3.31.2010

People My People

I normally don't do the whole link-blogging thing, but when you stumble upon something as glorious as this, you have to share:


GQ's article on William Shatner.

Seriously people, the man is some sort of genius. You absolutely must read it.

3.28.2010

We Are 138


My Gentlemen Broncos post was my 1,138th post on this blog. Can you believe that? Dang dude, that's a lot of posts. Thank you all for pretending to read them. You are all pretty amazingly great people. That is all.

3.26.2010

Bronco, Last of the Yeast Lords


We recently watched Jared & Jerusha Hess' latest film, the incredibly weird Gentlemen Broncos. It's weird. Like really, really, really weird. It was sort of smothered in its sleep by Fox Searchlight who opened it for one week in a limited number of theaters in a limited number of cities. Its theatrical run made roughly 1% of what the film itself cost to make. Critics, who were already pretty split on Hess' merits as a film-maker, were less than kind to it. Having seen the film, I can say that this is totally understandable. Broncos is (as I said) weird, messy, cynical, unlikable, uneven and not terribly funny.

It's also one of the more interesting films about creativity that I've seen.

Creativity's a gamble. When you create something, at least in the beginning, you do it because you have to. Like Athena bursting out of Zeus' head, sometimes you just gotta get this stuff out of your brain and onto a page or a computer screen or a brick wall or a reel of film or whatever. Once it leaves your head, it becomes open for everyone who encounters it to enjoy, dissect, criticize, steal, discredit or profit from it. Sonic Youth quoted Los Angeles musician Jack Brewer in the Experimental Jet Set Trash & No Star liner notes as saying, of music, that "Once [it] leaves your head, it's already compromised." Broncos, in my estimation, is about just this: what happens when the things you create become real? What if it's stolen? Misrepresented? What would you do to make your vision a reality? What happens when the ideas that once came so effortlessly (Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement's character, Dr. Ronald Chevalier, boasts to an auditorium of aspiring writers – including our "hero" Benjamin – that he painted something like 45 covers for his first novel) won't come any more?

Heady stuff from a guy who made his name off of a squinty-eyed Idaho kid in armpit-high jeans and moon boots, right? So you can see why people expecting Napoleon Dynamite 2.0 – or, as the previews painted it, a sort of low-rent Rushmore in stone-washed denim, maroon turtlenecks and corduroy vests – would be disappointed with something this … "mature" isn't the right word, but it's something like that. While it's not as insightful or well-constructed as, say, the Coen brothers' ode to writers block in Barton Fink, or Christopher Guests middle-finger to the Hollywood machine in For Your Consideration, or Robert Altman's cutting thriller, The Player; Broncos is definitely mining the same territory. The film's central message seems to be that creativity is a messy business and ideas are tricky and nobody is your friend.

Where Napoleon and Nacho Libre were fluffy, scatter-brained comedies about lovable losers overcoming the odds, Broncos is full of, well, just losers. And while there are some laughs, its comedy is dark and its central message bleak. Benjamin's clueless mother, played with characteristic aplomb by Guest alumni Jennifer Coolidge, smothers her son while making him popcorn-ball treats and having him help sell consigned (and hideous) evening gowns at the local swap meet to try and make ends meet. Halley Feiffer's Tabatha plays what you would think is the love interest, but ends up being a manipulative opportunist who gloms onto anyone who she thinks can help her out. Hector Jimenez's Lonnie is a condescending prick whose gigantic ego is matched only by his complete lack of talent. Mike White's a Guardian Angel volunteer (think Big Brother/Big Sister) who only wants to get in Ben's mom's mom-jeans and/or be a famous actor; whichever. And Ben? Ben just sort of flows along with it all with dopey, sad-eyed nonchalance until he can't anymore. Fair-weather friends, big talkers, users, phonies, opportunists, manipulators; these are the grotesques Hess introduces us to and while it's not pretty, it a fair representation of humanity.

Then there's the fictional characters. Sam Rockwell, playing dual roles, is both a joy and a huge problem for the film. Rockwell first appears as Bronco, last of the Yeast Lords and the hero of Ben's stories and an obvious stand-in for Ben's dead game warden father. He later pops up as Brutus, a lisping dandy in the ripped-off Chevalier version of Ben's story. And don't get me wrong, Rockwell's a hoot to watch both as the burly Bronco and the prissy Brutus, but his performances ultimately kick the legs out from under an already precariously-balanced film. By Rockwell playing both parts so broadly, it undermines our commitment to Ben as a writer able to craft a story that anyone would read and publish, let alone rip off and, uh, publish. True, if he'd played it straighter, the film would not have been as funny, but it might have sold the film as a whole a lot better. Still, he's pretty hilarious as he chews through both roles, so what do you do? If you're Jared Hess and this is your first real shot at the Big Leagues, do you tell one of your stars, who's probably working on scale and could be doing other, more lucrative stuff, to pull it back a little? And if you know you're pushing your audience's patience by having your third film be such a radical, strange and dark departure from the lightweight, cartoony stuff you've done before, do you pull out the bits of your film that most closely resemble those films? Or do you leave them in even if it means your film's a little uneven?

If I were a betting man, I'd say that the Hess' next film (if there will be such a thing, given just how much money Broncos lost) will be a lot more in keeping with the Napoleon/Nacho rubric than something like Gentlemen Broncos and while I'd gladly watch such a film, I think it would be a shame. I'd like to see what the Hess' can do when they're not expected to be hilarious like all of the time. I'm not asking for something ├╝ber-serious, but with Hess' comedic timing, eye for the offbeat and love for losers, I would welcome a slightly more mature film.

And if they can somehow incorporate python diarrhea into it, all the better.

3.25.2010

Excellent Suckiness

I ate at my desk today. I do this sometimes, here at my new office. It's nice to sit and relax and work on dumb stuff for my lunch hour without having to make small talk or feel weird because I don't know all that many people. So anyway, I ate my sandwich. It was good. Turkey and ham with provolone on wheat. Mayo, not Miracle Whip. It was a pretty dang perfect sandwich.

Next up was my yogurt. Yeah, I eat yogurt; so what? Yogurt is good. It was strawberry. Now, normally I don't like strawberries. Something about the texture and the tartness just rubs me the wrong way. But if it's in something like yogurt, I can eat them no problem. So anyway, I eat my yogurt. Like a man.

Looking into my awesome lunch sack, I see that Candace packed me a handful of M&M's. Let's eat those. I throw them in my mouth three at a time. If I don't pay attention to what I'm doing, I just grab any three at random. If I do pay attention, I get all O.C.D. and try to get three of a color, eating that color in three-piece increments. Yeah, I know I'm crazy.

Halfway through my M&M's, I notice I spilled some strawberry yogurt on my shirtfront. Duh. I do this more than I'd like to admit. I don't have a napkin or paper towel handy, so I do the next best thing: I look around to make sure nobody's watching me and I lick the yogurt from my shirt. Like a man.

One problem. I have M&M's in my mouth. Double duh. So now in addition to the yogurt and spit mixture on the front of my shirt, I have added the food coloring from the M&M's to the mix.

I am grace personified.

Parks & Rec In the Heezy

Tom Haverford
Hey dudes, new Parks & Rec tonight. Obviously, I'm excited by this.

This Week's Word: Cove

Here's this week's word for Best Mark My Words. The word is "cove," which in this instance is a British slang word for "dated, out of style."


I imagine this as a logo painted on a sign in a dilapidated filling station or maybe on an old package in some forgotten corner of a Tesco. Maybe on like a bar of soap or something. Anyway, go check out this week's entries. Enjoy.

3.19.2010

Epic Epicness

It's been a good week to be a Scott Pilgrim fan. First off, we got this news and this teaser poster for the upcoming Edgar Wright-(Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, all of which are super-rad)-helmed film adaptation starring the indomitable Michael Cera:


Which is awesome. That tagline's brilliant an the layout is not only in keeping with the opening page of the first volume of the series, but it's also eye-catching as well. Well-played, Whoever Made That.

And today we got this announcement and this cover image for the final installment, Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour to be released by Oni Press on July 20th:


Also awesome.

If you like comics or rock & roll or ridiculous kung fu or funny stuff or 8-bit video games or all of these things (in which case, you like rad stuff and we should be friends), you should really be reading this before it explodes into some sort of cultural thing once this movie drops. And you know it will.

So go. Go away! Read some (comic) books!

We're Meeting Arms To Arms

Dudes, you gotta watch this video and watch it all the way through. I love it so much.



Mind-blowing, right? I love Hot Chip. Go get their latest, One Life Stand. It's dance-tastic.

3.18.2010

It's the Mustache

Ron Swanson

Ron Swanson is my hero. I'm just sayin'. New Parks & Rec tonight. Holla!

3.16.2010

A Pair of Lacks

This week's (er, last week's, I guess?) word was "parallax," which, I found out, is not what it's called when you have two lacks, lacks being the long-eared beasts of the mountains of Bulgaria. That is a double-lacks. Now I know.

Turns out that the parallax effect is, according to Dictionary.com: "the apparent displacement of an observed object due to a change in the position of the observer." So, with this in mind, I set about sketching and came up with the idea of having overlapping, differing shapes that make up a coherent word. Like so:


As always, you can check out the words over here.

Quote For the Day


"Not to say that there can't be true stories in pulps, but most true stories don't have good endings. Pulps need great endings. Mr. Gibson's tale doesn't have a good ending. In fact, it has no ending. The problem with the Tale of the Sweet Flower War is that Mr. Gibson ends it just when it's about to turn into pulp."

Gibson felt his blood rising. "I can't believe you're going to lecture me on what makes great pulp. I am pulp."

"You're not pulp. The Shadow is pulp. Doc Savage is pulp. In fact, I will tell you what makes pulp. Of course there's blood, cruelty, fear, mystery, vengeance, heroes and villains. That's just a good foundation. To make true pulp, really great stomach-churning, white-knuckle, turn-your-hair-white pulp, you have to fill it with a pack of outright lies. Secret identities and disguises." Dent began ticking off the items on his fingers to emphasize the point he was making. "The Yellow Peril. Super-weapons. Global schemes. Hideous deaths. Cliff-hanging escapes. These are the packs of lies you won't find in any slick or glossy or literary hard-cover bestseller. Horrors from the grave. Lost lands. Overwhelming odds. Impossible heroics. Unflagging courage."

---

From The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont, wherein the authors of The Shadow and Doc Savage have to solve the mysterious murder of H.P. Lovecraft while L. Ron Hubbard tags along and annoys them. So yeah, I'm already in the tank for this book.

3.07.2010

It's A Sad & Beautiful World


So, Mark Linkous is gone. Suicide. If his name isn't immediately familiar to you, I'm not surprised, and that's a shame. Under the moniker Sparklehorse, Linkous produced four fantastically sad, beautiful and broken albums as well as the Dark Night of the Soul collaboration with producer Danger Mouse and film-maker David Lynch and an In the Fishtank collaboration with laptop musician Christian Fennesz.

Linkous was one of our favorites around here. In fact, Sparklehorse was part of the inspiration of naming our Etsy shop. His It's A Wonderful Life and Good Morning Spider records were the soundtrack for the early days of our marriage and have accompanied us on nearly every driving trip we've taken. His music is perfectly suited to long stretches of Western highway, the blue sky opening up over red mountains. I think that "The Most Beautiful Widow In Town," from 1995's Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot is one of the most beautiful songs ever written by a human being. Don't believe me? Give it a listen. Lines like "may all your days be gold, my child," or "it's a hard world for little things" have informed our art and our lives. He was a big deal for us. We will miss him.

As of now, all we know is that he took his own life. As to the whys and wherefores, that's between Mark and his creator. He was obviously a profoundly sad guy, and this isn't the first time he has tried to get out of this world. A previous suicide attempt left him with limited mobility in his legs and he's struggled with substance abuse and alcoholism for a long time. It shouldn't come as a shock that he took his life, but it's still unexpected, shocking and sad. I hope he finds something better than what he had here.

Like any artist who leaves us, Linkous left us behind with his work, a collection of, to borrow one of his phrases, "sad and beautiful" albums. You could do a lot worse than to pick one of them up and give it a few listens.

So, so long, Mark. "There's a heaven and a star for you." Sleep well.

3.05.2010

"I'm So Tired Of All These Star Wars."

So I'm playing in a Star Wars roleplaying gaming group again. Basically, Star Wars roleplaying is like Dungeons & Dragons only waaay more awesome. It's been a blast. So far, my character has been almost blown out of a hull breach into the cold vacuum of space, been knocked unconscious in a blaster fight, helped a kidnapped stand-up comic escape, spent the night in jail (ssspace jail, that is) after threatening a mid-level bureaucrat and attempting to bribe some Coruscant cops and then finally, upon release, broke into aforementioned bureaucrat's palatial penthouse to steal a very important MacGuffin, but not before reprogramming a security droid to start blasting the flesh-and-blood security guards watching the cameras and patrolling the apartment.

Like I said, waaay more awesome.

Anyway, so I had this idea for some shirts for the guys I game with. You know, for when we're not dressing up like Chewbaccas and Slave Leias and nerding it up with our 20-, 10-, 8-, 6- and 4-sided die. (J/K, we don't dress up. … Or do we? No really, we don't.) Anyway, so here's the mock-up of the shirt design. I'll post some pics of the real deals once I get them printed:


And if you're wondering, the post title comes from this Upright Citizen's Brigade sketch:



Alright, I gotta go level my guy up before tonight's session. Peace and may the mamma jammin' force be with y'all.

Bowler Dash

So, this week's word is "balderdash." For some reason, it makes me think of a fat guy chasing his bowler hat down a street. Hence, "bowler-dash." I know, I know. I'm seeking professional help. Anyway, here it is:


Check out the other entries here. Seriously, this is fun stuff.

3.04.2010

Lost Talk

First off, SPOILER ALERT. If you're not caught up on Lost or are planning on watching it all after it's wrapped or whatever, please don't read any further. You have been warned.

So I asked you to ask my Lost questions. Because I am a nerd and a glutton for punishment. So let's try and figure all this out, shall we?

First off, Alli asks:

do you think libby is david's mother? since her old husband's name was david before she gave david's boat to desmond?
If I were a betting man, I'd wager that David's mom is Juliet. And that her and Sawyer are gonna be meeting for coffee sometime soon. They'll go Dutch.

does it matter?
Maybe?

will jack ever cut his hair?
I don't know. But has anybody else been sort of distracted by Jack's hair this season? Does it look weird to anybody else with that slight Superman spitcurl he's got going on? Has he always had that?

why is the island underwater?
Two possibilities.

1. If Jack's plan worked and the hydrogen bomb went off in 1977, that may have caused the Island to sink.

or, 2. It's because of something that we haven't seen yet and this guy's theory is totally right. (Hint: I think this guy's theory is totally right. I've been trying to say what he's said in that post all season – that the "flash-sideways" is the castaways' reward for … something*, and that it's their second chance to get things right post-purgatorial Island tour of duty – but we'll see. Every time I think I have this show pinned down, they pull the rug out from under me, roll me up in said rug and then throw me down a hill.)

I still think that Jack's season five explodo-plan was what caused "The Incident," referred to in those Dharma videos and that Daniel Faraday was being a good time-cop to the end when he talked Jack into nuking the Swan station.

Did that help?


Next up, Rose says:

you already answered some questions (thank you) but i have more!
walt is in NY, right? but where is he in this story? didn't the others say he was the chosen one? did that story already resolve itself and i just forgot it did?

Oh man, Walt. I think he's one of those things, like Libby or Ana Lucia, that were intended to be a whole lot more for the show but due to physical realities – ie. the actor who portrays Walt growing radically over the first two seasons, the actresses who play Ana Lucia and Libby getting busted for DUI – had to fall by the wayside.

The "in game," No Prize, response to this is that Ben kinda sorta gave the producers a way out when he let Michael and Walt go by saying that Walt was more powerful than they thought, so they were glad to be done with him. My feeling is that the "OMZ, Walt is soooo like powerful and stuff, dudes!" plotline is dead and that our little glimpse of him in season five was his send-off, his "happily ever after," as it were.

fake john locke (smoke monster, whoever you want to call him) was chasing that boy. that's jacob, right? why could sawyer see him?
My money would be that that was some sort of a manifestation of Jacob, though why he appeared to Flocke ("Fake Locke." Get it?) as a bloody little boy in weird Bible pageant robes instead of the way we've been seeing him is anyone's guess. I definitely got a Cain and Abel/Jacob and Esau vibe off of that whole thing, though.

As far as why Sawyer could see him and not, say Richard earlier in the episode, maybe it's because Sawyer (or "Ford," I guess) is a Candidate?

and ditto on the island being underwater. why?
See above.

And she had some more after this week's totally kick@$$ episode, "Sundown":

how are the smoke monster dude and jacob tied to the island?
I theorize a little further down. Look for the * under the questions.

why was jacob looking for candidates? is he just looking for one candidate?
See answer to above question.

who is coming to the island? who was jacob waiting for?
I think Jacob has who he's been waiting for. I think the Lighthouse trip was a ruse to get Jack thinking about why Jacob would be interested in him and his little crew.

why is everyone connected to the island?
Fate, as Charlie wrote on his knuckle wraps. The Oceanic passengers are "ka-tet," to borrow a phrase from one of the show's influential texts.

did ben make a deal with the smoke monster dude?
We're not entirely sure what happened to Ben after the fracas at the Temple, right? He was unaccounted for, if I remember correctly. Ben'll find some way to survive, though, don't worry about that.

what happened to richard alpert?
We shall see. My guess is that he was either a captain or a slave on the Black Rock, another group of people brought to the Island so that Jacob and Flocke can play their giant Backgammon game with them, each unwilling to concede to each others' point regarding the true nature of humanity.

will jin and sun be separated in the flash sideways story as well?
Jin and Sun as characters seem to be important only as they relate to each other spatially. Half of their stories have been them trying to get back together, either physically or emotionally. And since Jin was in Sideways-Keamy's fridge, I'd say that their story in this world is also going to be "How do they get back together?"

***

And that's that. Anybody else want to play? Comment away.

_______

* Maybe Smokey wins. Maybe he's the "good guy" here (or as close to a "good guy" as this show gets) and they sink the Island to protect it/destroy it. Maybe this is what Jacob wants, a la Jack's lighthouse tantrum. Maybe this sets both Smokey and Jacob free from whatever's chaining them to the Island. (Not unklike how their tenure on the Island will hopefully set the Oceanic passengers free from their personal demons, right?) Maybe neither of them is pure evil or purely good. (It wouldn't be the first time this show has set someone up as the ultimate evil only to find that they're just misunderstood, right Ben Linus?)

Maybe they're both cursed and trapped on the Island, in Purgatory, waiting to be freed. Maybe this group of castaways has just the right mix of people to set them free this time, to be the ones who finish the game whose end they've been progressing toward. Maybe I'm also full of crap. Only time will tell.

3.01.2010

Fangs and Growling

It's March, baby! So, there's a new mix for you. This one's a total garage rocker. Tooth-kickin' music. Here's the cover:



Sadie named this one. Pretty catchy, right? This one's got songs from The Soft Pack, White Denim, Love, Sloan, Iggy Pop, King Khan & The Shrines, Belle & Sebastian, Ben Folds Five, Dungen, Nirvana, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Jay Reatard, Lyres, The Dirtbombs and Reigning Sound. You'll shake yr hips for sure.

You can download it here and find many more mixes on the Master List. Enjoy!