Thursday, March 31, 2005

Internet Sensation!

I would hope everyone's seen this (it's been on Boing Boing after all, but Zack didn't blog it) but if you haven't, where have you been? (Don't say Hawaii.)

Basically, a college girl (whose name has now been changed on the site, unless you look at the page address, which as of now remains unchanged) IMed a guy offering to pay him to write a paper on Hindu for her, and he decided to write a purposely bad paper to see if she would turn it in, and if so, he would bust her for plagiarism.

Much more detailed than that if you read about it, and check out the follow-up stories, and the hundreds of comments debating the ethics of plagiarism versus the ethics of maliciously (and publicly) busting someone for plagiarism. I guess it's been one of those "big on the 'net" things this week. I fall unabashedly in the no-sympathy camp, but then, I like meanness.

Besides, asking a total stranger on the Internet to write a paper for you and then blaming the stranger for shafting you is like sticking your hand in a fire and blaming the fire for burning you. Okay, not quite. But you get the idea. It's late.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Champion Editon

This message board features an intriguing, astonishingly long debate on the the most pressing issue of the day: How many five-year olds could you take in a fight?

The question: How many 5 year-olds could you take on at once?

The specifics:

- You are in an enclosed area, roughly the size of a basketball court. There are no foreign objects.
- You are not allowed to touch a wall.
- When you are knocked unconscious, you lose. When they are all knocked unconscious, they lose. Once a kid is knocked unconscious, that kid is "out."
- I (or someone else intent on seeing to it you fail) get to choose the kids from a pool that is twice the size of your magic number. The pool will be 50/50 in terms of gender and will have no discernable abnormalities in terms of demographics, other than they are all healthy Americans.
- The kids receive one day of training from hand-to-hand combat experts who will train them specifically to team up to take down one adult. You will receive one hour of "counter-tactics" training.
- There is no protective padding for any combatant other than the standard-issue cup.
* The kids are motivated enough to not get scared, regardless of the bloodshed. Even the very last one will give it his/her best to take you down.


There's way too much to actually read, but if you skip around a bit you'll find plenty to enjoy. There are those who believe they could take on hordes of weak little children.

Are you allowed to use one the kids to wield at other kids ala a sword? It is not hard at all to swing them around and if so then i have a feeling you could just swing around in a little circle and knock them all out as they get close to you.

Then there are those who believe the former are filled with bluster and hubris. These folks give the tots and their combined weight more credit:

Probably a couple of them would work their way behind you and get on the ground and like 7 or 8 of them would bull-rush you from the front forcing you to trip. Once you're on the ground, 4 or 5 of them would be responsible for securing each arm and leg, and the remaining ones would just stomp on your head until you are unconscious.

This is via Waxy, a Boing Boing source.

Monday, March 28, 2005

One Stop Skate Shop

My sister's old make-believe skate shop/team site is still up, and it's even linked to from other sites.

Only two years defunct, it's pretty funny to look at now.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Not a Big Limp Bizkit Fan

The Bowling for Soup song “1985” (actually a cover of something by SR-71 according to an Amazon user) won’t get out of my head. It doesn’t seem like it ought to be so special, but the hook is very catchy and the lyrics strike me as oddly poignant for a novelty song.

The nostalgia hits just the right chord, gelling perfectly with the hook of the chorus, pulling you into the wistfulness of the song. This is nostalgia at its most affecting—it uses pop cultural touchstones, sure, but not for their own sake. Here they’re emblematic of what we’re really longing for when we romanticize the past—not only lost youth but dashed dreams and squandered opportunities.

Like many rock and punk songs, “1985” holds up stable suburban married life as an example of undesirable drudgery. It’s a pop music cliché. But in this song, Debbie’s original “plan”—“She was gonna be an actress/She was gonna be a star/She was gonna shake her ass/On the hood of Whitesnake’s car”—is so shallow and inane, so absurdly dumb and farfetched, that it’s not a genuine missed opportunity at all. It’s an adolescent fantasy that adult Debbie must realize would have been unwise or impossible, but which she longs for all the same—it would have been fun. After all, who wouldn’t want to shake her ass on Whitesnake’s car?

The hopelessness of her old fantasy, in a way, frees her from the burden of feeling she’s made the wrong choices. Probably she hasn’t. What she wants is to have never made any choices at all—for time to have stood still. Her adult responsibilities—her “yellow SUV” and “two kids in high school” were perhaps inevitable. And she’s stuck looking backward.

It’s a sad song, really, but full of genuine affection for the past—its pop culture and the feelings they embodied. Pop culture evokes feeling in this song, not just pointless cleverness. It's not really about how Springsteen and Madonna were better than what came after, it's about "Why am I so old?" (A lesson Carl Weber might do well to learn.)

I don’t like the video much. When songs have stories, videos seldom follow them closely enough for me. The video cheapens the song (which I'm sure I'm giving way too much credit) and spoils the story I have built up in my head. Too much screen time spent on the band, and actually seeing her writhe on a car is distracting in the wrong way. It’s a good way to hear the song, though, if you haven’t before. Just do me a favor and minimize the window once the song is playing, at least the first time you hear it.

*UPDATE: The SR-71 version, now linked above, has a few different lyrics, most notably her longing for her "fairy tale" with her high school quarterback, and hinting that her life went downhill when "the rubber broke." I like this version less, probably because I'm used to the other one, but also because I think the song is more universal the other way. It's easy to blame a fluke like a broken rubber; owning up to your own choices is tougher and more touching.

Neo This

This is from scriptsales.com but I found it on this kid's blog.

Title: NeoPets
Log Line: Centers on virtual pets who live in a world known as Neopia.
Writer: n/a
Agent: n/a
Buyer: Warner Bros. Pictures
Price: n/a
Genre: Family Animation
Logged: 3/24/05
More: To be based on the kids Web site. Dylan Sellers and NeoPets’ Doug Dohring will produce this CGI-animated film.

Are you guys still into that, or is that over now?

Frazz

Have I reviewed the comic strip Frazz before? I can't remember. But I just posted this comment on a comic strip blog and I think I'll put it here too.

Frazz annoys the crap out of me. It’s way too pleased with itself for being smart. Calvin and Hobbes took the curse off because when Calvin wasn’t saying wise, pithy things, he was falling off cliffs on his wagon. Or Hobbes was calling him out on his stupidity.

Plus, when points were made through Hobbes’ wisdom, he’d have the decency to actually use some cutting sarcasm to mock Calvin’s ignorance. Frazz is toothless, soft-touch, passive-aggressive intellectual snobbery. When Frazz scores a hit on the teachers, his smarmy, knowing wisecracks land so lightly and so smugly the strip practically overflows with self-satisfaction, patting itself on the back for being smart and congratulating itself for not being too mean. It hits you over the head with its literary allusions and demands that you be impressed.

Plus, Frazz (or the main kid in the strip) always gets the last word, and it always teaches a wise lesson in a condescending way that would make the other person feel small.

The fact that they are always portrayed as superior to the teachers and never the butt of a punchline themselves renders them as completely unsympathetic (unlike, say, Get Fuzzy, where Rob can sarcastically put down Bucky one day and be the geeky butt of the joke himself the next). Frazz and his sidekick have no flaws. They’re smarter and wiser than their superiors, and they’re irritating about it. Why is Frazz a janitor if he’s so smart? And what kind of creepy janitor is so close with the kids that he hangs out with them outside of school?

Life on Mars

I started watching Veronica Mars in hopes of finding a one-hour show I could stomach, and now I'm into it. I had to sacrifice Scrubs to watch it, but now they're putting the American version of The Office on in that time slot too.

Sarah, I feel your pain. Honestly, why couldn't they keep that show on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday? At least I don't watch House.

The American version of The Office, incidentally, hasn't proven itself yet, but I want to give it a chance for a while longer. I've seen both seasons of the British version, though not the Christmas special. The original is brilliant, painfully awkward with an undercurrent of quiet desperation. Uncomfortable and yet full of heart, it's worth the praise people throw at it, though it does annoy me when people use it to claim that British humor is universally "better."

Lots of people online are up in arms over the remake, claiming it's a travesty. I think it has the potential to be a decent show if it can distinguish itself from the original. I saw a clip of the American one before I ever saw the British one and I thought it was funny in that awkward, uncomfortable way. That said, the American one does lack nuance in comparison to the original. It retains the long pauses but the character reactions are more on the nose. That, and you can't stop comparing the cast to the original's. No matter how good they are, they'll never match the original cast, not necessarily because the originals are more talented (though they arguably are) but because people will always cling to the image of the first person they saw in a specific role. I saw a stage production of The Sound of Music before the Julie Andrews movie and I had trouble seeing Maria as a blonde after that.

It wasn't until Mystery Science Theater 3000 moved to the Sci-Fi channel and retooled its frame story, changing a bunch of characters, that I found myself as comfortable with Mike Nelson as I had with Joel. It seemed like the show was Mike's at that point, instead of being Joel's show with a different face.

My point is that the American Office can be funny with all the talent behind it, but first it has to find its own voice, as its own show. It helps that episodes from here on will have original scripts instead of remaking the British one, but it will still take a while for it to get out from under the shadow of Ricky Gervais. You can watch a surprisingly long clip from the second episode here.

Of course, now I can't, thanks to the vagaries of scheduling. I've invested a lot of time getting caught up with Veronica Mars and I don't want to quit now. Setting a VCR in addition to TiVo makes me sad.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Go Go Gadget

So the PSP can play movies, which apparently is a big deal to all the magazines doing little blurbs on it. Does anyone else think that is just stupid? Apparently you’ll also be able to import files on memory sticks or something, which sounds mildly useful, maybe, but the idea of re-buying movies on a PSP-exclusive disc for twenty bucks a pop is moronic. If they couldn’t make it compatible with an existing DVD format, it doesn’t seem worth it.

Game Boy has something like this, cartridges that play Nickelodeon cartoons or something, but that's more a novelty for kids, not something that's being promoted as a huge new multi-function media product.

The price of portable DVD players has dropped enough by now that if watching movies is your thing, you’re far better off springing for the DVD player and watching movies you already own. The all-in-one DVD player functionality of the PS2 won people over because it added value (when it wasn’t wearing out systems prematurely). No one would have been excited if the PS2 forced you to buy special DVDs that didn’t work anywhere else.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I Played Pool With Him and We Hung Out

Remember when Jackie Chan movies were awe-inspiring rather than embarrassing? When watching them made you want to be Jackie Chan, rather than pity him?

The lousy movies I'm referring to are Chan's two "superpower" debacles, The Tuxedo and The Medallion. Tuxedo is Hollywood's fault but Medallion was a foreign production, yet it included Claire Forlani anyway. Also, Around the World in 80 Days, which I still want to see, but the fact that it's embarrassing to admit that doesn't say much for it.

So how did I miss this? Jackie Chan's gone back to the Police Story well and made a real Hong Kong movie again: New Police Story.

Actually, it's hard to say he's going back to any particular "well" besides the cop movie genre as a whole. Police Story was always a generic title for a franchise, and there was never much continuity in the series after Police Story II anyway. Granted, age is age and he's not as spry as he was in his prime, but the relatively recent Accidental Spy was still impressive, and if he can bring his game to that level I'll be happy.

How long has this been out? It looks like it was in theaters (in Hong Kong anyway) as of last September. I've been out of the loop.

Buzzworthy

Dan Freedman and I saw a free screening in Hollywood last night. A very rough cut of a movie, really a test screening, with the surveys and everything. I won't mention the name because it would be unfair to start putting negative buzz on the Internet based on a rough product, and because this poor movie has its work cut out for it anyway. I'll be sure to elaborate if and when the thing ever limps into theaters or, more likely, directly into video stores. The test scores can't have been good.

The movie, a comedy, was so ill-conceived and poorly-constructed, but most of all, so thuddingly unfunny, that it fueled our conversation all the way home. Unfortunately, its awfulness also stuck in my head. I couldn't stop thinking about it and ultimately its shoddiness infiltrated my dreams. My subconscious continued wrestling with just why it was so bad long after I'd drifted off into what turned out to be less-than-restful sleep.

Also, I ended up dreaming about being kept up all night, exhausted. It wasn't until I started to wake up that I realized I had actually been sleeping.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Quarter of a Century Man

Oh, yeah. It's my birthday. I've been scooped on this story, but there you go.

Like Jessica Simpson, I prefer to think of 25 as "almost mid-twenties" even though it is the very definition of mid-twenties. I'll decide when I'm in my mid-twenties, thank you very much, and I plan to be much more successful than this by the time I'm in my mid-twenties. This may mean that I'll be stuck in my early twenties forever, but so be it.

Swag!

Some members of our sitcom writing class went to a table reading of Two and a Half Men tonight. We were in the studio with the Two and a Half Men stage and the cast sat at a table and read a script. It was an event for the Academy of Television something-something, maybe to impress Emmy voters or something. I don’t know. The point is it wasn’t a regular table read, it was kind of a performance.

Afterwards there was a reception and we went over behind the set where they had catered food and we could mingle with the cast and writers. We didn’t do too much of that. We talked to some recent USC alumni with jobs on the show, and one of the writers. And a couple of our party got Jon Cryer’s autograph. He seemed very friendly and approachable.

As for the food, well, we’d eaten before going, but I had a Rice Krispie treat, which tasted good, like homemade ones, not crappy, like store-bought ones, and a brownie, which was pretty good too. Afterward I didn’t know what to do with my plastic plate. I wandered around a bit looking for a trash can, but then a woman came by with a tray and asked to take my plate and I put my trash right there on the tray. Awesome.

And we got parting gifts! A fancy set of leather coasters with “Two and a Half Men” embossed on them. Score!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Lesbian Schoolgirls With Guns

There, the title of this post should earn me a few extra hits from determined porn seekers willing to page through to the hundredth page of Google results.

This music video from the D.E.B.S. soundtrack features a pretty good song and plays up the lesbian angle much more than the film’s trailer (which, if you didn't click on it before, you might want to now that you know it's about lesbian schoolgirls with guns). I don’t like the singer’s lip piercing but I do like her tie, skirt and Converse sneakers.

I’m not sure how I can get Stephanie to see this movie with me.

Again, the reason this matters beyond the obvious (lesbian schoolgirls) is that the director, Angela Robinson is also helming Herbie: Fully Loaded. And did you know that Herbie is really a coming-out story?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Yeah Right

Jamie Foxx follows up his Oscar win with Stealth, a trashy popcorn picture from XXX director Rob Cohen, with a premise so preposterous and absurd you don't buy it for a minute. I'm referring, of course, to the idea that one of the world's top fighter pilots is a woman.

Almost as silly is the plot concerning a revolutionary new computerized self-piloting plane that threatens to replace our pilot heroes until--wait for it--it gets struck by lightning and--wait for it--becomes self-aware and--wait for it--turns against us! Ahh.

Dang it, why do they keep doing that? It's enough to make you not want to build superintelligent machines with deadly capabilities. Almost. The sad part is that you want to laugh but computerized planes, flown remotely if not by unintentionally sentient AI, are real and were probably the inspiration for this thing. Have Hollywood's cautionary tales taught us nothing?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Rain: Checked

The spring break trip to Japan has been pushed back to the end of the school year. My scholarship deadlines, and more importantly, Stephanie's comprehensive exam, on which her graduation hinges, have conspired to make leaving the country for ten days extremely impractical, not to mention stressful. We tried to figure out ways to make it work, but ultimately it wasn't working out and a last-minute change of plans was in order.

We'll be going after Stephanie's graduation in May, and perhaps we can take advantage of that timing to add a few days to the trip, which was kind of squeezed short as it was.

So it's pushed back again. Eventually I will go to Japan.

Ha Ha, They're Bad At Sports

Hey, isn't it funny when kids play sports poorly? Glad you agree. 1976's The Bad News Bears wasn't too terribly old when I was young, and I used to enjoy it when it, or its indistinguishable sequel (not the one in Japan), came on TV. We've now reached that frightening point where the movies and TV shows of the late '70s/early '80s are ripe for the remaking (see the upcoming Dukes of Hazzard movie), but it's still a little jarring to see a remake of something that even I remember the first time around.

Witness the underwhelming trailer for Billy Bob Thornton in The Bad News Bears. It seems promising that it's directed by Richard Linklater, who apparently enjoyed working with kids in School of Rock, but the jokes here are so dry they've evaporated.

Sure, kids getting hit with baseballs is funny, you say, but it's old hat by now? Well, what about kids who are bad at soccer?

Fear not, Will Ferrell and American Wedding's Jesse Dylan have got you covered with Kicking and Screaming, which only sounds like a remake since it's a title that's been used not too long ago.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

You Could Hump That Hood

I haven't mentioned yet how I'm in love with the new Ford Mustang. Some of you may remember that I've been anticipating it for some time, ever since I saw the concept version two years ago. Now they're on the streets and my heart goes pit-pat every time I see one.

I want one so bad. I know, they're barely better than an SUV in terms of fuel economy and practicality, but if you're going to selfishly despoil the earth I think this is way more worth it and at least you don't block people's view on the highway, overflow out of parking spaces, roll over if someone leans too far in one direction, or cause the unnecessary deaths of those in vehicles smaller than a tank. The mileage is 19/28 manual-19/25 auto, but I've read that it's a bit worse in reality as opposed to the Ford website.

They're gorgeous. All I've ever wanted from a Mustang was a modern version built to look like the classics from the late '60s, and finally they've realized there's no reason not to mimic that look as closely as possible. One old friend of mine claimed that the new Mustangs were bad, and that Ford was trying to make them look "European." I don't know where he gets that, unless by "European" he means "an auto design that doesn't look like ass," which is admittedly rare when it comes to American companies. But this is American a look as Mustang has had in thirty years, far and away the best Mustang since the fuel crisis of the seventies brought about the "Mustang II," basically an unrecognizable compact car with a horse on it.

After I get Stephanie her Mini, the Mustang is next in line.

*Post altered 3/14/05: Title changed from "F***er Only Runs Downhill" to the current title. New title is a quote from last week's Arrested Development episode, in which George Sr., the fugitive father currently hiding out in the attic, complains about never getting to go out. His son Michael points out that he saw him at the Ford dealership the other day. George Sr. replies: "Have you seen the new Ford Mustang? You could hump that hood!" Indeed. If I'd seen that episode before I wrote this post it would no doubt have been my title.

Friday, March 04, 2005

All Good Under the Hood

The moment I've been waiting for for the past few months is here: The Herbie: Fully Loaded trailer has arrived. If you care about me at all, not clicking on this is not an option.

The good:
-The trailer has an obvious reverence for Herbie.
-The cast seems to be having fun with it, playing just the right level of reality. Matt Dillon hits just the right tone as the rival/villain: "That car's alive! It's mocking me! Look!"
-Lindsay Lohan manages to not look overly hung over.
-Stunts look well done.
-"Herbie, she's too young for you." Lohan's best line in the trailer, and the moment where she appears to actually have a connection with the car.
-The trailer music choices fit well, except for the "Here we go!" and when the techno track that kicks in after "Let's race."

The bad:
-I'm not fond of the movement toward eyelids and "facial expressions," which Herbie always did without before. For the most part it's not too bad, except for the scene where Herbie makes the scary CGI face to scare Dillon. The scene where Herbie beats up Dillon is one of the highlights, so it's sad to see it go from one of the high points straight to the lowest point.
-Some of the stunt CGI looks unfinished, but I'm sure that will improve by the release date.
-I'd prefer if we didn't get such a clear "showroom shot" right at the beginning. It weakens the reveal. But maybe it's necessary to jog the memory of those with less Herbie consciousness.
-Sound effects, like Herbie's horn, and the "booga-booga" noise that accompanies the scary face, are uncomfortably cheesy and hopefully will not be the same in the finished film. Also, I don't think we need buzzing and whirring sound effects when Herbie's "eyes" move--it seems too much like a robot.
-Sped-up footage with the wheelie scene and the bouncing hydraulics scene makes the effects look fake.

I hope the CGI face-making is part of a dream, or kept to an absolute minimum, because it's awful. Other than that I'm still excited. I can't count how many times I've watched the trailer already. I'm interested to hear what normal people would think based on this.

*ADDENDUM: To get a sense of my enthusiasm, of what this means to me, remember what a big deal Star Wars Episode I was for many people--the first new Star Wars movie since their childhood, a franchise for which they'd held an irrational, lifelong affection built on its ties to their youth. I didn't give a crap about Star Wars but the anticipation people had for Episode I is what I have for Herbie: Fully Loaded. That CGI scary face is me getting my first glimpse of Jar Jar Binks, and hoping against hope that he won't ruin the entire experience. The only difference is that I'm pretty sure Herbie: Fully Loaded cannot possibly be as disappointing as Star Wars Episode I.

Knock on wood.

Also, to Matt--yeah, I too thought it was a little weird that they would show a clip so obviously from the ending.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

She Should Be In The CNBA (That’s The NBA For Cats)

Speaking of Catwoman, for class this week we were supposed to watch the first act so that we could talk about why it doesn’t work. This was especially rough because the library doesn’t have a copy yet, so I had to pay to rent it.

Catwoman is actually pretty surprising, since it’s awful in ways you don’t even expect, indeed, awful in ways you never imagined possible. Every scene offers brand new, never-before-seen ways for movies to suck. Amazingly, the mediocre and ungracious Halle Berry is the least of the movie’s problems. Sure, she’s bad in it, but in a film this far from good, anyone would be. It’s embarrassing to watch, but she probably does about as well acting like a cat as anyone could ask. The supporting cast is far more painful, and seems to go out of its way to make her look as good as possible in comparison.

First of all, the editing: This movie looks like it was cut together by a hyperactive toddler on a sugar high having an epileptic fit. I fully expected the action scenes to be cut to incoherent tatters, as that’s standard hackwork on sub-par big-budget Hollywood action, but surprisingly, the action scenes were the only places where the editing made any sense at all. Still not totally coherent, but there was some rhythm and flow to the scenes, and all the action at least made the pace of the editing seem to fit.

The startling part is that every other scene is cut the same way. Even simple dialogue scenes don’t seem to hold a shot for more than a second at a time. We’re constantly cutting in close, then back to wide, then we’re looking at the room from the opposite direction. It keeps you feeling nauseous and unbalanced, and then when they do hold a shot for a normal length of time, you get nervous wondering how long it’ll last. When it’s not cutting, the camera’s moving, swinging around with big steadicam movements that enhance your nausea. On the upside, it does distract from the empty drama and laughable exposition, which I’m assuming was bad even though the editing was so distracting I could barely pay attention.

Overuse of CGI: Every single establishing shot in the movie utilizes a computer-generated, Spider-Man-style flyover, which quickly grows tiresome and just makes you think about how every location was rendered rather than found or built. There’s an animated cat for a shot where all it does is meow (or “mew,” if you’re Simon). Why? Just to add one more unconvincing element? Catwoman herself is also constantly changing from a real person to a cartoon, and while the transitions between them are smooth, you can always, always tell when you’re looking at a fake person.

Cat Powers: This version suggests that Catwoman is the Spider-Man of cats, i.e. she “does whatever a feline can.” So after Berry is revived by cyber-cat, she is super-coordinated and has feline grace. She also seems to have some kind of hyper-aware kitty sense, where faraway birds and skittering bugs startle her. No wonder cats are so jumpy. She eats tuna from the can, leaps up to the second floor of a building, and sleeps on a shelf. Other things cats are naturally great at apparently include: Playing basketball, cutting and styling one’s own hair, riding a motorcycle at incredible speed, and martial arts.

Cats must also like wearing leather. I didn’t watch far enough to see the hooker-dominatrix suit with the rat hat, but I did see the outfit she cuts up to make it, which looks about a million times better—in fact it’s even kind of cool, which makes it that much more painful to realize she’s going to ruin it later in the movie.