May 31, 2006

Updike on Terror

Filed under: books, movies, music, web — ted @ 1:31 pm

Judging from today's profile in the Times, John Updike's Terrorist (which comes out on June 6) will be rather lame. Check out this description of his mode of preparation:

For his new novel, "Terrorist," [Updike] ventured onto the Web to research bomb detonators. He was fairly certain, he remarked recently during an interview in Boston, that the only detonator he could recall — the one that Gary Cooper plunges in "For Whom the Bell Tolls" — must be out of date, but he was also reassured to discover, as he put it, that "the Internet doesn't like you to learn too much about explosives."

While working on the book, Mr. Updike, now 74, white-haired, bushy-browed and senatorial-looking, also risked suspicion by lingering around the luggage-screening machines at La Guardia Airport, where he learned that the X-rays were not in black and white, as he had imagined, but rather in lurid colors: acid green and red.

And he hired a car and a driver to take him around some of the seedier neighborhoods in Paterson, N.J., and to show him some churches and storefronts that had been converted into mosques. "He did his best, but I think I puzzled him as a tour customer," Mr. Updike said.

Updike sounds like he is setting himself up for failure — he's way too old to write this book. Riding around in the backseat of a car, looking at bad neighborhoods? Please.

Thom Yorke of Radhiohead is working on a solo album, the eraser. It looks like this:

m3 online
has three tracks for download.

Philebrity is reporting that the Flaming Lips will be headlining a free festival at the Festival Pier on July 16.

Saving Face Forum has lots of pictures of Tobey Maguire on the set of Spiderman 3. Most of them aren't worth looking at–but check out the black symbiote suit under Tobey's shirt:

I also wonder if this over-the-forhead hairstyle isn't indicative of his transformation.

Finally, two great websites for you to check out:

  • We Feel Fine. This is too incredible. I haven't explored sufficiently yet. In the meantime, Monkey Bites explains.
  • Stalkerati. Attention fear-mongerers: this is funny. Please do not write to your congressperson.

May 30, 2006

Design-your-own boyfriend

Filed under: christianity, literature, movies — ted @ 3:16 pm

A new story appearing in Salon today, "The perfect man," is suprisingly good. Set sometime in the near-distant future, it chronicles one girl's attempt to create a perfect AI boyfriend.

The latest Worth1000 photoshop contest asked for superhero/great art hacks. The results are delightful. For example:

In Slate, Benjamin Strong ruminates on the "subtle greatness of Terrence Malick's The New World." I could not agree more. Rent it on DVD (since you probably didn't see it in the theaters – it only played for a few weeks).

This past week, the President came to Philadelphia in promotion of nuclear energy. Greenpeace, as they are wont to do, prepared a counterattack in the form of a fact sheet. Sadly, they rushed the job, and printed the following:

In the twenty years since the Chernobyl tragedy, the world's worst nuclear accident, there have been nearly [FILL IN ALARMIST AND ARMAGEDDONIST FACTOID HERE].

A Greenpeace spokesperson claims "a colleague was making a joke by inserting the language in a draft that was then mistakenly released." She also doesn't think it's funny.

And finally, a thing certain to scare the living shit out of you: Left Behind: Eternal Forces, a video game described thusly:

This game immerses children in present-day New York City — 500 square blocks, stretching from Wall Street to Chinatown, Greenwich Village, the United Nations headquarters, and Harlem. The game rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian. The game also offers players the opportunity to switch sides and fight for the army of the AntiChrist, releasing cloven-hoofed demons who feast on conservative Christians and their panicked proselytes […] The dialogue includes people saying, "Praise the Lord," as they blow infidels away.

The whole thing is really hard to believe, but it's for real. Be sure to check out the game description on this page. Some of it's selling points include:

  • Recover ancient scriptures and witness spectacular Angelic and Demonic activity as a direct consequence of your choices.
  • Control more than 30 units types – from Prayer Warrior and Hellraiser to Spies, Special Forces and Battle Tanks!

I know: I can't believe it either.

May 26, 2006

Templeton Peck

Filed under: humor, video — ted @ 11:14 am

Enjoy watching this guy score a goal with his face, and have a great holiday.

May 25, 2006

Marie Antoinette

Filed under: movies, web — ted @ 1:19 pm

Wow, so much great stuff today…

Yesterday I mentioned that Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette was booed Wednesday morning at Cannes. Today plenty of sites carried this story, with updates and commentary:

Coppola film booed (The Guardian) Kirsten Dunst says of Coppola: "She speaks greatly to women my age. She's the only one making movies about women in this way."

Off with her head! (Salon): "This impressionistic take on the 18th century Bourbon court is lots of fun as far as it goes. But you can only set one court minuet to Siouxsie's 'Hong Kong Garden,' and one all-night party to New Order's 'Ceremony,' before the intoxication starts to wear off. Coppola lacks the committed, demented genius Baz Luhrmann brought to 'Moulin Rouge,' and when 'Marie Antoinette' isn't being crazy and decadent it becomes a bit too pretty, proper and trivial for my taste."

More commentary and a discussion about movie criticism on Hollywood Elsewhere: "the bland thoughtlessness that lies at the center of it — the complete shucking of the elements that give her story resonance — is rancid."

let them totally eat cake (Nerve): "This is undeniably a flawed, sometimes frustrating film, but it's so much more ambitious and interesting than a conventional biopic — even a fairly decent one, like the Cate Blanchett Elizabeth — that I found myself rooting for it in spite of its thinness and clumsiness."

Other Things:

Not sure why I didn't know about artistic interpretations of literary figures before this morning. A tremendous site. Check out Don Quixote as drawn by Will Eisner:

A high-school student in Illinois has been threatened with expulsion because of the criticisms of the school district he posted on his Xanga. Thing is, he didn't plot an attack, or even say anything particularly nasty — he just accused the school of bullying him. So they snapped back by bullying him some more.

The Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society (one of my favorite blogs) has a piece today about Bat Bombs, which apparently were nearly used in WWII. So cool:

More Bat Bomb info here and here.

On this site, you can Vote for the World's Ugliest Dog. They're all incredibly ugly, but in this case you have to root for the hometown hero: Pee Wee Martini from Fishtown (of course he's from Fishtown). What's most interesting about all this, however, is the fact that someone hacked the voting and deleted 30,000 of "Mr. Peepers's" votes. Really.

Slate is in the midst of a "pulp fiction week," and asked some designers to create pulp style covers for some classics. Like this:

May 24, 2006

The Gore Movie

Filed under: movies, web — ted @ 11:24 am

Quite a bit of stuff on major sites today about Al Gore's new movie, An Inconvenient Truth. The Times has an extremely favorable write-up, Slate's Gregg Easterbrook criticizes the film's "carelessness about moral argument," and Salon wonders if Gore will run for president in 2008.

My fear is that watching the movie will lead to regret, weariness, and even depression — similar to what happened when I watched the unrealized Spike Jonze campaign video a few months ago. This man could, indeed should, have been President. And the hope that a movie like this can "make a difference" in the course of world affairs is misguided, I fear. From the Salon article:

I'd like to believe that a public figure can speak truth at this level — including the discourse-rotting fact that politicians of both parties are so stuffed with corporate money that they've preferred to ignore this issue — while remaining politically viable. But I'm not sure that's possible now, if it ever was. Gore speaks hopefully of a time when America, by far the most wasteful nation in the world and the biggest contributor to global warming, will face this potentially devastating crisis with a little forthright Yankee techno-ingenuity. But that day, he admits, has not come yet and may not come soon.

Other things:

Some folks in Northhampton hosted an "“Everything your kid doesn’t want you to know about sex, drugs, alcohol, and MySpace.com” event last night at Council Rock High School-South. One parent's response: “I had no clue what half of that stuff was. I’m going to talk to him about this on the way home tonight.” Great idea

graphpaper.com fascinatingly charts NYC Morning Subway Demographics.

This guy almost got shot while playing WoW in his apartment. If is wasn't for livejournal and photobucket, how would I know about this?

Baghdad Blog to become a film. Hopefully this will lead to more movies about blogging. I say this in deadly earnest.

Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus does a different sort of performance calculation concerning Barry Bonds's homerun totals.

Marie-Antoinette screened this morning at Cannes, and was booed.

Jeffrey Wells didn't like it either (his in-depth response is a fine read):

I don't know how to avoid calling this an absolute p.r. disaster for the film, which has the ironical distinction of being almost completely devoid of interest (unless handsome photography, authentic sets and knockout 19th Century garb and a first-rate Rip Torn performance are enough for you) and yet rather well made.

This will certainly rank as a stain upon Coppola's reputation, as she has arguably made the shallowest and dullest historical biopic of all time.

Even if the movie does turn out to be dull, it still produced one of the greatest trailers of all time.


Filed under: culture, literature — ted @ 11:01 am

World Cup Kickoff converts all World Cup games to a neat calendar file–in your own timezone. Lovely.

The Times offers the amusingly titled: From 'Idol' to Empire: The Success of Ryan Seacrest:

Intent on being more than just a pretty, permatanned face, the ubiquitous Mr. Seacrest is working to build an empire like those of his idols Dick Clark and Merv Griffin.

Ryan, I hate you less than I used too.

The Chronicle of Higher Education writes up Chick Lit (they sort of like it) and Lad Lit (tellingly titled "Guy Lit — Whatever"). They're certainly right about Indecision: I bought it hoping it would be awesome, and it was not even close. A selection from the article:

Sales of these books have been even more sluggish than the novels' protagonists. […] In fact, the genre was declared dead a year before Kunkel's book was even published. The critic Laura Miller wrote the genre's obituary in 2004, in The New York Times Book Review. "If female readers allowed themselves to believe that most straight men spend their time holding conversations with their penises, watching the Cartoon Network, fiddling with their rotisserie baseball teams, and contemplating the fine art of passing gas on subway trains, romance — and perhaps even human reproduction itself — would grind to a halt," wrote Miller.

Women won't read these books unless there is some hope of redemption, some effort these guys make to change. And men won't read them because, well, real men don't read.

Um, that's not fair.

Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere considers Alejando Gonzalez Innaritu's Babel "a lock to win the Palmes D'Or." Whether it's actually any good is another story; Wells's summary of its charm has me less than enthused, and Innatiru's track record (Amores Perros was pretty good; 21 Grams was nothing short of appalling) doesn't inspire much confidence in me.

When will people realize that when they attempt to ban books, they end up looking like complete morons? Here's a quote:

"We talk about the steady diet of trans fat and sugar, and we know the result is obesity and diabetes. But what are we feeding the minds of our students? They're getting a steady diet of foul language, violence and sexuality outside the classroom by the media. But when it comes to the classroom, isn't there something of a higher level to feed the minds of our children?" Pinney asked.

Yes. For example, The Awakening (which is on the list of books she wants banned). I thought that battle was won decades ago…

May 23, 2006

Modern Governance

Filed under: web — ted @ 3:01 pm

A slew of small things today:

Officials in Kenya are claiming the markings on a tuna fish caught by locals read You are the best provider in Arabic. The fish was apparently stolen from a fishery where it was being stored–but it has just been recovered.

Here's a close-up of what it looks like:

A Creative Writing graduate student at the University of Florida who publishes fiction on his livejournal was recently bothered by the University's police, who wanted to collect fingerprints and a DNA sample. Apparently, the police were alarmed by the violent descriptive content of one of his stories. From the full report on Boing Boing:

The police have repeatedly visited the student and demanded that he submit his fingerprints and DNA to them so that they can compare the fictional murder he described in his story to evidence from any similar unsolved murders.

Obviously, this is ridiculous.

Even more ridulous: Tommy Hilfiger vs. Axel Rose. A brawl, with punches, at Rosario Dawson's birthday party, in front of a crowd of other famous people, because Axel moved Tommy's girlfriend's drink. Goodness.

I totally love this piece from lawroberts's flickr. It's called "Modern Goverance"

In the circles where I grew up, there were a number of well-worn jokes about Pensacola Christian College, where boys and girls walked on separate, color-coded, sidewalks and people were called into the Dean's office for having "sex with their eyes." From what I've just read in The Chronicle of Higher Education, these stories are more or less true:

Of Pensacola's many rules, those dealing with male-female relationships are the most talked about. There are restrictions on when and where men and women may speak to each other. Some elevators and stairwells may be used only by women; others may be used only by men. Socializing on particular benches is forbidden. If a man and a woman are walking to class, they may chat; if they stop en route, though, they may be in trouble. Generally men and women caught interacting in any "unchaperoned area" — which is most of the campus — could be subject to severe penalties.

Those rules extend beyond the campus. A man and a woman cannot go to an off-campus restaurant together without a chaperon (usually a faculty member). Even running into members of the opposite sex off campus can lead to punishment. One student told of how a group of men and a group of women from the college happened to meet at a McDonald's last spring. Both groups were returning from the beach (they had gone to separate beaches; men and women are not allowed to be at the beach together). The administration found out, and all 15 students were expelled.

Even couples who are not talking or touching can be reprimanded. Sabrina Poirier, a student at Pensacola who withdrew in 1997, was disciplined for what is known on the campus as "optical intercourse" — staring too intently into the eyes of a member of the opposite sex. This is also referred to as "making eye babies." While the rule does not appear in written form, most students interviewed for this article were familiar with the concept.

As she tells it, Ms. Poirier was not gazing lovingly at her boyfriend; he had something in his eye. But officials didn't buy her explanation, and she and her boyfriend were both "socialed," she says. 

The whole article is super intense. Read it.

Lastly, check out this superfun, one-of-a-kind, web performance (link will open in a new window, since it works better that way):


May 19, 2006

Friday Videos

Filed under: humor, video — ted @ 11:27 am

First, watch this absurdly well-done mashup of The Ten Commandments as a teenage comedy.

10 Things I Hate About Commandments

Then, enjoy these funny-but-scary television spots the Competitive Enterprise Institute premiered yesterday. Keep in mind that these commercials are meant to combat “global warming alarmism and the call by some environmental groups and politicians to reduce fossil fuel and carbon dioxide emissions,” and are not intended to be humorous.

CO2: We Call it Life

May 18, 2006

all your base are belonging to charlie brown

Filed under: culture, web — ted @ 12:11 pm

2006 marks the five-year anniversary of "All your base are belong to us." The Internet is young, but crazy memes like this one have already inched their way into the (increasingly online) cultural consciousness. the lunabomber manifesto asks us to celebrate. I'd love to:

Found this on phillyist: a web-forum in which cartoonists dress the Peanuts characters up as Marvel superheroes. They're all lovely, but this one is my favorite:

Oh, and apparently the next version of Windows is going to be incredibly annoying.

May 17, 2006

Wes Anderson; Charlie Kaufman

Filed under: criticism, movies — ted @ 3:40 pm

Head over to Slate once again: Armond White, in praise of the latest Wes Anderson movie, has dared to ask “Why does it take Wes Anderson so long to make a movie?

He doesn’t answer the question, but speculates that it might have something to do with self-importance. Referring to the “American Eccentrics” (the group of directors in which he includes Anderson, Spike Jonze, David O. Russell, Alexander Payne, Paul Thomas Anderson, Sofia Coppola) White writes:

That Anderson came up with this fanciful new-millennium fabrication suggests that he, and the other Eccentrics, want to work more, and that they need a mythology to define their own filmmaking era. Anderson’s movie-within-a-commercial recalls the antic film parodies staged as prep-school pageants in Rushmore–a poignant act toward wish-fulfillment and self-realization. That’s the impulse the Eccentrics have in common: They want to be appreciated as whiz kids–the gifted children of the counterculture.

This is over-reaching, and way off base. Another theory White dismisses, citing the fact that “their recent films have had uneven moments–even clunky moments that have led to box-office disappointment,” is a “perfectionist mystique.” This is better; but closer, I think, is the hyper-awareness that all these directors share: when you’re a “whiz kid,” you have to fight against the desire to make a movie that spans everything, and instead refine your focus while still filling each moment with multiple layers. This takes time, and it’s certainly not something that most filmmakers, especially those working in the studio system, have to worry about.

More on great movies:

In Sunday’s LA Times, David L. Ulin had this to say:

Charlie Kaufman is a great American writer. Let’s not equivocate or qualify this in any way. Yes, he writes for the movies; yes, his medium is the 100-plus-page script. But in all the ways that matter–his mastery of structure, his voice and vision, his recognition of the power of the word to remake the world–he stands with the finest writers of his generation…

Ulin goes on like this for a while, showering Adaptation with rapturous praise–which becomes a bit much at times. But I agree with his main premise: that Kaufman is really, truly great.

And, what’s more dear to me, Ulin makes a fine point about Eternal Sunshine, which answers a criticism of this masterpiece which I’ve frequently encountered:

But in Kaufman’s work, the structure is the story, not only shaping it but informing it, giving it meaning. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” starts at the end and works backward not because it’s a neat device–although it is–but because it’s essential to the plot, which is about Joel’s slow reawakening to all that he soon learns he almost lost. How else could one tell this story? How else to depict the Gordian knot of love and loss? It’s an integrated sensibility, and without it, the movie’s metaphoric and emotional power would be lost.

At any rate, this is excellent reading.

Finally: apparently The Simpsons and Family Guy both mocked creationism last night, within an hour of each other–even making the same joke. It’s hilarious both times.

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.