Monday, July 31, 2006

No sulphur for you, Bush!

Here's quite an interesting article about a possible "escape plan" for global warming devised by a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, should the leaders of the international community (gee, I wonder which ones?) fail to act in time to avert massive ecological disaster, as will likely be the case. Distributing sulphur into the air through hot air balloons? Perfect. Sounds great. Side effects? No problem. Alls I knows is I don't want to have to outrun frost like in The Day After Tomorrow (a movie only slightly less scientifically accurate than The Animal).

UPDATE: Stop the presses! Here's an article that says invisibility might be possible at some point in the future. Holy shit, people, this is the answer to our frost problem. Don't you see? If you're invisible the frost will pass right over you, thinking you're just a bubble of air pressure. You'll be able to move anywhere you want without freezing. IT'S SCIENCE! GET A BRAIN, MORANS!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"How did Patton beat Rommel? He read his book!"

Last night's Best Show on WFMU contained a beautiful, near hour-long rant by Tom Scharpling railing against the wretched films of Kevin Smith, one of the worst filmmakers ever to breathe air on our planet. Tom correctly noted just about every problem with Smith's ouevre: the tracts of unwieldy dialogue, the horrible visual style, the forced crudeness, the jarring shifts in tone, the fact that they're Really Not Funny, etc. I still find Clerks amusing in spots, but he's consistently managed to hit new lows throughout his career, as Tom details on the Real Audio and mp3 archives of the show (you can hear me call in with some passable comments during the last 20 minutes or so, although I fear I may have pronounced coup de gras as "coop-de-grah" at one point). The only Smith-related project I would even cautiously recommend at this point is that 425-hour-long dvd of his college lectures, An Evening with Kevin Smith, as it does contain some funny stories, including one about briefly working with Prince on an ill-fated vanity project.

You can't say Smith doesn't know his fanboy audience however. Take a look at the Lara Croft-like photoshopping of these Rosario Dawson pics on the Clerks 2 posters:

Everyone likes to feel sexy after all, and what could possibly be more flattering or dignified for an actress than having the phrase "ALWAYS OPEN" plastered above your digitally enhanced boobological region. I'd advise Rosario to reprise this gimmick in ads for any future roles; perhaps a version with a suggestively placed flute, in case she's doing any Shakespeare in the Park anytime soon.

Monday, July 24, 2006

WWKD (What would Kinski do?)

Here we have the opening scene of Werner Herzog's documentary My Best Fiend, about his tumultuous friendship and legendary collaborations with nutty actor Klaus Kinski, with whom he made five films, including the masterpiece Aguirre: The Wrath of God. The film is full of wild (and perhaps wildly embellished) stories of Herzog's and Kinski's periodic threats against each others' lives on their near-catastrophic film shoots. This footage is taken from Kinski's self-explanatory "I am Jesus" tour in the early 70's, where people would fill theatres throughout Germany to hear him rant and rave. His autobiography Kinski: Uncut (formerly titled All I Need is Love) is another singularly loopy read, filled with accounts of his alleged thousands of sexual exploits and lots of venomous rants against Herzog -- who later admitted the two of them sat around Kinski's house thinking of horrible things the actor could say about him to sell more books.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

As you can see, I find a light touch often helps

Why We Fight (2005) uses Eisenhower's farewell presidential address, in which the army general and two-term Republican president rather boldly and presciently warned of the encroaching military-industrial complex, as the basis to rehash many of the same salient points about the folly of our recent military endeavors that are usually dually noted, then blithely ignored by most people. Really, aren't political documentaries essentially ineffectual? Aren't those who seek them out and watch them usually, overwhelmingly already inclined to agree with the filmmaker? I haven't heard of lawmakers rushing to address global warming so far in the wake of An Inconvenient Truth, and global warming by right isn't even inherently a political issue, although it has been successfully politicized.

Anyway, Why We Fight also profiles a retired New York cop who lost his son in 9/11, wholeheartedly threw his support behind the Iraq war, then felt betrayed when Bush backpedaled and said the administration never claimed Iraq had anything to do with 9/11. It's a shame the left is in such bad shape that it often desperately latches on to these manipulative human interest/political conversion stories, seemingly believing them to be the last, best hope to shake up and convince the hopelessly indifferent, stubborn or just plain mean-spirited people who remain spitefully unmoved by any amount of evidence or analysis. Returning to An Inconvenient Truth, that film implores Americans to get in touch with the rah-rah can-do spirit that we're so often told made this country great in order to combat that particular threat. I fear we've sacrificed too much of that spirit in the name of power and wealth and have started on an irrevocable downslide, with the inability to deal with the Katrina situation a preview of what's to come. In fact, I tend to think I'll see the complete collapse of human civilization in my lifetime.*

*"Goddamnit, kid, how do you expect to get more readers for this two-bit rag with this depressed horseshit?" "Wait, who said that? Who are you?" "Ava Gardner, kid, who do you think I am? I'm the cigar-chomping mogul that watches over you and tells ya how to become a bigshot like me! Although half the time I might as well be talkin' to the medicine bag at my lousy brother-in-law's gym." "Oh, but this long asterisk is going to draw people in? Do you give advice to David Foster Wallace too?" "David who? Listen kid, I don't have time for this, I got a meeting with this Wes Anderson kid, I'm gonna tell him he needs to do a boxing picture with Lawrence Tierney." "Lawrence Tierney's dead." "Wait, what? You're crazy, kid, I just saw him at the Tropicana -- wait, I keep forgettin' it's not 1949. *buzz* Doris! Cancel that meeting. Doris? Where the fuck's Doris?!? Wait -- died in a boiler room explosion?!? In 1956?!? Get outta heeere!" "I'm leaving now." "Wait, kid, I wanna tell ya about the time I knocked out Artie Shaw with a blackjack." "Goodbye." "Ah, suit yourself ya deadbeat. *buzz* Doris! Fetch me some coffee and get Sterling Hayden on the phone, toots. Doris?"

Sunday, July 16, 2006

I have so little, let me enthuse over this much

What could be better than seeing Mission of Burma at the Black Cat in DC? ("Sex without shame or consequence?") No, catching a show where they covered Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine" in tribute to Syd Barrett, as I did Saturday night. It was a hell of a show; Roger Miller even played without his headset that I thought he always had to wear while playing live, due to tinnitis. Tom Scharpling is right (as usual): lifers are where it's at in rock music. Pathetically, however, this show marked the second time this summer I've walked directly past a musician I admire without saying anything for fear of being a pest: in this case, Clint Conley; the previous time it was Thurston Moore. It makes me wonder if I'll ever have the gumption to put wrestling enthusiast Bob Mould in that full-nelson headlock like I've always dreamed. ("Sounds like you have some pretty homoerotic dreams") Shut up, parenthesis. That was a facetious comment anyway. I wasn't serious. ("Yeah? Methinks the lady doth protest too much"). Hey, bite me, asshole. Well, don't literally bite me or touch me in any way. I don't... uh... ("Yyyeesss?") SHUT UP!

Aaaaanyway, since I mentioned Syd earlier, probably billions of blogs posted this clip or a link to it last week after his death, but here it is again: The Floyd performing the aforementioned "A.D." on the BBC's "Look of the Week" in '67. Besides the performance, the clip is notable for the severely nonplussed introduction and interview of Syd and Roger by musicologist Hans Keller, in which he asserts he's "too much of a musician" to appreciate the band, calling them "boring" (ah, if only he could've heard "The Division Bell") and complaining mainly about the volume. You may scoff at Keller's take on the band - who were very far out by most people's criteria at that time - but you have to admit that kind of candor is sorely lacking in today's hype-driven, televised music coverage (no, Simon Cowell doesn't count). At least Keller diplomatically acknowledges he just might not be getting it, another increasing rarity in tv discourse. Also, it's good to see Syd come off so well-spoken in the interview.

On an unrelated note, you may recall (and fans of my blog tend to have encycolpediac memories of each post) that a few weeks ago I ranked "Deadwood" as the second-best HBO show overall, behind "The Wire." Well, this new season of "Deadwood" has already been so amazing that I'm (gasp) changing my tune: it is, in fact, the best, bar none. This year, the show's firing on all cylinders; the central plotline is riveting, and if we ever see a show with such an original, inventive language again on television (other than David Milch's next series I suppose) I'd be extrememly surprised. Each week I wonder more and more how HBO could see these episodes in advance and yet cancel the show anyway, budget concerns be fucked. A four-hour wrap up just won't do... although from recent comments from W. Earl Brown (aka Dan Dority, newly crowned Superheavyweight Champion of the Thoroughfare) apparently hope is not entirely lost for a fourth season, but it's unlikely. Also, I'm not aware if Gerald McRaney has done anything at all careerwise until now since fucking "Major Dad," but he's an incredibly convincing, scarily unpredictable evil bastard as George Hearst. Even better, since his character in real life was the father of William Randolph Hearst, that makes this show kinda an unofficial prequel of sorts to "Citizen Kane." Something tells me wherever the Hearst descendents are today, they're none too pleased that saloon owner Al Swearengen - in real life evidently a brutal, woman-beating scumbag - is the show's sympathetic character in comparison to old George. Where are the Pinkertons when you need them, anyway? ("Maybe they'll show up and put you in a headlock") That's it parenthesis, consider yourself murdered.

Sample critics' blurb: "Darwin's Nightmare is a filmgoer's wet dream!"

For some reason there doesn't appear to be a dvd release upcoming anytime soon, but if you have the Sundance channel or Comcast on Demand you have almost the entire rest of summer to catch one of the most cruelly ironic documentaries I've ever seen: Darwin's Nightmare. Primarily focusing on the lasting effects of introducing the Nile Perch into Tanzania's Lake Victoria, the film soon spreads out to encompass the effects of globalization on the region as a whole and also offers up an almost surreal array of images of African poverty. The Perch basically destroyed the lake's ecosystem by wiping out nearly every other species of fish in the area, yet it multiplied so fast and it's fillets are so valuable in Europe that selling it has become highly profitable... but not for Tanzanians. Throughout the film, ex-Soviet cargo planes take off for European countries loaded with fish meat, while later the filmmakers show a ghastly market swarming with maggots, where the fish heads and other refuse are sold to locals. Oh, and what are those cargo planes bringing into the country when they arrive at the laxly guarded Tanzanian airport? Nothing at all for Africans, as the viewer and the film's interviewees initially believe; yet later it's revealed they're actually bringing weapons and ammunition for guerilla groups in the civil war-torn neighboring countries. Indeed, a nighttime security guard at the fish processing plant who makes $1 an hour expresses hope for war, as he could make more money as a soldier than at any other available job. None of this seems to penetrate the psyche of visiting European Union officials, shown at a conference proclaiming the perch business a great capitalistic success.

The film contains no narration and a minimum of explanation, often leaving the viewer to piece together and interpret the information onscreen themselves. The director could be fairly criticized for sacrificing coherence for an abundance of onscreen human tragedy, but fans of powerful, unique documentaries will likely find the film fascinating nonetheless.

While scenes of Tanzanian children beating each other up for handfuls of rice and melting down fish boxes in order to sniff the binding glue in the packaging are indeed horrific, I dare say they pale in comparison to the trauma I endured while first attempting to see this film (I would advise perusing this tale no further, dear reader, unless extreme stoicism shields you from sympathy for deep human misery) . The National Archives in DC held a free screening for this film, as they did with every other nominee for Best Documentary at this year's Oscar's, back in early March. However, by the time I got there 45 minutes early, a sizable line had already formed. I stood outside in the bitter cold for over an hour, besieged not only by the weather but the friendly patter of yammering oldsters, as my hope of admittance gradually dimmed. When the cut-off point was announced to the five people remaining in front of me and we were told no one else could be seated, the grave injustice of it all bore down on me like an avalanche and seemed to extinguish the inner light of my being. Oh what a sad, sniffling sight I must have been that evening, trudging home on the Metro, ears reddened by the elements (having lacked the foresight to wear my trusty toboggan). It's too bad Darwin's Nightmare director Hubert Sauper wasn't there with his camera to capture my tale of woe that evening - assuming he'd have fortitude enough not to turn away his lens in despair.

(left: me after not getting into a free movie screening)

Monday, July 10, 2006

I wondered why my Deadwood dvds were only four minutes long.

As much as I generally detest U.S. copyright law -- I hardly think I'm hurting anyone by selling bootleg "Avoid the 'Noid" t-shirts on CafePress -- I have to admit I'm all for utilizing it to smack down companies who sell "family friendly" versions of R-rated movies to bitch-ass Mormons. Such was the case last week when a Colorado judge ruled that CleanFlicks must cease their practice of distributing Hollywood films on dvd with sex, violence and putrid words like "h-e-double-hockeysticks" and "fudge" edited out. I'm guessing whoever reads this post would agree with me that the idea of this service is insulting and moronic on virtually every level ("Honey, I'm so glad we can finally share A History of Violence -- I mean, A History of Appropriate Hugs -- with the kids"), but I'd also like to convince you to get behind my reverse business plan: re-editing saccharine and blandly inoffensive films to contain oodles of new, adult content. I realize this idea is also firmly (tee hee) illegal, but like a sleazy Rosa Parks, I'll do whatever it takes to turn the tide of cultural sanitization in America. C'mon, the editing may look choppy as all hell, but instead of watching Lindsay Lohan's b00bs digitally shrunk by Disney in Herbie: Fully Loaded, why not throw some scenes from, say, Henry & June in there? Not happy with your copy of Yentl? Try splicing it up with the Barbara Streisand p0rn film currently on eBay. And did you enjoy, say, The Notebook, but just didn't find it violent enough? I think this particular scene would work great in just about any context:

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Your Own Legion of Super Heroes/Villains, or: Why I am a sad man.

This is a pretty damn good idea for a message board thread: create your own larger-than-life team of heroes and villains. Limiting choices to five, here's what I came up with:

Jack Bauer from “24”
Bill Hicks*
Marc Bolan of T-Rex
Wonder Woman (so sue me)
Jesus Christ on a rocket-fueled, adamantium pogo stick

The Judge from Blood Meridian
BOB from "Twin Peaks"
Ann Coulter & Matt Drudge (as one inseperable duo)
Simon Milligan and Hecubus from "The Kids in the Hall" (ditto)
Ayn Rand**

League of Ambiguity (Heroes? Villains? Other? Who can say):
Noam Chomsky
Willie Wonka
Michael Jordan
uhm, The Ambiguously Gay Duo

* I originally wanted Werner Herzog on the heroes list, but then in an epiphany of dorkiness I pictured Bauer and Hicks getting into Wolverine/Cyclops-like spats over issues like torture and civil liberties.
**my alternate choice for Ayn Rand would be the Melissa Etheridge song at the end of "An Inconvenient Truth," which is so awful I'm convinced it was snuck in there by Exxon to undermine the fight against global warming.

UPDATE: Putting Simon and Hecubus on there has inspired me to create an all-Kids in the Hall superheroes and villains list.
Heroes: Headcrusher, Chicken Lady, Flying Pig, the Eradicator, Buddy Cole as portrayed in that one women's softball sketch
Villains: Cabbage Head, the Sizzler sisters, that surly Croation cab driver, Mark McKinney as Satan, that one guy Kevin played who made empty promises all the time ("Will do...." "Slipped my mind..." anyone know what I'm talking about?)