Monday, October 31, 2005

There's No "The" In Family

Family Guy got put on that one list of family-unfriendly TV shows. I heard some guy talking about it on the radio, and he was talking about how he liked the show and it's the responsibility of parents to be smart enough to not let kids watch it even if they want to, etc., etc. Nice to see he also saw the South Park movie.

But it was bugging the crap out of me because he kept calling the show The Family Guy. I don't even like the show, but I know what it's called. This is supposed to be the guy's favorite show and he doesn't even know the right name of it?

At USC, the extraneous "the" was also there in an email about one of the show's writers speaking on campus last week.

Now I just saw the same thing in this Salon column referencing the list. Aha! Here's the problem. The PTC got the title wrong in its actual list, so everyone writing about it takes their word for it.

That is all. The lesson is, for correct TV show titles, don't take the word of people whose job is to hate TV.

Not So Hot

Hotmail be down like a motherfucker. All day. What up with that?

Prostitute Or Treat*

Hello, fair readers. I wish you a merry All Hallow's Eve, unless that is the Hallowe'en equivalent of Christmas Eve and therefore was actually last night. If it means what I think it does**, then see the first clause of the previous sentence. If I am in fact ignorant and wrong, well, it woudn't be the first time.

No, wait, it would.

Anyway, I felt it was incumbent upon me to post tonight, and you know what they say about incumbents: they have the advantage, unless they're horribly unpopular, assuming the challenger is a competent campaigner. But I'm not here to talk politics. I'm here to sit at home and blog on Hallowe'en night.

This is something of a tradition here at Herbie the Love Blog, one that goes back even further than our new tradition of misleading links. Take a stroll back through the archives for the past few months and take note of how many posts go up during the prime hours for Having a Life (i.e. Friday and Saturday nights). Having established a pattern, it seemed wrong to spend an uneventful Hallowe'en night at home and not do a bit of blogging to immortalize it.

What do you want to talk about? We can just do whatever.

Here are some post ideas I've had lately. Tell me what strikes your fancy and I'll blog about it!

Herbie: Fully Loaded on DVD: This post would offer my mostly positive thoughts on the DVD release of the hit film starring Lindsay Lohan. It would also review my still-evolving opinion of the film upon further repeat viewing. The post would discuss how I seemed to enjoy the film even more on the small screen, and raise the question of whether that is due to my history of watching Herbie movies exclusively on video or whether it is due to my getting used to and accepting Herbie's increased expressiveness (though "facial" expressions and sound effects).

Get Rich or Die Trying: This brief post would comment on the controversy stirring over the promotion of 50 Cent's film, and the charges that it promotes guns and gang violence among its target market of urban youths. The post would take a stance along the lines of this being nothing that 50 Cent's widely-listened music doesn't already do.

Chicken Little: This post, under consideration since I saw the underwhelming Chicken Little trailer at a Herbie: Fully Loaded theatrical showing way back in June, would evaluate Chicken Little's potential, or lack thereof, for reinvigorating Disney's animated feature department. It would also express my opinion that the characters' appearances are unappealing and dull, and that the prolonged "chicken dance" featured in the trailer I saw seemed a laborious attempt to manufacture a sensation.

On second thought, I no longer want to write any of these posts.


*Q: You know why they say "Trick or Treat?"
A: Because Hallowe'en is when women dress like prostitutes and have sex for money! Which is a treat. Get it?***

**I think it means the same thing as Halloween/Hallowe'en.

***That joke was rather inappropriate considering I found it on a popsicle**** stick.

****Although more understandable considering it was a popsicle shaped like a penis*****.

*****That was a very embarrassing popsicle to eat******.

******Which is why I threw it away and just kept the stick*******.

*******Okay, I didn't.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Quartermaster

Wow! I never even heard about this! When did it even happen? I must have been notified through an email address I never check.

My script, Escape From Pleasanton Middle School, was a quarterfinalist in the 2005 Cynosure Screenwriting Awards, in the Female Protagonist category. And the list of quarterfinalists in this contest is encouragingly small.

This is officially a solid quarterfinalist script. It was also a Scriptapalooza quarterfinalist, and an Austin Film Festival Second Rounder, which is essentially a quarterfinalist by another name.

Maybe with a rewrite it could actually win something.

Stores Are Open

Hells yeah. American Shopper is online.

Everything's Archie

Archie comics are now written by space aliens, with a information-transmittal delay of several years and only the most rudimentary grasp of human culture and behavior. Those current Archie writers who are not aliens are two hundred years old.

This BoingBoing post links to a sad, hilarious Archie comic called “She’s Goth to Have it,” in which Betty becomes a goth because her friends ignore her Rice Krispie treats. The comic seems to be originally scanned by this guy.

Let's break it down, just to belabor the obvious:

1) They’re at least ten years too late in noticing that goths exist. It was pretty silly when the characters used to say “groovy” all the time, but at least they caught onto that slang when it was still the ‘70s, and they caught onto Beatniks when it was still the ‘50s. This is just embarrassing.

2) I suppose it’s admirable that the story doesn’t trot out your typical goth stereotypes. But they seem to have invented arbitrary new stereotypes that are not only unrelated to goths, but call into question whether the writers even know what a goth is. According to this story, being a goth involves black clothes, crazy hair, and book-reading. That is, when it doesn’t involve colorful clothes, plain hair, and coffee-drinking. Goths will even try newfangled beverages like “chai” or “java,” whatever those are. So drinking coffee equals goth, now? If that’s not what they’re trying to say, then there’s an odd overemphasis on coffee in the story.

3) Okay, Archie, Reggie and Veronica are just being jerks. They’re ignoring Betty for no reason. And they’re stupid—who wouldn’t at least take a Rice Krispie treat? On the other hand, if they’re really ignoring her because she’s not “interesting” (which here seems to mean simply the way she dresses), then that’s unforgivable. Who needs them? And do they come around because of her new look or because she’s ignoring them? Did she really need to turn goth or did she just need to ignore them for an afternoon? What kind of lesson is that for kids? If your friends don’t like you, change yourself and ignore them and they’ll come around. And speaking of which, did this story really need to be compressed into a single day? Was it not unbelievable enough? Did the emotional stakes really need to be any more cheapened?

4) No one has ever, ever become a goth because their friends didn’t want their Rice Krispie treats. Ever.

Now, I grew up reading Archie comics, and I realized long ago that they hadn’t actually resembled real teenage life for decades, if ever. But they used to be funny, and the stories used to be smart, and make sense, and the characters reacted to each other in believable ways. Aside from how obviously out-of-touch it feels in every respect, from the obligatory video game references to—well, coffee—the character interactions are completely stilted and illogical.

It's not immediately apparent in this story, but they've also watered down their stories to remove any hint of genuine conflict, danger, or emotion. Pranks and rivalries are now exclusively childish and slapstick* where they used to be sometimes clever or even cruel. Reggie's another bland pal, evil schemes are always harmless, and no one ever does anything mean (except in stories like this, where appalling meanness goes unacknowledged or even unnoticed by the clueless writer). No conflict equals boring stories where people turn goth for no reason and being goth has nothing to do with even the posturing of sadness (okay, so Reggie uses the word "dismal"). Archie comics are in a pathetic state, indeed.

*Even worse, unlike older artists who could render slapstick in dynamic, fluid artwork that gave pratfalls qualities of weight and motion and humor, the current crop can barely draw human figures in natural poses when they're stationary. So even the slapstick is less funny than it was.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Buckle Up


Did you know you're not allowed to show people on TV not wearing seat belts? Okay, I'm not sure if that's true. But this is a screen shot from the Herbie DVD commercial. In the actual movie, there are no seat belts visible. What you see here are virtual seat belts, digitally added just for the TV commercial. So it's okay to make a scene in a G-rated Disney movie with characters not wearing seat belts, but it's not okay to show it on TV? Even in clips so brief that only a total nutcase would ever notice?

Note also Lindsay Lohan's digitally blanked cap, which sports a Goodyear logo in the film. Wonder what made all these alterations necessary?  Posted by Picasa

That's Very Funny, A Fly Marrying A Bumblebee


In case there was still any doubt about the existence of phraseology having to do with teaching an individual's grandmother to suck eggs, here is UK Maxim's take on it. This is from an issue I bought in London (not that you can't get UK Maxim in the states), which features a piece proving and disproving various common sayings, or "maxims" (get it?). Overall, a pretty dull, unfunny and ultimately pointless piece that long overstays its welcome. But it does include an actual picture of a grandmother sucking an egg. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 24, 2005

More Like Wireless NOTwork

Our wireless network is being flaky. It keeps telling me that there is "limited or no connectivity." When I run the repair wizard, it can't get past getting the network or IP address. The other day this was happening to Stephanie's computer and mine was fine. Now mine doesn't work and Stephanie's is fine (thus allowing me to post this). We did nothing to fix Stephanie's; it just fixed itself. This has happened before to both of us at once and then fixed itself. What's the deal?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Okay Awesome

Last night's episode of How I Met Your Mother (what a cumbersome show name), called "Okay Awesome," was really surprisingly good. Not that the show hasn't been good so far, but this episode was a standout.

The story features the characters going to an exclusive club called Okay (Neil Patrick Harris's reaction, "Awesome!" gives us the episode title). This episode effectively captures everything that is horrible and obnoxious about clubbing, which is something I have never seen on TV before.

Normally when you see characters at a club, they converse with unrealistic ease. Here, the music drowns them out and we follow the conversation with subtitles. When the main character, Ted, realizes the girl he's hitting on can't hear him and is just nodding enthusiastically regardless of what he says, he starts testing her by spouting escalating nonsense. Until, of course, the music unfortunately cuts out just as he says something embarrassing.

Before that happens, she gestures for Ted to buy her a beer, and the show touches on how difficult it is to order drinks at a club, how drastic you must be merely to get a bartender's attention. It's funny because it's true. Using confusing hand signals, the bartender tries to communicate the price. It takes a while for Ted to get it, but eventually the bartender writes it on a napkin: Two beers? $34. Ha! Later, when Marshall (Jason Segel) ditches a wine-tasting party (where drinking was postponed as they waited for the wine to peak after opening) to join them at the club, he enthuses, "Finally, I don't have to wait half an hour for a drink." Cut to half an hour later when they have finally bought their drinks. Simple joke, yes. Truth.

Meanwhile, Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) is doing his best to sneak up on girls and start grinding with them without giving them a chance to look at him. When the girl finally turns around, he realizes with horror that she is his cousin. And thus we cover the territory of grinding with complete strangers.

Robin (the girl Ted met in episode one) was their connection to the exclusive club, since she's a newscaster and thus a minor celebrity. But she's thwarted in her attempt to enter the prestigious VIP room, and after exiting the club to make a phone call, the bouncer switches and she's unable to get back in. And here is how clubs make you feel like shit for not being good enough to get in.

Ted eventually bonds with the coat check girl as they talk about how clubbing sucks because everything that's supposed to be fun actually sucks. Like parades, and amusement parks, and parades. (Ted: "I really hate parades.") Maybe this means I'm not a fun person, but I found myself relating to this sentiment, too.

The episode ends with the characters taking a cab home, shouting at each other since they've all been deafened by loud music. Have we all been there? I think we have.

I'm surprised it's taken this long for a show to go there. I know Matt has given clubbing some good-natured ribbing in the Squelch, but I mean on TV. Maybe it is too nerdy for people to admit that they don't like clubbing. Anyway, good for HIMYM. Now this show just needs a nickname.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Earth, Wind & Nick Andopolis

Jason Segel of Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared and How I Met Your Mother is dining at the Westwood branch of Earth Wind & Flour right at this very moment. We just left there and he and his female companion were, I think, just about to begin their meal.

That is so weird because we were just talking about how How I Met Your Mother is on tonight.

Girls With Guns Double Feature Part Two: D.E.B.S.

Finally rented it. It is not as stupid and embarrassing as the horrible packaging would have you believe. At Hollywood Video, every copy has a typo in the tagline (“Evil is so totaly busted.”). And the back cover has a word balloon making the main girl say “Does this gun make me look fat?” Ugh. Not funny, and not even in the spirit of the movie, really, which does it a great disservice.

D.E.B.S. is a lightweight little movie in which there is some kind of super-secret spy organization called D.E.B.S. They recruit girls through a secret spy aptitude test hidden within the SAT. All the girls wear cute little schoolgirl uniforms and go on missions while attending some kind of D.E.B.S. spy college and living in a sorority-house-style environment. Amy (Sara Foster) is the only one to get a perfect score on the secret test but actually wants to go to art school. On a mission, she encounters young, pretty supervillain Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster).

Lucy is actually looking to start dating again, and the D.E.B.S. botched stakeout interrupts her lame blind date with a Russian assassin. But she senses sparks with Amy, so she infiltrates the D.E.B.S. house and forces a date. Amy, who’s just broken up with her boyfriend, starts to fall for Lucy but cuts things off before they go too far.

So Lucy robs a bank to attract the D.E.B.S. (spies respond to bank robberies? I guess when supervillains are involved they do) and captures Amy in order to see her again. After some persuasion and a kiss, Amy goes willingly. A week later the D.E.B.S. track Amy down (after a tip from the Russian assassin, who jealously spots Amy and Lucy on a date) and find her in bed with Lucy.

Amy goes back to the D.E.B.S. and they hatch a plan to cover up Amy’s traitorous love affair. Meanwhile, a dejected Lucy gives up crime (returning stolen bags of money with a note that says "Sorry") to pursue Amy. Eventually they get together.

It’s all very sweet. The film rightly doesn’t take its own premise too seriously. The D.E.B.S. are “spies” and Lucy is a “supervillain” in name only. To make things easy for us, we learn that much of Lucy’s infamy is a matter of misunderstanding (“What about those agents you killed in Antarctica?” “Oh, them? They died of frostbite. I never even saw them.”). She almost does some evil when Amy spurns her and she starts up an evil ray gun (“Australia’s toast.” “What’s your beef with the Australians?” “I don’t like their attitude.”) but her henchman helps her talk over her issues instead.

In fact, it’s so lightweight that it doesn’t really bother with parody, at least not in a jokey sense. I think one reason that critics may have found the film lacking is that it doesn’t really send up the spy genre so much as riff on conventions. But spy parody is as old as Get Smart, and spy movies are practically self-parody by now anyway, so I respect that we can now make movies that riff on spy conventions without laboring to create redundant parodies out of them.

The obvious downside to treating the spy stuff like a kids’ game is that it’s hard to care. The action is pretty lame and the D.E.B.S scenes overall are rather dull. But what the movie cares about is the love story, which in fact is very sweet and actually works quite well.

Sara Foster and Jordana Brewster have good chemistry. As befitting a film actually directed by a lesbian, their love affair is sexy but not cheap and exploitative. Indeed, despite the lesbian-schoolgirl-spy premise, the movie never feels leering and uncomfortably porny like, say, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.

Foster does a good job of playing Amy’s conflictedness, but the story gives her little to do besides be conflicted, so she ends up being a very passive protagonist. This doesn’t help the dullness of the D.E.B.S. scenes. Brewster’s Lucy Diamond (license plate: NDASKY) is the active one here, driving the story with her pursuit of Amy.

Some may remember that I had a crush on Jordana Brewster for a little while a few years ago. This movie, featuring her more prominently than any other that I’ve seen, reminds me why. She is sexy and striking, with a smile that makes your knees go weak. You can totally buy that this is a girl who could make you do something stupid. Her acting is good, too—she’s a good listener, always in touch and in the moment with the other actors in the scene. In her going-straight (legally, not sexually) montage, she lip-synchs Erasure’s “A Little Respect,” and it’s adorable. On the commentary Brewster claims that this scene was the hardest thing for her to do in the movie, but she appears totally at ease. As a "villain" rather than a D.E.B., she doesn't appear on the poster/cover, but her role is bigger than every D.E.B. but Amy.

Between D.E.B.S. and Herbie: Fully Loaded, it’s clear that Angela Robinson’s directorial signature is to do several montages per movie using well-chosen ‘80s pop music.

I can see a movie like this playing well at a festival. It’s glossy and well-made, and it’s refreshingly light and unpretentious. Out of a festival, though, its small scale, low budget and thin story is harder to overlook.

But Jordana Brewster makes it worthwhile.

Girls With Guns Double Feature Part One: Domino

Yeah, so I saw it. It was killing me that Zack saw the girl-bounty-hunter movie and I hadn’t. I went in expecting to really hate Tony Scott for his ridiculously over-the-top emphasis on meaningless stylistic flourishes—the fast cuts to meaningless angles (which gave my friend a headache, especially after two hours), the echoing of the voice over (“My name is Domino Harvey…My name is Domino Harvey…I am I am I am a bounty hunter I am a bounty hunter.”), the arbitrary use of onscreen text (that slides on rather than simply appearing) the super-saturated color, the general senselessness of all the choices…

I usually find that self-satisfied style very obnoxious. But I actually found myself embracing it. Domino is largely a movie about style for style’s sake. It has no real purpose beyond pushing things to the extreme, and ultimately I liked it best when it was extreme. I liked it when it was most violent and nihilistic (blowing the guy’s arm off for no real reason, the chaotic massacre at the Stratosphere). I liked it when the plot got increasingly complicated and twisty, and hard to understand, but you just have to let it go and trust that eventually it may make some sense. This was pushing the narrative to needless stylistic extremes the same way Tony Scott was overdoing the visuals. I reveled in the sheer excess of it. And that Tom Waits scene? What the fuck? At these moments you’re just along for the ride on a batshit insane journey that makes no bones about how meaningless and decadent it is. “Momma Told Me Not to Come” plays and all is well.

On the other side of the coin (ha-ha!), the movie is at its worst when it pretends to have a purpose. I didn’t mind the heads-you-live-tails-you-die shit at first. Yeah, it’s annoyingly pseudo-spiritual/philosophical, but it also underscores the randomness and dumb luck through which Domino survives the events of the film. Unforgivable, however, is the ending when suddenly Domino is telling everyone that she loves them. So the moral is that she learned to love? It’s unearned and sappy. Fuck it. She’s a badass and a bunch of people get killed in a stylish way. Even if she does come to love Choco, it’s better if she doesn’t say it but we feel it. The scene with her mom was even worse.

Also, the movie is way too long. I hate that every movie is two hours long now. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is going to have an unrated cut that’s seventeen minutes longer. That movie was great, but it, too, was too long. Those extra minutes could be hilarious, but they shouldn’t be in the movie. But back to Domino. Two hours is a long time to look at a lot of stylish but pointless shit, and it should be shorter.

Keira Knightly looks great and acts very cool. I don’t know if you could really watch just the parts where she kicks ass, because honestly she doesn’t kick ass that much. But she always looks like she’s about to, which is what’s important. This is easily my favorite incarnation of Keira Knightly so far.

Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering, are, I think, attempting to do for themselves what Neil Patrick Harris did in Harold & Kumar. They’re game and it’s amusing, but I always felt a little too aware that they really were trying to jump-start their careers.

Mike's Super Painful Show

Yes, I have seen the "Mike's Super Short Show" segment that Cynthia brought up, featuring Herbie. Someone put it online here. Nothing gets past the Herbie message boards.

It is indeed very painful, mostly from the kids' very forced acting. The girl is especially bad at projecting the "sarcasm" and "attitude," while the boy is bad at just about everything. What a ham.

Also, as someone on the message board pointed out, Herbie had no problem letting a little kid drive in Herbie Goes Bananas.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Suicide, Disney-Style

For the most lovable suicide attempts ever, you want Mickey Mouse.

The Onion AV Club blog, where I found that link, also has a summing-up of the Penny Arcade vs. Harlan Ellison altercation-turned-fan-feud with all the relevant links. I hadn't read Harlan Ellison's account before.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Veronica Mars

As far as one-hour-dramas go, I don't hardly watch none. I trust that Lost would be good if I saw it, but the premise doesn't grab me and getting teased with never-solved mysteries sounds irritating. I've only seen the pilot of Desperate Housewives, but I found it unbearably smarmy and pretentious. The funny parts were funny, but the drama felt forced and obnoxious and drenched in self-pity. And actually, I was never really sure if the funny parts were supposed to be funny or if I was just laughing at the drama. Probably both, so it was hard to tell. It felt like it was trying very hard to be American Beauty with women. Maybe it's gotten better but it blew its chance with me.

My point is that Veronica Mars is an excellent show. Most episodes have self-contained mysteries so that first-time viewers will come away satisfied, while ongoing plotlines are dealt with in ever-deepening subplots. Best of all, the big mysteries actually get solved at the end of the season and are replaced with new ones.

The DVD of the first season just came out, so if that's the way you like to absorb shows, pick it up or add it to your Netflix.

The second season is a little weird so far, but things are still reeling from the climactic events of last season's finale and the turbulent events that took place over the summer (according to flashbacks in the season opener). Still, the show is finding its groove and, in addition to its routine pleasures, every episode still packs a punch of a reveal that deepens the mysteries.

For those already watching (Sarah), my favorite moments of the season so far [SEASON TWO SPOILERS, but only for already aired episodes]:

-The bus accident. It was not spoiled for me and I did not see it coming. Sudden, jarring, very much an oh-shit moment. There has been some criticism of Duncan's underreaction but I was too much in shock to notice. And the song that brought the scene home is here. I don't know if I'd like it as much if I didn't associate it with the show, but I thought it worked very well very the strange mood of that scene. Found through this blog, which does its best to identify each episode's soundtrack. Which is also generally quite good.

-All the moments with Beaver (I mean, Cassidy). Poor kid has such a pathetic expression all the time and your heart just goes out to him. I love the scene where his dad scares him and makes him spill the popcorn and Cassidy doesn't even say anything--it's not funny but he's used to putting up with this shit all the time, and then he finds the condom wrapper and this powerless character now has a very powerful piece of information. The music here was good too. All the moments I like are underscored with excellent music choices that give them just the right build.

-The dead guy on the beach, obviously.

-The scene where Dick Casablacas, Sr. makes a George-Bluth-Sr. escape ("Shred everything!"). It's so sad. Cassidy tried to help his father and destroyed his family, and his dad still couldn't give a shit about him. He watches his father leave, still not quite understanding what he's done. Great dramatic irony and it's kind of heartbreaking. I barely noticed this character last season (of course, he wasn't a regular then), but I really like him now.

There are others, of course--Logan is always good. His confrontation with Duncan last ep was a highlight. The brief hint of tears at the end of the scene--very well acted.

However, am I the only Veronica Mars fan who's no longer impressed with Kevin Smith? Ha ha, yes, he's playing a clerk. Maybe that would be funnier if Smith didn't actually go back to that convenience store so much you'd think he still worked there. And besides, when Smith is willing to pimp himself out for a limp, pointless cameo on the season premiere of Joey, I think it's safe to say his hip indie cred is spent. There is no cache to be had here. That said, his performance here was okay. If he hadn't lost my respect by retreating to safe, worn-out territory as soon as unfortunate circumstances rendered his first post-Askewniverse film a flop, I might have even enjoyed it.

END SPOILERS

Anyway, still a great show. A tad more uneven than last year, but it's smoothing out now. Besides, now they've got even more balls in the air, and it promises to be an impressive ride.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

How To Abandon Your Baby

Look, I’m not saying that all women who kill their newborns are stupid. After all, it’s the ones who get it right that we never hear about. But these girls who get caught are clearly not even thinking straight. If you’re going to kill your baby, here’s how:

Ideally, get an abortion and save yourself a world of hassle. They even dispose of the fetus for you—all part of the service. Not only don’t you have to abandon it, you don’t even have to carry it to term or give birth to it! Isn’t that wonderful? And everyone will feel a lot better because if it’s not fully developed, it’s not murder. You know, like with retards. Or cripples. But only birth cripples. That’s why it used to be okay to drown them in a bathtub. Or am I thinking of kittens? No, it was girls in China. Anyway, remember: Abortion = more socially acceptable than leaving your baby in a sealed box in a dumpster. That should be the slogan.

But what if it’s too late for an abortion? What if you missed three periods and pregnancy just didn’t occur to you as a possibility? Maybe it’s normal to go nine months with no period. Maybe it’s early menopause and a belated Freshman Fifteen, all at once. Hey, it could happen. Oops, a baby just fell out of you onto the floor of your shower. Don’t you feel dumb! Now you’ve got to get rid of it. Well, fine. Here are some tips:

1) Learn from Linda Chu:

In 1997, Linda Chu, then a 20-year-old [USC] business major living in Century Apartments, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her newborn and dropping her into a trash chute at Century.

The lesson: Don’t drop your dead baby down your own building’s trash chute. When people find a dead baby, they will probably suspect someone in your building, a category that includes you. You may think people never look in garbage. Newsflash: People sometimes look in garbage. You only get one chance to dispose of your dead baby, so do it right.

2) Learn from Holly Ashcraft:

[21-year-old USC student] Holly Ashcraft abandoned her baby in a cardboard box inside a dumpster at the rear of the 29th Street Café, said Cpt. Anita Ortega of the LAPD. Ortega said she did not think that Ashcraft had much contact with her family and lived within a one-mile radius of the cafe.

Note: According to the TV news people, “one-mile radius” = the building next door.

Okay, so you don’t dump the baby in your own building. The dumpster next door? Nice try, but still pretty lame. Have you ever seen a movie where the Mafia or somebody is trying to get rid of a dead body? Did they throw it in the dumpster next door where the homeless guy they hear digging for cans every night was sure to find it? No. They drove to some far-away place. Let this be your guide. Remember, you now have a dead person body—and yours is way easier to carry than the ones the Mafia has, so there’s no excuse.

“But I don’t want to go to a lot of trouble,” you say. “If I’d wanted that, I’d be taking care of babies instead of killing them. If I wanted that, I would listen to the bus bench ads that told me I could legally abandon surrender my baby at the hospital.”

Well, I’m sorry. Killing a baby is a big responsibility. If you didn’t want to deal with the consequences of killing a baby, maybe you shouldn’t have gotten pregnant. I know that sounds harsh, but I’m tough because I care.

Now you pick yourself up, take a deep breath, cut up that baby into unrecognizable pieces like the Mafia would, drive someplace far away, and put those pieces under ground or under water. If you choose underwater, put something in a bag with the pieces so they sink. That sounds obvious but a lot of baby-killers are clearly stupid, so you never know. These girls are supposed to be college-educated. That’s got to be embarrassing for USC.

Wait! Brainstorm! I’ve got it! Wood chipper! And that’s still from just thinking about movies. See what I mean? Take this seriously. Put some thought into it. If you don’t take the lazy way out, then good things will follow, like not spending 10 years in prison.

I Love You More Than Jews Love Money

Comedy geek darling Sarah Silverman has made a movie. I have realized I'm not actually at all familiar with Sarah Silverman's actual comedy, outside of her work on the Comedy Central Roast of Pamela Anderson, her minor Mr. Show appearances, and her various supporting roles as bitchy girlfriends.

Based on the movie trailer*, apparently her schtick is just delivering shocking lines in a dry manner ("Strippers should be role models for little girls... if only for the fact that they wax their assholes"). Somehow she brings it off, though. I'm not sure how. Is her delivery just that good? Is the material more sophisticated than I'm giving it credit for? Or is it the disarming cute-Jewish-tomboy charm? In other words, is she just a skinny Janeane Garofalo minus the pretense?

I do think she's overdue for a role with more than one dimension. Or at least a bigger one-dimensional role. Her song certainly seems to stick in my head.

*There was a better version of the trailer here, but apparently it's getting so much traffic you need to register with IGN now. Oops, or not. Now it's working. I don't get it. Anyway, use this link if you can; otherwise go through the movie website above.

Update 10/23/05: The Janeane Garofalo comparison was probably planted in my head by Sean's post on the overrated-underrated phenomenon, which I didn't realize I was ripping off when I wrote this.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Something For Nothing

Anyone know where I can download a DVD ripping program for free? I want to put American Shopper on Google Video, so that it can be ignored publicly rather than privately. But I don't expect ever needing to rip a DVD again, so I'm reluctant to actually pay a bunch of money for the software.

Everything I can find on download.com will only rip 5 minutes, or 20%, or 50% before you have to pay.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Google Video

Okay, so making fun of the Doom trailer was kind of pointless and self-evident and just plain too easy, like picking on the mentally challenged.

Google Video is mind-boggling. I wish it had existed when I was a kid, because I would have loved the idea of putting all the stupid, embarrassing videos I made on the Internet for everyone to see. It's not fair that kids today have the power to share their lame videos and I didn't. On the other hand, seeing just how un-unique I was might have put a damper on the fun.

There's a certain voyeuristic thrill in just going through the random videos and seeing what people have chosen to put online. You get these little snippets of people's lives. It's addicting to check them out, one after another. It's like a public access channel where you can flip to the next show after thirty seconds, which is all you ever really need to see (unless you're watching the public access show I work on). It's all hilariously pointless and self-indulgent. I want to ask, who did they think would watch this? except that I'm watching it, so I can't.

A lot of Google Videos tend to be tapes people made of themselves doing something. The problem is that even if what you're doing is difficult or vaguely spectacular, it's instantly cheapened by the fact that you set up a camera and taped yourself doing it. These guys and their Romie-esque antics are actually kind of impressive, although the clip goes on too long and is perhaps too self-fetishizing.

There are other DDR videos, but this one is unique in the way it thoroughly misses the point. Or maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe a true DDR freak wants to see the screen, the score, the evidence of a flawless dance. I'm just saying, maybe show the guy actually dancing at some point. Maybe.

Some of them are very random indeed. I see no reason why someone felt the need to upload something like this (Mandarin Chinese comprehension a plus but not required). Maybe it was a test of some sort.

This is thoroughly baffling. It's kind of funny, but more than a little unsettling. The less said about it, the better.

A station wagon does a wheelie. This is part of the drag race genre on Google Video.

And finally, a Japanese gum commercial. I'm not saying it's the greatest Japanese commercial I've ever seen, but come on. You can't say no to a Japanese commercial.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Deathmatched

Have you seen the Doom trailer yet? Why, you must, you simply must.

I remember back in middle school or high school or whenever it was back when I played Doom, the original Doom, and I got to the ending, and you get back to Earth, and everything is sweet and peaceful and bunny rabbits... and pan right... pan right... oh, shit!! There is a rabbit's head on a stake!! And some big thing! And, and--Hell has escaped your space station and come to Earth! What hath science wrought?! Noo!

And I was all, Oh shit, they should call the sequel "Hell on Earth." And they did, but Earth disappointingly looked a lot like Mars. And I was all, this would make an awesome movie.

Well, 14-year-old me is about to be proven dead wrong.

This movie is retarded. Did The Rock get a contract clause not to reveal that he is in the movie? The posters don't even mention him. He is smarter than we all thought.

This movie looks like a completely generic B-flick from the Sci-Fi channel, except for the snippets of FPS angles. Word is that there is a 15-minute sequence all in first-person. So, like playing Doom 3 on a huge-ass screen, except you're not playing. For me, that's probably a good thing, but for players with, you know, reflexes, that's probably a step backwards.

This Week On Arrested Development



Okay, by request:

Transcript here.

Michael continues to date British beauty Rita (Charlize Theron), whom he thinks is a preschool teacher. However, all signs point to her being a simpleton woman-child who actually attends preschool with children. At the same time, she may be a spy for her British father Dave Thomas, whose warning to Michael, "How would you like it if someone went after someone stupid in your family?" could be interpreted as threatening Michael's family or warning him away from Rita.

The Bluths get a new lawyer to replace Barry Zuckercorn (Fonzie). His name is Bob Loblaw (say it aloud).

Michael: Well, we're not here to talk nonsense to Bob Loblaw.

And Fonzie's replacement is played by Scott Baio. Get it?

Bob Loblaw: Look, this is not the first time I've been brought in to replace Barry Zuckerkorn. I think I can do for you everything he did. Plus, skew younger. With juries and so forth.


Lindsay lusts after him and uses up the family's retainer when he bills her for her clumsy attempts to seduce him.

George Sr. participates through Larry Mittleman (Super Dave Osbourne), a "surrogate" who wears a camera in his hat. George Sr. watches from his house arrest and Mittleman repeats everything George Sr. says to the others, including "Where you going? Where is the surrogate going? Stay there. I want to see what he's going to say. Don't leave."

The main story has to do with Michael lying to Rita and telling her that he has no family, because he's ashamed of them. The family, in turn, tries to do something nice for Michael by inviting Rita to their party, but end up accidentally knocking her out and drugging her to forget the incident. Gob's use of roofies (a forgettiness aid magicians refer to as "Forget-Me-Nows" to protect their secrets) retroactively explains a joke in the previous episode in which Gob offers a Bluth employee a mysterious pill after he's witnessed the secret of a magic trick.

Meanwhile, Maeby is dating Steve Holt, and George Michael's comment that older guys expect more sexually makes her nervous.

Maeby: That Steve sure knows how to please a lady.
George Michael: Good. I was hoping he would be gifted sexually. I guess it makes sense, you know, older guys expect certain things.
Maeby: They do?
George Michael: What a fun, sexy time for you.


George Michael learns that Steve is their cousin but struggles with whether to tell Maeby, since bringing that up as a negative might prevent him from pursuing her later. Eventually Maeby gives Steve Holt a roofie to trick him into thinking they slept together, although this is after Steve learns she is his cousin and no longer wants to have sex with her.

Also, Buster accidentally re-enlists in the army by accepting a medal, Tobias tries to get Buster to stand up for himself, and George Sr. tries to escape house arrest on a deckchair held up by balloons.

And Tobias reminds Lindsay that he was "a professional twice over--an analyst and a therapist. The world's first analrapist."

Tobias: Here, take my business card.
Buster: Gah!
Tobias: No, no, it’s pronounced a-nal-ra-pist.
Buster: It wasn’t really the pronunciation that bothered me.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

TomKat Armageddon

Does this seem scary to anyone else? Tom Cruise's brain-slave, the soon-to-be Kate Cruise is pregnant.

They are living their lives with the fast-forward button firmly depressed. This is feeling less like a whirlwind courtship and more like an effort to fulfill prophesies to hasten some kind of terrible apocalypse. Yes, as opposed to the good kind.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

What A Curious Street

Speaking of weird-ass stuff, how about last week’s Arrested Development?

To investigate George Sr.’s claims of being a patsy for a British conspiracy, Michael goes to a neighborhood described as “the British part of Orange County”—in the vein, I suppose, of a Chinatown or Little Tokyo—called “Wee Britain.” Wee Britain is decked out to look like a British street, everyone drives on the wrong side of the road and operates on Greenwich Mean Time, and a Merry Poppuns (just dissimilar enough from Mary Poppins to avoid trademark infringement) flies through the air on a guide line twice a day, endangering pedestrians in its path.

It’s all incredibly bizarre and surreal, presented in a typically deadpan way, and definitely the farthest that AD has stretched reality up to this point. As I said regarding Joey (and to an extent, The Simpsons), stretching reality usually results in the show eventually losing credibility. The other thing to worry about is that when writers start getting weird, it usually means they’re running short on ideas. Hence the increasing weirdness on The Simpsons during the Scully years and the surreal, cartoonish final two seasons of Seinfeld.

So I’m not sure about how I feel when Arrested Development starts getting strange like this. But ultimately, it’s still hilarious, and I trust the show like I trust Japanese food—even when it’s weird, I feel they know what they’re doing. Besides, with this show it’s all about enjoying the ride. I don’t want to spoil it by getting overly analytical. At least, not as long as the humor is intact.

Also, for the first time ever, the show opened with a “Previously on…” segment, which I’ve long thought might increase its accessibility. But like their traditional fake-out “Next week” segments, which always feature scenes not in next week’s show, the “previously” segment included bits not in last week’s show, and ultimately didn’t make the show any easier to understand.

New TV Season: Malcolm in the Middle

Malcolm in the Middle is back, in its first season without series creator Linwood Boomer as the showrunner. Instead, one of Malcolm’s longtime writers is at the helm of the series, and I don’t remember his name right now.

The show is now in what’s expected to be its last season. Malcolm is now in his senior year of high school and Reese is repeating his senior year of high school after intentionally failing his finals to delay graduation. So after this year it wouldn’t make much sense to continue the series anyway, but there is also the matter of falling ratings and a death-knell Friday night time slot. Well, it was a good run.

The season premiere finds Malcolm and Reese plotting to sneak off and attend Burning Man. They’re quickly caught, but Malcolm does such a good job convincing his parents that Burning Man is about genuine artistic expression that they decide to make it a family outing. Hal calls in a favor and borrows his boss’ prized RV and they drive to the desert.

Malcolm and Reese quickly ditch the family, Lois embraces her artistic side, and Hal makes Dewey his slave in protecting the RV. Reese gets caught up in the spirit of Burning Man, and Malcolm meets a fortyish but hot hippie woman who’s some kind of shaman. They hit it off, and Malcolm sleeps with her. Again I’m amazed at the kind of weird-ass stuff that they get away with on this show. Probably it helps that since they’re no longer a big hit show, they’re pretty much flying under the radar. Not that teenagers sleeping with older women never happens on TV, but this is basically a family show, not Dawson’s Creek.

Naturally Malcolm is psychologically incapable of being happy. The morning after, he is dismissive of the spirtual “rebirthing” ceremony the shaman woman conducts, and she dumps him. But after an encounter with closed-minded Hal, who’s going nuts protecting the RV from the Burning Man freaks—who in turn think uptight Hal is a performance artist satirizing the square suburban dad—Malcolm realizes he needs to open his mind. He goes through the rebirthing, but the hippie woman decides this means he’s too malleable, which is even worse than cynical. Malcolm is left shattered and defeated again.

Meanwhile, Reese has been selected to light the Burning Man to end the festival. But Reese doesn't want it to end, so he refuses to burn the Burning Man, and chucks the torch—setting the precious RV on fire instead. You knew it was going to get destroyed, right? The crowd switches from cheering “Burning Man!” to “Burning Van!”

It’s a pretty fun episode, shining a surprising mainstream spotlight on a countercultural event. And it’s nice to see that the show is still in command of one of the show’s core elements—Malcolm’s indefatigable pessimism and capacity for self-defeat—while still surprising. It’s not clear whether this incident is supposed to represent Malcolm losing his virginity. Malcolm has had girlfriends before, one in particular for a big chunk of season four, but this is the first time sex has been overtly suggested. Either way, it’s awfully weird yet entirely fitting.

Unfortunately, the episode really short-changes Hal. If anyone would embrace Burning Man, you’d think it would be the guy who took time off work to pour paint on his naked body and throw himself at a giant canvas. The guy who broadcasted an underground pirate radio show in college. The guy who is constantly choosing fun, bizarre obsessions over adult responsibilities. For Hal to suddenly turn into the uptight, closed-minded square is totally out-of-character given practically everything we know about him. It’s nice to see Lois have some fun for a change, but it would have made far more sense for her to be the no-fun one here.

Perhaps we’re meant to believe that Hal’s fear of harming his boss’s RV corrupts him and turns him into this straight-laced tool, but it doesn’t work. His clueless, excessively conservative attitude, even in matters unrelated to the RV, just doesn’t ring true for him.

Dewey, too, is wasted as the unhappy one Hal forces into labor. Usually Dewey is an expert at turning situations to his advantage, but not here, and the lazy treatment of his story thread yields few laughs.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Surely There Exists A Parallel Universe

Because I know this doesn’t happen in the world I live in. I know parents don’t encourage youngsters to practice stacking and unstacking regulation-sized cups, and then attend massive conventions packed with others who have done the same.

This is perhaps the most simultaneously impressive and unimpressive thing I have seen in my entire life. If you didn’t click on that link, seriously, do it. You will be amazed as well as chilled to your very soul.

That is a link from Superhandz, an overdesigned, vaguely Satanic website devoted to “hand sports,” which, improbably enough, is not a euphemism for masturbation. Hand sports are basically parlor tricks based on manual dexterity elevated (or degraded, if you will) to the level of pseudo-extreme-sport through the excessive use of Zs and Xs. (Want to take up such sports? Then the X-treme Beginnerz DVD is for you.) These sports include pen-spinning, card manipulation, and cup stacking.

Cup stacking has been renamed “sport stacking” by the World Cup Stacking Association, which presumably changed the name of their organization shortly thereafter. By the way, pretty soon I’m going to start calling TV watching “sport watching.” “Sport sitting” is also acceptable. Also “sport reading.” “Sport blogging.” I am going to be a major athlete, so watch out, world.