Archive for April, 2004

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April 28, 2004

I Put It To You, Dear Reader:

When will I learn?

Put it in the comments.

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April 22, 2004

“A Rocket?!” “Yeah… like in the comics books.”

CLIFF: Me and Peevey found something that’s gonna get us right back on our feet.

JENNY: What you mean you “found something?”

CLIFF: It’s an engine, okay? But you strap to your back and it makes you fly. Without wings!

Man, do I love that movie.

In related news, Paramount has pushed back Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow from its June release date to September 17th, because “the summer play time is insane, and this great movie deserves a better date.” Not, I guess, because less than 500 of the film’s 1,500-2000 FX shots had been completed as of March. By comparison, Star Wars: Episode III is slated to include 2,000 FX shots, which are due on April 1st, 2005.

Noise: HOWARD HUGHES: “Congratulations, gentlemen. Thanks to the diligence of the FBI, this particular vacuum cleaner will not fall into the wrong hands.”

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April 20, 2004

A Pasta Fee
On the wall in my office is a poster that reminds me I’m not the only one who gets bothered about this.

The other day, I read a post on a popular internet movie news site that mentioned Rebecca Romijn’s soon-to-be-ex-husband John “Stamo’s.” People, that is fucking enough. This idiotic apostrophe bullshit has got to stop right now, before it becomes acceptable practice to drop apostrophes into words wherever you want for effect. You may not scatter apostrophes like you’d flick paint off a brush and call it art, wherever they land.

Typos are no big deal. Sometimes an apostrophe gets tossed in when you meant its. That’s understandable. Who cares, right? But come on, now. Putting an apostrophe into someone’s name? “Stamo’s?” I swear to God. Are you even watching where you’re going?

And you other fantasy writers in the back: You don’t get to put apostrophes in names just because you made them up. That’s ridiculous. Who names somebody Fri’li’mak? Nobody does, including you. We’re all full up on names with apostrophes. Seriously, no more.

It reveals your naming process, anyway. An apostrophe in the name of your space alien means you sat at the keyboard with your eyes on the ceiling, mouthing out syllables until you got a short stretch of pleasing sounds that you’re reasonably sure you didn’t steal from Star Wars. You look like a turkey drinking rain when you do that. It’s embarassing.

Putting an apostrophe in a name says you have no ability to wield phonics. It doesn’t make the name look like it was translated from some exotic place where the people speak in clicks and snaps of the tongue. It makes it look like you made it up, and we all know you did. An apostrophe won’t make your character interesting, believe me.

Also, no more little girls named Madison. I mean it.

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apostrophe: n. The direct address of an absent or imaginary person or of a personified abstraction, especially as a digression in the course of a speech or composition.

[From Greek, apostrephein, to turn away.]

Noise: Los Lobos, “Mas Y Mas”

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April 19, 2004

Busy, Funny
Am busy. In place of a real update, I offer you this link to funny from McSweeny’s online, which is very often worth the trip of finger to button. Recommended: Upcoming Titles from Gavin Menzies, Author of 1421: The Year China Discovered America (by Paul Tullis) and Correspondence From My Postal Plant Manager (by Judson Merrill).

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April 15, 2004

Greek Philly
Admittedly, yesterday’s post was me trying too hard to reach a conclusion. I had this idea that part of the trouble with a blog is that it raises a lot of issues but doesn’t offer many theses or conclusions. So I overinflated some materials I found during my news break into a swollen and generalized argument. Whatever.

Let’s keep our eyes on the ball. What’s really important is the Greek Philly sandwich from Dino’s Gyros. It’s got everything I like about a nice cheesesteak with the soft simplicity of a pita and the savory taste of gyro-style lamb. Is it, then, a cheeslamb? Yes, that’ll be fine.

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April 14, 2004

Keystrokes and Voices
Any unit of time spent online yields numerous examples of poor reporting going unchecked or, worse, being rewarded. Harry Knowles, the capitalization-crazy and ellipsis-obsessed webmaster of Ain’t It Cool News, has actually been brought on as a producer for a major Hollywood studio picture. This isn’t Jayson Blair- or Stephen Glass-level stuff, but it’s not good.

While the internet is certainly a boon to the information delivery capabilities of modern civilization, it also aggrandizes the authority of dubious experts and gives weight to the half-assed masses. Information travels like word-of-mouth. Today’s news might as well be heard from a coworker or overheard on the train for all the credence it deserves. The skill of the reporting is becoming less important than the simple act of reporting.

Today, CNN.com posted a story about the international reactions to various kidnappings in Iraq. The story contained this credibility-eroding passage:

“Japan also advised its citizens to leave while Russia announce it is sending planes to evacuate its citizens while France and coalition partner Japan are urging their citizens to leave.”

Wired News features a terrific article about news agencies around the world reporting unconfirmed stories about Al-Qaeda telemarketing operations and a new congressional building with a retractable dome, among others. These articles didn’t just appear in small-town papers (though they did appear in small-town papers), but were reported by the likes of the Beijing Evening News and MSNBC‘s Deborah Norville. The source for these stories was, of course, The Onion, “America’s Finest News Source.”

These are further examples of mass communications creating a global village. This could be bad for news. Like any other village, the global village gets its news from whichever blatherskite sits on the most porches come tea time. Getting into print has become so easy that any rumormonger can make a statement in his parent’s basement and be taken seriously half a world away. The easiest way to be heard and recognized is, once again, to be the loudest or the most shocking. It’s too easy, now, to hollar and be heard across town. Being heard has become more important than being correct. Audiences have become more important than the show.

It’s time to stop awing at the ease with which keystrokes and voices can cross the globe and resume the celebration of the words being written and said. Don’t celebrate what isn’t praiseworthy. The sheer volume of news sources means the audience can’t trust the show anymore. Sample the best, compare, and decide for yourself what’s going on. Chew, swallow, and digest. Don’t eat empty calories.

What do you think?

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April 11, 2004

Subservient Chicken
Thanks to Brian for the link.
Want to see what is almost certainly the result of an overpaid ad agency and an underpaid man in a chicken suit? The youngest weirdos in Burger King’s marketing department seem to have somehow gotten the run of the IT department. The result: SubservientChicken.com, where you, too, can command a man in a chicken suit to do your time-wasting, slacker-ass bidding. Perhaps in the tradition of the Quizno’s appetite-killing rodents and McDonald’s hipster-hitting I’m Lovin’ It campaign, Burger King’s daring Subservient Chicken move at least pays the public a bit of respect by presuming we know what subservient means.

Also, it’s fun to boss around a guy with a chicken-head. Read that book, chickenman!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
A terrific, really brilliant concept becomes a solid, richly human story in the newest script from Charlie Kaufman. This is another movie that had me asking on the way out, “Is Charlie Kaufman a genius?” Unclear, but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a better film than Being John Malkovich or Adaptation. Whereas Malkovich was a manic rollercoaster of depressed characters, Mind is a character-driven emotional ride through an intuitive labrynth. That’s just a lot of words, though; the gist is that I want to see Spotless Mind again but I’ve never gotten around to seeing any part of Malkovich twice except for the all-Malkovich restaurant bit. (My brain periodically dishes me a dose of Malkovich slapping his hat and screaming “It’s my head!,” but I figure that’s a credit to the ad campaign more than the movie.)

Characters, actors: all good. Blanket praise on the whole cast, with a dollop of thanks for the underused Mark Ruffalo and terrific roles for Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst, and Tom Wilkinson. Not having seen Human Nature, I’m not yet comfortable speculating how many of the film’s visual tricks belong to director Michel Gondry and how many come direct from Kaufman’s screenplay. Some of those visual tricks are terrifically vivid, but–in the first third of the movie especially–they’re unclear to the point of feeling exclusionary. If you’d asked me about a half hour into Spotless Mind, I wouldn’t have expected to like it so much. This is a necessary feature of the film’s narrative, I suppose, since we move from uglier times backward to happier times, but there I sat dreading of my own boredom all the same.

Once inside the folds of the movie’s lobes, the experience is a confusing delight. What fascinates me the most is how well Kaufman implements his Philip-K.-Dick-esque (yow) memory-erasure idea into a mundane doctor’s office environment, a graveyard shift gig, and a knot of human threads. That the movie’s got meaty and meaningful roles for everyone listed on the poster is remarkable, given its parallel stories, its circular stories, and its inward-looking sci-fi concept. The characters in this sci-fi play are each distinctive, familiar, and ordinary in the best way. They’re the street-level opposites of the theoretically defined figurehead scientists in a Michael Crichton novel. Everything the characters do in this movie is believable and, often, sensible. Every character is fed to us in such a fashion that we may not like them immediately but will inevitably empathize with them. All this is vital for a movie build on an experience that we can’t really relate to.

Beyond all this, the movie’s even a parable on how to make human relationships work, to some extent. Things may be rough right now, but remember the good times. You’ll get angry if you forget you’re happy. Begin again. Don’t, I guess, dwell too much in the present.

So, is Charlie Kaufman a genius? I don’t know, but I walked out of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind feeling jealous and wanting desperately to write something like it.

Garden State Trailer
Zach Braff is rapidly becoming a personal favorite of mine. He’s stellar on Scrubs and now he’s directing his own seemingly gorgeous feature (there’s that jealousy again). It’s unusual when a trailer enchants me like this new one for Braff’s Garden State. It had the same effect on me as the Lost in Translation trailer, which it’s clearly modeled on. Before, I knew next to nothing about Garden State. Now, I’m eager to see it. See it yourself on Apple.com’s great trailer page.

In the “Smarterish” Category
Didn’t know it was a noun? Neither did I, zany.

zany (ZAY-nee)
n., pl. za-nies
1. A ludicrous, buffoonish character in old comedies who attempts feebly to mimic the tricks of the clown.
2. A comical person given to extravagant or outlandish behavior.

Noise: Franz Ferdinand, “Take Me Out”