Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yoggoth's Top 5 Albums Of The '90s

Number Five: DJ Shadow's Endtroducing... (1996)

I usually find most electronica/hip-hop/'90s dance music really boring and monotonous but this guy's OK because he's white and he's from Davis like me. According to Wikipedia, this is the first album to be constructed entirely out of samples, which might explain why it has absolutely no individual personality at all. This album is so relaxing. I love to just put this album on and sit in my room and drink Jagermeister and download child porn all day. That is the life, let me tell you.

Number Four: Belle & Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister (1996)

This band has violins and xylophones and stuff, and I can't really understand what they're saying half the time because they're Scottish and I haven't read the lyric sheet because it takes too much effort, so I like the songs for arbitrary reasons. For example, I don't know what "Stars of Track and Field" is about but I used to have a crush on this girl on the track team and she said hi to me once, which was the highlight of my year, so I like that song. I also really relate to that song "Judy and the Dream of Horses," except instead of horses I dream of little girls - but not all of them are named Judy.

Number Three: The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs (1999)

This guy is really clever and he actually takes the time to write stuff and publish it eventually; I can't really relate to that approach but I admire it nonetheless. I borrowed this album from a blogger friend of mine two years ago and I still have it, and every now and then I take out the devilishly witty booklet and rub it all over myself in feverish agony. There are songs about almost every aspect of love you could think of, but the absence of any songs about pedophilia is a bit of a disappointment.

Number Two: My Bloody Valentine's Loveless (1991)

This album sounds like whales. The album cover is all blurry and pink and it makes me think of the mystery of the universe. I listen to that song "Only Shallow" and I imagine I'm a cool space wanderer in a superhero outfit. The guy took three years to record it, and he keeps saying that the follow-up album is "almost ready" and that he'll release it "any time now" but he's said that for about twenty years, so I can really relate to his style of saying he's going to do something but never actually doing it.

Number One: Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994)

Stephen Malkmus is my sex idol. I have a big poster of him in my room and I lay back and stare up at his sexy indie-rock body and I think happy thoughts. Every time he sings "When they pull out the plugs and they snort up the drugs" I get a little tingly feeling in my nether-regions, and when he declares "Say goodnight to the last psychedelic band" I have to be restrained by the police because otherwise I would engage in lewd acts with anything that walked. It's too bad Malkmus is over 18 though; otherwise it would simply be perfect.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Robobama

From The New York Times:
Disney officials declined to say how much it cost to build an Obama. They have cloaked the project with a blanket of secrecy befitting the Secret Service, permitting this reporter to be the only journalist thus far to view the figure up close but allowing only a Disney photographer to take its picture.

----------------------------

The Obama figure is the result of attention to minute details by Disney sculptors, animators, engineers and even anatomists who pored over presidential photographs and video of him and then drew on the latest advances in robotic technology. Thus the audio-animatronic Obama purses its lips to pronounce its b’s and p’s in a way frighteningly evocative of the real one, and raises its hands, open-palmed, while shrugging its shoulders, in a way that can only be described as Obamaesque.
Reason Number 5,283,625 why the United States is the greatest nation on Earth:

The Obamatron.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Wrestler (Aronofsky)

This is probably the best Mickey Rourke/washed-up wrestler/Marisa Tomei as a stripper movie ever. Which is to say that this film has been made a million times before. But as Roger Ebert once put it, "It's not what a movie is about, but how it is about it." And so The Wrestler is about its wrestler in a very authentic and convincing way. I have spent some time in the crappy industrial Northeast of this nation, and let me tell you, The Wrestler oozes that authentic crappy industrial Northeast vibe. Even locales as simple as the schoolroom, or the back office of the supermarket, smack of real places and not movie sets. It's the most honest movie about fake wrestling ever.

You can thank Mickey Rourke. A lot of critics have said that although Rourke's performance is very affecting, it doesn't really "count," because all he's doing is basically playing himself. But I don't necessarily think that great acting means "an actor trying to pretend that he is someone he is not" (a la Sean Penn in Milk). I want to get a sense of the actor's spirit in a performance. I'm talking about Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. All Humphrey Bogart had to do was "play Bogart." But so what? I'm talking about Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, I'm talking about Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys. Great acting is often as simple as just not doing anything obnoxious. Great acting is brushing vanity aside and having the guts to reveal your own feelings through your character. Besides, he punctures his skin with a staple gun! He sticks his fingers in a meat slicer! Let's see Sean Penn do that, you know?

I do wish that filmmakers these days did not feel they needed to use that crappy, "low-budget" hand-held look to suggest grittiness. I believe that a movie can be "gritty" and yet still employ stately, meticulous cinematography (for example: Taxi Driver, Bonnie and Clyde, The Godfather, etc.). But, then again, that takes time, money, and effort.

When my roommate came back from seeing The Wrestler, he said to me, "You know what message I got from that movie? 'Diversify.' " Randy "The Ram" Robinson is really only good at one thing and one thing only, and that's being Randy "The Ram" Robinson. You'd like to say that people have more to offer the world than just one pathetic thing, but some people really...don't. The essence of the character's limited personality is captured in this memorable exchange:

Randy "The Ram" Robinson: Goddamn they don't make em' like they used to.
Cassidy: Fuckin' 80's man, best shit ever!
Randy "The Ram" Robinson: Bet'chr ass man, Guns N' Roses!
Cassidy: Crue!
Randy "The Ram" Robinson: Yeah!
Cassidy: Def Lep!
Randy "The Ram" Robinson: Then that Cobain pussy had to come around and ruin it all.
Cassidy: Like there's something wrong with just wanting to have a good time?
Randy "The Ram" Robinson: I'll tell you somethin', I hated the fuckin' 90's.
Cassidy: Fuckin' 90's sucked.
Randy "The Ram" Robinson: Fuckin' 90's sucked.

I guess Nirvana were just too introspective for this guy. But just because he's a one-trick pony doesn't mean he's a worthless human being undeserving of our sympathy. If I were his daughter, I'd hate him too. But it's not her movie, it's his. Even shitty wrestler fathers deserve a movie of their own sometimes.

"Film critic" rating: ****
"Little Earl" rating: ***1/2

Friday, May 22, 2009

Zrbo Reviews: VNV Nation's Reformation 01


Well here it is, Herr Zrbo has finally decided to go the review route, starting with the latest release by his favorite band VNV Nation, Reformation 01. For those readers unfamiliar with the band (I presume that's all of you), VNV Nation began life in the early nineties as a music project of Ronan Harris, an Irishman with a penchant for smoking excessively and drinking large amounts of whiskey. By 1995 Mark Jackson, a rather tall Brit, had joined and together they managed to dig up enough money for one day of recording at a studio. Thus was born VNVs first album Advance & Follow. After a few more years and some touring, the released their second album Praise the Fallen, followed a year later by the masterpiece Empires, followed by three albums since (Futureperfect, Matter + Form, and Judgement).

For those still wondering "what the hell does VNV stand for?" the short answer is "Victory not Vengeance" meaning, ahem, "one should strive to achieve, not sit in bitter regret." The band is basically Ronan's, with Mark mainly just a drummer (sorry Mark!). VNV are also the only band I know which have, what is essentially, a mission statement, which I won't repeat here as it's rather long and pretentious and ultimately meaningless for this review, follow the link if you're interested.

Reformation 01 is a limited edition three disc set of live tracks, b-sides and unreleased material, and a live DVD, all packaged in a very nice embossed boxset. It's seriously the nicest CD packaging of all the albums I own. Included inside is a booklet with notes by Ronan on several of the older albums and on the three new unreleased tracks. As a long time fan it's very nice to have some commentary on VNVs work written by them. It definitely gave me a few "aha, so that's what the hell that song means" moments.

Getting to the material, the first disc of live tracks is a bit of a mixed bag. Most of the songs are from the last two albums, which is good as VNV desperately needed another offering as their last (and first) release of live material Pastperfect was so long ago. Unfortunately, the audio quality of some of the tracks can be terrible at times. Well, let's be honest, it's really Ronan's voice that sounds awful at times. On the live version of Illusion off of 2007s Judgement Ronan's voice sounds like he smoked an entire pack of cigarettes while he had a bad cold before heading onstage. Granted, Ronan has never had a truly fabulous singing voice - the genre lends itself well to guttural shouts - but VNV Nation are known for elevating the lyrical content of the genre (as the PopMatters review says "making Ronan Harris the poet laureate of England would not, in my opinion, be overdoing it").

Still, overall it does give a good impression of VNVs energetic live performances, another thing they're known for, but I would probably recommend the Pastperfect DVD as a better introduction to their live sound. There are a couple of good moments though, such as at the beginning of Procession when Ronan yells at the top of his lungs "C'mon you fuckers! Move your asses, let's go!" and during the introduction to the FDR mix of Honour (which begins with FDR's Chautauqua "I hate war" speech) where Ronan says "And now some words from Franlin Delano Roosevelt" pronouncing Roosevelt in his Irish brogue like 'Rew-se-velt'.

The second disc includes the remixes, b-sides, and unreleased material. The remixes are all great, except, as a die hard fan, I already had most of them. Still, it's a good collection overall, though if Ronan decided to include obscure remixes of Chrome I don't know why he didn't just include all of them (I'm looking at you 'Soman RX longer' remix). Ok, yes, a bit nit picky, but as a fan it leaves me scratching my head.

Also included are some of the tracks Ronan did for the completely unsucessful film The Gene Generation (I think it ended up straight to DVD). VNV Nation has always used lots of orchestral music in their recordings, and over the last few years Ronan has expressed much interest in scoring for films, but with the last album Judgement he really started going over the top. The final song from that album, As it Fades, sounded like something from Lord of the Rings. This disc includes As it Fades (2nd movement) and it just straight up sounds like the elves are coming out of the woods, complete with ethereal female vocals. Seriously, Ronan, go talk to Peter Jackson cause you've got a bit of a problem.

The real meat of the second disc are the three previously unreleased tracks, Still Waters, Suffer, and Precipice. These are hands down some of the best music to come from VNV in the last 8 years. Unfortunately, as Ronan notes in the... notes, these songs reflect a direction he wanted to steer VNV away from, and they formed the basis for "an album that never was". I find this complete baloney as these songs sound straight up like they would easily fit anywhere in the last two albums. I'm not really sure what the hell he's talking about. Oh well, they're quite excellent and are worth the price of admission alone.

The third disc is the live DVD. I don't have much to say about it. Though some of the fun from the live shows comes off here, you really need to see them live to really appreciate their live act (I guess the same could be said of any artist). The production is nice and all, and, if you allow me a moment of shallowness, it's nice to see some better looking people in the audience (in the Pastperfect DVD there were these two really out-of-place looking gap-toothed fellows dead center front row who were just extremely annoying to look at every time the camera showed the audience).

Overall it's a very nice package, and for $20 it's easily worth the money. It's just a shame that some of the audio couldn't have been better, and maybe the second disc could have used a bit more of a theme (say, all the remixes of songs from one particular album). As this release is titled Reformation 01 I'm sure we'll see an 02 later down the line. Until then, hot on the heels of this release is their next album Of Faith, Power, and Glory which releases next month, with a tour right after (San Fran June 29th at the Grand Ballroom). I'll be there.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dear Little Earl

(With respects to Slate's Dear Prudence column)

Dear Little Earl:
I did something recently that concerns me on many levels. I am under a large amount of stress because I'm in an unhappy marriage (which we're trying to work out) and because my company laid me off. I am under treatment for depression. A week ago, my doctor doubled the dosage of my antidepressant and, because I'm not sleeping well, he prescribed Ambien. On Saturday morning, I confused the vials and took two Ambien. I told my wife what happened and that I would probably sleep all day and went to bed. At around 10 p.m., my wife commented on how productive I had been: mowing the lawn, cleaning up, grocery shopping. I remembered none of this and said so. She said her only concern was that I left for "errands" and returned two hours later with nothing in hand. I talked to my doctor Monday, and he told me Ambien can cause amnesia and that some people have reported walking, driving, and cooking in their sleep. I know now what filled the missing two hours. This afternoon, I got a call from a woman who called me "lover" and asked when I wanted to come back. She called me her f--k buddy. This is a woman I had talked to only twice before in social situations. I do not even know where she lives; maybe I phoned her for directions. I do find her attractive, but I am stunned that I did something like this. My wife is vindictive, and if I say anything to her, it will end our marriage. I do not want to continue a relationship with the other woman. What should I do?—Scared Sleepless

Dear Scared Sleepless: Pop another Ambien and forget all about it.

Dear Little Earl,
I am a senior in high school and stuck in the midst of prom season. Everywhere I turn, other girls are talking about dresses, and makeup, and dates. My problem is that, unlike most of the other girls, I have no interest in attending prom. It's not that I don't have a date, or a dress for that matter; I just don't get the whole "prom" thing. When other girls hear that I don't intend to attend, it stirs up a flurry of questioning and disbelief; they don't seem to understand why I wouldn't want to go. Do you have any advice for how to deal with these people? Or should I just bite the bullet and go to please everyone else?—Not a Prom Queen

Dear Not a Prom Queen: When you turn 18, please call me.

Dear Little Earl,
My boyfriend and I recently moved in together. One day we had a fight about the fact that he doesn't trust me around his computer because he has things on it that are part of his past that he doesn't want me to see. One of those things is "the List" of all the girls he has slept with, including one-night stands. I have asked him the number of people he's had sex with (he knows mine is two), but he tells me that I don't want to know and gives me a number between 10 and 50. I have asked him to delete that list, but he says he won't because if he gets a weird disease in the future and has to tell everyone he's slept with, he won't remember all of them without the list. He claims I don't have anything to be worried about and that everybody has a past, but he doesn't want to hurt me, and it's best that I not know some things—just as he doesn't want to know some things about my past. Am I being too concerned about a stupid list? I know he is not cheating on me, but should I know his number?—Concerned

Dear Concerned: Would you mind asking your boyfriend exactly how I could go about starting a list like his? I mean, it sounds like a pretty impressive list.

Dear Little Earl: Due to religious reasons, I don't shake hands or have physical contact (hug, etc.) men who aren't related to me. I plan on entering the work force soon and would like to know if there's a respectful way to inform a guy that shaking my hand is not okay. I don't want to be rude. In the past, when meeting colleagues or friends, if they don't know this about me, and outstretch their hand, I just say, "Hey, I'm sorry I can't shake your hand. It's nothing personal, okay? Hope you're not offended" or something like that. If they ask why, I'm happy to elaborate but I don't volunteer that information unless they ask. Is this okay? I don't want to negatively influence any future job interviews, etc. Your advice would be much appreciated.—Gaithersburg, Md.

Dear Gaithersburg, Md.: No offense, but I think you need a new religion. If I met you and you refused to shake my hand, and told me you couldn't because your religion didn't allow it, I would actually be offended - by your strict fundamentalism. What if I took a poo on your bed and said, "Oh, well, my religion only allows me to take a poo on other people's beds, sorry, don't mean to offend"?

Dear Little Earl: I'm having trouble getting used to the idea of having sex only with one person. My girlfriend is wonderful -- both in and out of bed -- but I find my eye wandering and wanting more variety. I know, we're supposed to surpress these things and get with the monogamy program, but I'm having real trouble with this concept. I'm old enough to think that these desires aren't going to change -- do most people just surpress them or am I doing something wrong?—Want More Sex

Dear Want More Sex: I feel so terribly, terribly sorry for you young man.

Dear Little Earl: What does one do when one hates one's job so thoroughly? Last week I was told that "some people" think I spend too much time on the Internet (sort of like now), never mind that my work gets done in a timely and efficient manner. So spending less time on the interwebs, I've realized it was the only thing that got me through the day. Without that outlet, I get no intellectual stimulation through my job. This was not always the case, due to the economy (I know, I know) the company I work for has downsized, which in turn caused a reorganization. Though they called it a lateral move, it was definitely a demotion for me. Now I find it harder and harder to even pretend that I'm happy. How do I shake this off? I know I should just be grateful I have a job that still pays good and is somewhat secure, but I HATE it so much.—St. Louis, Mo.

Dear St. Louis, Mo.: Welcome to life after college buddy.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Excuse Me While I Rule The Free World

Highlights from President Obama's interview in Newsweek:

What's your reaction to Vice President Cheney's ongoing [criticism]? He's not quite twittering your administration [laughter] but he's coming fairly close.
You know, Dick Cheney had a strong perspective about national security. It was tested in the early years of the Bush administration, and I think it resulted in a series of very bad decisions. I think what's interesting is that, in some ways, Dick Cheney actually lost these arguments inside the Bush administration. And so he may have won early with Colin Powell and Condi Rice, but over the last two or three years of the Bush administration, I think there was a recognition among Republicans and Bush administration officials that these enhanced interrogation techniques that were being applied—that they had applied early on—were potentially counterproductive; that a posture of never talking to our enemies, of unilateral action, of framing national security only in terms of the application of force, often unilateral—that that wasn't producing. And so it's interesting to me to see the vice president spending so much time trying to vindicate himself and relitigate the last eight years when, as I said, I think, actually, a lot of these arguments were settled even before we took over the White House.

(Oooooh. Smackdown.)

What are you reading?
I'm reading this book called Netherland by Joseph O'Neill … It's about after 9/11, a guy—his family leaves him and he takes up cricket in New York. And it's fascinating. It's a wonderful book, although I know nothing about cricket.

(Me neither!)

Do you watch any cable news?
I don't watch cable news at all. The only television I'm watching these days is sports.

(Hey, me too! Well, do The Daily Show and Colbert Report count as "cable news"? I say not.)

And the last movie you saw?
Now, movies I've been doing OK [with] because it turns out we got this nice theater on the ground floor of my house … So Star Trek, we saw this weekend, which I thought was good. Everybody was saying I was Spock, so I figured I should check it out and—[the president makes the Vulcan salute with his hand].

(You have got to be kidding me.)

Very good.
Yes, absolutely.

Did you watch that when you were growing up?
I used to love Star Trek. You know, Star Trek was ahead of its time. There was a whole—the special effects weren't real good, but the storylines were always evocative, you know, there was a little commentary and a little pop philosophy for a 10-year-old to absorb.

A lot of U.N. stuff.
Yes, exactly, right.

(What he means to say is that the crew of the Starship Enterprise...were a bunch of socialists!)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Please, Mr. Fish

Stanley Fish has another column about religion up at NYTimes.com, this one seemingly expressly designed to annoy me.

The column is a review of Terry Eagleton's Reason, Faith, and Revolution. Based on Fish's description, this could be the most maddeningly stupid piece of academic writing ever produced. Throughout the book, Eagleton refers to his atheist opponents as "Ditchkins," a play on Christopher Hitchens' and Richard Dawkins' last names. Let me give you a friendly tip Mr. Eagleton, don't try to outwit Christopher Hitchens. The man is a lank-haired engine of wit, fueled by the rhetoric of those who oppose him. Imagine Hitchens staring directly at his audience, a whithering non-expression on his face, repeating in his deep, Virginia-colony-tobacco voice the word, "Ditchkins." He'd follow with something about vapid schoolyard taunts, probably a complement to Dawkins, and you'd just sit there and sputter Terry. This is particularly amusing given Fish's concluding passage, "He is angry, I think, at having to expend so much mental and emotional energy refuting the shallow arguments of school-yard atheists like Hitchens and Dawkins. I know just how he feels." Uh huh.

Fish offers some sample passages from the book: "Christianity was never meant to be an explanation of anything in the first place. It’s rather like saying that thanks to the electric toaster we can forget about Chekhov." "[B]elieving that religion is a botched attempt to explain the world...is like seeing ballet as a botched attempt to run for a bus." But Mr. Eagleton, religion clearly is an attempt to explain the world. If it isn't, why do we have so much debate over evolution and the age of the planet?

Eagleton then claims that science doesn't, and can't, ask, "“Why is there anything in the first place?”, “Why what we do have is actually intelligible to us?” and “Where do our notions of explanation, regularity and intelligibility come from?” He's wrong. Science does ask all of those things and has developed interesting answers to them. If you don't know that you shouldn't be commenting on science.

Eagleton's book apparently boils down to the old canard that science relies just as much on faith as religion does. Why is this self-evidently false argument so popular with religionists? I guess you could say that science relies on the faith that the external world is real, but is that really faith? When I walk into a wall I slam into something solid and get hurt. Is it accurate to call my belief in the wall's existence faith? Doesn't that seem qualitatively different from faith in a completely imperceptible being who follows some physical rules and violates others? Doesn't a story about a person who can walk through walls involve more faith than a story about a person running into a wall? The reason we have perceived a conflict between science and religion is that those who identify with each are trying to change the behavior of the other side. This is why the common sense questions I just asked seem so much more important to me than esoteric debates about faith in an ultimate creating and motivating force. Let's say we're trying to decide where to build walls and who gets to build them. If we assume, based on past experience rather than faith, that people cannot walk through walls we will probably end up with much more livable communities. Likewise, if you tell me not to have sex with someone because I might get sick, that will result in much less conflict than telling me not to have sex with someone because an imperceptible being disapproves.

You'd think this difference between religion and science would be obvious by now.

I'll finish by noting Fish's strange conceit of denying that his audience knows anything about his own religious beliefs through his writing. I assume he's a believer, as he writes columns defending religion, albeit in circuitous ways. Perhaps, as a final rhetorical flourish, Fish will reveal his rabid atheism in a latter column, like the assistant tearing off his executioner's mask to reveal that he himself is the magician. Ha ha! I was really an agnostic all along! Who cares Mr. Fish?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ludology 101


Allow me to gloat for a second here. I just finished up another semester of school yesterday, finally free to run around and enjoy the sun for a couple of months. The final project for one of my classes was to create a guide to a particular subject of our choosing. Known as a pathfinder in the library biz, these guides are designed to serve as an introduction to materials describing a subject, any subject, from Shakespeare to Dada. Naturally, I chose to make mine on videogames. It's got links to websites, the Ebert/Croal debate, and call numbers for those book-things in case you ever found yourself in a real library. Since no one else is ever going to see this thing besides my professor, I thought I'd share it with you here, have fun.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

When You Wish Upon A Soulless Corporation

I know everybody's been keeping track on their cell walls with chalk marks, but it's been at least a year and a half since I've added any DVDs to my collection. Reasons for this:

1) I lacked the ability to buy DVDs until about four years ago. I was really excited when I gained this ability. But after about two years of possessing this ability, I realized that I could, in truth, buy DVDs ad infinitum, and eventually it just got boring.

2) Most of the DVDs I really wanted to buy I managed to buy (that double-disc special edition of Plan 9 From Outer Space suddenly seemed like it could wait).

3) I realized that any money I spent on DVDs would be money that I might potentially need again someday, particularly in an unanticipated stretch of unemployment.

So there you have it. However, the recent release of a certain DVD has brought me out of retirement, and I purchased it and two others last weekend. The DVD that I speak of is the 70th anniversary double-disc special edition of Disney's 1940 animated feature Pinocchio. Why Pinocchio? Well let's just say this: donkeys, whales, and the hottest blue fairy in the history of family friendly entertainment (she'd make this little boy's wooden nose grow too, if you know what I mean). My original plan was to purchase all of Disney's first five animated features (Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi), and add them to my collection. But, stickler for detail that I am, I decided to purchase them in order. Snow White was out of print, but I found a reasonably priced used copy, so I snagged it with little hesitation. Pinocchio, however, was a bitch.

Disney released Pinocchio as a single, bare-bones disc in 1999 and then, in time-honored Disney fashion, pulled it from the market. Back when I was more obsessive about "completing" my DVD collection, I was rather irked by this. Used copies at Amoeba went for $75. I wanted it, but I didn't want it that badly. I also found out on the Internet Movie Database that Disney would be releasing a double-disc edition...in March 2008. My God, how could I ever wait that long? Nevertheless, I decided I would do just that. As March 2008 approached, however, I heard nothing about a Pinocchio re-release. I checked IMDB and learned that Disney was now planning on re-releasing Pinocchio in March 2009. I thought I would be more irritated by this than I really was, but mostly I just figured, "Well, I've already waited two years, so what's one more year?" Indeed, it was nothing.

Masters of unctuous self-promotion they may be, I have to admit that Disney puts out the best special edition DVDs out of anyone in the business (Criterion included). Because they are self-obsessed copyright whores, they've managed to preserve all of their little bits of deleted scenes, promotional materials, pencil sketches, etc. etc. in their archives. Look at what we've got here:

* All-New Audio Commentary With Leonard Maltin, Eric Goldberg And J.B. Kaufman.
* No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio
* Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scenes And Alternate Ending
* The Sweat Box: Walt Disney's Artistic Review Process
* Geppettos Then And Now
* Live Action Reference Footage
* Pinocchio Art Galleries
* Pinocchio's Puzzles (Hosted by Jiminy Cricket)
* Pinocchio Knows Trivia Challenge
* Pleasure Island Carnival Games
* Pinocchio's Matter of Facts
* "When You Wish Upon a Star" (all-new music video starring Meaghan Jette Martin [Camp Rock] performing an all-new version of "When You Wish Upon A Star")

Honestly. They've done everything short of cryogenically unfreezing old Walt himself.

Having been inspired to break my DVD moratorium by Burbank's finest, I purchased two others, on a sort of unintentional Dustin Hoffman theme. In the wake of Frost/Nixon, I felt the need to finally add All The President's Men to the shelf. Check these out:

* Commentary by Robert Redford
* Telling the Truth About Lies: The Making of All the President's Men
* Out of the Shadows: The Man Who Was Deep Throat
* Woodward and Bernstein: Lighting the Fire
* Vintage featurette Pressure and the Press: The Making of All the President's Men
* Vintage Jason Robards interview excerpt from Dinah!, hosted by Dinah Shore

Sadly, Deep Throat itself is not included. Finally, I purchased Kramer Vs. Kramer, a slice-of-life drama that does not boast a particularly high critical reputation (mostly because it beat out Apocalypse Now and All That Jazz, among others, for the 1979 Best Picture Oscar) but is nevertheless a movie that I find very intelligent and entertaining. The only notable special feature is a making-of documentary (which I have already seen). But they can't all be "Limited Time Only/First Time On Blu-Ray" pieces of gooey hype now, can they?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fun With MSN

1) Readings Show Four Corners Marker Off By 2.5 Miles
The only place in the United States where four state boundaries come together was first surveyed by the government in 1868 during the initial survey of Colorado's southern boundary. The survey was inaccurate. Officials said Monday the accurate location lies to the east of U.S. 160 in Colorado and northeast of the San Juan River as it flows into New Mexico.
Well come on! It's in the middle of the fucking desert. What did you expect? I mean how could they have ever mistaken one arid, generic, barren patch of soil for another? I have been there my friends, and let me tell you, it is the buttfuck of nowhere. I'll bet the surveyor probably figured, "Hell, I'll just give it a nice good throw and we'll call it a day." However, those of you who now doubt if you've ever really placed yourself within the boundaries of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico all at the same time, do not fear. According to Wikipedia, this report is mistaken and the marker is at most only 1,807 feet off. Apparently "the reference point used by the U.S. Congress at the time [1875] was the Washington Meridian, which has an offset from the modern reference, the Prime Meridian...this offset is often missed by those not familiar with the history of American surveying." (I'm looking at you, Associated Press.) Besides, it's all irrelevant, as "general U.S. land principles, law, and the Supreme Court have established that the location of the monument is the legal corner of the four states." Ladies and gentlemen, the American judicial system at work.

2) Microbe-Powered 'Fart' Machine Stores Energy
It works like this: giving small jolts of electricity to single-celled microorganisms known as archea prompts them to remove C02 from the air and turn it into methane, released as tiny "farts." The methane, in turn, can be used to power fuel cells or to store the electrical energy chemically until its needed.
So...it doesn't really "fart" at all. Disappointing. To quote Troy McClure: "This could be the most flagrant case of false advertising since The Neverending Story."

3) Giant Mystery Blob Found Near Dawn Of Time

Say what now?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Further Reading on Entry Bans

Here is Tariq Ramadan's Op-Ed in the Washington Post describing why he has not been allowed entry into the United States. He has been unable to assume the tenured professorship that he was offered at Notre Dame. Where does he live instead? Why in dreaded free speech hating England, of course.

The Washington Times ran an article in March describing Ramadan's exclusion. There we read, "Such “ideological exclusion” dates back to the Cold War, the groups note, when the United States refused entry to leading scholars, writers and activists, including Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez, Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, Italian playwright Dario Fo, British novelist Doris Lessing and Canadian writer and environmentalist Farley Mowat."

(Hat tip to Glenn Greenwald for both of these articles.)

Time to be outraged, eh Ninquelote?

The US, Flawed But Home

Let's not throw stones here in the good ol' U.S. of A. The Justice Department recently conducted a study of the FBI's terrorist watch list. Per the New York Times, they concluded that, "The Federal Bureau of Investigation has incorrectly kept nearly 24,000 people on a terrorist watch list on the basis of outdated or sometimes irrelevant information, while missing people with genuine ties to terrorism who should have been on the list..." This disturbs me a bit more than England's list because the US has previously sent suspected terrorists to CIA black sites where they were tortured, sometimes to death. The US government also sent agents to infiltrate, harass, and arrest left-wing protest groups preceding the 2008 Republican national convention. The American public, to its credit, did vote out he party that was responsible for most of the abuses and elect Obama who has ended the CIA's black site and torture policies. But to use this incident as evidence that the US is superior in some way is absurd.

Assuredly, this is an uncommonly silly policy that will only bring attention to the people that are selected. But you have to remember that speech is not protected as much under English law, and that many of these people probably could be convicted of crimes or successfully sued in England. It seems pretty similar to numerous practices here. There is, to my knowledge, no law on the books stopping the US government from publishing a list similar to this one. Sure, you'd have to remove the American citizens and residents, who would be protected by the Constitution, but the others could be kept out. They could also be strip searched, detained for hours, and forced to defecate into a bucket without any probable cause. American citizens who attended an Islamic religious conference in Canada could also be strip searched at the border without probable cause. I read about both of these situations for school.

Ninquelote, you say, "And wouldn't this also mean you should be rounding up citizens now living in Great Britain and kicking them out of the country? You think there aren't racist, skin-heads living and hating in England? You think there aren't religious nuts or Muslim extremists living amongst your population?" The answer is no, citizens and residents are treated differently than non-resident aliens in most(all?) nations.

"...the other half are Americans that are extreme in one way or another (except for left wing extremists, they're okay)" What does their ideology matter? If your objection to the policy stems from free speech concerns, shouldn't that be immaterial? I'll admit, seeing Micheal Savage on that list is a bit surprising. He's a pathetic blow hard, who promotes a culture of white, middle-class victimhood to make money, but to put him on that list makes him out to be a bit more important than he actually is.

Consider "Artur Ryno and Pavel Skachevsky, the former leaders of a violent Russian skinhead gang which committed 20 racially motivated murders." It seems perfectly reasonable to me that a country would decide to keep such men from entering. What say you?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Reason Number 5,283,624 That the United States is the Greatest Nation on Earth

Great Britain recently published a list of 16 (and growing, slightly) people that they have banned from entering their country. Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, stated that she thinks "it's important that people understand the sorts of values and sorts of standards that we have here [in Britain]...Coming to this country is a privilege. If you can't live by the rules that we live by, the standards and the values that we live by, we should exclude you from this country."

Really? You think it's okay to just ban someone from your country because you as the government don't agree with the things they say? Is that how you do it? And what are these rules that you live by? Stifling freedom of speech? Excluding whole avenues of thought? That sounds kind of extremist to me.

And wouldn't this also mean you should be rounding up citizens now living in Great Britain and kicking them out of the country? You think there aren't racist, skin-heads living and hating in England? You think there aren't religious nuts or Muslim extremists living amongst your population?

I understand that half of the guys on this list are murderers and terrorists, but the other half are Americans that are extreme in one way or another (except for left wing extremists, they're okay). And believe me, I don't agree with most of the people on this list, mostly because I'm not a religious nut or a member of the KKK, but I still think they have the right to voice their opinions in my country. We entertain foreign dictators and other undesirable people in the US all the time. I don't agree with them, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be able to come over here and be allowed to buy a coffee at Starbucks and catch the latest cheesy action flick. I would be outraged if the US came out with a list that excluded people from legally entering the country. As so many left-wing commentators like to say, we're better than that.

That said, Britain can do whatever they want, but why stop at sixteen, or twenty-two, or 2000; there are millions of people that think way these people think, and are just as vocal about their causes. I didn't see Osama bin Laden's name on the list, or Sean Hannity, or Fidel Castro. Come on, now. They couldn't come up with a better, more comprehensive list than these sixteen names?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hitler's Paintings: Not Bad!

Honestly, I know he was a genocidal despot and everything, but I kind of like these. Admit it, they do have a certain bucolic, pastoral charm, do they not? Auctioneer Ian Morris assures us that "his style is quite naive, so easy to imitate," but come on, no need to be hard on the guy just because he was...Hitler. Granted, I would not really claim to be a genuine art aficionado. But I know what I like.

Aww, there's the little guy himself. He looks so cuddly-uddly-uddly.