Monday, January 24, 2005

Librarians and Rock Stars

Ask Nettie Day is another blog by a student librarian. Cynth, you should network.

But that's a flimsy excuse for a post. Let's talk some more.

While I was at Best Buy the other day, picking up Curb Your Enthusiasm season 3 and Shaun of the Dead, I impulse-bought the CD Fit to Be Tied: Great Hits by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. I've been growing fond of Jett lately. "I Love Rock & Roll" was fun when I first heard it years ago on the Wayne's World 2 soundtrack, but got old fast and never made me seek out her other stuff. But lately, "Bad Reputation" has been my favorite track from Freaks and Geeks, and "I Hate Myself for Loving You" is my crowd-pleasing new karaoke standard (and as I tell Stephanie, a great choice for a wedding song someday). So I thought, might as well actually buy a compilation CD.

I'm not regretting it at all. The three tracks I mentioned were on it, but I don't mind having them all in one place with a bunch of new ones. She does a cover of "Road Runner" that's pretty cool, and also a cover of the Mary Tyler Moore theme, "Love is All Around." She's got a great tough rock chick persona, as she should since she pretty much defined what that is. I may go on to seek out more.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Heuristic Squelch Issue Review: Jan 2005

Well, here we go. I'm sure you're all waiting for my latest Squelch issue crit with bated breath, and after this I'll only be doing two more of these ever, so let's get to it.

COVER: Elaborate and well-staged, from the props and costumes to the dank lighting and smoke in the air. well done. Loker's little lock of hair hanging down in front is perfect. Is there a cigar cutter anywhere in this photo? I don't see one on my crappy printout, but it seems like it would be awfully appropriate for an environment like this, where guys are cutting off digits AND smoking cigars. As for the gag itself, I get the general idea of it, although I'm not sure I quite get the joke. It's some kind of hardcore backroom Yahtzee game where guys play for keeps, but what's it playing off of? In what kind of game is it appropriate to bet one's limbs? The blood on the saw looks a little catsupy. Overall, the cover is sick in a smart and edgy way. I approve.

MASTHEAD: The first element of the new redesign. I like many things about the new look. The masthead is maybe the only thing I dont' like. I'm not sure well about how well a black masthead will look in the future (even if the colors are inverted, at least one word will have to be black), but then again, if black works on a cover this dark, it ought to work anywhere, as long as the photographers have the foresight to place a smoky light bulb in the top of the graphic. I like the little line, and I like how the word "heuristic" goes over it, and I don't even mind the strange oversized "q," but the little arc where the "heuristic" bends just doesn't do it for me. It's a little too involved, a bit too precious. But who knows, maybe it will grow on me. I do like the way the title at the bottom of each page looks, with the line behind it. More on the redesign as we move along.

PAGE 2: Still no comedy shows. Are we done with those, then? As for the headline font, I know Zack says it's a good font when it's used right, but I still don't know if I'm ready to love Impact again. I'm so used to seeing it misused (and overused it myself for years), that I just can't look at it without assuming the layout is amateurish. The new season of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy has adopted a widespread use of this font in their intro freeze-frames, which I think says all that needs to be said about how gay this font is. (Stephanie makes me watch it!)

I like the new layout of the page, and the staff box against the spine makes good clean sense. STAFF BOX: What the hell happened to all the editors? Talk about trimming the fat. Hope there's someone there to take over next year. Get some people in there. Zack and Mark better be training some layout talent, or by September this magazine will look like the America issue, or worse, if that's possible.

The centered credits in the staff box are a refreshing change. But how is it that the column fills up so much faster now? Oh, I see, because the theme jokes all get their own line now. Looks good. It leaves only two lines for small text, but that's probably for the best. I doubt that shit was ever funny to anyone but us anyway.

No time to critique content. Sorry, Mark. I've spent too long on this page already. Blame Zack.

PAGE 3: Fuck it, let's talk about Newsflashes.

PAGE 4-5: Fancy redesign of Newsflashes pages. Gives the illusion of freshness to rejuvenate a tired format. Pluses: More newslike in appearance. Larger text and spacious layouts feel less cramped and leave less room for awful newsflashes. Space for pictures. Did I mention fewer newflashes? Minuses: More complicated, changeable layout will be harder for novices to follow with when Zack is gone.

Do we have a hint here that Brownstein wrote the Lemony Snicket piece later in the issue?

I don't like the reader poll because it's a very Oniony device. You all know this is just a top ten list with bars next to each entry. Nice drawing though.

PAGE 6: Hasn't something like Almost Futuristic Things been done before?
Virtual Girl is funny. It sort of throws me after the shooting, because then I don't know whether to think if the real girlfriend is still dead. Also, ending on a question feels weak to me for some reason. Overall, solid.

Am I still writing this issue crit? I'm sorry, guys. I can't get worked up over this one. It's solid stuff, generally. Nothing that makes me want to rant and complain, but most of it doesn't make me get up and cheer, either, so I don't know what to say.

Okay, PAGE 9: Daniel Brady's I Am Smarter Than You is funny and well written. Is Brady a newcomer? Seems promising. I like the "William Safire is on vacation" non sequitur tag. But the end of the piece just before that could stand to end stronger. Some kind of finishing blow, you know? This feels like it just cuts off in the middle. You could end this piece after any of the paragraphs and it wouldn't have any less impact than ending here.

SPREAD: Whoa--page numbers on the spread! This is a whole new design! I like the '70s retro font. It looks like it's an issue of the Pelican or something. Who's the guy in the pictures that's not Zack? Maybe I can put a face to one of the names of people I don't know. The second page is funnier than the first me, especially raping the passed out girl, because that shit is hot.

PAGE 12: I thought I wouldn't like Doolittle, but then I did. The first scenario is the only bad one. Doesn't make sense to me. Lists: Diseased Celebs and #1 on the Poli Sci list. On the psychology pick up lines: A your/you're mix-up? Be ashamed.

PAGE 13: Pretty good.

PAGE 14: WE ARE VERY ANGRY. I take it back. Impact looks cool here. Which is good because the piece sucks. Humeur Sans Fronteres in letter form, anyone? If you're going to write pointless rants like this, get yourself a blog. And enough with the silver Jetta thing. As far as I'm concerned, this is now only funny if Mark Thomas did not really acquire a silver Jetta recently, and you built this running gag into the magazine to create a fake inside joke.

PAGE 15: Animal Plastic Surgery. Another piece that I thought I would hate until I forced myself to read it just now. There are moments of genuine funny sprinkled among the last three entries. But not the first. I like cantaloupe-sized nuts dragging in the mud, and I also liked it when you put that phrase in the article. You should have done one called The Swan and it would just be a show about swans getting plastic surgery. Or ducks getting surgery to look like swans.

PAGE 16: 19th C. Job Interviews. Are we still on the Duman-era olde-thymey kick? Whatever, it's funny. Nice job, Kev. Handsome design, too.

PAGE 17: Well observed parody, follows the style of the books quite accurately. Shame about the cheap, gratuitous child-rape ending. It's more crass than witty and spoils the piece, IMIO (In My Infallible Opinion). There was a smarter, cleverer way to end this, and the quality of the piece leading up to it deserved it.

PAGE 18: Freud. Well consturced writing, nice rhythm, bringing back the penis envy joke with just the right timing. Predictable, but in a satisfying way. Pedestrian layout though.

PAGE 19: Physics. I learned a lot.

BACK COVER: Gambler's Weekly. Ties in with the front cover theme, huh? Maybe too many different fonts here. Six different fonts. Only two headlines even share the same font. Some of these fonts are familiar, like the Onion headline font for the dog picture, and the Jack in the Box slogan font for the price. And, of course, my good friend Impact. The graphic is a boring cop-out, but maybe you were out of ideas or time for a photo shoot. The cover lines are good, though, except "Kenny Rogers: Fuck that Guy" which is too similar in feel to the funnier "Baccarat: You Asshole."

Five and Three are Eight. Anyone Knows That

I'll assume the ongoing lack of response to my Herbie: Fully Loaded news is simply because you're all awestruck and speechless at how great it's going to be.

No, I'm kidding. Naturally we all need to scale back our expectations, or we'll only set ourselves up for disappointment. I'm going forth with a cautious optimism. Who knows, if it turns out to be really bad, there's a chance I may only see it in the theater once.

For now, there's this official "sizzle reel" with animatics and brief snippets of behind-the-scenes footage, and a segment in the middle of this Disney's Movie Surfers Online, in which an annoying Asian girl goes out to meet Herbie, bringing us precious little information while attempting wide-eyed excitement. I say "attempting" because her Oriental eyes only get so wide, after all.

Update: I forgot to mention the poster. Lohan looks pretty dopey in it. I don't know who chose her picture. But Herbie is nice and prominent. Interestingly, they went for that "illustrated" effect that Ryan liked so much, and which he used to depict Herbie in my Love Bug piece for the Squelch.

Folding Under Pressure

There's a cool blog called Preshrunk that links to clever T-shirts online, like this and this. As well as a guide to how to fold T-shirts in a way that will dazzle and confuse anyone watching.

Also, there's a site where people submit shitty ideas for T-shirt slogans and then vote on which one wins and gets put on a T-shirt to sell. Kind of like Hot or Not for hypothetical shirts, and then someone else makes money off your idea.

Infernal Affairs

My final Netflix spin was Infernal Affairs, an excellent Hong Kong movie about a mole in the police--

Holy crap, there was just a huge rush here at the Kaplan center. The other KSA wasn't here yet and I was working the desk alone and there were tons of people and I couldn't find the overhead projector for the NCLEX teacher and Phyllis, who I know from Berkeley Kaplan, is teaching an SAT class here now and she had to pitch in and help at the desk but then her class was starting--


Anyway, in Infernal Affairs, a gang places a mole in the police academy while the police place a promising young recruit undercover in the underworld. Ten years later, both moles have worked themselves up to prominent positions in their respective organizations. They both have to go through all the pressure and angst of living double lives. But when a sting is thwarted because both sides know each other's every move, the bosses realize they both have a mole, and each assigns their most trusted man to find out who it is. Guess who they choose.

It's clever and well done. The word is Scorcese or Brad Pitt or someone has their eye on the American remake. The original stars Andy Lau and Tony Leung, both big names if you're into the scene. I know Andy Lau from the stylish and hilarious Fulltime Killer. Tony Leung is in everything (Hero, In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express...). They're both great here, with Leung sporting a shaggy 'do and ratty facial hair that make him look like Phil Hentell.

Worth checking out.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Hotel Rwanda

Our Leonard Maltin class film this week was Hotel Rwanda. What can you say about a film like this? It's well-shot, well-acted, dramatic and thought-provoking. It shows admirable discipline in sticking to a well-told (and true) story when it would be easy and tempting to sabotage itself by digressing into more specific details of the historical context.

Suffice to say that it creates a thoroughly convincing Rwanda (not that I would know, but supposedly audience members who have actually been to Africa also say that it looks like Rwanda--it was actually mostly filmed elsewhere in Africa). The settings and characters never feel like part of a slick movie, they always feel authentic. And of course, the event that forms the backdrop to the story--the 1994 Rwandan genocide--is worth learning about.

There's way more to it than is in this movie (not that I know any of it), but for people like me, whose knowledge of it was limited to an awareness that it took place and was ignored, the added context of the movie really brought it to life and put a human face on it.

This is one of those movies, super-heavy, that is hard to enjoy. I doubt I'll ever re-watch it. But it's not made to be enjoyed, not in a popcorn sort of way, anyhow. It's made to be experienced, to give you a tiny hint of what that point in time and space was like. For that, it's an experience worth having.

Piss Me Off

Time magazine has a cover story this week on twentysomethings who "won't grow up," and how the current generation is taking much longer to get around to all the traditional markers of maturity, like marriage, home ownership, children, a steady career, even moving out of the parents' house, than ever before. No big deal, they're fair about this phenomenon, even though it's not news to anyone who's living it.

Time goes on to dub these development-arrested individuals "Twixters." Because you really can't discuss a generational phenomenon seriously until the media slaps a dumb-assed name on it. No, we can't wait for society, or the language, to create a name that develops gradually and organically. Media people and sociologists claw over each other trying to be the next clever bastard to coin a phrase like "Generation X," "Generation Y," "Tweens," or "Y2K." Please, never stop coming up with names for things we don't need names for.

"Twixter" means we're "betwixt" childhood and adulthood. We can't use "between" because they already used that up on "tweens" who should really just be called children, or the perfectly adequate pre-existing word, "preteen." Meanwhile, "Twixter" is a word that should only be used to describe somebody who eats a lot of candy bars.

As if that weren't bad enough, the article reveals that Time is just making a power play to squash the other would-be namers of directionless twentysomethings. Says Lev Grossman's piece:

Ten years ago, we might have called them Generation X, or slackers, but those labels don't quite fit anymore.

Yes, and heaven forbid we pass up a chance to slap a new label on it. We MUST LABEL AT ALL COSTS. And the dumber and more unnatural the label, the better! Grossman casually makes his move:

They're betwixt and between. You could call them twixters.

Gosh, both betwixt and between? Maybe we should be "twixters and tweeners." Only afterwards does he reveal that others beat him to naming this:

The sociologists, psychologists, economists and others who study this age group have many names for this new phase of life—"youthhood," "adultescence"—and they call people in their 20s "kidults" and "boomerang kids," none of which have quite stuck. Terri Apter, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge in England and the author of The Myth of Maturity, calls them "thresholders."

"Kidults" and "adultescence" are so bad, they're genius. But fuck all those shitheads and their clever names, this is Time fucking magazine. They'll call the shots and coin the phrases around here. Don't you like the subtle dig, how he says of the other names that "none of them quite stuck"? Nothing sticks until Lev Grossman and Time magazine say so. And they pulled "twixter" out of their shiny diamond ass, so they'll continue using "twixter" for the rest of the feature, thank you very much.

Then there's a whole sidebar about the dumb names people are coming up with in other countries.

As if all this nonsense weren't enough, USC's worthless Daily Trojan, a paper so shoddy and banal it makes the Daily Cal look brilliant and consistently fascinating, happens to run an op-ed column this week about the exact same thing. Coincidence? Or an attempt by the writer to throw his own label into the ring, after reading the Time piece and hoping we haven't?

I'm part of a generation of Peter Pans, people who will not grow up. I like to call us pseudo-adults.

Ooh, "pseudo-adults." Will USC's junior idiot give "Twixter" a run for its money? Will a lawsuit from M&M/Mars take down Time's entry and give him the edge he needs?

Or will dark horse Herbie the Love Blog steal the crown with one of the following:


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

On Cell Phone Users and Crazy People

People often observe, either in casually witty conversation or professional stand-up comedy acts, that the widespread use of earpieces with cell phones has made it so you can't tell who's crazy anymore.

I don't know, to me it's still pretty easy. Just follow these helpful guidelines: The ones with cell phones are the ones conducting business deals and passing on trivial gossip. The crazy ones are the ones who look like they haven't bathed in a year, yelling incoherent threats in hoarse voices.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Dear Entertainment Weekly

In your 2005 Movie Forecast, you describe the upcoming Herbie: Fully Loaded as a movie in which Lindsay Lohan teams up with a "talking VW bug." Counting your Lindsay Lohan feature a few issues earlier, this is the second time you have referred to Herbie as a "talking VW." This is incorrect and insulting. Herbie has never "talked" beyond honking his horn and there is no indication that this will change in the new movie. Suggesting that the movie is about a talking VW makes it sound way more stupid and asinine than if you correctly described it as a "sentient VW" or a "living VW" and does a disservice to Herbie fans everywhere. Your forecast blurb refers to it as "scary," but maybe the premise wouldn't sound so creepy if you actually got it right.

Kenny Byerly

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Trust Me. I Know What I'm Doing

Netflix came through with a surprise today. Even though we only have two movies left before the end of our current month, at which point we're canceling, one of the discs previously thought lost appeared in our mailbox today. So now I'm four episodes into the first disc of Sledge Hammer! Season One.

When I saw that this forgotten show had amazingly made it to DVD, I realized two things: One, they really will release just about anything on DVD these days, and two, I had to see it.

Sledge Hammer! is the largely forgotten cop show spoof about an ultraviolent cop who talks to his gun. This is the show with the infamous "Sledge blows up the city" season-ending cliffhanger, where the writers wrote themselves into a corner expecting the series to be cancelled. As I first heard from Zack in a long-ago Squelch editorial meeting, the next season was Sledge Hammer! The Early Years and took place five years prior.

For the DVD release, the laugh track has been removed, and the show seems stronger for it. It's hard to imagine this parody working well with canned laughs everywhere.

Sadly, the show itself has not aged well. Seeing it now, it looks appallingly low budget, and the jokes are delivered with corny, highly telegraphed setup/payoff timing that makes it hard to be surprised by any of the punchlines. There are some great--okay, good--moments, and credits show such names as Leonard Stern, going back to Get Smart, and Al Jean, going ahead to The Simpsons, but nothing matches the genius of those shows. It seems like Sledge Hammer! was a show with a lot of funny, even clever ideas, but they're never fully realized in the execution. Or if they were, their impact has been dampened by time and the changes in TV comedy.

I loved it when I was six, but it's a little tiring to watch now. I've got two episodes left, though, and the series does seem to be improving as it finds its groove. But it doesn't look like it will ever hit the heights that I remembered.

Million Dollar Baby

Wow. I cried.

Friday, January 14, 2005


In Good Company, the first film screened in USC's Leonard Maltin class, is a strong, enjoyable film that I would recommend to anyone considering seeing it. Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid both turn in strong performances, and the romance between Grace and Scarlett Johannsen is handled sensibly and realistically.

Watching the trailer and TV spots for the movie, it seems pleasant enough, but you don't get a sense of a major hook to draw you in. Indeed, there isn't one. The story is low-key and the conflicts are subtle and simmering. For those unfamiliar, Topher Grace is a young corporate marketing hotshot brought in to replace the demoted Dennis Quaid as head of magazine ad sales after a big merger. Dennis Quaid has to deal with aging and pressures of family while Topher Grace has to deal with having nothing but a career in his empty life. And eventually, Topher Grace starts sleeping with Johannsen, who's Dennis Quaid's college-aged daughter.

It's all very well done, and while it's peppered with funny character moments, it's not nearly as funny as About a Boy (co-directed by In Good Company's director, Paul Weitz, with his brother Chris), nor does it seem intended to be. In fact, while it has a light, pleasant tone, it's hard to say whether it's really a comedy. Comedy-drama might come closer. It's smartly written, and the lack of laughs isn't really due to any failings--it's not like any jokes go thudding onto the floor. Well, perhaps some of the stuff having to do with Grace's colleague, an over-the-top corporate lackey with cultlike enthusiasm for Rupert Murdoch stand-in Teddy K., played by Malcolm McDowell, if only because it feels too much like "comedy" when the rest of the movie feels real. By and large, the film is more interested in following its characters truthfully than wringing laughs from situations where they don't naturally occur.

In a live Q&A after the screening, writer/director Paul Weitz revealed that the original title for the film was "Synergy," until he realized that was a better title for either a sci-fi film or a more cold, bloodless corporate satire than he intended to make.

In the future, I may not be able to respond to the screenings so promptly. We will often be watching advance screenings of stuff with all sorts of security and confidentiality concerns. They'll actually take away cameras and camera-phones for fear of piracy, so I imagine they wouldn't want any blogging about it either. A major site like this could start an avalanche of negative buzz.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Herbie Watch

The trailer for Herbie: Fully Loaded, due out June 3 (but rumored to be pushed back to June 24) has yet to arrive, but someone has finally posted this TRL behind-the-scenes clip featuring Lindsay Lohan and Justin Long, also known as the geeky kid from Dodgeball. It's not a trailer, but it's my first look at the new movie in motion, as opposed to seeing just photos.

Leonard Maltin Gave It Two and a Half Stars

This semester I'm taking a seminar at USC taught by Leonard Maltin, which from what I'm told is mainly screening and discussion of current movies. I picked up the book for the class at the bookstore today. It's The Movie Business Book, third edition, by Jason E. Squire and features a cover blurb from Maltin: "A valuable book full of smarts and straight talk. I use it in my class at USC."

Oh, Leonard Maltin. We know. All that's missing is for the book to contain a picture of me reading the book, turned to the page with the picture of me reading the book.

Looking at one of the required books for another class, I picked up a used copy and flipped through it. All the pages were blank, like a book from an alternate timeline in Back to the Future. Was this a joke? An elaborate novelty notepad? A clever test to see who'd done the reading, so the professor could ask, "Did everyone read this?" and we'd say "Yes," and he's say, "Psych! It's blank, you liars"? Sadly, no. The next copy I'd picked up was full of boring-looking text.

The funny thing is the blank copy was used, which means that someone once did buy it without opening it, then sold it back to someone else who bought it back without flipping through it and put it back on the shelves.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Smoking = Cool

People try to stop kids from smoking by telling kids that smoking isn’t “cool.” That’s a lie. Tell kids whatever you want, but smoking is cool. Of course, you don’t have to smoke to be cool, and you can smoke and be lame, but the act of smoking is fundamentally a cool thing.

Is it bad for you? Yes. And that is the definition of what cool is. Cool is not giving a fuck. Cool is smoking the cigarette, driving fast, sex without a condom, taking risks. If you’re lucky you won’t die young but probably you will. That’s the price you pay for being cool. Not everyone is willing to do it. So they half-ass their coolness, and they live longer, good for them. The price of living longer is being less cool. Deal with it. You can’t have everything. You can’t be cool and live a long time. Occasionally, some people do, but they sold their souls to the devil. So again, trade-offs. Make your choice and live with it.

That’s why movie stars smoke, that’s why the cool kids smoke. It’s no fluke, no mistake. Smoking is cool and that’s why many cool people do it. It won’t make you cool on its own, but dang, it looks fucking badass. It’s a coolness enhancer. The whole point of blowing secondhand smoke in some lame schmoe’s face is to rub it in how you don’t give a fuck. The hell with cancer, buddy, I’m cooler than you right now.

It smells bad and stains your teeth and fucks up your breath, but who cares? It’s cool. Maybe the lame schmoe will come back when you’re on a respirator to laugh at you, but he’s probably got better things to do, so don’t sweat it. Besides, that shit is in the future, and cool is living in the now.

So maybe you are dying at 50 and lame schmoe is there. Let’s pretend. He’s laughing at you because you’re dying. So what? He’s 50, too. He may be alive, but he’s not cool and at 50, he never will be. He missed his shot. Maybe if he buys some beer for kids, they’ll be like, “Hey old man, you’re cool,” but what little sincerity there actually is in that statement is residual coolness brought about by helping others be genuinely cool—i.e. harming themselves in the pursuit of short-term pleasure.

So lame schmoe “gets to see his kids grow up.” Big deal, you got the gist of it. They can make a computer enhancement of their high school photos for you, if you care so damn much.

Just do us a favor when you die. Don’t whine about it, and tell your damn kids not to whine about it. “My daddy’s gone, now I have to appear in anti-smoking ads.” Remember when you were young and smoking and lame people were like, “Hey, that’s bad for you,” and you were like, “I’m going to enjoy life and die young, and that’s better than living a long boring life.” Well, now’s the time for you to own up to that. Don’t be all, Waa, waa, waa, the Tobacco Companies made me do it. I knew it was killing me, but I didn’t know dying was going to suck so much. If you do that, now you’re a crybaby, and crybabies are totally lame. If you do that, you squander all your coolness capital and you give lame people a reason to pat themselves on the back by revealing that you weren’t cool after all, you were just a shortsighted pussy.

So die with some goddamn dignity. Put on your cool face and stick a cigarette in your respirator. So you’re dying. Remember, you’re cool—you don’t give a fuck. Better yet, don’t give the cancer or heart disease a chance: Think overdose, car crash, or suicide. Those are the cool ways to die, and much faster so you don’t have to drag it out and look so pathetic. If you must get a disease, get AIDS and lock in your sympathy. People love that shit.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Original Blogga

I mentioned to Lydia and Zack my Production classmate Justin Hall, an Interactive Media student who photographed himself naked in a Japanese love hotel bath. I mentioned that he's kind of a weird character, and that he has a blog.

Zack might be interested to know that Justin, befitting his field of study, is heavily into interactive/digital media of all types, including video games. Some may recall the Game Girl Advance site and its piece on Rez and the vibrator accessory available in Japan, and the accompanying story about the girl "trying it out" while her boyfriend played Rez (I think this may have been linked from Penny Arcade at some point). Justin was in fact the co-founder of Game Girl Advance, and he was that boyfriend.

I also did not mention, indeed, I did not realize until today that, if some of these blurbs are to be believed, Justin not only has A blog, he has what is allegedly THE blog, that is, the first blog-as-we-know-it of all time:

And Justin Hall of was probably the first individual to post a running commentary about his Web discoveries, on "Links from the Under ground," back in the Web's Jurassic era (1994).

Don't I feel like a poseur for chatting with him in class, all "Oh, I have a blog too!" with my sad little template. This man, this Internet force of nature, aptly described by Variety as "an over-the-top, androgynous eccentric who sees himself as a Messiah spreading the gospel of the Web... draw[ing] both loathing and fandom" (definitely my first impression) has been blogging since before "blogging" was even a dopey, made-up word of disputable legitimacy. He pioneered the concept of self-indulgent online diaries peppered with links of interest way back in nineteen-ninety-fucking-FOUR, practically before there was a fucking Internet, and here I am telling him to check out my thing on "" Cripes.

The Right to Fail

From IMDB, in a news blurb about Star Wars:

Lucas admits the final part of the opening trilogy marks the end of an era in his career - and he now plans to stop making successful films. He says, "I'm going to make movies nobody wants to see. I've earned the right to fail."

If he's planning to make movies nobody wants to see, apparently the Star Wars prequels are sort of a warm-up.

We're On A Break

What with the Tivo and all the DVDs and the unreliable mail service, Stephanie has floated the idea of temporarily discontinuing Netflix. This is sad, since Netflix is among the greatest things in the known universe, especially if you, like me, are unable to gauge the true importance of things.

With so much precious Netflix goodness left on our ever-expanding queue, it's hard to let go. But we already downgraded to the two-at-a-time, four-movies-a-month plan, and we still haven't been able to watch even that many movies for the past two months. Partly this is because the last three things Netflix sent us disappeared in the mail, lost to a larcenous neighbor or postal employee. But partly we are bad at watching them, letting theatrical outings or television consume our free time instead.

Even as we adjust to Tivo, the problem of entertainment inundation remains, just as it had existed before Tivo. The fact that Tivo does not exacerbate the problem does not mean that it alleviates it.

So perhaps it is time to bid a temporary farewell to Netflix. You know, see what the room is like without any furniture in it. Get to know ourselves without Netflix, see who we are on our own. We can always get back together. But for now, maybe we'll experiment with other rental outlets. Hollywood Video or something. It's better this way. We weren't spending the quality time with Netflix that it deserved. Maybe later, when we're in a different place, more mature, Netflix can come back and we can settle down.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

A Nervous Virgin On Her Wedding Night... and Flower Drum Song

All that stuff about Tivo? Overreacting. As the title implies, I had a little case of the wedding night jitters. Now that I've had Tivo for a few days, I can see it's not a problem. The key is to think of it as a filter--the shows it picks up are for you to choose from, not something you have to watch. The fact that I've gotten nothing done in the past two days is simply an unhappy coincidence.

Thanks to Tivo, I caught all two and a half hours of Flower Drum Song, the film based on the bizarre Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about Chinese people in San Francisco. This is the movie that Tom and I caught some of when we were at Boback's apartment one time. I don't remember who else was there, but it was really weird to see a movie from the '60s that was all about Asian people.

So, Flower Drum Song? Not a great show. There are two excellent songs, "I Enjoy Being a Girl" and "Don't Marry Me." These songs are peppy and witty and fun. The rest are mostly a bore. Some of the characters are great fun, but the story often makes little sense and goes on too long. But movies about Asian Americans are few and far between, Joy Luck Club and Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle notwithstanding, so you take what you can get.

The story goes: A couple of F.O.B.s, an old father and his grown daughter, who can play "flower drum songs" on her drum with a flower on it, enter the U.S. illegally by stowing away on a cargo ship from Hong Kong. The Chinese dockworkers have a brief exchange, in Chinese, as to whether they heard grunts coming from the stowaways' crates. Soon we meet the immigrants, who, unlike the dockworkers, speak to each other in pretty good, if heavily accented, English. They have no money so the girl performs a slow, boring "flower drum song" called "A Hundred Million Miracles" to the delight of a Chinatown crowd. A Chinese-American policeman, speaking refreshingly unaccented, perfect English, hassles them for begging without a license (what test do you have to pass before they issue you that license?), but they get him to direct them to the guy they've arrived to see.

That guy turns out to be Sammy, a cool, funny-looking Chinese-American nightclub owner who speaks in the bada-bing-bada-boom ring-a-ding-ding rhythms of any good nightclub owner--kind of a Chinese Rodney Dangerfield. Turns out the FOB girl came so that she could marry Sammy, as promised by Sammy's mother. But Sammy's got a girl, the smokin' hot singer at his nightclub (also Chinese--you get the idea. Everyone in this movie is Chinese unless otherwise noted. Of course, they're played by every kind of Asian you can find.). Sammy's girl hears him talking with the FOB girl and gets mad so he buys her a convertible to console her.

Then Sammy pawns off the FOBs on a family which consists of Benson Fong (the Chinese guy, Mr. Wu, from The Love Bug, in top form), his dead wife's sister, and his sons. Fong wants to find a wife for his son, but his son is a player--sorry, I mean "playa"--and not interested. A younger brother wears a little league uniform and talks in hip American slang that the father can't understand. The younger brother is spunky, sassy, full of wisecracks and light on his feet, often taking the spotlight in dance numbers. As the film goes on he seems fruitier and fruitier, especially when he sings a line about wearing a Maidenform bra in "Chop Suey," a grating number that's a pastiche of pop culture references used to suggest that living in America is like a bunch of things mixed together. Yes, how incisive.

The more we see of the FOB girl the more we suspect that she's awfully dim, but it's disguised because you can't tell where the foreigner ends and the retard begins. The sister-in-law forces Benson Fong to let the son fall in love with the FOB himself before forcing the marriage, because that's "love American-style." Benson Fong gives them a week to fall in love American-style.

In a side plot, Fong goes to the bank to break a hundred and gets robbed by a white guy on the way back. The sister-in-law seizes on the incident to force Fong to keep his money at the bank instead of hoarding $100 bills in a box under his bed, even though it was going to the bank, not having the box, which led to the robbery. The parents/grandparents with nothing but hundreds is a familiar thing in Asian families, so this was pretty funny. The stubborn old Chinese man grills the bank on their security, and when they show him the alarm switch, he hits it to test it out, throwing everyone into a panic and finally satisfying him that their security is adequate.

Complications arise when the son starts dating Sammy's girl, who is sick of Sammy not marrying her. The FOB girl is hurt when she finds out, because she loves the son after talking with him once. Sammy invites the family to his nightclub to expose his girl as a trashy lounge singer and break her up with the son. The son is shocked and gets drunk, and stays at the apartment of some seamstress who also loves him.

The FOB finds out about the overnight stay and she gets her feelings hurt again, even though nothing happened except an elaborate dream dance sequence centered on this minor seamstress character whom we never see again.

The son is a nice enough guy and good-looking, but it's never clear why he's so in demand. He must be the only eligible bachelor in Chinatown. Now he's in love with the FOB he barely knows, but she refuses to marry him because she found out he was at the seamstress's place. He doesn't try to explain the misunderstanding, so she leaves.

Now Sammy's mother is forcing Sammy to marry the FOB, even though he finally got off his ass and proposed to his nightclub girl (followed by a song and a fantasy sequence about married life, culminating in a chase through a forced perspective hallway when a monochromatic cowboy and Indian break out of the TV screen and chase them and their houseguests--truly the stuff of fever dreams, though what it's meant to say about married life I don't know.). Powerless to stop his Chinese parents and the elders' marriage "contract," Sammy tries, in song, to convince the FOB that he would be a terrible husband, but she doesn't care.

The son comes to see the FOB and teaches her how to kiss like in the movies, because apparently they don't have kisses on the planet China. Since she's still in love with him and left him for no reason, they realize they have to stop the wedding to Sammy. But how?

Inspired by a movie on TV in which a Mexican girl reveals that she's a wetback (in the process saying the word "wetback" perhaps five times more than necessary), the FOB stops the wedding by announcing that she entered the country illegally and "my back is wet." Somehow this is a problem, which is a little strange because I assumed that was the whole reason she had to get married, but the families claim that marrying her might get Sammy deported. (Maybe if they're legal immigrants but not citizens that's a problem?) The son, though, inexplicably loves her so much he doesn't care about the deportation risk so he offers to marry her instead. And Sammy marries his hot nightclub floozy, who's safe because "she came here the natural way--through her mother." So everyone's happy except the poor lovelorn seamstress who had longed for the son for years--she's left alone in her elaborate fantasy world. But hey, you can't have everything.

Cover to Cover

Hey! The Squelch is selling a collected edition of Volume 13, also known as the Year With The Worst Covers Ever. Since we couldn't give away the Gift Sets back in the day, I'm curious how well these sell for $11.99. What is Wire-O binding? Is this basically a Squelch course reader?

And as for the "About This Book" section--"Jenny McProtagonist"? Come on, guys.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Oh, Shut Up

From IMDB:

J.Lo: 'Call Me Jennifer'

Jennifer Lopez is so sick of her "J.Lo" stage name, she nearly titled her upcoming album Call Me Jennifer. The singer - who ultimately settled on Rebirth as the moniker for her new disc - is desperate to ditch her J.Lo tag so she can propel the true Jennifer into the spotlight, and bury the reputation attached to her alter-ego. She says, "I'm not J.Lo, she's not a real person. She was just a bit of fun that got really crazy. I've never been anyone but Jennifer. I was going to call the album Call Me Jennifer because that would be my way of saying goodbye to the whole J.Lo thing. But Rebirth is perfect because it means so much more."

God forbid the title should reflect the music, or anything artistic, or anything other than you, you, you. Don't introduce an obnoxious nickname into the world that all of us have to put up with once the media snaps it up, then complain that it's caught on so big. We've all hated "J.Lo" for years--they're not going to stop just because you've finally come around. Maybe you'll stop being treated like a hollow celebrity shell if you do some work that isn't wholly consumed with telling us how we should view you. Something that lets us make up our own minds based on its quality and your talent. No, that would be too hard.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

I've Made a Huge Mistake

So I successfully set up the Tivo I got for Christmas. Very exciting, the dream of several years now come to fruition. Sarah assures me it will change the way I watch TV forever. For 12.95 a month, it better. Actually, I have a gift subscription, so I won't have to worry about paying until next year.

Once I waited the requisite 4 hours after setup to start programming it (why does it take so long?), Stephanie and I went through and selected all the shows we want to watch and might want to watch, as well as a bunch of old movies, which Stephanie likes to watch. Considering that we have trouble keeping up with our Netflix as it is, Stephanie pointed out that between cable, Netflix, and now the hypothetical price of Tivo, we're now paying about $80 a month for access to a volume of entertainment media we can't possibly consume, and that's not even including what we pay to see movies in theaters, or DVDs we purchase, as if there's ever time to watch something, let alone re-watch it.

It's insane. We're over-entertained. The amount of entertainment we have is no longer a comfort but a source of stress. How much entertainment are we missing out on because of troublesome things like school, jobs, friends, love, meals? Scratch that, meals are a chance to watch TV. We need more meals, actually--that would give us more precious entertainment-consuming time. We're not getting our money's worth! Portable DVD players in airports are not a luxury but a necessity--we must seize every spare moment to be entertained. There's no time to be bored, not at $12.95 a month, $19.95 a month, $48.98 a month. Every second you're bored, every hour you read a book is money down the drain.

Unless you paid for that book. Then you'd better read it, and fast.

How many books did I get for Christmas? Four? Plus the one I bought myself shortly before. How many DVDs? Two Hitchcock box sets plus Napoleon Dynamite plus a Twilight Zone DVD--what, eighteen? That's what, thirty-six hours of entertainment? Not counting special features?! Wait, Lydia gave me Azumanga Daioh (appreciated, this post notwithstanding). So, thirty-eight. I still haven't watched the commentary on my Freaks & Geeks set. And I wanted to re-watch those sans commentary too. I've given up on ever hearing the Futurama commentary. Good thing I resisted the pull of the Seinfeld set at Costco today--I've seen those multiple times already.

I forgot about video games. Is there time to continue making my way through True Crime, to take another crack at Making the Moon in Katamari Damacy? To get tricky in SSX3 just for the hey of it? How many hours will that take?

Meanwhile Tivo is set to deliver hours more entertainment on an ongoing basis. Am I a fool? I should have an entertainment embargo! I should cancel cable for the next six months, until all my entertainment is cycled through. Stephanie would never stand for it. While she got into selecting old movies on the Tivo, she prefers the spontaneous nature of old-school television. I guess in some ways it is comforting. If you missed it, you missed it. Don't worry about it. It's not piling up in some digital storage center, adding to your guilt-inducing unwatched Netflix, your shelves full of DVDs, your stacks of unread books, Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weeklys (a guide to Entertainment? How many hours have I spent reading about entertainment, comment on entertainment, Internet message boards responding to entertainment, critics on entertainment? I waste too much time reading about entertainment and not enough being entertained!).

How can anyone consume so much media? Why is there so much? What have we done? There's a Twilight Zone story in this somewhere. And it ends with the guy breaking his glasses.