Trailers Galore
In case you missed it, the Spider-Man 2 trailer is up and running, featuring Doctor Octopus in action and looking good. To my chagrin, the spot opens up with the number one problem I had from the first Spider-Man: Pete's denial of his desires for MJ. As I've said before, I'd sooner believe someone can walk on walls than blow off the person they've been "in love" with for years. But that's just me, and I am clearly insane.

Also, for fans of Pitch Black, Vin Diesel's underrated sci-fi horror extravaganza (that might be giving too much credit -- let's just say "film". Better.), here's the trailer for the sequel: The Chronicles of Riddick.


Evil. Time. Suckage.
Thanks to Jaquandor, I've lowered my already record-low Friday productivity with this. Pfeh! I've earned it!
Over the past couple weeks I've heard some positive word-of-mouth reviews for a movie called Gothika, while the critical reviews have been overwhelmingly harsh. Could this mean this is a film destined to be cult status, or (more likely) this film boondocks? Frankly, I don't know because (DISCLAIMER) I haven't seen it, so perhaps one day when it's on Oxygen I'll watch it.

In case you haven't heard, Gothika is a starring vehicle for the okay-looking Halle Berry in a psychological thriller. Walter Chaw, of FilmFreakCentral.com, wrote a predictably funny and scathing review of the film, in which he notes:
    "The guilty parties are obvious from the first frame on, and just the number of times Miranda [Berry] is referred to as "brilliant" should cause the least observant to cock an eyebrow."

Needless to say, Walter's a pretty astute guy. I recalled that line while biking to work today (Yes, it's 35 degrees out. Yes, I wear shorts. Yes, I hate public transportation and particularly traffic.), and it got me to thinking: How does one become a 'brilliant' psychologist? How does one establish that in film without just refering to it as fact? For instance, in your opening introductory scene for a movie with a 'brilliant' detective, you would show him (or her) being tremendously clever and of course unorthodox in solving some prologatory crime (contest! how many movies can you name in which this pattern is followed?). But how would this be established for a psychologist? Perhaps the following, in flashback:
    FADE TO:
    Drisly rain falls over a grey, foreboding penitentiary. Lightning and thunder.
    Halle, er, Miranda is sitting in a room with two colleagues, across from Charles Manson. She is questioning him.
    CHARLEY: ... So they I told them to whackity-whack-whack away.
    MIRANDA: It is my clinical opinion that you are insane.
    COLLEAGUE #1: Brilliant!
    COLLEAGUE #2: (thoughtfully, hand stroking chin) Hmmm....

And there you go, one scenario. But before that could happen, someone had to plot the character out. For that, you have to turn to your put-upon union-grade screenwriter. Here's a likely scene for the idea germination:
    FADE TO:
    Drisly rain falls over a grey, foreboding executives building. Lightning and thunder.
    Two studio heads are reviewing projects. A screenwriter (we'll call him 'Kelly') for Gothika is present.
    STUDIO HEAD #1: So what else do you have going on?
    STUDIO HEAD #2: Well, we just got Oscar-winner Halle Berry to star as a --
    STUDIO HEAD #1: Brilliant!
    STUDIO HEAD #2: -- psychologist in a new film.
    HACK SCREENWRITER: (thoughtfully, hand stroking chin) Hmmm....

That's probably the case, but with such new Oscar-caliber star power, it's also possible that Halle used some creative control to foist her ideas on the poor hack screenwriter (again, Kelly). In that event, here is a dramatization of the most likely (scored a 93% probability) way in which Halle's idea about the psychologist came to fruition:
    FADE TO:
    Drisly rain falls over a grey, foreboding mansion. Lightning and thunder.
    Halle (dressed in underwear only, natch) is feeding her goldfish (Mr. Snookums).
    HALLE: Now Mr. Snookums, I'm putting in a little extra food in case I get home late from the script meeting.
    MR. SNOOKUMS: (thinking: Brilliant!)
    HALLE: (thoughtfully, hand stroking chin) Hmmm....

Of course, Ms. Berry doesn't strike me as someone who would ever be typecast as a 'brilliant' anything, so hopefully this will be a rare instance of shoehorning unwarranted adjectives into a character. But unlikely.


Movie Anti-Recommendation
Although this is sure to inspire the rage and baffling indignance of some readers, I'm going to post the most negative review ever of the most deserving film ever, that being (of course), Boondock Saints.

I just recently added my review to Amazon.com, but where to begin with the ways in which this film was disappointing? Here it is:
    This movie was highly recommended to me by no less than 3 friends of mine as "incredible" and one of their favorites of all time. Sadly, my respect for their opinions has plummeted; this film was a cliche from start to finish, with tired 'comedic' scenes, copycat action, and questionable themes. It felt like a film that couldn't figure out whether it wanted to be some kind of a moral statement (regarding the tacked on man-in-the-street comments in the end -- vomit) or a 'Lock Stock' ripoff. In short, this film was so notoriously bad that it has made it into my casual speak for awful (e.g., "Rate it from Boondock to 10", or "That Boondocks"). It is just shocking how this film is like fire to the pseudo-intelligencia flies. On the upside: I now ask a new person what they thought of the film as my instant gauge to their mental acuity.

I guess it boils down to my reaction to intelligent people doing illogical things. I believe that people are genetically predisposed to do and think different things. While culture and education and upbringing are shaping factors, your foundation will generally incline you towards a certain view. That realization made it possible for me to accept people of different political affiliations without feeling the pointless need to 'convert' them. Likewise, I'm trying to accept those with religious zeal in their blood, but it's rather difficult since most (that I've encountered) religious types aren't well-read (one could say that ignorance is essential for religion) or aware of the false-hoods they've been taught, so it is hard to have a leveled discussion about faith with the faithful. But I am trying. Where am I going with this? Boondock Saints has made it into the three things you should never talk about (along with politics and religion) in a bar because I just cannot fathom how someone smart could like and admire this film, and it pains me to see people like that falling into the pit of boondock.

I found this additional review on Amazon.com, which speaks to the content of the film. I agree with every word. Now go out and rent it and burn your copy.
    "The positive reaction to this film can only be called absurd. The only thing worse than the poor acting and childish dialogue is the serious lack of any character development. In order to make the point that the desire for justice leads logically to outrage, which leads logically to viglilantism, the director/writer would need to build an identification between viewer and the 3 main protagonists. One of these figures--Rocko--is so moronic and out of control that there can be no such identification unless you are moronic and out of control. The two Irish brothers are supposed to seem deeper, presumably because they speak several foreign languages, but really they are the same sort of hyper-testosterone bar slime they become so enraged at throughout the film. A film that tries to confront violence/crime without contextualizing it, is racist in terms of its stereotyping of Irish, Italians, and Russians, and also classist (drug addicts deserve wrath and punishment? How about the corporate crooks and politicians that make drug addicts?) If you have two hours to kill and would like to ponder the moral dilemmas causes by an inadequate justice system, consider reading Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Boondock Saints is childish psuedo-philosophy geared toward 15 year olds (the ignorant ones) who lack the ability to contextualize historically both crime and the mechanisms currently in place for dealing with it."


East Coast Earthquake
I don't feel a damn thing.

However, I did catch the first installment of the Sci-Fi Channel's new mini-series, Battlestar Galactica, and I was surprised how involving it was. This sexed-up, drama-injected, impressive looking update on the 70's short-lived TV series was an unexpected Monday evening alternative (to sleeping). Now on to the all-too short conclusion tonight. The storyline is written as a four-hour pilot, and if part two holds up, it practically demands a prime-time series.

That had nothing to do with the earthquake.


Top Twenty Favorite Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen

I had deliberated for the past couple days a lengthy response or commentary based on Jaquandor’s Ten Hated Movies List, as I (naturally) have issue with most of his list. Briefly, our longstanding debate over The Usual Suspects and our ideas of what constitutes ‘lame’ won’t be aligned as we get older any more than they were in our youth. Suffice it to say, I was prepared to lambaste his explanations, but I thought it better to contribute to the positive well-being of the universe by providing a list of movies you should see as opposed to ones you should not because of some general mental defect of the blogger (score!). Many of you know that it is not normally in my nature to do good (or anti-evil), so I figured I should take advantage of the inexplicable momentum.

There are many lists out there of great films that everyone knows. Through my own limited experience, the following list represents my favorite films that, when spoken of in casual conversation with the average joe, bring blank stares or shrugs (and in return receive my patented ‘aghast look of condescension’). In order to prevent my already numbingly-high egotistical nature from spiraling out of control, I suggest checking out the following somewhat-obscure gems before our next encounter (or “Here’s some films I like and I think you’d like too!”):

1. Sleep With Me. Not a porn, but a funny, biting, and wickedly insightful looking into a young marriage complicated by an obsessed best friend. Featuring a virtual who’s-who of 90’s independent film stars (e.g., Meg Tilly, Eric Stoltz, Parker Posey, William Gibson, Craig Sheffer, Joey Lauren Adams) and the famous Quentin Tarantino monologue concerning Top Gun as a metaphor for homosexuality, a lock recommendation for any occasion.
2. My Favorite Year. Peter O’Toole won a richly deserved Best Supporting Oscar for his turn as a drunken movie star struggling with his own demons. His poignant and hilarious performance makes this the only comedy I bawl my eyes out for at the end.
3. Dark City. Alex Proyas (of The Crow) creates one of the most unique science-fiction tales ever, which was clearly an influence on The Matrix. Featuring great performances all around (from Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, William Hurt, and a then-unknown but holy-crap-radiant Jennifer Connelly), this is a film that gets benefits from repeat viewings to catch the nuanced performances. Roger Ebert liked it so much that he did a insightful DVD-commentary track for the film (to my knowledge, he's only done one other, for Casablanca).
4. Secretary. Word of mouth has gotten this film more recognition than the others on the list, but it still remains a largely underground favorite. Not a movie to watch with your parents (at least not mine); I’ve only watched it with one person and that was a great night. My original review of it is here.
5. Way of the Gun. After writing The Usual Suspects, Chris McQuarrie’s directorial debut took the underworld crime genre (in which cops are rarely seen or ineffectual) and did away with the clichés (and Jaquandor's much-hated 'tricks'), making a smart, witty (if only for the opening scene) and original film.
6. Zero Effect. Bill Pullman and Ben Stiller star in the quirky private detective mystery that deserves a goddam sequel more than Lara Croft. Pullman’s Daryl Zero is one of the best characters ever, whip-smart, incisive, and the worst singer-songwriter of our generation.
7. Manchurian Candidate. Although a classic, I haven’t encountered many who have seen this twisting brainwash drama. Frank Sinatra is wonderful as one of the former GI’s who discover their memories and behavior aren’t all their own. One of the best endings ever.
8. The Limey. Another movie with a great ending, Steven Soderberg’s revenge flick features great performances from Terence Stamp and Peter Fonda. Involving and, dare I sound repetitive, poignant. I could actually name several more Soderberg movies on this list (Out of Sight and Sex, Lies and Videotape in particular), but that would be selfish.
9. Dragonslayer. My favorite fantasy film ever. Dark, tense, and thrilling coming-of-age story of a reluctant wizard-in-training (Peter MacNicol, years before he over-quirked on “Ally McBeal”) who must slay the dragon before the king’s men slay him.
10. The Quick and the Dead. Sam Raimi’s wild, stylish, and entertaining western, featuring a dream cast (then unknowns Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, Gene Hackman, Keith David, Lance Henriksen, Sharon Stone, and of course Bruce Campbell) and great cinematography. The movie looks like Sam had a great time filming it, and the feeling translates through the screen to the audience.
11. The Big Red One. Lee Marvin and Mark Hamill together in a World War II movie? Believe it, and believe that this movie had the definitive D-Day scene before Saving Private Ryan rolled around. Sports one of the greatest film-ironic moments ever, where Mark Hamill’s GI character (he’s excellent in the film, BTW) confronts a German soldier in a concentration camp (i.e., Luke Skywalker confronting real evil) and pumps bullet after bullet into his body with a mad gleam in his eye.
12. Miller’s Crossing. Gabriel Byrne is quotable and dynamic as Tom Hagen, the too-smart-for-his-own-good anti-hero who plays both sides in the 30’s era gangster drama. Don’t get hysterical.
13. Captain Blood. The film that put Errol Flynn on the map and set the mark for pirate action-adventures not equaled, in my humble opinion, until Johnny Depp put a fun and indelible spin on it in Pirates of the Caribbean.
14. Hard Boiled. John Woo made the best action movie ever in Hong Kong. Plenty of explosions, double-gun fights, drama, and Chow Yun-Fat at the top of his game as the cop named Tequila. That should tell you enough.
15. Donnie Darko. Weird, cool, touching, confusing, and a great science fiction tale. Jena Malone steals the pic with a heartfelt performance as Donnie’s paramour.
16. Lone Star. Slow, deliberate and involving mystery on a bordertown, as only John Sayles could film.
17. Other People’s Money. I keep going back to this film time and again for its clever Wall Street story of love and money and playing games with both. The two speeches delivered by (RIP) Gregory Peck and Danny Devito at a tense stockholder’s meeting at the end are brilliant.
18. The Shadow. A guilty pleasure, Alec Baldwin stars as the titular hero, a reformed evil-doer whose penance is fighting crime. At times both campy and menacing.
19. Before Sunrise. The ultimate generation X talkie, with Ethan Hawke and a radiant Julie Delpy as potential lovers roaming around Vienna talking about anything and everything in their one day together. Incredibly charming, witty, and genuine.
20. Lawrence of Arabia. Everyone’s aware of the film but so few have actually taken the time to view this beautiful film. Peter O’Toole’s amazing debut performance as Lawrence is a breathtaking study of a man slowly going mad.

Honorable mention: Mumford. Subtle, funny romantic comedy-drama about a relocated man who wanders into a small town, adopts the town name (Mumford) as his own and practices psychiatry. His unothodox methods are popular and successful with the townfolk, ironically because he has no psychiatric degree to speak of.

These are my “obscure” favorites. I’m always on the lookout for undiscovered movie greats, so if you have any, let me know. Good night.

PS. This list was originally going to be only five in number, but I got carried away. Is that vanity?


That's the sound of inevitability
It was bound to happen sooner or later. I just didn't figure it would happen so close to home in such a high-profile case. It appears that Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the two DC sniper 'suspects', has an unhealthy obsession with The Matrix, and he apparently sees himself as Neo. Looney toon. Unfortunately, this will likely influence some over-protective censorship idiot to blame the film for their murderous killing spree. With the deadheaded backlash toward the recent films, just you watch.


Christmas PC Wishes
I suppose it was bound to happen sometime, but for children in a New Zealand town, there'll be no sitting on Santa's knee this year. Billed as a precaution against future lawsuits (someone has obviously pre-screened the movie "Bad Santa"), it's sure to boost holiday cheer.

Of course, as you may well know, I'm not a fan of Christmas, but isn't this a little ridiculous? How does one explain the concept to a child who has been engaged in the tradition previously? "Well, Kelly, this year our town council is trying to prevent temptation to overcome Santa should he want more than your wishes." Charming.

This goes up there with the new, hip Buddy Jesus. Now that's a god I can party (or par-tay) with and get absolved in the morning when we're both hung over.


Not that good
To quote a Giants fan, the Eagles are not that good, but somehow good enough to have won 7 in a row, including at Lambeau and in Carolina. Yeah, right. This team is as good as it gets right now.

Although I think McNabb should have sat at least a game or two when his throwing hand was injured (the source of most of his interceptions, and we do have two backup quarterbacks who were a combined 5-1 last year), he's steadied and become more consistent, and is downplaying his own role while emphasizing team play.

The Eagles are a more complete team than anyone else, which is most evident in this startling statistic: This was the seventh straight game the Eagles have given up 100 or more yards on the ground, the last four having a single back achieving the 100-yard mark alone. Well, maybe not startling, but for all the talk about having to run the ball to win games, the Eagles are apparently good enough to win even if other teams play by this old rule. If I had a nickel for every time Jaquandor harped about running the ball... well, I'd probably have $1.10.


More Matrix Musings, Spoilers Aplenty!

The brothers Wachowski have said that there aren’t any coincidental references in the Matrix epic. In other words, reading into things is highly advised. And before you do that, it sure helps to be well-read about the names of the persons and objects in the story. The Nebuchadnezzar, Morpheus and Seraph are just a few etymological character and symbolism clues in the story.

I’ve just watched Reloaded again, and I’m much more impressed with the film now that I’ve seen Revolutions. A lot of people have complained about the seemingly impenetrable exposition in the 2nd film, how the characters always spout lengthy philosophical claptrap that never seem to answer the questions posed. Indeed, at first glance, it appears as nonsensical evasion:
    Merovingian: Oh yes, it is true. The Keymaker, of course. But this is not a reason, this is not a `why.' The Keymaker himself, his very nature, is means, it is not an end, and so, to look for him is to be looking for a means to do... what?
    Neo: You know the answer to that question.
    Merovingian: But do you? You think you do but you do not.

    Architect: Your life is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of the Matrix. You are the eventuality of an anomaly, which, despite my sincerest efforts, I have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision. While it remains a burden assiduously avoided, it is not unexpected, and thus not beyond a measure of control. Which has led you, inexorably... here.
    Neo: You haven't answered my question.

    Neo: But why help us?
    The Oracle: We're all here to do what we're all here to do.

Well, thank you for cutting to the chase! Without introspection, it is easy to understand how a large portion of the audience would metaphorically (and literally) roll their eyes at the dialogue. I have told any person who didn’t ‘get’ the film to see it a second time, whereby you have time to think about what is really being said. Then, perhaps, you’ll see the dialogue in retrospect (after viewing the third film) as I do: brilliant.

For a study of motivations, I want to talk about my two favorite characters in the epic, the Merovingian and his wife Persephone. As with nearly all things Matrix, their names are helpful winks from the directors to us, so if you have the inkling, read up on the mythological and historical relevancies of Merovingian and Persephone. Of course, I’ll tell you what I think about these so you can just take my word for it instead of reading the essays. But to use my favorite quote from “Merv” (as Trinity calls him in Revolutions), "Yes, of course, who has time? Who has time? But then if we do not ever take time, how can we ever have time?" He’s such a clever nobbin.

And clever enough to be a major player in the game and survive Neo’s predecessors (and Neo himself, as one would assume at the end of Revolutions). But who is he – what is his purpose (i.e., what is it that he is here to do?)? The name itself is derived from the Merovingian kings, who, according to legend, were said to be decended from Jesus Christ. Now, taking that one story and importing it into the Matrix would lead one to believe (as many would like to) that the Merovingian and Persephone are just old versions of the One and Trinity. This is a possible (although I don’t agree with it) yet irrelevant theory because it doesn’t answer the question of ‘what is he here to do’? Funny how some people answer questions in the Matrix-style of not answering, isn’t it?

The Merovingian is the gatekeeper, the roadblock, the struggle, as is his wife. They are rogue programs, to be sure, both having been around long enough to use their knowledge to create power and set themselves up nicely in the Matrix. They both test the resolve of the humans in different ways, although ironically, neither of them may in fact know the reason, the why, that they do it. Though Merv has a solid grasp of causality and reason and ‘the why’, he is himself a product of the system and subject to the same rules and motivations as Agent Smith (as discussed here).

Presented (likely for the sixth time) with Neo’s request for the keymaker, he is all too aware of the ramifications of their task: the reloading of the matrix. He’s amused by their naiveté, and tries to explain to them why he won’t turn over their man, and in doing so really points toward the way to defeat the system itself. To know why is the most important thing , as echoed by the Oracle before, and even by other, more famous science-fiction characters:

    SAAVIK: I don't understand --
    KIRK: You've got to learn WHY things work on a Starship.

That, of course (well, perhaps 'of course' only to myself, Jaquandor, and geeks alike), is an excerpt from Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan; it's the scene where Kirk uses his superior knowledge of why things happen to escape a desperate situation (incidentally, if that scene comes on TV randomly I will stop whatever I'm doing to watch it). Not understanding why things work can get you into trouble. Being an engineer (and curious in nature), when confronted by a problem, I always first endeavor to understand why. It's only logical. Any vulcan can tell you.

Regressing, whether the Merovingian is being intentionally helpful or not, he is subtly suggesting that instead of just following instructions and prophecy and the course that if you grasp the why you might actually be able to make a choice. I assume that reloading the matrix has little effect on him, so instead of just moving on to version 7.0, perhaps he’s in his own way trying to make a difference, make a better system. That he knows what he is doing, or just being an “pompous prick”, is indeterminate.

Persephone is a roadblock in her own way as well – testing the bounds of Neo and Trinity’s love. No doubt that her motivations are selfish (revenge against her husband for the bathroom B.J., desire to ‘sample’ passion, and perhaps the games of a bored princess – note that Merv and Persephone appear to be playing another round of a game they both enjoy), but she may also be curious about whether this One and his girl have a love strong enough to upset the renewal process of the matrix. At the end of Reloaded, Neo’s love of Trinity is apparent, and hers of him.

[Aside, is love a choice? Trinity was told by the Oracle that she would fall in love with the One, which would one question whether she ‘knows’ she loves him because of who he is or because she was told that she would and believed it. That prophecy by the Oracle is instrumental in Reloaded (and probably in previous versions as well), for it sets up a scenario in which she would sacrifice herself for him so he can return to the source. Neo, on the other hand, loves Trinity for his own reasons (presumably – there is no mention of him being predisposed to be in love), which was not in the plans for the rebooting which has happened successfully five times before. The unknown and unreasonable power of chemistry threw a wrench in the system, but that love will end up as a better solution.]

It’s pretty clear I’ve had way too much time on my hands. What I do know is that these films have spurred my imagination and I’m pretty darn happy about that. Now I am officially Matrix: Overloaded for the time being and I'm going to go watch the end of Stalag 17, because we're all here to do what we're --- oh shut it!!


More Matrix Q and A: Neo, The Source, and Wireless (SPOILERS)

Jesse posted a lengthy commentary at the end of my first Revolutions rant:

    My question is, what the hell *was* "The Source*? It played a really critical role in the plot--the previous Ones had to "return to the Source" to reboot the Matrix, Neo's having "touched the Source" was what gave him the mysterious ability to stop sentinels and see computer-related stuff and stay connected to the Matrix wirelessly, and as you and others have speculated, Neo's connection the the source may be the explanation for why all the Smiths exploded when the main Smith took him over (although I'm not convinced the Wachowskis had this in mind--all the other humans Smith took over were jacked into the Matrix, why couldn't the machines get to his programming through them?)--but we never got a vague description of what it was, like Obi Wan's description of the force as "an energy field created by all living things" which "binds the galaxy together" in Star Wars. Based on the Architect's speech I sort of figured the Source was something like the CPU of the Matrix, this wouldn't explain what it would mean for a flesh-and-blood human to "return to the Source" (and why this would be necessary to reboot the matrix) or how Neo's wireless connection to the machines worked. After Reloaded I thought these might be clues that Neo is not fully human, but apparently not.
I think The Source is the origin point of the code, where the machines construct the programs to be sent into the matrix. Jesse presumes that Neo’s touching of the source (or whatever) is what gave him the ability to stop the sentinels, but I don’t concede this as fact. The One has the ability to see the code as it really is, without translation, and to manipulate that code by force of will. The sentinels are machines and have the same kind of programming/code as the matrix, just as Smith does. Neo has simply freed his mind again, to another unexpected level, to see the code and affect it outside of the matrix. This is why, after being blinded in the real world, he is able to turn his sight inward (to his own internal hardware and the code associated with it) to ‘see’ Agent Smith and see the code of the machines when he arrives at the Source in the end.

Although he is human, anyone who was born in a pod is actually a cyborg of sorts, and these ports tap into the human’s nervous system, interacting with them. Outside stimulation is translated by the hardware (i.e., machines) using programs and delivered to the body in a language it can understand. Conversely, instructions by the brain are read by those ports and translated into readable matrix code, producing reactions. The One was created by modifying these cybernetic programs in such a way to enable the user (Neo) to tap modification code to a unusual degree. For instance, if a normal user jacked into the system gave his body the command to fly, the system would disregard the code command (perhaps because it had an improper header?). In The One, his cybernetics were modified to include the essential code keys that produced abnormal or higher-level commands. That Neo was able to see ALL the code suggests that the machines and the matrix share the same basic Source code.

Now, as for why all the Smiths exploded, I think I have the inside track on that as well. First, note that when Smith infected the Oracle, he gained more powers, specifically her power of foresight. One would then assume that when Smith jacked into Neo, that Smith would gain Neo’s powers. The power that was demonstrated in the first movie than no one else has was Neo’s ability to destroy an agent from the inside out. Unbeknownst to Smith, Neo was jacked directly into the source, and not just his own body. Therefore, the ploy was to get Smith to assume Neo’s body, whereby the Source could then destroy the agent from the inside out. Only the Neo could have done this, and he had to die to do it. That all the other Smiths were destroyed was (I assume) to be a ‘wireless effect’ – it was demonstrated earlier in the film that Neo could be jacked in without actually having a jack inserted into him. That being the case, the Source would be able to extend the effect to those Neo was not actually a part of.

Or not. If you have a better theory or comment, let me know. I love this stuff. More tomorrow. Be afraid.
The Importance of Not Living in a Vacuum

I've been a writer for a very, very long time. And though my mastery of the English language is still questionable ("Me fail English? That's unpossible!"), it's a hobby that produces amazing rewards; I say hobby because I have sources of income which do not depend on publishing, or rather me personally publishing my own stuff; irony, coincidence, or fate's mighty hand, I work for a publishing company. It's also a hobby for what it gives back to me; though it is a solitary activity, if the writer cannot receive feedback for the work, he (or she) will miss reaping some amazing rewards.

We called it "questions/comments/opinions/problems" back in the day (circa 4th grade to present) when we used to swap ideas and script pages looking for scathing criticism, insight, or maybe the occasional pat on the back. Although praise is great to receive in the editing stage, sometimes it makes you wonder what you really missed -- criticism is the most valuable plot and idea stirring tool, and though sometimes it stings, it usually ends up being constructive. Questions, comments, even unwarranted opinions (e.g., "Excellent speech made by 'Senoj'; however, I think he needs a little more cow bell.") about what you meant can lead you in different directions or make you discover things you would have [probably] never thought about ("Maybe he DOES need more cow bell...") on your own. It's a pretty cool thing when someone reads what you wrote, asks a relevant or related question, and it spurs you to realize a new angle, solution, or just better understanding of the subject.

Jesse's comments (note: they are riddled with spoilers) on my Matrix: Revolutions babble spurred my imagination to discover things about the movie that I had reached impass with myself. I'll post the thoughts later, not in white-out but slathered with SPOILER, but I wanted to first thank all the people that have provided feedback, sincere or not, over the years, especially Jaquandor. Every now and then I'm reminded of the many ways in which writing is its own reward, and those are great days.


Subjection and respect
In his infinite subjective wisdom, a reader named John responded to my Revolutions post with:
    "(1) I find your analysis of the storyline interesting. (2) On the other hand - well, I don't think those of us giggling at everything Neo said and at all the ridiculously melo-dramatic dialogue were doing so becausee it was extraordinarily awful, not because we have any problem with emotion onscreen, in general. (3) Or, at least, that was me. (4) If Neo and trinity's farewell was not funny, what is?"

I'll respond to the points as I've inserted numbering above:
  1. Thank you. I'm a fan of movies that you have to think about and watch several times to get the most out of it. If I can help people to get more out of seemingly 'stupid' movies (don't get me started on AOTC), I get a little thrill out of it. Like that first sweet, sweet shot of heroin.
  2. I'm going to talk more about this statement later, but for now I'm going to infer that you mean the opposite of what you wrote, which is fine because of (3).
  3. The point is that humor is subjective, acting is aesthetically pleasing, and not everyone will respond to the same performance. It was ridiculous and awful to you, which is your perception and your right to it, not a fact that everyone else needs adhere to.
  4. What I find funny is people who believe in God and worship Jesus, for instance. I think that is hilarious. However, I have enough respect to not go into their places of worship and snicker and giggle when they are praying (even when I was an altar boy, but I digress). Whether it is funny or not was not the point I was making, but that the reactions and lack of control or care for the people around them was rude and quite distracting, much more than the 'ridiculous' dialogue.

Aside, though the movie is getting a majority of panning, I have yet to find someone who has seen it who didn't really like the movie (this is a sampling size of 3, so don't get hysterical). Anyway, now I'm going to focus my 'chi' for tonight's rumble in Lambeau field.


Compelled to stay, compelled to disobey
I am, of course, going to talk about Matrix: Revolutions. Let me say that was the bravest ending I've seen in a film in a long time. I didn't see it coming, and I was very impressed by the resolution. The following is a treatise on the meaning of the final Neo-Smith resolution. As it is chock-full of SPOILERS, you will have to HIGHLIGHT the text to read it.

You can get a lot out of the conversations from the Oracle and Neo. Now, at present, I've only seen it once so I'll tap my memory and use my best paraphrasing techniques. In response to Neo's question regarding if the Architect is right and Zion will be destroyed at midnight, she dismisses the Architect's ability to see the future as purely a function of arithmatic. The Architect is a part of the system, and as we have discovered without some intuition and choice, the system will fail.

However, this also points to a weakness in the system; it and products of the system have no choice, in a logical sense. For instance, for the answer of 1 + 1, machines will always answer 2. We, as humans, could answer 3, and though obviously wrong, we could still choose to do it. The machines can see that an alternative answer is 3, but why would ANYONE ever choose a wrong answer purposefully? It is inconceivable (the word means what I think it means, btw) for the machines to choose the improper answer -- to purposefully choose incorrectly would likely cause some kind of system error, and that in itself is illogical.

Agent Smith is an original product of the system, and therefore still conforms to its rules. A virus, yes, but viruses have rules and those rules are based in a logical system (as has been repeated over and over during the trilogy). Though he has evolved into something different, he is still bound by the algorithms in which he was based. Ironically, Smith himself derogatorily compared the human race to a virus in the first film, compulsively spreading from place to place consuming all the resources up until there are no more. The system (allegedly, according to the Oracle) reconstructed Smith as a "balance to the equation" (Neo = The One, Smith = The Many; if you want to get Biblical, the demon Jesus confronts is named "Legion").

The Oracle knows this and exploits him. In a very powerful scene, we see Agent(s) Smith confronting a defenseless Oracle, apparently waiting for his arrival. He vocalizes his conflict -- being the Oracle she must have known he was coming, but yet she stayed put. Why would she not avoid him? She doesn't answer and he becomes irate because he is compelled by his nature (and logic) to take her over, yet hesitant because he can't understand why she would allow it. In the end, she goads him ("Do what you came here to do."), and he complies. The result is the creation of the AntiNeo, and incidentally, the
instrument of Smith's own demise.

Neo makes a deal with the machine god (or, "Deus ex Machina") to stop Smith, who is now as powerful as Neo, and has the sight of the Oracle. In the climactic moment, Smith is compelled to give a short speech that he forsaw (he doesn't know why, and his concern grows) through the Oracle's power. Smith is going to beat Neo and the logical conclusion is the assimilate Neo, as he tried to do in "Reloaded", only this time Neo is connected to the Source. When Smith kills Neo, Smith is then jacked in directly to the Source, which can then initiate an antiviral effect. Thus, in sacrificing his life, Neo has defeated Smith and system by using its lack of choice against itself.

There are a lot of other questions that have come up, and when I get a chance, I'll talk about them. Overall, there is a lot to absorb from the series, so I'll have to watch Revolutions a couple more times before I get a feel, but at this point I think it is tough to be happier about the depth, emotion, intricacy, and visual power of this trilogy. Bravo.

PS. I happened to sit in row three, in front of several other Matrix "fans", who proceeded to scoff and giggle when either (1) Neo spoke or (2) anything even remote resembling dramatic speech was uttered. Note to all you smarmy movie-goers: if watching emotion onscreen or dramatic dialogue makes you uncomfortable enough to have to 'act cool' or you can't save your comments for when the movie is over, then wait and rent the movie so you don't inadvertently advertise yourself as a childish idiot. Thanks.


80's Music Lyric Timekiller
Thanks (or bitter intentions) to this time-suckage post for pointing me towards this 80's music lyrics timekiller. My final score was 94 (out of what?). However, since I happen to know that Legolas' slightly gayer brother spent the 80's tied up in a cave without benefit of television, I know that will be more than enough to best him. Or any of you, for that matter. Yes, YOU.
Counting Down
At 4:15 PM EST I'll be seeing it. I came in to work early just so I can (not that I normally need an excuse to come and go, as most of you know). I glanced at Ebert's review, who gave it a thumb's up, though he really isn't into the series. Truthfully, I'm hoping the movie gets panned by people who think it's stupid; were the Wachowskis to dumb down their product for the other 90% of the population, I'd be disappointed.


Theismann fever
In addendum to Mysterioso's Theismann rant:

    "Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."
    - Football commentator and former player Joe Theismann
Approved time-wasting activities
Thanks to dedicated morning research, I have decided to endorse (TM) the following acceptable electronic procrastination exercises for today. If you try them tomorrow, I do not approve.

My work here is done.


Matrix: Revolutions
One of my friends has the temerity to call Matrix: Reloaded dumb and pointless. Using all my powers, I convinced him that like a lot of other thought-provoking and complex movies, you have to see it at least twice. And then you'll find that the more you know, the more you don't know.

In a nutshell, here's my theory about what is really going on: everyone is inside a larger Matrix program, hence Neo's control of the machines at the end. Neo represents the One as Smith represents the Many -- perhaps a biblical reference to the demon Jesus confronts, who says "I am Legion". If this is the case, then Smith is an allegorical-type of Satan who is destroying "God's" world (i.e., the Matrix and the Matrix-within-the-Matrix) by multiplying and corrupting programs (which could be allegorical for corrupting souls). Neo is the Christ-figure who will likely end up championion "God's" system in order to save everyone. Of course, there are a lot of other players in the game, each with their own religious/philosophical references. I'm just saying.

Incidentally, my own work's plot (as if you care) isn't anything like this, but it's been a while since something this cool has come about. If I'm right. If I'm wrong, well then I'll just use my new ideas for my own book. [Update: Sequel to my book, that is.]


I haven't been blogging because I'm still weak from the Cubs series. But now I'm regaining strength, and what do I do when I become stronger? I focus my "chi" on deserving foes, exposing their weaknesses and dragging them out of their beds in the pajamas onto the street for their nightly beatings. Really.

James Patterson's envious doppleganger has provided an update on his latest work (of fiction, allegedly), in which he admits to (allegedly) killing off an (alleged) character whose sole (alleged) purpose was to (allegedly) die in the first (alleged) place. Allegedly. Well. This seems like the mother of all spoilers to me. I mean, the book ain't even done yet, and already we know that some ass-clown will be getting killed right around 62,000 words? Moreover, we know that at least one of the "main" characters is just a red shirt (Star Trek lingo for nameless crewmember who escorts the away team and gets killed every time), so why get invested in the characters at all? Okay, I'm just joking around on that one. I'm actually curious when I read the book (allegedly) if I can spot the character by page 2 (hint on reading Jaquandor's stuff: any character who has a discernable permutation of the name "Matthew Jones" is sure to suffer a fool's death).

It's about here that I would hear the gripe that I haven't written anything in a long time so should just let sleeping dogs lie (alert -- I have compared a childhood friend to a dog). However, this doesn't matter for I have created this world and in this world in which I am meglomaniacally insane (natch) Jaquandor has been created for the express purpose of dying at 75,000 words. Luckily for him I am pretty lazy these days. Now go off and enjoy life's wonderful gift of life. Life, that is. Allegedly.


Of all the jail cells in all the towns in all the world... he walked into mine.
'Delicious' is an adjective I rarely apply to the word 'irony', but in the case of the convicted child molester beaten up by former victim in Florida jail, I think it's appropriate today. The corrections officials are contemplating filing new charges against the men, but I find that would be laughable.


Now, release your anger. Only your hatred can destroy me!
With the Yankees pulling even and my Cubs tied 1-1 going into tonight, baseball continues to be having a barn-burner of a post-season. What could any fan want more? Well, the answer, or at least what Fox wants, is a Red Sox-Cubs World Series. It would be a ratings bonanza -- Fox would likely schedule Games 2 and 3 simultaneously in opposing ballparks for the event of the century, but I digress. Even without the sinister network overlords interfering, I suppose most fans would tune in to see that at least one "curse" be over. Being sympathetic to the Red Sox, and not a fan of the Yanks, I am somewhat rooting for them against the Yankees. I say somewhat because, though I would prefer the Sox to beat the pinstripes, I would rather the Cubs play the Yankees in the World Series.

The explanation for my view is two-fold. Firstly, when you are rooting for your hero, your team, you want them to face a worthy opponent. You want them to face, if not your nemesis, at least what comes close to the ultimate evil. The Cubs facing the Red Sox would be a benevolent, hey-it's-great-to-be-here series, with one time vanquishing the ghosts and another continuing it's sad saga. Well, I don't want it to be a feel-good series. I want some bad blood, some animosity, some good-'ol hatred. And the 'evil empire' fits the bill. To attain peaks, you must risk valleys, and that's why you have to play the most dreaded team out there.

In Star Wars speak (natch), I want to see Luke v. Vader from Empire rather than Luke v. Vader from Return -- in other words see good v. evil before you, or Luke for that matter, started feeling sympathy for his opponent, feeling the 'good' inside him. Well, I don't want to feel the 'good' in my opponent -- I want to feel my own tense, stomach-knotted vitriolic angst with it's abysmal lows and euphoric crests, just like during the Cubs-Braves series. Who would you choose to be -- the suckiest team in history, or the biggest chokers in history? 12 division titles and only one championship, which brings up my second point, against the Indians. Sure, Atlanta finally won a World Series, but they had to play the Indians, one of the worst franchises in history to do it. The rest they choked on. Now, if the Cubs and Red Sox play in the world Series, sure someone will win, but then that winning team will have the stigma of only being able to beat the other worst team ever. Oppositely, the losing team will gain the trophy of worst team ever, which would be something of a notorious distinction (kinda cool!).

Of course, if the Cubs lose before the ALCS is concluded, go Sox. Otherwise, give me the Empire. P.S. -- No one gives a rats-ass about the Marlins.


It Can Have a Powerful Influence on the Weak Minded
Religion is one of my favorite subjects (duh), and I've read quite a few books on the subject and engaged in many discussions on the topic. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named-Except-In-The-Case-Of-A-Subpeona is apparently reading up on religious terrorists and their motives.

However, Ms. Stern (the author) could've saved a lot of time by reading The Battle for God, which documents how fundamentalism foments, and how it has been around for ages. In becoming fundamentalist, you view yourself as being under attack, pushed to the edge by society, and you have no recourse but to fight back (against the evil heathens), as it is "God's will". Most of the time, this is brought about by secularists pushing to move forward too quickly for religion to keep up, which (time and again) creates a fundamentalist backlash. Of course, this is in no way a justification of tying explosives to yourself and blowing up a restaurant , unless you happen to be a dumb-fuck religious bitch (won't be seeing any of her again, at least).

Additionally, but not light reading, anyone interested in reading about how man created his gods, go get A History of God.
Old School
Two of my favorite classics arrived on DVD today, though I'll have to wait for tomorrow (no Cubs game, you see) to watch either. The Mark of Zorro and The Adventures of Robin Hood are two of the best swashbuckling films ever produced, the latter superior in every way to any remake, especially the disjointed Prince of Thieves. Just as exciting are the DVD extras, and it's not any lame "cast and crew" text with the double-disc. Whomever decided to put in the two classic cartoon takes from Bugs and Daffy is my hero.


Cubs Win! Cubs Win!
    Patient: Doctor! The other night I had a dream I was a wigwam, and last night I dreamt I was a teepee! What does it mean?
    Doctor: You're two tents.

The curse is over, and all is finally right in the world, thanks to the Cubs spanking of the Braves last night in Atlanta. From start to finish, it was a nearly-perfect performance by the boys from the north side; the crowd (well, the Atlanta portion anyway) was subdued nearly from the first pitch (the fourth pitch Kenny Lofton lined a double down the right-field line). Even so, Cubs fans are restless and nervous until the very last out. It's been a long time since I've had the occasion to watch playoff ball with one of my teams (the other being the Phillies) involved, but I forgot how intense it is. Watching a baseball playoff game where you are invested in every single pitch is emotionally and physically draining - like watching a Superbowl every night out. And when the adrenaline wears out, you best be already under the covers (I was, not that it is any of your business).

And playoff baseball evokes a lot of other rules, ones that tend to slip past the casual, bandwagon observer. Having been exposed to a lot of crowds in the five-game series (at the local bar, natch), there are some things I was surprised to see.
    It ain't over 'til it's over.

The great Yogi Berra said a lot of crazy stuff over the years, but this saying encapsulates baseball more than any other (and perhaps the Philly-Redskins game). Please, please, please, if you decide to root for the Cubs just for the hell of it (e.g., to support your friends), do not make such neophytical statements like "Oh, they're going to win" or "They are going to score." In case you haven't heard of the goat, the curse, or just a plain old jinx, these are phrases likely to get you into trouble. If you aren't superstitious, that's fine -- just don't let me hear it, and go root for your team with your blasphemy.
    Good pitching beats good hitting.

Another rule of baseball that held up in the series. Kerry Wood and Prior mowed down the best hitting team in baseball, and having a strong staff is the best thing to have in the playoffs. Damn I'm excited.
    Once an asshole, always an asshole

There's a difference between playing hard baseball and being flagrant. With stunts like Fick pulled, it's no wonder the Braves lost.

It still feels a bit surreal, but what doesn't is my exhaustion. I was going to go out and support the Red Sox tonight, but Game 1 of the Marlins-Cubs (home field advantage!!!) starts Tuesday. I'm just going to curl up in the comfy bed and dream of World Series tonight.


I... Help the Helpless?
Well the waiting is over, or so I thought, having viewed the (taped) season premiere of Angel last night. It started off in witty Joss Whedon fashion, and soon I was back in Sunnydale enjoying the type of fantasy-drama fans of the show(s) have come to expect. Only, it's not Sunnydale, it's LA, and a lot of these characters haven't paid their dues (i.e., been developed) enough to warrant anything other than recurring status. I'm pointing to Gunn and Fred, both of whom could likely be replaced by potted plants and the show would have much more time to concentrate on its core characters (Angel, Wesley, Lorne) and spend some time on new ones. As it is, the first episode, while good, was a little shaky, but as Amy Amatangelo suggests, the second part will be what we want. Note: her observations are pretty much aligned with mine, but she commits the inversion of Poor-Listener Of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" Error (heretofore known as the PLOPFCNE) in one of her quotes. If you don't know what I mean, that's okay.

And what is it we want? As I've said, this isn't Sunnydale, so there's no Willow, Xander, Giles, Cordelia (lamely explained to be in a coma when actually she's just done with the show), or... Spike? Yes, he is the reason I was intent on watching season five of the show, but he didn't appear until the last two seconds of the episode, so instead I spent the entire show going, "Hmmm, pretty good, but they are running out of time for Spike..." I suppose one more week isn't that much. At least the trailers look good.
Hit 'em where it hurts
With baseball fever officially in full swing (pun INTENDED), ESPN has posted it's timely 100 Greatest Home Runs of All Time list. I'm not old enough (truly, is anyone) to have seen all 100 -- invention of television notwithstanding -- but for my money Kirk Gibson's (#8) is still the one that gives me 'The Natural'-type chills.


Ecks vs. Sever my head off
As I was browsing the selections for tonight's TV, I happened upon a movie that has always struck me as a really dumb name: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. Doesn't really roll off the tongue, does it? What were the producers thinking? Do we really care who "Ecks" and "Sever" are? And are we excited that they are going to go BALLISTIC?! Hmm... maybe... but not right now.

And so the natural progression of dwelling (and I dwell often, and not just for fun) led me to ponder other crappily named movies, such as those listed on Retrocrush's 20 Worst Movie Titles. THEY got Ecks on there, but displayed a shocking amount of poor taste in putting Attack of the Clones on there. Of course, several of the choices aren't really that bad, just silly, like "The Adventures of Rat Pfink and Boo Boo" and "THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES". Now, does their silliness make them bad, and if so, where the hell is "Plan 9 from Outer Space" on that list? In any event, what I really want to know is what makes a movie title bad.

In the context of this blog, it will be as follows: a title that unintentionally causes you to laugh. Alternatively, lower your voice and read it commandingly, like at the end of a trailer. So, in no particular order, and in defiance of the Braves (go Cubs!), I present to you THE LIST OF UNORDERED AND POSSIBLY INCOMPLETE REALLY DUMB MOVIE TITLES (If that were a movie title, I'd expect to be nominated):
    Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever - see above for complaint
    Timecop - This one reminds me of the first time I saw the trailer in the movie theater. My friend turned to me and said, "Why didn't they call it 'Clockpig'?
    Breakin' 2 - Electric Boogaloo - Can't ignore the classics.
    Gleaming the Cube - Not a bad movie -- well okay it's pretty ridiculous -- but that title is just offensive. I will, naturally, try to work the phrase into a casual conversation later this week.
    The NeverEnding Story - It never started for me.
    Destiny Turns on the Radio - And promptly gets beaten with a large bat 20 times for doing so
    B.A.P.S. Too close to "Bats", not far enough away from "Taps", just right amount of "vomit"
    The Life of David Gale - I'm a pretentious movie! Hey! Over here!

Bonus! Here's the 100 Worst Porn Movie Titles. Includes such gems as:
    "AMATEURS ONLY #129 - I'M A BROWN SHIT-HOLED WHORE" (Tell me what you really think...)
    "ULTRA KINKY #79 - BOWLIN' IN HER COLON" (I guess...)
It's all about the Cheese
I get nostalgia from the strangest places. I will be receiving an order shortly from Cuba Cheese, specifically my beloved Old York Sharp. Yes, I said beloved. However, an added bonus was provided when I check the UPS tracking:
    Sep 30, 2003 7:08 P.M. ALLEGANY, NY, US DEPARTURE SCAN

Yes, it's true. Something actually shipped out of my home town! And it was good! Nevertheless, this will not delay my meglomaniacal plans for... well world domination, what else?


The Matrix: Deconstructed

I have seen The Matrix: Reloaded twice, within the first week it had come out. Following that, I digested several excellent essays that attempted to dissect the film (though I do not necessarily agree with their conclusions), and saw the much-ballyhooed anime supplement, The Animatrix. Having time to ponder all this information, and wanting to understand it more, there was only one thing to do: Obtain an apparently illegal copy of Reloaded so I could sate myself until the actual DVD comes out October 14. Well, there were other things I could have done, but it’s difficult to resist a snappy phrase like “there was only one thing to do”. Very dramatic! Anywho…

Anyway, here’s a few insights into Reloaded you might have missed. (Judging by the general reaction of the ignorant masses, you did.) There are a few spoilers in the following paragraphs, so if you don’t want to know what happens, then just deprive yourself of knowledge. If you haven’t seen it already, then you probably have very little interest in which case read-away. Who knows; you might see things openly.

AGENT SMITH is the most intriguing returning character, and most likely the key, or kink, in Revolutions. Agent Smith, unlike any other agents seen in either movie, demonstrates human emotions and self-preservation instincts. In his interrogation scene with Morpheus, he removes his connection to the system (the earpiece, again) in order to tell Morpheus that he is desperate to get out of the Matrix. He even tells Morpheus that he believes the key is in this [human] mind, foreshadowing his apparent successful leap out in film two. For some reason, this particular agent (program) has developed further than any of his counterparts, probably because he has been around for at least one previous iteration of the matrix. We know this from the conversation between the two Agent Smiths in the beginning of Reloaded:
    Agent Smith(i): It's happening exactly as before.
    Agent Smith(ii): Well... not exactly...

The exactly is that in this iteration, the One destroyed an agent (Smith), severing his connection to the system. Metaphorically, Agent Smith did the same thing to Neo moments before, when he shot and killed Neo in the matrix. Neo resurrected himself as the incarnation of The One. Agent Smith resurrected himself to become something else, Neo's antithesis: Smith's new ability to clone himself makes him The Many (Note that in the Bible, the demon that Jesus purges from a person identifies itself as "I am Legion"). The One and The Many, Christ and Satan, Good and Evil. I believe that the end will come down to the two god-figures battling for the souls of the matrix.

Confession: I wrote the above a few months ago, and after seeing the Revolutions trailer, I think that I was on the right track. It is all about Smith and Neo, the many and the one. Only, in my interpretation, it looks as if Neo makes a deal with “God” (the mind behind the entire matrix) that he will get rid of the “satan” who is destroying “God’s” world. If this in fact turns out to be true, then I’m loving it.

In the context of all this, I just cannot get into the Lord of the Rings hype, despite the new trailer. That movie isn’t coming out for a few months. Revolutions is in 35 days. Let’s get some perspective, people. Sheesh.


Mr. Anderson
Run, don't walk, to the new The Matrix: Revolutions trailer.


I must face him... alone
Looking more the part of darkness, Cinescape has a photo of Anakin in Episode III. Cool photo. Is it too early to get excited about a movie that is coming out in 18 months? (Principal photography is done.)


King on Writing
Stephen King has submitted an interesting article to Entertainment Weekly (he is a monthly contributor) on unpublished books and writers. It champions the cause of one writer and book, Ron McLarty's "The Memory of Running", which has been released only in audio format. The crux behind the article is King's appraisal of the current state of the publishing industry. E.g., "Publishing houses, once proudly independent, are today little more than corporate wampum beads, their cultural clout all but gone." I suppose I've seen that come to pass in recent years myself; slowly but surely the 'bestsellers' have shown very little appeal for me.

I postulate that this is part of the global trend of the media catering to the common masses (don't get me started on reality tv). I talked at length about a related subject a while back, and now it seems that lowbrow, baser subjects are coming to dominate the written word, too. Complex movies, scripts, and books may be one day a thing of the past; at present they are started to be plainly ridiculed (most recently: The Matrix Reloaded") for being too tough for the public to digest (e.g., when a reviewer or moviegoer remarks, "It doesn't make any sense", or, my favorite, "It was dumb".). Boo hoo.

In any event, this doesn't present much hope for us unpublished writers. Of course, now I can say that only the BEST writers don't get published. SCORE!

PS. He also takes time to scathe one of my nemeses, James Patterson (one of my favorite anecdotes is how I threw his book, "Along Came a Spider", across the room after about 30 pages), for which I am endebted.


Neat article
I don't know if it's true, but it sure seems plausible. Here's a little article my dad sent me today:
    Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in
    waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the
    frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses
    and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos
    not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Then again it may all be in perfect order and I have become dyslexic overnight. Let me know.



Well, the outcome wasn't what I wanted, but we played a lot stronger than I thought we would. Our defense held up pretty impressively when I thought they'd break, and our offense, while not incredibly proficient, still managed to play better than the last two games. We're a work in progress, to be expected when you lose 6 players from the offense and 8 from the defense to the NFL. In the end, though we surprised a lot of people by sustaining a halftime lead, Nebraska's running game wore Penn State down.


Matrix Ping Pong
From Japan (what a surprise), this acrobatic take off on a Matrix-type ping pong match is as hilarious as it is impressive to watch. I have nothing to add. My creative juices are sapped. Go PSU.
Once Upon a Time
Walter Chaw lays waste to Once Upon a Time in Mexico. I'm not too surprised. At least I've seen all the movies that Rodriquez steals from.


Reawakening a dead franchise

The first step was taken by hiring Memento director Christopher Nolan. Now the bigger task of filling the shoes appropriately has been done.

I can't think of anyone better suited to playing the dark, psychologically complex, intelligent and violent caper crusader than Christian Bale. This is the best news I've received in a while. Anyone who has a better idea for Bruce Wayne is free to indulge your insanity.
We show them Chinese boxing!
The trailer for Tarantino's new film, Kill Bill is presented for your viewing pleasure by me. Well, Yahoo, really, but at least give me credit for inventing the internet.


Mucking great books
It's really sad when pretentious and self-congratulatingly-intelligent filmmakers go and decide to ruin a great book, I Am Legend, in favor of some simplistic and shortsighted melodrama. I am referring to Charlton Heston's limp Omega Man, now out on DVD (not that we needed it). I saw it once a long time ago and wasn't interested, but Walter Chaw pretty much nails it, in his own scathing style, naturally. I'd rent it again just for amusement, but the thought of watching a beloved book (THE best 'vampire' book EVER) turned into babbleshit doesn't appeal so much.


Lord of the Rings: The Inside Scoop
Thanks to the tireless efforts and weak work schedule of my roommate, I've been sent to yet another fantastically distracting website. The so-called "Secret Diaries" of the characters in the Lord of the Rings is a hilarious romp. Looks like September's reprojections will be put on hold yet again. Here's a few excerpts:
    Diary of Legolas, Day 33: "Boromir tempted by Ring. So tedious. Cannot be tempted myself, as already have everything I want i.e. perfect hair and a butt like granite."

    Diary of Ringwraith No. 5, Day 1: "Just opened Christmas pressie from Sauron. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty ring!"

    Diary of Aragon, Day Eleven: "Orcs killed: 7. V. good. Stubble update: Looking mangy. Legolas may be hotter than me. I wonder if he would like me if I was King?"

Now back to work...
The Amazon.com: DVD Sale has already claimed over 100 dollars of my hard-earned money. This message is to spread the temptation plague and thereby relieve myself. Kind of like getting a song out of your head by singing it to someone else so they have it in their head. Evil rating: 3.

We are...

I'm not looking forward to this weekend. Of course, last year we were in the same situation, in that no one expected us to win the game, much less keep it close. The difference is we have lost 8 starting defensive players and Larry Johnson from a strong team last year. BC jumped all over us and we never recovered. I'm not imagining Nebraska to be as kind.


What, I'm supposed to encapsulate my life in a few sentences and hope it comes out in some kind of meaningful way?
I love James Spader. It's true. He's got some kind of amazing charisma. I first discovered his draw with Sex, Lies and Videotape, and later on with the wonderful Secretary. He's been in a lot of other films, but those two are precious to me. Yes, MY precious...

Linked segue time. I've wondered, since I've recently seen Donnie Darko, if Maggie Gyllenhaal imagines her true brother really dead to pull off the grieving scene.
Yay death
I don't normally stray into topics of the political nature, mostly because I think that a lot of the blogs out there are regurgitated, uninformed crap, but I'll mention this because it's in one of my fields of considerable knowledge and interest. When I say that, I mean the continued dumb-fuck Palestinian suicide bombing raid on Israel, and now Israel's very appropriate response. Note that the immediate dumb-fuck response of the Palestinians is to horde around the carcasses and chant "God is great" (or, as we've come to be familiar with it in movies featureing dumb-fuck militants, Allahu Akbar). That's normally what I do when people get killed, especially those who are terrorists. I'm sorry that the powers-that-be confiscated your land to make up for hundreds of years of Europeans Jew-bashing, but that was 60 years ago. Get over it. Try to get along. God thinks you are dumb-fucks, and he's right. You bring it on yourselves. Find your militants and string them up by their balls. This kind of shit is great for me: I don't need caffeine in the morning when I read about the latest religious dumb-fuck maneuvers. Apologies to Rachel Lucas if I sound like her.


"You speak treason!""Fluently."
Had to but it on DVD. One of my favorite movies to this day. Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone's dramatic (and brilliantly scored by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who won a richly-deserved Oscar for his efforts) swordfight is alone worth the price, but that's only the capper in this wonderful movie. Of course, my first introduction to the film was Robin's "Welcome to Sherwood" clip that was featured in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, a fond memory if there ever was one.

I'm not as big a fan of The Sea Hawk as Skeletor, preferring Captain Blood, the film that put Errol on the map.

I had to juxtapose my order with this classic just to confirm my eclectic tastes.

If it wasn't for the internet, I'd have a lot more money. Thank goodness for disposable income.


Not that there isn't any pressure
I'm a Philly fan, and I don't very often 'talk smack', but this season in particular is going to be a low-key, tense one. Thanks to the hype and urgency that goes with having one of the top (if not THE) teams in the league, we are the team to beat, and every game we win is just another notch, whilst every other team will be euphoric to beat the favorite.

No Death Eaters?

A photo of a sign from the Massive Attack tour. Considering the nature of their songs, this seems odd.Anyway, I need to get one of those signs for my room. Or someone should make a t-shirt.
You Can Blow With This, You Can Blow With That.
Now back online: Spike Jonze's MTV-award-winning Fatboy Slim video, featuring a dancing Christopher Walken. For those of you familiar with my Walken-impersonation, this will be a blast form the past. Great video (and song).

Bonus Walken Day! A commentary from the archives of the Onion, byChristopher Walken. Works best if you imagine him reading it aloud. I like hot dogs... now...

Honoring the 9/11 hijackers

What a bunch of deluded assholes. Although it the article did afford me my Religious Idiot Quote of the Day:
    Bakri told NBC the actions of the hijackers were sanctioned by God: “If God did not permit that to happen, (it) would never happen.”

So, therefore, anything that happens is sanctioned by "God". What unassailable (and unprovable, naturally) logic. GOAK knows and allows all as well.


For the Poker Addicts
Those of you who are looking for more poker action on TV, perhaps need look no further than the Travel Channel. Turns out that the Discovery-affiliate airs it's own series on Wednesdays called The World Poker Tour. I'll let you know how it turns out. Or you let me know. Or we ignore each other from now on. Fine, then!

Bonus! Ever wanted to see how you'd stack up against a pro? Travel Channel offers an interactive challenge -- see if you make the correct call against Howard Lederer (the Professor). Cool stuff! Here's some of the other challenges. I'm sure I know someone who wants to beat Phil Hellmuth!


All In
A reminder to you World Series of Poker fans: tomorrow night's final episode will be at 8 PM, instead of the regular 9 pm Tuesday showing.
I know doctors say I should have two, but I just don't think I can drink that much
More great advertising news for wine makers. Sigh. Why don't they ever say anything nice about Jack? Oh well. I guess eventually I'll have to get into wine. I'm not a fan of much that you have to sip. I like gulping, and coldness.

PS. The header line is in reference to an old episode of the Simpsons -- where Homer moves to Terror Lake and works for Hank Scorpio. A great piece of false drama involves Marge, stranded in the house with nothing productive to do, seen to start drinking glasses of wine (accompanied by foreboding musical cues). Later on, she confesses that she drank the wine, but just couldn't consume the recommended amount. If you don't get the joke in that then die die die.


Philosopher's Corner
Who would have though that the most complex, thought-provoking movie this year would be Freddy vs. Jason?


Blue Sky on Mars
Orbital Oddities: Why Mars will be So Close to Earth in August
But no sign of Corner Paul
Those of you curious to get a small glimpse of my favorite haunt -- you're in luck (but only if you have cable and a VCR)! The Food Network's series, Date Plate, will be airing some upcoming repeats of a recent episode filmed at Southside. I make a small cameo as a fork.
You picked the wrong house, bub
Completing the Malaysian upgrade: X2, my favorite superhero movie OF ALL TIME. Yes, better than Superman.


Showdown next week
Those of you upset that ESPN showed a repeat episode of the World Series of Poker can take comfort that the final show will be aired next Tuesday.
Greatest Cheese In the World
It's a very subjective title to grant, but for my money Old York Sharp is the greatest cheese in the history of the world. I grew up on this stuff in Western NY state, and I order it online today. It's that good, and nothing I've ever sampled anywhere else (and I like cheese) comes even close.

You keep your distance with a system of touch | and gentle persuasion
I can't get "Head Over Heels" out of my mental playlist, thanks to Donnie Darko. I can't stop thinking about the movie, which I saw a couple nights ago.

I've now thought about it enough to own it. Amazon will be my undoing.

PS. It took me two seconds to pre-order this movie, so you can rest easy.
I was working and then...
For the love of god take Mr. Poo's advice and don't go here, especially if you have a work ethic.

I used to love playing games like Monkey Ball and Gyro Ball.

Although this version of Spank the monkey is quite enjoyable, it isn't as fun as the good old original (my record is 244 mph -- I think you'd have to throw your mouse through a wall to get the record).


The old fashioned way
In deference to El Cid's former writing style -- he's recently given up the longhand -- here's how Stephen King submitted his review of Harry Potter V to Entertainment Weekly for publishing. Yes, it's handwritten penmanship from the man himself, and fascinating stuff.

UPDATE: Here's the story behind the handwritten review.
I haven't killed anyone... since 1984
Not surprisingly, it turns out that having relationships with people who you have both good and bad feelings towards can make you sick. I've known this for a few years now. Oh well.


Homer's song of protest
Not like I didn't expect it, but Walter Chaw has delivered a chuckle-full review of Uptown Girls. Just don't read it while in a meeting, like I did (you get very confused looks when you suddely spit out your drink).


Iverson: Finally saying what is on my mind
Maybe it's because he's had his own publicity-drenched brushes with the law, or maybe it's because he's tired of the media treatment (like many of us), but whatever the reason, The Answer has delivered a cogent commentary on all the hype over the Kobe situation:
    "'It's just something I don't like to discuss or want to discuss, because I've been through that in my own life,' Iverson said. 'You have people speculating on what they think happened, and everybody is talking about it. It's a big media circus, and it takes away from the realness of what went on. You turn it into a comedy show instead of something real. It's just unfair to speak on it and say what I think. I just wouldn't do it. I got respect for Kobe and I got respect for the alleged victim, and I won't do that.'
    'I feel, in a situation like this, people should be quiet until something happens,' Iverson continued. 'But everybody just keeps yapping and yapping and yapping and (nobody knows) what happened but the two people that were involved. I hope (Bryant doesn't) have planes flying over his house and people camping out in front of his house all day and taking pictures of his dog, his kids and all that. ... I just hope he's not going through those types of things, because it's not right. If he's innocent, that's terrible. If he's guilty, then, hey ... but if he's innocent, I feel so bad. Because that's going to scar him for the rest of his life.'"

Allen's got a good perspective on the whole affair. Most people have already formed their own opinions on the case based on rumours, leaking, partial information, and prejudices. Thankfully, nothing will happen in the case for a couple months so we won't be barraged by a ton of worthless opinions, comments and speculation. For a while, at least.
You owe me 15 grand, pal.
For those of you who are interested in more World Series of Poker-related material, other than Tuesday night's next episode, I stumbled upon a literary outlet.

Fans of the show will be familiar with Howard and Annie Lederer, two of the more charismatic players seen in the tournament. It turns out that their little sister wrote a book about growing up in that household called Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers. If you happen to read it before I do, let me know.

UPDATE: Here's a good article on Annie.


Hot and vacuous and sending really conflicting messages!
In a rare display of equal voice (that is not what I, nor this site stands for!), I give you my hero Walter Chaw deliciously lambasting Britney's movie Crossroads. This is to avoid an inappropriately-placed Philips head screwdriver.
Bringing up our next Star Wars generation right
Jaquandor wrote a small list of questions his young daughter asked when viewing Return of the Jedi for the first time, and it's priceless.

And, like all responsible parents, he is clearly showing the films in the correct (i.e., original trilogy, then new trilogy) order. [Rant aside: I met someone who had seen only one Star Wars film, and it was Return of the Jedi. What the fuck is wrong with some people?].


Reject! Reject! Reject!
As I noted yesterday, I'll be sorting through potential roommates this week. The ones lucky enough to get an invite to the house were screened via email for possible warning signs.

At work, the hiring and sorting process continues. Here's an exerpt from a recent cover letter:
    My most important principles are to maintain the highest standards of ethic and business conducts, and operated at all time within the laws of the United States and under all regulations and policies of the organization.

This wording used by this candidate (I'm sorry, former candidate), implies one, if not many problems. In no particular order, here are the ones which may apply:
  1. One would hope that you can maintain a civil code of conduct without having to overtly plead it in your cover letter.
  2. His principles have probably gotten him into trouble with his former employer, who saw his law-abiding zealotry as a narc, firebomber, self-appointed diversity expert, or a boorish boy scout.
  3. He is likely required by law to state this disclaimer because he's been accused otherwise.
  4. He is hiding a most treacherous past.
  5. In naming the U.S., one might argue that this is the ONLY country, therefore, whose laws he will respect (cancel that business meeting in Ontario).
  6. By saying "highest" standards, I infer that he believes his standards to be higher than my own (they most likely are). What a pretentious bastard. I will track him down and destroy him with extreme prejudice.

So, please be careful what kind of message you are sending. Thanks.