April Fool’s is for amateurs.
- My friend is lead singer for a cover band that’s blowin’ up all over the nation (of northern california) and we’re going to see them in action tonight just outside of Sacramento: The 80′s are alive with Notorious!
- I have 2 friends nominated for 2 VES Awards (Visual Effects Society) for their Transformers work (Desert Highway Sequence and Optimus Prime, respectively). Online voting begins today (possibly) so good luck to them!
- Saw Last Action Hero last night for only the second time (previous time – in theaters). It’s different to see Arnold nowadays. I remember the huge action star, but it seems so long ago. Especially with him being the guv and all…But I now see what they were trying to do with that movie. Almost pulled it off. They went for dumb-funny more than smart-funny, but I laughed more this time than when I was 15.
In my review of There Will Be Blood, I mentioned that I went to college with Mark Bridges, who is now the costume designer for P.T. Anderson’s films. Mark was a very good actor (he played Mercutio in a performance of Romeo and Juliet, I was Benvolio) and a very caustic wit, sort of our crowd’s version of Addison DeWitt in All About Eve.
Last night I was reminded that there are some other noteworthy people I went to school with (I matriculated in the theater department at the State University of New York at Stony Brook). I was watching the DVD of Interview, with Steve Buscemi and Sienna Miller, and while watching the extras realized that the one of the producers is Bruce Weiss, who way back when produced my very first one-act play. He is the president of Ironworks Productions, a New York City-based production company. He produced many of Hal Hartley’s films back in the 80s. I tracked down his email address this morning and he replied and let me know that the second of the Theo Van Gogh films (Interview is the American version of a Van Gogh film), called Blind Date, directed by Stanley Tucci, is premiering at Sundance tonight. So I hope it’s a big success!
Arguably the most successful former classmate I had is Colin Quinn, stand-up comedian and one-time cast member of Saturday Night Live, as well as the host of a couple of his own shows. The last time I saw Colin was a party in New York, and he threatened to beat me up because of a bad review I had given him for his lead performance in the play Liliom (I was the theater critic at the school paper). He was pretty drunk. A mutual friend ran into him some years later after a stand-up gig and reminded him of that incident, and all reports were that he was embarrassed and apologetic. I certainly bear him no ill will, and congratulate him on his success.
It’s neat that there are some of the people from those days who have managed to go on and become successful in the entertainment field. Now if I could only join them.
I never really understood the thrill of car chases. I appreciated them in films, but believe it was more in how the editing and sound combined to make it thrilling, such as in the car chases in Bullitt, French Connection, Ronin and Bourne Identity. Justifiably excellent stuff. Yet I know people who will justify an entire film because it had a car chase. “Yeah, it sucked. Had a car chase though, so I’m cool.” These are the same guys (I only know guys who feel this way) who get a lump in their throat watching Days of Thunder, watch Formula One like it’s some sort of long religious ceremony and equate Top Gear as listening to a sermon by a half-drunk priest.
This probably has to do with that I never got the thrill of cars to begin. I can see how the power of sitting behind the wheel of a hulking mass of hyperpowered metal able to smash small buildings to rubble can turn some people on, but I’ve never felt the rush. I understood it, but I didn’t get it.
I remember sitting in the back seat of a car going 140 mph on the freeway, at five o’clock on a Sunday morning, zigzagging through traffic, with a driver that an hour ago had passed out after too many tequilas. We were five in that car, and three of them thought it was awesome going this fast, the driver just staring ahead in full automatic zombie mode, while I was busy waving the passing cars goodbye, too wasted to feel fear. It was around that time I realized that driving fast wasn’t my thing, since if this didn’t give me a rush, what would?
But this short film does. I don’t know if it’s the emerging Parisian sky, the rubble, the camera so close to the ground, the sharp turns, the sound of that monstrous engine revving, that it never cuts, never stops, just cuts past all obstacles, that the driving itself seems to have personality, that gives me a wide grin when seeing it. There is something preposterously cool about this short film that I can’t quite set my finger on.
Gives me an urge to get going on that driving license.
Alex Roy’s Cannonball dreams started with a movie, but it didn’t star Burt Reynolds. The film was C’était un Rendez-vous. Made in 1976, it’s a dashing precursor to every Jackass-inspired digicam stunt ever posted on YouTube — nine heart-pounding minutes choreographed to a screaming drivetrain. Through a bumper-mounted camera, the viewer becomes the car — traveling more than 80 mph as the anonymous driver revs into the enormous traffic circle around Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, steers hammer-down from the Champs Élysées to Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre (through 16 red lights, wrong-way one-ways, stunned pedestrians, garbage trucks, and median strips) to meet up with a beautiful blonde waiting patiently in the park at the Montmartre church.
Post script: Joe found a site where you can follow the driver’s route through Paris on a map.
This news from yesterday makes me mad:
Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. will offer next-generation DVDs in the HD DVD format and drop support for Blu-ray, further complicating the race between the competing technologies.
And just when I was thinking that Blu-Ray was going to win this stupid format war, and I’d be free to consider upgrading. But now, it’ll probably be another couple of years before this shakes out, and by then … who knows. It might not even be worth the effort at that point.
Good work, Paramount.
Sign on Topeka, KS mall entrance door – 8/14/07.
Maybe it’s just my sheltered northeastern upbringing, but it’s never occurred to me to bring a loaded firearm into a shopping mall. Sure, the concept of being able to thin out the Black Friday crowds is appealing…but what would be someone’s actual, legitimate motivation? I’m completely lost.
I have nothing against Barry Bonds, and I congratulate him for breaking the homerun record last night.
But although I don’t agree with the harsh criticism of him that is prevalent, I can understand it. What I don’t understand, though, is why his detractors, to show their opposition, insist on using a symbol that has itself become symbolic of short-sighted, reactionary judgment.
So, a brief history lesson for those who think they’re being cute by waving the asterisks at Barry. The asterisk, such as it was, become famous for the decision by then-Commissioner of baseball, Ford Frick, back in 1961 that Roger Maris ought to share the single-season homerun record with Babe Ruth, because even though Maris had hit 61 HR to Ruth’s 60, the season was 8 games longer in 1961 than when Ruth set his mark in 1927.
Today, that particular controversy is all but forgotten, and Maris’s 61 HR in 1961 is universally seen as the single-season standard up until Mark McGwire’s 1998 season. And over time, Frick’s decision came to be widely viewed as, well, shortsighted and reactionary, if not flatly unjust to Maris. So go ahead, you fools, revel in your ignorance and wave your asterisks around when Bonds comes to your town. It’s a very appropriate symbol, just not for the reasons you think.
Got new glasses today, the first time I’m had visual aides since I had a pair of reading glasses in junior high. I actually see fine, but apparently I’m somehow both near-sighted and far-sighted at the same time (I don’t understand this fully), so my eyes have to work pretty hard and get tired quickly. Since I sit and stare at a computer screen all day, my eye doctor gave me a pair of glasses to ease the strain.
I don’t inherently have a problem with glasses – you’ll never get me to stick contact lenses in my eyes, and I wear sunglasses all the time when I’m outside – but my head hurts like hell. I’m told this is normal, that the eyes take a period of adjustment to a new pair of glasses, but right now I just want to rip my eyes out of my head.
But as you can see, I look much more sophisticated, so it’s all good. Plus, I can see through walls now – I don’t understand that, either.
I bought a couple of new CDs last week. The first was Zeitgeist, by Smashing Pumpkins. Right off the bat, I noticed a big change – they no longer had the “The” in front of their name, added with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. I thought this was too bad, because I always thought that “The Smashing Pumpkins” was a much better name than simply “Smashing Pumpkins”.
This added to pre-existing doubts that I had from reading about the release of the album, which you can read about on Wikipedia. Basically, there are something like 4 different albums out there with different track listings. I think at this point we’re all familiar with the ploy where “Bonus Tracks!!!” are available when the album is purchased through a specific retailer, but this seemed different for one big reason: depending on where you buy the disc, the bonus tracks may be available inserted into the middle of the album. I think it’s safe to say that if tracks can be arbitrarily added or subtracted from the album, you probably haven’t crafted a particularly cohesive piece of art.
I’m somewhat of an unconventional Pumpkins fan, as I don’t really have a lot of use for Gish or Siamese Dream but always loved Mellon Collie and for all I know, I’m the only person out there who really likes Adore. I’ve never been able to understand the negative reputation that album has had from the time it was released. Anyway, it’s probably not fair to call this a Pumpkins record in the first place, since Iha and D’arcy are nowhere to be found, and have been replaced by … Billy Corgan, naturally. The album credits Jimmy Chamberlin on drums, and Billy C. with “everything else.”
In other words, Zeitgeist is basically a Corgan solo record, and it feels more like the followup to Corgan’s solo TheFutureEmbrace than it does a followup to the last official Pumpkins album, Machina/The Machines of God. It doesn’t really sound like TheFutureEmbrace, but it shares with that record a uniform tone and a conspicuous lack of musical dynamics. It’s a collection of mid-tempo rock songs with a grinding, hard guitar underpinning, and none of the songs stand out from the other. You could pretty much play any song at random, and not know which one it is.
Long gone are the days where a Pumpkins record would offer endless surprises; Mellon Collie, Adore and the box set The Aeroplane Flies High provided an astonishing array of song styles and sounds. But this downward creative trend by Corgan has been on display since Machina, which was disappointing at the time and doesn’t sound any better now (Mary Star of the Sea, released by Corgan’s post-Pumpkins band Zwan, was not all that distinctive either). Zeitgeist is, frankly, a boring album, and I was pretty much finished with it after a couple of days. On the bright side, though, it’s got me listening to Mellon Collie again, and enjoying it quite a bit.
Much more enjoyable has been Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible. The album was actually released back in March, and I really don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get it. I liked their debut album, Funeral, although I wasn’t as enamored of it as a lot of other people. Still, I had always planned to pick up their second album, but never really felt the urgency, even though I enjoyed their SNL appearance promoting the album, and noticed very positive reviews (including one by Jackrabbit Slim at his site).
But it’s really a fantastic set of songs. It’s more disciplined and mature than Funeral was, both musically and lyrically. A handful of songs (“Keep the Car Running”, personal favorite “Intervention”, and “(Antichrist Television Blues)”) are as good as anything I’ve heard in years, and even the weaker tracks (“The Well and the Lighthouse”, “Windowsill”) are pretty good. I’d definitely have to say that they’re one of the best bands going right now, and I’m glad I finally got around to realizing it.
There have been a few news stories that have caught my attention during the last week.
First, we have the story of a Florida golfer who was attacked by an alligator. Fortunately, he was not seriously hurt, and it doesn’t sound like the whole thing turned out to be that big of a deal. I bring it up here, though, to point out once again that you have to be really, really dumb to be attacked by an alligator. Seriously. They are not very aggressive creatures, and will only come after you if you make yourself a very inviting target. In this case, the guy ignored a “Beware of Alligator” sign, and walked right up to the edge of the pond and stuck his arm in. So, props to the gator on this one.
Up second is the story of giant penguin fossils found in South America. I’m not actually a huge fan of penguins – as animals go, they’re no alligators – but I’m always intrigued by giant prehistoric versions of common animals. Unfortuantely, the article doesn’t say exactly how big they were. Piecing together clues from my own research, though, I’ve managed to estimate their size relative to the Sears Tower in Chicago.
Finally – I found this one thanks to Conservapedia – comes news of the latest struggle in the right-to-life wars: chimeras. As I understand it, this latest scientific develpoment has the right-to-life movement in quite a bind; they’re against chimeras, but once a chimera embryo is created, they’re opposed to destroying it. Makes sense, I guess, as long as you’re completely unwilling to see the logical limit of pro-life rhetoric.
But what I really want to know, and what the article doesn’t tell us, is what kind of animal/human hybrid scientists want to create. This is basic reporting, people! You have to name the animal! Otherwise, it might be easy to get the impression that there aren’t really any solid plans to create these things in the first place and that the whole thing is a fake controversy designed to scare the faithful into opposing stem-cell research in particular and biological research in general.
But, I guess we’ll see. I’m hoping for turtles, personally.
It’s raining again here, pretty hard in fact. We’ve already officially about an inch of rain so far today, which puts us at 10.03 inches for the month, and an astounding 31.01 in for the year. That’s more than double the rain we got through this point last year (14.60 in).
We’ve gotten official rainfall 16 out of the 27 days this month, and on at least a few of the remaining 11, there was rain that fell in the area, but not at the airport, where the official total is monitored. We got almost as much in May, with official rain on 21 of 31 days, for 8.37 in total.
It’s crazy how much it’s been raining. It’s like the DFW metroplex has been lifted up and placed down in Florida, except that parts of Florida are in the middle of a pretty severe drought. I guess we got their rain.
Not that I’m complaining, of course. We’ll be expecting a much cooler summer than normal because of all this, even if the humidity figures to be a little higher. Area lakes will be at full levels for the first time in years. I won’t have to listen to everyone complain about being unable to water their lawn. Yes, the benefits are legion.
But it’s not even July, and we’ve already got more rain than we did in each of the past two years. It’s just weird.