Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Nerd Alert

Everyone knows I'm a nerd. Just how much of one I am is up for debate. Is it major, chronic or perhaps incurable? I'm leaning towards chronic at the moment, just because of the other implications of the term.

I just booked a trip to Boston for March 25-27. Traveling for work again. I'm off to "An Event Apart", a web conference with speakers who make my heart go pitter patter. Sevarl of the names would ring familiar if you looked at my bookshelf or bookmarks: Jeffrey Zeldman, Steve Krug, Dan Cederholm, Molly Holzchlag, Eric Meyer, et cetera. They're all members of the AListApart group who are ardent supporters of web standards and usability. Don't call them "code Nazis" but you can call me that any time. I'll admit it.

It was Zeldman who finally got me out of my "Anti-CSS Rut" that I was in, stuck there from the days when IE 3.0 would choke on CSS tags while Netscape 4.0 would use its own peculiar brand of CSS. To put it another way, he defeated my David Siegel-style horse-killing brand of table-based layouts, opening my eyes to a wide, wild world of more flexibility and usability.

Now I get to see him and other legendary webheads and I'm thrilled to bits. This, indeed, testifies to my geekiness.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Shadow Puppets and Tired Schtick

No one would believe me this morning when I tried to tell them about last night's Academy Award ceremony. They could buy that Ellen DeGeneres didn't come within a hundred miles of Funny; tripping over her own words and telling the same tired jokes throughout the show. They weren't incredulous when I mentioned that the Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Picture awards were still MIA three hours after the show began. The thing that made jaws drop and heads shake in disbelief was the shadow puppet section. Worse than those Debbie Allen "musical interpretation" abominations, the shadow renditions of some of the films from the past year were questionable and embarassing.

My favorite parts of the Oscars are the montages. Even those left a lot to be desired last night, especially the one I was anticipating the most: the honorary Oscar for film composer Ennio Morricone. Rather than looking at the incredible breadth and depth of his work the montage seemed to be created under the restriction to focus almost solely on his previously nominated scores. While I love the work he did for THE UNTOUCHABLES and THE MISSION, there were quite a number of films mysteriously absent from the proceedings especially my favorite Morricone work, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (see below). And, personally, his work on LE CASSE, BATTLE FOR ALGIERS, or THE THING are much more memorable than the score for BUGSY.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


That's what it says on the sign outside the window where I'm sitting. I'm in Philadelphia, again. Three times in six months. But, as I said before, this trip is a literal “ego trip”. I'm here purely because I have a big head and couldn't turn down the opportunity to tell people, “Oh, yes, I'm off to Philly this weekend to be interviewed for a documentary,” as if I was some kind of jet-setting subject matter expert. I'd like to think that I am but I doubt that that's the case. Think of this, rather, as a sad attempt to be self-important.

Apparently noon is just too darn early to try and check in to a rinky-dink hotel. Took me forever to find a quiet, warm corner of the world. I wandered around asking folks with Starbucks cups where I could find one nearby. Everyone I hit has gotten their coffee across town and just happened to be on my block. I wound up at a Cosi (which I had skipped, looking for a place called “Cozy”-- I think I was the victim of the Philly accent) without internet access but with terrific hazelnut cappuccino. I have three hours to kill and three remaining bars on my battery. Let's see which lasts longer.

Dressing for success was quite a torment for me this weekend. Do I wear a t-shirt to cross-promote myself or my friends? Do I dress to look like I know what I'm talking about? No, rather, I decided on my blue-collar workshirt with the “GEEK” name tag above the pocket. Nothing says “chic” like “geek”. If nothing else I may prove memorable as “the geek guy” if my interview makes it beyond the cutting room floor.

I've been reading a book this trip called Dot Bomb. I was afraid I'd be stopped at the airport for being a terrorist, even holding a book with the word “bomb” in the title might be breaking some kind of rule that goes into effect when we're at an orange security level. The book is fairly dry thus far and there are too many “characters” that are nothing more than a name—no description or personality. Makes for the kind of read at which my eyes want to cloud over. If the writer is good at anything it's prompting me to remember my own days back during the same era in which the book's set. I didn't necessarily miss the train of the internet boom. Instead, I got hit by it while I was stalled at the crossroads of my life.

Fodder for an upcoming blog entry or piece for Cashiers du Cinemart, I'm sure.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Cashiers, no, wait, Cahiers...

[Source: GreenCine Daily via Twitchfilm.net]

Les Cahiers du cinema announces its entry into the 21st century with a test issue (in both English and French) of its paper edition now made available on line. As of March, the entire contents of future editions will be translated into English. The "flip the page" format may be a bit clumsy, but having another authoritative voice on film with a distinctly different viewpoint is welcome news nonetheless. The following is a statement from the editors:

Dear friends, We invite you to discover the "issue zero" of e-Cahiers du cinema . The "e" stands for "electronic" as well as for "English"... The March 2007 issue will be the first to be published simultaneously in French on paper and, in its entirety, in English at www.e-cahiersducinema.com. This issue will arrive on newstands on March 7 and on line on March 9. This double evolution of Les Cahiers (the paper magazine plus the magazine on line, the French magazine plus the English edition) comes in response to the two great movements of our times, toward digital distribution and toward the globalization of the media...To publish in English, of course, is a way of reaching a large number of new readers, but we hope it will also be a way of making a different voice heard in the world -- a way of proposing a fresh, rigorous and contemporary approach to the cinema and its place in present-day culture.

This is sure to mean that there will be even more confusion about the title of Cashiers du Cinemart now that Cahiers du Cinema is back to being a viable publication. It's called parody people! LOL.

The Long and Short of It

It's tough admitting your problems, much less embracing them, but I've been doing a fairly good job lately of grabbing ahold of my obsessive nature and going with it.  I've been plugging away on some articles for TheShiznit.co.uk with fervor.  The topic for me right now is "The Top Ten Creepiest Dwarves in Cinema."  I've got a list going but, to be expected from me, it revels in the obscure.

I've got an order in over at Shocking Videos for some really obscure titles that might hold dwarves even too creepy for me.  Here's what I'm looking forward to darking my door soon:
  • Little Cigars
  • It's A Small World
  • The One Eyed Soldiers
  • La Bonzesse
  • Roots Of Evil
  • Muerte Infernal
  • La Guerrera Vengadora
  • Chamber Of Horrors
The trick with this article is that I'm trying to avoid choosing dwarves that are too "made up".  That is, like LEPRECHAUN, GHOULIES, etc.  I'm hoping for more "naturally creepy" characters such as Master Blaster from MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME or Ralphus from BLOODSUCKING FREAKS.  No make-up there, folks, just pure ooky spooky.

Along with Shocking Videos, I've been eyeing some titles over at XploitedCinema and doing some research on titles listed at Video Search of Miami (won't buy there).  The most promising seems to be The Maze at XC.  That's the long and short of it.  If anyone has any creepy (but not slathered in make-up) dwarves they can recommend, bring 'em on.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Red Sovine's Greatest Hits

One of the classic commercials for one of the classic artists.

Here are the lyrics to Sovine's classic, "Little Joe":

Some time ago I was sippin’ on some coffee and havin’ some ham and biscuits when a motion caught my eye through the truck stop window. It was a little lost puppy; half-starved and shakin’ from fear. Well, I just had to make friends with him so I picked him up and put him in the cab. And, buddy, he took to that truck like he was born there. Well, I named him Little Joe and as I watched him sleep on the seat beside me that’s when I knew that Little Joe would be with me for a long, long time.

Well, a few months later I was talking to my old friend Teddy Bear on the old CB and not paying much attention to my back door. Little Joe started barking up a storm. I looked up and saw a Smokey in the mirror and I slowed my rig down just in time. But, you know something, Teddy Bear heard Little Joe barking and he said, “Hey Big Red, let me talk to your partner!” And I said, “You’ve got it, good buddy.”

“How’s the old Smokey situation, Little Joe?” And Little Joe said, “Rough (Ruff).” Aw, that just tore him up and the next two hundred miles just flew by ‘cause everybody on that CB wanted to talk to Little Joe.

Well, one night we were headed through the Smokies in East Tennessee and Little Joe started acting real (sic) nervous. I heard the sounds of lightning (sic) on the old CB and suddenly we were in the worst storm that I’d ever seen. All at once I saw headlights coming straight at my rig! Someone was blinded in the rain! So I swerved fast and just barely missed a camper full of kids. But the shoulder gave way and we crashed over the side of the mountain. And when I woke up my truck was on fire and I couldn’t move. But, somehow, Little Joe grabbed me by the collar and pulled me away from that burning rig.

Well, I was in the hospital the next time I woke up and the doctor was there to break the bad news. The accident had taken my sight. Oh, God, now I can’t even drive! And that’s when I realized how helpless Teddy Bear must have felt before the miracle happened that made him walk again. And then I thought, we-we-we-where’s Little Joe? No-ain’t nobody said anything about Little—Where’s Li—Oh, I was so sad. ‘cause I figured Little Joe had given his life to save me.

Well, my brother asked me to come live with him and when he opened the door to my new room I heard an old CB just a-blarin’ away. Well, I couldn’t wait to grab that mic and the first voice I heard was my old buddy Teddy Bear, ratchet jawin’ in the distance. So I broke for him, and he came right back to me. Why, it was almost like old times again. Teddy Bear was a-yackin’ away, unloading all the latest new on me and getting louder and louder. But all of a sudden the sound of an engine seemed to drown Teddy Bear out. And I said, “Hey, what’s going on?” Teddy Bear said, “Open your front door, good buddy, I’m just outside.” Lord, the roar of engines seemed to rock the house. And, all around me I could hear familiar voices and slammin’ doors. Aw, I couldn’t hold back the tears. All my friends were there.

And then I heard something I couldn’t believe. Little Joe? That bark? Why it had to be Little Joe. And no sooner than that he was all over me. And I put my arms around my old partner and the tears were streaming down my face. And then I felt something strange. Little Joe hadn’t worn a collar before. And attached to the collar was a handle. A hush fell over my friends. And I realize, Lord, my new eyes were standing at my feet… Little Joe.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Area of No Expertise

I've not done my research. I wouldn't know a megapixel from a megaphone. Yet, I'm interested in getting a digital camera. I've seen some of the great pictures taken by friends with their slick little digital cameras and how much better they look than the shots taken by my cheesey little camera phone.

So, I turn to you -- the two or three people who read my blog -- and ask for a recommendation on an inexpensive but reliable digital camera. I'll be mostly using it for taking tourist shots ("Holiday, eh? Holiday? Nudge nudge wink wink snap snap dream dream say no more!") and the like.

Thanks in advance!

Friday, February 16, 2007


I'm working on getting an actual digital camera rather than relying on my crappy camera phone. :)

Worth the Price of Admission

There are a few other classic scenes but this is the "classicest".

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Death Keeps On Coming

If you know me at all, you know that I'm an obsessive compulsive nutcase. Take, for example, my recent purchase of The Very Best of Teenage Death Songs. This is not to be confused with Dead! The Grim Reaper's Greatest Hits. In my newfound quest for the best compilation of teenage death songs, I found The Very Best of Teenage Death Songs on eBay after enjoying Death! for a while and being intrigued by some of the other death songs that weren't on the latter compilation.

Teenage Death Songs A total bootleg with a 72dpi nasty raster graphic for a front cover, The Very Best of Teenage Death Songs sounds a lot better than it looks. Sure, the typical death songs such as "Teen Angel", "Dead Man's Curve", "Last Kiss", and "Tell Laura I Love Her" are here but so is the Skeeter Davis answer to Ray Peterson's song; "Tell Tommy I Miss Him". There's also "Black Denim Trousers", a completely rocking song with a killer drum riff from The Cheers, and "Moody River", a syrupy death ballad done by crooner Pat Boone.

Overall, this compilation has a few more parody/novelty songs than Death (including "Running Bear" and "Leader of the Laundromat") but still pulls some heartstrings and makes you scratch your head with wonder at the ardent morbidity of some of these whacked out songs.

Though I Hate Rob Gordon...

I hate Rob Gordon. That was the main character of HIGH FIDELITY (Stephen Frears, 2000). His constant categorization and list-making seemed to limit his mind rather than open it to embracing new ideas. Besides that, as played by John Cusack he was completely obnoxious.

That said, I've taken on kind of an odd task. After my recent rant about "Developmentaly Disabled Cinema", I was contacted by TheShiznit.co.uk. Rather than yelling at me for going off on their "Top Ten Movie Retards" list, I was asked if I'd be interested in contributing to their site.

So, now I've become something of a listmaker. I've been carrying around my notebook and jotting down film titles like mad under strange labels. I'll keep those under my hat for the moment in the hopes that I actually get TheShiznit.co.uk to sign off on them. But, don't be surprised if I do some bizaree little polls as I try to suss out things like "What are the top ten worst films that Nicholas Cage has starred in?"

For the record, here's a quick list:
Nicolas Cage
  1. The Wicker Man (see video below)
  2. The Weather Man
  3. 8mm
  4. Leaving Las Vegas
  5. Kiss of Death
  6. It Could Happen to You
  7. Guarding Tess
  8. Amos & Andrew
  9. Windtalkers
  10. Lord of War

What I'm Working On

While I was out in Vegas, my team at work launched a pretty cool site -- maybe you read about it in the WJS or CNN -- It's http://www.patriotadventure.com

Partnered with Marvel Comics, this is a pretty sweet user-driven site where folks can submit ideas for an on-going comic book. It's a bit exquisite corpse and very much a web community kind of thing. Overall, I'm just pretty darned happy to have been a part of this.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Back to Life, Back from "Reality"

A lot of my expectations about my experience at "Camp Organic" were met -- I stayed up late, ran around Vegas like a crazy person, and worked very hard while I was here. I got in on Wednesday. Starting at 5PM that day I was essentially "off to the races". There were approximately 30 fellow Organic employees and a handful of "Camp Counselors" meeting here at the Palms Hotel & Casino. We were divided into groups of four or five people that were both cross-office (New York, Toronto, San Franciso, Detroit) and cross-discipline (Business Development, Creative, Finance, Engagement Management, and Engineering made up my group). Everyone was given a fake product (a multi-fuel vehicle), a target demographic, and a "sin" used as a lens to focus our findings.

Of the seven deadly sins, ours was Pride and our target demographic was late-20s/early-30s well-to-do white males. More than the "proud" aspect of the sin, we concentrated on the "vanity" piece. While we fought like crazy (our perceptions, not each other) to not put our demographic into the stereotype we all had, he ended up being very much that person. Quite a bit of him ended up being "Jack" from FIGHT CLUB:

I am Jack's raging bile duct Narrator: My dad never went to college. - So it was real important that I go.
Tyler Durden: That sounds familiar.
Narrator: So I graduate. Call him up long-distance and say, "Dad, now what?" He says, "Get a job."
Tyler Durden: Same here.
Narrator: Now I'm 25. Make my yearly call again. "Dad, now what?" He says, "I dunno. Get married." You can't get married. I'm a 30-year-old boy.
Tyler Durden: We're a generation of men raised by women. I'm wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.

That "30-year-old" boy line kept coming to mind. Couple that with our research (where we often had to bluff people) dealing with automotive and I kept thinking of and quoting this one:

Woman: Which car company do you work for?
Narrator: A major one.

I won't go into all the gory details of strip clubs, Rolex stores, craig's list, bachelor parties, table service, exotic vehicles, and sushi bars. Let's just say that our group covered a lot of ground and used a lot of innovative techniques to gather data on our group and begin to draw up a marketing plan. We started working on our conclusions around 7PM on Thursday and most of us went to bed at 4:30AM Friday morning (one of our members stayed up until 5:30AM putting the finishing touches on our presentation).

Team Pride The experience was amazing. While it felt at times like an episode of "The Apprentice" as I anticipated (sometimes we would use that to telegraph our intentions and "the game" we were playing to our subjects), there was no in-fighting or back-stabbing in our group. We got along remarkably well, even with a lot of strong personalities and differing points-of-view. If anything, it was one of those situations where being from our various cities and backgrounds just enhanced everything and made the bonding even stronger. After watching the other six presentations and doing ours, we continued to hang out with each other; drinking, celebrating, and bullshitting like war buddies.

I'm a sucker for compliments and I got more than my fair share when we were putting everything together. I was zinging out taglines like nobody's business. I can’t claim the central theme to the campaign, "Everything else is just traffic". It, like all of our other taglines, had a dual meaning. I'm all about dichotomy, especially when one meaning would appeal to our target's vanity while the other could be viewed as a much happier/fuzzier sentiment.

The other good news is that we came in second place (the guys that beat us completely deserved it -- they kicked even more butt than we did) and learned a lot while doing it. It turned out that all of my fears and grousing were for nought.

All right, I'm off to the casino floor before heading over to the airport. My flight's been delayed for two hours, thus far, and I just got more and more impressed with the ineptitude of Northwest Airlines each trip I take.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

You ever breath oxygen, kid?

I'm in Las Vegas for work (see my earlier post -- "Call Me Omarosa" -- the "games" have yet to begin so I'm still relatively in the dark on all that.

On the way out here today I watched THE HOST. Here's my initial take on it:

THE HOST / GWOEMUL (Joon-ho Bong, Korea, 2006)
A fun little creature feature that examines familial relationships and media manipulation along the way, THE HOST tells the tale of the Park family, a group of misfits whose patriarch runs a food stand on the banks of Seoul's Han River. His eldest son, Kang-du (Kang-ho Song), is a little slow and spends most of his time sleeping when he's not hanging out with his daughter, Hyun-seo (Ah-sung Ko), watching his sister gaffe in the national archery championships. Meanwhile, Kang-du's brother is a layabout lout who can't get over his days as a young revolutionary. Things come to a crisis for the Parks when a creature rises from the depths of the Han, causing death, destruction, and dismay as it drags Hyun-seo back into the brine with it.

Mudskipper Looking like a giant mudskipper, the creature makes its appearance early and not in any kind of spooky "hidden in the shadows" way. When it comes on the scene, everyone knows it. Luckily, the effects (at least on the small screen) are top notch which really adds to the excitement.

After the attack, everyone present (and still breathing) is taken to a government-run shelter. An American present at the attack is diagnosed with a virus and the word is spread that the creature is its host (thus the title). The only other person exposed as much to the dreaded fish is Kang-du. Already distraught enough about the loss of his daughter, he's soon taken aside for some surely painful tests. Little does he know that Hyun-seo is still alive; a prisoner of the creature in its sewer lair. When she places a brief call to Kang-du he tries to get his captors to believe him. Alas, no one in authority in THE HOST gives any credence to anyone other than other authority figures. Kang-du and the rest of the Parks easily escape the lame excuse for a quarantine center and begin their futile search for Hyun-seo through the sewers of Seoul.

I won't go on any more lest I give something away. Suffice to say that this is another fine play on a genre film by Joon-ho Bong. The last work I saw from him was MEMORIES OF MURDER (see Cashiers du Cinemart #14), a fine play on the serial killer film. This time out he presents a rather fully-realized work that could have simply been a fish tale. Recommended.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

MacArthur Park is melting in the dark

Spring was never waiting for us, girl
It ran one step ahead
As we followed in the dance
Between the parted pages and were pressed
In love's hot, fevered iron
Like a striped pair of pants

MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!

I recall the yellow cotton dress
Foaming like a wave
On the ground around your knees
The birds, like tender babies in your hands
And the old men playing checkers by the trees

MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!

There will be another song for me
For I will sing it
There will be another dream for me
Someone will bring it
I will drink the wine while it is warm
And never let you catch me looking at the sun
And after all the loves of my life
After all the loves of my life
You'll still be the one

I will take my life into my hands and I will use it
I will win the worship in their eyes and I will lose it
I will have the things that I desire
And my passion flow like rivers through the sky
And after all the loves of my life
After all the loves of my life
I'll be thinking of you
And wondering why

MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!
Oh, no
No, no
Oh no!!

Written by: Jimmy Webb

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Sound of Thunder: A Review

One of those "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" theatrical releases, this little 2005 sci-fi film is only one step higher on the evolutionary ladder than those cheesy creature features being produced on a weekly basis for the Sci-Fi Channel. Based on the 1952 short story by Ray Bradbury, I couldn't help but continuously think of "The Simpsons" Treehouse of Horrors parody, "Time and Punishment" (see below) while watching Peter Hyams's film.

"If you ever go back in time, don’t touch anything. Even the slightest change can alter things in ways you can’t possibly imagine." Truer words were never spoken. While Travis Ryer (Ed Burns, the poor man's Ben Affleck) and his crew of Temporalnauts respect this prime directive, the clients of Time Safari's boss man Charles Hatton (Sir Ben Kingsley) do not. The inadvertent death of a butterfly proves out Grandma Simpson's admonition, causing literal ripples in time that really ruin Ryer’s day. His present day timeline changes with "time waves" that bring about a surge in plant life, bugs, and some odd hybrid creatures like the vicious baboonosaurus. It's up to Ryer, his team, and the grouchy Dr. Sonia Rand (Catherine McCormack) to put things right again. Will they make it? Of course they will. The real questions are "What order do they die in?" and "What is Sir Ben Kingsley doing in this film?"

Another puzzling aspect to the film is the budget. Was everything spent on catering? Certainly, very little was donated to special effect work. Street scenes feature actors walking against backgrounds of looping "futuristic" cars that look like they were accomplished with chroma-key effects done at the local Public Access Cable studio. A SOUND OF THUNDER was doomed not only by its horrible effects but by the cinematic saturation of the Novikov self-consistency principle. The film was the fourth of four films. While two others, John Woo's PAYBACK (2003) and Eric Bress & J. Mackye Gruber's THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT (2004), shared the same core idea they boasted far better marketing. A SOUND OF THUNDER was all fury and no thunder when it came to marketing, coming out with a whimper only equal to Richard Donner's forgettable TIMELINE (2003).

It would be a few years until another such timeline film would get that amount of funding; Tony Scott's DEJA VU. Even then, the time travel aspect was minimized and only visible in previews that ran before fantasy or sci-fi films.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Scorcese's Homage to Hawks

Saw a really nice photo montage over at the Miami Herald courtesy of Rene Rodriguez. It puts together shots from Scorcese's remake of INFERNAL AFFAIRS, THE DEPARTED. Though I saw THE DEPARTED a few months ago, the jury is still out for me on whether I liked it or not. Quite a bit of it stuck with me, such as the Mark Wahlberg's performance and some of the better "tough guy" lines ("What, are you on your period?").

What didn't stick with me -- I'll admit that I didn't even notice it -- was Scorcese's homage to Howard Hawks's SCARFACE (1932). Both films play with the X shape as a sign of death or impending doom. I might have to check out THE DEPARTED again on DVD to catch this. Perhaps this time I'll be able to stay more alert during this 151-minute film.