back to writing

Or rather, whining about writing.

I'm not getting nearly as far into sketching out my NaNoWriMo novel as I wanted to be by now. It hasn't helped that I've been either stressed or sick or both since Columbus Day. I haven't even had the time to write long overude responses to the wonderful Aimee, to whom I owe about a million emails.

So, just get myself thinking about my novel, I'm going to tempt fate and write about what I'm planning on writing. I always find it dangerous to get ahead of myself, but what the hell. I always do it anyway, so no need to keep up the pretense.

I had a few ideas before I zeroed in on the one I've been "preparing". Two sci-fi kinda stories and one not. I'm going with the one not, in large part because the idea was so small. The novel is meant to take place over one day, in fact. That's part of the gimmick I mentioned in an earlier post. Every chapter will be an hour and their will be 24 chapters. Basically, its the day in the life of a college dorm. I always remember this one day my freshmen year when everything got turned upside down. I was actually sick that day and slept through most of it and was just weirded out when I woke up in the middle of the night to find everything was screwed up. Long-time couples had broken up, friends were hooking up, couches were stolen. So, the idea of a day of hell has always interested me. Plus, I figured, I could use the large base of characters to flesh out the plot when the gimmick proved more of a liability than asset.

Not that I'll really be writing a novel with 50 equal characters. There will be three primary characters who begin the story and then end it. They are the core of it. Then, there will be 2 or 3 secondary plot lines to flesh things out. Most of it will be intentionally light but thoughtful, though I'm heavily tempted to do a heavy story out of nowhere in the last few chapters. It'll probably depend on where I am with my word count when I get to the wee hours of the morning.

My problem is that I've got very little planning on who the cast of characters will be. I mean, I know the central trio very well, and I have a loose idea of what will go on around them, but its all the side stuff that I'm lost on. Especially what I'm going to have everyone do and how they will get there. I want to eventually set up a hook-up between two of the leads, but I'm not sure how to get them there. The 24 hour idea makes that tough. I have to establish these relationships in the coarse of this day, after all. And it isn't helping that I have no conception of how long it will take to tell this story. Sometimes, I'm worried about making the word count. Other times, I'm worried about writing too much.

I'm inclined to just take it easy, though, and do the whole fly by the seat of my pants thing. Just dive right in and see what happens. I have such phenomenally low expectations, after all, that I can hardly end up disappointed if it doesn't go anywhere. But, we'll see. Maybe, in spite of myself, I can write something with a purpose and quality narative. I'm not betting on it, though, but stranget things have happened.


the moscow theater tragedy

WARNING. This is some heavy stuff and I don't really go anywhere with it. Just be warned.

60 Minutes is doing a powerful story on the Theater seige in Moscow last year. It is very illuminating. It is drawn from an HBO documentary, "Terror in Moscow" which will be re-run next week.

The most important message that it delivers is a reminder of why there cannot be a knee-jerk condemnation of terrorism. Although the methods are deplorable, they can be understandable. There is a world of difference between a group who is suffering extreme abuses from a ruling power resorting to these actions, and those who are just doing it to advance an ideology. Simply put, there is a difference between the Timothy McVeigh's and Osama Bin Laden's of the world and the Palestinians, North Ireland Catholics, Chechens, and other such groups. I deplore their tactics, but I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't sympathetic. I can write off the terrorists who are fueled by hate. But those fueled by a sense of self-preservation are much more challenging. These are people who are involved in a genuine struggle which is taking the lives of so many around them. Their tactics are wrong, don't mistake me. But these aren't impossibly evil people. They are humans and that is something we need to confront.

The Russians didn't do themselves any favors, either, in trying to get the terrorists portrayed as impossibly evil. All the more so now that we can see some of the film from inside the theater during the seige. Although the terrorists were completely prepared to die for the cause (and completely expecting to) they were also clearly ready for a dialogue. The Russians tried to claim that their attack occured because the terrorists started killing hostages, but that was a blatent lie. Although a hostage was killed, it was about as accidental as it could get in that kind of situation. It certainly wasn't an assasination. The Russians knew this. They had already planned to attack the hostages after tricking them into thinking the Russians wanted to talk. Then, the Russians pumped in a gas to incapacitate, well, everyone. The lead terrorists understood what was happening and left to another position where they put up a final fight with the Russians. Left in the theater were the so-called "Black Widows". These were female terrorists who had bombs strapped to them which they were prepared to set off. Except, they didn't. They could have killed everyone, including the Russians who raided the building after the gas took effect, but it didn't happen. Instead, once they were all unconcsious, they were all killed by the Russian soldiers. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that, really, but I'm also not going to condemn it. The women could have killed a lot of people if they were playing possum, and I'm not sure the Russian army made the wrong choice there. But, its still killing someone in cold blood. Do you risk the killing a lot of people or do you kill a defenseless person just to be safe? It seems like a complicated question. Except for one thing.

The Russians killed a lot of people all on their own.

Now, just to be clear, NO hostage was killed in the process of raiding the building. No hostage in the building when the Russians started gassing the building was killed by a hostage taker. Not a single one. They were all killed by the "recovery" opperation. A whopping 129 of them. For a variety of reasons, too. Some were killed because they were left unconscious laying face-up in the rain and they choked to death. Others never recovered from the gas because the authorities have never admited what was in them and they waited days before even giving doctors a clue of what was killing these patients. To be sure, it was the terrorists who put the hostages in harms way, but that should not remove responsibility on the Russian authorities to seek to protect them. Yes, they saved hundreds, but 129 people is still 129 people. I just think of the scrutiny given the US government over the seige at Waco. There is an example where I'm not sure we did things right and I think lives were lost because of how our government acted. And there has been considerable media, judicial, and legislative scrutiny of those actions. Indeed, a quick study to refresh my memory revealed an overwhelming majority of sites which are extremely (excessively, I would say) critical of the government's action. And here, there is a legitimate arguement that the deaths of the people in the compound are the responsibility of people inside the compound. No such arguement can exist in the Moscow Theatre case, yet the international reporting is largely deferential in some measure. The Russians have been brazenly lying about the seige from the begining, but the facts aren't as easily covered up as they were in the Soviet Union. 2 people were killed by the terrorists. 129 were killed by the Russians. (and no, I'm not counting the dozens of hostages killed in that number)

In America, it is easy to see terrorism in terms of black and white, good and evil. That is what our experience with terrorism has been. It has been 9/11. It has been Oklahoma City. It has been the Trade Center bombing. So, it can be easy to view other struggles with terrorism around the world in the same light, but this would be grave mistake. We mustn't give oppressive government's a blank check to do whatever they want in the name of combating terrorism. Its just not that simple. And we sully our nation's good name when we rubber stamp some of the brutal efforts around the world. The real crime is, its not just England, Russia or Israel that we're talking about. Although in each country, I feel they have committed horrible acts but I don't see them in good/evil terms either. They are complex issues on both sides and both can elicit sympathy and condemnation. Though I'm annoyed at our silence in the face of some of the shamefully haphazard attacks that have been launched on Palastinian civiliains (I'm sorry, but no one can justify sending missles into residential areas to carry out political retribution assinatiations), I'm more troubled at the way we are rubber-stamping the actions of governments we know damn well are being oppressive. Nations we can see in black/white, good/evil. Because we're letting them get away with murder, literally, as long as they say they are acting in the interest of homeland security against "terrorists".

Sorry, I know you guys the light stuff, and I half-considered switching gears half-way through and instead commenting on the 60 Minutes story on Undercover Marketing, but I just wanted to get this out and its my blog so I get to do that. hehe. Just be glad I'm not talking about Baseball.


wait, that was about what?

Actually took until 1987 to get into watching I Love the 80's Strike Back on VH1. Man, I could comment about just about everything. I mean, Wesley freakin' Snipes was the guy threatening Michael Jackson in the "Bad" video? But, what I want to comment on today is something which took me entirely by surprise.

"Flowers in the Attic" was about incest? Seriously?

Man, was I oblivious when I was 9.

And, I want to thank everyone for their encouragement in my novel post. I was really too overwhelmed to know what to say, but thank you all. Really means a lot to have such supportive comments when I really wasn't looking for anything. I mean, I was just whining without purpose, but thanks everyone.


the mediocre american novel

I've been strongly considering joining my readers Aimee and Kell in participating in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). After all, I started this blog as a means of getting back into the habit of writing. It seems only fitting to jump into such a bold challenge and see where it leaves it me.

There is one problem, though. I suck at fiction. Poems? Cool. Editorializing? I'm there. Plays/screenplays? All over it. Stories? Now, there is my problem. Its never something I've gotten the hang of. My writing is too dialogue heavy. Too self-consciously unconventional. Too visually oriented. And, there is the added problem that I don't read fiction. I'll be posting my personal library of novels soon, and its just down right amusing. I own two novels that I didn't buy for school. Well, not counting the Hitchhiker's Trilogy, anyway. The closest thing to a favorite writer is Douglas Coupland, and I've only read two of his books. I like reading quick stuff, not long stories. Even the novels I bought for school, I mostly skimmed with a couple notable exceptions. (I love D.H. Thomas' The White Hotel) Who am I to think I can write a novel?

Well, for the most part, I'm playing to those insecurities. For one, I'm not going to sign up for the competition until I'm at least half-way through and with good reason to think I'll be able to finish it. I'm employing a literary gimmick which should give the novel more structure and thus easier for me to write. I'm also writing a broad story without pretense. I'll save my good writing for when I think I'm a good writer. Just doing a silly little story for now.

I'm going radically between feeling unprepared and over-eager to get started. I like the idea of the challenge and I am interested to see where it takes me. Also, I'm debating discussing my ideas here, for fear of jinxing myself by talking about it. We'll see, I suppose.


generic what i'm reading post #2

Well, didn't take long to do that again.

I highly recommend checking out Tish's commentary on Average-size Privilege over at Fatshadow. It is extremely well-worth reading and contributing to the discussion and I highly recommend any of my readers who haven't yet seen it to go and check it out. Look for her entry on October 15.

The other thing I've been reading today is about the scary views of a Christian extremists in a very high level post in the Defense Department. Because his cronies are keen to bump him up the ranks, they are down-playing statements which aside from being profoundly bigoted, are putting men and women in uniform in very real danger by inciting Muslums to respond with the same level of righteous violence he exposes. Thus is the story of Lt. General Jerry Boykin. Check out the report from the L.A. Times, or from NBC News, or from Salon. It is some pretty disturbing rhetoric this guy has been saying to churches. Some of it, he even says in uniform. Despite many complaints, the Defense Department refuses to do anything about it, saying he didn't break any "rules." Yeah, because aparently judgement calls aren't made at the Pentagon. I guess someone endangering our foreign policies and our soldiers on the ground is okay, because it technically doesn't violate any rules. Its all very disturbing, indeed. But, it seems, Boykin has the answer to how we got stuck with W. as our President, according to Salon's Joe Conason. He reports the general as once commenting, "George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States. He was appointed by God." This level of religious extremism has no place in our government or the military. Its no wonder Muslum nations doubt our intentions when the hatred of this nutcase is so easily tolerated.


generic what i'm reading post #1

You know, I don't post enough about just what I'm reading. I usually feel that unless I have at least something to offer, I should just keep it to myself. But, I keep thinking I should do more of that, so here we go...

Last month, Slate ran an illuminating two-part story on how the majority of people in the draft Hillary for President movement were actually conservative Republicans who were just salivating at the mere thought of getting to attack a Clinton some more. There is actually a book writen by some GOP idealogue laying out her "scheme" to run for the White House. All this in-spite of her continually consistant "I'm not running" stance. Its all a funny little portrait of the single-minded obsession of many of the kind of folks Al Franken talks about.

I guess they didn't think they were funny enough.

Seems they are now attacking Hillary for running a bad campaign. You can't write a joke like that. I mean, what can you do but laugh. Meanwhile, Hillary continues to establish herself as an entirely competiant and effective representative of the people of New York. No reason I can see for her to stop doing something she's clearly very good at.

you, all right. i learned it by watching you.

I guess it shows just how straight-laced I am that I still have no fucking clue what was in the cigar box in the 1987 anti-drug PSA where the dad confronts his kid only to learned that his son learned drug use from him, all right. It was always a silly commercial as the kid keeps trying to answer his dad but the father keeps intereupting him to shut him. Daddy was probablly doped up, though, so what are you gonna do. But, I'm still mystified by that drug paraphonalia. It looked so scary and, well, complicated. I mean, this kid didn't look like someone who was into hard drugs. Maybe a joint with friends, but what was that stuff? Heroin? Cocaine? I still don't know.

But, I guess I'll be doing this kind of flash-back shit a lot because VH1 will start airing their sequel to "I Love the 80's" next week. Appropriately named, of course, "I Love the 80's Strikes Back". Hell, I even watched "I Love the 70's" and I genuinely wasn't there for that. I really hope the release it on DVD, though. I love this sort of meaningless pop-culture nostalgia.


playing ball

I seemed to have surprised at least one of my blog readers when I went off about ESPN a few days ago. Yes, I like sports, and I keep meaning to write an entry on my thoughts about the major sports in the US, but I keep not getting around to it. Ah, well. I do want to at least get out my thoughts on the baseball playoffs as I've been a baseball fan the longest and this year's playoffs are some of the best in recent memory. The games have been close and well played with a lot of history around all of the teams. But, I just want to discuss the four remaining teams. I will probably completely bore most of you, so be warned.

I'd like to root against the Marlins because their 1997 World Series championship is one of the low points in baseball history. It was probably the only time a team genuinely bought a championship, and they promptly dumped the team in the off season. It was horrible to watch and awful for the sport.

But, you have to appreciate the way the team has managed to rebuild itself and get back to this place. They are a fun young team, there is no denying that. Still, they are young team with little fan support, so its tough to pull of them. Especially with who they are facing in the National League Championship Series.

You have to like the Cubs. They are the classic underdog. Their fans have been waiting nearly 100 years for a World Series victory. For much of that time, they weren't a contender, either. They've had some great players and even better fans who are some of the most loyal in baseball. The current team are a great bunch of players, including one the game's best ambassadors, Sammy Sosa. Yeah, I know the cork incident, but he built up enough good will before and since that he deserves some lee way. The Cubs are just a good baseball team that's handled a lot of ups and downs in recent years and a lot of downs in their history. But, the fans stick through it. Hey, I know they aren't perfectly loyal and their are a lot of fair weather Cubs fans, but with what they've been through, I'll allow it. It would be great to see them make it to the series, and given that I'm a National League fan (I'm old school, like that) I'll happily root for them there.

Plus, they have the benefit of having Dusty Baker as their manager. Dusty was shoved out of San Francisco after taking the Giants to the World Series last year. He's one of the best managers in the game, and the Giants didn't show him proper respect. Now, the Giants lost in the first round of the playoffs, and Dusty is still there. I'd love to see him back in the series and take it home, too. I can be very loyal to players and managers in sports who I think do a good job and aren't respected by their teams. I love the idea of them sticking it to their detractors, and I would love to see Dusty go all the way.

Fans of the Yankees are some of the most spoiled in baseball. The Yankees are never far from a World Series and consistantly field a solid team. So, its easy to root against them. Especially given the idea most people have that they buy their championships.

But you know what? The Yankees don't buy championships. The win because they spend their money well. A lot of their money is spent keeping players, not buying them. Plenty of teams have money and go no where. Plenty of teams have no money and win. Yeah, the Yankees have money and that sure helps, but they also spend it right. They don't have a flashy team of super stars. They have solid players who play well as a team and pick up the slack for their team mate when needed. They also have a great manager in Joe Torre. I may not want to root for the Yankees, but I have to respect them.

Ah, the cursed Red Sox. Given that I live in Boston, you'd think I'd be a big Sox fan shouting "Cowboy Up" (long story, which I don't really get) at every opportunity. But no. Yeah, I know they are a hard luck story like the Cubs. But the Cubs fans were loyal through the lean years. The Red Sox never really had lean years. They weren't loyal out of devotion. They kept rooting because they LIKE losing. They like having something to complain about. I know that's getting cliche to say, but its damn true. Trust me, I'm hear. Red Sox fans are the most impatient, whiny, ungrateful, self-important fans in all of sports. And that's saying a lot given the sense of entitlement that you find in Yankees fans. They don't express their loyalty through fierce devotion, but rather through knee-jerk hatred of anything that isn't Red Sox approved. We are seeing that clearly now after the absurd antics at Fenway Park for Game 3 of their series with the Yankees. We saw Red Sox players act like complete morons as Pedro Martinez threatens Yankees and Manny Ramerez gets nutty paranoid and starts a brawl over NOTHING. But is that the story? Nope. They are blasting a 72 year old Yankee coach, who has apologized, for charging Pedro after Pedro taunts him. Oh, and they are also obsessed over the story about how two Yankees allegedly beat up a grounds crew worker who was behaving horribly unprofessionally by rooting against the Yankees from the Yankees own bullpen. I say allegedly, because the Yankees players insist they just asked him to stop taunting them and the guy picked the fight. Frankly, I believe them, because I know what dicks Red Sox fans are. But its important that I say allegedly because NO ONE ELSE IS. I swear, all of the media outlets around here are treating this as fact. Just another thing to add to the collective persecution complex found in Red Sox fans.

The Sox fans don't deserve a winner. They don't want one, either. I'm hoping they don't get it. So, weird as it is for me, GO YANKEES!

Okay, I'll try to avoid sports for a few days so I don't piss off all of my readers. hehe.

Oh, and a special shout out to my blog reader Aimee, who I hung out with yesterday. Woo hoo!


movie review: kill bill, volume 1

I saw the new Quentin Tarrentino film last night, Kill Bill. It is a far more challenging and difficult movie than anyone seems to be giving it credit for. The movie is very disturbing, and I think that is the intent. Rather than movies which desensitize us to violence, Tarrentino seemed interested in RE-sensitizing people to violence by letting it be horrible, graphic, and shocking.

The risk when trying to do something like this, of course, is that you can get two unintended responses. You can disturb people too much. That's certain a fair reaction to this film. The violence is pretty awful and it is tough to take because the volume of it is just so beyond comprehension. The flip side is you get people who still see it as entertainment, even though that is what the director is deconstructing.

Or is it? I'm not completely sure. Which is why the movie is difficult on the viewer. Is it gratuitous violence, or is he exposing the entertainment of violence. Is it over the top to lessen the effect or heighten it? Tough to say. I do want to learn more about the director's intent and when I do, I may comment more, but I want to post some quick thoughts now.

Aside from the violence question, it is a brilliant work of art. Agressively bold and daring and with a total understanding of the film and the motifs in play. He wields his deep awareness of the film to heighten the experience. Some fight scenes are played sans musical soundtrack, allowing their brutal nature to be alone on screen. Indeed, the sound effects are amped to jar the audience. When the music does come in, it is either disquieting or operatic. The irreverence of some of the music is made more obvious with the contrast to the music-less scenes, but others are played as a stylish ballet. And really, that is all movie violence ever is. It is a choreography, and Tarrentino delves deeply into wire-fu techniques for a surreal take on the viciousness images flying by. Everything is played out in its own way to make the contrast and distinctions more apparent. The violence is made all the more graphic because so much of it comes from the blade rather than the usual method of movie body counts, the gun. Vastly more. I can only recall one gun death off-hand. The effect of this is to personalize the violence and limit the audience's ability to disconnect. We're used to seeing movies where the "hero" mows down countless villains with a machine gun. Here, she holds a sword and the impact is not distant but intimate.

The question of the nature of violence as entertainment is a very relevant one. Movies often let us off the hook when they ram a massive body count into our open eyes. Its okay, they are aliens. Its okay, they are zombies. Its okay, they are terrorists. Its okay, she's a robot. Kill Bill doesn't seem to want us to get away with that disconnect. It is a daring and risky move, to be sure, and some people will not be able to handle the violence, and specifically the knowledge that some people are being thrilled by it. I don't blame them at all for that response, but I do think the movie is more than that and though I caution you to be aware of what you are getting into, I would certainly recommend the film.


need toys?

Head on down to KB Toys before October 14 to get 30% off your purchase of $30 or more. Is this some great sale? Nope. Settlement of a class action lawsuit. I'm actually part of the class, so I'm quite interested in people taking KB for whatever they can get.


damn californians

Well, let the Recall Arnold campaign begin.

Oh, love the non sequiter at the end of The Daily Show. "This has been a presentation of ABC Sports". I don't get that, but I still thought it was funny. I missed the first few minutes, though, so maybe it wasn't much of a non sequitar as it seemed.

Not sure which time I got "non sequita/er" spelled correctly, so I'll leave them both.

dreading california

I don't think I even want to know how things turn out in Cali. I'll watch The Daily Show but I'm just really dreading the notion that this scum bag is going to get elected in what is a farce to begin with. All the more so if fewer people vote for Arnie than voted against the recall. This isn't Democracy. It's a joke. I half-want Davis to resign right now, thus ensuring the recall becomes a moot point. But, I know that would blow up in the face of the Democratic Party, but it may be worth it to avoid Governor Terminator. His supports have no idea what they are doing. Literally! I mean, they don't know what he believes what he stands for or anything. Just that he's a good "leader". Really took it to those machines, after all. This was all funny a while back, but the wave of stupid is continuing unabated. I have to worry that people just won't wake up to this once he gets into office. I can't console myself with the notion that he'll kill himself, because there is no reason he should have gotten this far. I can respect a Republican candidate I disagree with. Its the system. I can deal with McClintock winning (he won't) but Arnie is another thing entirely. He's mocking politics. Mocking Government. Mocking all that our forefathers worked to ensure. And the fact that he doesn't get to make crappy movies for a few years is very little consolation, either.

Ugh. And I don't even live there. Cali has problems, but Grey Davis is WAY down on the list. How about reforming that disgustingly unfair property law? Man alive. California has what might be the most immoral tax code in the history of tax codes. Even worse than taxation without representation, because that had no pretense. How is this not more of an issue? It can be reformed WITHOUT raising overall taxes. But, of course, the people who'll pay are the wealthiest and greediest. Arnie included.

I just don't want to look. It's like a great big car wreck. At least the baseball playoffs have been interesting.

the worst governor in the state's history

I was considering posting on the Arnold situation, since I know several of my readers are Californians. At some point, I wanted to make the point of how Cali is at risk of electing the worst governor in US History. It took about a second for me to realize that was a dangerous overstatement. I was mostly thinking about Reagan and Ventura. As nutty as them running for office seemed, both had political experience before running for Governor. Ventura was a mayor, after all, and Reagan was (rather improbably) a union president which is essentially a lobbying job. They weren't political novices, in spite of their colorful backgrounds.

Arnold, however, falls into the recent category of political newbies who are impossibly wealthy and just go straight for the big prize. He's got a lot of company. My current governor is one of those types. Jumped right into running for Senate, lost, and then went on to win the governor's office. Inevitably, the think and campaign on the notion that since they were successful in business, they must naturally be successful in government. The Perot arguement. Of course, its bullshit, but especially so in Arnold's case. I can at least understand the point when a person built a business from nothing. But Arnold? His fame is because he has muscles. That's it. I mean, I don't mean to knock acting, but any notion that this work prepares a person for government is downright bizarre.

So, basically, I just wanted to point out unprepared Arnold is for office. And, of course, his widespread problem with sexual harrassment/assault (which, for all the Arnold supports, is NOT the same thing as "womanizing" so you can stop comparing him to Clinton, or Kennedy, or whoever). But, I immediately realized that it was just silly hyperbole to say he's the worst governor ever. I mean, surely we've elected some real nutcases in the last 200 years. Probably more than a few people who were criminally corrupt, maybe even a murderer or two. And I think it took me about 30 seconds to remember the horrible leaders of segregation who have a lock on all of the "worst governor" slots in recent memory.

Which got me curious, who is the worst governor in US History. When I researched my article on the Democratic Presidential candidates, I came upon references to Kucinich being selected as one of the worst mayors in US history by an academic panel. Surely, such information would be available for our nation's governors with a simple google search.


Pretty much ever reference to "worst governor" was a partisan attack directed at whoever is currently in power or recently in power. Much of it was directed at Grey Davis, but I found references to most of the states in the union where the sitting Gov has been described by political opponants as the "worst governor" in the state's history. Democrat, Republican, whatever. Even the genuinely courageous and Nobel Peace Prize nominated George Ryan of Michigan. (UPDATE: Who, yeah, I know was a crook, but still) No acadmeic information at all. Ah, well.


four in one

Fourth post of the day! Woo hoo! A quickie this time around, though.

Just wanted to say that my boy, Alton Brown is getting parodied in a Burger King commercial. You know you've made it when a fast food franchise thinks you're an appropriate subject for a commercial. Its kind of annoying, since its such a stupid ad, but its pretty much the definitive proof of pop culture status, so big ups to Alton for the parody. You've made it!

(yeah, I know I just called a tv host my "boy". Just trying to mix it up a bit and bring bad use of slang from 3 years ago to the blog)

Well, turns out I was seeing what I wanted to in the Burger King commercial. They had another ad which featured Food Network's Rachel Ray which made me re-examine my assumpsion that the ad was a mimic of Alton. Turns out, the chef included is a Rick Bayless, a well-known chef and author from Chicago who has a show on PBS which basically does the whole take you through a market thing. Which is hardly Alton's trademark or something unheard of for a food show.


So, my apologies for jumping the gun on this one. Although, am I the only one who thinks its a little unseemly for TV chefs to be endorsing a fast food restaurant

cult of jared gets more obvious

You know, I'm actually glad that Subway sandwiches suck, because otherwise I might be pissed off at their continually insulting ad campaign featuring Jared. The series has built him up as a literal cult figure with worshipers and everything. That's why I've identified them as the "Cult of Jared" ads. The obsessive adoration of Jared has just been really disturbing, but obviously with the general adoration of weight loss in our society, most people don't see that.

It'll be tough to miss it now.

The latest duel campaign from Subway makes the religous nature of their product unmistakable. For starters, there are the "It's okay, I had Subway" ads. I didn't really see this as much until I found an article at Slate that was seeing this the same way I was. I know I found the ads vaugely objectionable and stupid, but frankly Slate is right. They are treating their product as a redemption. Sure, its a joke, but how much of one? You have to wonder after seeing the ads Jared is staring.

What Would Jared Do?

You know, like Jesus.

Ugh. Yeah, its played for laughs, but after years of their Adoration of the Dieter, I have to wonder. When we start seeing stained glass windows at Subway, I think we really need to start worrying.

giant inflatable cartoon character balloon season

I have another thing to add to the list of things I don't get. These big, front yard, holiday balloons. Just started last year, didn't it? With those big ugly pumpkins on Halloween followed up by Santa's and reighndeer and snowmen for Christmas. It was cute the first time I saw one. Significantly less so the next 50 times.

But, they're back. And it seems the valuable cartoon character liscences are getting in on the action. On my way to work, I saw an 8 foot tall Winnie the Pooh dressed up as Dracula with his arms stretched out and his cape unfurled.

Yeah, I don't get that.

I mean, I have issues with Disney properties, anyway (although the REAL owners of Winnie and friends are about to put some legal smackdown on Eisner and friends) but who puts down $50 to $100 (sorry, its apparently $80. $80!) for one of these monstrocities? Its just scary, but not in a Halloween kind of scary but more Governor Terminator kind of scary. I just don't get it. I mean, other holiday fads have come and been played out before the next holiday arrives. Icicle Lights, for instance. Remember how awe-inspiring those were at first site and how fast you were sick of them? But at least I understood them. Inflatable lawn ornaments just scare me.


i can watch tom jackson again!

Can't say how pleased I was to be able to leave on ESPN this morning to watch the Sunday NFL countdown. I haven't watched it all season for one very offensive reason who finally got himself into enough trouble to get himself fired. Oh, sorry, I mean offered his resignation in a way which had absolutely nothing to do with him being fired and humiliating him and going for the usual save face offered his resignation thing.

Yep, Rush is off ESPN.

I'm surprised it took him this long to stick his foot into his mouth. He said something VERY predictably racist. His defenders keep insisting its not racist, but bullshit. Oh sure, he was "really" attacking the liberal sports media. (Liberal sports media?!?) Yeah, right. He assumed that the accomplishments of a black man couldn't possibly be true and had to be the result of some big conspiracy that desires a successful black quarterback. He injected race into a situation it had NO business being brought up, for the purpose of discrediting the accomplishments of a black man. Damn right, that's racist.

The object of his attacks, Donovan McNaab, had responded with utter civility. He has handled himself remarkably well after having his ability question in such a disgusting manner. I've watched Donavan since college when he played for my alma mater's conference rival, Syracuse. The guy has the goods, and has put together more than a few MVP caliber seasons in his still young career. Might he be overrated? Maybe, but it sure as hell isn't because of his race. He's also consistantly impressed as a man of great dignity and sincerity and he's impressed us all with his actions this past week. He's a class act, unlike Rush.

The actual Football experts who shared the show with Rush were attacked several times this past week for not standing up to Rush's vile remarks. Appropriately, they opened the show with a sincere apology and explanation. Simply put, they were focused on doing their job and commenting on football. Rush's social commentary didn't really register. I can understand that. I got the impression that none of them were happy with Rush's inclusion on the show, but they were repeatedly reassured that he's keep his social agenda off ESPN. They heard him say McNaab was overrated and started thinking how to respond to that. They just didn't grasp the complete point he was making until they'd already set themselves to refuting his basic point. Afterwards, they were rightly disgusted and probably had a lot to do with ESPN asking Rush to leave.

I was skeptical from the start that Rush wouldn't keep his mouth shut, but besides that, I was deeply offended that ESPN would hire someone who expresses such contempt and hatred for people who have the same ideas and values as myself. With him on the show, I wanted no part in it. I'm glad to be able to return, but still very disgusted with ESPN. This is very much like MsNBC's past situation with hate-monger Michael Savage when they were stunned that he did all the things he did before they hired him. Rush's remarks are NO surprise, and the people at ESPN and its parent company, Disney, should be ashamed of themselves. But he's gone, and has the duel embarassment of being investigated for rather massive and serious charges of drug abuse. Couldn't happen to a more deserving fellow.

But, I'll stop talking about sports now. Its one of my quirks. In spite of being an artsy type (though not quite a metrosexual), I've always enjoyed watching some sports. Mostly baseball, as football is too obviously cheering for clothes, but its not like much else is on Sundays.


you mean, they don't die at 35?!?

So I am back from a concert featuring two dynamic, extraordinary, energetic sopranos.

Oh, and they were also 70 year old fat women.

Just wanted to say that.


movie review: lost in translation

On to happier subjects. And yes, I know more people urged the novel subject, but I didn't want to do it while the trolls are still bothering us. But, yes, I am considering NaNo, although I have deep concerns about my ability to write fiction. But I do want to talk it out a bit, and I'll get to that eventually.

So, I went to see Lost in Traslation over the weekend. I actually really liked Sofia Copella's first film, The Virgin Suicides. I really liked the subtle and sure way she tells the story. Most directors, even good ones, feel the need to be horribly blunt in their films. Basically, they've been taught to assume their audience is painfully stupid. Which sucks for those of us who managed to get past 1st grade. The worst of them are just completely insecure in their ability to tell a story that they keep pausing to reiterate points that probably could have been left unsaid to begin with. They don't feel like anything can be left for question. Sofia is clearly well versed in the genre of film and has a lot of courage and conviction to tell her stories in such a subtle and often unstated manner. I don't know if some people are annoyed with some of the quiet, often silent, scenes in her movie, but I loved it. It created a really beautiful atmosphere that allowed the characters to become very real. I loved that not every scene was a slave to plot. I loved that the "plot" itself was prefectly clear. Even when it was doing things that could be cliche, it didn't conclude the way it might seem. The cliches became deconstructed. The movie was both slow and frenetic, creating a real sense of the spark between the two lead characters but having patience to show their affection and frame it with the swiftness with which they take to each other. They let the relationship not fall into any preassumed concepts, while touching on them all. Its not quite a friendship, not quite a love affair, not quite a father/daughter thing. It does all this without falling into any of the traps of those concepts, while still getting to explore elements of them. It shouldn't have worked. I mean, as a rule I'm very disinterested with these older man, VERY younger woman deals, but this just worked for me.

I was quite impressed with Scarlet Johansson playing Charlotte. I liked her in The Man Who Wasn't There but this film obviously gives her more to work with. She's got a very natural charm and she plays off other actors so well. Really looking forward to seeing a lot more from her, especially since she's really young.

In the supporting cast, Giovanni Ribisi does a really good job playing Charlotte's husband. He really found the right balance, matching Bill Murray's unseen wife in being unsympathetic and sympathetic at the same time. You understand the lead character's disenchantment without hating their respective spouses, which I thought was a very daring but effective choice. It made me respect the story a lot more to not just demonize the spouses. You've also got Anna Faris playing a thinly valied send-up of Cameron Diaz. Her ditzy and oblivious actress was very well done. She wasn't just a dumb blonde. I mean, she was dumb and a blonde, but it wasn't a one-note thing. At her best, she was harmlessly oblivious. At her worst, moronically self-important. It was a nice little dynamic, but I was puzzled a bit that her movie star had no significant interaction with Bill Murray's movie star.

Ah, Bill Murray. Great work. Perfect balance between comic and staight-man. Murray is really an underrated straight-man, and it really shines here. He doesn't do that fuction as a befuddled type of straight man who just sets up the joke. Rather, he acts as a kind of eye of the hurricane, remaining calm while a lot of absurd stuff goes on around him. But, not as if he was overwhelmed by it all, but rather confident and bemused. He also flashes his comic skills at a number of points. He's got a great dead-pan delivery that really sells the character rather than concentrating on the joke to the expense of his portrayal. He manages this all with ease. He also shows a lot of sincerity and depth in his interaction with Charlotte. Murray is also a very underrated actor, and I hope he gets a richly deserved Oscar nod with this role. He was robbed for Rushmore, which probably was a better chance since it was a supporting role, but I do think his performance is better here and I hope he can power out some notice.

I really strongly recommend this film. The visuals are wonderful and the story is refreshingly intelligent and quietly told. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to Sofia Coppela establishing herself as one of the great American writer/directors. It does seem funny, though, that she may well be the talented one in her family.