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July 31, 2002
I never ever ever watch Friends. But when I do, I like Joey the best. Actually, I just like Matt LeBlanc -- he's a great guy. I know this for a fact because I've seen him on tv.
Excerpt from an Entertainment Weekly interview:
Q: When you meet people, do they always make you say [your catchphrase "How you doin?"]
Text-only Yahoo! Groups FIlter
I wrote a no-frills, text-only filter for the Yahoo! Groups with open archives. It is available here.
July 30, 2002
Best of the USA 2002
The polls are closed, the votes have been counted, and it's time to announce
defective yeti's Best Of The USA 2002!
Best Restaurant -- Winner: Carmen's Bistro, Billox, AL. (Runner-up: Teriyaki John, Glenville, PA.)
Best Coffee -- Winner: Java Junction, Port Panter, OR. (Runner-up: Thanks A Latte!, Austin, TX.)
Best Butt -- Winner: Mark Campbell, Rosewood, ID. (Runner-up: Alice Ganderson, Dent, MA.)
Best Shape -- Winner: Octagon. (Runner-up: Circle.)
Best Place To Get A Tattoo -- Winner: Skinflint's, Tucson, AZ. (Runner-up: Doug Peterson's House, Bristol, WI.)
Best Margaritas -- Winner: Casa del Sol, Aching Pines, OK. (Runner-up: Doug's Peterson's House, Bristol, WI.)
Best Ice Cream -- Winner: Chilly Nirvana, Osage, TN. (Runner-up: We All Scream!, Bowie, NH.)
Best Slaughterhouse -- Winner: Moo No More, La Mesa, TX. (Runner-up: Choppy's, Grandiville, TN.)
Best Fire Hydrant -- Winner: Hydrant on corner of 4th and 132nd SE, Galt, FL. (Runner-up: Hydrant on Madison st. near Video Vault, Cathedral City, RI.)
Best Chamber Of The Heart -- Winner: Left atrium. (Runner-up: Right atrium.)
Best Place To Buy a Llama -- Winner: Llamarama, Kamloops, HI. (Runner-up: Spitting Image, Feverfew, WV.)
Best Hepatitis -- Winner: B. (Runner-up: A.)
Best Coupon -- Winner: Buy 20 Wire Hangers, Get 10 Free!, E & H Dry Cleaning, Paradise, CA. (Runner-up: Thirty Cents Off 64 Oz. Bottle Of V8 Juice, Shop-N-Save, Rancho Palos Verdes, NM.)
Best William Pross -- Winner: William Pross, Collingwood, ND. (Runner-up: William Pross, Seattle, WA.)
Best Urban Legend -- Winner: The one about the guy on the Newlywed Show who said "That would be in the butt, Bob" when the host asked him to name the strangest place he and his wife had ever made whoopie. (Runner-up: The one about the Arab guys who bought a whole bunch of candy from Costco and were going poison it and then hand it out to children at malls last Halloween.)
Best Place To Get The Shit Beat Out Of You -- Winner: Doug Peterson's House, Bristol, WI. (Runner-up: Little Rock Museum Of Modern Art, Little Rock, AK.)
Best Egg-Laying Mammal -- Winner: Duck-billed Platypus. (Runner-up: None.)
Best Dokken Album -- Winner: Tooth and Nail. (Runner-up, via write-in campaign: DOKKEN SUXS METALLICA RULLLLLZ!!!!!!!!!.)
Best Civil Liberty Suspended By John Ashcroft -- Winner: Right To An Attorney. (Runner-up: Freedom From Unreasonable Searches and Seizures.)
Thanks to everyone who voted, and congratulations to the Best of the USA 2002! See you next year!
Hot Hot Hot!
I went to the Mariners game last night. At one point the Tigers' first baseman, Carlos Peña, singled to right field. The guy behind me exclaimed "That guy is moy cally-ento!"
July 29, 2002
Lost in the Maze
defective yeti's readership has been dwindling in recent weeks, because so many of my regular visitors have been captured by Evil Supervillians and thrown into giant mazes, where they wander around aimlessly for days before perishing a slow and agonizing death by dehydration.
In an attempt to salavage what reader base I have left, I offer you this tip. As soon as Evil Supervillian leaves you in the foyer of the maze and seals the entrance, reach out and touch the right-hand wall. Now proceed forward, turning when necessary, always (always!) touching the wall to your right. This means that you'll have to take every right-hand turn you come to; it also means that you'll almost certainly encounter some dead ends, but, when you do, just take two left-hand turns and continue back the way you came. The important thing here is to never ever remove your hand from the wall on your right. Eventually you will find the exit of the maze. It may take longer than you could have found the exit by sheer luck, but it also ensures that you will never backtrack and will ultimately escape.
A moment's examination of the maze below should prove the point:
What do you mean you're "not getting it"?! Okay, so look at the red line below -- that's the path your outstretched right hand makes as you travel through the maze.
Wow: is that the crappiest photoshop job you've ever seen, or what?
Note: If this information actually saves your life at some point in the future, I'd appreciate it if you'd buy me the new Cyndi Lauper CD. Thanks.
Yesterday I cooked a hot dog and then discovered that all my hot dog buns were moldy. So I had to eat it on a hamburger bun.
Ergo, you can expect this week's posts to be all goth and angsty.
July 26, 2002
Hello friend. You and I have been close for years now, and I would hate for anything to come between us. But I sense trouble on the horizon. That's why I decided to address a potential problem even before it arises.
This is the situation: A new Austin Powers movie is out, and -- NO! NO NO NO! Don't say it! Lesson #1: when someone says "A new Austin Powers movie is out," do not reply with "Yeah, baby!". Aaarrgh! You see? This is exactly why I'm having to bring this up!
Look: it was just four months ago that you (finally!) stopped reciting catchphrases from the last Austin Powers movie. And whether you realize it or not, a lot of the people who love you -- myself included -- breathed a huge sigh of relief after you uttered your last "Get into my belly!" Frankly, we thought you were never going to stop, that we would be forced to either go into hiding or stab you to death with a ladle.
But now there's another Austin Powers movie, a third one. And you are going to see it. We don't fault you for that -- everyone in America is going to see it, just as we are all going to see the next Star Wars movie and reelect George Bush. But please: try -- just try! -- to refrain from using the 77 "classic" and 29 new Austin Powers catchphrases in the months and years to come. Because although you stubbornly refuse to acknowledge this, they are not funny. It's true. "Oh behave!" is not funny. Nobody knows why you ever thought it was.
Just so we're clear, here's some specific phrases to avoid:
And someone needs to tell you all this, for your own good. Because if you spend another two years exclaiming "I shall call him Mini-Me" everytime you see an infant, what few friends you have left are going to desert you. I'm not kidding. Catchphrases are that annoying. Catchphrases are evil.
Ug. The fact that you quickly put your pinkie to the corner of your mouth when I said "evil" does not bode well.
Promotional stills from the upcoming movie Matrix Reloaded!
(Ha ha. Made you click.)
Movies: Home Movie
I heart documentaries about quirky people. So does Chris Smith, apparently, because he keeps crankin' them out every year or so. He also seems to have an affinity for the word "American," as in American Job, his first major motion picture, and American Movie, his second. It was the latter that got me interested in Smith. American Movie documented the struggle of Mark, a goofball would-be director trying to film a 30-minute horror movie named Coven. (That's "COE-ven," because "CUH-ven" rhymes with oven, Mark informs us, and therefore sounds stupid.) Although the audience is definitely encouraged to laugh at Mark rather than with him, American Movie still managed to portray the protagonist as someone worthy of respect.
So too for the subjects of Home Movie, people you manage to chuckle over and envy at the same time. Each of the five live in bizarre homes, houses that reflect (or amplify) their personalities: an alligator wrangler who on a houseboat in the Louisiana swamp, a Hawaiian woman who lives in a treehouse, a pair of hippies who inhabit an abandoned missile silo, a man who has created an electronic "hope of the future" , and a feline-crazed couple who have customized their home for their 17 cats. The range from the pragmatic (Bill Triegle, lives in the Bayou because of his occupation) to the fringe (Ben Skora, the electronics whiz, intends to return from the dead and inhabit the body of a robot), but each has tailored his home to fit his lifestyle, or vice versa.
Spreading the movie out over five people was a wise choice, as the charm of any given personality would probably wear thin quickly. And the whole thing clocks in at just over an hour, as Smith recognizes that it's better to make a short movie than one that overstays its welcome. To make up for the main feature's brevity, Home Movie is followed by Heavy Metal Parking Lot, a 15-minute "documentary" of a bunch of kids partying before a 1986 Judas Priest concert. Many people had told me ahead of time that this was hil-AIR-ious, but I'll confess that, while I quite enjoyed it, it was overlong even at 15-minutes. Really, as soon as the first shirtless, tattooed lunkhead screams "JUDAS PRIEST RUUUUUUUUULES!!!!!" at the camera, you've pretty much seen the whole film.
Some movies were meant be seen on the big screen. Home Movie is not one of them. The low-budget quality of the flick makes it entirely suitable for a rental. But the audience adds a lot to the experience (especially to Parking Lot ), so you may want to catch it in a theater if it's still lingering in your area. But don't tarry -- in the unlikely event that it's still around, I assure you it won't be for long.
July 25, 2002
Broken -> Fixed
I just discovered that The Create Your Own Memepool Post Tool was broken. But I'm pretty sure I fixed it.
100 Things About Me!
People are always sending me email, saying, "Matthew, with your endless barrage of smarm and near incoherence, we never really get to learn anything about you." Well that ends today, friends! By popular demand:
July 24, 2002
Butterfly Girl Rules
Very Nice Person Elizabeth Blanco (a.k.a. Butterfly Girl) made a button for me: . You could use it to link to defective yeti! Or you could use it to link to Boobleheaddolls.com, I suppose, although that doesn't make any sense. Or you could print the button out on a piece of paper and keep it on your desk, and then when you are really busy and that one co-worker comes into your office and starts droning on and on about who he thinks is going to win The Mole 2, you could press the button and pretend that it opens a trapdoor or launches boring-seeking missiles or something. That would be fun.
Thanks Butterfly Girl!
July 23, 2002
Does anyone have any photos of David Lee Roth wearing those assless leather pants? I need some for a sympathy collage I am making for my Great Aunt Rose. If you have any, could you send them to me? Thanks.
Hey, what are you doing next weekend? Nothing?! Lame.
July 22, 2002
People and Their Pets
Prospectus: Chairman of the Night
I was listening to the news today and they were talking corporate scandals and Harvey Pitt. (Harvey Pitt, you'll recall, is the current SEC Chairman, a guy whose future is every bit as bright as the red-shirted unnamed guy on Star Trek who just beamed down to the surface of a planet and is told to look behind that rock.) As usual, every time they said the name "Harvey Pitt" my internal search engine, my pesonal neuroGoogle, began crawling around my synapses trying to figure out why the name "Harvey Pitt" seemed so familiar. This time I finally figured it out: "Harvey Pitt" sounds, to me, like "Harvey Dent" -- you know, the Gotham City District Attorney who had acid splashed onto half of his face, who subsequently went insane, and who now harries Batman as the infamous Two-Face.
Then I began thinking about what a great villain Harvey Pitt would make if, you know, some renegade Authur Anderson auditor pushed half of his face into a shredder or something. He could go mad and vow to take he revenge on stockholders everywhere in the guise of "Prospectus: Chairman of the Night". He could start a gang called "Hostile Takeover" and seek to control of the world's economy, alongside such evildoers as Bull and Bear, Penny Stock, Liquidity Lad and The Downsizer. And the only thing standing between them and total economic anarchy would be mild-mannered Alan Greenspan, known to corporate criminals everywhere as The Invisible Hand.
Congressman: But Mr. Greenspan, how will this proposal impact rural unemployment?I may be a complete geek for thinking all this, but I'm sure you'll agree: Harvey Pitt and Alan Greenspan, clad in green tights and fist-fighting on Wall Street, would be a helluva lot more interesting than listening to CEOs take the fifth on Lou Dobbs MoneyLine.
Books: Color of Magic
After reading a book about death, a book about fraud and a book about the history of mathematics, I figured I was due a little summer reading. So I asked a friend for a recommendation, and he suggested Terry Pratchett. And I replied with a "maybe, maybe," with no intention of taking his advice.
The truth is that I have always been a wary of Pratchett and his whole "Discworld" series, despite the fact that I had never read any of the books. Back in the day I had been a huge Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fan, but I made the mistake of rereading that book a few years ago and found the humor (or, rather, "the humour") entirely too obvious for my adult tastes. I therefore concluded that I would not enjoy Pratchett, since I believed "Discworld" to be little more than an amalgamation of Hitchhiker's Guide and Piers Anthony's excruciating, pun-ridden Xanth novels.
But the next time I saw this aforementioned friend he handed me The Color of Magic, and since I had yet to scare up any other summer reading I decided to give it a whirl. To my surprise, I found it to be exactly the book I'd been seeking: light, inventive, and (most of the time) funny in all the right ways.
The Color of Magic is the first book about Discworld, a world so-named because it's, well, a disc -- which sits atop four gargantuan elephants, which stand atop a galactic-sized turtle, who trundles through the universe toward some unknown destination. (Yes, I know: you're already wincing and thinking, as I did, that all this sounds dreadfully absurdist.) The setting is Standard Fantasy -- swords and sorcery and everything in between -- and the stories revolve around Rincewind, a failed wizard who knows but one spell, and Twoflower, a visitor from a far-away nation on a site-seeing excursion around the world. In following their misadventures, we become tourists ourselves, seeing all the lunacy that Discworld has to offer.
The humor is pretty even-keeled -- Pratchett can't seem to resist the British predilection for puns, but he keeps them to a minimum. What sets The Color of Magic apart from other parodies is the author's seemingly endless font of ideas. Despite the fact that Discworld is a hodge-podge of themes and archetypes cribbed from the fantasy genre, Pratchett tweaks them enough to make them fresh, interesting, and often quite amusing. Take "Hrun the Barbarian," for example. While trapped deep in a dungeon, Twoflower asks Hrun what he thinks will happen next:
"Oh," [Hrun] said, "I expect in a minute the door will be flung back and I'll be dragged off to some sort of temple arena where I'll fight maybe a couple of giant spiders and an eight-foot slave from the jungles of Klatch and then I'll rescue some kind of a princess from the altar and then kill off a few guards or whatever and then this girl will show me the secret passage out of the place and we'll liberate a couple of horses and escape with the treasure." Hrun leaned his head back on his hands and looked at the ceiling, whistling tunelessly.See? Funny. This whole story, in fact, is a skillful parody of an H. P. Lovecraft story -- something I wouldn't have thought possible.
Anyhow, yeah: if you've steering clear of the Discworld series for the reasons I mentioned above -- or if you're just in the mood of a fun little something to devour over bus rides -- do what I did and give The Color of Magic a whirl. It ain't John Irving, but hey: immediately after finishing Magic I went to my library's website and reserved the next book in the series. That oughtta tell you something right there.
July 19, 2002
I have a great idea for a reality show: American Idle. Each episode will showcase 10 real Americans sitting around inertly, eating Bugles, and watching tv. Viewers can call up and vote for one of the contestants, and whomever receives the most votes has to go outside and run around the block a few times.
Give me a call, FOX: I'll let this one go for a song.
Bus ... of Death!
The bus pulled away from the stop, but immediately came to a halt behind a queue of cars at a red light. Two women outside began pounding on the back doors and yelling "wait! wait!". As a chorus of "back door!" arose from the passengers, the driver allowed the women to enter.
A minute later the bus still hadn't moved, and a third woman arrived upon the scene, slapping the flat of her hand against the bus and yelling "wait!", just as the traffic light turned green. The driver hesitated for a moment, glanced at the wailing woman in his side mirror, and then took off. Grumbles rippled through the coach, with one young man loudly pronouncing the entire situation "lame!"
After we got onto the freeway, the driver spoke over the intercom. "Ladies and gentlemen, " she said, "We do not allow people to board the bus after it has left the curb for reasons of saftey. People who run into the street after a departing bus often fall under the wheels and sustain injury or death.
"Last year, five people were killed while trying to catch a bus that had already left the curb," she continued in an ominous tone. "Unfortunately for those people, they caught their bus ... for the last time!"
July 18, 2002
1-Star Reviews of Classic Novels
1. The Great Gatsby: "If Fitzgerald had written this book properly ... it would have been EXACTLY two sentences long - 'I'm rich' and 'Oh, boo hoo'. The plot line resembles an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 (namely 'Let's sit around and whine about being rich. Next we'll get drunk and call each other names, fight, and run each other over!' SHUT UP ALREADY!) I can rarely can say this, but I HATE HATE HATE HATE this book! FOR YOUR OWN GOOD, STAY AWAY FROM THIS BOOK IF YOU CAN HELP IT!"
2. Catcher in the Rye: "I'm not the kind of person who reads a lot of books and this book is a reason why."
3. The Grapes of Wrath: "Unfortunately i had to read this book for my american literature class. it went on and on and on about absolutely nothing!yes mr. steinbeck is verydescriptive, by he goes completely overboard in almost every chapter. i mean, does it really take a whole chapter to describe a turtle?!!"
5. The Color Purple: "This book is the collection of sick perverted ravings of Alice Walker. I started reading the book thinking it had to be great to win the Pullitzer Prize, but I couldn't even finish it because it was so grossly sickening. I urge you to not read this book because it will subvert you and defile your mind with unwanted perverseness."
6. Ulysses: "It is the only book I can think of where the reader deserves more credit for finishing it than the author."
7. Beloved: "Toni has a comon failing among female writers, unfocused ideas and flat characters. the subject matter wasnt something that particlarly intrested me. I guess it would be possible to like this book, but someone like me, I think Ill stick with sci-fi."
8. The Lord of the Flies "I had to read this book for literiture class I hated it. my teacher rattled on about the symbolizm in this book.It was so boring and kinda gory. Plus no girls, wasnt they susposed to repopulate the world after nuclear war so not possible wih only boys. The one thing i found interesting was how they acted like wild animals after they had been on the island a while.that was kinda cool.But it was to confusing."
9. 1984: "The fall of Communism has erased nearly every trace of relevance this book may once have had. "
10.The Sound and the Fury: "What was up with all the words in italics?"
Update, 10/31/06: Hi! A lot of folks are coming to this dusty old entry from a link on Boing Boing. Just so you know, I wrote a second (and better) installment of this for The Morning News.
July 17, 2002
Raptureready.com says "The rapture is going to strike without warning. The rapture is going to happen suddenly. The rapture is going to be one of the most astonishing events to ever occur."
The Rapture may not be the most astonishing event ever to occur, but it's gonna be, like, in the top ten. Right up there with Richard Hatch winning Survivor and the release of Vanilla Coke.
Underpromise and overdeliver -- now that's how you run a religion!
I have been the victim of an orchestrated and refined scam at least twice. (By "refined" I mean "more elaborate than a guy who doesn't really need bus fare hitting me up for a dollar".) I may have been bilked on other occasions but, if so, I am blissfully unaware of it.
Short Change: I got nailed by a quick-change artist when I was 17 and working as a cashier of a restaurant. A guy comes in and asks me to make change a $20 bill. As soon as I took the bill he began talking a mile a minute about nothing in particular, and after he received his change (a ten, a five and five ones) he suddenly pulled a wad of money out of his coat pocket and said "Shit, I didn't need change after all, I have all these ones in my coat." So he shows me "ten" ones and says, "Here, just give me a $10 bill for these." I give him a $10 bill, he hands me the ones, I count them and find only nine. "I only gave you nine? Well, here," the guy says and hands me another $1 bill. Then he says "Fuck, this is a nightmare. Take back this $10 bill too and just give me back my original twenty bucks." I do so, and he leaves while I stand there thinking "waaaaaaaait a minute ...." I had to write all the transactions onto a piece of paper to figure out that I had lost $10.
July 16, 2002
Red Meat Construction Set
July 15, 2002
Yes! defective yeti is the #1 Google search result for the key phrase drunken shenanigans. I have never been prouder.
Poetry Bus Project
The Seattle public transportation system has a groovy program called The Poetry Bus Project. Every year they announce a theme, poets (and would-be poets) submit short verse relating to the theme, the best are printed onto placards and displayed in buses throughout the city.
Last year's theme was "One to One: Points of Contact". Here is one of my favorites from that set:
You can read all the 2001 winning entries here.
And if you live in Washington State, you can find details on how to submit poetry for next year's competition ("Lost & Found") on The Poetry Bus Project website.
xxx Blame Clinton for Their Athlete's Foot! xxx
July 12, 2002
The Bad Review Revue
Hey, I haven't done this in a while.
Bad Review Revue
[Men In Black II] "If it isn't the worst sequel ever made, it's only because it has too much competition" -- David Edelstein, SLATEPeter Travers Bonus Quote, Regarding Sum of All Fears: "How the hell did Ben Affleck, 29, wind up replacing Harrison Ford, 59, as our hero? Chronology hasn't been this royally fucked since Memento."
Tips For Enjoying Anime
defective yeti's Tips For Enjoying Anime!
July 11, 2002
A young man was yammering on his cell phone as he strolled the sidewalks of Capitol Hill. He was espied by a cat on a nearby stoop, which leapt to its feet, mewed affectionately, and trotted towards him in search of pets.
The man said into his phone "Whoa. Hang on, I have a situation here." Then he stopped in his tracks, dropped his arms to his sides, and slowly backed away from the kitty.
Yesterday I became the proud owner of an aggressively unattractive haircut.
Unpopular Mixed Drinks
Tossed Green Salad: Mix two ounces Lettuce Schnapps, one ounce tomato juice, one ounce carrot juice. Garnish with cocktail onions, celery stick.
The Swoon: Drop shot of ammonia into pint glass filled with bleach. Inhale chloramine gas.
Slugger: Combine 2 ounces of rum, 1/2 ounce of gin, dash of cola and anabolic steroids in highball glass. Garish with tobacco.
The SUV: Soak "Little Tree" air freshener overnight in 30-W weight motor oil. Carbonate resulting liquid with CO2 gas. Add splash of ethanol, serve in 52-ounce 7-11 "X-TREME GULP" plastic cup.
Meow Mix: Put one handful of wheat-based kitty litter in coupette glass. Add two ounces vodka. After vodka has been entirely absorbed by litter, fill glass with orange juice, garnish with cherry.
The A.D.D.: Blend 1/2 cup low quality port, 1/2 cup Hi-C brand punch, 1/2 cup raw sugar, 1 cup store-brand margarita mix. Drink while watching cartoons.
Rusty Nail: Fill tumbler with club soda. Add rusty nail.
July 10, 2002
Books: Drake's Fortune
I first heard tell of Drake's Fortune: The Fabulous True Story of the World's Greatest Confidence Artist in the virtual pages of Salon, which reviewed two books dedicated to the art of the scam. And as I have a soft spot in my heart for hucksters, I picked up the (reportedly) better written of the two.
Zowie, whatta great book! Which is to say: what amazing subject matter. Drake's Fortune is well-written, and author Richard Rayner has the good sense to avoid two problems which seem to plague biographies: he stays focused on the subject matter and he keeps it brief (200 pages). This makes for a riveting work, one that that I plowed through in two days and would have read cover-to-cover had I started it early on a weekend.
Despite the title, the protagonist ('antagonist,' really) is Oscar Merrill Hartzell. The titular "Drake" refers to Sir Francis Drake, a British admiral from the 1500's who plundered the Spanish Armada and returned to England with a bounty of gold. After the Queen took her share from the The ill-begotten trove, the rest sat in probate awaiting a heir to claim the remains. And there the untold riches sat, for hundreds of years, as the legal questions surrounding the gold's rightful owner grew ever more complex. Anyone who could sort out the genealogical riddle stood to make a killing: they would receive the entire fortune, plus centuries' worth of interest. This is the task Hartzell undertook, but he knew it wasn't going to be easy or cheap. Indeed, no one man could possibly afford all the legal fees required to untangle this legal morass. So Hartzell asked ordinary citizens for donations, and promised that, once the estate was his, he would return their investment 1000%.
It would have been a win-win situation for everyone involved, if not for one troublesome detail: there was no Drake estate. Yes, Sir Francis Drake had returned to the motherland with a boatload of booty, but every doubloon had been distributed -- nothing remained to be claimed by anyone. But this didn't stop Hartzell from selling "stakes" in the estate all the same. In fact, from 1920 to 1933, he bilked thousands and thousands of people out of millions and millions of dollars -- this despite the fact that the nation was in the midst of a Great Depression! And what's even more astounding is how little effort it took him: Hartzell rarely even bothered to pretend like he was really pursuing an estate, instead running the entire scheme off of his winning charisma and his superhuman ability to lie like a rug.
Read this book. It's great.
Movies: The Bourne Identity
Good Lord, when did I start liking Matt Damon?
Several people had told me that The Bourne Identity was enjoyable. Several other people told me it was so-so. No one said it was bad, which is good enough for me when it comes to action movies these days. So I saw it. My verdict? Not a great movie, but lots and lots of fun.
I liken it to last year's Ocean's 11. Neither film has a shred of originality, but both do a great job of stringing together a bunch of classic "action movie" scenes and making them look good. Bourne Identity could have been created using a "Make Your Own Action Movie" kit -- it's got the gun fights and the car chases and the shady government figures and the European locales and, yes, even amnesia -- but director Doug Liman does a remarkable job of assembling the thing and covering the finished product with a lovely coat of paint.
It certainly helps that Bourne Identity is one of the increasingly rare "thrillers" that's actually thrilling. Moments before the story begins, the main character is essentially killed (he survives by sheer luck) and he therefore seems refreshingly mortal through the entire film. Everything else about the movie seems equally as believable, and although the plot has its has its share of twists, I was never left thinking "Oh puh-leeze" (as I was in, say, Panic Room).
Franka Potente (of Run Lola Run does a good job of playing the hapless tourist caught up into the web of intrigue. Damon and Potente don't seem to have a whole lot of overt screen chemistry, but, here again, that seems more plausible than the idea of two strangers (albeit two attractive strangers) falling madly in love while running for their lives.
I actually enjoyed The Bourne Identity a smidge more than Minority Report (and not only because of Franka Potente, despite what my wife may tell you). Spielberg ultimately turned M.R. into a morality play, while the Bourne Identity is a straight-forward, amoral, roller-coaster ride. That's just the way I like 'em.
"Jesus!" I said as I drove us to work today. "A pipeline for Stupid Gas must have ruptured in this area. Everyone is driving like an idiot."
"It's really bright this morning," my wife observed. "People in Seattle have a hard time driving when it's sunny out."
"Or if it's raining, it's snowing, it's hailing, the skies are overcast or the skies are clear," she added. "Or at night."
July 09, 2002
COPS officer pontification: "Yeah, nobody wants to see a cute little birdy go bad like this. But, you know, it's up to a jury to sympathize. My job is just to bring 'em in."
July 08, 2002
In Taco Bell.
Mother: What do you want?
Regal Cinemas = Bad
[Lost Cause of the Week]: Here's an email I just sent to Regal Cinemas.
My wife and I went to an evening showing of "The Bourne Identity" at the Crossroads cinema in Bellevue, WA. The sheer amount of advertising we were subjected to has convinced us to avoid Regal Cinemas for the foreseeable future.Next up: long, rambling letters to The Seattle Times warning that use of the Gregorian calendar will lead to communism!
Seriously, I can't remember the last time I was moved to write a complaint letter, but this was what we in the business refer to as "really, really, really, really bad". And apparently I am not alone, because a quick Google Groups search for "regal cinemas" gets you a bevy of ticked off movie fans.
And here's a tip for the seven of you who have read this far: you can find out what theaters in your area are owned by Regal Cinemas by entering your zip code here and hitting 'Submit':
July 05, 2002
Screw Disneyland, we're going to Chernobyl!
In his novel Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury envisioned a dark future in which firefighters started fires rather than prevented them.
July 04, 2002
Bill of Rights, Explained
Cameron Marlow makes one of those funny in a "not-really-all-that-funny way" type observations over on Overstated: Ask nearly any American to name all 50 States in 15 minutes and they won't be able to do it. (I wasn't ... stupid Delaware ...) Here's another fun one to spring on your dinner companions and make them feel like cretins: how many of the amendments in the Bill of Rights can you name?
These are the four you undoubtedly know off the top of your head.
I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.Here's a primer on the rest.
III: No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law. Pretty self-explanatory, actually, but most folks are surprised to hear that this issue was deemed so vital that it got spot #3 in the big Bill O' Rights Countdown.If this knowledge doesn't make members of the opposite sex flock to you like idiots to a Survivor audition, I don't know what will.
Read more at the tee-riffic findlaw.com.
July 03, 2002
Great leapin' cats, what's this world coming to? On Monday American West Airlines grounded a plane because the pilots were drunk; today NASA finds crack in 3rd space shuttle!
The first two times NASA blamed it on "bad seed" astronauts, but finding crack a third time should be cause for concern.
Lemony Fresh Pledge of Allegiance
Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill announced today that the US would sell "naming rights" to fill The Gap in the Pledge of Allegiance left when a federal court ruled that the words "under God" were unconstitutional. "This is some prime advertising real estate," said O'Neill, pointing out that the Pledge is spoken daily by schoolchildren throughout the nation. "If you've got a two-word slogan and several hundred million dollars, we want to talk to you." Among the alternatives proposed so far to fill The Gap: "one nation, Ram Tough," "one nation, Thinking Different" "one nation, Drivers Wanted," and "one nation, Mm-mm Good." Until a slogan has been chosen the US government will refer to the vacant space as the "The Gap" as part of an agreement with a nationwide clothing store.
July 02, 2002
Movies: Minority Report
This has been, like, The Summer of Redemption. First George Lucus atoned for Star Wars: Albatross I by cranking out the pretty good summer movie Attack of the Clones. Now Spielberg gives us Minority Report, a movie that, while not perfect, is good enough to serve as an apology for the abysmal A.I.
And although I have, at various times, sworn never again to speak of A.I., let's review why that movie was so darned bad. Problems #1-10: the lack of a consistent tone. The movie was a much ballyhooed "collaboration" between Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg -- which, if you think about it, ought to be a match made in cinematic heaven: Kubrick is often accused of making frigid, sterile movies, Spielberg is prone to making over-sentimental touchie-feelies, so staking out the middle ground would have been a great idea. But instead of blending the two styles, it seemed like they just took a glue stick and gummed 'em together: the first hour of A.I. was emotional codswallop, the second hour was vintage Kubrick cynicism, and the third terrible hour was pure Spielberg syrup. (I dunno if the movie was actually three hours long, but it certainly felt like it.) Furthermore, Spielberg obviously hadn't decided ahead of time if he was going to make a science-fiction movie with philosophical undertones or a philosophical movie set in a science-fiction universe, and the flick switches from one to the other about every seven minutes.
Not so with Minority Report. Here Spielberg has made a full-on science-fiction opus, and although he just can't seem to help himself from sermonizing now and again (and, alas, again), the atmosphere is at least consistent: dark without being gritty, exciting without being mindless, intriguing without being overly complicated. It certainly helped that the author of the screenplay, Scott Frank, is an old hand at writing tight thrillers. (He penned the fabulous Out of Sight, as well as the enjoyable Get Shorty). Minority Report also boasts a great cinematographer by the name of Janusz Kaminski -- the same guy who did the cinematography for A.I., true, but then the cinematography in A.I. was its one redeeming feature.
Tom Cruise does what he always does with considerable aplomb: he runs around and jumps over things and climbs up walls like Spider-man in khakis. He plays a fairly intelligent police officer and, to his credit, Tommy a good job of furrowing his brow at various points to give the illusion that there's something rattling around upstairs. Although there are lots of supporting characters, this is pretty much a one-man show (think Mission Impossible --- of the future!), and Cruise carries the 120+ minutes admirably.
As far as Phillip K. Dick adaptations go, Minority Report is closer to Blade Runner than to Total Recall. It helps that the screenwriter didn't confine himself to the short story, and threw in lots of extra stuff cribbed from William Gibson (e.g., "The Sprawl") to keep things on an even, cyberpunk keel. Yes, the last thirty minutes falter, but (sadly) I've come to expect that of a Spielberg movie. But despite my mild disappointment with the ending, Minority Report gets a hearty recommendation.
Although I'm glad Minority Report didn't stick to the original story (which, frankly, had a pretty muddled plot), it's a shame that it didn't at least incorporate all of the interesting ideas therein. In the movie, it turns out that there is no "Minority Report" for Anderton because he has been framed. In the story, however, two of the precogs agree that he will murder someone, while the third says that he won't. Seeing his name come up, Anderton realizes that all he has to do is evade the police until the time of the murder has come and gone, and then he will be scot free -- after all, they won't arrest him for a precrime that never occurred. But then, at the last minute, he decides to go ahead a murder the guy anyhow. Why? If he declines to commit the crime he is accused of, he reasons, detractors of the Precrime system will seize upon it and question how many of the other "criminals" in detention would have opted not to commit the crimes they were accused of. So rather than undermine the entire Department of Precrime -- a Department he has worked his entire life to build -- Anderton chooses to fulfill the precogs' prophecy. At the end of the story it is revealed that there was no majority report after all -- there were, in fact, three separate minority reports. The first precog saw Anderton kill his victim; the second precog saw the future where Anderton went on the lam and never killed anyone; the third precog saw the last future, where Anderton decided to kill the guy anyhow to preserve the system. In other words, the "majority report" was an illusion: two of the precogs agreed that Anderton would kill this man, but they saw this in completely different time-lines.
What a great twist! Unfortunately, Spielberg couldn't use it, because he wanted The Department of Precrime discredited to further the "anti-Big Brother" message of the film. Yes, that message is relevant in this time of Bush & Ashcroft denouncing folks as "potential terrorists," but what a waste of a perfectly good ending. Phillip K. Dick wasn't the greatest of writers, but people love his work because he used science-fiction to fully explore the philosophical ramifications of technology. Spielberg, on the other hand, is too busy advocating his ideals to fully utilize Dick's ideas. And that, my friend, is a shame.
July 01, 2002
Outragous. Yet Awesome
The other day I parked in a lot adjacent to Seattle's new football stadium, and as I got out of my car I was astonished to hear what sounded like a rock concert coming from the arena. This was odd for three reasons. First, the stadium is unfinished as-of-yet, and it seemed unlikely that they would allow a concert to take place in an unfinished edifice. Second, it's an open-air stadium, and I could clearly see that no one was in the stands. And third -- who holds a rock concert at 8:30 in the morning?
So I walked over to see what was going on. As I got closer, I realized that the music was not live, but an "Eagles" song being broadcast by a local radio station. In fact, it appeared as if the dozen or so construction guys were, as they worked, listening to classic rock over the multi-million dollar sound system at volumes that could be heard throughout the southern end of the city.
I contemplated the sheer amounts of money and electricity being squandered, and tried my hardest to be outraged. But, in the end, I couldn't help but think it was pretty awesome.