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November 26, 2003

Don't Believe The Hype

Spam:

From: s5dkk1aqn@imap.com Wed Nov 26 16:25:14 2003
To: matthew@defectiveyeti.com
Subject: Have great sex with Viagra!!
I tried this and, honestly, the sex wasn't that great. The Viagra pretty much just lay there passively.

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November 25, 2003

Movies: Intolerable Cruelty, School of Rock, and Mystic River

Movies I've seen in the last month or so:

Intolerable Cruelty: I knew from the trailer that I wanted to see Intolerable Cruelty. After all, the film was made by one of my favorite creative teams (the Coen Brothers), stars one of my favorite actors (George Clooney), and features one of my favorite people to look at (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Admittedly, the preview looked a little zanier than I might have preferred, but my mind was already made up. Besides, I knew this was the Coen Brother's first film with a mainstream producer, and I figured the marketing guys probably just zany-uped the trailer to make it more appealing to average moviegoer.

Nope. Intolerable Cruelty was every bit as wacky as it seemed in the ads -- perhaps even more so. But I probably laughed more during this movie than I had during any other film this year.

The plot is pure screwball-comedy. George Clooney plays a divorce lawyer so renowned that there's a prenuptial agreement named after him. He meets his match in Zeta-Jones, a crafty gold-digger and the (soon-to-be-ex) wife of Clooney's current client. Clooney (a) becomes smitten with Zeta-Jones and (b) takes to the cleaners nonetheless. From that point on the movie becomes a contest of wills, with the two shysters maneuvering and counter-maneuvering as they struggle to either destroy one another or fall in love -- even they don't seem to know which one they're working towards.

I've always been a little out of sync with other Coen Brothers fans: where most put Fargo or The Great Lewbowski at the top of their lists, my favorite has always been Barton Fink. (This is, of course, excluding Raising Arizona, which is obviously #1 for everyone.) And while a lot of Coen Brothers' aficionados didn't much care for The Hudsucker Proxy, I thought is was hilarious. And I liked Intolerable Cruelty quite a bit, despite its lukewarm reception by the Coen Brothers faithful. In fact, I think Hudsucker serves as a pretty good litmus test for Intolerable: as both are over-the-top genre pieces, if you liked one you'll probably like the other.

School of Rock: While I knew immediately that wanted to see Intolerable, I didn't realize that I wanted to see School of Rock until I was actually sitting in the theater, watching the opening credits.

When it was released, all I knew about it was that it starred Jack Black, an actor I only find moderately funny. Then I started hearing rumors that SoR was "a great, family film" -- my secret weakness. (Much as I like the Kill Bills and the Y Tu Mama Tambiens, I'm always gratified to see good, clean fun in the form of a Galaxy Quest or Finding Nemo. ) Then I discovered the film was penned by Mike White, who's written several of my favorite movies (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl). By the time I found out who the director was (Richard Linklater), I was sold. Still, it wasn't until I saw Sarah Silverman's name in the opening credits that I really started to get excited about this film.

So let me start with the bad news: Sarah Silverman is not a reason to see this film -- she is cast against type and pretty much completely wasted. (Note: I don't mean "wasted" in the sense of "drunk and offensive," -- which would be closer to the Silverman I enjoy -- I mean the role she inhabits could have been played by anyone.) Plus, she's wearing makeup! What kind of idiot puts makeup on Sarah Silverman? It's like putting toothpaste on a Picasso.

Furthermore, School of Rock -- let's be honest, here -- is Dead Poets Society. Seriously, plotwise it the same flick: inspiring teacher rallies students to fight against conformity through art. I'm not saying Dead Poets was a landmark of originality, either, but that's the version of the story I was raised on, and SoR is its soul brother.

But SoR has a huge advantage over Dead Poets: it doesn't take itself seriously. While Robin Williams was expanding his pupils' minds with Latin phrases and Keatings, Jack Black forces his twerps to listen to Metallica and The Who. Nobody breaks down in tears in School of Rock, and nobody commits suicide. The message here less "rebel against conformity because it's philosophical imperative that you do so" and more "dude: rockin' out kicks ass!!!" And while I found Black's mugging to be a little tiresome, but there's no disputing that he makes the movie work.

Overall, I agree this a nifty family film: clean enough to bring the kids, adult enough to keep the parent entertained, and subversive enough to put it a notch or two above the typical PG fare.

Mystic River: I knew I had three movies to review in this post, but I couldn't remember the third for the life of me. Finally I asked The Queen. "It was that movie we saw in Texas," she said. "What was it?" After a few minutes' thought she said "Oh, it was Mystic River. No wonder you forgot it."

Oh, yeah. Mystic River is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, its parts are really quite excellent: great acting by Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, and Tim Robbins, crisp direction, beautiful cinematography, and script chock full o' plot. But the sum of those parts just didn't do it for me. For one thing, Mystic River is primarily a character study, and I never really cared much for the characters. Worse, nothing in the film struck me as particularly novel. In fact, I was constantly reminded of the 1993 movie Sleepers, which also starred Kevin Bacon and dealt with child abuse at the hands of clergy. Sean Penn, meanwhile, plays his "mobster tough guy" role well, but I feel like I've seen it a dozen times before.

Mystic River is getting rave reviews and, honestly, it seems like one of those movies you should review well because so much of it is superb. But, overall, the movie struck me as not particularly compelling. And, frankly, forgettable.

November 24, 2003

Die, Türblitzen

You know who drives me nuts? Door rushers. You know who I mean -- everybody's seen these guys in action. I bet the Germans even have a word for them, Die Türblitzen or something. Türblitzen are the folks who stand right in front of the elevator doors while waiting for a car to arrive. And the moment the doors open they rush forward like they've been shot out a cannon.

Türblitzen always seem completely flabbergast to discover that an elevator already contains people who inexplicably want to get out -- they always sort of cry "oh!" and pull up short. But do they then get out of the way? No, they do not. Instead they just stand there dumbly, occluding half of the doorway like cholesterol in an artery, forcing disembarking passengers to squeeze around them.

Holy smokes, I hate these people.

Fortunately, I totally figured out how to solve this problem. All buildings should have a hardwired algorithm that makes elevators doors on the third floor or higher occasionally open when the car isn't there. By my reckoning, the scourge of Türblitzen would take care of itself in about a month.

Somebody please get on this.

November 21, 2003

xxx defective yeti EXCLUSIVE xxx

Michael Jackson's booking photo.

[ link | dy]



The Bad Review Revue: We Did Not Like It, Not One Little Bit

Cat In The Hat: a dirty dozen.

"This screened too late for us to review, so in the interest of fairness all we can say is that we're pretty sure it's gonna suck." -- Film Shorts, THE STRANGER

"Get out the flatware, mother--the Thanksgiving turkey has arrived!" -- Frank Swietek, ONE GUY'S OPINION

"Perhaps the worst holiday movie ever made." -- John Anderson, NEWSDAY

"An abomination, impure and simple." -- Joe Morgenstern, WALL STREET JOURNAL

"Critics are paid to suffer bad art, no matter how icky it is from the start. So all we could do was to Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit! And we did not like it. Not one little bit." -- Manohla Dargis, LOS ANGELES TIMES

"Like being run over by a garbage truck that backs up and dumps its load on top of you." -- David Edelstein, SLATE

"If the producers had dug up Ted Geisel's body and hung it from a tree, they couldn't have desecrated the man more." -- Ty Burr, BOSTON GLOBER

"Crass and vulgar almost beyond belief." -- Charles Taylor, SALON.COM

"A vulgar, uninspired lump of poisoned eye candy." -- A. O. Scott, NEW YORK TIMES

"Comes scarily close to being the most unendurable Hollywood creation of the last dozen years." -- Michael Atkinson, VILLAGE VOICE

"Makes the Matrix sequels look like works of genius." -- Michael Sragow, BALTIMORE SUN

"They may as well have skipped the hassle of securing licensing rights and simply called this mess Mike Myers: Asshole in Fur." -- Gregory Weinkauf, DALLAS OBSERVER

November 20, 2003

This Just In

AP Headline: Asteroid May Have Hit Earth 250 Million Years Ago.

All right Associated Press! Way to get right on top of that story!

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2003 Flossathon

A BIG thanks to those local Seattle celebrities who participated in the 2003 defective yeti Flossathon yesterday: Leslie Miller, Dan Wilson, Ron Sims, and, of course, Paul Allen -- they were all here in the defective yeti studio, flossing for 24 continuous hours to help raise money for the blog!!

And I'm pleased to announce that we not only met out goal of $35 but SMASHED THROUGH IT, raising over $37 for operational costs and snacks! That's enough to keep defective yeti online for another three weeks!!!!!

We apologize to those who tried to phone in a pledge after 3:00 yesterday afternoon -- unfortunately we had to stop taking calls because the bleeding gums and loose teeth made it excruciatingly painful to talk. But next year we hope to have a non-flossathoner answering the phones.

Thanks again for your support!!!

[ link | dy]


November 19, 2003

Basted In Blood: The Video

Thanks to this post, defective yeti is the #1 return when searching Google for "basted in blood". Sadly, the link is broken, and I no longer know where you can find an mp3 of that hilarious Sarah McLachlin ditty.

But has the yeti ever let you down? No, he has not. Well, maybe that one time, when I predicted that Jeepers Creepers 2 would be "better than Casablanca". But aside from that, never.

You can see the Basted In Blood video here. It's the third one down.

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Research Day: Texas

All questions inspired by my recent trip to Corpus Christi.

Are those man-o-wars that wash up on the beach goners, or do they just hang tight until the tide carries them out to sea again? I checked about a dozen pages, but none of them mentioned what happens to man-of-wars once they're beached. Eventually it occurred to me that this probably means they die -- after all, if they didn't die it surely would have been noted on at least one of the sites.

Finally, I came across this page, which states: "Once it beaches itself, all of the organisms that make up the man-of-war quickly die except for the organism that control the stinging cells. A beached man-of-war can still emit its stinging cells if someone comes in contact with its nearly invisible tentacles." You gotta like a critter with a built-in Doomsday device.

What's up with that squiggly line on the spider web? Before I start my research, I'd like to publicly state my hypothesis: the squiggly line serves as a "DO NOT FLY THROUGH WEB" sign to birds. Let's see if I'm close.

My first step was to find out the name. (Searching Google for "squiggly line spider" wasn't doing the trick.) I did so via the usual scientific method: I had my wife ask her coworker to ask his spider-owning partner what the hell the thing is called. The answer: the stabilimentum.

So right there it looked like my hypothesis was shot -- with a name like that it's obviously for stabilization, right? Maybe not. While the person who named the thing assumed stabilization was its function, contemporary arachnologist aren't so sure. In fact, they don't seem to really know what it's for. But here are some of the the leading ideas (mostly taken from here):

  • It's camouflage Frankly I'm unsure how that would work. After all, my hypothesis is predicated on the notion that the stabilimentum makes the web stand out, not blend in. But the premise of the camouflage hypothesis is that it disguises the spider instead of the web. Somehow.
  • It serves as a warning to birds Ha! I knew it. But one page also notes "it also makes the web more obvious to those birds who are fond of eating spiders." Uhh ... I guess that's true, now, innit?
  • It's the ol' 'I'm A Stick' gambit Bugs think the stabilimentum is a stick and land on it. No one seemed too enthusiastic about this explanation.
  • It's a beacon The stabilimentum reflects ultraviolet light better than ordinary webbing, and UV attracts insects who mistake it for the sunlight they navigate by. This is given somewhat more credence than the "stick" hypothesis, above.
  • It's a Hummer! The stabilimentum is just the arachnid version of a Hummer: a big, flashy mate-attractor that screams "I have so many resources I can afford to squander them on this useless thing!"
Almost every page I read about the stabilimentum concluded with some variation on the line "it probably exists for a combination of the above reasons," which, as we all know, is science-code for "I have no idea what it does."

As an aside, doesn't "StabiliMentum" sound like a bogus "rebranding" name some marketing weasel would come up for Enron? "It shows that we've got stability, right? That we're rock solid, that we're not going anywhere. But also that we're moooving -- get it? That we've got momentum. Picture the ads: 'StabiliMentum: We're Balancing Our Books. Honestly.'"

What the hell is a "F.M." road? Driving to the sea, we spent a lot of time on FM roads, e.g. "F.M. 2292." Here in Washington we have "I" roads (Interstate) and "SR" roads (State Route) and even "FS" roads out in the wilderness (Forest Service),, but an "F.M." road was new to us. At first we guessed the "F" stood for "Federal," but couldn't come up with an "M". Finally, noting that these roads traveled through the back-country, we decided that "F.M." was simply an abbreviation for "Farm" -- but the presence of a period between the F and M gave us the sneaking suspicion we were wrong.

So, I looked it up. And the answer is ... FM = Farm to Market road. "The system of Texas Farm-to-Market Roads was created to provide access to the rural areas of the state ... The name is derived from the intended use of the roads: farmers bringing their goods to market in the cities." Damn, so close.

November 18, 2003

Texas Trip: Hello Beaches!

So, yeah: The Queen and I went to Texas. No one is more surprised about this turn of events than I.

We haven't taken a trip in a long time, and this month was now-or-never time. By our reckoning, once The Squirrelly makes his debut, the era of the noun "vacation" habitually preceded by the adjective "relaxing" is probably over. More specifically, The Queen is wrapping up her second trimester, and we'd heard that most major airlines prohibit women in their seventh-eighth-ninth month of pregnancy from flying (although a little post-vacation Googling revealed this to be, for the most part, an urban legend).

In deciding our destination, I only had one requirement: I wanted to go somewhere. The Queen, on the other hand, had two: she wanted to be warm, and she wanted to look at plants. (This might be explained by the fact that she's a professional botanist. On the other hand, I'm a professional programmer and I had no desire to go somewhere and look at machine code, so maybe it doesn't explain anything.) Anyhow, I let The Queen pick the city, and somehow Corpus Christi came out the winner. I think it was the new "Texas: Now With More Republican Legislative Districts Than Ever!" ad campaign that it won her over.

We stayed in the Corpus Christi 'burbs, which was notable for containing one retail outlet for every single chain store in America. It was ridiculous. We even turned it into a driving game, where one of us would say "I haven't seen any Krispy Kremes yet!" and then the other -- usually with 20 seconds -- would shout "found one!" and point it out. We saw a Circuit City, a Best Buy, and a third enormous electronics store all on a single block. We saw a Wal*Mart half a mile from a Target.

In a way, the dismal, generic landscape worked to our advantage, because it drove us out of our hotel room bright n early every morning and out to the Gulf Coast. [11:00 am constitutes "bright n early" while on vacation -- ed.]

The first day we went to the Corpus Christi Botanical Garden, which was quite lovely despite the fact that nothing was in bloom. Fortunately for The Queen, she doesn't need no stinkin' flowers to enjoy plants: she can identify them all by their leaf shapes and stem colors and, I dunno, nodes or stamen or whatever. Hand her a piece of bark and she can tell you a tree's social security number. Fortunately for me, there were plenty of spiders and frogs and lizards and raptors to keep the 7-year old boy in me happy.

The next day we went to the beach. And once The Queen got her tosies in the sand it was beaches from that point on. First we went to Padre Island, which was beautiful but lousy with Portuguese man-o-wars -- iridescent jellyfish renowned for their painful stings. They were about every ten feet up and down the tideline, and the question "if this is how many washed up, how many are still in the water?" deterred us from swimming.

When we later went to Mustang Island, though, we discovered there are worst things you can find on a beach than man-o-wars: junk of all types, specifically. Bottles, diapers, syringes -- you name it, it was there. We'd seen signs at Padre Island (a nation park) telling us the beach was cleaned every day, but we didn't understand the need until we visited Mustang -- apparently state park aren't as meticulously groomed. But I did find an enormous washed-up TV -- score!

More details to come.


Bromiliads. This is the kind of thing The Queen somehow gets all excited about.

Free TV? Kick ass!

Holy shit! I took a really nice picture!.

Damn those Portuguese.

Okay, see? Now that's interesting.
Update: The Queen insisted that I clarify a point:
You need to add the third reason I wanted to go to Texas: the Mexican food in Seattle is really, really bad, and, since I've been pregnant, I fantasize about burritos all the time.
Duly noted.
November 17, 2003

What Is The Matrwich?

I spill the beans over at The Morning News.

And completely unrelated: I called this.

November 12, 2003

McNPR

Recent changes to NPR in the wake of Mrs. McDonalds' $200 million bequest:

  • Morning Edition constantly urging listeners not to drop scalding hot coffee into lap while driving.
  • Daniel Schorr's political commentaries frequently laud policies of Mayor McCheese.
  • World Cafe proud to carry Coca-Cola brand beverages.
  • Latest listener challenge from Puzzlemaster Will Shortz: "Try to explain, in 2000 words or less, why Burger King sucks so hard."
  • On-air All Thing Considered personalities required to wear nametags.
  • Car Talk guys attribute most automotive problems to lack of sufficient cupholders.
  • Listeners pledging at the $100 level receive Monopoly Sweepstakes game piece; those donating at the $250 level receive collectible Looney Toons: Back In Action 64 oz. plastic cup.
  • Everything on The Splendid Table fried in beef tallow.
  • Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion monologues now just go "robble robble robble."
  • This American Cheese.

November 11, 2003

Cryptic Camouflage Final Exam
November 10, 2003

If You Insist

From the spam filter log.

From: rnyst1t@yahoo.com.hk Mon Nov 10 09:57:00 2003
Subject: Matthew,Say Goodbye to Junk Email!
Folder: /dev/null
Goodbye.

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