I wouldn't say that I came late to the Joy Division party so much that I wasn't ready for it, like my tastes hadn't matured or developed yet. I despised raw tomatoes as a child but now I love them. I loved (and still do) tomato sauce, but could not make that backwards leap to the vegetable.

When I first heard their sound in my college days, Joy Division sounded as it does to me today: different, disturbing, frenetic, dark, compelling. At that time, however, New Order, the band formed from the ashes of Joy Division, was at its commercial peak with the release of its Substance singles album and the True Faith single. I was looking for more of the New Order sound in Joy Division, but that wasn't to be, so I never really got into them.2007's Control, a film made by "rock photographer" Anton Corbijn (who photographed them in 1979) is a film about the band's rise and their singer's sudden suicide on the eve of their first American tour. The film is absolutely infused with Joy Division's music, from background to several memorable live performances.

What is amazing of the film, aside from each member of the band nailing the look of the real person, is that the actors played their own instruments and Sam Riley sang and took on the Ian Curtis persona to eerie similarity. (Ironically, Joy Division was known for being a bit sloppy live; the actors sounded more crisp "live" that JD on Still, but of course this is a movie.)

Below is a clip from the actual Joy Division group playing Transmission, which was included as a bonus clip on the DVD. It is uncannily recreated on film, to the point that the biggest difference is the footage is color versus the film's black and white:

Just their chosen name itself is subversive, thought-provoking, and utterly appropriate. I'm hard pressed to think of a cooler band name in history. From Wiki:
    The House of Dolls is a 1955 novella by Ka-tzetnik 135633. The novella describes Joy Divisions, which were allegedly groups of Jewish women in the concentration camps during World War II who were kept for the sexual pleasure of Nazi soldiers.
Not your typical bio-flick, and not your typical band. Now, years after my first exposure and with a clean palate, if nothing else it has moved me to dust off the old albums and listen with fresh ears to a vigorous, vital sound.

Control Trailer:


The Divine Invasion

It took me about five minutes worth of reading The Divine Invasion and a serious bout of deja-vu to realize that I had, in fact, read the book years before. The second book in Philip K. Dick's gnostic trilogy (for lack of a better descriptor) is a continuation of the themes of the first book, VALIS, but set far in the future. Now I recall reading it (admittedly out of order because the subject was really interesting to me, and VALIS was not) and I remember being pretty confused about the whole thing. Surprise, surprise that actually reading the books in order (shocker) sheds some helpful light on the rather complex religious themes.
In a nutshell, The Divine Invasion is what it sounds like: "God" was kicked off the planet around 73 AD and has been living on a mountain on a distant planet. Now, he wants to come back to Earth, which is heavily influenced by his adversary. His attempt to come back in the womb of a virgin succeeds, but evil forces caused her shuttle to explode. He survived, but is brain damaged. I can't imagine this book going over well in the midwest, not to pick on a particular part of the country. For me, however, it puts a spring in my type and I chuckle aloud at the outrageous, unique, and clever audacity of the book.


Let the Buzz Begin

Over three weeks away, but Rolling Stone confirms what you might have already surmised from watching any television or internet trailer: The Dark Knight is going to rock:
    Heads up: a thunderbolt is about to rip into the blanket of bland we call summer movies. The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan's absolute stunner of a follow-up to 2005's Batman Begins, is a potent provocation decked out as a comic-book movie. Feverish action? Check. Dazzling spectacle? Check. Devilish fun? Check. But Nolan is just warming up. There's something raw and elemental at work in this artfully imagined universe. Striking out from his Batman origin story, Nolan cuts through to a deeper dimension. Huh? Wha? How can a conflicted guy in a bat suit and a villain with a cracked, painted-on clown smile speak to the essentials of the human condition? Just hang on for a shock to the system. The Dark Knight creates a place where good and evil — expected to do battle — decide instead to get it on and dance. "I don't want to kill you," Heath Ledger's psycho Joker tells Christian Bale's stalwart Batman. "You complete me." Don't buy the tease. He means it.
And what of Ledger's last role? Money in the bank:
    The Joker represents the last completed role for Ledger, who died in January at 28 before finishing work on Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. It's typical of Ledger's total commitment to films as diverse as Brokeback Mountain and I'm Not There that he does nothing out of vanity or the need to be liked. If there's a movement to get him the first posthumous Oscar since Peter Finch won for 1976's Network, sign me up. Ledger's Joker has no gray areas — he's all rampaging id.
Sign me up, too. Oh pinch me, pinch me. Happy birthday to me, indeed.


Just in case you didn't know my last name

Sometimes you see articles about thieves that defy explanation. This could be one of them. Master criminal Kenneth Lane Holliday -- "alleged" may be a strictly legal term at this point -- perpetrated the perfect crime:
    Staff Report Authorities say a man who stole money Tuesday from a Grand Bay convenience store left behind some incriminating evidence — his drivers license.

    Kenneth Lane Holliday gave a clerk at the Korner Quick Stop on Old Pascagoula Road his license in order to turn on the gasoline pump and get gasoline at about 8 p.m., Mobile County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Kate Johnson said in a news release. A few minutes later, he came back in the store with a handgun and demanded money from the clerk. He took the money, Johnson said, but left behind his Alabama drivers license.

    Johnson said Holliday fled the store in an unidentified vehicle. He was last seen driving east on Old Pascagoula Road, she said.
Unbelievably stupid, right? But, no, wait, there's an even more stunning development in the story:
    Holliday is described as a 50-year-old white male, 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing 170 pounds, with blue eyes and blond hair. He was wearing a red University of Alabama
    T-shirt during the robbery. Johnson said the clerk was able to identify Holliday because he frequents the gas station and "is on a first-name basis with the clerk."
Flabber. Gasted.

The Incredible Shrinking Blog

You're probably not that observant or as anal as I am, so I'm going to point out that I've spent a day cleaning up old blog posts. Basically, I went through the two-hundred-and-thirty-odd posts from 2003 and either applied labels to ones that passed my rigorous standards or deleted the rest. In the end I deleted about 80 posts mostly because of dead links.

In of itself, dead links are to be expected over time. (Ironically, my techical advice to people at work is to avoid linking documents because "links are made to be broken".) The problem comes when your entire post consists of: "Hey, look at this guy! I can't believe he did that!" or "I complete disagree with this position because of the following reasons..." If the links go bad, your posts ceases to make sense and therefore, in my estimation, can be ELIMINATED. In the process of the cleaning, I noticed that ESPN, BBC, Cinescape/Mania, Amazon, and the NY Times have held up good, while MSN and MSNBC, CNN, Washington Post and many many others didn't get their archiving together for some time, if they ever have. The lesson for me is to always include segments of the linked material in your post, in case the source decides to move.

And, I realize that going through two hundred posts from five years ago is a colossal waste of time, but it is my own special way of protesting my lucrative yet insanely boring and unrewarding job these days. It could always be much much worse, but mental flacidity is its own demon.


Our Man In Havana

Graham Greene's droll cold war classic, Our Man in Havana, is a brisk, fun read. The novel is about an average single father Englishman who lives in Havana (naturally) and sells vacuum cleaners. A British Secret agent recruits him to spy on the Cubans (this is set and written in 1958, and circumstances eerily predict what was to come), and pays him for his information and any additional contacts. Wormold (the cleaner salesman) has debts of his own to pay and a frivolous daughter to support, so he invents contacts and details to send back to London to keep the steady pay. Unexpectedly, he creates a furor over his reports, so that not only do they send staff to help him (an accountant whom he finds attractive but yet must keep her from finding the truth) but some of his made up stories start apparently coming true as the other side perceives him as a real threat.The angle of the story is decidedly more humorous and satirical than serious, although it does lend itself nicely to several moments of real tension. Greene wonderfully blends humor, mystery, and romance into a tight, immensely enjoyable novel...

...Except for one thing. The book, as I mentioned, written in 1958, has three (and really only three) instances of casual racism, where a character will use a taboo phrase to describe a black person. The character in the book doesn't use it for slanderous purposes, but I found the usage absolutely jarring. It is tough to start reading a book in 2008 when the first line of the novel is, "You see that n*gger over there?" I've never been a fan of retroactive editing (apologies to George Lucas), but how many people would be offended if that one word were changed to be a little less garish? Would it destroy the integrity of an otherwise fabulous classic? I know, it's a part of the culture or (lack of) sensitivity of the times, and we don't want retro-visioned history, and certainly I don't want to be thought of as PC, but ultimately it will be one of the things I always remember the novel for.



It is with some pride that I can finally say that I have now seen all five Best Picture Academy Award Nominees for 2007, thanks to a Saturday evening viewing of Atonement. On the other hand, the predominant emotion taken away from this film was sadness, a film where just about each and every character meets a dismal or depressing end thanks to the interference of a adolescent self-righteous know-it-all.I'm sure I am exaggerating my reaction to the character, but let's be frank about this: if it wasn't for her nosiness, combined with her prying into other peoples' personal items (at least twice), combined with her presumption of guilt clouding her memory, combined with her feckless crush, combined with her need to feel important, then perhaps things would have turned out better. But they didn't, and she is entirely to blame. Do I feel empathy that she clearly carried her guilt with her for the rest of her (successful writer) life? Any that I would have felt is assuaged by the fact that even years later when she figured out the truth and realized for certain (she likely guessed that she was wrong minutes after the 'guilty' was taken away based on circumstances) she had wrongly accused an innocent man, she STILL didn't have the courage to do anything about it. So, she writes a book about it all where she can give them a happy ending instead of the harsh truth of what she had done. I admit I teared up in that moment, at the very end, but otherwise no, I give no pity points.

So, aside from filming the most depressing movie in recent memory (though we watched it Saturday evening, we had as much inspiration to go out and be social afterward as after watching 'Saving Private Ryan'), the movie WAS beautifully shot and interestingly framed, with juxaposing timelines to show what the main character saw versus the whole story. That all said, this film wasn't nearly as good as Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood, or No Country for Old Men. (I have already stated my reasons for not including Juno on this list.) Of them all, and this isn't saying much, Michael Clayton is easily the most 'upbeat' film. Talk about a list of intense films.

So, I recommend you see Atonement if you are irrationally cheerful.

The Incredible Hulk

I've admitted before that I'm not a big Hulk fan, yet I managed to self-fulfill my prophesy by going to see The Incredible Hulk Sunday night. The film has gotten a fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes, but nowhere near the level of Iron Man, which I think anyone will admit, is a superior movie. But that doesn't make Hulk unenjoyable, it's just that Iron Man came first and was better than anyone expected. The Incredible Hulk is much better than the first try at the comic, and a solidly entertaining movie, but it should definitely not have Iron Man warming up the crowd.First, I'll compare the two subjects, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. Tony Stark is a tech-savvy billionaire playboy who guzzles woman and alcohol and quips like a comedian. Bruce Banner is a poor scientist living in isolation who is desperately trying to find a way to contain or get rid of his monstrous alter-ego. Now which one sounds like a lot more fun to watch? Hulk is funny, clever, and witty, just not at the same level as Iron Man, and it shouldn't. One of the many homages paid in the film (to Lou Ferrigno, Bill Bixby, stretch pants, etc.) to the original TV series which got the character right was the inclusion of that series' lonely piano theme early in the film. It says almost everything you need to know about the character; he is alone, he is a noble hero trying to protect the world while those hunt to exploit him for their own gain. That said, there are many sly dialogue exchanges that lend humor to his decidedly unglamorous tale (the first that leaps to mind is Banner's unsuccessful attempt to warn off South American thugs in Portugese, "You won't like me when I'm... hungry.") and intelligent demonstrations of what it is like to wake up after each "incident" and not only be without food or money, but be in an entirely different country.

Now for the main character casting. The reaction to most fans when Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Tony Stark was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. He fit effortlessly into the role. He was made to play the role. Not the same with Edward Norton, who had a dissimilar challenge of playing a character whose personality was not known for its flair. And yet, he still managed to bring a lot of energy and wit to his role.

Conversely, the burden of CGI challenges was squarely on Hulk to improve on its predecessor's. Unlike Iron Man, this film needed to create non-mechanical super-beings for its main attractions, a feat which adds another level of difficulty. On this, the film succeeds brilliantly, and on that scale, I would say has to be given superior marks.

The more I dwell on the film, the more I realized how good it is. The Incredible Hulk succeeds as solid entertainment, and was well worth my $10.


Lullaby is a departure from the other two novels I've read from Chuck Palaniuk; it's the first one that is a fantasy book, dealing directly with the supernatural. And he pulls it off well.The basic premise is a reporter stumbles upon a very unlikely reason behind a lot of unexplained infant deaths (SIDS), years after his wife and young son passed away unexpectedly in the night: a culling song. This song, when read, renders anyone within earshot dead by the next morning. The narrator first tests out his poem on his unsuspecting editor, but then becomes so proficient and adept at the song that all he has to do is think the song in someone's general direction and they drop-dead, quicker than an instinct.

One of the more interesting themes that Palaniuk explores with the song is the potential death of civilization with the demise of communication. He postulates that if the song became public knowledge, it would work like a lethal virus on all our current communications methods. You could never again pick up the phone, watch TV, or talk to anyone you didn't completely trust.

As with his other works, all the characters are flawed, some of the situations are gory, ridiculous, and funny all at once, and the prose is short and tight. I like this one best out of Fight Club and Choke, the latter of which has wrapped post-production filming.



Every now and then you stumble across a story about some film you never heard of, and it makes you want to jump out of your skin. This is such a story. First, observe the banned poster (via Empire):Now read the Cinematical story, which if you looked close enough at the poster and then recoiled, you already can guess:
    While the film is already out on DVD here in the states, across the pond Teeth is gearing up for a June 20th theatrical premiere. And to coincide with that, Empire has released a "banned" poster for the horror-comedy about a wholesome teenage girl who learns she has teeth inside her vagina. Of course, these teeth remain a minor issue until our hero decides it's time to start experimenting sexually with the opposite sex.
Gahhhh!!! At least it is an original idea. Still... gahhh!!!

US Open Spectacular

I thought I'd take a night's sleep before I go on-and-on about this weekend's amazing, riveting, wonderful U. S. Open tournament. The last two days were as great a spectacle as I can remember, and I would stack them up against Jack's 1986 run in the Masters for sheer drama combined with the tangible feeling of seeing a great moment in the history of golf unfold. It was as fulfilling a tournament as I've ever seen. Let's switch it up and do bullet-points, because I have a lot of thoughts on this one.

  • West-Coast Prime Time Golf. It has been since 2000 since we've had a US Open played on the West Coast, long enough for people to forget what a different viewing experience it brings: prime-time drama. Thursday and Friday you had golf coverage from 11 AM to 10 PM Eastern, and that was real coverage, not recaps. For golf junkies, it was fantastic. For your casual fan, you got to see Phil and Tiger play their round in their entirety on Friday because they didn't even tee off until after 5 Eastern. And as a happy coincidence, the NBA benefitted because Sunday's riveting finish ended only minutes before Game 5's tip at 9. It was strange and refreshing to have a non-football season late Sunday with plenty of interesting sports to watch.

  • Top-three pairing. The top-three players in the world (Tiger, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott) were paired together for the opening two rounds of the tournament. This has never been done before; usually you have to wait and hope that you'll get a good matchup on Saturday or Sunday. As I mentioned above, this only created more great TV and instant storylines, before the bigger ones took over later. I hope they do this every year, every major.

  • The thrill of victory... I crib from the late, great Jim McKay's open from Wide World of Sports to mention the unforgiving conditions that are traditionally the US Open, and that a moment's victory is usually fleeting. Consider that the only person under par for the tournament was its winner. 176 other players could not average par on the course -- and although it was a tough, long (longest in history) course, it wasn't up to US Open brutal standards AND THAT WAS OKAY. I know the tournament wants to present a true test for the United States champion, but having the last two winners come in at five OVER par is not fair to the professionals. This course had a perfect blend of challenge, but did away with much of the five-inch, impossible-to-hit-from rough. Kudos.

  • ...And the agony of defeat. And by this I mean Phil Mickelson's meltdown on Saturday, scoring a nine after repeatedly (three times) performing the same uphill chip and having it come back to him each time. Absolutely painful to watch. Phil was on his home course, with everyone rooting for him, and he took a bath. That all said, take away that hole and he would have finished +2, tied for fourth. As it is, a top-twenty finish is bitterly disappointing.

  • Contagious exuberance. Rocco Mediate made this tournament FUN to watch. A self-admitted US Open junkie, at 45 years young he plays with a smile on his face and a hop in his step. To nearly become the oldest US Open champion EVER is an achievement, but his attitude was better. After Tiger clutch-birdied on the 72nd hole to force an 18-hole playoff, Rocco admitted to a reporter that he wasn't rooting for Tiger to miss. Huh? He was excited, EXCITED, to get to play in an 18-hole playoff against the best golfer anyone has seen in years and find out just what he had in him. Can you ask for anything more genuine in the love of the game and the moment? (And can you imagine Phil Mickelson saying that?)

  • An underdog's gritty fight. Not to be overshadowed by the way he approaches the game is the way Rocco Mediate played. He found out just what he wanted to when he wondered aloud what he had one-on-one against the best player in the world, and that was everything the champ could handle, and then some.

    The example that came to mind is a scenario that so many others before him had withered under. On the 15th hole, after coming back from three down in the last five holes, both Rocco and Tiger were faced with birdie putts, Rocco's much further AND in a position to show Tiger the line. Rocco made it, he reacted as if he couldn't believe it, the crowd went wild, Tiger was momentarily shook and missed his, and the game was on. I don't think anyone has ever taken it to Tiger like that, and it was a joy to see it done by someone who loves the competition and has a great time on the stage.

  • A champion's resolve. It's refreshing for it to be not-all-about Tiger, but did he ever have a series of challenges to overcome that made this story epic. From him grimacing on his injured knee every time he hit a drive to having to make not one but two 18th-hole birdie putts to go into another playoff. Epic. I don't think I can disagree with Rick Reilly in calling it the best US Open [since WWII]. I can't think of another that comes close.

  • The Internet. And finally, a hero to golf fans everywhere and a scourge to micromanaging bosses everywhere, streaming video. Taking a cue from CBS's Masters streaming coverage, the 18-hole playoff was available in its entirety, and I watched most of it from my desk. Naysayers may point out that productivity was hurt by a Monday playoff and streaming video, but I submit that had it not been for the Internet, I would have just used a sick day instead of actually getting stuff done between shots (there is a lot of lag time when there is only one twosome playing). And hey, I have all my stuff done and on time, so cut some slack!

    So, in case you skipped to the end past my rambling, here's the gist of the blog: Best. US. Open. Ever.
  • 6.16.2008

    Hulk Irritants

    The central problem I had with getting into collecting Hulk comics or following the TV Series, or even the movies (although I will likely go see the new one anyway) is that the original character had to get angry to turn into the Hulk. Unfortunately, creativity can sometimes lead to inadvertantly hilarious scenarios.

    This guy has compiled an apparent complete list of every way in which David Banner (in the TV Series -- Bruce in comics) in show transformed to the Hulk. And some of them are just flat-out hilarious.
      17. Receiving a lethal injection, and then having the person say, "Oh. I just gave you a lethal injection. Sorry, David."

      20. Dealing with a pesky operator in a phone booth ("I DON'T HAVE TWENTY-FIVE

      47. Being stuck in a cab in New York rush hour traffic - "You don't understand, I
      have to be there by 4:00!" - "Hey, mac, it's rush hour, we ain't gettin' there til five, so relax." - "BUT I HAVE TO BE THERE BY FOUR!!!"

      118. While working as a cabbie for the episode, trying to get the pregnant woman whose water has broken to the hospital, only to find that his cab is out of gas, and then having every gas station in town refuse to give him any gas, having a really mean gas station attendant yell back at him “I heard that one already!”, and then having same mean attendant slam the door on his fingers (As an interesting touch, after the Hulk trashes the place, he ambles over to the taxi to find out that the woman HAS DELIVERED HER OWN BABY and is now happily smiling at the Hulk with the baby!)
    Here's the road-rage backseat driver, which is just flat out brilliant:

    And the annoying operator:

    Via Jaquandor.

    Fight Club "Trailers"

    There must be some Palaniuk in the air. Just this week I started reading his book Lullaby, which had been languishing on my to-read shelf for about four years. Frankly, I have always felt that Jim Uhls should have gotten the Oscar (he was nominated) for his adaptation of Palaniuk's first novel, Fight Club, which was an incoherent mess compared to the triumphant masterpiece of a film. Then again, the narrator is schizophrenic, so be it.

    In keeping with my theme, Cinematical unearthed a new addition to the controversial, thinking-out-of-the-box Public Service Announcement "trailers" that David Fincher made. Here's the one where Tyler Durden casually informs the viewer (after avising of the theater exits) the drinkability of urine.

    Equally as helpful is Edward Norton reminding us that we are in a non-smoking theater and that no one has the right to touch you in your bathing-suit area:

    The one I haven't seen before (and I don't believe it is on the DVD, darn-it), and the clear trump card in the hand of these little ditties is the following enchanting song, "Penis". I can't see this tune leaving my head anytime soon.

      Penis, oh Penis

      Penis if you will
      Send a little girl for me to thrill
      A girl who loves my kisses and my arms
      A girl with all the charms of you.

      Penis make her fair
      A lovely girl with sunlight in her hair
      And take the brightest stars up in the skies
      And place them in her eyes for me.

      Penis, goddess of love that you are
      Penis, goddess of love that you are

      Penis, penis, my penis, your penis, penis, your penis, my penis, oh, peeeeeeeeeeeeenis.
    Best. Song. Ok, not ever but at least for this week.


    Saving my DVD collection

    I have a high-definition television, which is great for watching HD television, but not so great for watching my DVD collection. DVD's play at a much smaller resolution than the 1080 resolution of my new TV, so what used to appear to be crisp and clear on my old TV is now slightly fuzzy. It doesn't prevent me from watching movies, but it definitely screams out that 'something must be done'.

    Up until this week, I assume that the 'something' would be in the form of purchasing a blu-ray disc player and converting some or all of my precious to that format (whenever they become available). I had read that the blu-ray player upconverts existing DVDs to near-HD, so at the very least, it would be a step up. Unfortunately, blu-ray players run well over $300, even for the cheapest. The 'something' could easily wait until I had committed to that solution.

    However, thanks to a peer-pressure induced session of weeknight bar socialization, I happened to mention my plight to a friend. This friend looked at me as if I was crazy and said, "You can get a DVD converter for like 80 bucks." Eighty? WTF? Was it true? Sure enough, the next day I saw a couple of prospects over at Amazon.com (I am a self-admitted Amazon junkie), but ended up purchasing the Sony, along with HDMI cable for an extra $5 (cables not included!).Anxiousness was lessened by the free two-day delivery of my product (shameless Amazon plug!), but I was still nervous when I plugged in the new one. I decided to test the effectiveness on a film I watched most recently, Jumper (mini-review: good, not great, could be better, sequel will be fun). It only took me a few seconds to realize my purchase was not a waste of money. But the real test would be saved for... Empire.

    Needless to say, I was positively giddy watching select scenes, in what felt like a new showing. Bespin whites popped, the carbon-freezing chamber's darkness was clear (Vader's belt and chestplate were visible!) and the star fields never looked deeper or more crystal. The only downside now is that I feel like I should re-watch all my favorites IMMEDIATELY.

    So, an enthusiastic recommendation for anyone who has an HD TV to get the upgrader; you will thank me. YOU WILL THANK ME.



    Philip K. Dick for me is at once one of the most creative science-fiction minds of our times, translating cinematically into such notable movies as Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly and Minority Report, and yet often nearly inaccessible as a writer for his rather schizophrenic style. Of course, when you are dealing with often first-person themes of hallucinations, memory replacements, and drug use, the effect is understandable.

    So, although I have read several of his works, I have been hesitant to dive into VALIS until my old friend, pop-culture fascination, peaked my interest. Although I purchased the book a couple years ago, it languished on my "to read" shelf (that I will say has finally been reduced in size due to my Metro commute, thank-you-very-much) until a recently. Akin to how I found Hyperion thanks to a reference in a movie-blog, VALIS has been featured a couple of times in this season of Lost as reading material for the mysterious, ruthless, and ever-intriguing Ben. With the producers' knack for dropping hints about the show on-screen, I figured it was time to dust off the book and see what fiction interests the fictionally diabolical.Here's the Wikipedia description of the novel:
      VALIS is the first roman à clef (a novel describing real-life behind a facade of fiction) science fiction novel. The novel, published in 1981, details the different hallucinations Philip K. Dick experienced in May of 1974. The title is an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System, Dick's gnostic vision of one aspect of God.
    If you think by reading the one-line summary that the book is going to be weird, you are right. What I wasn't prepared for was the remarkably clearly-told story of a man slowly coming to realize that his insanity may just be in fact a rational man in an irrational world. It is trippy, crazy, intelligent, and surprisingly laugh-out-loud funny (when you are dealing with talking to 'god' sometimes the humor writes itself -- I was reminded often of Christopher Moore). Even more so, some of the observations (there is a lengthy appendix of notes) are remarkably fresh, fun, and stimulating -- and this is coming from someone who has read a LOT of religious and mythological history. I must confess I found the end surprisingly moving and disturbing, wishing there was a sequel. (There are two other books in his final 'god' trilogy, but are only related in theme.)

    In short, a great 70's counter-culture companion piece to Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal.


    Dr. T & The Women

    Over at the politically-challenged, but nonetheless entertaining Byzantium's Shores, old friend Kelly comments on a list of the worst chick flicks. I'm not an expert on chick flicks but one entry struck me like a bolt from the beyond: Dr. T & The Women. Do I consider this to be of better stock, not to be included on the worst list? No, I consider anyone who thinks this is a 'chick flick' in the first place to be INSANE.Your first clue that this "romantic comedy" is not what it seems is that it is directed by the maverick Robert Altman. Now, just so we are clear about this, Wikipedia defines chick flick as:
      Chick flick (also "chick's flick") is slang for a film designed to appeal to a female target audience.
    Now, if there was EVER a movie that made you go, "wow, chicks are all bat-shit crazy", this would be it. Every single woman in Dr. T's life (and there are plenty) has some incredible character flaws. The only woman he finds attractive is more of a 'guy's guy'. The end of the movie finds Dr. T assisting the birth of a stranger by the roadside, and when she asks the gender, he exclaims with absolute joy: "It's a BOY!!!" In short, anyone who considers this to be a 'chick flick' has got some serious issues.


    The Fall of Hyperion

    I've put off posting anything about the "sequel" (really, a continuation of one single story, as opposed to separate episodes) to Hyperion (my review here), The Fall of Hyperion, to give my initial reaction some time to reflect. For, I found it to be as fascinating, moving, intellectually stimulating, satisfyingly dense and rewarding as any book I've ever read. More so. So clearly this cannot be the appropriate reaction to a science-fiction book, of all things, even one whose predecessor won the Hugo award, and itself nominated (I need to read the book that won that year -- -- because I can't fathom how this book could have lost) for the award.More than a week later, I still find myself thinking about it. Fascinating because of the sheer amount of fabricated technology for a society 700 years in the future -- technology at once amazing yet plausible. A society that has artificial intelligence, instantaneous singularity transporters (dubbed 'farcasters'), humans all linked to the worlds-spanning web, and on and on. And what makes it more amazing is that the book was written in 1990, way before the constant communications of today -- you can easily see that we are on our way there, for better or for worse.

    Moving because of the richness of the characters, the ones whose back stories were told in intricacy in the previous novel, the ones who only appear for a chapter or two, the main characters of this book who don't even appear in the last one. The depth of writing makes every character's reaction believable and their fates resonate.

    Intellectually stimulating beyond the science-fiction technology because of its segues into not only literature but theism. What To know and write poetry; if you haven't read any Keats before this book, by the end you will feel that you know his life-story and most of his writings quite well. Also, the question of what it is to be alive, to have a god or gods. Of time and space, resurrection by natural or unnatural means, and to seek out and destroy your rivals. I really wasn't expecting the theistic questions and real thought-provoking plot twists, and it was quite a revelation.

    Satisfyingly dense in that the book was well-researched, details never glossed over but never belabored, interactions explored but never boring, and an intricate plot that never felt forced. In short, an intimidating work.

    And finally, rewarding in the conclusion of the story. The giant plot developments so late in the game, the revelation of final tactics and the impact of the final act. Not everything tied up in a neat little bow -- far from it -- but an 'end' that I still think about and smile for its boldness. And that absolutely guaranteed reading his follow-up series.

    Of course, my other initial reaction has to do with how I came across the books: Cinematical's story about how Hollywood is making them into a movie. Yes, both books into one movie. And if you have read all of the above, you can probably see how I can come to the simple conclusion that they are going to ROYALLY SCREW IT UP. But that's okay, really it is, because I've had one of the most rewarding reading experiences of my life, and it'll be okay. As long as Brett Ratner doesn't direct the film. Then it is war.


    I Drink Your Milkshake

    Longtime inadvertent hilarioust (new word!) Linguo forwarded me the below picture for a t-shirt capitalizing on the 'catch phrase' from the awesome movie There Will Be BloodUnfortunately, I don't think the t-shirt is destined to be a hit for female wearers. I can't help but think that unless you have seen the picture, any guy seeing this shirt on a girl will infer a completely different message. A much better one, if you ask me.

    Well, more wealth than you can imagine!

    I remember vividly the day, as a petulant, yet far-seeing child, I pestered (more like cried in the middle of a crowded store, naturally) my father until he caved and spent the $20 to buy the Millenium Falcon.I feel the performance of childish greed well worth it. For, not only did it become my favorite toy and the one piece of my childhood I have not parted with, but, according to Money Central, it is worth about $4,000:
      Star Wars is about kit as much as characters, hence the appeal of its spacecraft in miniature. This 23" classic version of Han Solo's modified freighter, for use with the 3 3/4" action figures, features a swiveling laser canon, retractable landing gear and a secret compartment with false floor – all fiddly elements which explain the scarcity of mint examples. Another neat touch is the ship's built-in gaming table – a reminder of how Solo acquired it in a match of sabacc.
    Whence last I saw it, all those features were indeed intact. (I have just sent a not-threatening-but-I-could-go-there-if-you-don't-watch-it email to my parents to not do anything foolish.) Ultimately, I still look to have it hung on my ceiling, in attack postion.