Sunday, July 30, 2006

A few things you should know going in: It was hot. Way, way hot. We kept hydrated with something called "Water Plus," available at a dollar per fairly large bottle. (The "plus" is electrolytes and vitamins or something.) Second, I arrived late, later than the rest of my party, although that wasn't my fault. So I missed Hot Machines, Chin Up Chin Up, Man Man, Band Of Horses (whose album is great), Mountain Goats (never been a fan), Destroyer (too bad), and the beginning of Art Brut. Also it was crowded and we hung out toward the back, which was fine, but today I'd like to get a little closer. Mostly, what I saw looked like this:

And this:

(Stevie and I looked like this:)

But it sounded pretty great. Everyone questions their staying power, but for now Art Brut proves that you can be clever and rock at the same time. Favorite moments: The expanded version of "Moving To L.A." with its variations on "I'm drinking Hennessey with Morrissey," like "I'm drinking sherry with Bryan Ferry" and "I'm drinking gin with Vera Lynn." Also, the singer kept referring to his band in the third person, e.g. "Art Brut, are you ready?" I like The Walkmen's new album better with each listen, but the show basically confirmed that they should have thrown in a few more of the "hits" that the last one was so chock full of. The Futureheads were quite good, although I kept thinking of Simon Reynolds' assessment of the new wave of post-punk that's sprung up: It sounds great, but what's it rebelling against? But, whatever. It sounds great. We left about halfway through the Silver Jews' set, not because it wasn't entertaining. It was. But nature called and the thought of using one of the Port-O-Lets in the dark drove us away.

Today is the hardcore, all-day 'til-it-ends day. Yikes.

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To the dogs who bullied my dog at the dog park on Friday, forcing us to leave early:

Come on dogs, all Sophie wanted to was play. But two of you—and you know who you are—just kept ganging up on her, nipping at her, and making it so she couldn't move. And another one of you, I don't even want to talk about what you tried to do. Sophie is a very nice dog who just wants to play. And she can even play rough and keep up with the liveliest dogs out there. But you'll never know, will you, dogs. We'll take our antics elsewhere.

Bad dogs. Bad,

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Saturday, July 29, 2006


To the guy in the white van who almost hit me running a red light in front of Dominick's on Division Street yesterday around 12:30pm:

Hey guy. Look, we all make mistakes driving. It just happens, and in the best of situations nothing comes of it. But here's the deal: There's making mistakes and then there's blazing through a red line two seconds after it had turned. The usual, big city, pause-a-two-seconds before going through a green light you probably would have hit me, hard. Matthew Sweet's 100% Fun could have been the last album I ever heard, and I like that one just fine, but I'd rather go out listening to Astral Weeks or Pet Sounds or something. Thing is, this the second time this happened to me in about a week, and all within a three-block radius. (CD at the time: Rattlesnakes, by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions.) I'm a pretty calm guy, by and large, but I spent the rest of the day wanting to find you and smash in your headlights. You're a dick. There I said it.


To Oliver Stone:

Hey Oliver, I just saw your movie World Trade Center. Look. I'm not going to mince words. I didn't like it so much. Thanks for not making some kooky, conspiracy theory-laden left-wing nutpiece. But did you have to make a glorified TV movie? I mean, seriously, remove the 9/11 framework and Nicolas Cage and you've got a my-husband-is-stuck-in-a-coal mine movie starring, I don't know, Beau Bridges or something. Boo.


To the MySpace users "Carrie," "Melissa," and "Christy" who recently invited me to be their friend:

Carrie and Melissa: So you were just browsing around, saw my profile and thought I looked cool, eh? It's funny, you two gals have really similar histories. In fact, you have word-for-word similar histories. I guess it is true that guys think it would be cool to date strippers then they get all jealous and that you need someone who's fun and laid back. Oh, and what's that? You've got a webcam I can link to? Um, no thanks. I'm a happily married man, as they say, and even if I weren't I don't think we'd be "friends."

"Christy," you get some points for having a different profile, much less polished-sounding profile. But I still wouldn't be interested, even if you didn't look like a total skank.

Keep on dancing,

To the five MySpace members who rated my image in MySpace's hot-or-not-like image-ranking area that I don't remamber submitting my image to for evaluation in the first place:

5.7? Really. I thought I looked a little better in that picture. But thanks for helping me stay proudly above average!

I don't like the way you look either,

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Monday, July 24, 2006


The most common complaints leveled at Steven Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence have to do with the final segment, set many years ahead of the rest of the film. Its robot-boy protagonist, having sunk to the bottom of the ocean and gone into stasis, has outlived not just his creators but humanity as a whole. Whatever shape life on earth has taken, it’s left humanity behind it. The androids (if that’s even the right word) who have have superseded the human race treat him like a Rosetta Stone for understanding their own origins. Then they let him die, his shutting down the last exhausted sigh of a civilization that no longer had a place in the cosmos.

Frankly, I don’t get the hate, particularly from those who mistake it for a happy ending. It’s not. But it’s not what I’d call a tragic ending either. It’s a view of where we’re going that can make you reel with its distance and a sad bookend to the trippy humanism of A.I. originator Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. The ending doesn’t have much to do with the Brian Aldiss story that inspired it “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” or its sequels. But it has a lot to do with Aldiss, or at least the Aldiss I found in The Long Afternoon Of Earth, a novel published a few years earlier in Aldiss’ native U.K. in a slightly longer version called Hothouse.

It’s many years in the future and humanity has diminished, literally. Not only are humans fewer, they’re smaller too. They’re also one of the last examples of the animal kingdom. The earth’s rotation has slowed to a stop and the plants have taken over. What animals remain—fish, some insects, humans—act almost as parasites or, just as often, prey to the animal-like vegetables that rule the Earth and slightly beyond the Earth: spider-like Traversers travel along a web spun between the Earth and the moon, we find out a few chapters in.

It’s all incredibly imaginative, but I like the book best in its early chapters, when Aldiss lays out the social structure of his tree-dwelling protagonists and the ins-and-outs of life in a jungle where the sun never sets. It’s all quiet poetic, particularly the opening:

Obeying an inalienable law, things grew, spreading rioutous and strange in their instinct for growth.

The heat, the light, the humidity—these were constant and had remained constant for… but nobody new how long. Nobody cared any more for the big questions that begin “How long…?” or “Why…?” It was no longer a place for mind. It was a place for growth, for vegetables. It was like a hothouse.

It’s more postscript than post-apocalyptic. Much life has ended, humanity has wound down, and the sun is burning out (or blowng up), but there’s not necessarily a tragedy to it all, just a sense that a rest would soon come after a long struggle.

It’s almost a shame that it has to go about the business of being a novel and, in fact, Aldiss spends most of the remaining pages doing little more than describing the fantastic vegetable creatures of his hothouse world as his bland protagonist travels around in search of, well, it’s never quite clear. (And eventually an intelligent fungus takes over most of his brain functions and he stops acting of his own volition.) Worse, there are long passages and thoughtless repetitions where Aldiss is clearly writing just to fill the pages and he has a strange habit of sticking to his characters’ points of view and then pulling back to explain what has happened over the eons with chirpy omniscience. It feels like a cheat and it saps the exotic allure of the novel’s world.

But by and large I really liked this book, which is good because there’s plenty of Aldiss in the box. He’s an interesting character whom I knew little about before, with a past that included a troubled childhood, military service in Burma, a star-crossed would-be marriage, friendship with Kingsley Amis and Henry Harrison, financial ruin, an ‘80s comeback, and a current long, productive, alebit lonely writing jag at an age when most people putter around the house. (There’s a great profile from The Guardian here.) He’s also been adapted more than I’d thought. The current Brothers Of The Head is from 1977 novel and Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound is taken from Aldiss as well. He’s also written poetry, travel, and autobiography. I don’t know if he keeps plants.

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No real feat, I guess, but our housesitter Scott Gordon took some spirit-capturing footage of Sophie refusing to play fetch:

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Tomorrow Stevie and I are hitting the road (or the airways, anyway) for the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con. It's her first time there, and my second. (I've given her my copy of Gerard Jones' great history Men Of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth Of The Comic Book for the plane ride. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the topic or even anyone who just wants to know what Kavalier And Clay was based on.) I'm going for work (and, of course) for pleasure. Stevie's going to meet the cast of Veronica Mars

A few specific goals this year:
• To successfully interview Big Movie Star X, with whom I have scheduled a one-on-one interview.
• To obtain a sketch from Brian Bolland or George Perez, both of whom will be in attendance
• To photograph some entertaining-looking costumed types for The A.V. Club

All seem pretty doable, but the place breeds chaos. I'll be checking in from time to time and posting regularly to The A.V. Club blog. Watching our place in our absence will be Young Scott Gordon of At Random fame. Presumably if the animals do anything particularly memorable, he'll make sure it gets documented. The world needs to know.

Monday, July 17, 2006


My wife, known to some online as editrix26 has started a new blog called The Race To The Bottom, a chronicle of an accidental competition between the Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Chicago Cubs to best (worst?) the 1962 Mets' all-time losingnest record. I like it, and I don't even recognize half the names she writes about. (She's by far the more sports savvy of us.) Please enjoy.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Using I was able to piece together most of the home page of the brilliant 1999 Star Wars: The Phantom Menace promotion "Defeat The Dark Side," in which Colonel Sanders, the Taco Bell chihuahua and the hastily created Pizza Hut delivery girl teamed up to battle Sith Vader (or whatever his name was.) Enjoy. (And click to enlarge, please.)


Reposted from The A.V. Club blog:

I was in Minneapolis this past weekend and asked my hosts to take me to the landmark I most wanted to see: The house on the cover of The Replacements' Let It Be album. I probably don't need to refresh your memory, but just in case, here's the cover:

They graciously obliged. And here's a picture of it:

Two interesting things happened after I took this picture. First, two people climbed out on the roof, demonstrating that it could still be used for hanging-out puposes. Then I noticed the "for rent" sign:

I have no plans to move to the Twin Cities, but if I did, I would rent this house immediately, no matter what shape it was in, just to say I lived in the Let It Be house. Also, I'd love to conduct this experiment: What would happen if you sat on the roof of the Let It Be house while listening to Let It Be? Any thoughts? More on the trip later.

Friday, July 07, 2006



The cover to my edition of Carter Brown's The Flagellator boasts that there are "over 50,000,000 Carter Brown Books in print!" That may be an exaggeration, but apparently it's not an outrageous exaggeration. Other Carter Brown books you might enjoy:

Catch Me A Phoenix
The Deadly Kitten
Had I But Groaned
Nude With A View
Chinese Donovan
So What Killed The Vampire

Oh, why stop there. There's also Night Wheeler,The Pipes Are Calling, The Dame, The Corpse, The Desire, and on, and on, and on.

Never heard of Carter Brown? Me neither. But apparently he sold a lot of books, many of which can now be acquired for $1.49 and less at Amazon. Who was Carter Brown? According to this site, Carter Brown was a pseudonym for Alan G. Yates, who also wrote as Tex Conrad and Caroline Farr. Yates was born in England and moved to Australia after the war but set all his tales in America, a place he knew best from movies and other writers. Based on The Flagellator, which appeared in 1969 between Die Anytime, After Tuesday! and Murder Is The Message, he passes for Yank pretty well, apart from his use of the word "cheaters" when he means sunglasses.

The novel concerns the adventures of one Rick Holman, a well-compensated Los Angeles private eye hired to look into the near-death of a faded Hollywood star on the verge of a comeback. The cast of characters includes a nymphomaniacal secretary, the stars highly sexed assistant, a lecherous producer with a teen-fixation, and a pair of sociopaths. The eponymous "flagellator," a hot-tempered director (named Altman, no less), is actually one of the novel's duller characters. ("He uses his tongue instead of a whip... After a while people working for him wish he'd use a whip--—it would be a hell of a lot less painful.")

The story is fairly inventive, even if the characters don't really behave much like humans. Brown has a workmanlike prose style that occasionally finds a clever turn of phrase or poetic passage. On the star's downward career slope:
"So he signed her up to a penny-ante contract and brought her to Hollywood as just another cute fresh-faced kid with no discernible talent. For the next couple of years, he kept her happy with small parts in two bit movies the gonowheree except the desert wastes of late-night television."

"I guess it reassures them to know they're still alive," I volunteered helpfully. "No one's ever dead as long as there's late-night movies on television."

Brown's also quite enthusiastic about sex. A woman doesn't enter or leave a room without Holman noting and commenting, sometimes aloud, on her breasts and buttocks. I can't decide if this is sensationalistic or just a too-honest depiction of the male psyche. The big sex scene is explicit and a little clumsy. (Does anyone find the words "boobs" and "vagina" sexy?) I'm also guessing it appears at pretty much the same point it appears in other Brown novels. Not that I'm burning to find out, although I wouldn't call The Flagellator an unpleasant read. I also think I got through its 140 pages in about 90 minutes, not because I couldn't put it down, but because there was no compelling reason not to keep reading.

One definite disappointment, I must have a later, '70s-era printing, hence the lousy cover. The original cover looked like this:

But at least I did get a version with a cigarette ad inserted at the halfway point, presumably because that's a fine point to take a break and enjoy a smoke.


Reposted from The A.V. Club blog:

We’ve been talking about movie posters, of one form or another, in this blog all week and I need to say something: I am so bored of movie posters. And it’s not this blog’s fault. It’s the posters’ fault. Or, more specifically, it’s the posters from the past 15 years or so that bug me. I can only guess that there are solid marketing reasons behind the shift away from interesting art to simply slapping down the photographs of the stars and calling it a day, but part of what made going to the movies fun died a little when that trend became the standard, and especially when photos started to supplant illustrations. To wit:

I guess this tells you everything you need to know about the movie. It’s called Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl. Johnny Depp’s in it. It opens in 2006. It may have an octopus in it, but you have to squint to make sure. It’s okay. But where is the love? Why can’t it look more like this:

I haven’t seen either, but if I had to choose between either of these films based on posters alone, I’d be all over Comin’ At Ya. Look at it: Guns! Snakes! Bosomy women! Dynamite! And the audience is on its feet! And it must be true because it’s on the poster.

Let’s move on to exhibit B:

Okay. There’s Owen Wilson. He’s still funny, right? (Right?) Looks like he gets into some kind of mischief. But wouldn’t you rather see a movie that looks like this:

I see You, Me & Depree and I think, “There might be some hijinks in this one.” I look at the Blazing Stewardesses poster and I know hijinks are guaranteed.

Maybe it’s just that I prefer illustrations to photos when it comes to movie art. I’ll tip my hat to those that get it right, like this Cinderella Man poster.

That’s an arresting image and a creative use of photography. But is it as arresting as this?:

To paraphrase The Simpsons (yet again): Cinderella Man promises drama and maybe some boxing. But The Man With 2 Heads has a man with two heads in it. It’s there on the poster.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I can't believe it's Thursday. I'm coming off a four-day weekend that, as relaxing as it was, has kind of thrown me off schedule. On Tuesday night, neither Stevie nor I could sleep after staying up late so many nights in a row. I think I need a schedule. But, at any rate, it was a lot of fun. We went to the drive-in for a double feature of Superman Returns (still good, but just good) and The Lake House (which I surprisingly liked, despite the chesseball premise, and the fact it was directed by the guy who did Valentine, a.k.a., that insufferable Brazillian movie about the kid who wears glasses, wants to be an astronaut, and plays unwitting matchmaker.) We did not, despite our best intentions, see Glenn Campbell at Taste Of Chicago, but we did see fireworks, Wordplay, and Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, that last one in the hope that it would somehow speed Roger Ebert's recovery. Oh, and a game called Rise Of Nations (pictured below) sucked up a lot of my time. It's a variation on the same game I always play, which is like Risk but a thousand times more complex. I don't think I'm ready for retirement, especially since I started to get a little antsy toward the end, but it was all quite nice.
Maybe I just have comebacks on the brain because of something Noel and I are working on for next week, but here's part of a press release I just got that makes me think maybe a disgraced child star could find a better venue to reintroduce herself to the public. Do they still publish Swank?:

New York, NY (July 8, 2006) … According to TV Guide, fuse’s Pants-Off Dance-Off is the “dumbest show on television.” So dumb in fact that New York Magazine has dubbed it “brilliant and lowbrow.” The runaway hit show, featuring host and former Full House actress Jodie Sweetin, premieres July 18 at 10pm ET.

fuse’s Pants-Off Dance-Off is the first interactive dance/game show on TV. Initially premiering on April 18 as part of fuse’s FUESDAY TUESDAY late night programming block, Pants-Off Dance-Off features dancers of all shapes and sizes strutting their stuff and shedding their clothes to their favorite music videos. Night after night, contestants shake, jiggle and waddle down to their birthday suits, simply for the thrill of it and the chance to win cold hard cash prizes.

Or maybe not. What do I know? I haven't seen more than a few minutes of Patns-Off Dance-Off but it seems to fit in very well with stuff that appears to be popular just because people can't believe they're consuming it. (See also "My Humps" and (presumably) Snakes On A Plane.) It's disgusting! I can't believe I ate it! Is there any more?