Sunday, November 29, 2009

A new low for the History Channel?



I just watched a charming little 1979 war movie, starring Roger Moore, David Niven, Elliot Gould, Tell Savalas, Stefanie Powers, Sonny Bono and Richard Roundtree. Quite the cast. The movie is so-so action flick with Roger Moore doing a cod-German accent, Gould hamming it up, Powers playing a stripper, and everyone having fun.

The question is, what was it doing on the History Channel? It has the historical accuracy of a Grandpa Simpson rant. (Now my story begins in Nineteen-dickety-two. We had to say "dickety" because the Kaiser had stolen the wold "twenty." I chased that rascal to get it back, but gave up after dickety-six miles.)

Nazi super-rockets on a small Greek Island. Only Telly Savalas can save the day, with a little help from some greedy ragtag grifters (a professor, stand-up comedian, stripper, cook, magician, etc.) who end up sacrificing it all for patriotic duty.

Throw in a disco number with the closing credits (Keep Tomorrow For Me by Heatwave) and you have something that was a whole lot of silly fun, but so anti-historical it could have been a right-wing retelling of the Reagan years (the great communicator won the cold war you know).

The History Channel has some utter garbage on it--docos about ghost hunters, Nostrodamus predictions, UFOs, and how the moon landings were faked--but at least the usual lousy fare pretends to be about history. Showing a 1979 comedic war film is a new low. Although I must say, I did enjoy it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Had fun

Just went to a very fun 40th birthday party. Not mine, btw.
Thanks to all involved, and esp. the b'day boy.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stay away from the dangerous inquiry



The big news of the day, at least in my eyes, is the British inquiry into the Iraq war. In my morning news surf I came upon this gem of a paragraph from the Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/6645270/Iraq-inquiry-Britain-rejected-regime-change-as-illegal-in-2001.html).
The inquiry into the war, which cost 179 lives, opened yesterday with a promise from Sir John, a former Whitehall mandarin, to "get to the heart of what happened" and "not shy away" from criticising anyone who made mistakes.
So the first thing to realize is that you don't want to attend this inquiry in person, as you may be one of the 179 lives it takes/has taken. Or is it a new accounting formula, where the price of the inquiry is measured not in dollars, but in lives?

I often wonder how statements like that get past an editor. Even taking it at face value, I'm fairly sure more than 179 lives were 'taken' by the Iraq war. The restriction in the number is, of course, to British servicemen only, but if you are going to limit a number like that I think you are honour bound to include the limiting factor.

And why is this inquiry in the hands of a fruit (mandarin)? Well, that's a noble British tradition from way back.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not in the spirit of the Spirit



I chanced upon a copy of The Spirit DVD in a bargain bin, and we watched it last night. I needed a few glasses of spirits to make it through. The movie, based on the beloved Will Eisner character, was written and directed by Frank Miller.

It looked amazing. Very Sin City. Lots of blacks and whites, with the occasional red splash of tie or blood.

It was awful.

The cliches were thick on the ground. The acting was, well in a word the acting was over.

Miller trampled over the subtleties of Eisner's Spirit and turned it into a over-the-top Sin City meets Dark Knight load of shite . A very beautiful load of shite, but shite none-the-less.

Don't get me wrong ... I like Miller's comics. I have more than a few of them. Dark Knight is one the comics I try to force people to read as the over-the-top overblown angst really works for Batman. But for the Spirit? No.

I'm guessing it had the most beautiful storyboards in the history of movies. It was so beautiful to look at. Shame it had words as well as pictures.

The character of the Spirit was reduced to a zombie seeking revenge.

"Zombie Spirit want brains! Zombie Spirit want woman! Zombie spirit want Samuel L. Jackson's autograph!"

The lowlight of the movie (there were many contenders) is Samuel L. Jackson in a Nazi uniform, for no apparently good reason, in a high-contrast room complete with large backdrop portrait of Hitler. He even does a Nazi salute. Surely that was the point where even Mr. Jackson should have considered walking away. If that wasn't enough of a hint, then the kitten melting scene (yes, the bad guy chemically melts a kitty-cat for no good reason) should have really set the alarm bells off.

Everything about the production seemed confused. It appeared to be set in the 1930s or 40s--judging by the cars, the buildings, and the fashion--but there were cellphones and helicopter gunships. The parade of beautiful and odd woman in The Spirit's life, all complicating his romance with Dolan's daughter, was about as close to the spirit of the comics that the movie managed.

Otherwise it was graphic yet pointless violence between undying and unfeeling characters, overblown voice-overs that seemed to be lifted directly from Miller's Batman, and very, very pretty graphics that severed only to suggest what might have been.

"Zombie Spirit want direction. Direction and brains!"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lustful Luke Leers at Leia




While tidying up a pile of unshelved books (we are building more shelves to cope with the increasing mass of paperbacks -- no Kindles for us) I chanced upon my copy of Splinter of the Mind's Eye by Alan Dean Foster.

The book is a Star Wars novelization set between the first and second movies (the original movies that is). I remember avidly reading it before Empire came out, and then I never gave it another thought.

Most online reviews of the book praise it, and try to overlook the incestuous lust that Luke displays towards Leia throughout the book. Apparently the book was written as a possible sequel movie plot if the first Star Wars movie flopped. A low-budget follow-up film was to be made, with fewer actors (only Luke, Leia, the Droids and Darth Vader return) and reused props. A space battle scene was cut from the novel, to save money if the movie adaptation went ahead.

The novel has some unintentionally funny lines and some horribly over-written clunkers.

Leia: her confidence was seeping away like snow on a stove.

See Threepio: But what if Master Luke is correct and there is no station below, We could find ourselves marooned forever on this empty world, without companionship, without the knowledge tapes, without ... without lubricants!

Luke looking at Leia: Moistly parted in sleep, her lips seemed to beckon him. He leaned closer, seeking refuge from the damp green and brown of the swamp in that hypnotic redness.
But it's the undisguised lust that Luke has toward Leia that throws you. He's just a horny lil' teenager hoping to get some Princess booty.

There's also a sort of Jar-Jar Binks precursor race in the novel. The natives to the planet Luke and Leia find themselves marooned on are human-sized, skinny and green-furred, talk in mewing, begging, high-pitched voices, and have similar phrases to the most hated of prequel characters;
'Vease, sir,' it begged, 'smav drink?'
Overall, it's a serviceable plot, and would have made a decent movie if the franchise had tanked. There's a graphic novel adaptation out there as well with pretty pictures.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Two Old Adverts



Two old adverts. One will make you want to go vegetarian. But the other will reveal the horrible dark side of vegetables ...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

She'll be right, Trev



As Fred Dagg once sang;

If it weren't for your gumboots, where would ya be?
You'd be in the hospital or infirmary
'coz you would have a dose of the 'flu, or even pleurisy
If ya didn't have yer feet in yer gumboots.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7X2b2x7Fw4o

My wife needs some gumboots. They might have staved off the ambulance ride to the hospital last night.

Pleurisy sounds like such an 'old' disease. I don't mean a disease of the elderly, rather a disease of the past. Something Dickensian.

"Don't mind Ol' Joe, Mister. He's got a dose of the pleurisy, he does. It's left him all breathless and short of temper. An' the two don't mix well, if you gets my meaning."

My wife is in good historical company with her disease. Charlemagne, Catherine de Medici and Ghandi all suffered from it. Pleurisy killed William Wordsworth ... so it's not all bad.

She has been prescribed rest. So now the hard part begins ... enforcing rest.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Temporarily Shelved



Our DVD collection is slowing sprawling across the living room floor as it expands ... feeding upon the dust bunnies and detritus it finds and producing more DVDs.

So we are going to build some shelves.

Instead of writing anything today I spent my free time whipping up a preliminary design using CorelDraw.

The large void in the design is where the TV sits.

The drawers are small, but perfect for Wii remotes.

The plan for the little spaces on the ends is to put various Playmobil in actions poses (dragons vs. pirates, etc.) as artistic bric-a-brac.

This should also encourage you all to give us more DVDs, since we'll have space for them. ;)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Run !!



There's a saying I've heard a number of times in various movies and TV shows.

"It's got a taste for human flesh."

This is usually followed by warnings about how the creature/beast/boy raised by wolves/whatever will never stop now that's it has this taste for the sweet succulence of human meat.

I have a problem with this. They say human meat tastes like chicken and I've seen chickens being feed to animals on TV and even at zoos.

If human flesh really does taste like chicken then what the hell are they doing giving these animals a taste for it?

The problem is that the moment these creatures get a bite of a human they stop seeing us as wonderful suppliers of chicken and start looking at us walking plucked chickens ready to eat.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Comedic Inductance



Yesterday I discovered the the unit of Inductance is the Henry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inductance

That got me to thinking. People often induce feelings in others in varying degrees. For example, certain comedians are seen as hilarious in anything they do by some, while others struggle to find anything funny in their antics.

There doesn't seem to be an official measure of comedic inductance, so I'm going to suggest one. In honour of Will Ferrel I want to name it the Willy.

A Willy is defined as the average amount of laughter a comedian act, movie, or TV show induces in you. For Will Ferrel, for instance, an individual who thinks that Talladega Nights was hilarious, or that Blades of Glory was the funniest ice skating movie ever would have a large Willy.

I, however, have a small Willy. A very small Willy indeed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Parallax



I was making up a bottle of formula for the wee one when my mind turned to the notion of parallax. You have to get the amount of water in the bottle near exact, so you turn your head this way and that to make sure the level is right, and not out by 10 millilitres or so because of parallax.

This, of course, got me thinking about the media.

The reality of the world as reported for us is skewed by the parallax introduced by the media. We just don't see things from a level angle any more. If you believe Fox News, and sincerely I hope you do not, then they are the only media source giving you a right wing parallax on events (although also a completely fair and balanced one as well, as they keep repeating to you over and over. We're fair and balanced, the only fair and balanced news, over and over, like a drug addict trying to convince you they are clean ... I swear man, I've given up the shit for good, I just need a few hundred bucks to start turning things around man, honest man, I'm clean. Really, I am. I'm clean.)

Other media, according to Fox, are left-wing biased. I'd like to believe this. I really would. But the Fox idea of left-wing media means one that occasionally lets anyone with a slightly left-wing agenda speak on a program without being pilloried before and after.

The Left is dead. At least in the mainstream. So, unfortunately, everyone that gets their news from the mainstream media has a parallax problem.

It was then I realized I'd forgotten how many scoops of formula powder I'd put into my carefully measured 250mls of lukewarm water.

Damn!

Was I up to two or three of the five scoops?

Staring at the slowly dissolving sticky mess I came to the only fair and balanced conclusion I could reach.

I threw it all out and started again.

Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallax

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Okay, so the photo is just weird ...




My wife and I finally got around to watching the third Star Wars prequel the other day. We didn't expect much, and the movie delivered. Like many a crusty ol' bugger I found the prequels to be rather awful compared to the originals.

Many things bugged me about the prequels. The over-reliance on special effects. The bad attempts at humour. The overt racism. The bad storytelling. The wooden acting. The way Lucas decided the way to make each bad guy seem more evil than the last was to have him use more lightsabers (If there are any more Star Wars movies I predict the next 'Darth' will be an Octopus-alien wielding at least six of them.) The attempts to turn a monarchy into a democracy by having princesses elected (A democracy, mind you, that elects teenage girls to the top job ... Miley Cryus for President anyone?) And, of course, the sudden need for midichlorians to explain how the Force works in a pseudo-scientific rather than pseudo-mystical way (to stop those boycott calls from the Bible belt).

However, I was prepared to let these things all wash over me ... until I had a terrible thought ...

... the prequels mean the original movies make absolutely no sense at all.

Let me clarify. At the end of the prequels the Emperor takes over. He deactivates the vast droid armies with an order. Why? Well, because we don't see them in the next movies is why. There's no logical reason to suddenly get rid of a large army of loyal killing machines. "I just feel like it, and I'm the Emperor. So there."

The children of Darth Vader get split up, for their safety. One of them gets to keep his father's last name and go live with relatives of his father. Just as well Darth never bothers to look up the phonebook. "I have you now, young Skywalker, and all I had to do was let my fingers do the walking."

Obi Wan changes his name to Ben, but keeps his last name. A surname that he doesn't keep secret. Either Kenobi is a common as Smith, or once again the White Pages are all you need to track him down. "Your mastery of the Force is no match for my ability to look things up alphabetically."

Obi Wan is to spend his time training with his old dead master, and keep Luke safe. Of course, he doesn't actually bother to teach Luke anything, and it seems the only trick Qui-Gon teaches Ben is how to come back from the dead. Suddenly the Jedi faith has become akin to a suicide cult. "Luke! Luke! You must drink the spiked Kool-aid, Luke, so you can join us."

When Ben finally does instruct Luke, from beyond the veil, to go get some training, Yoda rightly points out that Luke is too old. The prequels reveal that Luke's father was also too old to start training when he was merely a ten year old. Did no-one think to start the training of the last remaining hope for the Jedi before it was too late? Was life in the swamp and desert, respectively, so exciting for Yoda and Ben that they just lost track of time? "Hmmm, forgot your birthdays, I did. Owe you many presents, I do."

Of course, this brings us to the other major problem ... Leia. There are two 'last hopes' for the universe, the twin offspring of Darth Vader. Yet they just ignore Leia. Why? Because she's a girl? There seem to be plenty of female Jedi in the prequels. Is it just that Ben, Qui-Gon, Yoda, and later Anakin, don't want a girl to join them in their shimmery other world beyond the grave. "Clean up heaven, she would make us. Naked Thursdays embarrassing would be. So no girls in Jedi heaven allowed."

That's my biggest problem with the prequels. They imply that the Ben and Yoda of the original films are idiots who suddenly remember they were meant to be doing something important one day ...

"Oh yeah, we were meant to be saving the universe. Sorry everyone, but I was busy cleaning sand out of my underwear for the last sixteen years and plum forgot."

"Foolish, I feel. In fetid swamp lost track of time, I did. Reading books on grammar, was I. Comprehend them, I did not."