Thursday, July 31, 2008


Road construction forced me to take an alternate route home from work yesterday, so I wound up briefly on Ninth Street, and I found myself thinking I hadn't been on that street since I used to cut across it on my way to Katie's.

Which was one of the few times I'd thought of her since we broke up.

I don't mean to sound harsh; I'm genuinely confused as to why I feel this way--or more accurately, why I don't feel. Katie and I were only together for a few months, but during that time, we saw each other on a nearly daily basis. There ought to be trace elements of regret, sorrow, fleeting visions of good times shared, something, anything. Instead, there's...What? Barely a thought.

Somehow she's just receded, become a vague memory, like a movie I barely remember, just another woman among the many I've known, nothing special, nothing distinctive. She doesn't deserve that, because she was a genuinely good person, and I really did care about her.

Maybe a firm break with a lack of regret is a necessary part of the process of breaking up. Maybe such a casual dismissal is the best way to let something go, like scattering ashes to the winds. Maybe Katie never thinks of me.

But the thing is, I'm not like that. I obsess over everything, I second-guess my every action. For me to just shrug and move on is so out of character. Am I just being a heartless bastard, or have I finally learned how to deal with my pain?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


According to the AP, Jerry Lewis has been cited for attempting to smuggle a gun onto an airplane!

Somehow, this doesn't surprise me. Longtime viewers of the Labor Day telethon know a yearly highlight is Lewis' mean-spirited verbal assaults on his staff. This story just seems to confirm the worst, conjuring a vision of the legendary comedian finally snapping and threatening a flight attendant. "What, you call this a gin and tonic?" he'd bellow, tossing the drink in her face, then slowly pressing the cold steel barrel of his .38 against her forehead. "Are you trying to poison me, lady? Who taught you to mix a drink, Eva Braun?" While fellow passengers stared in mute shock, Lewis would scream, "Kidding! Kidding! Don't you people recognize a joke?" As everyone laughed, he would kiss the flight attendant's hand, then whisper into her ear, "Seriously, I could kill you without even thinking about it, bitch." He'd then holster the gun, pop in some buck teeth and do a spaz dance.

In actuality, Lewis' manager claims it was just a hollowed-out prop gun Jerry's been known to twirl during his shows. You might think the sight of an 82-year-old tottering around the stage twirling a gun would be kind of pathetic, and you'd be right, but as someone who's actually seen Lewis perform live, trust me: it would actually be one of the highlights of the show. Anything that keeps him from launching into a maudlin reminiscence of Totie Fields is a good thing.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


The first surprising thing about The Dark Knight is that it largely lives up to its hype. The even more surprising--and gratifying--thing is, it is being rewarded for doing so.

Not that it reinvents the wheel or anything, but The Dark Knight is the first mega-blockbuster in ages to tell a coherent story, maintain interest all the way through to the end and have something resembling a point-of-view. In more enlightened times, such was the bare minimum we might expect from our entertainment, but these days, movies can be smash hits even though nobody actually likes them.

Heavily promoted Event Pictures like the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, the increasingly dreadful Shrek series or the misbegotten Spiderman 3 somehow manage to earn huge sums of money on their opening weekends, enough to guarantee sequels and follow-ups and imitations, even though the lack of repeat business for these movies--the grosses always fall sharply after that first weekend--would seem to indicate a general lack of audience love.

But these movies weren't made to be loved, or even enjoyed; they were made to earn money. When production budgets routinely sail over a hundred million bucks, nobody's going to take any crazy risks. Movies don't even come from studios anymore. They're deals produced with assorted outside moneymen, which is why you see logos for mysterious entities like Village Roadshow and Legendary Pictures and Virtual Studios alongside the familiar Warner Bros. shield or Universal globe. The days when a maverick studio head like Robert Evans or Alan Ladd, Jr. might take a chance like hiring that Coppola guy for their big-budget gangster movie or giving that Lucas kid money for his dopey-sounding space epic are gone. There is no balance between commerce and art anymore.

So The Dark Knight came into being only as a follow-up to Christopher Nolan's previous Batman epic, and Nolan likely only got the gig in the first place due to coincidence. (Warners desperately wanted to restart their superhero franchise, and Nolan had made a couple of modest hits, so they handed him the reins. They could as easily have picked Brett Ratner or McG or any such hack.) In any event, he comes through like a champ with The Dark Knight. With clean, easily read images and sure, swift (but never hurried) pacing reminiscent of Don Siegel in his prime, this is a model of commercial filmmaking.

And audiences can tell. The huge opening weekend was guaranteed, but its almost equally profitable second weekend is virtually unprecedented these days. People are going back to see it a second time because they actually like it. And not just fanboys; it seems to be appealing to a wider spectrum than anticipated, presumably because of strong reviews and great word-of-mouth.

How will Hollywood react to this? Will they decide audiences deserve better than an endless chain of product? Will they realize there could be more money to be made if they give people things that are actually good? Or will they keep churning out the same old crap?

We know the answer to that last one, don't we?

Monday, July 28, 2008


Much of Saturday and all of Sunday was spent in the company of Paul. He played computer games, explained some plot points from Superfudge, and had a water pistol fight with a kid he met at a park. (Eventually, the two of them teamed up and started chasing me.) I tried to convince him to eat carrot sticks instead of chocolate chip cookies, and he laughed at my hypocrisy. We ate frozen pizza and watched cartoons, undertook a massive battle against an unspecified imaginary enemy (probably Nazis but we couldn't agree on that) at a different park, drank untold gallons of soda, saw The Dark Knight in IMAX, and just generally tore through the weekend like it was nothing.

It was good, and even though I had very little downtime, it was also relaxing. For awhile it seemed odd to spend so much time with an ex-girlfriend's kid, but I no longer even think about that aspect of it. At least one woman has expressed the concern that I was only hanging out with him to try to get back together with his mom, and maybe I had vague notions to that effect at one point, but not now.

For now, he and I have too much fun for me to even trouble my mind with such thoughts.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


It's a lazy weekend morning, so let's kick back with some tunes, shall we? Smithereens frontman Pat DiNizio has long been my facial hair role model, possibly because I identified with his receding hairline and large nose. I never wear sunglasses, though. Here's some live Smithereens from '87 with a personal favorite, Behind The Wall Of Sleep.

I first became aware of Kurt Weill when I happened to watch a "Live From The Met" broadcast of Mahagonny. This clip of Teresa Stratas singing Alabama Song comes from that very show, which pinned me against the wall and turned me into a tireless partisan for the greatness of Weill. He's probably my favorite composer, though of course that varies from day to day.

I think I might have posted this XTC classic before, but it's another favorite, so here it is.

Did I mention I'm a huge Harold Arlen fan? Here's Joe Pass and some obscure singer--Ella Something? Someone Fitzgerald?--with an absolutely perfect rendition of one of the greatest songs ever written.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


As regular readers of this space know, I'm ready to drop a Star Wars reference at a moment's notice. But I'm not, you know, that into it.

I wouldn't, for instance, have a Star Wars-themed wedding, or choose to get married at the geek-fest known as ComicCon. This is just kind of sad and pathetic, the spectacle of two people incapable of living in the real world. Or even the Star Wars universe, as defined by George Lucas. This couple chose to wed as Mandalorians, and I wasn't even aware of the Mandalorian race until I looked it up on Wookiepedia (God, how I wish I hadn't just typed that) and discovered their languages and rituals were essentially creations of the fan universe. Technically, Boba Fett is a Mandalorian, but he's not referred to as such in any of the movies, and it's entirely possible Lucas himself didn't even dream up the word.

If you're going to base your marriage vows around Star Wars--and again, please don't!--shouldn't you at least stick to the sacred Original Text, set down by Lucas himself? Shouldn't it be a Leia-and-Han thing, or, less promisingly, Padme-and-Annakin (though that pairing couldn't possibly result in anything good--you might as well have a Whos's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf-themed wedding). I mean, it's nice that people are so inspired by this fictional galaxy far, far away that they choose to make it their own, but...Ick.

Incidentally, Lucas announced this week his plans for rereleasing the original trilogy in 3-D are coming along swimmingly. I'm a fan, George, but there comes a time when you should just let the old cash cow alone.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Wow, so it was after 4 AM when I woke up this morning. Not only is there no time to gather and sort any kind of topic for discussion here, there's not even any time to wander through YouTube in search of clips to post. So, sorry--no discussions of John McCain's feeble-mindedness, no prattling about the cats, no teary-eyed memories of that magical summer Star Wars opened, no clips of Marshall Crenshaw or Lynda Carter.

Oh, wait...apparently, there is time for Lynda Carter.

As always with these things, please accept my profuse apologies.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


One of these days, I need to go back through the archives of this site and figure out what to do with all the posts based around clips that are no longer available.

I made a decision when I started writing this thing not to remove anything. That's why you can still read entries about how wonderful life will be once I'm married to Tabbatha, or those guest postings by Katie. Things don't always work out, but my premise here is that this space has been and will be a reflection of whatever my life happens to be at the moment, whatever obsession I may have or mood I'm in.

That said, if the whole premise of a particular post is a lead-in to a video YouTube has yanked, there's probably no reason for it to be there. The most obvious way to keep this sort of thing from happening would be to feature fewer clip jobs. But if I did that, how could I share blurry clips of Joey Heatherton? Sure, this Doors cover seems hilariously misguided, but look at the upside: You don't have to listen to Ray Manzarek's droning keyboards.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Questions prompted by this trailer for an upcoming movie:

1) When did Russell Crowe morph into John Larroquette?

2) Sometimes DiCaprio seems to be doing some kind of accent ("How the hell you expect me to run an operation when you runnin' a sahd operation?"), sometimes not. Is this a character choice, or really bad acting?

3) Speaking of bad acting, whose accent is Crowe channeling--Foghorn Leghorn's or Pacino's in Scent Of A Woman?

4) From what you see here, do you have any idea what this movie is about?

5) If I told you it was about the CIA tracking down an Islamic terrorist, would you roll your eyes and sigh, "Just what we need, a glossy, star-driven take on a topical subject. I'm sure it will be really incisive," making sure to deploy air quotes as you sneer the word "incisive"?

6) Since Ridley Scott has directed roughly a thousand movies since Blade Runner, none of them very good, how does he keep getting work?

7) What would anybody expect the director of G.I. Jane and Hannibal to bring to their topical thriller?

8) Why does the very existence of this movie make me so angry?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper have apparently walked away from their syndicated series At The Movies With Ebert And Roeper. Though cursed with a cumbersome and inaccurate name (Ebert hasn't been on the show for years due to ongoing health issues), the show represented the final gasp of anything even resembling intelligent film criticism on television.

Admittedly, that resemblance in recent years has been slight, since Roeper--himself not exactly the keenest cinephile--has been paired in recent years with a succession of fill-in Eberts, including the likes of Kevin Smith and The Artist Formerly Known As Johnny Cougar. So the show has been lame for quite some time, and even when Ebert was still there, the amount of time available to discuss individual films was nearly non-existent, thanks to commercial space eating up more and more of the show.

Oh, but there was a time, starting in the mid-seventies and stretching to the early eighties, when Ebert and his original co-host Gene Siskel cranked out a show that was an absolute must for a budding film fanatic stuck in the middle of nowhere. With no internet or cable or VCR, Siskel and Ebert's Sneak Previews was like a lifeline to another world, where I first heard the names Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Diane Kurys, a safe place for serious discussion of serious films. These guys devoted entire episodes to overlooked classics from the likes of Victor Nunez and Satyajit Ray. Best of all, since they were on commercial-free PBS, they were free to show lengthy, uninterrupted clips of the movies themselves, not the over-familiar thirty-seconds-or-less snippets to which we've grown accustomed, but whole scenes playing out from beginning to end, which truly gave you a sense of the film under review.

Not much of Siskel and Ebert's original run seems to have survived--PBS apparently has no sense of posterity--and the surviving clips to be found on YouTube tend to reveal less than scintillating critical acumen on the part of our hosts...but still. To think there was a time when pop culture made time for film to be seriously, even passionately discussed--well, it seems like a million years ago. True, the interweb gave birth to seemingly millions of cinema-based sites, many hosted by the esteemed likes of Dave Kehr and Glenn Kenny, most of them offering space for comments, so that discussion of film can became a world-wide conversation.

Yes, yes, but those discussion tend to be brief, the comments mostly pithy one-liners. Siskel and Ebert had the time to discuss movies for several minutes at a time. Their show hadn't yet turned into the tiresome Two Thumbs Up blurb-a-thon it would become. That came when they made the move to commercial TV, and commercial considerations meant fewer lengthy discussions of lesser-known films, and the clips shown were the same fragments you'd see everywhere else.

I'd long since stopped watching the show by the time Siskel died in 1999, and after that it officially vanished from my radar. Still, the fact that even its remnants may now be gone, to apparently be replaced by yet another Inside Hollywood gossip-fest, makes me remember many a pleasant half-hour from long ago, in the affable company of people who understood at least some of my crazy obsessions.

Monday, July 21, 2008


In its review of the new Broadway musical [title of show], The New York Times quotes this line of dialogue: when asked what he's doing, one character responds, "Working on a web site for a client and listening to Henry, Sweet Henry. What are you doing?"

If you get that reference, The Times suggests, you're the type of "drama queen" the show is aimed at. In other words, you're gay.

Well, I got it. Henry, Sweet Henry, the Broadway musical based on The World Of Henry Orient and one of Michael Bennett's first shows as choreographer--holy crap! Does this mean I'm gay? Hold on a second. Let me open a new window (Open A New Window--that's a song from Mame! And I really shouldn't know that!) and go looking for naked photos of Christina Ricci...

...well, I'm back--sorry, let me put away the lotion--and it certainly appears that my heterosexuality is intact. So why do I know all this trivia about Broadway musicals I've never seen?

Then again, why do I know who the cinematographer was for Ilsa, Harem Keeper Of The Oil Sheiks, or that the guy who directed Bill Osco's X-rated Alice In Wonderland also directed episodes of Death Valley Days? Why do I know who Bill Osco is?

There's only so much room in the old brain pan , and though I have a hard time remembering phone numbers or names, I know way more about the Mike Curb Congregation than anyone could possibly need to know. As Pia Zadora so eloquently put it in The Lonely Lady: Why? Why?

Isn't it time for some of this trivia to fall by the wayside (and man, isn't Artful Dodger's Wayside a great song and oh my God I'm doing it again!) so my brain cells can absorb new ideas and concepts? Or am I doomed to spend the rest of my life as a clearinghouse for unneeded information?

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Making up for yesterday's festival of bad acting, here are two of the greatest, Sterling Hayden and Peter Sellers, in a classic scene from Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. Kubrick is easily my all-time favorite filmmaker, and Sellers my favorite actor, bar none. Strangelove, oddly enough, isn't my favorite work from either man--though of course, Sellers gives three separate, equally brilliant comic performances in the film--but it showcases this absolutely astonishing work from Hayden.

If the movie works at all, it's because of his performance. The premise is deliberately absurd, the characters cartoonish buffoons. But Hayden plays his character for real. There's anger and disbelief in his voice as he stresses "Children's ice cream," uncomprehending pain as he details his "denial of essence," stubborn, misplaced pride and an unyielding belief that he is doing the right thing.

There is also, of course, the superb writing (it's still open to debate whether Kubrick or Terry Southern wrote this particular sequence), Kubrick's masterful sense of how long to hold a shot, and Sellers' marvelous reaction, the work of a great actor who knew when to yield the floor. But this scene, this wonderful perfect scene, is owned by Sterling Hayden, as fine an actor as ever lived.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Summing up: weekends around here have turned into an outpost for clip jobs. For awhile there, that meant posting stuff that was actually good, more recently it's turned into a celebration of bad music.

Today we break that precedent! No bad music. Instead--bad acting!

Two classic examples today (and oddly, neither one involves Shatner), starting with the hilarious final scene from the 1966 campfest The Oscar. You get a brief glimpse of Tony Bennett's one and only dramatic role, but this belongs to Stephen Boyd, who devours far more than the minimun daily requirement of scenery. Boyd was never what you'd call a subtle actor, but honestly, after watching this, it's hard to believe he ever found work again.

Wow, that was...really bad. It's like a master class in the Art Of The Thespian compared to this, though, one of the most-mocked scenes in cinema history. Neil Diamond gave himself the lead in the inexplicable 1980 remake of The Jazz Singer, and his mumbling non-performance is in utter contrast to the jaw-droppingly overwrought hysterics of Sir Larry Olivier--because really, who better to portray an elderly cantor than a patrician Englishman? Maybe Olivier was really something on stage, but almost all of his film work displays an utter inability to scale back his tendency to play to the back row, and that combined with his generic mittel-European accent...He and Diamond barely seem to be from the same planet, much less father and son.

Oh, and did I say no Shatner? I lied.

Friday, July 18, 2008


The Dark Knight opens today--perhaps you've heard? I'll see it, of course, and I may well like it, but...

Most of the reviews have been positive, sometimes ecstatic, but they tend to note how the movie goes to some very dark places, how it examines life in a post-9/11 world, how it confronts the use of violence as a rational response to an irrational world, blah blah blah, and all I can think is, yeah, but it's about a guy who dresses up in a bat suit and fights crime.

Really, I'm not trying to be patronizing here. I don't like people who use the term "comic book" as a pejorative term, who dismiss the medium outright. I can relate the storylines from any number of issues of Sgt. Rock, could tell you how Denny O'Neill's mid-seventies revival of The Shadow broadened my cultural horizons, will gladly wave a copy of The New Gods in your face as I prattle on all day about the awesomeness of Jack Kirby.

Still, my love for these things is firmly rooted in my childhood. Like other touchstones of my youth--particularly Warner Bros. cartoons--I still love them, and appreciate the artistry that went into their creation more than ever. They weren't necessarily created exclusively for kids, but they were accessible to them. If they engaged deeper subject matter than a child could grasp, they did so covertly.

So it's hard for me to get behind the notion of a Batman movie that many critics claim is too "dark" for kids. Obviously, comics and graphic novels have progressed considerably since my childhood, and I would rank Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns and Harvey Pekar, for instance, as among our finest contemporary authors. Their work is meant for adults, but that's the whole point--it is torn from real life, and never involve guys dressed as bats fighting evil clowns.

That concept is always going to seem faintly ridiculous--childish, if you will--and most of the "adult" treatments of Batman I've read in the comics (Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's The Killing Joke) strike me as adolescent at best, the type of thing that can seem deep and meaningful to someone without much real world experience, but something you'd outgrow.

Then again, considering how many labored Star Wars analogies have appeared in this space, I probably have no business raining on anyone else's parade.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I bought new shoes the other day, and when I got home, I absent-mindedly tossed the empty box on the bed--and quick as lightning, Monika was in it.

Not just in the box, but immediately posed in the box, with her front paws wrapped around the front, her chin resting on them, her eyes watching me as if to say, "Adorable, isn't it?"

Yes, of course it was. Honestly, I don't think Monika has spent a minute of her life being anything but adorable. Even when first born--a time when all kittens are hideous and rat-like--her mother quickly groomed her gray fur so it was not only clean but fluffed out, and she squirmed her way over to me, and though her eyes were still pressed shut, she looked up at me and let out a tiny MEEP. I, of course, fell in love.

She's always been that way--not only physically beautiful, but poised. And clever; she knows how to present herself, how to be cute and coy and whatever she needs to get all the attention she feels she rightly deserves.

Then there's Delmar.

The shoe box eventually found its way to the floor, whereupon Del tried to claim it for his own. In his first attempt to climb inside, he tipped it sideways. I straightened it out and he tried again. He climbed in and just sat there awkwardly. It's a big box--my shoe size is 12 1/2--but it looked tiny compared to Del's massive bulk. He's less rangy than he used to be, and has finally grown into his body, but as he attempted to curl up inside the box, he resembled nothing so much as a teenager who has just experienced a growth spurt. His limbs popped out in opposite directions, and the sides of the box bulged out. Every time he shifted his weight--something he tends to do a lot, as though uncomfortable in his own form--the whole thing would teeter back and forth.

He owns the box now. It's still too small for him, but he fits whatever he can into it, and the rest hangs over the side. It's splitting at one of the corners, and Del's half-tail thump thump thumps at the tear line, making a dreadful sound. It looks incredibly uncomfortable, but it seems to suit him. It's a place in the world Del can call his own, and he's as happy as he knows how to be.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Ever since The Comics Curmudgeon became one of my daily reads (by "reads" I mean "addictions") on the interweb, I've found myself following newspaper comic strips on a regular basis. Some of these I genuinely like (particularly Pearls Before Swine and especially Mutts), but most of them, in true Curmudgeonly fashion, I read ironically.

I mean--Mary Worth? Does anybody read the adventures of that meddlin' old biddy because they like it? Of course not. Mad magazine used to make fun of it when I was a kid, and Mark Trail, too. These are enjoyably stupid, and whatever their actual content, they always have the pleasant feeling that they could have been written and drawn twenty years ago.

There are strips I actively hate (don't get me started on Mallard Fillmore), strips I read because they're fun to riff on (For Better Or For Worse), then--inevitably--there are strips that convince me the universe is a cruel, formless void, bereft of a loving God.

Which brings us to Judge Parker.

Never in my life have I encountered anything as mind-numbingly dull as the current storyline in Judge Parker. This is a strip, famously, in which little of excitement or interest ever happens, where characters talk about interesting things that have happened to them rather than letting us experience them. But even by those standards, the current scenario is a Sominex Special. If something does happen, nothing will happen.

The horror began with the eponymous (but rarely-seen) judge summoning dashing attorney Sam Driver into his chambers. The judge wrote a soon-to-be-published novel, but he wants a bigger advance, and expects Sam to negotiate it for him.

Okay, right away, we have a character of wealth and privilege whining that he's not making enough money from his little sideline. Assuming that readers care about the avarice of the rich in the current economy, sadly, won't be the dumbest thing author Woody Wilson does.

Next, the judge mentions his book is being published by a firm called Cheatham House, run by somone named Dewy Cheaham. Dewy Cheatham! Get it? Well, if you don't, Wilson will explain the joke over and over and over again, characters endlessly repeating slight variations on the same dialogue. It's like a Beckett play, except it sucks.

Then Parker informs Sam he's flying out Phoenix--this Cheatham person loves golf, so Sam's negotiations will take place mostly on the green. Holy crap! A storyline combining the raw power of a contract dispute with the visual excitement of golf! Can this get any better?

Of course! Sam spends several days whining about how much he hates golf, which causes his partner Steve--Steve the one-legged, much-decorated ex-Navy SEAL, whose heroism we have to take as a given because we've certainly never been shown any of it--to start lecturing him on how he needs to adjust his "attitude" if he wants to get better at the game. Clearly, Steve is the Yoda of the golf course, and now we're going to have to endure his wise counsel before we finally get to the storyline we don't even want to resume.

In fairness, artist Eduardo Barreto, tries his best to give some visual interest to all this--Sam's secretary Gloria, who took part in the interminable "His name's really Dewey Cheatham?" week, has ginormous breasts and ridiculously long legs--but it's no use. This storyline is so brutally uninteresting, it's like staring at an empty page, and worse, it makes Rex Morgan look exciting.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I've called into work to tell them I won't be there, took some anti-diarrheal meds and am waiting for them to kick in so I can go back to bed, hopefully to get the sleep I didn't get during the night. (You don't want the details.) Just thought I'd tap this out for your amusement or edification or whatever, since I've got nothing better to do. Besides, as Linda Blair so eloquently put it in Airport '75, "It's so exciting!"

Huh? What? Oh yeah, I should mention that I'm light headed as well. And that was before I took the meds. Once those suckers start to work, who knows? I might start singing Kumbayah or something. Or quoting Linda Blair. Nah, I'd never do that.

Wow, this is getting really pointless. Let me cut it short and let one of my all-time heroes, the late Warren Zevon take over, with a jaunty little number about a broken heart and terminal illness. And man, Zevon wrote a lot of songs about his failing health, long before he learned he was dying of cancer. Right now, I know how he felt. (About the health thing. Broken heart? Sorry, I know nothing about that.)

Monday, July 14, 2008


Here's the trailer for the hugely entertaining 1975 movie Death Race 2000.

The trailer doesn't quite give you the feel of the movie, but one thing it has in common with the film it's promoting is efficiency--the premise is explained briefly, and we go on from there.

As a movie, Death Race 2000 was made following the formula Roger Corman used in all of his seventies drive-in epics. As long as the director delivered the requisite number of car crashes, included some gratuitous tits and ass and kept the running time below ninety minutes, anything else was okay. In this case, screenwriter Charles Griffith and director Paul Bartel tossed in tons of over-the-top characterizations (characters have names like Matilda The Hun and Machine Gun Joe Viterbo) and hilarious black humor--drivers can score extra points by running down children and the elderly.

The best thing about the movie is that it's fun. The bright, cartoonish colors are a giveaway; Bartel clearly knew how ridiculous the premise was, and didn't expect you to take it any more seriously than he did.

Now here, regrettably, is the trailer for the upcoming remake, simply titled Death Race.

Sigh. Where to begin?

First of all, it's obvious the efficient storytelling of the first movie has been replaced by endless exposition. The hero has a Tragic Backstory, which must be related in flashback and...WHO CARES? This is a movie about a ruthless, coast-to-coast car race. Make with the driving and the crashing and explosions, already.

Second of all, instead of the wonderful collection of B-movie favorites (David Carradine, Roberta Collins) and up-and-comers (Sylvester Stallone) of the original, we're stuck with Jason Statham, a guy studios are determined to keep casting in lead roles despite such recent non-starters as War, The Bank Job and (shudder) In The Name Of The King. We also get Ian McShane and Joan Allen, slumming outrageously, and Tyrese Gibson as what can only be described as The Black Guy. Seriously, do you think his character has been given any other function?

Third, just when you think this trailer can't get any more hackneyed, they trot out...Guns N Roses? The hell? The use of Welcome To The Jungle seemed a little trite as far back as Clint Eastwood's The Dead Pool, but at least at that point, the song was new. Now, it carries all the menace of...well, of a lame, best-forgotten relic of the eighties. Still, at least they didn't use Fall-Out Boy or some such.

Worst of all, this movie features the same dreary, color-desaturated look we've come to expect from contemporary action movies. Is this supposed to make it look grittier, more realistic? Because, you know, this is a remake of Death Race 2000--maybe the crazier the visuals, the better?

Ah, but that would go against the aesthetic of the film's writer-director, Paul W.S. Anderson, the auteur of the Resident Evil pictures and a proponent of the movies-as-video games school. Even at the low level at which he functions, Anderson isn't very good at what he does; expectations for a movie called Alien Vs. Predator couldn't be very high, and yet he still managed to disappoint.

But again, he keeps getting work. And again, it seems Hollywood really is trying to make bad movies for their own sake. Unless, of course, some exec somewhere really thought it was a good idea to team up the star of Crank with the director of Event Horizon, in which case, that person should be shot.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Hellboy II turned out to be the top box-office draw in North America this weekend, and deservedly so. This is not only the most entertaining movie of the summer season, it also is the first one to deliver what you want in your blockbuster entertainment: Big excitement, big laughs, a touch of pathos and a ton of style. Though director Guillermo Del Toro tosses in hommages to everything high and low, from Ray Harryhausen to Hayao Miyazaki, Jean Cocteau to John Landis, Terry Gilliam to--unless I'm mistaken--Vincente Minnelli (!), the references never feel like self-conscious Tarantino-esque asides; Del Toro has taken his influences and forged them into a distinctive style of his own. The story (which plays like something from Jack Kirby's crazy New Gods era at DC Comics) draws us in without getting lost in details we don't care about, and Del Toro's direction shows a nice sense of scale. Though much use is made of CGI, it is for once deployed with great imagination, and many of the most wondrous visions are created with actual settings and on-set effects.

Yet as good as Hellboy II is, I'm still more intrigued by the case of this weekend's biggest flop, Meet Dave. As I pointed out in a previous post, this one was co-written by a personal hero of mine, Bill Corbett of Mystery Science Theater 3000 cult fame, and it seems like a good test case of that old Hollywood axiom that nobody sets out to make a bad movie. Sounds good...but is it true?

I haven't seen Meet Dave (though of course I've seen the trailer and the same clips everyone else has, enough to make me feel justified in saying: Blecchh!), and I certainly haven't read the script, and so have no idea if in its original pre-rewrite form it might have served as a blueprint for something better. But surely when the studio hired Eddie Murphy to star and Brian Robbins to direct--when, in other words, they reunited the key players of Norbit to work their non-magic again--they couldn't have seriously imagined anything good would result.

Yes, people went to see Norbit, and God help them, some of those people might even have laughed. But did anyone like it? Even on the dumb-but-funny level of a typical Adam Sandler outing? No, of course not. In fact, it's widely believed that its release, right before Academy Award season, torpedoed Murphy's Oscar chances for Dreamgirls. That's how reviled Norbit was within showbiz circles--so why would anyone in the industry okay a follow-up from the same creative talent?

They knew, in other words, that Meet Dave was destined to be crap. In all likelihood, the uncredited script rewrites were a deliberate attempt to dumb it down, to make it cruder, to appeal to what Hollywood must think is the broadest demographic of all--a nation of idiots. They wanted a movie without a whiff of originality or wit, because that's the only thing they know how to market.

I don't think Hellboy II will be a huge smash hit--it will basically cease to exist as soon as The Dark Knight opens next week--but even its modest success may serve as a reminder to Hollywood that yes, there are people out there with a taste for something better, even in popcorn entertainment.


Hey, it's the weekend. No post yesterday? Ah, well, it's the weekend. Lame clip job today? Again, the weekend.

But what a clip--Tom Jones, ladies and gents, with one of the dumbest songs of the twentieth century, She's A Lady. The lyrics to this thing--seriously, what the hell? I'm not even talking about that "She always knows her place" bit, although I should, because again--seriously? And this "lady" is so damned awesome you "never would abuse her"? Wow, very progressive.

No, my favorite part here is "I can leave her on her own/ Knowing she's okay alone/ And there's no messing". So she has some sort of personality disorder? And perhaps only recently overcame incontinence issues? Or am I missing something?

Anyway, this is a live performance from '74, and while it lacks the wonderful over-enunciated quality of the single, Tom makes up for it with that way-cool pause when he sings "how to...please me," reminiscent of Tim Curry's immortal reading of the word "antici...pation" in Rocky Horror. In fact, between that and Tom's sexually-ambiguous gyrating here, I find myself wishing someone would have cast him as Frank-N-Furter. Or maybe that's something best not to think about.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Meet Dave opens today, the latest in a long line of Eddie Murphy vehicles apparently designed to make you forget the man may ever have made you laugh. I wouldn't bother bringing this thing up at all, if not for the fact that it was co-written by Bill Corbett.

Corbett played Crow T. Robot for the last three seasons of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which makes him like unto a god for some of us. True, those seasons didn't quite represent the show at its best, but Corbett's characterization of Crow as both arrogant and self-loathing was absolutely brilliant. Of course, the main mission of MST3K was riffing on bad movies, and yes, there is irony in the fact that a guy who made his living making fun of bad movies has written what is almost certainly a very bad movie.

But did Corbett write a bad movie, or did it become bad after it left his hands? Though Corbett and his sometime collaborator Rob Greenberg are the only credited writers, the script definitely passed through other hands. And even if it hadn't, the chances for it being made into a funny movie evaporated once Brian Robbins signed on to direct. Brian Robbins, the man who made Norbit, the reference standard for the word "unwatchable", a movie so bad angels weep whenever its shown on cable.

Given Robbins' inability to competently stage even the simplest gag or build any kind of comedic rhythm, he could make any script look bad. No, I don't think Corbett's original premise--tiny aliens on board a spaceship designed to look like a human, or some damn thing--is particularly funny, but if this script had been filmed by, say, Joe Dante, it probably would have been gold. Dante would have probably maximized the weirdness of the premise while also punching up the characterizations. Robbins is the kind of guy who'll resort to someone getting kicked in the nuts whenever inspiration fails.

This is probably more time and space than needs to be devoted to Meet Dave, but I'll probably have more to say about the creative process as practiced by present-day Hollywood soon. Hey, would you rather I offer up more Star Wars analogies?

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Again, the Democrats cave.

Again, the Bushinistas get everything they want--the Senate retroactively approved the administration's previously illegal wiretapping program, even giving immunity to phone companies that had supplied information to the government without the knowledge or consent of customers. The government is now free to spy on you anytime, anyplace. Silly things like warrants or due process are, if not officially things of the past, rapidly approaching their sell-by date. The democracy we once knew is, it seems, the lingering victim of 9/11.

Ah, yes--9/11. Because this program is all about tracking down terrorists, you know. No way it'll be used to rat out political opponents, impossible to imagine it being used as a source for half-truths and innuendos, inconceivable that it could be used for anything but good. After all, Bush tells us it's a good thing, and he's never lied to us.

The vote in the senate--The senate under the control of Democrats! The people who promised us big changes back in 2006!--was 69 to 28, so it wasn't even close. In fairness, I should point out that Hillary Clinton, much mocked in this space, had the decency to vote against it. But who stood as one of the senators yielding unchecked power to the Imperial Presidency? Barack Obama, of course.

Yes, off-the-chart midichlorian count aside, Obama, when the time came, bowed down before the Sith Lord Cheney and pledged fealty. And though I realize he will ultimately be, as Qui-Gon predicted, the Chosen One, the one who by his death finally brings balance to the Force, in the meantime he'll oversee construction of the Death Star, blow up Alderaan and kill and enslave millions. Metaphorically speaking, that is.

So it's official: This November, I'm staying home. Obama may win or lose, but he'll be doing it without any support from me. I can't in clear conscience cast my vote for a guy who'd continue to hand power to Bush and Cheney, or for a guy who forces me to trot out Star Wars analogies I thought had finally fallen by the wayside.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Yeah, maybe I'll be back later with a real post, or maybe I won't. I'm mysterious like that. Nobody gets me, I'm the wind, baby! I--um...what?

Anyway, I slept later than usual--sadly, sleeping until 3:30 AM qualifies as "sleeping late" in my little world--and need time to bathe and eat and scan the morning's headlines (and read Mary Worth, of course), so no time for thinkin', much less writin'. (No time for final Gs, either.)

And speaking of Gs, here's the Big G doing his Happy Dance. I think if we all took nine seconds of our day to emulate Godzilla, the world would be a better place.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


"So what did the mortgage guy say?"

Tabbatha leans against her couch, all expectant, seemingly pleased to discover I may have heard good news. She and I were scheduled to go look at a duplex this morning. Not that we're getting back together, oh Lord no, but we're both eager to get out of our current living arrangements. We'd been discussing some kind of roommate situation, and we'd found a place with separate upstairs and downstairs living quarters.

But the landlord finked out and didn't answer his phone, even though I'd scheduled an appointment to look at the place. In the meantime, on a whim I'd called a mortgage guy and told him I was thinking about buying a house. Which I hadn't been, actually, but Tabbatha had mentioned the idea to me, and for some reason, it stuck.

I shrug and tell her what he said, which is basically that my credit isn't great, but it's not bad. Seems likely he could help me find a place, down payment and closing costs included, for about what I'm paying for rent. That'd include taxes and insurance, too.

"You'll do it, right?"

I shrug.

"Why wouldn't you?"

Well, it means I'd be admitting I'm staying put.

"So? You want to settle down. That's what you told me."

No. I mean, I never wanted to settle down until...until I met you. But you're out of the equation now, so...

"So what? You're not some nineteen-year-old, you're forty-three!" She shakes her head, like her logic is impeccable and my qualms unbelievable. "What's wrong with staying put?"

I shrug again.

She's right, I suppose. I just hate to admit it.

When I moved into this tiny apartment--my God--more than half a decade ago, it was not supposed to be permanent. The landlord tried to talk me into signing a year's lease, but I'd only agree to a six-month, because I wasn't planning to be here that long. Here in this apartment, or here in Des Moines.

I'm from this area. I grew up on a farm about an hour away from here, and lived much of my life in a small town forty minutes from here. Des Moines was the place I'd always go for fun and entertainment, but always somewhere in the back of my mind flashed nebulous visions of Something More.

Not that I'd never made any moves away from the immediate area. Not until I met Sue Ellen, and made a crazy leap of faith. Marriage, for one, but the bigger jump was moving so far away from home. Technically, only halfway across the state, but Iowa City is a whole different world from Des Moines, culturally diverse, politically aware, physically beautiful. If not quite my ideal, closer to it. Then we moved to Washington, DC, and I became the east-coaster I always thought I was should be.

The marriage collapsed. I lived with my brother and my mom for short periods, mere stations along the way, as this apartment was supposed to be, a place to live but nothing permanent, maybe I'd never know permanence, maybe I was always meant to drift.

And if I did settle, surely it would be someplace else, Minneapolis, maybe, or Madison, hell, maybe even Portland or Seattle, someplace artsy and progressive, someplace to match my temperament, someplace I could call home. Not here. Never here. is where I am. My mom's death threw me for a loop, and in the wake of that, I met Tabbatha, and maybe more to the point, Paul, and together they represented something I'd never quite seen myself being part of: a family. And suddenly that became a possibility, and the prospect was inviting.

And okay, it didn't happen, and isn't going to, at least not with Tabbatha. (Though don't tell that to Paul, who still seems to be working Parent Trap-style to get us back together.) That's thrown me for another loop--the things I wanted don't seem to be happening, and I'm stumbling blind yet crippled by stasis. What do I want?

My hesitations dismissed, Tabbatha is on her laptop, trying to find houses for me. She highlights a couple and I think, yeah, maybe. This could be the point where my life, whatever else it may be, finally becomes my own.

Monday, July 07, 2008


There's a story in today's New York Times about the senate bids of the son and nephew of the late congressman Morris Udall. They're running as hardcore environmentalists, and facing stiff opposition from Republicans because of it. The Republican line is: They're opposed to drilling in the Rockies! They're the reason gas prices are so high!

It would be easy (and fun, of course) to turn this into yet another anti-Republican screed. But why assign blame? We all continue to live like there's (literally) no tomorrow.

Face it, we're screwing up the planet. We've always known--haven't we?--that natural resources are limited. There's only so much fuel, only so much land, only so much air. Yet we keep consuming, all of us, as if we can't even imagine an alternative to our lives, as if the good times will never end.

Oh, but we stroke our egos, expressing concern as if that alone accomplishes something. Ads on progressive websites beg us to support a green presidential candidate, and feature without irony a picture of Barack Obama. Obama, who hops around the country on a private jet, burning through barrels of oil as he scurries from one photo op to another, pumping untold amounts of noxious fumes into the atmosphere. Sure, he can talk a good game, but he won't actually put it into practice, because why should he? Who is demanding a change?

Not us. We can grumble about gas prices all we want, but when it comes right down to it, we'll just shrug and pay the price, because what else are we going to do? Drive less? Use public transportation? Demand more fuel-efficient vehicles? That's hippie stuff! We change our lifestyles for no one.

With all the crazy, calamitous weather happenings all over the world, it seems clear our very planet is trying to tell us something, to protest our endless abuse, to at least remind us to be careful. But we're only human, too self-obsessed to listen.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


I was looking for some depressing music to share with you--no particular reason, it's just something I do around here--and I was on YouTube looking for the usual subjects--Richard Thompson, Kurt Weill, Nick Cave--when I came across this, an absolute classic from SCTV. In form, it's a perfect parody of those old K-Tel record ads from the seventies, but what really sells it is the genius of the concept, and Andrea Martin's incredible performance. Not only can she sing, she sings in character.

And since that got me in an SCTV record commercial parody mood, I figured I'd also include this bit, which made me nearly wet my pants laughing the first time I saw it. Dave Thomas again does his dead-on manic announcer (named Harvey K-Tel, in fact) and Rick Moranis gives a brilliant vocal performance as everyone's favorite Canadian troubadour. Was this the greatest comedy show in TV history? Absolutely.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


Just thought I'd take a moment to say toodle-oo to Jesse Helms, who finally died this week at the age of 86.

Normally, I don't wish death on anyone, but throughout his term in the US Senate, Helms consistently proved himself to be a horrible, horrible man, an unapologetic racist, a sneering homophobe, a small-minded scumwad all too willing to exploit the worst in human nature for his own benefit.

He came to the senate by way of a campaign frankly targeted towards white supremacists, and while in office, bitterly fought anything he suspected would benefit niggers or faggots or pinkos or those stringy-haired feminists. He grew up in a segregated society, and he tried to hold firm to his childhood ideal even as the world shifted around him. He had no intention of becoming a better human being, and he never did.

What's truly disturbing is, this guy had power. He wasn't some fringe lunatic, he was a powerful and feared political force, and all presidents and players had to pay him respect, bowing before a man who proudly filibustered against a holiday honoring Martin Luther King, who supported apartheid and wanted a similar policy enacted in the US, who made a point of singing Dixie to a black colleague just to make her cry.

He was a pathetic excuse for a human being, and the fact that he was tolerated for so long, his opinions sought and influence courted, shames the nation.

Friday, July 04, 2008


Hey, unexpectedly I actually have plans for the day--Tabbatha had a flat tire on her car, so I took her and Paul to a parade, and there's more stuff to come later. I'd planned to pretty much do nothing today, which would have left time for actual, you know, writing, instead of...this.

But since bad music seems to have become the rule of the day around here, let's bust out some crap, shall we? Did you know The Captain And Tennille had a regular variety show in the seventies? I barely remember it, and I usually watched crap like that. (Even as a pre-teen, I had an overdeveloped sense of irony.) Anyway, here's Toni with special guest, Vinnie Barbarino!

Many, many stars of seventies TV had inexplicable singing careers. David Soul, for instance.

Wow, that one actually hurt! A sensible person would quit before the pain becomes unbearable...but who ever said I was sensible? Here's that singin' and dancin' dynamo, Liv Ullman, with a little number from the disastrous 1973 musical Lost Horizon. The parody in Mad magazine (Least Horizon) featured the spoof lyrics "The world is a rhombus/ Without a circumference/ And nobody knows what this simile means," which are at least as good as what actually made it into the movie. Oh, and enjoy the What's-he-doing-here? cameo from seventies TV game show mainstay Bobby Van.

Sad thing is, I could go on...Cheryl Ladd with a Beatles cover, The Brady Bunch camping it up with Rip Taylor, Lynda Carter with the Jackson 5 (which ought to be a song number, but turns out to be a comedy skit, which is even worse). But let's wrap this up with what may be the worst song ever written ("Kinda dumb and kinda smart"...Whaa?), perfectly matched by its ick-tastic performance. Ladies and gentlemen, Bobby Goldsboro with Honey.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


I saw WALL-E this past weekend, and may well see it again today or tomorrow. I enjoyed it, though I can't say I fully loved it, and feel it deserves a second viewing, if only to appreciate the incredible level of detail director Andrew Stanton packs into every frame. This fully CGI-animated film truly looks more realistic than most CGI-enhanced live action pictures.

WALL-E, of course, comes from the folks at Pixar. With the exception of Cars, the creative geniuses at this studio have yet to make a bad, or even routine, movie. And yet, I must admit, with the exception of Brad Bird's The Incredibles, (and, to a lesser extent, Bird's Ratatouille), I just can't really love any of their output. Admire, sure, and enjoy, and you can't help but admire them for clearly trying to make good movies. But...I can't quite take them to my heart.

Maybe it's because Pixar seems trapped in a paradox its creative gurus can't quite admit: Though Stanton, along with studio godhead John Lasseter and pretty much everyone who has ever worked there, claims directors are free to pursue their own visions, those visions always somehow wind up being G-rated. The people creating these films are adults. Surely they must have darker thoughts, the desire to pursue more daring material.

Sure, they've made small strides. Stanton's Finding Nemo is about a father's realization that he needs to let his son grow up--but it's about cartoon fish and includes plenty of kid-friendly slapstick. WALL-E is about nothing less than the near-death and rebirth of the human race, and the transforming power of love, and while much about it feels fresh, and it certainly doesn't pander to a family audience, it's concept of love seems very wholesome. All the sad, lonely title character longs to do with his dream girl is hold hands--he can't imagine doing anything else, and neither, it seems, can the film's creators.

The Incredibles may have been a spoof of superhero conventions and a tribute to sixties-era James Bond, but it was above all else a very human comedy, the story of a middle-aged couple learning how to love each other again. It's the only Pixar film to allow moments of real pain, the only one with a distinctive point of view, and incidentally, the best, most vividly realized cinematically. Not surprisingly, Bird had written and developed it independently before Pixar agreed to produce it.

Bird, one of the finest directors in animation history, is, sadly, no longer with the studio. It would be nice to think that Pixar would follow his lead, at least, to allow itself to grow and mature. Since upcoming releases include something called Up, about an irascible old man and a young boy and their wacky adventures--gee, do you think each will learn Valuable Life Lessons from the other?--as well as (sigh) Toy Story 3 and Cars 2, that seems very unlikely.

But I'd love to be proved wrong.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


1) "Spanning the globe" is, of course, a reference to the old Wide World Of Sports intro. This is another damned Random Thoughts post, and I used the phrase because it seemed vaguely all-inclusive, as though we'll be touring the planet's foibles, Mondo Cane-style. In fact, most likely we won't leave the US borders, and I'll spend more of this whining about my (non-existent) love life and rambling on about my cats. But hey, you never know.

2) Speaking of that Wide World Of Sports narration, turns out it was written by Stanley Ralph Ross. I was familiar with Ross' name as That Guy Who Wrote Every Other Episode Of Batman and All In The Family, but it turns out he was also a songwriter and voice-over actor. Also, an ordained minister, who oversaw Burt Ward's wedding. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

Which reminds me of a profile of Johnny Depp I read long ago, in which he mentioned he'd paid some mail-order company to ordain John Waters as a minister, just so Waters could preside over Depp's marriage to Winona Ryder! Do I have too much useless trivia floating around in my head, or what?

3) Members of the McCain and Obama camps are trading predictably unenlightening barbs back and forth. McCain's military service has been inflated! Obama isn't patriotic enough!

Guys? Seriously, nobody cares. The collapse of the housing market continues to have repercussions in every facet of the economy. Job losses are predicted to continue well into next year. Gas prices are so high people can't afford vacations. Young men and women continue to die in Iraq. These are problems Americans wrestle with every day, and we'd like to hear them addressed in some meaningful way.

4) Of course, Obama has already made a proposal to deal with some social issues: Faith-based initiatives! He wants to give federal money to religious groups to help promote anti-poverty programs.

Wait, wait, wait...Didn't Our Current Beloved President suggest the same thing? And wasn't he crucified (metaphorically speaking) for mixing church and state? And aren't many of the same people who criticized Bush fully on board with anything Team Obama says? Does anybody smell hypocrisy?

5) Speaking of Our Beloved President, it turns out interrogators at his beloved Gitmo have been instructing torture--I'm sorry, I meant to say "interrogation"--techniques based on a model devised by Chinese communists to pry info from Americans.

In other words--in a predictable, obviously telegraphed twist worthy of M. Night Shamalamadingdong--we have turned into out most despised enemy. Surprise!

6) Hey, that last bit actually sort of fulfilled the whole "spanning the globe" mandate!

7) Spellcheck flags the words "mondo", "Depp" and "Obama". Think they need to update?

8) The latest controversy among internet fanboys is whether or not Beverly Hills Cop 4 will be rated PG or R. Why such a creatively bankrupt enterprise is being foisted upon the public is apparently not a fit topic for discussion.

9) No mention of my (non-existent) love life or the cats. Or even Star Wars. You're welcome!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Really, I'm not trying to fill this space with all the bad music I can find.

It's just...Some of this conjures memories, whether I want it to or not. The disco wave started earlier in the seventies, but it took awhile to hit small Midwestern towns. I was in junior high when Saturday Night Fever opened, and for some time after that, Top 40 radio was flooded with non-stop disco. The perception among most hardcore rock & rollers that the music sucked in all its forms was not entirely accurate--some of it (Donna Summer's I Feel Love, for instance, or Chic's Le Freak) holds up quite nicely, and it was far more influential than most of its detractors could ever have imagined.

Egads, though, it produced some terrible records. Most of the worst came as the music moved further away from its roots in American R&B, when dozens of foreign-born schlockmeisters of indeterminate ethnicity jockeyed to be the next Giorgio Moroder. Jacques Morali, mastermind of The Village People, was one of the most commercially successful, but for pure, uncut Eurotrash exploitation of a popular fad, nothing can top Patrick Hernandez's Born To Be Alive, easily one of the worst things ever to receive North American airplay. The lifeless, by-the-numbers production and the English-as-a-third-language lyrics are bad enough, but it's Hernandez's actively irritating vocals that really make this the essence of suck. I've hated, hated, hated this song since 1979, but thank God I never saw this promo clip back then. It probably would have sent me over the edge. As soon as he turns his head to the camera, you'll want to punch that smug little expression right off his face.