Friday, August 31, 2007

Movie Review: House of 1000 Corpses

Rob Zombie sure has an annoying wife.

Oh, and he sure knows how to make an annoying movie. If there was ever a movie that said "I was made by a music video director," this one is it. No two scenes have the same style, production, tone, or even come close to making sense. Random cutaways, drastic changes in tone, sudden song-and-dance numbers. It comes across as a very low-rent Texas Chain Saw Massacre knock-off, making absolutely no sense, and not even the presence of Walton Goggins can help it.

Sid Haig sure seemed to be having fun, though. That's worth a star. But that's about it.

Almost Week One

Another day, another fantasy football team. I kind of like this one - if Jon Kitna manages to get in sync with his receiving corps, that is. If not, I have to fall back to Eli Manning, and that's not a good fallback position.

QB - Jon Kitna, Eli Manning
RB - Shaun Alexander, Brandon Jacobs, Tatum Bell, Leon Washington, Reuben Droughns
WR - Chad Johnson, Plaxico Burress, Braylon Edwards, Donte Stallworth, Bobby Engram
TE - Vernon Davis, Bo Scaife
K - Matt Stover
D - Vikings, Titans

Thursday, August 30, 2007


OK - fun is fun, but I think that's just about enough of "like such as", "U.S. Americans", "the Iraq". Sure, this is funny, but please, can we stop hearing that Miss South Carolina clip over and over and over again? Next meme, please.

This is why you don't get nice things, always break them.

DVD Spending Tab VIII I a sucker for old Jackie Chan movies:

Batman Begins - $5
Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu - $3

Yearly total: 17 movies, $95.00

Monday, August 27, 2007

DVD Spending Tab VII

Good sale at Best Buy:

The Running Man (2-disc Special Edition) - $4.32
Black Mask & New Police Story - $4.32

Yearly total: 15 movies - $87.00

Movie Review: Tron

Saw this one at the Paramount Theater downtown - in "glorous 70mm". I'm not entirely sure what that gets me; I assume that wider film in some means better resolution and fidelity since there's more surface area available, and the Wikipedia page claims it holds up better as special effects are added. All I know is, the film looked good, especially for a 25-year-old film.

So yeah, as a techie, Tron holds a nostalgic place for me, but seeing it again, it's one of those memories better left in the brain. It's an OK film, but nothing great. The big wins are still the visual designs and CGI/animation portions (with one glaring exception). The design work of the landscapes, the vehicles, the games - all are very well done and very well realized, especially given the technology available at the time. The exception is the costumes for the "Programs". This was always going to be the sticking point - they couldn't actually integrate in CGI and humans, it was all just animation. So they used these flannel toga things that just didn't work out very well. And whoever decided Sark needed extra prongs all over his headpiece was working a little too hard.

Oh, and I had forgotten about the Programs dressed up as vacuum tubes - seemed to be a little misunderstanding about the difference between software and hardware there.

So the visuals and action scenes were OK. The main problem with the movie is the dialogue. You can tell that despite all of the extra tech going on, this is still a 1980's Disney movie, with all of the cheesiness that implies. So when our heroes successfully escape from the light cycle match, Tron turns to the others and says "We made it...long pause...for now."

My favorite moment is when the humans are breaking into the laser lab. Flynn hacks the computer lock with a Mattel Football game or something, and then everyone stands around and waits for twenty seconds for a three-foot thick door to slowly swing open. No music, no dialogue, just standing and waiting. Finally, Flynn says "That's a really big door." I'm hoping that Jeff Bridges ad libbed that line. It's even funnier if you imagine The Dude saying the line - "Now that's a really big fucking door, man."

It doesn't help that everyone in the movie except Bridges treats every line as seriously as possible. They all play it straight, except for Bridges, who seems to be having a pretty fun time, jumping around, playing the goofy techie guy. But the script is just too cliched to play straight, and so everyone else comes off looking really bad.

In the end, three stars for the design and Jeff Bridges, zero stars for the script and everyone else.

Sixteen For The Money

Held my fantasy football money league draft yesterday. It went much better for me than did my first league draft. I originally was set to pick 14th in a 16-team league; we had two drop-outs, lifting me up to 12th pick in a 14-team league. So I wasn't expecting too much.

In such a big league, running backs had to be the priority. So my first two picks were RB-RB, giving me Travis Henry and Willis McGahee. Shaun Alexander almost dropped to me, which would have been nice, and I was hoping to pick up Maurice Jones-Drew in the 2nd round (we get points for return yards, and he is predicted to do well there), but he ended up going at 1.14. So nothing spectacular here, but as they say, you can't win your league in the first round, but you can lose it - and I didn't lose it here.

There was a long wait between picks 2.03 and 3.12 - a lot of WR went in that stretch, but I was still able to pick up Lee Evans and Andre Johnson at 3.12 and 4.03. Evans was not a bad pickup as the 10th WR selected. Johnson was a little more of a stretch, but Javon Walker (who was still available) had a bye week conflict with Evans, so I gave him a pass.

Rounds 5 and 6 actually saw me getting in front of some runs, instead of trailing as usual. I got Matt Hasselbeck at 5.14 (his ADP is 4.07) and Jeremy Shockey at 6.03 (ADP 4.12). Here's where ADP really helped - I knew I could wait on QB for another round.

I lost out on some players I was targeting late, but I ended up filling out the starting roster with DeShaun Foster, Terry Glenn and the Dolphins defense in the next three rounds. Based strictly on the projections, I've got the third-highest scoring team in the league, but the main issue I have is depth. Not having any better choices available, I ended up handcuffing both of my RBs with Mike Bell and Mike Anderson. I'll have starters if my main men go down, but nothing much left if they just suck.

At any rate, I need to finish in the top six out of fourteen to get in the playoffs, and I think I have a reasonable shot at it. Now to find another couple of throwaway leagues to fill out the rest of my time.

QB: Matt Hasselbeck, Trent Green
RB: Travis Henry, Willis McGahee, DeShaun Foster, Mike Bell, Mike Anderson
WR: Lee Evans, Andre Johnson, Terry Glenn, Muhsin Muhammad
TE: Jeremy Shockey, Bo Scaife
PK: Olindo Mare
DT: Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals

Sunday, August 26, 2007

White-Collar Blues

Just got through pruning my oak tree up from my roof and back above my 6'2" height from the ground, and then bundling them up for pick-up. Seems like I use a whole new set of muscles for this activity. My arms are screaming - I can't even imagine how bad this will feel tomorrow.

Listening to: The Beatles - A Hard Day's Night
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Fistful Of Brandons

Held my first fantasy football draft today, on ESPN. This is my first free throwaway team - the main money league drafts tomorrow evening. I'm not actually looking forward to it, since I'm drafting in the 14-spot out of 16 teams. Not an ideal spot.

I didn't realize it until afterwards, but somehow for this team I managed to draft three players named Brandon: Giants RB Brandon Jacobs, Packers RB Brandon Jackson, and Titans WR Brandon Jones. I wish I knew anything about these guys.

And God help me - I drafted Randy Moss. And my quarterback is Jon Kitna. (So I took a late flyer on Calvin Johnson - maybe they can form a nice QB-WR pair for me later in the year.) This could be a scary team.

Just eyeballing the other teams, I'd have to rank this team in the top four, so I should squeak into the playoffs, but it'll probably be close.

QB Jon Kitnam, Brett Favre
RB Brian Westbrook, Brandon Jacobs, Julius Jones, Brandon Jackson, Chris Brown
WR Steve Smith, Lee Evans, Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Jones
TE Antonio Gates, Owen Daniels
DT Chargers
PK Olindo Mare

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Movie Review: The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years

I'm not much of a documentary watcher, but man is this one great - and funny. It's always entertaining to watch young punks pump themselves up, boasting of their drinking, drugging and screwing and how they'll all be stars - no back-up plans for them! And now we sit twenty years later and know that none of them made it (except perhaps for Faster Pussycat, and that one's a stretch). But as for Seduce, London, Odin - nada.

Of course, I had a feeling Odin might not make it when I saw their singer come out in assless leather pants.

There's also entertaining interviews with veterans. Poison gets a lot of play for some reason - as it turns out, they only had one more hit album in them before Nirvana sent them (and almost everyone like them) packing. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons showed me again why I find them and Kiss completely uninteresting. Everything about them just seems calculated. Here, while most of the other interviews are held on stage, in a nondescript room, in a studio, these guys instead choose to pose. Simmons is just hanging out (right) in a lingerie store, and Stanley is sprawled out on a bed full of models. And every interview with the guys that I've ever seen, they both sound like they are reading the responses from cue cards. They are absolutely the most planned-out heavy metal band ever. (And, of course, it worked - for a few years anyway.)

But blowing everyone out of the water are the "Omelets with Ozzy" segments. Ozzy's already auditioning here for his later role as the most befuddled celebrity father in history. Every segment with him is a blast - especially his reminiscing about how much drugs they did in Black Sabbath while attempting (and failing) to pour himself a glass of orange juice to go with his eggs. And although he's still pretty far from normal, his answers to the questions are both funny and strangely insightful. I'm not sure whether he intended them to be either.

If more of the bands shown here had listened to Ozzy, Aerosmith and Lemmy, more of them might still be around. When Lemmy comes across as the sober, intelligent one, you know you aren't dealing with a bunch of brain surgeons. Although things get a bit repetitive over time (we probably could have lost one of the Seduce/London/Odin group without missing them), and although the impact of what was going on in the metal scene has diminished a bit over the years (decades!), this is still a great documentary. Four stars.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Just hopped the front end of my car over a high curb at lunch - then all but ripped the front bumper off backing out.

Mood = homicidal.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Now That's Customer Service

Wow, thanks Lamb's Tire! Thanks for the great job on the oil change a couple of weeks ago! I'm sure glad you guys left the oil filter a little loose, so I could gradually drain the oil you put in my engine on the highway between Austin and Alabama on my vacation!

I gotta start changing my own oil.

Listening to: Dream Theater - Cover My Eyes
via FoxyTunes

Friday, August 17, 2007

Movie Review: The Empire Strikes Back

Obviously five stars. Man, Harrison Ford was an absolute god in this movie - what in the hell has happened to him? I don't know if it's just because we haven't seen them as much as Ford, or if it's because they never reached the heights of Ford (who still had Indiana Jones ahead of him), but somehow we don't think of Hamill and Fisher as having fallen as much as Ford has with his career.

And I see Ford's next film is the story of the Battle of Fallujah. Well, I'm sure that movie will show the U.S. in a good and fair light - it's from Hollywood, right?

Listening to: Spock's Beard - On the Edge
via FoxyTunes

Suite Embrace of Death

I've got the new iWork demo, but haven't looked at it yet. However, the release of Numbers has apparently prompted the final killing of the zombie program AppleWorks. I don't know if I would consider it a "great app" anymore (it hasn't been meaningfully updated in about eight years), but its notion of dropping in spreadsheet table objects in the middle of word processing documents (for example) was a bit ahead of its time. And it was generally enough functionality for home use. Of course, now I could probably get by with what is found in Google Docs.

But the real question is...

Will iWork import all my old Claris Resolve and MacWrite Pro documents?

Listening to: Widespread Panic - Driving Song

via FoxyTunes

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mas Manitas

Back from vacation, tanned, rested and ready to talk to myself on a web site.

Last we heard from the Perez Sisters, they were calling us citizens of Austin who had a problem with giving public money to a private business for relocation costs a bunch of racists. Needless to say, this went over real well.

Now we learn that they have decided to turn down the free money, because it wasn't free enough:

"We concluded that trying to operate a small business under (the proposed loan terms) is not practical or consistent with how we have successfully run our business for over two decades. We feel we would lose a lot of our independence. And that isn't an acceptable option."

Ah, so they wanted free money with less restrictions? Kind of the opposite of an unfunded mandate.

The Perez sisters want to keep Las Manitas open, but haven't determined yet where they will get the money for the renovation costs, estimated to range from $844,000 to $1.13 million, said Amon Burton, a lawyer who has been representing the sisters. The sisters will not apply for other city loan programs and they are also "not comfortable, from a business standpoint," with taking out a bank loan that large, he said.

Well, they want to move the restaurant, but they don't want the city loan and they don't want the money from a bank. Hmmm - sounds like they are up a creek, then. Maybe they are hoping for a visit from the money fairy?

I work a couple of blocks from the restaurant, but I haven't walked by there at lunch since the whole mess started. The somewhat cynical part of me (which is not an insignificant part) hopes that they've seen a downturn in their business, and that this is an attempt on their part to mend some fences.

But the really cynical part of me (a bigger part) thinks this is a setup for some future legal maneuvering to wrangle more money out of either the developers or the city (or both). They still apparently have some leverage concerning property ownership, and I'm not expecting this to be the last we hear from the Perezes.

Listening to: Chick Corea Elektric Band - Hounds Of Heaven

via FoxyTunes

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Movie Review: Ringu

I had seen the American remake some time ago, but had never seen the original. After hearing how it had revived the horror scene, not only in Japan but in America (how would we have ever gotten the "majesty" of Pulse without it?), I was a little surprised to find I liked the remake more.

The cliche is that American remakes always add more - more explosions, more gore, more tits, more monkeys, more whatever - and end up with less. Here, somehow Gore Verbinski (a little while before going Pirate crazy) managed to add more and end up with more. The cursed video tape is a bit creepier - and is utilized better to drive the investigation. The effects are more - instead of just having a Dalek-like reversed image to show someone buying the farm, we get a really creepy twisted face effect. And instead of the fairly simple background story for the little girl (Sadako in the original, Samara in the remake), we get a little more meat in her effect on the island's inhabitants. This pays off in the creepy horse suicide scene on the ferry later.

Also, the lead character Reiko also gets less to do here than Naomi Watts' Rachel character. In Ringu, Reiko is aided by her ex-husband, who happens to be psychic. Most of the information the two learn come from his grabbing hold of someone and doing a Christopher-Walken-in-The-Dead-Zone impersonation. She's mainly along for the ride until the end. In the remake, her son is the psychic, and he gives out a lot less information. Instead, Rachel has to rely on good old-fashioned investigatory skills.

Still, both films know how to do the slow burn. Once the pieces start coming together as the seven days click by, the tension starts to mount. And having the big reveal occur at the bottom of a creepy well was an outstanding choice - what a horrible way to go for the little girl. Of course, the standout scene is the final attack by Samara/Sadako, and both films do an outstanding job. It's by far the most effective scene here, and brings things to an effective bang before the somewhat anticlimactic ending. Three stars.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Fair and Re-balanced

See, this is why people who hold up C-SPAN as some perfectly balanced forum are full of it. C-SPAN's Washington Journal divides their phone lines up into groups, and because they usually have a "Supports Bush" and a "Supports Democrats" line, they like to hold themselves up as unbiased, showing "both sides" of an issue.

Of course, this isn't true. Most often, this is because C-SPAN takes the issues it discusses from the New York Times and the Washington Post more often than from other sources. This means the editors of those papers are largely deciding the topics under debate and what initial slant will be provided to the viewer. Since those papers are about the most reliably left-wing mainstream papers around (excepting perhaps the Los Angeles Times), it means the topics being discussed are those being pushed by the left-wing.

But today, it gets a little more obvious. The topic under discussion is: viewers' opinions on Rupert Murdoch's successful purchase of the Wall Street Journal. Now, the Journal is generally seen as a right-wing newspaper; I would agree, although I note that their editorial board sided with President Bush on the recent immigration deal against the Republican base. Still, a Bush supporter would be more likely to support this purchase, and a Dem supporter would be more likely to oppose this purchase.

So, what does C-SPAN do? They decide to switch back to their old scheme of having an east-coast line and a west-coast line. This gives the Democrat supporters an opportunity to call in on every call, rather than just every other call. And sure enough, almost every caller that get through is opposed to the purchase, because "Murdoch lies", "Fox News lies", "he's a Bush toady", etc., etc. I suspect (without evidence, of course - this is barely a blog) that a poll of WSJ readership would result in a different split.

I for one will continue to read the Journal, and I'm not expecting much change - except that I suspect I'll see the Journal editorial board's next attempt at a television show appear on the upcoming Fox Business Channel.

Edit to add: Senator Tom Coburn followed that discussion to talk about earmark transparency, and he absolutely destroyed. I don't know if he's going to be successful, but he's absolutely on the mark on this battle.