, that is, I read a few sample pages of the book on Amazon. To me, it reads like a very clever, very well-researched writing savant wrote them. Like a slightly less reader-friendly Neal Stephenson. Another writer who produces fiction of this type is David Foster Wallace. Also a genius, his stuff is, for me, very hard to get through, not because the writing is too dense or hard to comprehend, but because he, like Vollmann, seems to be showing off that genius-level writing ability, and maybe doing it without
meaning to. These guys toss off phrases and brilliant metaphors that would be the literary highlight of another writer's whole novel. I'm sure that readers of serious fiction out there who have no ambitions of writing themselves (all 28 of them) can consume fiction like Vollmann's and Wallace's, happily and without envy -- just not sure that I can. I think Europe Central is probably one of those books that I would like to have read, but one I'm hesitant to actually do the work of slogging through. It's me, not them.

The author himself, his appearance I mean, is also problematic. In this photo, he looks like the uber-nerd everyone went to high school with. But not the nerd who wishes he was popular, but the nerd who marched to the beat of their own drum because every other drum he'd ever heard was way too dumb for him to march to. Judging by this photo alone, I doubt I'd have a good time reading 850 pages by this guy. But that's just from this author's photo.

There's been talk from people who talk about such things, that author photos should be abolished. I'm beginning to agree with them. People who pick up a writer's book are able to make too many wrongheaded assumptions about the story based solely on the author's appearance.

Vollmann (to the left, pictured with the writer of The House of Sand and Fog, Andre Dubois III. This is a photo of Vollmann getting his National Book Award last night) looks much less like a hardcase, nerd-asshole in this photo. Partly because he's older and partly because he's attempting a smile, I think. He doesn't even look like the same guy, really. It's just that if a photo of a person is truly opaque and very little of worth can be gleaned from them (or any photo really), what's the point of printing one up on the back flap of a book's dust jacket?

I don't know what I'm really arguing about. I think I went so far down this tangent just because that photo of Vollmann as a younger man was so offensive to me. Of course, if I ever had the opportunity, I would demand an author's photo on my book. But that's because, deep down, I'm super vain. All right. I'm done.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Has It Been a Hundred Years Already? The Return of Unproduced Horror Classic, Centenary (in Storyboard Form)

Briefly, I thought I'd post up some storyboards. I got a lot of them and it's fun to post drawings. These aren't just ANY storyboards, mind you, but the very first storyboards I did after graduating from film school. Pictured to the left are a series of nine storyboards taken from my own original screenplay, Centenary. My goal in drawing these was to have something to send to my contact at the storyboard agency in Los Angeles. I used the spiffy format I learned from the art director on the first X-Men (he visited the school and did a talk for the production design students) to show I was savvy to the ins and out of the "Biz" and totally worth representing.

Anyway. Some of you are well-acquainted with ol' Centenary, many better acquainted than you'd like, so the following scene MAY seem familiar, albeit in a remote, deja-vu kind of way rather than an "Oh yeah! I remember this! This was AWESOME!" kind of way. Anyway, onto a needless play-by-play of the boards themselves.

So, first page, board 1: We have a very Brolin-esque John Fisher holding onto the giant-est cell phone on the market with Go Go Gadget Fingers. Second board: Kathy Powell looking distressed. Third board: totally awesome. We see the monster (who shows up every 100 years, thus the title) frickin' galloping after John.

Second page, first board: a sweet OTS of the monster (which I ripped off from Spawn for the purposes of these boards) chasing after John Fisher who is, coincidentally, driving my old Chevy S10. Second frame: giant-eyed John finally sees. Third frame: monster bearing down Jurassic Park-style.

Third page, first board: John, terrified out of his mind, cranks the wheel hard right into his driveway. Second board: Chevy S10 glamour-shot with monster incidentally in frame. I was happy to put some camera movement in this sequence to show that I could do that, too. Last frame: the monster (or Wolverine, whichever) stabs the bed of the truck with his scythe claws.

Even after doing all the boards I did eventually do in LA, these nine are still my favorite. (Some of the boards I did for Brian Mandle and BOC's feature-pitch are probably my second favorite). Maybe the reason I like these storyboards so much is that they're from something I imagined and were not created in service to some hackneyed, done-to-death music video, or creatively bankrupt, poorly-imagined feature or short film. I don't know. Anyway, there they are, my Centenary storyboards. Some other time, maybe I'll post up the boards I did from my Mr. Blinky script that I also submitted to Stacy at Storyboards, Inc. They're not as fun as these, but they're not bad either. All right, I'm out.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Warning: Post May Cause Extreme Drowsiness. Marginally Interesting Insults Aimed at a Bad Book Contained Herein. Read At Your Own Risk

I'm up in Lawrenceville again today. My mom's at a quilt guild meeting and I'm here to take the dogs out should any prospective buyers drop by to look at their house. No one yet. I finished watching the third season of The West Wing this morning and when mom called to ask me to house and dogsit, I decided that to do at least ONE productive thing with this day, I would bring a book I ordered used off of Amazon called Blind Vengeance: The Roy Moody Mail Bomb Murders (pictured to the left -- I'll bet you'll never guess where I got the image from), and I would start reading it. The reason I bought it in the first place is because there's a pipe-bomb explosion in my still-in-progress-novel, and I wanted to see how the pipe-bomb murder was investigated in real life. It's written by a Pulitzer-prize winning jounalist so I thought, at the very least, it would be well-written.

Not so. The author, Ray Jenkins, is indeed a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, but he won the award in 1954 while working for a very small Georgia newspaper. He wrote the book almost forty years later in 1992. Judging by Jenkins's level of writing ability exhibited in this book, he was either too old to write in '92 having lost his writing-mojo from when he was a younger man, or, and I think this may be the case, they gave them the Pulitzer not because Jenkins' story was well-written, but because a conservative, bigoted newspaper in the conservative, bigoted Southern state of Georgia had published a series of stories about an injustice perpetrated against a black person by a white person. Because this was unusual and progressive, the award was political. This was my conclusion after slogging through a 25-page introduction that had nothing to do with Roy Moody, the mail bomb murders, or any of the victims, but everything to do with Ray Jenkins himself. Jenkins doesn't actually get to the bombing until 3/4 of the way through the book. The investigation itself is largely ancillary. Jenkins's point in writing this book seems to be to tell the story absolutely no one was even slightly curious to hear: how the stories of the bomber and his two victims neatly describe the opposing sides on the race issue in the South during the Civil Rights era. Yawn. I guess I should have known better. Judging by title, which people should obviously never do with a non-fiction work, I thought the book might have had something to do with Roy Moody and his mail bomb murders. Oh well. I'm the dummy.

The dogs are now growling for me to take them out, so I'm gonna.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The WenDonald's King: The Virgil to Your Dante For a Nightmarish Journey Through the 9th Circle of Fast Food Hell

I just wanted to throw something up here that I drew tonight. Peggy asked me to draw up a mascot for a McDonald's/Wendy's/Burger King mega burger chain. Some business school thing. I think it's kind of funny, but not so much for the whole premise of the drawing (though it is sort of funny), but because of how sad/pleading the mascot-hybrid's eyes are. It's as if he's saying, "Please. Make the hurting stop." I was going for the very elusive jovial/terrifying look of the Burger King guy, but this is what I got. Anyway. For your amusement/derision.

Stick a Fork In Him. No, Seriously. Stick a Fork In Him.

Dick Cheney and Bush aren't so sweet on one another these days. Just when you think a guy like Bush is incapable of learning new things, here he goes and proves you wrong. I wonder if Bush sees the run-up to war differently now in retrospect, now that slowly, in a trickle-down fashion, the truth is coming to light? I wonder if he's starting to think Cheney and Rumsfeld were maybe a little too single-minded in their drive to war in Iraq. Maybe he thinks back to the meeting he had with his top advisors in the days after September 11th, and thinks, (only in looking back now), that maybe it was kind of weird that Rumsfeld suggested the US attack Iraq in response to 9/11, because, "there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan". Maybe Bush is starting to think that Rummy's blurt may be evidence of a predisposition towards getting into Iraq. Maybe, he wasn't the only one with said predisposition. Perhaps, with all of this Valerie Plame/Scooter Libby stuff being unearthed, he suspects his Vice-President might have been involved in a little intelligence cherry-picking. To rational people, the answers to these questions are obvious -- but this is Bush. It takes him a minute. The link above is to an interesting article, but it's also interesting to see how all the insiders quoted in the story, and by extension the article's author himself, are trying to spin the story. According to a "conservative leader who is an ally of the Vice President's", this is "Cheney's war", not Bush's, even though soft-skulled Bush is the one who actually decides these things. Could this be the beginning of an effort to rehabilitate Bush's image for the history books? And also, according to the article, Cheney's not really a Machiavellian, twisting-his-moustache kind of guy; darn it, he just thinks "right is right." It's almost as if Mike Allen of Time magazine who wrote the article, wants to be sure that no one who reads his article comes away with a negative impression of the guy. Why would that be?

An interesting blog about how the so-called mainstream press spins news stories with a pro-Bush slant is Presstitutes. Worth a look-see.

Also, here's something I didn't know but found out the other day: Scooter Libby believed (and still believes) that whenever people refer to the group of men who guided the Executive into war with Iraq as NeoCons, that those people are being anti-semitic. Apparently, a lot of the guys in the so-called Iraq group are Jewish. Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby. It was reported that the news report that Libby originally called Tim Russert to complain about (the conversation where Libby alleged that Tim Russert told him that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA) was a broadcast of Chris Matthews' Hardball. Matthews was working the neocon angle pretty hard and Libby was calling up to complain that Matthews was being an anti-semite. I never even thought of that. I just thought it was a bunch of hawks who were trying to trick the country into a war of choice. I didn't even think about their racial/religious origins. Could Libby have a persecution complex, or is there something to it? I'm leaning towards the former. Anyway, I thought that was interesting.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Another Disneyland Photo, This One Featuring My Wife Kicking My Ass

This photo was taken by a computer on the same day as the photo from Wednesday's post -- this is from the Little Green Men ride (located right across from the old-and-busted Star Tours ride in the Futureland section of Disneyland). On this ride, Peggy and I rode around in a little Fantasyland-style car and shot laser tag-style guns at red-blinking targets for what felt like 15 minutes. For each target hit, we received a certain number of points. At the end you see how many points you've racked up. Looks like Peggy was winning this round. Like I said, it's kind of a long ride, and the gun seems to get heavier as the ride goes along, so you can see I was having to support it with my other hand. Though we may look bored and unimpressed, (we kind of were), we are actually determined to beat each other. In the end, I don't even remember who won, which must mean that Peggy won. At the end, in a little area with a bunch of monitors and keyboards, this photo came up and I emailed it to myself. These months later, I share it with all of you. And with that, I'm out. Have a good weekend er'rybody.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Here's a Movie That Has Some Real Promise: The Fountain

This image kind of sucks, I know, but it's the only good one that came up when I typed in "The Fountain" on Google image search. This is Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in some scene in Darren Aronofsky's newest and upcoming film, The Fountain. This is the movie Brad Pitt was supposed to be in for the longest time, but then dropped out for some reason I don't remember. Couldn't been that good a one. The teaser came out today and though I think its format is kind of goofy (1 Man, 1 Love, 1 Quest), the imagery is amazing -- right now it's looking like one of those movies that's going to make an honest attempt at being both powerful and original instead of going blatantly for either box office gold or Oscar gold (which amount to the same thing), something the studios go out of their way to never do. (I think Eternal Sunshine took the prize for originality last year). What's amazing to me is that, in this teaser, in just two shots edited together -- the horseman thundering down a path towards the castle with a torch in hand, quickly cutting to a car driving along a freeway towards a shining metropolis -- more was attempted with the, (yeah I'm going to say it), filmic medium than anything I've seen in a long time. I wonder if Aronofsky was thinking of Kubrick's edit in 2001: A Space Oddysey -- the one where he cuts from the bone to the space station -- when he wrote that series of shots. How cool is it to be excited about shots again? Aronofsky's resurfaced finally after years and years of trying to get this thing made, but where's Fincher? Where's PT Anderson? Quentin? Why do we always have to wait years and years for these guys to do a new movie but we get a new Michael Bay movie every year? This year we're getting two Kiminski/Spielberg movies! Two! Are the young artistic directors being lazy, resting on their laurels, or are the studios too skittish to give these guys money and a release date every year (or even every two years?) Methinks the latter. (But a little of the former in some cases.)

Anyway, been waiting to hear something about this movie and I'm pretty excited by this teaser.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Yeah? I like the rides meant for small children. What of it?

For a brief Wednesday post, I thought I'd post up this photo of me at California Adventures in Anaheim. California Adventures is the new Disney theme park adjacent to Disneyland. It's still pretty small, but it's that kind of place Disney excels in creating: acreage covered in colorful, appealing caricatures of buildings, steeped in nostalgia for a strange, quasi-time that sort of feels like it must have been better than it is now. It's a lot of fun. This is one of the least exciting rides in the whole park -- called the Golden Zephyr (listed on the website under "Family Adventures") and yet here I am on it, thrilled to death, looking like an overgrown recipient of a Day at Disneyland pass from the Make a Wish Foundation. There was no line so we rode this thing like three times. I'll leave it at that.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Here's an Inanity You Can Safely Skip: Herein I Whine About Believer Magazine

For devotees of the Inanities, you may remember back to my very first post back at the end of August (I know, waaayyy back) when I said that, one day, in my new blog, I would address my displeasure with Dave Egger's magazine, The Believer. I used to subscribe to it. Then I stopped. Here, in what may end up being a somewhat lengthy (hopefully not) explanation, is why.

I went to a signing some years back featuring Dave Eggers, Michael Chabon, Glen David Gold, and Aimee Bender. It was at the Beverly Hills public library and the authors were gathered to promote their new collection of genre-oriented short stories called McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales. For the most part, the book's good stuff. In it I read maybe two of the best short stories I've ever read (one by Neil Gaiman and one by Glen David Gold) and in it I learned that Michael Crichton (who had a story published in the collection) is not a good short story writer, and that my first impression of Sherman Alexie was totally right -- he sucks. Outside the lecture hall, on a table filled with their books that, if you bought them, they would sign for you, was a stack of Believer magazines. Each issue features the same design as on the issue pictured: nine squares, and two rectangles, four of the squares filled with ultra-cool pen-and-ink drawings of people who are, in some way featured inside. The specific issue on the table was right up my alley. There was an essay on Dune in it. Some days later, at the Borders near my apartment in Glendale, I picked it up and read it. Great, intelligent stuff. In it, the writer discussed how the "spice" that is at the center of these inter-planetary conflicts in Dune is a metaphor for our thirst for oil on this planet. Not too long after that, I got hit by a car and suddenly I had more free time than usual, so I subscribed.

It started out fine -- lots of essays about books and writers, and lots of interviews with writers. That's why I signed up. I like reading about books and writers. But even then there were interviews with visual artists, modern dancers, actors, and a weird column about love and sex in Croatia called Seksopolis. I let all that slide; The Believer's indie and hip, so it has to have some completely random, useless crap in there that's just kinda weird and lets the editors say to their friends at parties, "Have you read Seksopolis? It's great! It's this Croatian woman who writes about dating and sex in Croatia every month. Just fascinating." Maybe they don't let the blank stares they get bother them. Who knows? Anyway, they finally axed it about seven months into my subscription. I guess the cool quotient had diminished over time. Then there was the Music issue. They included with it a free CD filled with music that they would mention in the issue. I listened to a few songs but, to me, they all sounded either terrible or completely boring. The issue itself was unreadable. Obsessed, really smart rock snobs writing about the new, indie-est music coming out that's still way way underground, and how much they like it, and how it ties in with the weirdest most indie-est rock music that USED TO be new and is still way way underground, and how they're all related. Of course, I've never heard of any of the people they're talking about, except, maybe, a rare reference to Iggy Pop or someone. But then again, I'm essentially the anti-rocksnob because I know little to nothing about music. In this music issue, Believer told its readers they'd be devoting an entire issue (note: they only publish ten issues a year) every year to new music (read: to rocksnob writing). Each subsequent issue that appeared in my mailbox seemed less concerned with books and writers and more concerned with whatever the hell eclectic thing interested the editors that month. It was like they were trying to shake me loose. So when it was time to renew, I didn't.

I don't know if The Believer will right its course. The magazine came into existence, I thought, because there isn't a lot of material out there that talks about writers like they're members of the artistic community and their books like they're (if done well) works of art. Most of what's out there is stuff that's supposed to help unpublished writers get their work in print. Very commerce-oriented, which is good and helpful, but not really inspiring. For a while, Believer filled that void. Maybe Believer's staff began to feel that most other artists, (painters, cartoonists, dancers, avant-garde singer-songwriters, philosophers, photographers, Pez dispenser collectors) were getting short shrift in our modern culture, too, and Schindler-like, the editors were, and are, forever trying to save "just one more" talented artist from the dimwit, television-obsessed American culture-enforced prison of obscurity all these poor bastards (and they are usually poor as in broke) molder in. The Believer's intentions are admirable, but I think they're killing their magazine. They're going to try so hard to please all of their niche artists readers that, in the end, they're going to please no one. As far as I can tell, the few scraps the Believer still throws at books and novelists still represent some of the best stuff being published on the subject, but at $8 a pop, it just ain't worth flipping through the third interview with David Byrne or the in-depth dissection of Tin-Tin. Anyway, here's hoping they get back to what I thought they were all about in the first place: books and their authors.

Monday, November 07, 2005

If You Didn't See The West Wing Last Night, You Missed Some Good Television

Rep. Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Sen. Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) debated live last night on a really fantastic episode of The West Wing (they got a 7.7 Nielsen rating), and it still wasn't enough to beat that saccharine, mindless, Ty Pennington's abs-obsessed show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (which got an 11.3 rating). How can you be a programming executive at any network and not be a raging cynic about the American viewing audience? Anyway.

For an hour, with only two commercial interruptions, the perfect liberal and the perfect conservative squared off on real issues, giving compelling arguments for both sides. At the beginning Alda's character says, essentially, let's get rid of all of this arbitrary debate-rule nonsense, and let's have a presidential debate like Lincoln used to have. No holds barred. Ostensibly this was done to show how wily and quick-on-his-feet Alda's character is, but it was really to allow the show's writers some free reign so they wouldn't have to chop their character's soliloquies down into 2 and 1-minute nuggets. This was meant, I think, to show the American public what a real, substantive debate might look like. I agree and disagree with the idea that only an "old-fashioned" debate can be substantive. Sure, a free-wheeling format would be fantastic, but I think the three debates we did have last year were pretty good too, and those had rules. I think after seeing last night's fictional presidential debate, some viewers may be pining for a similarly unstructured presidential debate in 2008, but I think most will be pining for actual candidates, liberal and conservative, who are as forthright, as principled, and as intellectually nimble as the fictional ones. But I guess presenting idealized presidents to act as counterpoints to the real deal has always been West Wing's stock-in-trade, so I shouldn't get too caught up. These shows are written by liberal Hollywood screenwriters, so of course their fictional politicians are going to appeal to me. Even the conservative ones. Oh well. What's kind of sad is that this show is as good as it's ever been, better I think, but fewer people are watching it than ever before. And that new Geena-Davis-is-President show on ABC is no substitute if NBC axes West Wing.

That's all I've got.