31 January 2004

One more football matter: Barry Sanders will most likely be voted into the Hall of Fame this week. His career has long been surrounded by that horribly tantalizing question, "what if?" During his playing years, the question referred to Sanders being stuck on the mediocre Detroit Lions. What if he had had an offensive line like the Dallas Cowboys' front five? What if he had played for a coach like Mike Shanahan, who seems to be able to turn any third-rate back into a 1,500 yard rusher? What if he had had a quarterback who was close to pro bowl caliber?

Once he retired, the question became: what if he kept on playing for two, three, four years, kept playing past his peak, as Emmitt Smith has done? How many yards was he capable of?

Now, as the permanency of his retirement has finally sunk in, we should stop asking such questions and look instead at what he actually did -- rush for the third-most yards in history, post 10 straight 1000 yard seasons (he only played for 10 seasons), and have a stellar career average of 5.0 yards per carry -- second only to the other great running back who left in his prime, Jim Brown.
Here's my requisite football posting for Super Bowl weekend.

It would be fitting for this game to come down to the kickers, since both teams have some of the best clutch kickers in the football today. Plus, this would fit well with the whole "nobody in this game has enough star power to be marketed" problem that promoters are whining about.

I am rooting for Carolina for the sole reason that Tom Brady went to the State of the Union address. Partisan politics aside, you have a football game to prepare for! What the heck are you doing taking trips to Washington??

My only other partisan rant is that CBS is not airing moveon.org's ad, saying it was "too controversial." I'm not exactly sure what they find controversial -- surely it can't be the fact that it's a political ad, seeing that the White House has bought a spot. If the message is what's controversial (the message mainly being that Bush has passed along humongous debts and obligations to our children), how is that more controversial than the infamous anti-drug ads that said buying drugs supports terror?? You can sign a petition at the link above.
The NY Times is publicizing giant bullfrogs! Noah, weren't you the one who first alerted us to these fascinating animals?

29 January 2004

Tilly says,


As she was walking out the door this morning, Flora turned to me and said, "By the way, will you please stop feeding my cat methamphetamines?"

27 January 2004

You failed to mention the other big news... Johnny Depp actually got a nomination for acting in Pirates of the Carribean!!

The Whale Rider girl being nominated was also a pleasant surprise. She carried that film.
The big news with this year's Oscar nominations is obviously the resurgence of the incredible City of God, the exhilarating Brazilian crime epic that came out so long ago that it actually topped my list of the best movies of 2002 (edged out only slightly by 25th Hour). Probably as penance for failing to nominate City of God for last year's Best Foreign Language Film award, the Academy has honored it with nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, and Best Cinematography. This is great news, especially if it leads to a national release for this picture, which really is one of the most amazing movies ever made.

25 January 2004

Here's a not dead link for the yeti/penguin baseball link. My record is now up to 322.9
A longtime supporter of this blog has told me that she "almost got stoned" on her recent vacation. I was a bit puzzled by this unprompted disclosure until I remembered that she had, in fact, spent the week in Israel, where "getting stoned" still has a charming literal meaning.
Today's Movie Answer Man column contains an interesting opinion about what Bill Murray whispers to Scarlett Johanssen at the end of Lost in Translation. I'd have to watch the movie again to test the theory, but on the surface, it sounds plausible. (Although obviously it's better to keep that final exchange "between lovers," as Sophia Coppola puts it.)

Another trivia question: what does Leelee Sobieski whisper to Tom Cruise at the end of the costume shop scene in Eyes Wide Shut?
Yesterday I actually went to see Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, a romantic comedy so predictable that, according to Tamara, even Steve found it somewhat insipid. I saw this with a good friend of mine who, on a weekend when The Triplets of Belleville, Monster, Cold Mountain, In America, and other worthy movies I haven't seen are playing in Manhattan, forced me to choose between Tad Hamilton and The Butterfly Effect. (When I related this Hobson's choice to another friend at work, her only response was, "Alec, this girl had better be beautiful!" I assured her that this was, indeed, the case.)

Anyway, I chose Tad Hamilton, if only because reviews have been universally horrible for The Butterfly Effect, which looks like a dumber version of that wonderful Simpsons episode where Homer accidentally goes back in time and squishes a mosquito, leading to all sorts of unexpected consequences in the present. (My favorite: "Don't you remember, Dad? Flanders is the unquestioned lord and master of the world!" "D'oh!") Having chosen Tad Hamilton, I arrived at the theater a few minutes late, forcing me to actually buy a single ticket to this movie and go inside, in hopes that my friend was already in the theater waiting for me. (She was.) As I explained to her afterwards, this may have been the greatest leap of faith I've ever made for anyone.

In any case, Tad Hamilton reminded me of what I've been missing by only going to see movies that I expect to like: a roomful of audience members desperate to have a good time, clinging to any shred of entertainment, any bleak moment of humor, that the movie manages to provide. (I haven't felt such desperation in an audience since I saw The Hulk.) But Topher Grace is just great, as always. He could play me. And the really sad thing is that if I were to cast him as myself in the movie of my life right now, it would still be a more interesting role than the stuff he's apparently being offered these days.
Come to think of it, the best analogous example would probably be a die-hard Star Wars fan who has never forgiven George Lucas for the Special Edition director's cut. ("Greedo fires first?")
My only complaint about the DVD of Chungking Express is that it uses the American cut of the film rather than the Hong Kong cut that I originally came to love, which means that some of the music is different, a few scenes are cut, and one major scene (where Brigitte Lin kidnaps the Indian girl and buys her an ice cream) is new. Not a huge deal, but when you've convinced yourself that a movie is perfect in the form you've already come to know, any definitive change is bound to be somewhat annoying. (Are there die-hard fans of the original cut of, say, Blade Runner who feel the same way about Ridley Scott's endless fiddling?)

Granted, these cuts and changes were surely made by Wong Kar-Wai himself, who probably likes the American version better. And the subtitles in the DVD release, especially of the very last line in the movie, are far superior to the Hong Kong version. The changes that I really miss are so minor that anyone who hasn't seen the movie at least ten times wouldn't even notice them. (I do, however, regret their decision not to play The Cranberries' "Dreams" where it first appears in the Hong Kong version, in the slo-mo shot where Tony Leung is drinking his coffee and Faye Wong is looking at him silently while slumped on the lunch counter.)

If I were forced to choose one version for someone to watch once, I'd probably go with the DVD, I guess, rather than with the lousy two-video pirated Hong Kong copy that I bought at Amoeba Records in Berkeley all those years ago. Ideally, of course, I'd have them watch the DVD version first, and then the Hong Kong version, because the version of Chungking Express that I carry around in my head now is some sort of idealized amalgam of the two. But that's just obsessive behavior, I guess. Still, it's my favorite movie, and I figure I'm allowed an obsessive moment or two. (Not to mention an excessively long post discussing the matter in great detail, of course.)
We watched Chungking Express today at a friend's house. Alec, I was trying to remember what you don't like so much about the dvd/Tarentino release, and couldn't.

I'd realized I'd forgotten almost all of the first half, except the very beginning and very end. The second half though seemed very familiar.

"Understanding someone doesn't mean you'll keep her. Some people like pineapples one day and the next day something else."

24 January 2004

Today's New York Times, in an article about John Kerry's rivals using his voting record against him, contains the following quote:
Speaking with reporters in New Hampshire on Saturday, Dr. Dean used Senator Kerry's record to make a point about his own foreign policy experience.

"His voting record on Iraq is exactly the opposite of mine," Dr. Dean said, pointing to Mr. Kerry's votes against the Gulf War in 1991 and for the resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq last fall. "I think mine has been proven to be right twice."
Maybe I'm missing something here, but when the heck did Howard Dean ever cast a vote on Iraq?
There's an article in the New York Times today about "doulas," volunteers who visit terminal hospital patients who otherwise would be left to die alone. It's a good, touching idea, even if "doula," glossed by the group's founder as "a Greek word for women who assisted mothers with childbirth," literally means "female slave."
I had a nightmare last night where I dreamed that I bought a bunch of DVDs, only to discover, to my unspeakable horror, that they were all "Full Screen" and not "Widescreen" editions. I need to get an internal life...

23 January 2004

If you've ever wanted to hear remixes of dozens of songs featuring Dean's weird scream, now is your chance.

22 January 2004

I spent all weekend working on the MIT mystery hunt. Despite it being a lot of fun, our team was minutes away from winning (minutes out of 3 days), and I've pretty much decided I'm going to MIT for next year's because I want to be there when we finally win.
Speaking of movies, I recently saw The Triplets of Belleville, which has about the best one sentence description ever: "a french, animated, silent film." It's quite fun, nat in particular really should see it, it's amazingly funny.
Oooh, today I found a new online video game for your endless amusement. How far can a yeti hit a penguin?

Of course the game is completely unrealistic, because we all know that Yeti only live in the himalayas while penguins live only in the southern hemisphere!

My record is 318 feet. (Update: now it is 319.8)
Yay! I like getting drunk dialed by two friends at 11:40, that's something good to have happen to fill the below mentioned hole.

Speaking of said drunk dialing friends, today I realized for the first time in my life I just have too many fun socializing opportunities and once and a while I have to turn one down, not because I have a scheduled conflict, but just because once and a while I need to be at home and read and go to sleep. It's a nice feeling to realize that I've managed to fill my appetite for friends for the first time since I can remember.

You'll remember in college I had a rule that I'd never miss an opportunity to hang out with people, and that I was the only person who would both want to have that rule and be able to keep it. I am very glad to say that the latter is no longer true.
Will I ever find a way to fill the hole the moment after a book is finished? When there's no next page to turn and no more words to read... All that's left is that last sentence, and no note to write it on, no door to slide it under, and no one who'd read what I wrote.
Shortly before the Iowa caucus, I'd personally decided that John Kerry was arguably the most plausible Democratic presidential candidate in most respects, and that I felt pretty good about supporting him. But really, can I vote for a guy whose favorite movie from last year was Old School?
Seabiscuit, the undersized racehorse whose Depression-era victories lifted the nation's spirits, caught the imagination of those running in another sort of horse race.

An AP survey of the Democratic presidential hopefuls' favorite movies of the past year found "Seabiscuit" getting top honors from both Rep. Dennis Kucinich and ex-candidate Rep. Dick Gephardt, who quit the race this week.

Clark opted for fantasy, singling out the epic good-vs.-evil trilogy "The Lord of the Rings." Sen. John Kerry went with "Old School," a comedy about three disenchanted men trying to recapture their college days.

Al Sharpton liked "Antwone Fisher," a drama based on the true story of a troubled sailor who finds new hope after psychiatric treatment helps uncover a painful past. Sen. Joe Lieberman also went for a drama, "Mystic River," a brooding story of murder and revenge.

Two other candidates will have to wait to cast their votes. Howard Dean and Sen. John Edwards say they've been so busy campaigning they haven't seen a movie in the past year.
I feel bad for those last two guys, especially Dean, who really should see The Return of the King if he wants to understand what Jon Stewart meant when he said, "With this guy, you never know if you're going to get 'Smeagol Dean' or 'Gollum Dean.'"
Tomorrow I'm supposed to interview a candidate by phone, and I may have to ask him a Fermi problem or guesstimate, on the order of "How many truck drivers are there in the United States?" or "How much gold is mined in one year?" Any favorites or recommendations?

21 January 2004

The wonderful, funny, moving, riveting documentary Spellbound, my favorite movie from last year, has finally been released on DVD. The high point of the release is a "Where Are They Now?" bonus section. Among the highlights: Harry, the hyperactive kid who stalled on the word banns, is now a junior at the Bergen County Academy for Engineering, where he "has excelled at math and quiz bowl competitions." Neil, who almost lost it on darjeeling, is at UC Berkeley. The wonderful Angela is studying pre-med and Spanish at Texas A&M. The ever-optimistic Ashley has an apartment in Washington D.C., and plans to attend Howard University. And Nupur, who did so well on logorrhea? Based on the accompanying photo, Nupur is...well, she's suddenly sort of hot. I can say this, right?

20 January 2004

We got an e-mail from the UC Chancellor today describing the Governator's budget proposal which includes $372 million in cuts for the UC system and a 40% increase in graduate student fees. The State of the Union on top of this made for a really depressing evening.
Thanks to Erin for this link to Book Crossing, a beautifully conceived site with a beguiling premise: you take a favorite (or just an old) book, register it on the site, then lend it out, mail it to a friend, or simply leave it in a park or coffee shop with the expectation that someone will find it, read it, and post about their discovery in reply. It's a wonderful idea, and even if many of the books and their entries don't quite live up to the site's promise (most books haven't gotten very far, and most of the ones that have don't seem especially interesting), it's still an interesting site to browse and dream about. And a few of its ideas are lovely. For example: a collective diary currently migrating from hand to hand across Europe.

Many years ago, I used to know a girl who would have loved this site. Her name was Esperanza...
Excellent! Jean Renoir's Rules of the Game is finally being released on DVD. (It's often ranked second after Kane among the great movies of all time, if you care about such things. I'm more a fan of Grand Illusion myself, but by any measure, this DVD release is long overdue.)
This piece from the New York Observer is easily the most extensive article that has been written about my firm in a long time. The headline: Well-Groomed Nerds Brandish Protractors in F.A.O.'s Sale.

So a few months ago, the television networks were complaining about a mysterious drop in 18- to 34-year-old male television viewers, a key demographic in selling TV commercial time to advertisers. About six percent of this demographic just disappeared from the viewing audience, leading some industry observers to speculate that the Internet was siphoning away their viewers, or that a flaw in the Nielsen rating system might be to blame. Where did all these young men go? Well, it turns out that the explanation was right in front of everyone's nose: almost six percent of young males have stopped watching television because they're, uh, fighting and dying in Iraq.
My favorite use of music in a trailer has to be from In the Mood For Love. (Although the title song doesn't appear in the movie itself, if I recall correctly.)

19 January 2004

Perhaps this is somehow my fault for raving so much about the use of Under Pressure in the trailer for adaptation... But after not glancing at apple's trailer site for just a week I notice that not one, but two of the new movies have under pressure playing in their trailers.
Here's a link to the Who is Wesley Clark? article on the G.O.P. site that shh mentions in her comment below. Particularly devastating is the following exchange from CNN's Crossfire:
BEGALA: "Do you support additional gun control laws?" 
CLARK: "Haven't looked at that issue, but ... people who like assault weapons they should join the United States Army, we have them."
Or, as the GOP site puts it, Clark "Mocks [the] Second Amendment."

18 January 2004

Noah, regarding your request for state-by-state poll numbers, I don't think there's anyone doing that this early on except for the bush people, because it's real expensive and so prone to change. The most recent CBS-NY Times poll, though, has some remarkable statistics -- namely, less than one in five Americans think their tax burden has been relieved under Bush, and the highest disapproval ratings of any sitting first-term president (at this point in his tenure) in the past 25 years. These things change, however, and we'll see what people think after the state of the union address.

Another electoral possibility to think about: Bob Graham is the Democratic VP selection. This former two-term Governor and senior senator is enormously popular throughout the state, much more popular than the Bushes. Despite the troubles of the Florida state democratic party, let's not forget how many Floridians voted for Gore four years ago. I think Graham would have to make the Democrat the favorite in Florida.
Ach, I'll never again be able to say I've never been in a car accident. I (and the occupants of the other two cars, which came careening into me when I was stopped at a red light) turned out pretty much ok, but the beloved Chevy Nova has been totaled. One of the strangest parts of the whole ordeal was the moment, seconds after the accident, that all the cars had stopped moving and I realized I was ok, and then hearing the horns in the other two cars blaring. I didn't realize that horns start blaring when airbags go off, and I thought it probably meant someone was slumped across a steering column. Then, it hit -- Almea and I had to get out of our car and call 911 and go see if the other people were ok, and if they weren't ok, we were going to be the first ones to find them. I still feel sick thinking about it. Luckily, there was nothing to scar me for life, and all I have from the accident is a neat blanket that the paramedics gave us to stay warm.
I'm not sure whether My Architect, which I saw with Bessie the other night at Lincoln Center, is the last great documentary of 2003 or the first great documentary of 2004. Either way, it's a subtle, amazing movie. It's about architect Louis I. Kahn, who died of a heart attack in the men's room at Penn Station when his (illegitimate) son was only eleven, leaving behind three different families and one enormous unfinished project, the capital complex of Bangladesh. More than twenty years later, the son, documentary filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn, embarks on a journey to see his father's buildings and to interview his colleagues, lovers, children, admirers, enemies, and the occasional stranger (like the man who discovered his father's body in that railway bathroom).

My Architect lacks the immediate punch of a movie like Capturing the Friedmans, but it's even more intricate and complicated, and it lingers in your memory for days. Hyperbole aside, it really does deserve comparison to Citizen Kane as an attempt to reconstruct a man's life through the memories of his surviving friends and contemporaries. It may even surpass Kane as a meditation on youth and old age. Movies can do many miraculous things, but it's their ability to juxtapose the image of a young man and, suddenly, the same man thirty years later that I find most moving and astonishing. My Architect is full of moments like that, as well as moments of surprising clarity on such diverse subjects as love, loneliness, architecture, family, and Jewishness. It's a monument, but delicate and evanescent, and one of several great recent movies about sons and their fathers.

14 January 2004

Spalding Gray is missing.

13 January 2004

I think it's about time for UCB classes to start again, don't you?
Here's my nominee, as quoted on the home page of the New York Times, for the most ominious sub-headline of all time: "A strange mood of nostalgia seems to be taking hold in Germany lately."

12 January 2004

It's also frustrating to realize that 4 years ago I live in PA, a state where presidential votes actually matter, and now that I care about the results I live in CA, a state where voting in presidential elections doesn't matter at all cause the state won't be close.
This atlas of US election results is great fun. Beyond doing things like looking at the picture of blue counties and red counties it also has an electoral college calculator which includes the changes in electoral votes from last decade till now.

Incidentally, the first calculation I made was Dems hold all the Gore states plus NH (they like Dean, he's a new englander) and Nevada (I hear they hate Bush, some nuclear dumping issue) now results in a dead electoral tie. The odds of this split are really quite nontrivial...

Oddly enough in the past 4 years though I've gone from chearing for weird entertaining things like electoral ties to actually really caring about the outcome of the election. I wonder if this is a result of any change in my actual positions or just the result of our having such a terrible president. I think in 2000 I really didn't have any clue that Bush was going to be anything like what he is.

Speaking of maps and elections, does anyone know of anyone who does state by state presidential polling? I'd love to see a state by state breakdown currently of who would vote Bush and who would vote Dean... The roughly 15% gap currently in polls, which states is that coming from? Does Dean already hold CA, NY, new england, etc.? Is he way behind in PA or not? FL? MI? etc. All these national polls are useless, cause we don't have a national election. And even though historically the national vote is closely corrolated with the winner (2000 aside), the nation is so polarized right now that I wouldn't expect the national numbers to reflect the electoral breakdown at all.

So anyone know where one can find the numbers that actually matter?
Apparently my brother Jesse's spanish class this semester (his last semester in school where he's a spanish major) is title "Jorge Luis Borges." Good way to go out I'd say.
Currently in the little cemetary in Noah's mind collecting all the dead parts of my life, the tombstone for US (laura and i, the couple not the individuals) reads "they were the product of crafts that have, unfortunately, gone out of style, like long dresses, love letters, and the waltz." (A quote from Like Water for Chocolate, a book Laura was reading when we stopped speaking and the full content of an email she sent me immediately afterwards, no apology, no hope we talk again, just that quote.)

Anyway, I bring this up because today I suddenly realized what in the fictionalized version of my life I would want it to read some day 20 years from now (given fictional events which will never happen): "[I] came here twice, once was too early, once was too late."
I'm reading Love in the Time of Cholera (just to prove my self-control I'll refrain from repeating the Hi-Fi quote for the 3 millionth time), and thus far it's quite good.

But I do have one question that both this book and today's movie made me wonder: "When did stalking stop being incredibly romantic and become, well... stalking?"
Anyone know if we can put pictures on this site somehow? Saturday, in what seems to be becoming a tradition for the last night of Lisa's visits, I stayed up way too late drinking way too much with an increasingly inebriated and affectionate Dave and Lisa, while we took pictures of Tilly playing with various alcohol related things (swatting the bottles of liquor, poking her head into the wine glasses, etc.) It'd be fun to put some pictures of that up.
The hello kitty has no mouth somehow made me think of today's Something Positive cartoon.
Speaking of the south, isn't the town in Big Fish the most happily integrated southern town ever? It's a little weird.
I was struck today at the similarities between Big Fish and Forrest Gump. Both are fantasies about a small town southerner whose main character trait is execesive determination. Both have a vietnam interlude. Both have a girl named Jenny. Both end with a funeral and a new child.

Why are both of them set in the south? One feels there's some deep reason for this...
I saw Big Fish again today. I'm really glad I saw it for a second time, because even though I really liked it the first time, somehow this time was different...

At some point at home over christmas while we were reading newspaper top ten of the year lists (yes Alec, I got yours to read too) I said I was only comfortable making a top 1 list, because I didn't have a number 2 that I was happy with. I was fine with Return of the King being my third favorite, and there were several comfortable 4-7thish picks, but nothing I was happy with being number 2. (Jesse was confused "doesn't that mean RotK is your second favorite movie of the year?") Anyway after seeing this a second time I think I'm happy with the following top 5 (keeping in mind there are a lot of films I didn't see):

1. Lost in Translation
2. Big Fish
3. Return of the King
4. Pirates of the Caribbean
5. Finding Nemo

Incidentally, 1-4 are the only movies I saw twice this year. Coincidence? Not only do I tend to see a second time only movies that I like, I also think I tend to like movies more on a second viewing. In fact, sappy admission to make, I've cried at a movie twice, a total of about two tears combined, just the smallest little wet spot, it just isn't something I do much. But both of them were on second viewings. The second time through Dead Poet's Society (yes, the cheasy part at the end), and today the second time of Big Fish when you see the mother standing in the river.

11 January 2004

Today as Lisa and I were coming back from Dim Sum in Oakland's Chinatown, we found a printout of this web page stapled to a wall. Next to the poster were scrawled the two graffiti:
"Hello Kitty Hates Jesus,"
"Hello Kitty Sucks Cock."
However, as Lisa pointed out, "Hello Kitty can't suck cock, Hello Kitty has no mouth!"

(Also, if anyone can explain why Hello Kitty is on a page of biblical quotations, please let me know.)
I'm now the proud owner of a shiny new copy of the January/Feburary edition of Analog, courtesy of The Other Change of Hobbit in Berkeley. Though I haven't yet perused it at length, it does look promising. But why did you have to go and get yourself published in a double issue that costs two dollars more than usual?
I was amused to stumble across the official site of Umm, billed as "Canada's only lifestyle and fashion magazine for men." It's sort of like Maxim, but with more hockey.
There's a story by Jorge Luis Borges in which the narrator (Borges himself, naturally) meets a young stranger while sitting on a bench by the Charles River. After speaking with the stranger for a few minutes, Borges realizes that the stranger is, in fact, himself as a young man. Young Borges is equally astonished to meet himself near the end of his own life.

I sometimes feel the same way when I think about David Denby. The 60-year-old film critic for the New Yorker sometimes seems like a glimpse of myself in forty years. His career is eerily similar to the one I sometimes dream about, and it's certainly plausible: respected film critic, author of an appreciative book on the Western Canon (which is the sort of book I wanted to write when I was eighteen), and now author of American Sucker, a memoir about his misadventures in the stock market.

I haven't bought or read American Sucker yet, but based on the articles about it, it's disheartening to think of this man as my future self: he lost $900,000 in the Internet boom, saw his marriage fall apart, and became fixated on Internet porn. Still, just as his Great Books made my imaginary book about the Western Canon more or less irrelevant, American Sucker may just do the same for my imaginary book about finance. Blast it! Denby's always one step ahead.

I do have a better title for my imaginary book, though, courtesy of '80's insider trader Dennis Levine, who used to refer to the bundles of cash he kept on hand as his "walking-around money." Tweaking this slightly, the name of my book was going to be Walking Around Money.

10 January 2004

Despite freezing temperatures in New York, my friend Angela and I manage to trudge down to Union Square to catch Robert Altman's The Company, a movie that I've been happily anticipating for some time. It comes agonizingly close to becoming one of those small movies I'll treasure forever, and indeed, the first ninety minutes is just about everything I'd hoped: often very funny, perfectly observed, always fascinating, and occasionally transcendent. Unfortunately, the closing ballet, an unbelievably goofy avant-garde production called The Blue Snake, flops so completely that it undermines everything that came before it. True balletomanes may appreciate it more than I did, but unlike the ballets in The Red Shoes, which deepened and enriched our understanding of the characters and their emotions, The Blue Snake feels like an episode of Eureka's Castle.

You might argue that an anticlimactic ending is the inevitable result of Altman's inobtrusive, "overheard" style, but Altman has made equally unconventional films ranging from The Long Goodbye to Gosford Park and especially Nashville and McCabe and Mrs. Miller that build to unforgettable climaxes....Despite the ending, however, I'd still argue that The Company is worth seeing. It's a movie full of small pleasures, and one big pleasure, at least for me: one of movie's many dance numbers is lovingly choreographed to David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti's "The World Spins," sung by Julee Cruise, a song that has meant a lot to me for over ten years. Seeing it unexpectedly in the theater last night was one of those late night moments when image and music, or maybe cinema and autobiography, unexpectedly converge, and mysteriously expand to sum up a lifetime.

06 January 2004

The one-page anthology comic strip is a format that I've admired for a long time. Carol Lay's long-running "Story Minute" is probably my favorite modern-day example, but Maria Schneider's "Pathetic Geek Stories," now moving to its own web page after an honorable run at the Onion, is even more addictive. Reading a whole archive of "PGS" in one sitting is a rather amazing experience, painful and fascinating. I've done well enough in life so that I can look back on my own teenage years with some measure of precious irony, but still....I recently told a friend that I'd happily relive any one of the years of my life, except the ones where I had to take gym classes. This pretty much wipes out most of middle school and high school, and suggests that I still have some unresolved issues on this point. Schneider helpfully brings it all back.

Her FAQ is also worth a read.
Tom Cruise as Iron Man?

05 January 2004

Great as the lines may be, I've always had a strong aversion to romantic comedies where the 'comedy' results from people making mistaken assumptions and not being corrected. I feel there's enough stupidity in the real world; why do we need fictional stupidity?

In other news, Tamara's here and it's a beautiful day, so as soon as Noah and Flora get back (Noah from Pennsylvania, Flora from Palo Alto) we can Romp and Frolic in the Great Outdoors as a Big Happy Family. Come home, Noah! Come home, Flora!

04 January 2004

Today Tina and I watched the recent movie of The Importance of Being Earnest. It was still just as good as Earnest always is, though the movie wasn't a particularly great adaptation all you need to do is have good actors and let them deliver Oscar Wilde's wonderful lines. In particular I'm a fan of Colin Firth's rendition of Jack.

One of the previews was Human Nature which I saw a while back, almost certainly with Alec (though I can't remember the circumstances). Anyway I realized that Miranda Otto (now of Eowyn fame) plays the ridiculous french maid. (Remember her splendid scene where they come to her house?)

It was also odd watching Earnest and being reminded of some really old running jokes between Laura and I that I'd pretty much forgotten about. I mean when she and I read this play that was... over 4.5 years ago.
My cell phone broke the other day; the two tiny clips that held the battery to the plastic case snapped off, rendering the phone useless without major use of rubber bands or duct tape. After pondering these alternatives, I gave in and bought myself one of those nifty Sprint camera phones, which I saw as an almost indefensible bourgeois indulgence until I looked around and noticed that everyone seems to have one of the damned things. Everyone in my current zip code, anyway.

Transferring phone numbers from an old cell phone to a new one makes for an interesting nostalgia trip. It takes a good thirty seconds to enter each new number, so you find yourself attempting a sort of melancholy triage: am I really going to call Robo Clarissa ever again? Sigh. All these girls whom I never expect to hear from or call again: Robo Clarissa...South Korea...Johann's sister...and a bunch of Advocate groupies....I ended up keeping most of them, mostly because I worry they'll just be lost otherwise. And who knows how desperate I'll be next month?

02 January 2004

Well, in the interest of full disclosure, I'll confess that I was fitfully bored throughout the Anglo-Afghan refugee movie In This World, which at least one critic called the best British movie of his lifetime. (I couldn't get past its reserved, documentary style. I guess I was hoping for melodrama.) I also spent most of the much-hyped Russian Ark daydreaming about anything except what was on the screen.

I also never saw Irreversible, which I'm guessing wouldn't have bored me, and which also might have ended up heading either my Best or my Worst List. It's on DVD now, so I guess we'll have to find out sometime.

It's funny how fine the line can be between the movies I love and the movies I hate (or at least the ones that disappoint me). Where do you draw the line between Kill Bill and Charlie's Angels? Between One From The Heart and Moulin Rouge? Between Gangs of New York and Heaven's Gate? The movies I can't stand, and the ones I forget, are the ones that leave me indifferent. I dislike Fight Club for all kinds of reasons, but at least I've never forgotten it.
And the worst movie of the year? As usual, I managed to exercise my characteristic good judgment in choosing movies to see, and despite such mediocrities as Daredevil and Bulletproof Monk, I somehow got through the year without rage or bad feelings toward any movie in particular. The Matrix sequels qualify as disappointments, I suppose. But I actually enjoyed a lot of what I saw in Gigli and remain indefensibly fond of The Core, and as for The Jungle Book 2, the mere thought of Shere Khan lecherously purring "A man cub?" is enough to make me inexplicably cheerful, even today.
Oh, and S., the coworker of mine whose cover you blew at my holiday party successfully proposed to his girlfriend last night. Needless to say, if I get invited to this wedding, you're coming along, too.
An online science fiction enthusiast has published a review of the January/February Analog, including my story. No critical opinions, just a plot summary, but given the cutting remarks he makes about a few other authors in the issue, I can only assume that he liked Inversus better than some.

01 January 2004

Thanks to my dad for pointing out that Francis Coppola's 1982 movie One From the Heart has just been revived in San Francisco at the Castro and Rafael Film Center. I'm not sure if this release ever made it to New York, or ever will, but I strongly encourage all of my Bay Area friends to see it: it's a romantic musical comedy, light and evanescent, almost frothy, but also one of the most visually stunning movies ever made, with a wonderful score by Tom Waits and Crystal Gale. I've always wanted to see it on the big screen, and even if I've missed my chance, who knows? It might just become the love of your life.