Tuesday, October 30, 2007


It's not like it was an actual contract or anything. More like a half-hearted challenge issued with mock seriousness by my ex-wife. Nonetheless, when I pledged to put up an original post every day through the month of October, I took the challenge seriously.

Now the month is over, so I can go back to slacking. Not saying I will, merely that I can. It's been good, though, forcing myself to do this every day, a discipline I've sorely needed but unfortunately lacked. Oh, sure, sometimes I'd just throw up some video clips, but even then, I had to figure out what to use, how to tie them together, editing, assembling. I need to take writing seriously again, and decide what I want to do with it.

I realize there are people out there in Blogland with actual readerships, who actually receive money (if not quite earning livings) off of this sort of thing. Me, I just plod along here, never expanding beyond my regular readership (again, hello to both of you!), though you'd think I'd have sewn up the highly-coveted demo of Vincente Minnelli-loving, Bush-hating, Marshall Crenshaw-worshipping Star Wars fanatics. They're a force to be reckoned with, you know.

Anyway, I got very little sleep last night, and my mind's not up to tapping out the personal essay/psuedo-think piece this was meant to be, so I'll cut this short. Thanks for reading.


Say, kids, it's been a long time since I did one of those Random Thoughts posts, right? So it's about time for another, right? Right? Hey, where ya all goin'?

1) There's this annoying guy at work--late fifties, unkempt, belches and farts a lot--who keeps trotting out references to old movies and TV shows. The other day, as a bunch of us sat around, he actually trotted out the catchphrase "Ver-ry interesting...but stupid" in the worst Arte Johnson voice imaginable.

The only thing more annoying than a tired catchphrase is a tired catchphrase most people don't remember. If he trotted this out in some sort of ironic, Tom Servo-and-Crowish way, alright, but he didn't. He seems to think it's still relevant.

This, apparently, is his sad substitute for a real life. One time he started asking me questions about an episode of the old Nick Adams series The Rebel, despite protestations that the show was before my time. (Though as far as The Rebel goes, a trip to the IMDb reveals that it was directed for most of its run by Irvin Kershner, who later helmed The Empire Strikes Back...and thus have I made today's gratuitous Star Wars reference.)

The other day, he kept pressing it, asking me all these pointless trivia questions, until I finally answered with, "I don't fucking care!" He reacted like a wounded puppy, and for the rest of the day, whenever I asked him to do something, he'd respond with, "I don't fucking care." Poor dope.

2) Man, there's a lot of hate for A-Rod out there in Yankeeland. OK, I realize Rodriguez skipped out on his contract, and spent most of his time with the Yankees doing nothing, and in general acts like a spoiled kid.

But he kicked ass for most of the past season. No, he didn't nail the homers when they were most needed, during the playoffs, but it's not fair to ask him to carry the whole misbegoten team on his shoulders.

In other Yankee news, Joe Torre and Don Mattingly are apparently going to be in charge of the dodgers next season, and Joe Girardi will take over as Yankees manager. Whatever. They'll probably suck, anyway.

3) I had a dream last night that involved, among other things, Raymond Burr dancing to Footloose.

Let me say that again: Raymond Burr. Dancing. Footloose.

The horror! The horror!

4) So the State Department apparently offered immunity to the Blackwater thugs who murdered seventeen Iraqi civilians. No fallout, no justice, no nothing. Hey, Iraq, enjoy your democracy.

5) The deeply unnecessary proposed remake of Escape from New York has lost its second proposed director. It's as though the Gods of Cinema themselves are trying to prevent this sure-fire crapfest from happening. Oh, Hollywood, will you be wise enough to listen?

Monday, October 29, 2007


Seriously, the hell with baseball.

First of all, it was a Who Cares? World Series anyway. The Rockies, a team steeped in fundamentalist values who are nonetheless hypocritical enough to play on Coors Field, or the Red Sox, which...I mean, they...if you...AARRGGHH!!!

Just take a look at any of the painfully ubiquitous photos of Red Sox fans celebrating en masse. Have you ever seen such a scary sea of whiteness? Have you ever seen so many guys, whatever their age, looking like drunken frat boys? Have you ever seen so many people you just want to hit repeatedly with a shovel?

Boston fans have always been a particularly virulent lot, no matter how badly their team sucked, but now that the Sox have won their second series in four years, they've now got a sense of entitlement. I don't really care about the team one way or the other--although, Jeebus help me, if you've ever read Curt Schilling's blog, you'll never want to stop vomiting--but their fans are such an annoying bunch, they ruin the game for me.

Or ruin it further, considering the state of my beloved Yankees. Alex Rodriguez--or more precisely, his agent, and I'd just like to say FUCK AGENTS--has announced he wants out of his contract. This, after saying as recently as the play-offs that "New York feels like home."

I've got mixed feelings about Rodriguez's tenure with the Yankees. Until this season, he never really delivered, but in the past year, he was not only the team's MVP but one of the most awesome presences in the game. He also gave the team some superstar recognition, but paradoxically, that has always been a problem with the Yankees in the Steinbrenner era: the tendency to hire individual stars rather than building a functioning team.

But his departure couldn't come at a worse time, since the Yankees will certainly be wobbly following the departure of Joe Torre, one of the best managers the game has ever known. His agent didn't specify Torre's absence as figuring in Rodriguez's decision, but he did mention the uncertain future of the team, not even knowing for sure who his teammates would be.

Which is another reason for concern: Next year's Yankees will be the first mostly assembled by Steinbrenner's kids, Hal and Hank. (Even typing the words "Hal and Hank" sent cold chills down my spine.) While I'd like to believe they couldn't possibly be any more misguided than their dad, I'm afraid they'll be paralyzed by attempting to think like him, will be too intimidated to do anything to displease him.

Think bigger, guys. Time to step up to the plate.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Look, I overslept this morning, and spent wy too much time watching video clips on YouTube. Does that mean I'm going to cheat and post those clips here? But of course!

(In most circumstances, I wouldn't bother posting at all. But it's still October--National Blog Writing Month, don'tcha know--and since I was challenged to post every day, by cracky ah aims tuh do it.)

Anyway, the clips. These are all from probably the greatest sketch comedy in the history of the known universe, SCTV. Let's start with Eugene Levy as Rockin' Mel Slurm, hapless host of "Mel's Rock Pile." Dave Thomas' Richard Harris makes me laugh out loud every time I see this--I can still annoy people with my impression of Thomas' impression to this day.

A great bit with Rick Moranis as Michael McDonald:

Finally, one of my all-time favorite sketches, from SCTV or anywhere else, an extended parody of Grapes Of Wrath featuring most of the show's original cast--Joe Flaherty, Catherine O'Hara, Andrea Martin, Thomas, Levy and Harold Ramis. (John Candy, strangely, isn't in this one.) The writing is sharp ("Better get the big frying pan") but what really sells it are the performers, some of the best comic actors of all time. Everybody is great here, but my favorites are O'Hara's insane takedown of Jane Darwell, Levy's preacher and especially Ramis' Muley, which makes me laugh for reasons I don't even fully understand. Great stuff.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


I'm just here trying to do my job, but it's hard to ignore the young man with the phone. For one thing, he is constantly moving, and his voice, louder surely than he realizes or intends, follows me everywhere.

"Hi, it's me. Yeah...yeah...Listen, I'm at the hospital. Mom's here. She's in the ICU. She got hit by a car...Some high school kid didn't want to stop for a light...He just didn't see her..."

He sits in a chair for maybe half a minute, he leans against a railing, he braces a shoulder against a window. "No, not good...I'm gonna be here awhile...Awhile, you know?...As long as I have to be...I'm not gonna leave, she's gotta have...Someone has to be here...Yeah, I'll have to run home and get some things...If you could bring them?...That would be, thanks so much...No, I know, I just don't want to leave her..."

You work in a hospital, you hear things like this. Sometimes you can't help it, you want to hear it all, embrace every detail, remember that you're human. Sometimes you want to shut it out and get as far away as possible. Which response is better?

Friday, October 26, 2007


I finally caught up with the 3-D reissue of Nightmare Before Christmas yesterday. I'd been avoiding it because I was afraid the digital trickery involved in converting the film to 3-D would screw with the integrity of the beautifully-rendered stop-motion. I had a couple quibbles (and at least one line of dialog is inexplicably missing), but mostly impressive.

I'd also been avoiding it because when Nightmare came out back in 1993, it instantly became one of my favorite movies ever. I saw it repeatedly in the theater, and shelled out a hundred bucks for the huge laserdisc boxed set. I gorged on it back then, but quite honestly, I haven't seen it in at least ten years, and I doubted I could have the same enthusiasm.

Surprise, surprise: Nightmare looks better than ever, endlessly inventive, a marvel of staging and design. It was originally released two years before Toy Story changed the face of animated films forever. If you believe the hype, in this age of CGI and Motion Capture, anything should be possible on film. Yet recent animated features have been so thuddingly literal in trying to capture the feel of the real world, they've completely forgotten the greatest power of the form: to create a world we haven't seen.

Here's the trailer for what, sadly, may be the future of animation:

Why are they bothering? Why give us, for instance, a mo-capped simulation of naked Angelina Jolie when the fanboys most likely to see this would rather see the real thing? Has anybody ever said, "You know, I'd like to see a movie with Anthony Hopkins and John Malcovich, only I'd like to see them with synthetic skin and creepy dead eyes?" The production design, the simulated flames--this looks like a video game at best, the work of technicians, not artists.

Compare that to this scene from Nightmare Before Christmas, with lengthy, elegant takes and fluid movement which excites because of its unreality--Jack's impossibly long limbs and spidery hands. This is recognizable human movement stylized, as a great choreographer might. Also, note the quiet melancholy of this scene--though Danny Elfman's melody apes Kurt Weill a little too closely, at least he's stealing from the best. Besides, this scene always made my mom cry:

This gorgeous sequence was created using one of the oldest techniques in film history, yet it feels absolutely vital and alive. There's no reason you couldn't do something similar in CGI, but you'd have to want to, you'd need the will to break from reality, from all the easy tricks and lazy shortcuts you know so well, and give us something new.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Thoughts on some recent films:

Eastern Promises: Not sure if David Cronenberg's best days are officially behind him, but this alarmingly anonymous Russian mob drama continues the downward slide of Spider and A History Of Violence. He seems to have entered a for-hire phase, following the early bodily horror squirmfests that made him famous (The Brood, Videodrome, The Fly) and the fascinating, deeply personal adaptations of literary mindfucks (Naked Lunch, Crash).

Those earlier films succeeded precisely because they seemed to be taking place in their own peculiar worlds. But Cronenberg's recent movies are set more or less in the real world, but they seem cut off from any details of everyday life. In Eastern Promises, no one ever says or does anything that isn't pertinent to the plot, no character seems to have a life outside the constraints of the script. Viggo Mortensen and Armin Mueller-Stahl give fine, nicely shaded performances, but they seem to be floating in space, not enhanced or supported by anything surrounding them. Cronenberg's direction is airless, but not in a seemingly intentional way; frankly, it just looks badly directed. Not a terrible movie, but a crushingly uninteresting one.

The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford: I like Ron Hansen's novel, too, but writer/director Andrew Dominik is apparently so in awe of the damned thing he doesn't bother adapting it, merely illustrating. For maybe the first half of this very long movie, Dominik seems in control: The expressionist visuals, layered soundtrack and eccentric performances suggest what would happen if David Lynch made a western.

As we plod on beyond the two-hour mark, Dominik's stylistic traits become annoying (when in doubt, cut to time-lapse photography of clouds), and he uses a narrator to read huge chunks of Hansen's prose, literally describing what we can already see...which makes you wonder why we're watching, not reading. On the other hand, given the abruptness of certain scenes and performances (Zooey Deschanel makes a late appearance and has maybe one or two lines), I suspect we're seeing a cut-down of a much larger, possibly more successful whole. If only they'd cut out some of those clouds...

Still worthwhile, for fine performances by Casey Affleck, Brad Pitt and Sam Rockwell, a gloomy score by Nick Cave and some wondrous photography from Roger Deakins (who, considering his awesome body of work, should just legally change his name to The Great Roger Deakins). Probably of greater interest if you're a western fan, though the use of the songs I'm A Good Old Rebel and Jesse James will make you wish you were watching Walter Hill's The Long Riders instead.

Gone, Baby, Gone: Again with the time-lapse clouds and the Casey Affleck!

The time-lapse photography is one of the few stylistic cliches director Ben Affleck allows himself in this mostly straightforward, astonishingly downbeat adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel. This study of moral choices and the human heart set against the class divides of contemporary Boston is also a showcase for some great acting, particularly from Casey Affleck (who knew?) as a working class detective, Amy Ryan as a not-quite-grieving mother of a missing girl and Titus Welliver as the little girl's uncle.

There's a sometimes unfortunate tendency to speechify, and sometimes the film is conflicted about whether to be a crime melodrama or character study (the character study is more interesting, though in fairness, Affleck's direction makes what could have been standard suspense scenes crackle with tension), but on the whole, this is the best American studio film of the season.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Recent posts around here have been almost, I dunno, happy. Or at least, not totally depressing.

Well, we can't have that! We have an image to maintain. Let's all get bummed out, and what better way to do it than with a visit from Nick Cave:

Thanks, Nick, for bringing us all down. Say, Christine Collister, what have you got? Something kind of sad, maybe?

That was lovely, but you know what I'm looking for? Something absolutely bleak, something that will erase every memory of joy I've ever known? Oh, wait? William Burroughs once recorded a Kurt Weill song? With lyrics by Bertolt Brecht that nonetheless sound like Burroughs could've written them himself? Nope, nothing perky here:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I realize I've pretty much done away with Tuesday DVD recommendations, but great googly moogly there's a lot of great stuff out today.

Upgraded issues of Battleship Potempkin, Breathless, and Days Of Heaven; a Burt Lancaster boxed set that's a bit of a mixed bag, but which features the hugely enjoyable swashbucklers The Flame And The Arrow and His Majesty O'Keefe; the long-awaited DVD debuts of O Lucky Man!, Our Hitler and Under The Volcano; and a second boxed set dedicated to the great Italian fantasist Mario bava.

The big news ought to be spiffed-up, digital remasters of a bunch of Stanley Kubrick pictures, including the first high-def issues of 2001 and A Clockwork Orange. Curiously, I've read much promo material for these releases online, and plenty of breathless recitation of specs and extras, but I've not read anything to tell me how the films themselves look in this format.

2001 in high-def would almost certainly reveal things we were not meant to see--wires on floating objects, thick matte lines. Unless, of course, the remastering included digital removal of wires, tweaking of effects shots, that sort of thing.

Either way, however, it wouldn't be the film that Kubrick, the most obsessively perfectionist of directors, intended us to see. He was notorious for his devotion to detail, not just in the shooting, editing, even the processing of his films, but for how they were exhibited. He wanted his work to be seen by us as he saw it himself.

In his lifetime, Kubrick was rather indifferent to how his films looked on home video, because that was not his chosen medium. He wanted his work shown on the big screen, or possibly not shown at all. Hard to know what he would have made of the brave new digital world, in which theatrical exhibition is barely a stop on a film's journey to public consciousness--he might have embraced it, condemned it, ignored it. We'll never know.

I would not want to live in a world in which I couldn't see 2001, a film which probably had as profound an impact on my life as...well, anything, ever. Still, there's a part of me that would rather not see it at all than see this new edition. It's simply passed through too many hands on its way to the digital realm to quite be considered Kubrick's 2001, or mine.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Today's New York Times features an in-house editorial about immigration law, which is neither here nor there for purposes of this post. What is upsetting about the piece is its title: Ain't That America.

Yes, kids, The New York Times is trying to improve its street cred by getting down with the kids and harnessing the populist power of auto company shill John Mellencamp.

This inspires three thoughts:

1) What the hell were they thinking?

2) In his Jack And Diane days, The Times referred to Mellencamp as "Mr. Cougar."

3) Wouldn't Reservoir Dogs have been cooler if the character's code names had been species, not colors? Keitel would have been Mr. Cougar, Tim Roth would have been Mr. Gazelle, and Buscemi would have whined about being Mr. Mink.

Can't wait until The Times starts referencing Bob Seger...

Sunday, October 21, 2007


This is how my mind works.

I wanted to link to this piece by Frank Rich in today's New York Times. It's one of the most depressing things you'll ever read, but you should read it, if only to realize the situation in Iraq is far worse even than it seems on the surface.

Rich is by far the best columnist at The Times, the best thinker (lacking, for instance, Paul Krugman's tendency to Clinton-worship, or David Brooks' batshit insanity) and easily the best stylist as well. He's a wonderful writer, as anyone who's read his book Ghost Light could tell you.

Unfortunately, like so many so-called progressives, he's a bit of a snob. He hides it well these days, frequently writing sympathetically on the plight of the poor in Bush's America, but back when he was drama critic for The Times, his sneering condescension towards the lower classes burst forth with alarming frequency. I'm thinking in particular of his review of Marsha Norman's 'Night, Mother, in which he described the lifestyles of its lower-middle class characters as "worthless". Apparently, a life not lived among Manhattan's upper crust is not a life worth living.

Okay, here's where my thought processes twist. Thinking of Rich's review reminded me of my own encounter with 'Night, Mother. In the fall of 1984 my mother and I took a mini-vacation up to Minneapolis. This trip was made at the suggestion of my therapist, to whom I had been assigned following a suicide attempt the preceding spring. From spring to fall I hadn't made any notable progress, and Mom was essentially in the role of care-giver, since I wasn't working or contributing to society in any way.

The trip was supposed to be both a break from normal routine and some sort of bonding experience. My therapist recommended a trip to the Guthrie theater, since regardless of what was playing, any production there would be worthwhile.

Long story short, the trip was a mixed bag--I was prone to wild mood swings back then, unlike my shiny happy personality these days (heh)--and 'Night, Mother was playing at the Guthrie. I knew it was about an adult child's plan to commit suicide in front of her mother, but Mom had never heard of it, and I cruelly let her discover the premise as we watched. It was not, shall we say, a pleasant evening, though it did lead to long, soul-searching conversations afterward.

To cheer ourselves up, we went to Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom the next day, still playing at a first-run theater in the suburbs. And though I'd already seen it twice, I thoroughly enjoyed it again.

So here my mind veered from musing about Iraq, Frank Rich's snobbery or bummer anecdotes from my personal life to geeking out about Temple Of Doom, my favorite Indiana Jones movie. Yeah, I know it's not as well-scripted as Raiders Of the Lost Ark, and I'm not unaware of its flaws--though critics who decry its retro racial and gender stereotypes are missing the point, since Temple Of Doom is clearly trying to recreate the attitudes of pulp fiction from the era in which it's set.

This is probably the reason I love it so much. The first time I saw it, that great climax with Indy and Mola Ram duking it out man-to-man while hanging from the foot bridge, literally had me on the edge of my seat, and I remember thinking, This is what Raiders didn't have. Much as I loved it, it didn't have the sheer, pulpy elan of Temple Of Doom, so redolent of the Doc Savage reprints I devoured in junior high, and which were my lifeline to a more exciting world.

Of course, thinking about these movies gets me to thinking about how great Harrison Ford was as Indy, which gets me to thinking about how great he also was as Han Solo, which is my point: No matter what is going on, in my life or the wider world, I'm never more than five minutes away from thinking about Star Wars.

Sad, really.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


An uncharacteristically good day today, or a day I managed to uncharacteristically enjoy, or some damn thing. The point is, the sun came out after a dreary, gray week, and the ennui and despair battering me for months lifted, at least temporarily.

Tabbatha called me two weeks ago asking me if I could spend the day with Paul since she'd been called to some kind of family duty, and I of course said yes. I'd been wanting to take him to Final Season ever since we'd seen a preview. Inspirational sports movies aren't normally my sort of thing, but Paul is baseball crazy, and expressed the desire to see it.

This morning I sat on the bench outside of my building at the agreed-upon drop-off time, then sat for half an hour more before Tabbatha called my cell phone to tell me she was running late. Usually, that sort of thing would piss me off, but since I was digging Katy Lied on my iPod, I really didn't care.

(Incidentally, my use of a cell phone and iPod are both things that would, by my own personal standards, mark me as an asshole. I rail against technology, usually. But the cell comes in handy at times like this and the iPod...well, look, I just finally got around to figuring out how the damned things works last weekend, and I'm already in love with it. Merely walking into my place of employment with some Ennio Morricone blasting in my ears starts the day right, even if the stifling tedium of the job itself soon ruins it.)

They finally arrived, Paul bounding out of the car full of enthusiasm for...whatever we might do. Sure, the movie, but he seemed excited just to spend the whole day with me. Tabbatha took off (not before chuckling at the image of me using technology--"I'm surprised you even know how to turn an iPod on"--and she had a point), and we had to figure out what to do.

First, we reacquainted ourselves with the collected adventures of Chad Vader, then headed out. We ate, then spent an hour or so wandering around the library. I agreed to buy a used Ninja Turtle tape for him, and showed him a coffee table bio of George Lucas showcasing plenty of Star Wars production art. "Have you always been so nice?" he asked.

I don't know as I'm that nice, I said. Women don't seem to think so.

"Oh no, my mom tells people how nice you were. She just doesn't want to be married to you."

Wow. Praise and a slam at the same time. I focused on the praise; I must've been in a good mood.

We still had an hour before the movie, so we took the long way to the theater, giving us time for one of our typically loopy conversations:

"Who's your favorite Star Wars character?" he asked.

I dunno, Chewbacca, maybe...

"No, I mean people. And only characters from A New Hope."

Oh, Princess Leia, no doubt, because I just like her.

"Like her like her?"

Yeah, I laughed.

"If you could marry her or Lauren Graham, which would you marry?"

Scary. This kid knows me way too well.

Finally, we got to the theater. Pleasantly, there were no pre-film ads and only one trailer. The movie began and...

Again, this sort of thing isn't my cup of tea. Sports Movie cliches appeared on schedule, so much so that Paul, who's only eight, could predict them. ("As soon as he throws the pitch, it'll be in slow motion." "The first two will be strikes, then he'll really hit it on the third.") The Coplandesque score provided lots of unintended chuckles.

Damn it, though, they get so many details of small-town Iowa life right. Somebody even uses the word "pertinear" at one point, and from then on, this thing had me. The simplistic characterizations and rote storytelling didn't matter, because it felt true. The small tragedy of a small community school being swallowed up by a larger whole, and the subsequent devastating effect on the town's businesses...this may have been merely background to a baseball-themed Hoosiers knock-off, but such a lovingly portrayed background!

After the movie, Paul said it was better than Star Wars. That prompted another loopy, logic-impaired conversation, one that happily continued all the way until I dropped him off at his mother's apartment. I felt so good afterwards that I actually went grocery shopping on a Saturday afternoon. The store was crowded, but a new check-out line opened as I approached. A small, good thing in a day already full of them.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Oh, Democrats tried, but no Republican representatives could be convinced by overturn Our Beloved President's veto of a bill to finance health insurance for children. Bush claimed, and his enablers concurred, that the bill was too far-reaching; it wouldn't just pay the bills for poor kids, but middle-class kids, as well. And everyone knows the middle-class can afford insurance, right? Right?

I work in a hospital, and this week fliers were plastered all around the building. The baby daughter of a physical therapist has been diagnosed with a muscular disease, and a bake sale was held to help raise money for treatment.

Physical therapist--a good, solid job in the health care profession. She has insurance, no doubt, but it isn't going to cover the ongoing costs of taking care of the kid, and she must go begging for money. This, mind you, while the top guy at the hospital is building a nice two million dollar home for himself in suburbland.

Clearly, something is wrong here. Something is not only broken, but destroyed beyond repair. House Republicans are like our CEO, so cocooned in their comfortable lifestyles they simply can't see outside, are somehow convinced things aren't as bad as all that. My boss no doubt thinks the pathetic health care plan he offers is quite generous. Perk-loaded members of the House may genuinely be convinced they understand the lifestyles of the middle class. From their standpoint, the economy's doing fine, and doesn't a rising tide lift all boats?

Do they hold desperately to these beliefs out of need, because it's the only way to justify all they have? Or do they know better, and genuinely don't give a shit about other people?

Thursday, October 18, 2007


If you dare, sit through these back to back to back:

Ten years of mainstream cinema, from 1996 to 2006. All three are crappy movies, but again, I want to concentrate on the trailers. Can you tell them apart? Two feature raging clouds behind the WB shield, all feature quick cuts of the actors while telling us nothing about their characters, all suggest a vague premise rather than a story worth telling.

Mostly, all three simply feature meaningless sensation. Clouds, wind, water, screaming, crashing, smashing, WHOOSH, WUMP, AAIIEE! To what purpose?

These three movies are linked by their use of natural disasters, but are otherwise dissimilar. Twister is designed as boilerplate Big Dumb Entertainment. A Perfect Storm has a true, interesting story to tell about real human beings caught up in forces beyond their comprehension. (It botches the job, but that's not the point.) Poseidon is a knowingly campy throwback to seventies disaster epics.

Yet in their trailer, they're all the same movie. This is one of the reasons I actually dread going out to the movies these days. Depending on the theater chain (I'm talking to you, Carmike Cinemas), you can sit through a full half hour of previews before the movie you've come to see. When they're all like this, the same thing over and over, it becomes punishing, and worse, depressing. Any sentient being enduring this merely longs for escape.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Here's a trailer for a recent movie:

What with the horses and the cowboy hats and whatnot, they couldn't really hide the fact that this is a western. But rather than tailor the advertising to fans of the genre--who tend to be older, and alternately more and less sophisticated in their tastes than the average filmgoer--the studio went with a campaign designed to make this look like just another lame action movie, all flash cuts and thudding boom-boom-BOOM music. The "Coming Soon" slamming into your face is a particularly ridiculous touch.

This is a painfully typical modern trailer. It's just selling a movie, any movie, not this particular one. Nobody involved with this ad campaign cared about 3:10 To Yuma, nobody felt the need to position this film as something different, to advertise it on its own merits.

Or consider this:

An awful trailer--just the inclusion of Blind Melon's No Rain is enough to make any sensible person want to vomit--for one of the best movies of recent years. It gives you a sense of the movie's story arc, and reluctantly admits this is something more than just a routine road comedy. But it suggests this is some sort of feel-good dramedy, when in fact the comedy is much darker and the pain more raw than an audience might be led to expect.

Compare that to this trailer from 1974:

Okay, admittedly, this is one of my all-time favorite movies, and even if I'd never heard of it, it'd be easy to get me to the theater. Art Carney's the lead? Hey, I'd see anything he's in. Paul Mazursky? Yeah, I'll be there. An orange stripey kitty? Not only am I there, I already love it.

But this trailer wasn't designed for me. It actually coveys some sense of the movie it is advertising, captures its mixture of goofy comedy, practical realism and well-earned sentiment. The trailer appeals to me because the movie appeals to me; if you don't like the trailer, you wouldn't like the movie, either. It's not deceptive, positioning the movie as something it's not, nor does it make you think of a million other movies. Almost like they, you know, cared.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I commented recently on my trepidations over Tim Burton's forthcoming film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. Whether the movie is any good or not can't really be judged until it is actually seen. What has been dropped, what has been changed? Is the screenplay an improvement over Hugh Wheeler's book for the stage show, probably its weakest aspect? All we know is what we see in the trailer, which I'm re-posting to make a point.

Certainly, it appears Burton has found the correct visual style. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter appear to be giving very committed performances. Depp is no George Hearn or Michael Cerveris in the singing department, but maybe that's okay; in the more literal world of film, a less theatrical approach might be better.

But that's about all we can glean from this trailer, which seems to actively discourage interest in the film. To what potential audience is this supposed to appeal? The more sophisticated audiences likely to enjoy an adaptation of a well-regarded play wouldn't be lured into what looks like just another creaky suspense melodrama, and the people wanting to see the Johnny Depp horror movie promised by this ad will no doubt be surprised they've stumbled into a misanthropic musical.

It's as though the studios only think of movies as so much product, and so this is Generic Blockbuster Preview. If you feel like you've seen this ad before, you have, as this fan-made mash-up makes clear:

Sticking with Johnny Depp movies, I was also reminded of this:

In other words, there's nothing to suggest Sweeney Todd is something different, something out of the ordinary. But all movies are sold like that now. The advertising takes its cue from other advertising, not from the movie it's allegedly selling.

Compare these to the trailer to for another Tim Burton movie:

Not a great trailer, but it does suggest some of the extraordinary qualities of the film itself, and more to the point, it sells the movie for what it is. No way watching this ad you're going to think of the hundred other movies you've sen that look just like it.

I'm sensing I have more to say on the subject of how movies are sold. More later...

Monday, October 15, 2007


No, seriously--I got nothin'.

I had to work this weekend, and my brain is frazzled. Too much sleep, not enough sleep, hey, what's the difference? The point is, I'm tired and can't think straight.

And yet here I am, cranking out some words for no particular reason...except of course that my ex challenged me to put up a new post every this month, and dammit, I'm gonna do it.

That's three paragraphs--well, now four, actually--and surely that's enough. I could go off on another anti-Bush screed, or...ah, who am I kidding? When I can't think of anything else to write about, I can always turn to my old friend YouTube.

So here, for your entertainment, is the opening credit sequence from the mostly craptacular 1961 Nelson Algren adaptation, A Walk On The Wild Side. The movie itself is worthless, but this sequence, directed by Saul Bass, has a strutting sense of elegance, thanks to Bass' sense of composition, Elmer Bernstein's great music and, of course, that kitty.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Not that I expect anyone to remember, but back when I first started embedding video clips here (or, if you prefer, getting lazy), the first clip I posted was of Tim Finn, and I promised there would be more of Tim and his brother Neil on the way. I'm nothing if not a man of my word.

So let's start with their first band, Split Enz.

That was Tim on lead. Not sure why he was dressed like Daryl Dragon, but there you go. Sartorial eccentricity was these guys' stock in trade. Along with great music, of course. Here's Neil with the only hit single the Enz would have in the U.S.

After Split Enz broke up, Neil formed Crowded House and found huge success. Deservedly so. This is one of my all-time favorite songs.

In the nineties, Tim briefly joined Crowded House. But he also released several fine solo albums, on one of which he wrote lyrics to an instrumental Richard Thompson number. Not surprisingly, the result was absolutely gorgeous. Let's enjoy Tim and Richard, shall we?

Finally, Neil and Tim together, with a song they co-wrote. The sound is off in this clip, but I wanted to include it for the obvious love between the two of them, in beautiful harmony in more ways than one.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Not a lot going on around here this morning. I had to correct the previous sentence because it originally read "Not a lot going on around her this morning." Innocent typo or Freudian slip? You be the judge.

Anyway, I dreamed I beat Kid Rock to death with a baseball bat. (At least, I think it was a bat. Might've been a golf club.) He continued to be cocky and arrogant even after the first few blows, claiming to love the taste of his own blood as it cascaded down his face, but along bout the time he lost control of his bowels, he started wimpering. I kept hitting him anyway.

Of course, I in no way advocate this sort of thing. I can't control what visions my subconscious conjures in a dream state. However, if anyone deserves to be beaten to death, Kid Rock would be pretty high on the list. Others, like Nicholas Cage, would probably only receive a severe beating, though in Cage's case, he'd probably enjoy it.

I'm only mentioning this because I toured various newspapers this morning, and across the board, the news is so depressing I didn't even want to read it, much less write about it.

Friday, October 12, 2007


The good news is, one of the finest short fantasy films ever made is finally available on DVD this week. The bad news is, it's part of Twilight Zone: The Movie.

First the good: Joe Dante's magnificent It's A Good Life relates an encounter between disaffected teacher Helen and a boy named Anthony. He invites her into his house, where she eets his suspiciously high-strung family.

But all is not as it seems. Anthony is no normal kid; he has the ability to create or destroy whole worlds at will. His "family" is made up of random strangers he has met, people he holds hostage in an attempt to create a family unit he's never known. These stangers are terrified of Anthony and the capricious, candy-colored world he has created for them. But maybe Helen can understand him...

It's A Good Life (never identified by this title in the film itself) is like the polar opposite of Guillermo Del Toro's The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth, films in which a child's imagination is the only thing to save them from terrible reality. Here, Anthony's fantasy world is the cruel reality, a child's id run amock. Yet Dante doesn't judge him too harshly; any kid who loves Chuck Jones and Max and Dave Fleischer can't be all bad!

The film is note-perfect in every way, from the performances (Kathleen Quinlan as Helen and Jeremy Licht as Anthony are controlled, the actors playing the extended family go over the top, particularly the wonderful Kevin McCarthy), to the cartoon-styled production design and John Hora's eye-popping camerawork. Throw in Rob Bottin's amazing make-up designs (so much more impressive than CGI), and...a minor masterpiece.

Unfortunately, the crap surrounding it diminishes its impact. Twilight Zone: The Movie is most notorious for the on-set helicopter accident that killed Vic Morrow and two child actors, but it 's most lasting legacy is as a symbol of the stasis that infected Hollywood moviemaking in the 80s. Conceived by then-superstar directors John Landis and Steven Spielberg, top talent signed on, but when the time came to actually deliver the goods, nobody bothered.

Landis' segment, the only one not adapted from an episode of the Twilight Zone TV show, has only one point to make: racism is bad. Thanks, I didn't know that. George Miller's redo of the fondly remembered Nightmare At 20,000 Feet is utterly pointless, and way too full of the frantic camera movement and whiplash editing we're all sick and tired of.

The worst thing here is Spielberg's Kick The Can, the first evidence that Spielberg's natural talent had curdled, displaying the underline-every-point subtlety and maudlin overkill that creeped into The Color Purple and Empire Of The Sun, and would reach critical mass with Always and Hook.

(By the way, allow me to vent for a bit here: Hook. Is this the worst movie ever from a major filmmaker? Sure, Brian DePalma made Mission To Mars, Sam Peckinpah made Convoy, Peter Bogdanovich made...well, too many to mention. But Hook deserves a special place in Movie Hell. Terrible acting--Robin Williams in full-out ManChild mode, and Dustin Hoffman indulging in some of the most irritating mannerisms you'll ever see--and a surpassingly ugly physical production, but the worst thing is its underlying attitude; it's the work of extremely wealthy people telling us common folks to relax and not work so hard.)

Twilight Zone: The Movie has the feel of far too many movies you see these days, churned out by people who are paid well but simply don't care, executed with a level of professionalism but utterly devoid of soul or purpose. Happily, on DVD you can bypass all that and skip to the good stuff.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


As a hardcore Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan, I am required by law to note the forty-third birthday of the show's head writer and second host, everyone's favorite pasty, unthreatening white guy, Michael J. Nelson.

I would point out two things here:

1) Mike Nelson actually saluted me with his bottle of Heineken as I prepared to stride onstage at a costume ball at the second MST convention in 1996. (I was dressed as Jack Perkins, yet failed to even win the Jack Perkins Really Good Award. Not that I'm bitter...) This isn't as cool as the time John Pizzarelli saluted me with his water bottle for being the only person in a crowd to applaud his Bobby Troupe reference, but it's close. As a matter of fact, screw you, Pizzarelli. Mike Nelson saluted me with his Heineken!

2) After hearing my proceed every other sentence with the phrase, "Well, according to Mike Nelson...", my mom tried to forbid me from referencing Nelson and his mighty works every time we'd talk. Didn't work, because the Power Of Nelson cannot be denied!

Anyway, here's Mike and the Bots, doing one of the many things they do best: Singing!


I was going to write about the resolution in the US House of Representatives officially labeling the mass killing of Armenians by the Turkish government as genocide. I had every intention of musing over the inability of the human race to even agree on atrocities commited in the past, and how that helps explain our inability to comprehend the present. I would have comented on the duplicity of Americans to condemn the atrocity of other nations, while failing to do the same with their own, while also noting the moral failing of the Turks to reckon with their own past.

It was that last part that undid me. Angry Turks are taking to the streets of Istanbul to take back the good name of their country. The right and the left clash in Istanbul. The government issues proclamations from Istanbul.

Istanbul. Istanbul. Istanbul.

And if you know me, you know where this is leading. Yeah, it's totally off topic, but how can I constantly type the word Istanbul without getting to this?

Well, obviously, I couldn't.

Yet in searching YouTube for Istanbul (Not Constaninople) clips, I found a homemade video for another They Might be Giants recording, a cover of the great Phil Ochs song One More Parade, which eloquently crystalizes my thoughts on the human race's inability to prevent history from repeating itself. Not a happy song or a happy clip, but when we can't even agree on the definition of genocide, we aren't living in happy times.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Hey, sorry, I'm a day late--I spent yesterday in mourning over Joe Torre (though as of right now, he hasn't been handed his walking papers)--but I couldn't let John Lennon's 67th birthday go by without the inevitable tribute. Here he demonstrates his uncanny ability to make absolute, utter despair surprisingly melodic:

And here he is with that obscure band he was in. Yeah, I kind of got sick of this song about the same time as everyone else--it's hard to hear it without visions of Matthew Broderick appearing in my head--but Lennon sings the hell out of it, and geez, the lads seem to be having a ball.

I was going to leave it at that, but what the heck...Ladies and germs, Jeremy Hilary Boob, Esquire:

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Well, it's all over for the Yankees, and probably for manager Joe Torre as well. The perpetually nutty George Steinbrenner had made it clear that if Torre couldn't take the team to the Series, his twelve year career with the team was over.

Torre, of course, could only go with what he had, and the Yankees have struggled all season due to a lack of decent pitching. This isn't Torre's fault, of course; it's Steinbrenner's. This clown has always had the attitude that money trumps everything, so he spends a fortune to acquire superstars rather than building an actual, functioning team. (He made a big show of bringing back aging legend Roger Clemens, who promptly contributed pretty much nothing.)

Things will probably only get worse for the Yankees, since Steinbrenner is apparently planning on leaving much of the day-to-day business of running the franchise to his kids, business types with no love for the game.

As depressing as that is, it's got nothing on this headline from today's New York Times: DEMOCRATS SEEM READY TO EXTEND WIRETAP POWERS.

The mighty opposition party is preparing to go ahead and give Team Bush everything they want.


Monday, October 08, 2007


Odd, isn't it, how dreams have elaborate backstories that need no rational explanation; they're easily understood since they are, after all, emanating from our own psyches.

The farmhouse in which I was raised was already a crumbling ruin by the time Mom sold it off, but in my dream it still stood, the rooms still decorated as they had always been, all my family's worldly possesions still contained within. But this dream took place in a world without Mom, as we, her children, sifted through the remnanats of our lives, searching for something, some kind of meaning...or something.

In my room, I found a journal Mom had kept based on a dare I had issued her, to watch a bunch of TV shows she would normally avoid and write about them. She filled the pages with acerbic comments on such forgotten late seventies arcana as W.E.B., Lifeline and The American Girls. There were her thoughts, her personality alive on the page, and it was as though she lived again.

Then I woke up.

Obviously, in real life, this journal never existed. But in that weird twilight between the dream state and the waking world, I half convinced myself it did exist, and had to be around somewhere. The details were too convincing: She'd written about shows that actually existed, and the authorial voice in the journals seemed so convincingly Mom's own. If only I could find it, and read it again, and remember another forgotten aspect of my mother, before another memory slipped away.

I got up out of bed, drank some milk, then laid back down. I wanted to go back to sleep, to somehow re-enter the same dream, but of course, that couldn't happen. So I thought about my dream. Remembering Mom, the house from my childhood, that all makes sense. But W.E.B, Lifeline, The American Girls? Series from the fall of 1978, none of which lasted a full season. Why the hell had my subconscious pulled those things out of the aether?

Might be best not to ask.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


If, for some reason, you do a search for "Baby Pigeons" on YouTube, you'll get page after page of results. But nothing captures the reality of these little suckers better than this one:

Yikes! They're like the creepiest things Ray Harryhausen never animated...and, like most Harryhausen creations, kind of adorable, too.

A pigeon family unit has moved in around my air conditioner. Problem is, I live in a drafty old apartment, as since autumn is advancing, I'll have to remove the AC and put in the storm window, which means displacing the birds, which...I mean, I don't want them here, but I don't to want get rid of them, either. But they can't stay here, so...What do I do?

Man, I hate it when real life turns into a Mark Trail strip.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


The president swears the US does not condone torture--despite a memo issued by his own justice department condoning torture--because, well, because he says so. Another US attack on another village in Iraq; the US claims they were rooting out insurgents, Iraq claims they were civilians trying to defend their homes. And the Yankees are two games down in the playoffs against Cleveland. Cleveland!

When things are this bleak, I need to laugh. Who better to supply the funny than my first comic hero, a man I revered as a child before I even knew his name? I loved him as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepe Le Pew and so many more. Here he is on camera, doing an absolutely priceless bit with Jack Benny. Ladies and gentlemen, Mel Blanc:

No matter how many times I see this, it always makes me laugh. Not just me; Benny and Blanc performed countless variations of this routine, and as you can see, Benny starts to lose it every time he looks at Blanc's face. Jack Benny was one of the greatest comedians who ever lived, and Mel Blanc could crack him up--there's a master.

Here's another great bit from these guys, a culmination of a running gag you'll be able to figure out. Blanc's action, and Benny's amazingly casual reaction, are astonishing for the era; bleak comedy is nothing new:

And hey, as long as we're celebrating Mel Blanc, I can't leave this out. One of the greatest things ever put on film, and yeah, it's success is largely due to Michael Maltese's brilliant plotting and dialogue ("Pronoun trouble!") and, of course, the brilliant direction of Chuck Jones. But their efforts would be meaningless without Blanc's contributions. Bugs' "Yay-as?" is pretty much a daily utterance from me, but the real treasure is is Blanc's work as Daffy, making the "little black duck" into a world-class neurotic. This is simply great acting. As good as it gets, folks:

Friday, October 05, 2007


I've been--how to put it?--conflicted about the notion of Tim Burton's film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd ever since it was first announced. This puts some concerns to rest, even as it creates more:

First of all, it's hard to guess what the movie's like from watching a trailer, especially these days. They're cut the same way, and this has all the usual elements: Whooshing transitions from shot to shot, generic narrator, generic music.

The most infuriating thing about this trailer, of course, is how it works overtime to hide the fact that the movie in question is a musical. Sure, we hear Johnny Depp kinda sorta breaking into song at one point, but is this the best way to sell this picture? Will audiences showing up for the bloody thriller this seems to promote be surprised by all the singing? Why even make the movie, then try to hide its nature?

Based on what can be gathered from this, however, I have qualms. I realize this is an adaptation, and is not honor bound to follow Hugh Wheeler's book for the musical, but clearly the title character's backstory, merely alluded to in the play, has been given an elaborate visualization. This seems an insult to an audience's intelligence--underline the point or else we'll miss it--and by showing us Sweeney's presumed-dead past love, it would give away a major climactic surprise...assuming that plot point is still included.

Then, of course, there's Depp's singing. From the brief snippet we here, his voice seems rather thin, and I suspect they may have tried to adapt the more operatic passages of Sondheim's score into rhythmic dialogue, easier for Depp to handle. Again, why do this project if your leading man isn't up to the challenge?

Of course, I'm just guessing. There's no doubt Depp looks like he belongs in this world, and he seems to have thrown himself into the role with real dedication. Certainly this is a gorgeously produced film, but with this material, there's only one way to evaluate it: It will either work or it won't. If it works, it will be thrilling. If it doesn't, it'll be awful. There's no middle ground.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


According to today's New York Times, in 2005 the Justice Department issued a secret order basically giving the CIA and any other organizations under Bush's purview authority to beat the hell out of prisoners in any way they might see fit. This, while the White House publicly condemned the use of torture.

The Times story provides chilling evidence of just how spineless Alberto Gonzales was in standing up for basic notions of justice, and what a fanatical and extreme bunch of bastards the Bushinistas really are. The "war on terror" gave these sociopaths the green light to do anything they wanted, and no one had the guts to say no.

Why? Democrats and some Republicans have claimed to be shocked--shocked!--by the bloodthirsty actions of gun-crazed thugs operating under the authority of Blackwater USA, actions that have gained attention as the voices of protest from within Iraq have grown louder.

Yet I've known about Blackwater and the other private security firms the US government hired to transport energy company execs (the press likes to refer to these guys as "diplomats") to and from the oil fields, and the kill-crazy attitudes of these mercenaries, for, gosh, years now. Let me repeat that: I've known about it, and I don't have access to documents and licensing agreements and whatever else our elected representatives have. Yet somehow they didn't know about all this?

Of course they knew. Not until the Iraqi government formally protested, threatening to kick Blackwater out, did our government profess the slightest concern for all those dead brown-skinned people. Not until we were officially shamed in the court of world opinion did we care. This is the hollow, pathetic excuse for democracy we want to spread around the world, and we're surprised when the world rejects it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Day three of Nation Blog Writing Month. The terrian is strange, the weather, beastly. Last night we were forced to kill our Sherpa for food and warmth.

(I was going to attempt a Tenzing Norgay joke here, but it's early...)

Anyway, the usual madness continues, both here (you don't wanna know) and in the wider world (Democrats squabbling over Iraq, Erik Prince defending Blackwater...Maybe you don't wanna know about that, either.), and the planet still spins.

I do want to make note of the passing of the criminally underrated screenwriter Charles Griffith, who died last month at the age of 77. Griffith was a member of the Roger Corman stable who did not break into the Big Time, unlike your Coppolas and Scorseses or Griffith's fellow scribe Robert Towne. Based on his work, however, Griffith might have been the most talented of the bunch.

He wrote Little Shop Of Horrors, for crying out loud, and The Wild Angels, which means he wrote the deathless line "We wanna be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the man." When ironic hipsters use endless variations of that line--and trust me, they do--they're unkowingly paying tribute to this unsung genius.

His scripts were inventively plotted, stuffed full of oddball characters and often brilliant dialogue. Unfortunately, Corman usually filmed them indifferently, neuturing their natural gusto, keeping their brilliance buried. Griffith tarried in the Corman stable too long, and by the seventies and eighties, when he was turning out the likes of Smokey Bites The Dust, it was obvious he'd never escape.

So he never made The Godfather or Taxi Driver or wrote Chinatown. But he gave us Seymour Krelboin, Gravis Muschnick and a carnivorous plant, and I'll take that any day of the week.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


I asked a co-worker a procedural question. He responded by asking if I could think of a better way of doing certain things. "Well," I began, and continued, apparently for quite awhile. He paused a beat, then said, "When you started talking, I thought I heard something that makes sense. Then you kept ranting, and I forgot it."

I do go on, don't I?

More time is spent writing these little pieces than you might guess from reading them. I try to cut out as much fat as possible, and try to put some thought into it. Even my seeming place-holding posts, like collections of embedded video clips, are assembled with some care; I attempt to find things that go together thematically, or bounce off each other in interesting, hopefully enlightening ways.

All this is prompted by a "challenge" I received from my ex-wife: To put up a new post every day through the month of October. (It's National Blog Writing Month, folks. Get that shopping done early!) Well, heck, that's not much of a challenge. After all, I'm always here, even when I don't feel like it. That's why I'm constantly apologizing when I don't feel like writing. Though I don't exactly have a huge readership--once again, thanks to both of you!--I do feel an obligation to anyone who comes here to have something to read or enjoy.

If she'd put any restrictions on this challenge--no Beatles clips, no mention of Vincente Minnelli--this might be difficult. But I'll be here as always, pounding out the wordage, though perhaps sometimes annoyingly apologetic for my failures as a host, like the Beast in Cocteau's La Belle Et La Bete, but hoping to entertain or enlighten or whatever the hell it is I do around here. Hopefully, most of my sentences will be shorter than the preceding, but I can't promise anything.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Sadness, mortality and the end of the world:

1) My sister Ann's beloved dog Priscilla was hit by a car Saturday.

For now, Priscilla seems to be okay. She was hit (and dragged a little ways) around her tail, which as Ann points out, is spinal cord territory. But urinary functions are normal, and she's eating and drinking, and doesn't recoil when Ann touches her. I have to think she'll be okay--I have to, because it's too sad to think otherwise--since dogs are amazingly resilient. Maybe she'll never be quite the same...but maybe she will.

You're not supposed to care so much about animals. They're just lower life forms, you know? But I spend a little time every single day thinking of beloved Pinback and Scotchie and Elinore. Certainly, if anything happened to Delmar, I really don't know what I'd do. (I'm not worried at all about Monika. She's nearly forteen and, even as I write this, is tearing around the apartment like a kitten. Monika will outlive me.)

2) As a hardcore James Bond fanatic, I would be remiss if I didn't note the passing of Lois Maxwell at the age of 80. She was, of course, Miss Moneypenny, perenially pining for her beloved James, the recipient of some rather cruel brushoffs from the world's coolest misogynist. Maxwell was there from the very beginning, Dr. No in 1962, all the way through 1985's regrettable A View To A Kill. She played bridesmaid to three different Bonds (literally so in On Her Majesty's Secret Service), and despite the waxworks qualities she and the aged Roger Moore brought to some of their later efforts, it was always nice to see her. She owned the role, and though it's been recast in newer Bonds, it's never been properly filled.

3) Seymour Hersh's dogged reporting on the buildup to the Iraq invasion and all subsequent events has always been denied by the Bushinistas, and largely ignored by the mainstream press. Time tends to prove, however, that Hersh's sources are accurate, and the conclusions he draws come true.

Hersh has a piece in the current New Yorker detailing the plans Bush and Cheney--mostly Cheney--are drawing up for a strike against Iran. Opposition to this plan from high-placed military officials seems to be dwindling, so it's all but a done deal.

So even though our military resources are stretched unbearably thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, we're about to invade a third country.

Anybody else envisioning mushroom clouds set to Vera Lynn? We'll meet again...