Posts from August 2006.

Headline News

Pluto Vows To Run As An Independant

Rocky, barren mass, having lost “major planet” status by a narrow vote in the International Astronomical Union, fends off charges that its orbit is “erratic” and slams rival UB313 for being “on the fringe of the solar system.”

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Myth Buster!

We’re trying to toilet train The Squirrelly, but it’s tough going. He knows how to pee (does he ever) and he knows how to sit on the potty, but the idea of doing both simultaneously hasn’t quite clicked. On the rare occasions that it happens accidentally we praise him to the heavens and generally act as though his pissing in a pot is as momentous as the fall of the Berlin Wall, but our positive reinforcements have yet to forge the link in his mind. Usually he just sits on his little throne, happy as a unmicturating clam and blissfully unmoved by our exhortations. “PEE! ” we cry. “VOID THAT BLADDER FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY!!” Honestly, I think the phrase “getting urine from a toddler” ought to supercede “getting blood from a stone” as the clich

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The Bad Review Revue: Special Emergency Edition

The Bad Review Revue is typically a Friday event, but some things simply cannot wait.

Sphere Review
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Every Time A Friend Succeeds

In war movies it is a common practice for the members of a squad to pool their money, buy an expensive bottle of booze, and agree that the last man alive gets to drink it. If I had made a similar deal with my friends last year, substituting “last guy to hit the big time” for “die,” I’d be well on my way to insobriety. To wit:

My buddy Josh bought a bar! And not just any bar, lovely Lottie’s Lounge in the heart of Columbia City. If I were to rave about what a nice joint it is you’d correctly suspect me bias, so go read this laudatory Seattle PI article instead. It’s a great place, you should check it out. And if you do, tell ‘em Matthew sent you — they won’t give you a discount or nuthin’, but I might get a free drink for the referral, and isn’t that all that matters?

My Internet crush Mighty Girl Wrote a Book!: Mighty Mighty Maggie M. is now the author of No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blogthen boast about it on your weblog.”) And if you pre-order it here, Maggie will send you an autographed copy. Other projects Maggie has been working on: The Mighty Mite and getting namechecked by Time Magazine.

My friend John Moe watched Red Dawn!: And then … wrote a book about it! And though it’s not even for sale yet, it has already taken the literati by storm!

John talked about the writing process quite a bit on his weblog (search for “book going“), in case you were ever wondering how one of these things gets made. The premise of his book is that he immersed himself in conservative culture for 30 days in an attempt to become a righty. I don’t want to give away the ending, but the last time we hung out he alluded to William Kristol’s “chisled abs,” like, four times.

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Movies: A Scanner Darkly

I don’t get out to the cinema often these days. But there are certain classes of film that I will always make an effort to see in the theater, among them:

  • Movies based on the work of Phillip K. Dick
  • Animated movies aimed at an adult audience
  • Movies written and directed by Richard Linklater

As A Scanner Darkly falls into all three categories, I was pretty much obligated to see it.

On the debits side of the ledger, we have this: the film stars Keanu Reeves. I don’t really mind Reeves, but as the Matrix trilogy has a very heavy Phillip K. Dick influence, I was a little worried that this would just become the fourth in the series. Fortunately, Reeves spends much of the film looking and acting befuddled (the one type of dramatic role he invariably excels at), a far cry from the demigod of Neo. And the performances of his colleagues — Woody Harlson, Mitch Baker, and Robert Downey Jr. in particular — more than compensate for Reeves’ limited range.

The film is set in a near future where a drug called Substance-D is destroying America. Reeves’ character Bob Arctor, for instance, is hooked on the stuff, and it’s slowly eroding his ability to tell reality from fantasy. He spends half of his time lollygagging around his pad with other addicts, and the other half working for law enforcement, where he has been assigned to spy on … himself. One of the perks of working as a uncover narc in the future, it seems, is that you get to wear a “scramble suit,” which conceals your identity from everyone — even your superiors, who may inadvertently charge you with monitoring your drug-addled alter ego.

Scanner uses a technique called “rotoscoping, in which live-action footage is traced over and converted to animation. It is particularly well-suited to this tale, as it falls in animation’s uncanny valley: it looks artificial enough to be perceived as animation, but realistic enough to put the audience on edge. In short, it makes the viewer feel like he, like the protagonists, has recently ingested a sizable quantity of illicit substances. It’s hard to even criticize the technique, as even its deficiencies work in the context of Scanner. One thing that bothered me was how components of large objects would sometimes appear to move independent of the thing they were attached to — the headlights of cars, for instance. And yet, these irksome details just served to heighten my feeling of hazyheadedness, the exact effect I assume Linklater was shooting for when he choose rotoscoping in the first place.

Unlike most films inspired by the work of Dick, A Scanner Darkly is based on a full length novel and is a faithful adaptation of the source material. Or so I’m told. I read A Scanner Darkly a number of years ago, but couldn’t really remember anything about it. Seeing the film didn’t so much remind me of how the novel went as remind me why I found it so difficult to recall.

Both the book and the film fall under the rubric of “complete mindfuck.” That is, most of the time you’re not sure what’s going on, and, even when you do, you’re not sure whether the events are real. As a result, you tend to sequester everything you see into a a little mental cubbyhole marked “Conditional,” ready to purge it if a subsequent revelation reveals this particular scene to be false, or take it out and stamp it “authentic” if it is later verified as real. Unfortunately, you never really get any confirmation one way or the other in Scanner, so you walk out of the film with a head full of loose puzzle pieces instead of a complete picture. And we all know what happens to loose pieces over time: you lose them, one by one. I saw the film last week and already can only remember half of it.

I met up with some friends after seeing the film, and they asked me what I thought. “I don’t know,” I told them, “I need to think it over for a day.” That was last Saturday, and I still haven’t made up my mind. I liked it, I guess, but film and the animation style were so self-referential that I kind of felt like they all added up to nothing, like a snake that swallows its own tail and vanishes from sight. Admittedly, that analogy doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But, then again, the same may be true of the film. I have no idea.

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Where There’s Smoke There’s Ire

If you drive around downtown Seattle long enough, eventually you’ll see the billboard of a little girl eating a dead, bloodied rat. (Warning: the hypertext immediately preceding this sentence reading “a little girl eating a dead, bloodied rat” links to a picture of a little girl eating a dead, bloodied rat.) It’s a wonderful thing to see as I’m commuting to work. One moment I’m humming along, fantasizing about the two Top Pot donuts I’m going to buy from the corner bakery when I arrive at the office, and the next I’m looking at a 20 ft. high portrayal of rodentaphagy.

The aim of the billboard is not to ensure that I maintain my girlish figure. It is, in fact, an anti-smoking ad. Below the picture is the text “Kissing A Smoker Is Just As Gross,” along with the slogan “Tobacco Smokes You.” You can find our more that their website, ashtraymouth.com, which has the following in the “keywords” section of its HTML header:

Ashtraymouth, ashtray mouth, Kissing a smoker, Tobacco smokes you, Kissing a smoker is just as gross, Don’t kiss a smoker, Yuck Chuck Challenge, Spin the Bottle and smoking, Gross Factor and smoking, Gross things and smoking, Eating a dead rat, Eating a cockroach, Eating roadkill, Eating a hairball, Eating cat throw-up, Eating a dirty sock…

All of this courtesy of the Washington State Department of Health.

To be fair, the billboard doesn’t show an actual photograph of a girl. It’s more like an adorable Nightmare Before Christmas-style doll eating a dead, bloody rat. The whole thing looks like something a emo girl would have tattooed on her lower back and then publish a picture of on her MySpace page. But, still.

This is not the first time that the WSDOH has used gross-out tactics to discourage people from smoking. I remember back in the 90’s I used to watch reruns of The Simpsons at 6:30 and, during the first commercial break, the screen would invariably get filled with a shot of diseased lung tissue. Just what you wanna see during the dinner hour.

I don’t smoke, and never have. So why am I subjected to this stuff? The fact that I’m paying for it as well just twists the knife. There’s much ado about the perils of secondhand smoke, but who’s raging against the scourge of secondhand smoker education? I mean, let’s face it: at this point I would pretty much have to voluntarily put myself in the position of inhaling secondhand smoke (especially since the passage of Initiative 901, Washington’s recent paean to the Nanny State), while these unappetizing ads are erected in the middle of our public square.

For that matter, why should smokers be subjected to these? These billboards don’t even offer education, only condemnation. At least when they cut from Ralph Wiggum to lip cancer, they were showing you something connected to the hazards of smoking. What the hell does a billboard of Gothy McMopper eating rat-on-the-cob have to do with anything? They aren’t supplying smokers with the facts so they can make informed decision anymore — now their goal, as near as I can tell, is simply to make smoking Not Enjoyable. I dislike your habit, so I’m going to make you dislike it too. It’s aversion therapy without the high electrical bill.

When you think about it, though, this ad isn’t even for smokers. It says “Kissing A Smoker Is Just as Gross,” implying that this billboard is aimed at friends of smokers. That’s right: we’re paying the state to run ads to train us to shun people for smoking. Jeeze, I can’t imagine why the folks in this city are perpetually pissed off about taxes.

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Don’t Roll Off!

I had $1.5 million burning a hole in my pocket, so I bought one of them floating beds.

It’s pretty cool. Magnets embedded into the bottom of the bed and the floor keep the contraption hovering a few feet above the ground.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I got home and set the whole thing up and climbed in that I discovered the drawback: the girlie magazines I keep hidden under the mattress were now just laying uncovered on the floor, where anyone could see them. And, worse, I couldn’t reach them.

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Stalkeyed

Rob Cockerham is a veritable fount of zany schemes, which is why is he often called “The Lucy Ricardo of the Web.” (Actually, no one has ever called him that, but y’all should do so from this day forward.) You should read about his newest hairbrained / divinely-inspired project here, especially if you live anywhere near Sacramento. It sounds so fun that it actually made me wish I lived in California for a yoctosecond or two.

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Prodigal Son

It took Michelangelo eleven months to cover the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with a series of dizzyingly elaborate patters and illustrations, and he required a team of five painters to do it. The Squirrelly must be some kind of prodigy, because he managed to do essentially the same thing to the hard wood floor in our kitchen in about three minutes, and we only needed a single purloined ball-point pen.

I guess we should be mad, but we prefer to focus on the positive. Like, how much money this genius kid is going to rake in for us. The Queen and I agree that a career in bio-engineering would be best suited for the kid, as it’s the most likely to result in him having copious amounts of cash to lavish upon us. So, to steer him in that direction, we have decided to only teach him the letters A, C, G, and T.

Awwww, isn’t that adorable?! He’s making a chinchilla!

Or perhaps he could go into IT, as he seems to have an intuitive grasp of how wireless networks work. He often likes to play Elmo’s Keyboard-A-Rama on the laptop out in the (newly redecorated) kitchen. When he wants to play he doesn’t go to the computer, though: he sort of wanders around the house, staring at a point about three feet above his head and saying “want play Elmo?” as if he can sense the pixilated muppet being sent over the wireless link. Or maybe he thinks that, when Elmo isn’t on the screen jovially screeching about the letter “J,” he is trapped in some nether dimension between the router in the back of the house to the laptop in the front. You know, like those guys in Superman II:

President: [on T.V] This is your President. On behalf of my country and in the name of the other leaders of the world with whom I have today consulted, I hereby abdicate all authority and control over this planet to Elmo. Only by following all his directives will the lives of millions be spared — Mr. Hooper! Can you hear me? Mr. Hooper! Where are you?!

Elmo: Elmo doesn’t know Mr. Hooper!

President: You will, and when you do —

General Elmo: Come to me, Mr Hooper! Elmo defies you! Come and kneel before Elmo! HahahHOOHOOHOOHOOhaha!

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Sorry …

… that project took a bit longer than anticipated. Where “bit” is a synonym for “week.”

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