defective yeti’s Puzzle Korner

You are Black. White has just advanced his pawn to e6. It is now your move. What do you do?

[Answer: Bishop to d5. Keep finger on bishop, rise, view board from overhead perspective. Return bishop to a8. Bishop to b7. Stand up, maintain contact with bishop, examine board from several angles. Return bishop to a8. Bishop to, in turn, c6, e4, f3, g2 and h1. Scutinize board after every move. Return bishop to a8. Mutter “fuck,” bishop to e4. Remove hand from bishop. Quickly put hand back on bishop, say “Wait!” Vehemently deny you took hand off bishop. Insist you had tip of index finger on bishop at all times. Tell opponent if he really wants to win by cheating there’s nothing you can do to stop him. Return bishop to a8. King to h7. Become irritated when opponent points out you are moving into check. Return King to h8. Stare at board for seven straight minutes. Jump with surprise upon realizing you can capture opponent’s bishop. King to g8. Watch in dismay as opponent moves Queen to g7, captures pawn, announces checkmate. Stand up suddenly, overturning table. Say “Yeah?! Well maybe if you didn’t spend so much time playing chess, your wife wouldn’t be sleeping around!”]

The Bad Review Revue: Gone Ballistic Edition!

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is the only film I have ever seen in the Rotten Tomatoes Top 10 Grossing Movies section with a composite score of 0%. (As a point of reference, note that even Battlefield Earth had 4%.) Truly a spellbinding acheivement.

“The movie stars Lucy Liu as Sever, a former agent for the Defense Intelligence Agency; Antonio Banderas is Ecks, a former ace FBI agent who is coaxed back into service. Now let’s discuss the curious fact that both of these U.S. agencies wage what amounts to warfare in Vancouver, which is actually in a nation named ‘Canada’…” — Roger Ebert, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

“You could run this film backward, soundtrack included, and it would make no less sense.” — Stephen Hunter, WASHINGTON POST

“Amply demonstrates how even a movie with wall-to-wall action can be a crashing bore.” — Lou Lumenick, NEW YORK POST

“The main foe is a martial arts specialist played by Ray Park, who was Darth Maul in ‘Star Wars’. Without face paint and special effects, he’s as menacing as Eeyore.” — Lawrence Toppman, CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

“Lacks anything approaching even a vague reason to sit through it.” — Mick LaSalle, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

“Pornography for arsonists.” — Robert K. Elder, CHICAGO TRIBUNE

“Star Wars: Episode III” Trailer To Air Before Iraq War

Lucasfilms Ltd. has inked an exclusive agreement with the White House to air the "Star Wars: Episode III" trailer before the upcoming War on Iraq. "The most exciting military action of the 21st century just got better!," boasted White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. "You'll come to see Anakin, but you'll stay for the bombing!"

Calvin Penner, market analyst for Variety, says the arrangement is a big win for both parties. "It's a perfect fit. The key demographic for the Star Wars franchise tends to be middle-class males, 18-40, who want to experience all the drama and adventure of battle without ever leaving their chair. And that's exactly who the White House hopes will rally behind this war."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was equally enthusiastic. "The America people will get to see the conclusion to the Star Wars Saga and the Saddam Saga all in the same year," he said at a press conference earlier today. When asked what would happen if military strikes against Iraq were ultimately found to be unnecessary, Rumsfeld replied "No war, no trailer -- that's the deal we signed."

The message boards at were immediately flooded with fans eager to discuss the latest development. "the midle-east looks just like tatoonie so this works out grate!!" noted one. But some worried that anti-war protests could derail the event. "If you see any hippies, tell them to go home!" a poster urged. "They're probably a bunch of new-age Trekkies anyhow."

As part of the agreement, a new subplot -- in which Obi-Wan Kenobi urges the Republic to slash taxes -- will be added to the Episode III screenplay. In return, the US Government has promised to digitally insert Jar-Jar Binks into 5% of their Iraq War footage before turning it over to CNN. Bush's request that Lucas loan them "some of those Battle Droids," however, has reportedly been denied.

New Additions to the Sidebar

I’ve added some new sites to the sidebar on the right.

Mimi Smartypants: First recommended in the comments of this thread, already one of my favorites.

Why God Why: I do not know why I was not reading this site prior to this week. I blame my upbringing.

Electrolicious: I was attracted to Ariel Meadow’s site after reading her fine article about blogging on my bus ride home.

Boardgame Geek: Because I am one.

Prohibitive!: Weblog by Eric, friend and fellow Seattle denizen.

Your My Pithy Observation

This quotation from Mimi Smartypants is so funny that I’m just going to post it here and pretend that I wrote it.

[Here’s] a very weird subject line for spam: Watch Me Film Myself Masturbating. Whoa. That’s pretty removed from the subject/object consciousness. Can’t I just watch you masturbating? I have to watch “the making of” you masturbating?
I’m hoping that, over time, I will come to believe that I wrote this myself. I’m pretty sure this will work, because I’ve recently noticed that I treat other people’s stories and ideas the same way I treat their CDs. When I first borrow someone’s CD I’m very careful, when taking it out of my player, to set it off to the right side of my desk, far away from the pile of my CDs on the left side of my desk. But one day in my haste to listen to the new Creed album, I take the borrowed CD out and just leave it in the middle of the desk. And then, on some later date when I’m straightening up, I pick up the uncategorized CDs in the middle and throw them into my pile, making a mental note to sort them out later. And from that point on it’s pretty much my CD. I’ll even create an entire backstory in which I purchased the CD myself using an gift certificate.

Same deal with borrowed experiences. At first, when I’m recounting something that happened to or was thought up by someone else, I take great care to properly attribute it. But then one day it occurs to me that it’s a lot quicker to say “me” instead of “a friend of mine I went to high school with” after the opening “A funny thing happened to”. And after the next mental straightening-up the great story gets integrated into my own biography and the great idea becomes something I dreamed up years ago. It’s better than the CD scenario, though, because you never have that awkward scene where the original owner demands you return the perloined goods, and you’re all like “screw you, dude, this is totally my Swimfan Soundtrack,” and then there’s all the punching.

Wow! That’s a pretty great analogy that I just made and/or read somewhere!

Movies: Das Experiment

About once a year I urge all my cinemaphilic friends to go see a movie on my word alone. I just say “Go see such and such without reading anything about it — the less you know before you walk into the theater, the more you’ll like it. Assuming you like it at all. Which I don’t guarantee.” Two years ago the Blind Faith Movie was Run Lola Run. Last year it was Memento. This year the movie to see “cold” is, without a doubt, Das Experiment.

And because I consider every member of my faithful yeti-readership to be a friend (albeit a friend in a no-I-don’t-want-to-‘cyber’ kind of way), I’m not going to tell you a goddamned thing about the plot of this movie. (I’m not even going to link to the movie’s “Rotten Tomatoes” or “Metacritic” page, because I don’t want you skulking off and reading about it). I will instead limit my reflections on Das Experiment to these five items:

  • This is easily my favorite movie so far this year, beating out The Good Girl by a country mile. So you’ll be pleased to know that my “Wah-wah, there are no Mulholland Drives this year” bleat endth here. Furthermore, I don’t foresee any movie on the horizon knocking this out of my “#1 for 2002” spot, save only, perhaps, The Two Towers.
  • I don’t want to classify Das Experiment as either a “psychological thriller” or a “horror movie,” but I will say that the overall atmosphere of the film falls somewhere in between Memento and The Blair Witch Project.
  • During this movie my heart was pounding. And by “my heart was pounding” I’m not talking about that mamby-pamby “The Tuxedo is heart-pounding excitement!” Gene Shalit crap — I’m telling you that I could literally feel my own pulse throughout the latter half of the film.
  • At various points during the film, the audience in my theater audibly gasped with surprise and horror. Not just the woman with hypertension sitting behind me, the entire, collective audience.
  • Moritz Bleibtreu — the hottie boyfriend from Run Lola Run — is stark naked on several occasions. (If you haven’t seen Lola, imagine a burlier Keanu Reeves with approximately the same command of the English language.) I dunno if “naked Bleibtreu” motivates you — I’m more of a Franka Potente man, myself — but I believe the world would be a better place if all movie reviews mentioned the good-lookin’ naked people. That said, I should point out that, despite wanton male nudity, this movie is not even remotely erotic. If erotic was Ackron, Ohio, Das Experiment would be Neptune. In fact, this may well be the worse date movie in recent history.
Lots of people won’t like Das Experiment. You may be one of them. It’s actually kind of agonizing to sit through. And critics are pretty divided: the Rotten Tomatoes page (which, I’ll remind you, you’re not to read) gives it a composite score of 64%, which puts it just one percentage point above Blue Crush. The Village Voice liked it and The New York Times didn’t — that may tell you something right there.

Is this a recommendation? Sort of. I am telling you to go see it, make no mistake about that. I’m also saying that you might hate me for having done so. But (and if this review has any point, this is probably it) no matter what your final opinion, you will get more out of Das Experiment if you don’t know any more than the above when you purchase your ticket. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Consider it a little experiment in trust … one that might go horribly wrong.

I Win

From my spam filter’s log file:

From: Wed Oct 2 09:17:36 2002
Subject: Do You Think of Spam as a Game?
Destination: /dev/null

Desperately Seeking Skjhjfd44lkgjhlkf8fjkfgkjgfdfi8

Hello, Yeah, you sent me some email a few minutes ago. About your webcam? And trout? Remember? But when I replied my message bounced — you must have mistyped your address (which is understandable — it’s pretty long). Anyhow, if you read this please drop me a line and let me know your correct address so I can send you my credit card number, thanks.

Movies: My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Halfway through my book on The Evils of Consumer Culture I got in the car, went to the mall, ate at Taco Time and watched America’s #1 movie, an utterly predictable piece of formulaic Hollywood “feel good” entertainment that I nonetheless enjoyed quite a bit. Take that, you socialist hippies!

[Dear Mom: please don’t read this paragraph, thanks. Love, Matt.] I’ve known I would wind up seeing My Big Fat Greek Wedding for some time, as I had long since picked it out as my current Mom Movie. Back before I learned the value of pre-selecting Mom Movies, my parents would sometimes propose a Movie Night, and my mother would inevitably suggest we see the romantic comedy du jour: Notting Hill or The Wedding Planner or whatever. This puts me in a ticklish position, as the only thing more painful that snubbing your own mother is actually sitting through Kate & Leopold. So one day I decided to get all proactive ‘n shit. I started keeping a mental list of all the movies that I thought both my mother and I would enjoy — or, rather, the films I was certain my mother would love and that I thought I could endure. And Greek Wedding has held the title of #1 Mom Movie ever since Ebert and The Other Guy, Mr. Roper Or Something, both gave it their ringing endorsement. So when the family went to the movies last weekend, Greek Wedding was a foregone conclusion.

Usually I don’t like to discuss movie plots in my reviews since my abhorrence of spoilers borders on the pathological, but, honestly, if you have seen even one “romantic comedy” in this lifetime then you already know every key element My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Boy meets girl, girl feels inadequate, girl embarks on a campaign of self-improvement, boy meets girl again and is smitten, boy and girl decide to get hitched, and everything would be coming up roses were it not for that wacky, wacky Greek family! And yet — somehow! — you have this crazy suspicion that everything is going to turn out okay in the end. [**MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD!!**: you’re right.]. In fact, as soon as you figure out what a character in the film Really Wants — not what they say they want, mind you, but what they capital-R Really Want — you know they will get it before the film is through. Dad says he wants his daughter to marry another Greek, but he Really just wants her to be happy; daughter says she wants to elope, but she Really wants to spend this special occasion with her family; and so on.

Yeah, I know — I can hear your eyes rolling from here. So how could I — a guy how insists he loves Mulholland Drive for it’s nonlinear chronology and not just the hot girl-on-girl action — possibly enjoy this? Simple: whereas most screenwriters would have lazily plugged some unremarkable dialogue into this generic framework and called it good, Nia Vardalos (writer and star of Greek Wedding) instead opted to pack this blazingly unoriginal storyline with barrels of genuinely witty banter and a even a couple of hilarious sight gags. Trust me: no one tried harder to dislike Greek Weddings than I, but after 40 minutes and my third belly-laugh I had to admit that I was liking it just fine.

It’s no Memento, that’s for sure. And even knowing what I know now I wouldn’t have opted to see it without a a matriarch in tow. But it was about as good as a Romantic Comedy gets, and, frankly, more entertaining than whatever pretentious hunk of art-house crap I would have dragged the tribe to if the decision had been left to me. (Which is why the decision if never left to me — not since Mulholland Drive, anyway.) Judged on it’s own merits it gets maybe 3/5 stars, tops, but put a Mom in the seat next to you and My Big Fat Greek Wedding becomes a freakin’ Citizen Kane.

P.s.: I saw this film with my Ma-In-Law, despite the fact that the Emergency Mom Movie is kept in reserve for my mother. When I spoke to Ma Baldwin a few moments ago and guility confessed that I had gone to see “Greek Wedding” without her, she replied “Oh that’s okay, I’ve already seen it three times.”

P.p.s. I am now taking nominations for my next “Mom Movie”.

P.p.p.s. Anyone who suggests “Sweet Home Alabama” will be banned.