Monday, July 31, 2006

No More E3?

GameSpot is reporting that the Entertainment Software Association may radically shrink the annual videogame expo E3, moving it from the LA Convention Center to "a location that would support exhibitors in meting room space only."

That doesn't sound like an industry that's confident that their next generation products are sure-fire winners.

Voice of Gob

Galley Wife SLL sends us this link to the World Championship of Magic. I wonder who'll win this year. Can't wait to read all about it in next month's Poof.

Remember, a trick is something a whore does for money.

Or candy.

Friday, July 28, 2006

"Promiscuous Empathy"

Stephen Hunter's taste in movies could hardly be further from my own. I think I agree with him on a film about six times a year. But he's a wonderful critic: Smart, interesting, fun to read. He's everything you could want. His review of The Ant Bully contains a fabulous rant:
"The Ant Bully" represents a ruinous force in the world that might be called, for lack of a better term (although, heh-heh, this is a pretty great term), "promiscuous empathy." We identify with anything: birds, bees, flowers, trees. We weep for all. We make a fetish of our compassion and treat our feelings as if they're ideas. This contagion holds that there is no us and them in the world, that we are all one big us. The fact that the world then makes no sense is of no matter to those who hold this point of view; far more important is how happy it makes them feel, how moral, how superior. All they are saying is give peace a chance.

And he's just warming up. It gets better from there.

Another Sony Format Flop

But that's not the real story here. Look at the head and subhead:

"UMD fire sale at Amazon UK:
Most movies on PSP-friendly Universal Media Disc being sold at half of regular price or less; porn still regular price."

I wonder why the porn is holding its value. Seriously?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Public Service Announcement: Have you ever tried calling your local phone or cable company and found yourself screaming at some VoiceXML program? Or, in my case, aggravated beyond words because of an airline's incompetence (that would be United Airlines' losing my luggage for an entire week). Well, thanks to Galley friend M.R., we may have found a way out. It seems M.R. has stumbled upon this useful link that provides the key to accessing "human customer service" for over a hundred major companies. For example, stuck on the phone with a computer over at Comcast? "Press * at each prompt. Ignore invalid response." United Airlines? "Say 'Agent,' then 'Domestic' or 'International' as appropriate."

This may be the biggest breakthrough since the Allies decoded Enigma.

Crisis of Infinite Celebrities

John August has insane hotness:
Most screenwriting nerds can be divided along an axis of DC Comics fans and Marvel men. Largely because of the too-young-to-realize-it-was-bastardized Superfriends, I ended up in the DC camp. But one of the things that’s kept me there has been the franchise’s willingness to accept that every once in a while, you need a good housecleaning.

Thus, you have events like Crisis on Infinite Earths, which, while clumsily executed, had the laudable goal of simplifying the DC Universe. Through drastic and sometimes painful choices, the editors succeeded in getting rid of extraneous characters and plotlines, effectively rebooting the world.

I have come to believe the same thing must happen in the real world. The time has come to rethink, retool and retire many of our celebrities. . . .

It only gets better from there.

Fly, Eagles, Fly

How good is the 2006-2007 Eagles season going to be? This good:
Yesterday, the last day of about two dozen rookies and serious-injury recoverees practicing, well, you had Koy Detmer catching passes out of the backfield. And while the 33-year-old backup quarterback showed excellent hands - nary a bobble, let alone a drop - his routes lacked a certain crispness.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg explained that with fullback Thomas Tapeh still sidelined with a balky hamstring, "Koy knows this offense, every position. So we just stick him in there and he runs a little route. We don't mean to throw him the ball as much as we've been doing, but our defense has taken certain things away."

With outside-the-box thinking like that, 12-4 is just where we start the bidding. If we bring back Randall and put him in at wideout, who knows where the ceiling is.

Anyone know who the top prospect is in next year's draft?

The Ant Bully

If Cars didn't prove it, this does: The Golden Age of CG animated movies is officially over:
The Ant Bully: Rise of the Prolitari-Ant. Easily one of the most bizarre kids films I’ve seen in a long time, The Ant Bully is your typical, by the numbers CG kids film thinly disguising a delightful work of subversive fiction. It’s one of those films, that as it unfolds, causes you to look around the theatre at the other adults and ask: I’m not the only one seeing what I’m seeing am I?

You know those Bibles they make for kids? The ones with the simple stories and colorful artwork that leaves out all of the complex and adult themes that you’d have to commit hours of time to explaining away? Well, if someone sat down to make a similar version of the Communist Manifesto, it would look a hell of a lot like The Ant Bully. It’s a warm ultra-liberal hug of a kids film, preaching the joys of socialism and hard work, all the while telling a story of what the world might be like in a liberal post-9/11 world. . . .

After a devastating attack by “The Destroyer” (a little boy named Lucas) that floods and collapses their mound, destroys their egg chamber and kills untold scores of ants (they brush over this aspect very quickly), the film’s religious figure (a wizard as to avoid any direct correlation) Zoc (Nicholas Cage) concocts a plan to sneak into enemy territory, shrink “The Destroyer” and bring him back for trial. When he does, the ant masses are howling for blood. They want to tear the Destroyer apart. They cry out to eat him alive. But the wise and benevolent Queen Ant has different ideas. You see, The Destroyer is at war with the ants simply because he does not understand them.

Her idea? Sentence l’il Osama to live and work with the ants so he can. Because once they understand one another, there will be no reason to fight. While there, Lucas learns the value of hard work for the mound and how every Ant has his or her place in society. They each have their own specific jobs that they’re born into to do, and it’s important that each ant does its part so they can all enjoy the fruits of the harvest.

Yes, yes. I know. Ants are natures Communists. And I can imagine that it might be hard to tell a story about them without such an overt theme. Except that, well, they did it in ‘Ants’. But this isn’t just an “our culture, their culture” thing. Because as overt as it appears earlier in the film, the point gets hammered home towards the end. As Lucas and Zoc sit atop a rock and stare at the human city, Zoc asks ‘Is that your hive?’ ‘Yeah, I guess it’s like a hive.’ When Zoc asks about how it works, Lucas replies ‘I guess it’s every man for himself.’ This leads to a Zoc monologue about how that just doesn’t make any sense. Everyone has their place and don’t the humans realize that if they all work together and share in the fruits of their labor that they all can benefit?

Eagles Talk

It's almost that time of year. And let's not mince words: This is going to be a rough season. A season of discontent. The season that gets Andy Reid fired.

But it could be worse. We could be with the Detroit Lions:
-Last year, the Lions were quarterbacked by the two-headed monster of Jeff Garcia and Joey Harrington. This year, they'll be quarterbacked by the two-headed monster of Jon Kitna and Josh McCown. Next year, the team plans on using seven-headed monster Tiamat, who has no NFL experience (or arms, for that matter), but can spit boiling hot acid at would-be defenders with her copper dragon head. Defenses are urged to use their vorpal swords against Tiamat if they wish to slay her and take all her precious, precious gold pieces. For more information, defensive coordinators are urged to consult the Fiend Folio.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Hold On To Your Butts

From a Reuters column today:

Disgraced South Korean stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk said on Tuesday he spent part of private donations for his research in failed attempts to clone mammoths, extinct members of the elephant family.

Fearing imprisonment for fraud and embezzlement, Dr. Woo-suk was last seen on a plane headed to Isla Nublar, just off the coast of Costa Rica. Witnesses say he was carrying a briefcase and several cans of shaving cream.

Worst Star Wars Names

Ross Douthat takes on the great Anthony Lane--and wins! Here's Lane on the linguistics of Star Wars:
Sith. What kind of a word is that? Sith. It sounds to me like the noise that emerges when you block one nostril and blow through the other, but to George Lucas it is a name that trumpets evil. What is proved beyond question by “Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith,” the latest—and, you will be shattered to hear, the last—installment of his sci-fi bonanza, is that Lucas, though his eye may be greedy for sensation, has an ear of purest cloth. All those who concoct imagined worlds must populate and name them, and the resonance of those names is a fairly accurate guide to the mettle of the imagination in question. Tolkien, earthed in Old English, had a head start that led him straight to the flinty perfection of Mordor and Orc. Here, by contrast, are some Lucas inventions: Palpatine. Sidious. Mace Windu. (Isn’t that something you spray on colicky babies?) Bail Organa. And Sith.

And here's Douthat:
Pace Lane, I actually think that "Sith" is one of the better names that Lucas coined; the worst include Dexter Jettster, Greedo, General Grievous, Count Dooku, and (of course) Jar Jar Binks.

Count Dooku gets my vote for worst name in the Star Wars universe.

Miami Vice

For the Mann obsessives out there, I've got a short report on Miami Vice which contains some mildly spoilerish stuff. Read at your own risk.


I'm still not sure what I make of Miami Vice. I can never fully digest Mann movies in one sitting. But it's 18 hours later and I'm still thinking intensely about it; that's the first time a movie has stuck in my brain in a while.

My initial reaction is that it's good, not great. But then again, I felt the same way after seeing Heat, The Insider, and Collateral for the first time. The Viper camera he uses is pretty astounding. There are images, like one panorama of hills in Paraguay at sunset with a single thunderhead looming in the distance, that I will never forget. This is a beautiful movie.

And Mann has managed to make a cops-and-robbers flick where the ideal, the goal that motivates the protagonist, is middle-class marriage. That's no small trick. And my God, you'd think that he's the only guy in Hollywood who's ever heard a real gun fired. The sound work on the gun fights is shocking--you hear the different reports and registers and none of them sounds like typical movie gunfire. It makes a big difference.

Also, while the movie has moments of shocking violence, Mann demonstrates tremendous restraint. There's a scene where a character has been brutally tortured and murdered. But Mann doesn't show that to us--or even tell us about it with dialogue. Instead, we get a very tight shot of an enormous, scary looking man as he's rooting through a refrigerator. We see the back of his bulging, bald cranium, his enormous arms, and a sea of tattoos. As the camera pulls back a few inches, we see that he's wearing big blue rubber gloves that go up to his elbows. Then we notice the blood on them. And as the camera pivots, we see, in the background, someone's foot and ankle on the floor, peeking out from around the corner of a doorway. Anyway, without showing any gore or violence, Mann convinces us that something unspeakably terrible has just happened and sends shivers down our spines.

I thought directors had forgotten how to do that.

The knock on Mann is that he's all surface. A glorious surface, to be sure, but that there's nothing more than cold, shiny sleekness to his work.

For me, that criticism doesn't hold. Mann is not a director of ideas, although there is one big idea behind Miami Vice. As a director, his strength is his ability to combine narrative and atmosphere; he's a combination of the best qualities of Spielberg and Kubrick.

Mann likes to skip beginnings and jump into stories from the middle--he does this in almost all of his movies, forcing the audience to play catch up. But he then drives relentlessly to the ending. And he shows you fully inhabited worlds that are more spectacular than anything you'd get from ILM. Even judged on pure visual appeal, I take Mann's Los Angeles or Miami over Naboo any day of the week.

Miami Vice fits nicely into the Mann canon.

Fall TV

AICN's brilliant TV correspondent, Hercules the Strong, has a rundown on the fall shows. He's very high on Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60. No surprise there.

What is surprising is Herc's apparent fetish for hot moms:

Dana Delany is incredible, and today defines “milftastico.” . . .

Fey, now possessed of big American post-pregnancy breasts, continues to hold a vexing physical allure.

Someone get Herc some saltpeter.

Zidane Update

Zidane's mother Malika--who is totally not a terrorist--now says that:
nglish tabloid The Mirror quotes Malika -- who is recovering from illness -- as telling friends: "I am utterly disgusted by what I have heard. I praise my son for defending his family's honour."

"No one should be subjected to such foul insults on or off the football pitch and I don't care if it was a World Cup Final. I have nothing but contempt for Materazzi and, if what he said is true, then I want his balls on a platter."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Heath Ledger is the Joker


"Ah, Bats! You're just in time to stem the rose! Let me put a smile on your face!"

Whatever. Hollywood can do what they want. They'll never be able to take Identity Crisis away from me.

Child Actors Grown Up Right

There's nothing funny about Haley Joel Osment's car crash, but the hidden detail in the story is pretty great: He was driving a 1995 Saturn.

This makes perfect sense, of course. Osment is surely quite wealthy, but all teenagers should have humble first cars. For one thing, it keeps their shiny new driver's license from going to their heads and for another, they're terrible drivers and often get into scrapes. I hope Osment makes a speedy recovery and kudos to his parents or guardians (or maybe even to him, if the Saturn was hist choice) for the Saturn.

And while we're on good upbringing of child stars, there's a satisfying tidbit about Star Wars moppet Jake Lloyd who, IMDB says, "works at Pac Sun at an outdoor mall in Carmel, Indiana."

Again, Lloyd certainly can't need the money. But he's in high school now and every high school kid should have at least one crummy job. It builds character. Again, good for his parents and good for him.

Not every kid actor is LiLo.

Mann Up

The new slug is just little shout out because I'm seeing Miami Vice on Monday afternoon and I won't lie, I'm pretty excited.

I'll risk the rath of Ross Douthat and suggest here that Mann is one of the two truly great American directors working who is still at the height of his powers. Discuss.

More on Mann after Monday.

Advice for Sony

Change or lose the console wars. Gamespot reports on DFC Intelligence analysis:
DFC begins by saying that Sony is currently the "king of the video game market," but with the PlayStation 3, it is clear that Sony is "handing its competitors a golden opportunity." The firm believes that the premium PS3's $600 price tag will put off potential consumers, hurting the overall gaming market and possibly putting Sony dead last in terms of installed user base.

It's not just the launch price that DFC believes could hurt Sony. Sony CEO Ken Kutaragi has gone on record as saying that the PS3 is more like a computer than just a gaming console, and, according to DFC, could see upgrades such as a writable Blu-ray drive or improvement to the system's memory.

While this may appeal to gearheads, DFC believes it will mean the price of the PS3 won't drop at the rate of normal consoles. "By fixing its hardware standard for several years," DFC argues, "video game console systems have been able to significantly lower prices over time by not having to upgrade to the latest technology."

"We believe that under Kutaragi's techno-elite PlayStation 3 strategy, the PlayStation 3 could end up with a market share more resembling Apple products [in the PC sector] as opposed to the dominant PlayStation 2 market share."

As for the other consoles, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii, DFC sees scenarios where both of them could become the leader in installed base.

Even though the firm doesn't see an end to the 360's woes in Japan, it sees its strength in the North American market as reason why it could be the market share leader. The Wii, on the other hand, has "the biggest opportunity" because of its low price and potential to "expand into a much more mass market audience."

Lady in the Water

The keen-eyed Drew McWeeny just kills the new M. Knight movie:
LADY IN THE WATER is metafiction, fiction that comments on the very nature of fiction, fiction where structure and symbolism can comment on the story being told, even within that story. By building his film this way, he’s hoping that he’s bulletproofed it. After all, he says in the film that the only way you can truly understand a story like this is to approach it like a child, with your heart wide open, listening with innocent ears. And if the film fails, then that’s because you didn’t watch it right. And when he includes the character of Mr. Farber, that film critic played by Bob Balaban, and when he kills him, that’s his way of guaranteeing that any critic who hates the film hates it because of that scene. In a way, I admire his effort and the crafty nature of that. It’s ultimately a shell game, but it’s a smart one.

Pretty devastating.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Buffy's Back

In comic-book form anyway. What's a comic book, you ask?

I have no idea.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The End of a (Not-So) Brief Episode

I was going to remark on Will Haygood's recent essay on Frank Sinatra Jr. in the Washington Post, which captures well the fortune and misfortune of being the Chairman's son (from a singing career point of view). Then, last week, the elder Sinatra's long-time pianist, Bill Miller, died at the age of 91. Haygood interviewed Miller and relates this anecdote about him and his relationship with ol' Blue Eyes:

The pianist was born in 1915. He's slim and the body is bent. The bent body looks almost courageous, as if he's been pummeling things mortals can't see. His fingers are long and pink and elegant. He likes a little vodka in the evenings. He likes Key lime pie. He's never done his own album. "It never came about," he says. "It's a little late now. But"--and he lifts a hand like a bird's wing rising slowly up from a nest--"who knows?"

His piano on the potent Sinatra number "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)" is considered classic. "That was an accident, really," Miller says. "We did the recording after two or three takes. You just hope for the best. I got lucky with that."

During a time of great romantic ballads, Bill Miller found love with a woman by the name of Aimee. They married, and sometimes she would join him on the road. Her love, his piano: Life was sweet. In 1964, they were living in California with their small daughter when a rain-soaked mountainside gave way, unleashing a torrent of mud and water. The family was separated. Miller's daughter somehow made it safely to the top of a hill. Bill was washed away in the debris, found clinging to a car at the end of a road.

They found Aimee the second night. Bill looked up from his hospital bed to see Big Frank standing over him. "Frank identified her body," he says. "Frank said, 'If it's any consolation, there wasn't a mark on her.' It wasn't any consolation."

Big Frank replaced everything for Bill. "The old man, he was good to me," Miller says.

In Gay Talese's famous essay for Esquire, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold," the author also mentions this incident though he doesn't mention Miller by name:

When a musician friend's house was destroyed and his wife was killed in a Los Angeles mud slide a little more than a year ago, Sinatra personally came to his aid, finding the musician a new home, paying whatever hospital bills were left unpaid by the insurance, then personally supervising the furnishing of the new home down to the replacing of the silver ware, the linen, the purchase of new clothing.

Of course he could also be a terror.

On a sidenote: Galley friend A.F. says that Miller's stroke of genius was convincing Sinatra to sing "One For My Baby" in the key of D, not A. This made him sing higher, making him more emotional, more vulnerable--and sounding better than in the saccharine original.

Most Excellent

If you photoshopped Mandalay Bay out of this photo from the Daily Mail, it would look like a scene from Stargate.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Prestige

I'm confused. What are Batman and Wolverine doing in the same movie? And why is Alfred doing the voiceover narration? And why isn't Scarlett Johanssen in the water box?

William H. Macy; Bai Ling

The Fug girls have a transcript of the unforgettable encounter.

Miami Vice and HD

AICN reviews Michael Mann's Miami Vice, the only movie capable of redeeming this summer horribilis, and has this tidbit:
I worried that the whole thing was going to feel sort of small-screen, especially given Mann’s decision to shoot everything on HD again, primarily using the Viper camera system that he used on COLLATERAL. During the scenes at the club and on the rooftop and in a few parking lots, there’s a definite grain to the image, and for some people, that won’t look like a “movie.” Personally, I think Dion Beebe deserves an Oscar nomination for his cinematography. I think it’s brave, visually extreme in even the quiet moments. There’s an immediacy to the way Mann uses his camera, putting you right in the middle of things, and it’s a perfect match for the way his script works. Even better, once the film breaks free of the nighttime and Mann plunges you into the brilliant Miami daytime, all that grain disappears, and suddenly, this is a film of stunning color and brightness. It’s beautiful. Mann’s showing off the full range of what that Viper camera can do, and this doesn’t look a thing like SUPERMAN RETURNS, shot on the Genesis camera. That has a sort of candy-colored artifical feeling that the Viper doesn’t. This camera, especially in bright light, seems to be capturing the world as it really is. There’s a depth of focus that captures the Florida sky in a way you’ve never seen before unless you lived in Florida.

The worst pirate you ever heard of?

Galley Friend M.R. sends us to this sad appraisal of Dead Man's Chest, which features a clip from the following really, really sad interview with Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott, who wrote both of the Pirates scripts:
Terry Rossio: The world wants there to be movie stars and, in a sense, the story becomes Johnny Depp—because people want that. In terms of understanding why he's [created] an iconic character, the story becomes 'Johnny Depp is brilliant' which of course is true because Johnny Depp is brilliant. People are not necessarily as interesting in pedestrian reality. You still have a storyboard artist who comes up with a visual of Johnny first stepping onto the dock as the ship sinks. We wrote that [scene in which Jack Sparrow is introduced]. We wrote lines like: 'you're the worst pirate I've ever heard of—' and [the response] 'but you have heard of me.' People quote those lines. If the character had walked on screen and just stood there and said, 'hello,' it wouldn't be the same. So, clearly the screenwriting goes into the creation of the character. And I have to credit Gore Verbinski's direction.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Sports Guy and The Answer

Galley Friend S.B. emailed me a link to this Bill Simmons column under the guise of pointing out the Heat discussion, but that was a thin pretext. He's really just trying to rub my nose in this:
Q: I am a long-suffering Philadelphia sports fan. Waiting for Billy King to pull the trigger on an Iverson trade is like watching your girlfriend drink too much at a party. You KNOW she is going to eventually blow chunks. There is no doubt. It's gonna happen. And it's gonna be ugly. The real question is, where? Do you dare hold out hope that she finds her way to a toilet? Or do you brace yourself for the inevitable ride home ... where she proceeds to redecorate the interior of your car with bits of fish taco and the stench of tequila?
--Brendon, Philadelphia

SG: That's been the most underrated sports subplot of the summer -- every horrified Philly fan dreading the news that Billy King gave away Iverson. It's legitimately cruel. Hasn't this city suffered enough? In last week's NBA column I suggested that Philly ban pro sports for a calendar year for everyone's safety. And normally, whenever I write something about a fan base that could be perceived as negative, the fans always fight back in droves and I'm guaranteed some hate mail (like with the LeBron thing last week). But with that comment? Not only did I get zero complaints, some Philly fans even e-mailed just to say, "Right on, the sports scene is absolutely morbid right now, never seen anything like this before" and "I majored in psych in college and am becoming convinced that Philly sports fans are suffering from collective depression, all the signs are there."

Now ...

Depression is a serious illness and I would never make light of it. Obviously Philly fans aren't legitimately depressed. At the same time, couldn't there be a more harmless form of depression that's sports-related? When I was living in Boston in the late '90s and early '00s, we were absolutely battling sports depression before the Pats beat the Rams to win the Super Bowl -- it was the tail end of a titleless 15-year stretch when everything had gone wrong (Bias and Lewis, Bird's back, Neely's hip, McHale's feet, Nomar's wrist, Clemens fleeing to Canada, Parcells going to the Jets, Pitino and Duncan, etc.), and after awhile, we started EXPECTING things to go wrong. That's when you know there's a problem, when you're trapped in an ongoing state of pessimistic inadequacy and there's no way out. Hence, the depression connection.

Well, doesn't that describe Philly fans right now? Pessimistic inadequacy? After 22 years of suffering and falling just short, dealing with a relentlessly unhappy media getting everyone riled up, enduring dozens of ludicrous front-office moves, getting their hopes raised by some genuinely big-time superstars (Lindros, Iverson, McNabb, Roenick, Schilling, Cunningham) and big-time contenders (the '93 Phillies, '01 Sixers, multiple runs with the Eagles and Flyers), McNabb's bizarre collapse in the Super Bowl and the subsequent T.O. debacle seemed to push everyone over the edge ... and these fans were uber-pessimistic to begin with. Hell, in a column about the "Worst 20 Sports Fans" for my old Web site, I picked Philly fans No. 1 and braced for the deluge of hate mails that never happened. Instead, they e-mailed in just to say stuff like, "You're right. We're insane. There's something wrong with us."

And that was eight years ago! When I was signing books in Philly last December, right as the Eagles' season was going down the drain, the bitterness was almost disarming. As I wrote in my football column that week, "I couldn't believe the body language of the locals -- signing a sports book for these poor people was like signing a romance novel for Jennifer Aniston right after Brad and Angelina started dating. You can't even imagine how many people asked me, "Can you sign it? Maybe this will happen to the Eagles someday?" And that was before T.O. went to Dallas, the C-Webb trade backfired and the Mets ran away from the Phillies.

Which brings me back to my original point: On paper, Billy King can't screw up an Iverson trade because Philly fans would see right through the stereotypical three-nickels-for-a-quarter trade that never works. They're too smart for it. At the same time, he's Billy King. He's one of the worst GMs in any sport. He shouldn't have a job. And he's absolutely going to screw this up. There's no doubt. Even worse, he's dumping Iverson because he's made so many bad moves over the last five years, it's the only way to potentially improve the team -- they have no cap room and nobody else with any trade value, and he has to do SOMETHING because he's one more crummy year away from losing his job. Does that sound like a valid reason to trade a 33-point scorer for 60 cents on the dollar? I didn't think so.

If I were a diehard Philly fan, I would be doing everything possible to stop the inevitably dumb trade that's about to happen -- launching anti-King Web sites, protesting outside of radio stations, chanting Iverson's name at baseball games, you name it. To borrow Brendon's "drunk girlfriend" analogy, there's still time to throw her in a car and drive her home before she starts puking all over the place.

It hurts because it's true. All of it.

Every last word.

The Paganini of the Ukelele

Joseph Bottum has found Jake Shimabukuro, the greatest ukelele player to ever live:
It surely means something that we live in an age containing the greatest ukulele player ever born, but I’m not sure just what it means. His name is Jake Shimabukuro, a twenty-nine-year-old from Hawaii, and he can make a four-string ukulele do everything but sit up and beg—and the question, when you hear him, is why: If you are this good on a ukulele, why are you playing a ukulele?

Take a look at him here, for example, playing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” It sounds good from the beginning, but the moment, I think, when it ceases to be merely good and becomes simply impossible is the second time through the chorus (at 1:40 in the clip), when Shimabukuro starts adding on the rhythm guitar’s part—approximating two guitars on his four-string instrument. (On the original Beatles song, as I remember, George Harrison played the rhythm part and Eric Clapton sat in to play the lead.) By the time he reaches the piano-like arpeggios at 3:38, the listener’s capacity for astonishment is exhausted: The man is some kind of mad genius, because the ukulele just isn’t capable of doing all this.

Bottum isn't kidding, either. Below is the YouTube clip of Shimabukuro. It's 100 percent safe from the office, although you will want to play it very loud. You'll be cheating yourself if you don't watch the whole thing, but if you really want to jump to the insane part, go to 2:38.

Judd, Interrupted

Galley Friend B.W. sends this heartbreaking story about Ashley Judd. Judd has long been a favorite of mine, and not just because of that Luke Perry movie. But if this account is even 5 percent true, then she's sort of horrible.

By the way, she's the only actor in Heat who doesn't rise to the occassion. When De Niro corners her in the hotel room and knocks the hangers down, she does nothing with what should have been a golden moment. I'm just saying.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

World Cup TV Ratings

Buried deep in this story about the American ratings of the World Cup final is a very interesting tidbit. Soccer scolds like to lecture us about how a billion people (literally) watch the World Cup championship. The Tribune expands on that a bit:
Depending on two estimates, anywhere from 300 million (live coverage) to more than 1 billion people (live coverage, replays, highlights) watched Italy win its fourth World Cup on Sunday.

"Replays and highlights"? That's a pretty inflated figure.

Superman Sequel?

Galley Brother B.J. sends this link from LaLa Land:
Talent agency insiders with ties to the film tell TMZ that Warner Bros. Pictures president and COO Alan Horn has informed agents that a sequel hinges on whether grosses of "Superman Returns" can crest the $200 million mark domestically. What's more, the studio plans to shave millions - many millions - off any "Superman" sequel's budget.

Superman Returns has a good chance to go over the $200M mark for the summer, but it's not a lock by any means.

Worth Every Nickel

Hugh Laurie just got a raise--to $300K per episode of House.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Zidane! Zidane! Zidane!

Who would have thought you'd hear talk like this from a Frenchman? From a French soccer player, no less?
The France legend did not reveal what Materazzi said, but claimed it was "very personal" and concerned his mother and his sister. . . .

Zidane refused to say sorry to Materazzi and said he did not regret what he did after being provoked by the insults.

But Zidane, who was playing in his final game before quitting football, added: "They were very hard words. You hear them once and you try to move away.

"But then you hear them twice, and then a third time.

"Before anything else I am a man and some words are harder to hear than actions. I would rather have taken a blow to the face than hear that I can't regret what I did because it would mean that he (Materazzi) was right to say what he said."

"I want to apologise," he said. "But I can't regret it because if do that would be like admitting that he had every reason to say what he said. I can't do that because he was not right to say what he said."

Manliness on the pitch. Who would have thunk it?

Just as an aside: If this had happened on an American basketball court with some analagous type of insult, I bet public opinion would be running 80-20 in Zidane's favor.

We Got Next

How lame is ESPN? This morning on SportsCenter they ran a long segment on the skills contest at the WNBA all-star game. Which, of course, aired last night on the ESPN family of networks.

If it's part of the Disney universe, it must be sports.

It's a Sin...

There is nothing funny about having your identity stolen. Over the last three years, some 28 million Americans have been victims of identity theft. The thing is, the term now used to describe this con is called "i-jacking." And, as a result, banner ads for safety measures such as Identity Guard Fraud Protection end up like this:

(Get Identity Fraud Protection)

So save your money and save yourself. From going blind.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Brian Griese, Hero

Galley Brother B.J. sends along this outstanding parody of an interview with Brian Griese, the quarterback who Allan Barra once claimed was better than Elway:
Drew: My buddy banged your ex-girlfriend. Were you aware of that?
Griese: No.

Drew: Apparently, she was a cheerleader at Florida State. My friend said that, for a Jewish guy like him, nailing an FSU cheerleader was a triumph on par with Arafat’s death. Would you agree with that statement?
Griese: No.

Drew: The Bears had an outstanding regular season last year but lost their first playoff game to Carolina. How much blame do you personally take for that loss?
Griese: I played in Tampa last year.

Drew: So you acknowledge that you weren’t there for your team?
Griese: They weren’t my team.

Drew: I see this is a touchy subject, so I’ll move on. You played with Chris Simms. Is it true that when Chris Simms was a child, he made his dad hire a black man to be his toy for a week?
Griese: No.

Drew: They made a movie of it, you know. Starring Richard Pryor. Remember that?
Griese: That wasn’t Chris.

Drew: Brian Urlacher, your new teammate, dated Paris Hilton. You’ve seen Brian’s penis in the shower. Just how ravaged is it?

It goes on from there. Enjoy.

"Son of a Terrorist Whore"?

The Great Zidane was obviously provoked and the British press is on the trail to find out exactly what was said to him:
The Times enlisted the help of an expert lip reader, Jessica Rees, to determine the precise nature of the dialogue that caused Zidane to react in such a manner.

After an exhaustive study of the match video, and with the help of an Italian translator, Rees claimed that Materazzi called Zidane “the son of a terrorist whore” before adding “so just f*** off” for good measure, supporting the natural assumption that the Frenchman must have been grievously insulted.

As the son of two Algerian immigrants, the 34-year-old is proud of his North African roots, dedicating France’s 1998 World Cup win to “all Algerians who are proud of their flag and all those who have made sacrifices for their family but who have never abandoned their own culture”, so such a slur would certainly explain, if not justify, his violent response.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Original Unaired Buffy Pilot

I suspected this would make it out into the open eventually. Bonus: Allyson Hannigan was not originally cast as Willow.

Finally, a Sports Moment

I'm not soccer expert, but that French fellow Zidane was the only guy I saw during the last month at the World Cup who carried himself like the American ideal of a warrior-athlete. The head-butt was really the highpoint of the World Cup. I never thought there would be any set of circumstances that would lead me to pull for the French.

Update: So very, very hot. The BBC is reporting that the Italian guy who crumpled like a rag doll may have said something about Zidane's mother to provoke him. More to follow, I'm sure.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

How about a simple handshake?

So the Russian president comes up to you, lifts up your shirt, and kisses your tummy. How do you react to that? Five-year-old Nikita Konkin was understandably stunned--as were the attendant media--when Vladimir Putin did just that. Explained Putin, "I tell you honestly, I just wanted to touch him like a kitten and that desire of mine ended in that act."

These Russians can be so impulsive. Remember Ivana Humpalot?

You are hairy ... like animal!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Missile Command

In light of North Korea's recent missile launches, it might be helpful to gain a better understanding of the DPRK's entire arsenal. The Asia Times provides just that. The list of deadly weapons includes:

Nodong 1
Rodong 1
Taepodong 1
Daepodong 1
Nodong 2
Rodong 2
Taepodong 2
Ding Dong
Dong Kee Kong
Long Duc Dong, aka "The Donger"
Long Dong (a long-range missile)
Long Dong Silver (longer and sturdier)

Yes, I know, this is no laughing matter. (And the link really is helpful!)

So you didn't win the World Cup. So it sucks to host the World Cup and not be a part of it. But you gave it your best shot. It was a good run. Italy was looking good. You shouldn't feel bad at all. But I do think it's time to lose the wig.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Would You Like to Play a Game?

The Post's Mike Musgrove recently interviewed a Linden, Va., man whose obsession is collecting vintage 80's videogames such as Asteroids, Defender, and Zaxxon. Peter Hirschberg admits his hobby went "exponentially out of control" and is "psychotic." Still, who wouldn't want to be his friend? (Musgrove spent five hours playing in his arcade, which is otherwise closed to the public.)

Hirschberg's collection spans the Golden Age of videogames, "between the pinball era and the advent of Grand Theft Auto." But he lost interest with the rise of "shooter and fighting games," ca. 1984. As for setting the mood: "The soundtrack, behind the blips and pings of games including Joust and Q-Bert, is Hirschberg's Internet radio station, Retro Arcade Radio, which plays songs about video games as well as old-school Atari commercials." This, I think, would get to me.

Also, no mention of my own personal favorites from that era: Time Pilot, Front Line, and Spy Hunter (I never did get the speedboat). Musgrove doesn't reveal what he spent five hours playing. He does, however, ask the proverbial question: "What, exactly, is that Dig Dug guy all about?"

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Clash of the Comics Titans

Galley Friend B.W. sends along this link to a Washington Post piece on the Marvel-DC divide. It's pretty good, but the real reason I wanted to blog it is that I'm at 35,000 feet somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean and able to play around work on the web. It's an age of wonders.