Saturday, September 29, 2007

10. Sophie's Choice (Pakula, 1982) [LE]

One of the few movies of any decade to successfully tell two stories at once, Sophie's Choice dances between a narrative you'd love to be a part of and a narrative you'd never want to touch with a ten foot pole.

The first narrative, the lovely one, involves a young writer named Stingo (Peter MacNichol) who moves to Brooklyn around 1948 in the hopes of writing his first novel, meeting eccentric New Yorkers, and finding the taker of his virginity. He probably gets more than he bargained for in Nathan (a young Kevin Kline) and Sophie (the luminous Meryl Streep), the world's most emotionally extreme couple. Nathan randomly veers between two personas: greatest guy you'd ever want to meet or verbally abusive psychotic. And Sophie? Well, Sophie's just a merry ol' exile from Nazi Germany.

Yeah, Sophie's got some baggage for you. But although her tale is dark, the telling of it strangely life-affirming. To see her recount the horrors of World War II while reclining by the sunny windowside of a Brooklyn attic suggests the ways in which a climate of all-pervasive misery can sometimes give way to a world of beauty. But can that world ever truly be Sophie's, or is it destined to be only within the youthful, American grasp of Stingo, unstained by the traumas of Europe?

Sophie's Choice is the rare 1980s movie that not only gives you the kind of passionate, intelligent characters you fantasize about meeting someday, but places them in an ambitious narrative that never hints at the direction it's going to take. Life Sophie herself, Sophie's Choice is a 1970s movie in the 1980s.

And the titular "choice"? Well, let's just say it's not between Beta or VHS.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Best of the 1980s

Ah, the 1980s. Our first decade of existence on this planet...and possibly our least favorite decade of culture. Coincidence, bad luck, or both? The 1980s' artistic highlights were (as far as we're concerned) few and far between, but in the spirit of making lemons out of lemonade, we've realized that such a scarcity of classic works lends the decade handily to the 10 Best treatment, and thus renders it much less intimidating than either the 1960s, 1970s, or 1990s. If anything, it's a bit of an exercise in resourcefulness. It's like picking the ten best popes: you're lucky to find ten you can really get behind.

The 1980s were not a complete wash, however. Hell, if something was good in the 1980s, in a way that makes it even more impressive than something that was good in the 1960s or 1970s; I mean, not only was it good, but it was good in the 1980s! Or maybe it's the other way around: it only seemed good because it came out in the 1980s and everything else was so bad. Chicken or the egg, folks?

Nonetheless, in honor of that golden decade of our youth, we will now be presenting over the course of the next few (days? weeks? months?) our own separate lists of 10 best movies and 10 best albums of the 1980s. Up first: Movies.

1980s cinema got fucked right from the start simply by having to follow the 1970s. It wasn't just the whole "Spielberg and Lucas killed the auteur movie" thing. One of our theories is that all the cinematographers held a secret meeting on New Year's Eve in 1979 and agreed to switch to the crappiest, most generic equipment possible, because as soon as the calendars hit January 1980, the quality of cinematography in movies took a big fat nosedive. Don't ask us why. Ultimately, the 1980s never really recovered from the "highbrow/lowbrow split": all the serious, critically-acclaimed, Oscar-winning movies were too stiff and formally unadventurous, while all the silly, special effects-laden, franchise-establishing blockbusters were too flashy and shallow. In the 1970s filmmakers knew how to make movies that were both entertaining and serious at the same time. By the time the 1980s rolled around, maybe it just wasn't a priority. (ED: We were all too busy watching our themed team adventure cartoons and eating our increasingly sugary breakfast cereals.)

Of course, there were exceptions. And for the most part, the exceptions are what will be featured here. If anything, the best films of the 1980s mostly have one thing in common: you can barely tell they're from the 1980s.

No More Polls

Sorry for all the polls. I think the first one turned out well but the second one was probably overkill. Yoggoth explained that the polls gave the impression that I was not very confident about what I was writing. "People don't want to hear from the blogger that he doesn't care about the topics he writes, and that he just wants his readers to pick them from a big hat." He suggested that it doesn't matter the specifics of what I write about; as long as I find something interesting, and write about it in an interesting way, then the interest should naturally transfer over. I think he's right.

What can I say, it's a work in progress.

Front Row Seats!

From the Onion:

New Wes Anderson Film Features Deadpan Delivery, Meticulous Art Direction, Characters With Father Issues
September 24, 2007 | Issue 43•39

LOS ANGELES—Fans who attended a sneak preview Monday of critically acclaimed director Wes Anderson's newest project, The Darjeeling Limited, were surprised to learn that the film features a deadpan comedic tone, highly stylized production design, and a plot centering around unresolved family issues.

"What will he think of next?" audience member Michael Cauley said. "And who could have foreseen the elaborately crafted '60s-era aesthetic, melancholy subtext, and quirky nomenclature—to say nothing of the unexpected curveball of casting Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray?"

In a recent review, New York Times film critic A.O. Scott also expressed surprise at the film's cutting-edge soundtrack, which features a Rolling Stones song and three different tracks by the Kinks.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Spector Mistrial

Well, it's obvious now. If you're a wealthy has been who wants to murder a woman, do it in Los Angeles.

Is this the face of a man we want roaming the streets?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Poll: What Do You Guys Want Me To Write About? (Round 2)

I have heeded your comments well, faithful readers, and I plan on adjusting my future content accordingly. But first allow me to ask for your further participation:

1. I received multiple requests for reviews of music from 2007. Those of you who requested this know that I do not much like any of the music that is currently being released. Perhaps I could save everyone some reading time by just saying, right now, my thoughts on current music: It sucks. Otherwise, I will see what I can do. Jason commented that he'd like to read about current music from sites other than Pitchfork. But my only source for new music is Pitchfork!

2. What decade would you most like me (and possibly Yoggoth) to compile a 10 Best Movies list for?

a. 1940s
b. 1950s
c. 1960s
d. 1970s
e. 1980s
f. 1990s
g. 2000s

3. What decade would you most like me (and possibly Yoggoth) to compile a 10 Best Albums list for?

a. 1960s
b. 1970s
c. 1980s
d. 1990s
e. 2000s

4. Which 2006 movies would you like me to write on the most?

Art School Confidential
The Departed
Half Nelson
Inside Man
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Children
Little Miss Sunshine
Marie Antionette
A Prairie Home Companion
The Pursuit of Happiness
The Queen
Stranger Than Fiction
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
United 93

5. I think I might start a similar series on 2005 movies (as far as I'm concered, "recent" means movies that came out in the past five years, but perhaps not everyone will agree). Which 2005 movies would you like me to write on the most?

Batman Begins
Brokeback Mountain
Broken Flowers
The Constant Gardner
Good Night and Good Luck
Grizzly Man
A History of Violence
Howl's Moving Castle
Lord of War
Me and You and Everyone We Know
Mysterious Skin
No Direction Home
Sin City
The Squid and the Whale
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Walk The Line

6. A series on lyricists "so bad they're good" will be forthcoming.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Department of Pathetic Indignation -- Stinky Fruit

Paul Levy's article, "Food, Inglorious Food: My decision to opt out of the macho food-writing movement." is just begging to be included in the Department. Levy compares his own food writing--replete with high brow allusions to the Bible, Shakespeare, Dickens, and Damon Runyon (yeah I had to look him up)--to that of younger food writers. These writers do not have the same decorum, the same respect for their audience, that Levy has.

Let's look at his example:

"In its recent food issue, John McPhee describes durian as 'a fruit that smells strongly fecal and tastes like tiramisu.'"

Compare this with Levy's earlier declaration:

"No editor today, for example, would be content with the way I dealt with durian, the cherished oriental fruit that looks like a giant hand grenade, which I wrote about for the Observer in 1984: 'Some find the smell excremental, some find it reminiscent of sick.' I'd now be booed off the fellas' food-writing team for excessive gentility. Today the correct vocabulary is shit and puke."

Wow Paul, good thing Slate wanted to squeeze two pages out of your article, otherwise you would have included a whiny complaint and its direct contradiction on the same page!

Levy laments the current style of macho, shock-driven food writing, and criticizes articles written about eating silk worm eggs and baby trout. He then proceeds to describe eating a stolen dog in Macau on assignment for The Wall Street Journal. Paul, you're not only full of crap, you're an asshole who ate someone's pet. Pathetic indignation at its finest.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

3:10 To Yuma (Mangold)

Ebert's been getting a little too generous with the four-star reviews lately. Why just last week alone, he bestowed the four star treatment upon Eastern Promises, In the Valley of Elah, Across the Universe, and Pete Seeger: The Power of Song. Now, granted, I have not seen any of these films. But my hunch is that none of these films are really four star films, in the sense that Pulp Fiction is a four star film. That is why I am not in a particular rush to see any of them. If they generate enough buzz, or Oscar nominations, then yes, I suppose I would check them out. But based on what I know, I will save my money for the time being. Eastern Promises is the new film by David Cronenberg, whose last film, A History of Violence, I thought was an odd, confused, and mostly ridiculous crime drama. Critics everywhere thought it was a masterpiece. So what do I know? In the Valley of Elah is the new film by Paul Haggis, director of Crash and screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby. Ebert gave both four stars. I thought Million Dollar Baby was maybe a three star movie and Crash maybe a two-and-a-half star movie. Across the Universe is a musical drama told entirely through the lyrics of Beatles songs and featuring characters with names such as Jude and Lucy. Now, I am the biggest Beatles fan in the entire Western Hemisphere, but as Beatle-related projects go, this was not the one I was clamoring for. And finally, Pete Seeger: The Power of Song is a documentary film about the life of legendary folksinger Pete Seeger; something tells me I'm not going to be getting a Pulp Fiction-esque experience with that one. Hey, if all of these films are four star masterpieces, then fine, strike me down with lightning. But I doubt it.

I doubt it because Ebert also gave four stars to 3:10 To Yuma, which I saw last weekend, and wich I did not think deserved four stars - although it was enjoyable and not completely without its merits. I did not see 3:10 To Yuma because Ebert gave it four stars. I saw it because my roommates and I had all agreed to go out and see a movie together last Saturday night, and the female in our party objected to our first choice, Superbad. The reason why I was skeptical that 3:10 To Yuma deserved four stars was because I've not been impressed by its director, James Mangold. The two films by Mangold that I had seen previously were Girl, Interrupted, a mildly interesting if slightly generic coming-of-age film with an over-the-top Angelina Jolie performance (which somehow won her an Oscar - that's right, you can officially refer to her as "Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie"), and Walk The Line, a competently entertaining Johnny Cash biopic that I disliked with such a personal fervor that it will be necessary to avoid great detail here. Needless to say, as far as I was concerned, James Mangold had proven himself to be a master of middlebrow Hollywood fare and nothing more.

Coming in with that bias, I have to say that 3:10 To Yuma is better than those other movies, and is possibly James Mangold's best film yet. Not the highest praise in the world, I suppose, but he better take it. He better take it because, in a world where my idea of a great western is The Wild Bunch or McCabe & Mrs. Miller, 3:10 To Yuma probably didn't have much chance of cutting it. Here is a director, after all, who was of the opinion that Joaquin Phoenix (an actor whom Yoggoth feels he could not help but punch in the face if he ever happened to see him in person) was the most fitting choice to portray Johnny Cash in a biopic. I didn't think this man was going to be too capable of making a Wild Bunch/McCabe type of western. He clearly was trying to make a more "interesting" western than the usual, however, but I think his idea of "interesting" was "more interesting than Gunsmoke." The film tried to thread deeper moral issues into its plot, in a way that I think other generic Hollywood movies might have shied away from, and for that it should be admired. By the end, however, it seemed to me that most of the attempts at moral epiphanies were eventually muffled under a haze of one too many plot twists and one too many bullets missing the very easily woundable main characters. I could only suspend my disbelief for so long. But at least it had some ambition.

Formally, the film was about as generic as was to be expected. The music and cinematography was suitable but not particuarly notable. Christian Bale was solid but perhaps ill-matched in such a simple role; I kept getting the feeling that he was trying to "get into it" really hard. Hell, this guy played Batman like he was playing Hamlet. In fact, I spent half of the movie slightly thinking that Christian Bale was actually Joaquin Phoenix. Not a good sign. Russell Crowe was charming and wily, but since he was playing a violent criminal, how much of a stretch was it, really?

All in all 3:10 To Yuma was a consummate three star movie. Unless you've been desperate for a western, save your money. But if it happens to be playing as an in-flight movie, then check it out.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Best of Wikipedia I

1) André René Roussimoff had an interesting life. The disease that made him 'the giant' also killed him, and he refused treatment till the end.

2) Oarfish swim vertically up and down the water column. Their long spiny appearance inspired many to refer to them as sea serpents. Check the links to pictures at the bottom.

3) The Napoleon Bonaparte page has a ton of information. I spent hours there reading about the battles he was involved in as well as his social policies. Everyone hears about Napoleon, but I didn't really know much about him.
Bonus: Head to the bottom of the page and look at the ongoing dispute over the French throne. One of the heirs to Napoleon's title, "publicly espous[ed] "republican and democratic opinions...He has deprived himself of all rights to dynastic heritage in remarrying without his father's permission...which is against the rules of the imperial family." Why couldn't I be born into an 'imperial' family?

Link other wiki pages in comments. Information soothes my restless mind.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Poll: What Do You Guys Want Me To Write About? (Round 1)

Don't worry, folks, I'm not bereft of ideas. Oh no, far from it. Obviously, I could write about any old subject that I damn well please, ad infinitum. However, given a choice, I'd rather write about subjects that my readers are going to find stimulating - or subjects that at the very least will generate fruitful discussions. I mean, hell, I could write about my top ten favorite Electric Light Orchestra songs if I really felt like it, but I don't think I'd get much of a response - at least not from this crowd. So I bring the question to you, my friends. What do you guys want me to write about?

Here are some ideas off the top of my head:

1. Movie reviews
a) Movies from 2006: This is a series that I've already started. Should I keep going?
b) Movies from 2007: It's the time of year when the good movies start coming out. I could write on every movie right after I see it.
c) Older movies

2. Movie lists
a) Top 5/10/25 favorite movies by year/decade
b) Favorite directors
c) Favorite movies in a genre
d) Favorite movies by nationality
e) Favorite actors/actresses/screenwriters/cinematographers/key grips

3. Music reviews
a) Newer albums: You guys know I might not be able to go too far with this
b) Older albums
c) Album-by-album analyses of artists' discographies

4. Music Lists
a) Top 5/10/25 favorite albums by year/decade
b) Favorite artists
c) Favorite album covers/album titles
d) Favorite opening/closing songs
e) Favorite albums that are 8/9/10/11/12 songs long
f) Favorite double albums
g) Favorite "so bad they're good" lyricists

5. Essays
a) music history
b) movie history

6. Politics

7. Wikipedia entries that I find interesting

Obviously there's more where this came from. And I still reserve the right to post about silly little random shit every now and then. But all I'm saying is I'd rather not spend 20 hours working on a post that only Yoggoth is going to understand - at least not if I could write about something that roughly five of us will understand. Sound like a plan?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

College Life

Back during my undergrad years I once visited a friend of a friend at Casa Zimbabwe, a student co-op at UCBerkeley. It was one of the most amusing environments I've been in. Black egg crate foam had been nailed to the walls in places to ward off noise violations. Gapping holes lined the halls, spaced between bright swathes of graffiti. Bright orange traffic cones mingled with assorted litter on the floor. In the kitchen, dripping stalactites of curdled milk hung from plastic nozzles that dispensed the fluid. Looking at them I wondered how hungry I'd have to be, and how much I'd have to want a bowl of cereal, to use those things.

As my group of relatively square friends sat around discussing what to do that day the guy we were visiting chimed in, "I've got some Vodka," and pointed to an unmarked 5 gallon jug filled with something that very well might have been Vodka. It being ten in the morning, we passed. We were assured that if we waited till dark we could get some crack from the resident dealers, but we decided to pass on that too.

I guess things could have been worse. Casa Zimbabwe could have been infested with rabid bats.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Dole Recalls Bagged Salad

So I'm looking on the MSN home page and I see a headline that says, "Dole Recalls Bagged Salad." And all I'm thinking is, "Who the hell gives a shit what Bob Dole has to say about bagged salad?" Of course, a few moments later, I realized the creative lengths to which my mind had roamed. And yet, I still couldn't help but envision such an article in my head. Come on, it doesn't take much:

"It was back in '73, when I had the most delicious bagged salad you've ever had, let me tell you, at a convenience store in Amarillo. Whoa nelly, you couldn't beat it. Almost as good as the one I had that time back in '57, when I was stranded at a Wendy's in Osh Kosh with my sister."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Slate V - Awkward Campaign Questions

It's getting harder to rip on Slate when they actually put stuff together that's pretty enjoyable. Lately they've had a new feature called "Slate V," in which the website illustrates select written pieces in video form. You wouldn't think that a difference in medium would produce much of an alteration in tone, but if you ask me, the video versions of the articles manage to come off better than their written counterparts. Pieces that seem excessively speculative or overly judgemental as articles come off mellow and grounded as videos. Much of the credit should go to the site's production department, since the humor in the videos usually comes from the well-chosen deployment of graphics or sound effects.

I particularly liked their video for "Awkward Campaign Questions." Compare it to the written piece. Sure, the written piece isn't bad, but it's hard to tell just how seriously the author is taking himself in the written form. The video lets you know that he's having a good time.

Apparently Slate co-sponsored a Democratic presidential debate with Yahoo! and the Huffington Post, which just goes to show you that these silly little internet sites are really hitting the big time. I haven't seen the Republican candidates attempt as much interaction with the internet crowd, although perhaps they don't feel their target audience resides there. Or maybe the Democrats are just making an insincere gesture in the hopes of appearing hip.

Friday, September 14, 2007

My Aim is True

The album was released 30 years ago this year. Sgt. Pepper is 40. If Nirvana is our Elvis and Radiohead is our Beatles, who's our Elvis Costello? Beirut's too happy. Kanye West is too wealthy. Can you write great music without the requisite fear and loathing? A Day in the Life had it. Beethoven had it. Even Stevie Wonder had it.

Along the lines of, if you don't set out to be better than the Beatles why try, if you don't have a problem with life why write about it? But who has ever reached the lofty heights implied by my rambles? Zinedine Zidane.

Have a good weekend folks.

Listen to this interview with Elvis Costello back before he realized that everything post-Imperial Bedroom was crap and decided to refocus his efforts on penning brilliant short autobiographical pieces for his album reissues.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Site Redesign

This is something I put together last night. Let me know what you think.

More on the Music Industry

Machinist, one of Salon's blogs, has an article up describing Viacom's absurd approach to internet video and Youtube. From the people who thought it would be better to sue their customers rather than sell them what they want in a format with 0 manufacturing costs we get:

"In other words, Google would have paid Viacom for letting the VMA video go to YouTube. Instead, in order to keep the video on its own site, Viacom ran an ad on Google pointing to MTV.

Let me say that again: In pursuit of complete control of its content, Viacom would rather pay Google than take Google's money."

Monday, September 10, 2007

What I'm Reading:

Hey all you Cosmic Americans. I thought I'd put up a little post here asking what everyone is reading, mostly as an excuse to tell you what I'm reading.

Theodor Adorno was a German marxist cultural critic. Stars Down to Earth is ostensibly about the astrology column for the Los Angeles Times. The interesting part, however, comes from Adorno's insight into human irrationality. He argues that irrationality allows people to keep a narcissistic view of their own worth while simultaneously absolving them of any responsibility to change the world around them. I find myself comparing other well-known social patterns to Adorno's astrology and each one achieves the same end in its own way. I originally thought of Adorno as the stogy, boring alternative to Walter Benjamin's mystical work, which takes a much more optimistic and hopeful view of social patterns. At this point in my life, however, I find Adorno much more convincing.

What are you guys reading?

God's Band

A prime example of the sorely underestimated "Klingon Rock" genre.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Cell Phone Bowling

Sometimes there's nothing like simplicity. With all the incredible video game technology available today, I have to say that it is still possible to make a quality video game with even the most basic of programming skills. Exhibit A: Cell Phone Bowling.

I was first drawn to Cell Phone Bowling when I found myself bored in restaurants, waiting for my food to arrive but missing a newspaper. Given that I have bowled in real life, I assumed that the rules would come naturally to me. After a few plays, however, I soon realized that Cell Phone Bowling was a bit different from Real Life Bowling. Let me explain the mechanics of the program:

Essentially, the "5" key is your gateway to glory; it takes you everywhere you need to go. Press it once, and the ball appears. Press it twice, and a hollow, black, two-way arrow appears beneath your ball. Within that arrow, there's a white line that shrinks and expands in either direction, although it is permanently anchored in the middle. The line is your "aiming" mechanism. You must press "5" at the precise moment when the white line is stretched in the direction you'd like the ball to go. This requires accurate reflexes, and can be quite frustrating at first, but it can be acquired with time, I assure you. Once you press "5," the line is fixed, and you are stuck with it. Sometimes you know that the line is not in the spot you'd like it to be, but it's too late buddy, you can't do a thing about it. At any rate, now a hollow, black, horizontal bar appears to the right, with another white line that rises and falls inside it. This is your "power" mechanism. If you press "5" when the bar is high, this means you will throw the ball hard. If you press "5" when the bar is low, this means you will throw the ball like a pathetic little girl. Once the last "5" is pressed, the ball is thrusted forward and the pins, if you do your job right, will fly in every possible direction.

You might think that such a game would allow for a great deal of variety. Ah, but you underestimate the economy of Cell Phone Bowling. For you see, the aiming mechanism is not as useful as it appears. The aiming mechanism has nine slots. Let's call them -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. Slots -4 and 4 will roll the ball straight into the gutter. In fact, so will slots -3 and 3. But ah, here's where the program gets strange. Because slots -2 and 2 will also roll the ball into the gutter! That's right, the only slots out of the nine that are of any use to you, ever, are slots -1, 0, and 1. You are tempted to believe that if you select slots -2 and 2 the ball will, at some point, hit one of the outlying pins, but it always rolls away at the very last minute. Hear my words. I have spent many a wasted game hoping that slots -2 and 2 would somehow, eventually, work in my favor. But that way lies the path to madness, my friends.

Then there is the power mechanism. As far as I can tell, the power mechanism does almost nothing. If you select the power at its absolute lowest, your ball will roll into the gutter. And I believe - though I am not certain - that if you select the power at its absolute highest, you will be throwing the ball too hard and your throw will not be as effective. After much trial and error, I have decided that the best spot in which to select the power is at roughly the 75% mark - although I am still not convinced that this has much effect.

Now, obviously on the first frame you should try to position the ball in slot 0. If you position your ball, on the first frame, in slot 0, then once you let go, the program will generate a limited number of outcomes. Here is how I would roughly break them down:

20% - one corner pin
10% - two corner pins on the same side
15% - split with two pins on one side and one pin on the other side
15% - split with two pins on each side
20% - split with one pin on each side
20% - strike

The program will not generate any outcomes other than these. So there is a certain amount of random chance involved here. Even if you are skilled enough to place the ball in slot 0 every single time, the program will not give you a strike every single time. That is why you must be ready for the spare. If one corner pin remains, then you must aim the ball in either slot -1 or slot 1, depending on which side the pin is on, if you want to pick up the spare. The same goes for two corner pins on the same side. However, if you receive a are screwed. The program does not allow for you to hit a pin in such a way so that it careens across the lane and knocks down the other pin(s), as is quite possible in Real Life Bowling. Oh no, such a maneuver would apparently be much too complicated for this program. When you receive a split, the best you can do is simply pick a side, knock down a pin (or pins) and take the extra point or two. That, in a nutshell, is all you need to know to become a master of Cell Phone Bowling.

However, I believe the game has one more hidden idiosyncracy built into it, and that is this: If you throw a strike, then on the next frame, you will almost invariably receive a split with two pins on each side. Apparently the program doesn't like to let you think you're starting to get lucky. On freak occasions, yes, I have been able to throw two strikes in a row. Once, I believe I might have thrown three strikes in a row. But I couldn't be sure; maybe I only imagined it. Therefore, I believe that the smartest strategy in the game might actually be to go for the spare - every time. You will probably end up with more points that way, rather than going for the strike every time, as you would in Real Life Bowling.

The program is also capable of some exciting graphics. When you get a spare, a cheaply pixellated little girl in blue overalls and a yellow baseball cap will appear in front of the scoring sheet and move her left arm up and down in triumph. If I'm not mistaken, she holds up two fingers; is that the symbol for "spare" or something? Then when you get a strike, oh man, the girl raises both of her fists in utter ecstacy. Finally, when you get a gutter ball, she holds her hand up to her nose. What a snot.

I have to say that I have done quite well in Cell Phone Bowling, occasionally surpassing my highest score in Real Life Bowling. My high score in Cell Phone Bowling is 158, while I don't believe I've ever surpassed 130 in Real Life Bowling.

Hold the phone, everybody. I just clicked on the option called "Instructions," and apparently you can use the "4" and "6" keys to move the ball across the lane! Before you choose your aim! This changes everything. Think of all the new permutations that this one simple move makes possible. Well, what a fool I was, claiming I knew everything there was to know about Cell Phone Bowling.

Even an old pro can be surprised.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

John Cusack Interview

John Cusack: "I've Made 10 Good Films" - Guardian

Now here's a guy with some perspective! He actually seems to understand almost exactly how the public would rate his filmography. He is, apparently, perfectly aware that most of his movies are not very good. I have to say that if an interview can you sell you on a person, this interview might have sold me on John Cusack. I guess I wasn't really "unsold," exactly. But he certainly comes off like a more interesting guy than I would have thought he was. More interesting than Nicholas Cage, I'll tell you that.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Toiling Diurnal Course Peregrination: The Highlights

Some Labor Day weekends are forgettable. Maybe you sit around the house all weekend watching Spongebob reruns. Maybe you drive to the multiplex and catch Rob Zombie's "reimagining" of Halloween. Maybe you try for the 20th time to beat that really tough round of Spider Solitaire. But this Labor Day weekend...was not one of those weekends. At least not for your humble bloggers. Oh no, my friends. It was a California extravaganza, spanning several different regional climates in several different principalities. One night we'd find ourselves in the back of a pick-up truck, the next night we'd stumble out of an army bunker. The epic details of the event would be too exhausting to describe, so I've decided to boil it down to the highlights. The one common thread that seemed to run through the weekend: instant gratification.

(Yoggoth: feel free to edit/contribute where necessary)

1. Fennel Cake and Snow Cone

Cruising the mean streets of the Newman Fall Festival on Saturday night, Yoggoth decided to indulge in the native "fennel cake" - a strange concoction of fried batter and sugary powder. Initially I was skeptical, but after a couple of bites, I was quite impressed. 'Twas then that I spotted the snow cone hut. While standing in line, I debated with Yoggoth over whether I should go for the blueberry or the raspberry. When I finally walked up to the counter and asked if they had blueberry, they said, "How about Blue Raspberry?" Sometimes fate just steps in and smiles, folks.

2. Little Star Pizza

On the hunt for a satisfying dinner, Yoggoth and I finally sauntered into Little Star Pizza, a trendy deep dish pizza place just a few blocks from my apartment. When he began hearing My Bloody Valentine and the Pixies on the restaurant's speaker system, Yoggoth knew he couldn't possibly be anywhere else other than San Francisco. They later slipped some Beatles and Stones into the mix, going heavy on Rubber Soul. I tried to point out the glory of "Michelle"s bass line, but I'm not sure I got through. At some point Yoggoth confessed that he had decided the newest addition to his DVD collection needed to be David Lynch's Inland Empire.

3. Eminem's Greatest Hits

As we were soaking in the hallucinatory, carnivalesque atmosphere of the "games and rides" wing of the Newman Fall Festival, I gradually realized that the giant stereo in the background was blasting Eminem's Greatest Hits on repeat. Apparently this was deemed the most appropriate fairground music in Newman.

4. "Are you sleeping in your underwear?"

I was woken up Sunday morning by a 5-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy jumping on me and asking personal questions. The boy asked me "Are you sleeping in your underwear?" Then as he proceeded to peel the sheets back, and as I tried my best to keep myself covered, he declared "You're sleeping in your underwear!" I put on a shirt and the girl said, "That looks like a woman's shirt." I said that, to the contrary, it was a rather manly shirt. She then replied, "You've got too've got cleavage."

5. Set

Yoggoth's sister was in possession of a card game named "Set," which was apparently designed by Mensa to induce a stroke in its players. At first Yoggoth and I lagged behind, but once we caught on we became unstoppable. Soon I began looking at groups of three in everything and tried to see where things matched and didn't match. Sounds like the ramblings of an insane man, does it not?

6. Egyptian Rat Fuck

On Sunday night in Hayward I was treated to the sight of a drunk Yoggoth desperately slapping at pairs of Jacks in his futile attempt to beat me at Egyptian Rat Fuck.

7. Olive Garden

After having assisted Ninquelote & Wife by moving...only 20% of their stuff, we all stood in the parking lot and expressed, in unison, that we were starving. Once the Olive Garden was mentioned, there was no going back. What followed was a banquet the likes of which Caligula would never have dreamed. We started out with garlic sticks, then moved on to fried zucchini and fried mozarella triangles. I ordered Chicken Scampi with Minstrone Soup. Some cleared their plates, while others left lonely, untouched meatballs crying in the dark.

8. Yoggoth cutting himself on the top of his foot

During the card-playing, Yoggoth knocked over a bottle of beer. Ninquelote scrambled to unpack some towels to clean up the mess, but one of the towels contained a wine glass, and it shattered all over the floor. The next morning. Yoggoth emerges from the bathroom with a cut on the top of his foot. "Hey, there's still some glass around the bathroom, be careful." "Yeah, but how did you cut yourself on the top of your foot?" "I don't know."

9. Late night desperation

It's virtually impossible for me to fall sleep if I'm hungry. And if I don't eat dinner at least four hours before I go to bed, I'll definitely be hungry by bedtime. I managed to skate by on Friday night with just a banana, but on Saturday I ran out of quick fixes. Thus, at 2 in the morning I found myself desperately raiding Yoggoth's family's fridge trying to cobble together enough nutrients in my stomach to constitute a meal, without actually cooking anything. What I ended up with was cold, soggy barbecue vegetable leftovers, a pack of peach yogurt, some grapes, and a carrot. On Sunday I was very careful not to make the same mistake twice, and I purchased my "late night dinner" ahead of time.

10. Low riding by Downtown Oakland

Due to the closure of a certain local bridge, it became necessary to traverse 880 several times over the weekend. Eventually we realized that whenever we drove over the stretch parallel to Downtown Oakland, Yoggoth's car would bounce up and down like a low rider. The particular mechanics of that particular stretch of freeway are somehow perfectly conducive to low riding in Yoggoth's car.

11. Taco Bell

In one last act of indulgence, the weekend nearing its final hours, Yoggoth pulled up to a Taco Bell drive-thru. He ordered. He received the food. He ate it. He survived.

12. Berkeley

As we were driving through a heavily African-American Berkeley neighborhood, where Yoggoth's sister lives, I quietly commented, "This doesn't appear to be the most affluent neighborhood in Berkeley." After an awkward pause, Yoggoth cognizantly replied, "Yep, you can tell by all the black people."

13. "Sweet Jane"/"Chantilly Lace"

Ninquelote received a call on his cell phone, and for reasons unexplained, his ringtone revealed itself to be the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane." I asked him, "Hey was that a 'Sweet Jane' ringtone?" He said "Yes, yes it was." He began singing, "Sweet Jane...hey baby." I said, "'Hey baby'? 'Hey baby'? What version of 'Sweet Jane' is that? Is that like the Big Bopper version? 'Standin' on a corner...Hello baaaaaaby! Suitcase in my hand...Hello baaaaaaaby!'"

14. The hunt for the card deck

If you ever find yourself hunting around late at night for a deck of cards in a supermarket, do you know where you would look? For such was our mission on Sunday night. We tried the "stationary" isle, then the "games and toys" isle. We were about to call it quits when I finally spotted it: The Bicycle shelf. Where was it? Next to the booze, of course. The shelf presented us with more options than we would ever have been able to utilize: Hoyle Maverick, Bee Club Special - you name it. In the end, a suitably cheap deck was chosen.