Monday, June 26, 2006

I Mean, I Love Saturn As Much As The Next Guy, But...

Hey, kids! It’s just four days past my half-birthday, which can only mean one thing: The holiday shopping season has begun! And I’m thinking I better get a list out there, quick, because there are certain things I just don’t have a need for.

Like, for example, I'm not saying that if you handed me a free spaceship, I wouldn't take it, but still, you might just want to get me a gift card to Best Buy or something, because....I'm not sure how many trips to infinite and beyond I’d end up taking. And not only because [insert joke about gas prices, here. HA, get it, because: Expensive!], but also because, I mean, there's sort of less to do up there than there is down here, isn't there? Like, you suit up, push through the fog towards your rocketship while Aerosmith plays in the background, take the two day trip during which the only fun to be had is running your "Ground control to major tom" and "Houston, we have a problem…" jokes into the ground (the latter of which might be a little less amusing, coming from an actual spaceship. Because, you know, they're still so bloody hilarious here on the ground...) and for what? To be surrounded by space. Like, actual, literal space, because…that’s mostly what they have up there, you know. I think it’s where they got the name. And to me, that all seems like a lot of trouble to go through, just to experience nothingness, firsthand.

Okay, so I guess there’s some fun to be had up there. I’d like to see the earth from far away, for example, if only to prove my theory that there’s a secret continent they’re not telling us about (I call it “Wherethey’rehidingalltheunicornsistan.” Also, I don’t believe in Antarctica) – plus, I always wondered what my house looks like from above. Also, I’ve been getting sort of tired of all this standing on the ground, lately, so zero-gravity sounds like it would be kind of awesome (while also providing an impossible environment to set up a game of Mousetrap, but…you take the good, you take the bad, I suppose). Oh, and: Aliens! (But then: Cylons!)

Still, I’m not sure any of that is worth traveling a killbillion miles from earth to a place where you’re a lot more likely to actually
run out of air or get your ship hijacked by The Big Giant Head or sucked into a black hole into another dimension, where you’ll get hunted down by an entire race of Otter-People, and eaten alive just moments after you realize that – wait! – it is we who are the monsters!

Or something. I don’t know. You know, if you can’t return the thing? I’ll take it. In other news: Shut up. Third Rock From The Sun was awesome.

Background Noise: “I Don’t Want to Live On the Moon” by, uh, Ernie? Remember this song, from Sesame Street? It’s great! And it always made kind of sad, even though it’s about not about anything particularly sad, I guess. The Muppets did that a lot – lots of crazy, and then suddenly: Random sad song. Gonzo and Ernie in particular. I quite liked that, actually.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Spellcheck Recognized "Superheroes" And Not "Supervillians." Take That, Evildoers!

The What I'm Whatevering List
because I know you care...

Last Movie I’ve Seen: Superman. Not Returns – the 1978 one. It must be tough, having to do these origin movies, because while the story is allegedly about how Superman became Superman, you know everyone is just waiting for the moment where the transformation actually happens – even the best superhero movies have a certain amount of, “That’s cool and all, but…how ‘bout those superheroics?” (Well, okay, maybe not the best because The Incredibles rocked the whole way through.) Everything before that moment is just build-up that most of your audience already knows.

But it’s possible pull off, and this one does it just fine. Okay, the opening sequence, before Krypton blows up, is actually less-than-fine (especially as the kick-off, guys!), but everything after that is fun to watch. Not perfect – the movie’s datedness aside (because you can’t really hold that against it), I still wish they got to grownup Superman earlier. The newspaper stuff (with the Clark/Superman balancing act) is my favorite part, and they don’t really get to get into it, all that much. Also, Lex Luthor is goofy to the point of hardly-evil, which is…strange. Speaking of which, it's sort of a common thing, with origin movies, that the Big Bad hardly comes into play until the final act, what with all the establishing that has to be done, first – if your movie is about how the superhero came to be, he’s not really allowed to have an official run-in with a supervillian until the (non-literal) last minute. And so that showdown feels a little…rushed, I guess. It was the same with the whole Scarecrow vs. Batman deal in (the awesome) Batman Begins – in the end, the movie’s just not really about that.

And (uh, spoiler alert?) I’m not really behind the whole reversing-the-rotation-of-the-earth time-travel thing. Yeah, it immediately leads to the “Well, now why doesn’t he just do that every time?” question, but some of that automatically comes with the “near unstoppable, all-powerful man” territory, so I’m willing to accept it. More than that, though, I just think it was an odd choice to have Superman in need of a do-over in his first movie, you know?

But anyway, it’s definitely a good movie, even if you do get the idea that it was an even better one, thirty years ago. Oh, and it’s kind of awesome that we’re at the point now where, in thirty years, our special effects will probably still be able to hold their own. Yeah, I’m excited.

What I'm Watching- TV on TV Edition: Sigh. The Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Oh, The Challenge – you’re the only MTV show that I watch season in, season out, and I’m still not sure why. The challenges are almost always stupid, and the contestants are more often than not unbearable, and I think they should ban Tonya from ever competing in one of these again, just for the sake of her own mental stability. All of which, actually, explains the why, I guess. I do like the Rookie/Veteran teams of two deal they’ve got going on, though. Boo, Coral! Go Derrick!

What I'm Watching- TV on DVD Edition: Buffy! I figured that I finally had enough time to tackle The Box, which probably means that I’ll be done with the whole series in about eight months – I just don’t marathon well. Anyway, I’ve never seen the series in order, and I’d been holding off on watching anything but the Halloween episodes (annual tradition, see) until I got the chance to do so, so this is the first Buffy I’ve watched in a very long time, and I’m having a real good time getting back into it. Still season one, right now, which is only, like, an idea of what the show would eventually become, and has it’s (very) laughable moments. Still, unlike some first season DVDs, you never get the idea that you’re just trudging through it so you can get to the good stuff (Giles rocks always), and besides, you have to give the writers credit for even trying stuff like giant bug teachers and hyena-Xander before they knew that anyone would even watch their little show - even if it doesn't completely work, every time. Oh, and I was always a big fan of the invisible girl episode - I didn't realize it occured this early in the series.

What I'm Playing: New Super Mario Bros. I think I’ve written extensively, in some other time and place, about why 2D Mario is better than most things, so I’ll spare you, here. Just: Get a DS! Get this, Mario’s first new old-school game in, like, more than ten years! You won’t be sorry!

Last Book I Read: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Mysteries, yay! This is one of those books whose title you hear all around, even if you never read the book in your life, and for some reason, I always assumed it was about a cat, or a cat statue. Which is stupid, because a falcon? Is a bird. And I knew that. But anyway, often, when I’m reading, I torture myself trying to make sure I have a clear picture of the characters in my head, and then I realize that they’ve been sort of faceless or foggy for a long time, and it drives me crazy (and I end up attaching their descriptions to either actors or people I know, like, does everyone do that?) But Hammett writes insanely detailed things using the least words possible, which makes for, like, a crystal-clear, HD image in your imagination, with minimal effort on your part. Go read this! It’s super-cool! And not too long, either, if that holds you back.

What I'm Coveting: My Neighbor’s Mac. Well, okay, my brother’s. I’d quite like one of those new Macbooks before I start school in the fall. Who’s got a spare?

Background Noise: The Beatles' "Help!" Because if I were in charge of a Superman TV show, this would be the theme song. Incidentally, if I were in charge of a Superman TV show, nerds of the world would have me drawn and quartered for screwing things up by the time the opening credits were through.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

GOOOOOAAAL! Wait, right? Okay, thought so.

Alright, three guesses as to what I’m doing while I write this, winner gets his or her choice of a hug or a handshake (no questions asked). Quilting with friends? Aw, sorry, caught me on the wrong day. Making sure that there’ll be a little less Ozone layer to go around, by the time my kid is president? Well, yeah, but it’s not my fault Dunkin’ Donuts uses Styrofoam cups, so try to keep yourself from the “post a comment” button, Al Gore. Wait, what’s that you say? Watching the soccer match? Well, then, pick up your jaw and step up for your hug, because, yep: I’ve got me a case of World Cup fever!

Okay, so maybe it’s less “World Cup fever” as it is, say, a World Cup cough, but that still ranks higher than your average “World Cup allergic reaction to pollen” or “World Cup post-nasal drip” (although, on my Big List of Everything Ever, anything that involves the word “nasal” ranks bottom, so…) And, while it’s true that I’ve latched onto what is probably my country’s third most ridiculed sport (right after hockey and the Double Dare obstacle course), the point is, it’s an achievement on any level that I’m actually sitting down to watch a sport that’s not organized into single and double Jeopardies.

And not only that – I’ve been paying attention! I Tivo games! (Who knew that instant-replay button was good for something other than every time Coral falls on her face on The Real World/Road Rules Challenge, which, by the way, will never be often enough.) I make sounds at the TV! (“Ooh!” “Come on!” “Enough with the stupid Gecko, Geico, you’re better than that!” Because, you know…commercials.) You guys, just now? I got mad at a ref! I’ve, I’ve…never felt this way about a referee, before. (Seriously, though, penalty kick, what?) Oh, and last Saturday, I was this close to using the phrase, “One second! The game’s on…” It was, in a word: Exhilarating. And, in 24 words: The closest I’ve felt to being a Regular Guy since that time I didn’t really get How to Lose a Guy In 10 Days.

And…judging by the score of the game, my team needs me, so if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go paint a flag on my chest, drape another one over my shoulders, and run around town screaming blasphemies against Ghana – I’ll run into you, I’m sure. USA! USA! US…eh…

Background Noise: Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” – yeah, the one that became “the American Idol song,” because time is running out quick, as I reach the end of this, and I’m at least hoping they’ll do a highlight reel with this playing in the background, while all the American players cry in the bottom left corner. Because that's how sports work, right?

Monday, June 12, 2006

I've Said "Puerto Rico" So Many Times That It Doesn't Even Sound Like a Real Commonwealth, Anymore.

There’s lots of things that can keep you from getting from here to there (and from there to here, on the way back) – car won’t start, spring just broke on your pogo stick (and your spare!), all you have is a bicycle built for five, and you’re beginning to think you picked the wrong day to drop the rest of the band and start a solo career, even if “The Paperback Novelists” is a stupid name for a band, and if that’s what they’re going with, then you quit! (All of which, by the way, would also make great answers for Scattergories “Reasons For Being Late” category – and I would know, because this one time, our game of Scattergories devolved into playing only that question and seeing who could create a story worth the most points within the three-minute time limit – alliteration is fun! And so are my weekends! No, really!) But all of those things pale in comparison to what I went through yesterday, because, as it turns out, that banned episode of Seinfeld was onto something, and if there’s one thing you don’t want to run into between point A and point B? It’s a Puerto Rican Day Parade (unless, I guess, you’re Puerto Rican, but even then, you better really like Puerto Rico). I mean, all we ever wanted was to go to the Apple Store.

But it became apparent, the minute that we stepped out of the Port Authority and onto the streets of New York, that we picked the wrong day to not be Puerto Rican in the city – because either everyone just happened to wear their “I [Puerto Rican Flag] Puerto Rico!” shirts on the same day (embarrassing!), or something was going on that we were clearly going to be on the outside of (and I guess there was also the slight chance that the bus accidentally took us all the way to Puerto Rico, but that seemed less likely, as the Caribbean Sea still felt pretty far away). As we made our way down the avenues and up the streets, the crowd thickened, and it wasn’t long before we were swimming against a sea of Puerto Rican pride, the blocks twice as hard to walk up as they are on the days when all you’re dodging is people asking if you like stand-up comedy (“Nah, I’m really more of a stand-up tragedy kinda guy, but if you’ve got tickets for that…”) and people who should just take the picture, already, so I could walk by! Sure, we were still blocks away from the parade, but then, I guess Puerto Rican pride know parade route!

The closer we got to the corner of 59th and 5th , the more pointy flag poles, “Go here after the parade!” fliers, and girls who, quite honestly, maybe should have worn more clothes and less…not-clothes that day, we were dodging. It sort of felt like the running of the bulls in Spain, except in any of the ways that it would be considered offensive to compare Puerto Ricans to bulls (because Puerto Ricans are not like bulls! What Puerto Ricans are is awesome! Though I have to admit, in some cases, just as tramply, but I’m sure that’s not a trait particular to their homeland.) Honestly, I think there were more Puerto Ricans in New York, yesterday, than there were in Puerto Rico.* Oh, and who knew a Puerto Rican flag made such a versatile accessory? Whether you’re going for smart (behind the ear), stylish (bandanas are all the rage, these days) or superhero (flag cape!), a Puerto Rican flag is all you need to go from boredrobe to wardrobe™!

So, after we finally traversed the four avenues, the 18 streets, the detour through Central Park that proved, by taking us an extra 15 minutes, that the shortest distance between two points really is a straight line, what did we learn? That everyone’s favorite commonwealth decided to pass right in front of our destination, and, despite the fact that we were the width-of-5th-avenue away from where we wanted to be, there was no way we were getting to the Apple Store, unless we had it in us to hop a few barricades and risk a run-in with a marching band.

We took the subway back.

Though this story does have a happy ending, because we did achieve our goal (which, by then, had become less about seeing the Apple Store and more about just proving that we could) after we churched it, and, like all Apple Stores, it was very cool to look at, but once your inside, it’s kind of like, “Well, either we buy a computer or leave, so…yeah, that was fun!” But still: It was fun. Oh, and incidentally, this isn't even the first Puerto Rican parade that I've accidentally gone to - but at least this one didn't inspire an ominous, "Kids...lock your doors..." from the front seat.

*Probably not true.

Background Noise: So it was going to be Rogue Wave’s “Salesman at the Day of the Parade,” which didn’t have much to do with what I just wrote, aside from having the word “parade” in it. But then I remembered The Gallery EP that they handed out at church, once. And, since church was the whole reason we were in the city, in the first place: Congratulations, Brett and Cynthia – you’ve officially been shout-outed.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

OMG! Rory And Jess 4eVeR!!!111!!1!!1!!!!

The What I'm Whatevering List (Part Two)
because I know you care...

What I'm Watching- TV on TV Edition: With less TV on, right now, I guess I could use this space for some season-ending wrap-up, so let’s talk about Gilmore Girls. Because I know that the general consensus was that this season was disappointing, and, on most accounts, I agree. Though I did like the rift that started off the season, as well as Rory’s Screwed Up Education Plans (some of us don’t go directly from high school to four straight years of college, television), the wrap-up of both of those storylines was just a little too easy for all of the build up that preceded it. And, unfortunately, those storylines weren’t wrapped up to make way for something better, because: First of all, Logan is a complete drain on the show, second of all, Rory is completely unlikable for about 90% of the past two seasons (and she used to be so cool, too!) and third of all, really, long lost daughters? While I actually liked the character (which was a nice surprise), that’s exactly the kind of plot line the characters on this show would normally make fun of, not experience. Also, I really thought that the writers were going to bypass the keeping of ‘em separated in favor of letting Luke and Lorelai get married and proving that a show can exist after the “will they or won’t they” becomes “they will!” but…guess not. It’s just disappointing that they decided to get so soapy, this year, because this show used to be one of the most comfortable things on TV, and they were usually pretty good at creating, uh, dramedy out of relatively regular things (loans, oversleeping on test day, etc.). But, all of that said, even when the storylines disappoint on this show, the lines rarely do, and if we find out Emily has a long-lost son, next year, I’ll keep watching so long as the characters keep saying really awesome things and having at least one really good argument every five episodes or so. Also, it’s pretty cool that the writers have established their characters so well that they can now hand over entire plotlines to characters like Lane and Paris and not have it seem weird.

What I'm Watching- TV on DVD Edition: Wonder Showzen: Season One. If you’ve heard anything about it, “anything” is probably that it’s MTV2’s “outrageous parody of Sesame Street.” Which I actually think is selling it short, because: A. Anybody who’s under eight or over fifteen years-old knows that Sesame Street is too cool to make fun of, and, personally, I think that what they’ve created is more of a really twisted homage than it is a parody, and B. They actually earn a fair amount of their laughs in ways other than the, “My word, did they just say that? And on a program that looks like a kids show, no less!” and, at least from what I’ve seen, even the outrageous parts are less “dirty” than they are just…very wrong, most of the time (which is good, because I don’t love “dirty”). So, yeah, if you’re into “very wrong,” you’ll love this, and if you’re not, you’ll love it in spite of yourself. Oh, and “Beat Kids” is fairly AWESOME.

What I'm Playing: Halo 2 (Xbox). I hardly got into this, until now. And in the past few days, I’ve gone from “awful” to, well, not “good,” but at least “functional,” online. So, if you want, leave your gamertag, and once I’m at least “alright,” we could play on Live. The future is now!

Last Book I Read: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. It’s one of those “unsuspecting fool goes in and out of the lives of others, accidentally affecting the lives of those around him” books. (Which I think there’s a word for…Picaresque, maybe?) And it was good. Maybe very good, but, to no fault of its own, this book was one of those ones that ended up taking me almost three months to get through, but it’s at least good enough that I want to read it through in a more concentrated period of time, sometime. But if you’re going to read it, you might want to avoid the critic-quotes that are all over the back cover and inside, as they’re kind of mega-hypey, which, expectations, and all that…

What I'm drinking: Water. It’s nature’s Gatorade!

Background noise: The Gilmore Girls soundtrack. It’s been out for a long time, now, but it’s still a terrific album, especially for something that they must have figured not many people would know existed, in the end. So go get it! It’ll make you happy! And maybe sad, depending on the song!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Seriously, Though, What's With the Title? Well, Not That This One's Any Better...

Okay, so for the second time, I sat down to update the What I’m Whatevering List, and the movie part got so lengthy that to continue with the rest of the list would just turn people off. So I’ll probably post the rest of it tomorrow, but right now:

The What I'm Whatevering List (Part One of Two)
because I know you care...

Last Movie I've Seen: Cars. Yeah, so, I saw it already, because I’m kind of a Pixar geek and got tickets to a pre-screening (can you say, “Score”?). And I suppose their diabolical scheme is working, because here I am, doing the word-of-mouth thing. Actually, though, this was the first time that I wasn’t completely sold on a Pixar movie from the moment I heard about it – that I was skeptical before going in. Like, “Cars,” really? But I’m happy to report that I’m just an idiot, as Pixar keeps up their 100% track record with this one (which is, you know, sort of amazing), and I’m not just saying that because of the aforementioned geekitude. Honestly, I don’t know why they couldn’t make a decent commercial out of this, because there’s just as much to like here as there is in every other Pixar movie (well, okay, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles were kind of perfect…oh, and Toy Story 2, but, I mean, all of their movies are so good that it’s kind of unfair to compare them to each other, as there’s not really a “worst” Pixar movie. So I won’t.)

Because I know what your thinking: “Yeah, but…you know, it’s about cars. And the trailer wasn’t that funny, and, like, is there even a plot? Because it looks like driving, mostly.” First off, it’s a testament to Pixar’s madd animation skillz that not only do you accept the fact the “cars as people” thing about a minute into the film, but that you also care about these things that have to, you know, back up just to turn their heads – I mean, there was rooting, as in actual mid-movie audience applause, the majority of which was coming from the grownups. What’s also cool is that the world they’ve created doesn’t make any sense – it’s not “What cars do when people aren’t watching.” It’s “the world is actually populated by cars, who cut each other off, watch other cars race, wait in line for car restrooms…” In anyone else’s hands, it would have sucked so bad. But in Pixar’s, it doesn’t. Oh, and it’s really, really nice to look at, too – once again proving that it’s more fun to watch a computer animated film that imitates art, rather than one that tries to imitate real life (i.e. just because you’re 3D-ish doesn’t mean you have to stop looking like a cartoon).

As far as the plot and the script – I figured, more than anything, that this would be more of a “kids’ movie” than their previous films, resigning myself to this “fact” before I saw it. But, once again, they’ve created an everyone movie, an actual “crowd pleaser,” and not one that succeeds by presenting pop culture references and innuendos for the adults could smirk at while their kids enjoy all the pretty colors. It’s all of the seemingly effortless, character-driven, ensemble-type humor that the geniuses at Pixar have earned themselves a reputation for. And, actually, there seems to me more going on – more visual gags (and not one coffee place that’s called “Carbucks,” which you know the folks at Dreamworks wouldn’t have been able to resist…um, well, you know if you’re a dork, at least), more throwaway lines (“We have too much surplus as it is!” Ha.), and just more to notice than there has been in most, and maybe any, of Pixar’s other movies. Again, there’s just so much great, Pixaresque stuff here that I don’t know why they couldn’t translate any of it into the trailers.

And I’ll keep it brief (I mean…from here on out), but there is an actual plot, and most of it doesn’t revolve around NASCAR stuff (and the parts that do involve NASCAR are more fun than actual NASCAR). Oh, and remember in Toy Story 2 when Jessie the cowgirl has that flashback with Sarah McLachlan playing in the background, and, depending on who you’re watching the movie with, it gets kind of awkward, like, “Uh, what’s going on? Start being cool again, movie!” Yeah, well there’s another brief slow-song interlude in this one, which…I mean, they’re alright, and they don’t not work, and it’s nice how these segments prove that the writers are taking their talking-toys-or-cars as seriously as other movies take their human characters. So, all I’m saying, I guess, is: Be warned. There’s a slow song. And…still not so brief, eh?

But, so as to not end on a negative note: Not only was Cars better than I expected, but it was actually good, and, with my confidence in Pixar back where it should be, all is once again right with the world (well, aside from most of what's going on in the middle east). Oh, and stay for the credits! So great!

Background Noise: Life Could Be a Dream. It’s that old ‘50s song, with the “sh-boom sh-booms” in it (which looks so lame, typed out like that, but it’s a good old song), you know the one. Anyway, it's far from "in regular rotation" on my iPod, but I randomly clicked on it on the way there, and then they played it in the movie, which was really weird.