Wednesday, May 31, 2006

With a Nod to Our Mutual Friend, Mr. Blinky, Peggy Tells Us All How We Can Be More Organized

Some of you may have noticed my quest to be a female version of the infamous Blinky by always striving to “save time.” So far, I’ve helped eliminate junk from your mailbox and unsolicited phone calls, find cheap gas without having to drive all over town, remember Mother’s Day to avoid later hour-long guilt trips, sell your used DVDs efficiently, and fight the battle against SPAM. All of these are time-saving tips in their own way.

In line with past blogs, here are a few ideas from that can each help you save a minute a day. Add them up, and that's a lot of time saved!

  1. USE ADDRESS LABELS. Stop writing out your return address. Get a set of pre-addressed labels, and use them when sending out cards, bills, letters, etc. In addition, keep some with you at all times. There are going to be occasions when you're in a store and are asked to fill out your name and address on something. Just pull out a sticker and you're done in seconds.
  2. STOP SHARING INEXPENSIVE TOOLS. If you're sharing your scissors, or three-hole punch, with someone in your office or in multiply rooms in your home, then you're wasting precious minutes walking back and forth borrowing it, and returning it. Save time, and buy one of your own.
  3. TYPE OUT DIRECTIONS--ONCE! If you find yourself wasting time constantly writing out directions to your home or office, type out the directions once, coming from north, south, east and west. Print it out and make copies. Keep them filed in your filing cabinet. Next time someone asks, your directions are ready to mail or fax. They can also be e-mailed if you saved the computer file.
  4. MAKE CHECKLISTS. Make quick checklists for things you, or others, have to remember, and keep these checklists visible. For example, keep voice mail instructions right on the telephone. Affix 'How to Record a Program' instructions, on the VCR. Use a magnet and affix a checklist for the pet sitter to the refrigerator. You won't have to waste time explaining what needs to be done.
  5. BOOK WHILE YOU’RE THERE. Whenever you visit your doctor, dentist or hairdresser, bring your datebook and book the next appointment before you leave the office.

Hope at least one of these ideas will be helpful to you. See you next week.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Is X-Men 3 the Batman Forever of The X-Men Franchise? I Say Yes And Here's Why

I saw X-Men 3: The Last Stand on Saturday, and I was disappointed. If you haven't seen it but plan to, skip on to the last paragraph. I'm going to be dealing in SPOILERS for a little while.

At the end of X-Men 2, Singer sets up the Dark Phoenix storyline, which is probably the X-Men story that resonates most with fans. With the final image of that movie (the shadow of a phoenix-like shape gliding across the water) 20th Century Fox promised a major payoff later on. Well, 20th Century Fox and film auteur of the first order, Brett Ratner, give us the payoff to the Dark Phoenix saga right away in the second sequel, and man did they play us all for suckers. As it turns out, they were never really behind this franchise, and that apathy/disdain rears its ugly head all through this movie. For instance: how does Jean Gray return from her watery grave? Well, she just shows up. She lures her boyfriend, Scott, to the lake where she "died", and then he blasts the lake with his eye beams because she's in his head making him feel all funny. And then she just appears. (I guess she just needed him to boil some lake water before she could rise from the dead. What?) Questions like, "Where had she been?" and "Why didn't she show up before?" and "Why did the eye beams do the trick to bring her back?" are never answered, and nor do you get the sense that they care those questions don't get answered. Oh yeah, and then she kills Scott. Scott Summers, AKA Cyclops, AKA the annoying, but necessary leader of this group of superheroes is killed off in the first 10 minutes of the movie. I was beginning to see that I was not the comic-book geek 20th Century Fox was making this movie for.

X-Men 3: The Last Stand is to the X-Men franchise what Batman Forever was to the Batman franchise -- a movie that makes me think about what a real X-Men movie would look like. The kind of movie that could resurrect and reinvent the franchise the way Batman Begins did, by embracing the comics and treating the source material with respect and, what's more, genuine affection. How long do we have to wait for an X-Men reboot, really? Can't we just have Christopher Nolan come in and make an X-Men movie after he's done with the next Batman movie? Or what's Peter Jackson doing after The Lovely Bones? (deep sigh)

All of this Sturm and Drang is not to say that X-Men 3 was an awful, irredeemable film. There were things they did in this movie that I liked. I liked Kelsey Grammar as Beast. That was some smart, fearless casting, and it paid off. They casted for character and not for marquee value, and it worked brilliantly. I liked the spectacle of the Golden Gate Bridge sequence. I also liked... actually, I think that may be it. What I didn't like was the new caste system they created in this film to classify the power-levels of mutants. In the comics, did the mutants ever think of each other by their class number? If they did, I don't remember it. So what, is Wolverine a Class 2 because he just heals fast? I also didn't like that, yet again, Magneto was villain numero uno. (Yes, Jean Gray/Phoenix was a "villain" in the movie, but not in the classical sense. And besides, they made her an enforcer for Magneto. Terrible.) The X-Men have a vast retinue of villains that would be amazing to see on-screen (the Hellfire Club, the Genosha project, the Sentinels, Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, etc.), but nope: we get Magneto and the US government to team up again. I still don't like how only a few of these characters get to look anything like their comic-book counterparts. The Wolverine I know and love wears a mask that is fun to draw. Colossus is big and his metal has striations, and Juggernaut is beyond huge. (If you're not going to require Colossus to act, than why not just get that huge dude from Gladiator to play him? He's tall and ripped like crazy. Also: the only way to faithfully depict Juggernaut on-screen is to animate him like Ang Lee did in Hulk. That's expensive, sure, but when you can be assured a 100 million opening weekend, domestic, you can afford it.) And aren't there about a thousand mutants the fans would rather see than the guy with the porcupine body and the guy who throws bone-knives that he makes with his arms? How about Gambit? How about Longshot, Jubilee, Cannonball, Psylocke, Bishop, Forge, or frickin' Havok? But, with a 200 million dollar budget, we have to settle with just Beast, and a barely-present Angel. (Deep sigh)

Oh well. I don't mean to present the X-Men comic books I read in my youth as great literature, or even really and truly worth getting upset about when the film versions of those pulpy, fantastical storylines don't turn out quite right. But when I was younger, I dreamed of the day when these characters would have their adventures writ large on the silver screen. And now that that day has arrived, it's extremely disappointing to see the person (and the studio) entrusted with bringing these characters into the multiplex do so with so little apparent respect for either the source material or the audience. Anyway. I guess disappointments like X-Men 3 make you appreciate films like Batman Begins and the Spider Man movies all the more. Here's hoping they get X-Men 4 right.

(Also: an X-Men 3-related question for Heath. When, in the film, Juggernaut says, "I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!" is that a nod to that YouTube video you linked to that has those kids doing VO on an old episode of the animated X-Men series?)

And finally, on a totally unrelated subject, Gore Gore Gore. Everyone's talking about him as a dark horse candidate in 2008. Talk about setting things right -- how brilliant would it be to have George W. Bush shake Al Gore's hand on the dais at the Inaugural, and say, "Congratulations, Mr. President," and then watch Gore set about fixing some of the crap Bush has done over the last 8 years, during which Gore should have been in the White House anyhow. Very brilliant, I say. Anywho, Andrew Sullivan has the centrist conservative perspective on him here. Nixon's stunning resurgence in '68 after his defeat in '60 is being used as the template for a Gore comeback, so it's not actually impossible. The only real question is this: will he do it? Will he subject himself to the notion of possibly losing another presidential election? He'll have to be both brave and masochistic if he says yes, but I hope he does.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Drawings of Fictional People

This here is a drawing of Roland Deschain, the hero of Stephen King's magnum opus, The Dark Tower. Through seven novels, Roland quests across a hopeless, poisoned world filled with broken machines and ruined people in search of a mythical place called the Dark Tower. I think this drawing (by an artist named Casey Jones) gets the character of Roland right in ways some of those who did the illustrations for the Dark Tower novels themselves did not (once you get past the Yu-gi-oh hair).

First, he looks frickin' crazy in this drawing, which is great, because while Roland isn't insane in the classical sense of the word, his fixation with the Tower is definitely not evidence of a sane and balanced mind. He's sane the way Ahab was sane. Also, he's junkie-thin and rangy in this drawing, and Jones exaggerates that aspect perfectly. Like an addict too obsessed with the drug to worry about eating, Roland consumes only as much food as his body needs to move closer to the Tower. Anyway, since only Hinesy and I have ever read these things, I'll shut up now, other than to say, this drawing is good stuff. To go to the site to see a long long list of other artists' interpretations of other literary characters, go here. Kill 15 minutes. Paul Atreides (AKA Muad'dib) is represented, as is Sherlock Holmes, Nathan Zuckerman, Captain Ahab, and Holden Caulfield among others, as well as many drawings of authors. Some of the artists are really good, and some are really not, but it's a bunch of free art, so, you know, take a look. I'm out.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

This Week, Peggy Calls BS on Some Deeply Annoying Forwards, Specifically The Kind That Make You Believe the Whole World is Populated With Idiots

Perhaps you've already heard of and/or used a website called Well, more and more I am finding forwards and the general naivete of the public intolerable. Most of you can understand where I'm coming from here. So, today I urge you to join my quest to educate “forwarders”. Now, I know you are not guilty of sending ridiculous forwards; more often the perpetrators are extended family and bizarre co-workers. BUT, you can reduce this vicious crime by informing the sender and all the other recipients of a given forward. is a valuable tool in this process, because the same people who are forwarders” are the same people, luckily, who believe everything they read on the internet, so when opposing views are presented, they'’ll believe the email or website that looks the most legit.

So, what to do? Let's say you get this e-mail, which I was unfortunate enough to receive this weekend:

"Please look at the picture, read what her mother says, then forward his message on.

I am asking you all, begging you to please forward this email on to anyone and everyone you know, PLEASE. Maybe if everyone passes this on, someone will see this child.

That is how the girl from Stevens Point was found by circulation of her picture on tv. The internet circulates even overseas, South America, and Canada etc. Thanks

We have a Deli manager (Acme Markets) from Philadelphia, Pa who has a 13 year old daughter who has been missing for 2 weeks. Keep the picture moving on. With luck on her side she will be found.

My 13 year old girl, Ashley Flores, is missing. She has been missing now for two weeks. It is still not too late. Please help us. If anyone any where knows anything, please contact me at: I am including a picture of her.

All prayers are appreciated!! It only takes 2 seconds to forward this. If it was your child, you would want all the help you could get."

THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN. Go to, and investigate the authenticity of this e-mail. You will find information for most of these crappy forwards, I guarantee. Then, click REPLY ALL, and say:

Hi Everyone,

I went to and investigated this e-mail a little forward. Unfortunately, it’s not worth forwarding anymore. See below for more information.

Thanks for stopping this now,


The following is from's profile on this particular email:

"Origins: Most missing child alerts circulated via e-mail fall into one of two categories: genuine reports of missing children that continue to be forwarded long after the child has been found, or hoaxes imploring readers to look for children who aren't missing or don't exist. The above-quoted message bears all the hallmarks of the latter category.

The text of the e-mail (reproduced as we first received it in May 2006) does not include some of the most basic information one would expect to find in a genuine missing child plea: where the young girl (Ashley Flores) went missing, when she went missing, when and where she was last seen, a physical description of her, contact information for her parents, contact information for the local police authorities handling the case, etc. All we're provided with is the ambiguous statement that a "Deli manager from Philadelphia, Pa" has a 13-year-old daughter who has been missing "for two weeks," and even that information seems to have been tacked on to the message by someone other than its originator. It even includes phrases taken word-for-word from previous missing child hoax e-mails, such as Christopher John Mineo and Kelsey Brooke Jones.

Meanwhile, the one piece of identifying information provided in the message, a e-mail address, produces a "no such user" error when mail is sent to it, and a variety of searches through news accounts and law enforcement and missing child web sites, including the site of the Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), fails to turn up any mention of a missing girl named "Ashley Flores."

In the event, it turned out that although the pictured Ashley Flores may be a real girl, her "missing" status was one concocted as a kids' prank. In this case it was a particularly bad and widespread prank, one that left thousands and thousands of concerned citizens attempting to verify the status of a missing girl who wasn't really missing. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Everyone is concerned about this girl," said Athena Ware, spokesperson for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "We've gotten quite a few of those e-mails here. But it's not an active case in our system."

It's not an active case because it isn't true.

It's a hoax,— pure balderdash, sheer hornswoggle, a regular mountain of malarkey.

There may indeed be an Ashley Flores living in Philadelphia, but nobody has reported her missing to the Philadelphia Police, said Yolanda Dawkins, a department spokesperson.

The FBI hasn't received any notice about young Ashley, either. Neither has the Pennsylvania and New Jersey State Police for that matter.

An Acme spokesperson said that the market had received numerous inquiries and offers of help, but knew of no employee named Flores who had a missing daughter.

In one day alone (19 May 2006), our site registered over 25,000 searches from readers looking for information about Ashley Flores."

Some crappy e-mails will be more obvious than others. It'’s worth looking to check and stopping the myth ASAP. The hardcore forwarders” may be unhappy at first, but too bad, they'’ll learn to appreciate the truth. Maybe.

Anyway, I thought I'd share this website in case anyone else is tired of the stupidity floating around out there about how Microsoft will send you $50 for every person you forward an e-mail to or other nonsense.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

New Story at The Smackdown And Nicholas Cage as the "Ghost Rider" Makes An Inauspicious Teaser Debut

Hola, folks. Been working today on my entry for this month's Literary Smackdown; I posted up my story this afternoon. It's called "The Girl Who Won Big on the Yahtzee Slots" and you can read it and Hinesy's story, "Vegas By Day", here. Feel free to post your comments and criticisms on either or both stories -- that's what we like at the Smackdown. No holds-barred opinion-slinging. But, for those who intend to submit a story, time's running out on this month's challenge. Quickly, here are the stipulations: 1) has to be at least 400 words (which is uber-short), 2) has to be set in Las Vegas, 3) has to include the words "Circus Circus" and "slots", 4) has to be dialogue-heavy, and 5) has to feature the striking of a deal of some kind. The respect of your peers and a deck of awesome Monte Carlo Resort and Casino playing cards is at stake. So, please submit. We want to read your stories.

Also, the new Ghost Rider teaser is up. Take a gander here. I was never much into this character when I was back reading superhero comics. I've always loved the aesthetic of Ghost Rider (the flaming skull head is a pretty compelling image), but in terms of origin story and his powers and all of that, he always seemed to be in the second or third tier of comic book heroes. This movie seems similarly destined to be in the second or third tier of comic book adaptations, sitting alongside Daredevil and Punisher and Fantastic Four. Just from this teaser I can see two important things. 1) the CGI looks cheesier than I've seen in a long, long time, and 2) Nicholas Cage looks downright ridiculous with that Lloyd Christmas haircut. He's too old for this part. There are a few cool shots in this, but I think, at most, Ghost Rider might be dumb fun on the order of Fantastic Four, but I think it's just about impossible that this is going to be a straight-up good movie.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Why Didn't The Da Vinci Code Movie Work? I Have A Theory.

I saw a couple movies over the weekend. First and foremost, I saw The Da Vinci Code. I went into the screening with very low expectations -- the critics had been almost uniformly unkind to the movie, and our man in Taiwan, Nathan Hines, chimed in with a very negative review. I thought I was about to see something on the level of a Mortal Kombat sequel. Well, the movie's not that bad, but what's most surprising about the movie is that it wasn't better. The novel wasn't a great thriller by any means, but it's theories about what really happened to Jesus after he was crucified made it a must-read for about 300 trillion people. And though it wasn't great literature, its saving grace was that it was fast-paced, exciting, and one day, it would make a pretty great movie. That it only became an okay one is a pretty incredible disappointment, given the original novel's screenplay-like attributes.

The acting is very low-key, but not terrible. The directing is proficient, but not inspired (which amounts to Ron Howard's filmic signature), and the pacing is deliberate but not as slow as I was expecting. The Da Vinci Code misfires in a lot of ways -- there's virtually no chemistry between any two actors; in a lot of scenes, the whole crew of thespians seem like they've just met and are all a little mystified as to what they're all doing on all of these night-shoots in Paris. The script, in many places, groans under the weight of all of the exposition the actors are required to recite. About 20 minutes in, the film essentially stops for 5 minutes while Hanks and Tatou sit around a Paris picnic table saying exposition to one another. Akiva sacrifices the movement and urgency Brown had going for him in his novel, so they can get through as much of Brown's Divinity of Jesus exposition as they can in the 2 and a half hours allotted. Howard tries to make this stuff move by superimposing these historic flashbacks over the modern-day scenery, but it's impossible to fake forward momentum when, by necessity, you're killing it.

What may be most striking about the movie's failure to live up to the original is this: the book makes the idea that the Catholic Church has been instrumental in covering up the true nature of Jesus Christ feel both revelatory and urgent. How then were Akiva and Ron able to make what Brown sells as the greatest cover-up in human history into something that comes off as dull, academic and not relevant? I think they did it by making the Robert Langdon character into a skeptic, and I think they did it deliberately to appease the phalanx of Christian critics they expected to boycott the movie.

When Hanks and Tatou finally get to Ian McKellan's manor for the bulk of the exposition, Hanks's Langdon becomes an intolerable bore who throws a wet blanket over all of Teabing's juicy revelations that made the novel worth reading in the first place. I don't remember Langdon in the novel essentially arguing on the Opus Dei side of the Divinity of Jesus argument. If your protagonist is a wet blanket who's heard it all before and essentially urges the audience to take everything they're seeing and hearing with a big grain of salt, the question becomes, "Who are they trying to convince, me or Tom Hanks?" Should the movie be about convincing Robert Langdon, or about convincing the audience? Does anyone who made this movie actually believe the central tenets of The Da Vinci Code, that Jesus lived and got married and had kids? Is it necessary that someone involved with the making of this movie believe it? In that respect, having Langdon be a skeptic about Jesus marrying Mary Magdalene and having children is a little like casting Earl Warren as the protagonist of JFK instead of Jim Garrison. In movies about cover-ups, I wonder if it's not always more effective to have a main character who is open to the idea of a conspiracy, if not entirely obsessed with it, and not someone who has to be beaten over the head throughout the movie, only to be convinced, finally, at the end. I bet even the Christians who think the whole idea is bunkum still went to the movie wanting to hear someone's point of view. One of the saving graces of The Passion of the Christ was that it had a definitive point of view. I'm having a hard time thinking of an instance where that's been a bad thing.

Anyway. On Friday I saw Art School Confidential, Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes's follow-up to Ghost World. I thought Ghost World was a good film (I'm surprised by how much of it I still remember), but, for me, this one fails to live up to its predecessor. At its core Art School Confidential's supposed to be a hard-nosed satire of art school, and when it is that, I think it works, and it works very well. But when it becomes an indictment of the world of modern art (which, in my limited experience, doesn't have much to do with art school) it falls flat with boring, done-to-death criticisms. For example, during John Malkovich's drawing and painting class, the student who produces the least accomplished, least effective art is venerated by the class and the teacher, while the student with real ability is ignored or derided. Ho-hum. Everyone from Tom Wolfe to Murphy Brown has tackled the emptiness of the art world, why did Zwigoff and Clowes decide they needed to add their voice to the nonexistent fray?

Art School Confidential starts out promisingly enough, hilariously identifying the different art student stereotypes and then making viscous fun of them, but whatever subversive, satiric power ASC had slowly dies as the story moves further and further away from satirizing Strathmore Academy, until, by the end, Zwigoff and Clowes don't seem to know what their movie's about anymore, and resort, finally, to a weak, tacked-on social commentary on the phenomenon of celebrity serial killers. The filmmakers lost sight of what they wanted to say, I think, but remembered that they wanted to be cynical about it, whatever it was. Blind cynicism wasn't enough to carry this movie.

24 season finale tonight. Jack Bauer's totally going to execute the President. Gonna be awesome. More tomorrow.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Trailer for "World Trade Center" is Up, And I Have Some Thoughts. It's Soapbox Time at the Inanities

The trailer for World Trade Center went up this week. You can take a gander at it here. I'm wondering, after watching the trailer, how the movie will continue to be interesting after the two policemen characters, played by Nicholas Cage and Michael Pena, have been buried in WTC rubble. And if 3/4 of the movie take place before the towers fall, than won't the majority of the film just be a big-budget recreation of the terrible events of that day? What's the point of that? Will that be cathartic? Will we be edified by unique insights into the meaning of that day? I kind of doubt it. Oliver Stone, who directed the movie, has said it's not a political film. How do you make a film about that day that's not political in some way? Or better question: why bother?

I think it'll be many years before the pain of that day recedes from the collective unconscious enough so that a clear-eyed retelling of what happened can be made. I don't know. It seems like the filmmakers of these first few 9/11 films (World Trade this August and United93 before it) are all operating in this hyper-politicized atmosphere that seems to demand their films be apolitical. In essence, don't make the film you want to make, make the film you think will offend the fewest number of people. Only a cold, clinical retelling of facts will do. I don't think you get to art that way.

I guess these films that tell the stories of the regular people who were directly and personally confronted with the horrors of that day have their place -- triumph of the human spirit and all of that -- but I'm really feeling that these big-budget Lifetime movies are a waste of celluloid. What does Paul Greengrass (the director of United93) think of what happened that day? What does Oliver Stone think of what happened on that day? What do they think of all that came after? It's like they're just lifting the most gripping sections from the 9/11 Commission Report, sprinkling in some authentic-sounding dialogue, and then filming them for entertainment value. I think the story of September 11th is much broader than what happened with those four airplanes on that Tuesday morning, and to concentrate so doggedly on the planes and the buildings to the exclusion of all else, is disappointing. I'm probably getting into Bob Dole territory here by talking about movies I haven't seen, but I guess that even without seeing the films, just seeing trailers and reading reviews, I can see that these movies aren't the 9/11 movies I want to see. I'm guessing they probably won't be making those for awhile.

Okay. Enough self-righteousness. Have a sweet weekend.

This Week, Peggy Wants to Help You Turn Those Unwanted DVDs Into Cash. For Example: Behind Enemy Lines = $1.90. It's Easy. Read on.

Have you looked at your DVDs or video games lately and thought "Why the heck did I buy BLAHBLAHBLAH?"

Or maybe you've been thinking, "I'd like to get some extra cash by selling some of the DVDs that I never watch?"

Some of the readers of this blog are fortunate enough to live near a Penny Lane or Amoeba Music where they buy back used CDs and DVDs. However, if you are not in that group, and are put off by having to post each individual DVD on eBay and pay a fee per sale and deal with all those individual mailings and watch auction ending times, etc., I have found a site for you.

The site is called Media Exchange 123. They will buy your used DVDs for a set price. Just go to the site and look up the title (I recommend using the UPC code) and check out the price they are willing to pay for it. Then you can decide if you'd rather sell it for that price or keep it. Put the DVDs/Video Game you want to sell into your online shopping cart for your total. They also give you an allowance for shipping costs and USPS insurance when mailing your package if you sell over $30 worth of product (so you don't have to pay shipping fees).

Please be careful to read through the site carefully before jumping into your DVD liquidation. Definitely read the "how to sell" and "quality requirements" sections. I also recommend reading the Frequently Asked Questions section.

After you mail in your DVDs they will mail you a check or deposit the sale amount into your Paypal account.

Note that I am a huge supporter of Craigslist -- but seriously, if you are selling 30 DVDs, do you want to deal with 30 different phone calls, and numerous no shows, and meeting times and places, and blah blah blah? If you are selling furniture or tickets or sporting equipment -- yes, please use Craigslist, but for a lot of DVDs, MX123 may be the way to go.

(And for anyone wondering, I am not affiliated with the MX123 website in any way.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Entertained By One Commercial, Tormented by Another, New Supes Poster, and a New Bit of 9/11 Footage (Emphasis on the "Bit")

I have problems with Wes Anderson as a filmmaker. Early on, he gave films like Bottle Rocket and Rushmore a pleasant sheen of precocity that gave his movies a cool, quirky edge. This cleverness (bordering on, though never really crossing over into preciousness) was a new style of filmmaking: a kind of sad irreverence infused with a detached, too-cool-for-school irony. Post-everything storytelling. In movies like The Royal Tannenbaums and The Life Aquatic however, Anderson's signature quirky-coolness soured into something that felt packaged, boring, and forced. Well, he may have turned things around if his new American Express commercial is any indication. It's very funny and though all of Anderson's distinctive quirks (some might say foibles) are present and accounted for, they all come together perfectly and make for a hilarious couple minutes of filmmaking. You can read a review of the commercial here and you can view the commercial here. (All of it's funny, but a couple stand-outs to look for: the girl shrugging when asked if it's true she's a Wes Anderson fan, and Anderson's line about the birds at the very end of the spot. Brilliant.)

Also, new Superman Returns poster. View it here. I really like it. This is so going to be Shawn's movie of the summer, I just know it. Scratch that. Shawn's movie of the year.

Penultimately: has anyone seen that awful Ford commercial that's been airing incessantly for the past month or so? It features a song called "Beep Beep". (You can view a version of it that aired somewhere in the Carolinas here. It is not the one that's been airing in my area -- mine's longer and more annoying). What puzzles me about this ad, other than it's shockingly tin-eared approach to selling anyone anything, is a lyric the lead singer sings more than once during the 30-second ad:

"You like to go deep!"

What, I ask, does this line have to do with Ford automobiles? Keeping in mind the band featured in this commercial is an actual band (called 13 Stories and based in Atlanta, their website is here), and their single, "Beep Beep" is an actual song they play in concerts, I have to say I don't really know the true context for this lyric other than it's odd, contextlessness in the Ford ad/jingle. It could be a apropo of nothing reference to football perhaps (going deep for a pass?); it could mean that "you", the consumer, "like to go" for "deep" discounts when you're buying an automobile. I don't know. But the old cynical Brian can't help but think that this lyric, coupled with the image of a hot blonde "rock" singer whipping her head around in front of a long, black, cylindrical microphone is meant to subtly, perhaps even subliminally, insert the idea of, dare I say it, sex into the viewer's head while they're being force-fed images of Ford cars. Perhaps the ad agency who crafted this ad thought the subtle, R (to X)-rated aspects of this commercial would trump how mind-blowingly awful the commercial is otherwise. This could all just be my mind stewing in a gutter of filth, I admit. But I think not.

And finally, and totally unrelated to commercials, the surveillance camera video of the Pentagon strike on September 11th, 2001 was released today. Go here to view it. A conservative "watchdog group" called Judicial Watch sued the government for the release of these videos (taken from two different surveillance cameras placed at slightly different angles). Previously, the government has said the public can't see the tapes until Moussoui's trial is over. Well, his trial's over, and so here we have them. In the network news coverage both on television and on the web much verbiage was dedicated to the idea that these tapes should now, once and for all, shut up all of those conspiracy theorists who believe the silver thing that slammed into the Pentagon that morning, glimpsed only in part for a single frame released many years ago, is a missile, not a jet plane. Personally, I think the 9/11 conspiracy theorists give us regular JFK conspiracy theorists a bad name. But if these tapes are supposed to shed new light on the plane strike at the Pentagon, I don't see it. Martha Raddatz of ABC News described the tapes tonight on World News Tonight and reported that the nose of the jetliner, fuzzy and indistinct, can be seen in the lower right quadrant of the frame, for all of one frame (the cameras were "filming" at the rate of a frame per second). I couldn't see it. All I could see was a sliver of silver-white that had to be a trick of light because it sure wasn't any identifiable section of airplane, and in the next second, a massive fireball. When reported this afternoon that these tapes were set to be released today at 1PM, I was imagining some new video of the impact no one had yet seen. But the federal government already released stills from this very same video to the public a few years back. Now they're in video form, true, but no more helpful than the stills were in showing visually what actually happened. The more information we can get about 9/11 the better, but the idea that this new frame of information is going to quiet the LIHOPs and MIHOPs (those who believe the federal government Let It Happen On Purpose and those who believe they Made It Happen on Purpose -- the two schools of 9/11 conspiracy thought), is, I think, wishful thinking.

Anyway. That's it for your Tuesday hodgepodge. More tomorrow.