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June 30, 2005



[ link | dy]

June 29, 2005


I've been reading a lot of Winnie The Pooh books to The Squirrelly, and, I gotta tell you, Kanga is looking pretty fine. Got some junk in the trunk, if you know what I'm sayin'. And makes blueberry muffins at the drop of the hat.

There doesn't appear to be a Mr. Roo in the equation. Gets a guy to wondering ...

Update: Contrary to the baseless assertions of a few emailers, I am not a quote-unquote "furry." I'm just a guy who wants to have sex with an anthropomorphized marsupial, okay? Apples and oranges, people.

June 28, 2005


I got stuck in traffic the other day. Sitting there at a complete standstill, and at a loss for anything better to do, I started counting carpool lane cheater. At one point six singly-occupied vehicles in a row zoomed past me.

Apparently they've just given up on HOV lane enforcement. I don't really blame them, considering the number of violators. And, in a way, it's kind of nice that all the aggressive drivers self-select themselves out of traffic and into the HOV lane. But, still, the Department of Transportation ought to do something.

That's why I propose they simply rename the HOV lane the "Asshole Lane." That more accurately describes its contents now anyway. Furthermore, drivers should have to apply a bumper sticker reading "I AM AN ASSHOLE" to their SUVs to indicate that they are an authorized user of the lane.

It will be nice to have all the assholes clearly labelled. And hey: if we can get them all into a single lane, those of us in regular traffic will only have to contend with, like, a dozen cars on our morning commute.

Speaking of which ...

Last week on the freeway I got stuck behind one of the few idiots not in the asshole lane. Indeed, he was in the far right lane, and since I intended to take the next exit I had no choice but to follow him. The guy was in a pickup, travelling about 15 miles per hour under the speed limit, and completely preoccupied with something other than driving. He kept leaning way over to the right, so far down that I couldn't even see his head anymore, as if he were reading fine print off of a clipboard lying on the seat next to him, or giving a blowjob to his imaginary passenger. During these periods he would drift wildly, and when he occasionally popped his head back up he would abruptly wrestle the vehicle back into his lane before disappearing again.

As we reached the off-ramp he again began to drift rightward, well out his lane. In fact, he was heading straight for the median between the freeway and the exit. In my mind's eye I could see him slamming into the barrier at his oh-so-pokey 40 MPH and I was thrilled at the image.

Then I snapped out of my reverie and reached for my horn to warn him, just as his head popped up and he frantically jerked the truck to the left, missing the median by a couple of feet.

But, still: totally wishing death on some guy because he'd added forty seconds to my commute.

Dude, what's up with that? And I know that's not the first time I've felt The Evil creeping up on me in the middle of rush hour.

What is it about traffic turns us into rageaholic bastards? Or does it just trick us into revealing our true selves? Suzanne Necker once said "fortune does not change men; it unmasks them." Maybe the same is true of Interstate 90.

Bush On Iraq: Blah Blah Blah Blah

As his poll numbers continue to sag, Bush gave The Speech again today before a military audience at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home to Airborne and special operations forces.

"Blah blah blah blah blah blah," said the President, probably in reference to freedom or democracy or something. "Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah."

"Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah," he continued to sporadic applause.

The Speech comes at a time when just 40 percent of those responding said they approved of Bush's handling of the war, while 58 percent said they disapproved. In an attempt to shore up public opinion, Bush reiterated his central message regarding the war in Iraq: "Blah blah blah."

"Blah blah blah blah blah," he said, struggling to explain why the effort is important to U.S. security. He undoubtedly mentioned September 11th a few times, somewhere in there.

Bush concluded the 30-minute Speech with "God bless America," we're guessing.

The next recitation of The Speech is scheduled for October 14th, 2005.

June 27, 2005

Never Brake

Apparently Nike swiped the art from a Minor Threat CD and turned it into an ad. So some folks over at iXor.com started a photoshop thread, imagining "other evil corporations ruining famous album covers." This was my contribution.

I found the iXor thread via Waxy's links

[ link | Links]

June 24, 2005

The Bad Review Revue: Burned At The Stake

Critics are enchanted with Bewitched!

"Unrivaled in modern times for smugness, vapidity, and condescension. To spend even 10 minutes in the movie's universe is to experience the Sartrean nausea of an utterly hollow head and heart." -- Michael Atkinson, VILLAGE VOICE

"This hackneyed, hapless and utterly useless redo of an overrated 1960s sitcom is excruciating to sit through for a dozen reasons." -- Robert Wilsonsky, DALLAS OBSERVER

"It sinks so deep and fast, you don't even see bubbles on the surface. " -- Desson Thomson, WASHINGTON POST

"A terrible, terrible movie. Its creators have a swell idea at the core, a wonderful leading lady, and several stalwart comic players in support, and they make of all of that a picture with the wit of an armpit fart, the verve of a boxwood shrub, and the appeal of a long night in an ER waiting room." -- Shawn Levy, PORTLAND OREGONIAN

"Any picture that makes you yearn for the dramatic work of Dick Sargent has got problems." -- Bruce Newman, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

"A disaster so low in energy that it jumpstarts its own engine every 10 minutes." [I'm pretty sure this doesn't even make sense -- ed.] -- Rex Reed, NEW YORK OBSERVER

"The result of people trying so hard to wring magic out of a dry well, all that's left to see is their flop sweat." -- Rene Rodriguez, MIAMI HERALD

"You're likely to want to pluck out your eyeballs." -- Walter Chaw, FILM FREAK CENTRAL

Thanks to Jack Stapleton for bringing this debacle to my attention.

Special Double Entendre

If they do it's going to be a major victory for advocates of gay-marriage and polygamy.

June 23, 2005

Slurred Speeches

Sorry for posting so late today but, oh man, I was totally hung over this morning. Me and some buddies were out all last night doing rhetoraoke. I hadn't done rhetoraoke in years, but my friend Randall is way into it and he suggested that we head over to The Oration Station, and since I'd already had a few beers I was, like, whatever, that sounds cool.

We got there around 9:20 and ordered a pitcher and started looking through the selection book, but of course Randall already knew what he want to perform and put his slip in right away. There must not have been very many requests in because he got called, like, 20 minutes later, and did Mahatma Gandhi's "Quit India" speech. He did a spot-on impersonation too, with the gestures and everything. I felt totally sorry for the girl who went after him and did just a so-so version of Elizabeth Glaser's address to the 1992 Democratic National Convention.

I didn't know many of the speeches in the book so I just did the old standard, Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address". I was pretty tipsy by then and screwed up the cadence in some parts, but I managed to get all the way to "we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground" before I had to start looking at the TelePropter, which was cool. It went so well that I put another request in and did "Tear Down This Wall" by Reagan because, you know, I'm into that 80's stuff.

Bruce was bummed that The Oration Station didn't have any lectures in the book, so after Martha did Queen Elizabeth I "Spanish Armada Speech" we headed over to another rhetoraoke place, Pints & Prelection down in Pioneer Square. Bruce was pretty shitfaced by then and he still tried to do Feynman's "Motion of Planets Around the Sun," and he, like, forgot half the words and totally fucked up the equations. It was pretty embarassing. After that he was kinda pissy and wanted to go home, but then Randall did a really good "The Ballot or the Bullet" by Macolm X and that got the crowd all fired up, so we decided to stay a little longer.

Then we started doing Tequila shooters and everything's pretty hazy after that. This morning Randall sent me an email and said that I was so drunk that I tried to do Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" address later that night. Fuck, I don't remember that at all. I hope I didn't make an ass of myself, but I probably did.

June 22, 2005

Flickr, Finally

Because I love being on the cutting-edge of technology, I got me a Flickr account. Only, like, a year after it was cool to do so. Oh well, better late ...

[ link | dy]

June 21, 2005

Dull As A Spoon

Oveheard on the bus:

Girl 1: So what happened with XXX after we left?

Girl 2: Not much. We wound up spooning all night.

G1: That doesn't sound like "not much."

G2: I was so bored. It was pretty lame that nothing more happen.

G1: Did you want more to happen?

G2: Not really. But, you know. It was like spending the whole night drinking non-alcoholic beer.

dy Down

Switching to a new host; dy will be down for a bit this evening.

Update: Well that certainly didn't work. Maybe I'll try again on the weekend. On the up side, while my email address was pointing to The Void I saw a significant decrease in spam.

[ link | dy]

June 20, 2005


We're having one of our rare bouts of sunny weather here in Seattle, and man am I exhausted. I must suffer from some kind of reverse photosynthesis. It's, like, the more direct sunlight I receive, the less energy I have.

Maybe it's an adaptation, having been raised in the perpetually overcast Pacific Northwest. Maybe our bodies are trained to think that there is only one explanation for a bright light in the heavens: God has come to take us home. So just lay down, lay down and sleep.

June 17, 2005

How To Watch Attack Of The Clones

(See also: How To Watch The Phantom Menace, How To Watch Revenge of the Sith.)

The general consensus is that Attack of the Clones, while not great, is much better than The Phantom Menace, though I've heard a few people express the opposite opinion. I think it basically comes down to one question: what do you find more excruciatingly unwatchable, Jar-Jar's slapstick or the Anakin / Amidala romance?

Me, I found the latter much more forgivable, thanks to something a reviewer once wrote about Titanic: while he conceded that the romantic dialogue in Titanic was atrocious, he pointed out that it was also a fairly accurate depiction of how young people in love actually talk, i.e., maudlin, dramatic, and as cliched as all get-out. I don't think for a moment that Lucas wrote lines like "you are in my very soul, tormenting me" because he was trying to emulate what 16 year-olds say when they are trying to convey the sentiment "holy shit, being a virgin sucks!" but if you pretend like that was Lucas' intent the film is much more bearable.

That said, skipping all the love scenes detracts not at all from the movie -- we didn't need to see the nitty-gritty of Han and Leia falling in love to know it was happening -- so feel free to do so.

Here, then, is the cheat-sheet for fast-forwarding through Attack of the Clones. As with the previous guide, this is intended for folks who have already seen the film and are only interested in refreshing their memories about the plot in anticipation of Revenge of the Sith. Again, my goal was to get the film down to about 90 minutes and to axe anything that wasn't integral to the story. I've also included tips on removing much of the love story, for those who can't abide it.

Start FF timeEnd FF timeElapsed TimeWhat you're missingWhy you might want to watch it
14:2524:4610:21Following the formula that worked oh so well in Phantom Menace, Lucas grinds his film to a halt 15 minutes in for an interminable sequence that does absolutely nothing to advance the plot. This time we have Obi Wan and Anakin racing around in a jetcar as they chase down the assassin who attempted to kill Amidala, confronting the assassin in a bar, and then dragging the out to a back alley, only to see her killed by a dart from the gun of Jango Fett before she can reveal any useful information.The bar scene is marginally interesting so you could stop fast-forwarding at 21:46, but I suggest you just lose the assassin entirely, since she in completely unnecessary. Just imagine that Jango himself was the one who tried to kill Amidala and Obi Wan found the dart on the scene.
34:5036:031:13Love scene: The first of many.Anakin gives a little background on the Jedi and mentions that they discourage "attachments" (i.e., "nookie").
44:0045:481:48Love scene: Good gravy, this one is really dreadful. AVOID.To see Anakin and Amidala first kiss.
47:4750:172:30Love scene: Anakin and Amidala talk politicsThe scene contains this exchange which is actually kinda important:

Amidala: The trouble is that people don't always agree

Anakin: But then they should be made to.

Amidala: Sounds an awful lot like a dictatorship to me.

Anakin: Well? If it works ...

53:0056:413:41Love scene: Anakin and Amidala discuss the assorted reasons why their relationship is forbidden.If you've ever wondered what Romeo and Juliet would have sounded like had it had been written by a 12 year-old girl.
1:37:171:42:385:21Anaki and Amidala wander into a droid factory; the subsequent scenes are as exhilarating as sitting on your couch and watching your roommate play Tomb Raider. This whole sequence looks so much like a video game that I expected the Master Control Program to be awaiting them at the end. Skipping this scene is also essential if you want to avoid entry #3 in the litany of Wrongheaded Star Wars Revisionism; namely R2-D2 CAN FLY WTF DON'T YOU THINK THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN USEFUL IN EPISODES 4-6??!!There's no good reason for this scene, and it doesn't even make sense according to the movie's own (tenuous) internal logic. All you need to know is that Amidala and Anakin are captured by Dooku's forces.
1:42:381:49:326:54Dooku tosses Anakin and Amidala into a arena along with the previously captured Obi Wan, and the three have to fight off a multitude of crappily-rendered CGI beasties.Astute readers will notice that the start time for this segment is the same as the end time for the last. Why didn't I just lump them together into one fast-forward, then? Because you need to see the conclusion to the arena battle -- my recommended fast-forward ends as the heroes are surrounded by battle droids -- so you may just want to watch the whole thing. But I still advise against it.
2:15:472:22:207:07End CreditsYou want to check for the thirtieth time to see if that's really Samuel L. Jackson in the role of Mace Windu, so you can marvel at Lucus' uncanny ability to coax subpar performances out of even great actors (see also: Natalie Portman).

Total time saved: 41:21

Analysis: I so loathed Phantom Menace that I swore I wouldn't see Clones in the theater, but when my in-laws hornswoggled me into going I was surprised by how much I liked it. It's mediocre to be sure, but mediocre is still one infinity better than Episode I (though I realize that "better than The Phantom Menace" is damning with the faintest of praise, like saying "more delicious than echinacea!"). Watching it again on DVD gave me a glimmer of hope that Revenge of the Sith may be as good as some are claiming.

Some have claimed that the Star Wars movies should be judged lightly because they are, after all, kids films. I agree, insofar as the original trilogy goes goes. But Episode I was about taxation, fercrissakes. And in Episode II you have a clone army fighting alongside the Jedi but was secretly commissioned by the Sith to make the Republic more powerful so that they can subvert it. That's a little more involved than "The bad guys have a Death Star; the Death Star blows up planets; the good guys need to destroy the Death Star." The problem isn't that Lucas is making space operas for kids or that he's making political thrillers for adults, but that he's trying to make both at once, and that's how you wind up with Jar-Jar fart jokes in one scene and lengthy discussions of the Republic Senate's legislative procedures in the next.

But the big big problem with this whole trilogy is that I don't give a rat's ass about any of the protagonists. The Jedi -- Obi Wan, Qui-Gon, Yoda -- are too noble to be endearing; Anakin is a rageaholic jerk; Amidala isn't even much of a character, just the obligatory catalyst for Anakin's lovelorn dramatics. Furthermore, these first two movies aren't even about these people -- they are about Darth Sidious and his subtle machinations to seize power. This is in sharp contrast to episodes 4-6, which really were about the heroes: Luke, Han, Leia -- even Chewbacca felt like your buddy by the end of it all. I wouldn't want to go for beers and pinball with anyone in Phantom or Clones, except for Anakin's mom who was kinda hot until the Tusken Raiders got to her.

Lastly, I'd just like to say that Ewan McGregor's impersonation of Sir Alec Guinness is just shy of miraculous, and almost makes up for the fact that all the other acting sucks.

Plot Points For The People Too Smart To Rewatch This: Again, a complete summary of the film can be found at sf-worlds.com. But for those who just want the highlights:

  • After several assassination attempts on Amidala's life, Anakin is assigned to protect her. This is the first time they've been reunited in 10 years, and Anakin reveals that he's been pining for her all the while. Though the Jedi Order forbids (? perhaps just "discourages") attachments, the two fall in love and are secretly married.

  • A separatist movement, headed up by former Jedi Count Dooku, has begun waging war against the Republic with an army of droids. Worried about being overrun, the Republic Senate grants Chancellor Palpatine emergency powers to use a clone army, which, curiously, has already been created, having been requested ten years prior by another Jedi.

  • The Jedi Council's mastery of the Force is fading, and they sense that the Dark Lord of the Sith is controlling much of the Republic's Senate. The council is unable to divine the Dark Lord's identity or goals, though, as the Dark Side clouds their vision.

  • Anakin is chafing under the yoke of Jedi training, feeling like his exceptional abilities are being stifled. Though he often refers to Obi Wan as his "father," he also seems extremely resentful of him. When Anakin discovers that a Tusken Raider tribe has killed his mother, he slaughters them all, every man, woman and child.

Random Revelation: Hmm, an angst-ridden young man learning to cope with his extraordinary powers and being tempted by the Dark Side? The novelization of this movie should be called Harry Potter And The Order of the Jedi.

The Bad Review Revue

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D: "There's sad news to report about The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D: Put on the cardboard glasses, and you can still see the movie." -- Make Clark, USA TODAY

High Tension: "An inept Gallic version of an American psycho-killer/stalker movie, the movie is a model of multinational incompetence." -- Michael Sragow, BALTIMORE SUN

The Perfect Man: "Crawls hand over bloody hand up the stony face of this plot, while we in the audience do not laugh because it is not nice to laugh at those less fortunate than ourselves, and the people in this movie are less fortunate than the people in just about any other movie I can think of, simply because they are in it. " -- Roger Ebert, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

Ice Princess: "This movie wasn't just made for 11-year-old girls; it seems to have been made by 11-year-old girls. " -- Kyle Smith, NEW YORK POST

The Bridge Of San-Luis Rey: "After watching this movie, I was moved only to find my own bridge to leap from." -- Desson Thomson, WASHINGTON POST

June 16, 2005

The N-Word

Headline News!

Bush plays the Nazi card, June 28, 2004.

Senator Byrd Compares Republicans To Nazis, March 02, 2005

GOP Senator Compares Democrats To Nazis, May 19, 2005

Senator Durbin Likens American Servicemen To Nazis, June 15, 2005

Hey, you know what these teapot-contained tempests have in common? In none of them did the person who allegedly compared X to Nazis actually compare X to Nazis. But apparently "Nazi" has joined the rarified ranks of Words That Are So Bad That Just The Sound Of Them Is Offensive Regardless Of Context.

It's convenient that you no longer have to go through the trouble of actually calling someone a Nazi anymore. All you have to do is say the word "Nazi" and then, sometime in the subsequent 24 hours, mention a person or group of people, and then OMG ARE YOU CALLING ME HITLER??!! Hooray for modern political discourse!

Joseph Biden, D-DE: Some Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee requested more American warships for the Persian Sea and Oman Sea, so I reminded them that those bodies of water are technically 'gulfs' and not 'seas.'"



"I heart terrorism," we can only assume Biden then muttered under his breath.


Or who knows? Maybe it's one of those words that's only offensive when outsiders say it, but okay when used amongst people of the same group. I can see John McCain strutting into a Republican fundraiser and being all, like, "yo, what up my nazis?"

June 15, 2005

The Big Chill

I was thumbing through the yellow pages this morning and I saw an ad for "Universal Refrigeration." Man, those guys must be awesome. Keeping the whole ball of wax at zero degrees kelvin can't be easy.

It would be fun to get a space heater and turn it up to "high," just to fuck with them.

June 14, 2005


This may be the last post ever on defective yeti, as I started this blog with one main objective and that objective has now been fulfilled.

Yes, O envious Internet: I met Mighty Girl.

Long-time readers know that I have based my entire on-line literary career on Margaret Mason's model: Mighty Girl started a blog devoted to conversations overheard on public transportation, so I started a blog devoted to conversations overheard on public transportation; Mighty Girl became a contributing writer for The Morning News, so I became a contributing writer for The Morning News; Mighty Girl launched a profitable website called Mighty Goods and started writing for The New York Times, so I often daydream about launching a profitable website and writing for The New York Times while squandering my life away playing Kingdom of Loathing. Fortunately, I hold an edge on Mighty Girl in one key category: production of small people. So when Mr. and Mr. Girl rolled into town last Wednesday, they requested an audience with The Squirrelly. It took some wheedling, but eventually they said I could come along as well.

We agreed to meet for lunch. The Squirrelly, perhaps sensing the momentousness of the occasion, spent all morning preparing. First, he woke up an hour earlier than he usually does. I realize that the non-parents in the crowd don't recognize this as Ominous Foreshadowing, but when you're going to take a toddler out in public around his usual naptime, any change in regular sleep patterns is as foreboding as a shark filled with nitroglycerin. Worse, The Squirrelly has music class on Wednesday mornings, which is applesauce's only serious rival for the title of "Best Thing In The Universe" in his opinion. During music class the two teachers play guitar and sing while the babies and their parents sit quietly and listen enraptured -- all the babies, that is, except The Squirrelly, who spends the hour racing around the room like an balloon released before it's tied closed.

So by our prearranged meeting time The Squirrelly was both sleepy and tired. He had, in fact, fallen asleep in his carseat moments before we arrived at the hotel. Unfortunately I had arranged to meet them inside the lobby, so I had no choice but to wake him up and carry him in. So Margaret and Bryan's first look at my child was as he was curled up on my chest, blinking sleepily and completely docile. I should have been wearing a t-shirt reading "WARNING: TODDLERS ON SHOULDER ARE CRANKIER THAN THEY APPEAR."

We headed down to The Bell Street Diner, got a table, and strapped The Squirrelly into a high chair. He immediately set about demonstrating the suitability of his nickname, squirming about with such velocity that I was afraid he might pull a Flash and vibrate himself into another dimension. In an attempt to calm him down, I pulled out his bowl of food and set in front of him. He immediately began grabbing handfuls of avocado and cramming it into his maw. Remembering that I was sitting across from a woman who writes columns on etiquette, I said, "uh, we read that it's empowering to allow toddlers to feed themselves like that, using their hands," i.e., his complete lack of decorum is the result of a deliberate philosophy, and not because he is being raised by a race of subterranean lizardmen who live in our crawlspace.

Fortunately, I had an unexpected ally in Bryan. "Wow, lookit him go!" he cried with genuine enthusiasm. "He's just shovelling it on in there!"

I spent the rest of the meal dividing my attention between my guests and my son, the former of which was politely asking me questions about my life and family, the latter of which grabbed everything within reaching distance and dropped it on the floor like he had been deputized to enforce the law of gravity. As a result, I have pretty much no recollection of our conversation. I do remember, though, that at one point The Squirrelly got so fussy that Margaret scooped him up and carried him around the restaurant, pointing out things and speaking to him quietly. Act like a savage and you get cuddles from Mighty Girl: take note, people.

(If "Touched By An Angel" has a spin-off show called "Cuddled By A Mighty Girl" I would totally watch it.)

All-in-all a complete debacle, I'd say! So we tried again later that evening, this time removing The Squirrelly from the equation and replacing him with The Queen and copious amounts of alcohol. We met at Cyclops for cocktails, and then moved on to the Dahlia Lounge for after-cocktails cocktails and six dollar doughnuts.

And I'm happy to report that Mighty Girl is every bit as charming as you'd expect, one of those rare Internet personalities that turns out to be as engaging in real life as they are on their site. And whatta great guy, that Bryan. If airplanes ran on charisma these two could fly around the world.

Naturally I have no photographic evidence of any of this, because I am a very poor blogger. But it all happened, I swear.

P.S. Seattlites will be pleased to know that I did my level best to convince the duo to move to our fine city. I think we have a shot, too -- so long as they never do the math and realize that Seattle will one day be home to a teenaged Squirrelly, roaming the streets.

P.P.S. Those six dollar doughnuts at the Dahlia Lounge were freakin' awesome.

June 13, 2005

Books: Gringos

Gringos is a novel. It is by Charles Portis who lives in Arkansas, where he was born and educated. Thr book is about brightly painted walls and men in hats reading books. Just regular men wearing hats, not the 80's pop group "Men In Hats." If I had to describe Charles Portis I would agree with Ron Rosenbaum of Esquire who called him "perhaps the most original, indescribable sui generis talent overlooked by literary culture in America." Though, to be honest, I have no idea what "sui generis" means ...

Okay, okay. I didn't finish Gringos like I said I would. but that's okay, because you didn't either. So everyone gets another week before the review -- huzzah!

June 09, 2005

How To Watch The Phantom Menace

(See also: How To Watch Attack of the Clones, How To Watch Revenge of the Sith.)

No, I haven't seen Revenge Of The Sith yet. Stop asking.

I had never intended to see it soon after it's opening, although I have resigned myself to the inevitability of seeing it in the theater eventually. Actually, I was kind of excited about it for a little while, but my enthusiasm seems to have peaked about a week ago, and my interest in the film has been dwindling ever since.

So in an effort to rekindle the Star Wars flame -- or possibly snuff it out entirely -- I decided to rewatch The Phantom Menace. I wanted to reacquaint myself with the story, and this seemed the best way to do it -- even though, truth be told, I was dreading the screening. I'd seen The Phantom Menace twice before, and pretty much hated it both times.

What I really wanted was an abridged version of the film, with just the plot and the cool scenes but none of the crap. Such a version is rumored to exist in the form of The Phantom Edit, but I had no idea how to secure a copy. The next best thing would have been a knowledgeable friend sitting next to me as I watched the DVD, telling me what stuff I should fast-forward through.

Well, I'm that knowledeable friend now. If you foolishly decide to watch The Phantom Menace yourself, here's all the skippable stuff.

I started compiling these fast-forwards with two objectives: to get the film under 90 minutes, and to eliminate as much Jar-Jar Binks as possible; halfway through the film I spontaneously added a third: to omit all the midichlorian flummery. (This might be a bad idea -- it's possible they play a role in Revenge of the Sith, though I'm guessing that, like Jar-Jar, Lucas is going to pretend like he'd never introduced them.)

Start FF timeEnd FF timeElapsed TimeWhat you're missingWhy you might want to watch it
10:5518:407:45Qui-Gon and Obi Wan flee Trade Federation ship and literally run into Jar-Jar; he takes them to the Gungan city, where they are given a ship to travel through the planet's core to reach the main Naboo city. Many gratuitous special effects and much Jar-Jar bufoonery ensues.If you can't remember the exact moment in The Phantom Menace when you realized the movie was going to suck Tauntaun balls, you could remind yourself by watching this eight-minute scene, jam-packed with Jar-Jar and jar-jarringly bad dialog.
19:1920:391:20Underwater voyage concluded; Qui-Gon, Obi Wan and Jar-Jar arrive at Naboo cityIf you watched the previous sequence and really, really liked that part where the giant marine monster attacked their ship, only to then be eaten by an even larger creature, you could watch this segment and see that exact scene a second time.
28:5329:300:37Padme meets Jar-Jar; Jar-Jar recaps the last 15 minutes of the movie in unintelligible gibberishNone. Seriously, this scene serves no function whatsoever.
30:1331:381:25Padme, Qui-Gon and Jar-Jar walk into a Tatooine town. Padme insists on accompanying them. Once in town, the look for somewhere to buy parts for their broken spaceshipsQui-Gon gives little background on Tatooine, but doesn't say anything you didn't know from A New Hope. The presence of Jar-Jar (stepping in dewback droppings no less -- hah hah!) negates the usefulness of the exposition.
35:1637:101:54Jar-Jar's slapstick in a Tatooine market gets him in trouble; Anakin intercedes on his behalf.This is arguably the most important scene in the entire film, as it's when Anakin meets his first Jedi in the form of Qui-Gon. Padme and Jar-Jar met Anakin in an earlier scene, though, so all you need to know is that Anakin recognizes the Gungan and joins the party as they wander around the market.
47:1351:083:55Oh man, there's a lot of bad stuff in just four minutes. First: Anakin has no father, and was the product of immaculate conception: WHAT. THE. FUCK. LUCAS????!!!!! Then we get Anakin working on his pod racer with a generous side of intolerable Jar-Jar slapstick. And then, as if you aren't already trying to figure out a way to go back in time and kill Lucas's great-grandfather, we get "midichlorians" sprung-on us, the ridiculous "mastery of the force has a biological component" claptrap that is second only to "Greedo shot first" in the litany of Wrongeheaded Star Wars Revisionism.Anakin is teased by some local kids while working in on his pod racer in a scene that proves the unprovable: there exist worse child actors than Jake Llyod. (His last name is spelled with two l's -- you know, like "unwatchablle".)
55:241:10:0114:25The pod race. Yes, in its entirely. If you're bridling at the suggestion that you omit what was often cited as the best sequence in the whole movie (after the final light saber battle), then you clearly don't remember how unfathomably boring it was. It may have been worth watching for the state-of-the-art special effects when Phantom was first released, but now it looks like the obsolete video game it essentially is. Just skip it. Anakin wins, that's all you need to know.If you are a big fan of The Wacky Racers but wish the races were twice as long and half as interesting.
1:25:071:25:1600:09This is the briefest fast-forward in this entire guide, but essential if you want to steer clear of the midichlorians.Like Transformers combining into a single, giant robot, here Lucas manages to takes the two dumbest conceits of the film -- Anakin's immaculate conceptions and the midichlorians -- and weave them into a revelation that is stupider than the sum of its parts: Anakin may have been sired by the midichlorians. Gah!
1:35:311:36:210:50MIDICHLORIANS I AM NOT LISTENING LA LA LA LA LA!!!Lucas's clumsy attempt to show off what little he remembered of "mitochondria" from his eighth-grade biology class wonderfully illustrates the old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
1:48:181:50:031:45As in Return of the Jedi, the climax of Phantom Menace cuts back and forth between two separate battles. In this case, it's the Gungans trying hold back the droid invasion of Naboo, while Qui-Gon, Obi Wan, and Anakin attempt to disable the robots by destroying the spaceship that controls them. Unfortunately, only the latter is interesting. The skirmish between the droids and the Gungans looks like shit now that you've seen computer-generated mass-battles done right in Lord of the Rings, Jar-Jar zaniness infests every scene, and the whole thing is completely lacking in tension. Better to just skip it and stick to the other plotline.If you haven't seen a movie featuring computer animation in the last few years, you may still be impressed by the special effects showcased here. But, then again, maybe not: I remember thinking the whole thing looked fakey even in 2001.
1:53:051:53:350:30More Gungan v. droids.If you've skipped all the scenes I've suggested above, you could watch this one to remind yourself how Jar-Jar almost singlehandedly ruined the Star Wars franchise.
1:54:321:55:190:47One of the stupidest escape sequences ever committed to celluloid.Actually, this one is so awful it's almost worth watching.
1:56:401:58:101:30More Gungan v. DroidsYou know, trying to find positive things to say about this movie is wearying.
2:09:452:16:006:15End creditsYou're dying to know who the gaffer was.

Total time saved: 42:42 (although I'll admit that including the end credits in the time is kinda cheating).

Conclusion: Rather to my surprise, The Phantom Menace was every bit as bad as I remembered. I thought that perhaps it had gotten worse in my memory, but, nope: it's full-on travesty. The saddest thing is that the first 10 minutes of the film are very promising, making minutes 11-138 all the more tragic, like spotting a $100 bill on the sidewalk, bending over to pick it up, and having a piano dropped on you.

"Unlike you I am not an idiot and have no intention to rewatching Phantom Menace, so why don't you sum up?": You can find a very thorough summary here. In a nutshell, though, there are three main points:

  • Senator Palpatine, in the guise of Darth Sidious, engineers the invasion of Naboo, knowing that the Republic's Chancellor will be unable to deal with it. When his prediction proves true, Palpatine arranges for a vote of no-confidence in the current leadership, and, in its aftermath, is voted into the position of Chancellor -- his true aim all along.
  • Qui-Gon and Obi Wan, two Jedis, encounter a boy named Anakin Skywalker, who has more innate ability with the Force than anyone they have ever met. Anakin is taken to the Jedi Council where he proves his aptitude with the Force. The Council refuses to train him, however, saying that he is too old and full of fear. Qui-Gon defiantly decides to train Anakin himself, and the Council grudgingly agrees. When Qui-Gon later dies, he makes Obi Wan promise to continue Anakin's training.
  • Qui-Gon and Obi Wan are attacked by Darth Maul, a member of a group called the Sith that was thought long extinct. The Jedi Council considers the reemergence of the Sith be be worrisome in the extreme.
Random revelation: I have long assumed that the title of the final movie in the series, Return of the Jedi, refers to Luke Skywalker. At some point in watching Phantom Menace, though, it occurred to me that the titular Jedi could be Darth Vader -- when Luke is on the verge of being killed, the Jedi in Anakin returns and intervenes.

June 08, 2005

Business Time

I was in the car this evening listening to 103.7 The Mountain, and they played a song so funny that it had me laughing out loud.

I later checked their website for info on the song, but the track was omitted from the playlist. So I sent an email to Marty Riemer, The Mountain DJ who had played it. Not only did Riemer write back almost immediately (it wasn't even during his shift), but after informing me that the song in question was unavailable on CD he even went through the trouble of creating and sending me a MP3 of the performance. Whatta great guy!

The song is "Business Time" by a group called "Flight of the Conchords," who describe themselves as "New Zealand's 4th most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo." They don't appear to have an official website, but a comprehensive fan site can be found here.

And without further ado:

"Business Time" by Flight of the Conchords
This was taken from a live recording of FotC playing at the Montreal Comedy Festival. The music starts at :55, but the preamble is funny too. More clips from these guys can be found at http://www.whatthefolk.net/soundandvision.htm, and a CD of their stuff (but lacking "Business Time," alas) can be purchased here.

And while I'm heaping praise on 103.7, may I point out that one of my favorite programs, "The Chill Side of the Mountain," which used to air only on Sunday evenings, is now broadcast five days a week. Here is the most recent playlist. Good stuff for Seattlites.

June 07, 2005

Senate Agrees To Vote On Bolton's Mustache

While John Bolton's confirmation as US ambassador to the United Nations remains uncertain, the senate today agreed to a straight up-or-down vote on the judiciousness of Bolton's mustache. "We have a constitutional duty to advise and consent Presidential nominees," said Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of the six senators who brokered the compromise, "and while we're waiting to consent, we figured we'd take a crack at advising." The vote, originally scheduled for this afternoon, was pushed back to Thursday after a rift opened between the senators advocating an "aggressive trim" and the so-called "Norelco sixty-two" who urge Bolton to make a clean shave of things. "The color doesn't even match his hair," said Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas, who counts himself squarely in the latter camp. "Does he somehow not know what it looks like?" Thought a vote seems all but inevitable, President George Bush continued to stand by Bolton's mustache, calling it "the right facial hair for the right lip." Also rallying to Bolton's defense was Sen. John McCain, who called the mustache "rather dashing" and is expected to cast the lone vote in favor of its retention in an effort to preserve his reputation as a maverick.

[ link | News]

June 06, 2005

Books: CivilWarLand In Bad Decline and Eastern Standard Tribe

Note: These reviews are part of the Booklist 2005 Project.

The Queen read CivilWarLand In Bad Decline before I did, and when I finished the first short story in the collection I was eager to discuss the book with her. "What did you think of it?" I asked her.

"Eh," she said. "It was kinda repetitive."

"Repetitive?!" said I. "Are you kidding? This is one of most original books I've read in a long time, and the author, George Saunders has a remarkably distinctive voice. I'm really enjoying it."

The Queen just shrugged -- her way of saying, "Come talk to me again when you realize I've won this argument."

So I read the rest of the stories. And, yeah: kinda repetitive.

The stories in CivilWarLand remind me of those found in Barrel Fever, the first book by humorous David Sedaris. Before he started writing exclusively about himself and his family, Sedaris cranked out a couple of very funny fictional stories (including one of my all-time favorites, "Glen's Homophobia Newsletter Vol. 3, No. 2"), full of cynicism and characters that act in widely inappropriate ways. But unlike Sedaris, most of Saunders' narratives have a science-fiction cast, set in a near future where business life and American life have become synonymous and the public vernacular has become infested with self-help affirmations and corporate jargon.

In almost all cases, the protagonists in the tales are average people struggling to stay afloat in Saunders's dystopia. And while each provoked me to laugh out loud a time or two, I did feel like I was reading the story over and over again by the time I reached the novella "Bounty." It didn't help that, halfway through "Bounty," I realized that I had read it before, ten years ago when it first appeared in Harper's.

An Amazon.com reviewer advises suggests that you read no more than one CivilWarLand story per month, and while that might be a little overboard, I'm inclined to agree that spacing them out somewhat is probably wise. Still: very funny in small doses.

Also set "five minutes in the future" is Cory Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribe (which you can read for free, along with all of his other works, at craphound.com). While humorous, the setting for EST is much less absurd than that found in CivilWarLand, and the author seems more intent on provoking thought about the ramifications of our current technology than in waylaying the reader with non sequiturs in the hopes of generating belly laughs. But then, having laid the groundwork for a philosophical thriller, the book abruptly becomes conventional, alternating between a rather standard swindle story and a conundrum lifted straight from 'Catch-22' (so much so that even the novel's main character remarks upon the similarity).

EST is short, which is both its failing (in that it doesn't deliver on the promise of it's opening chapter) and its saving grace (as once the plot devolves into something unremarkable, the hasty conclusion keeps it from outstaying its welcome). I quite enjoyed Doctorow's writing style and there were plenty of great ideas to be explored in this book (even if, ultimately, I felt like they got the short shrift), and I look forward to reading more by him. If Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom is as good as I've heard, EST will have served as a nice appetizer.

June 03, 2005

Of Mice And Munitions

For a while The Squirrelly's favorite plaything was the Busy Ball Popper, a.k.a. the toy that parented our child during the Avery Flu. You drop plastic balls onto a platform on the top, they fall through a hole and roll down a curving ramp, and they eventually descend into the base of the toy, whereupon a battery-powered fan accelerates them until they pop out of the top and fall onto the platform, repeating the cycle ad nauseum.

Guns & Ammo
Once the balls are set in motion, there's little to do but watch them. So although it's a neat toy, it's not very interactive. Or it's not supposed to be, at least.

The Squirrelly lost interest in the Busy Ball Popper for a while. Then one day he discovered that he could wrench the entire platform / ramp portion of the toy off. That left only the base, which contains a U of the tube and the fan. Then he began dropping things into the input side of the tube, to see what would happen to them. Some, like his square magnets, would go halfway through and get stuck; other stuff would get flung out the other side. In fact, things that weighed less that the balls supplied with the popper would come flying out of the tube with considerable velocity.

After some experimentation The Squirrelly found the perfect projectiles: the small mice our cats play with. He took to carrying the base of the Busy Ball Popper around the house, occasionally stopping to press the oversized red button that starts the fan, dropping a mouse into the tube, and watching it get shot across the room.

That's right: fifteen months old and my son has already McGuyvered up a rocket launcher.

I'd should find out where my college sociology professor is living these days. I'd love to bring The Squirrelly over to his house, let him loose in the living room to wreak havoc for 15 minutes, and say, "so all gender differences are culturally instilled, are they?"*

Update 06/08: Today The Squirrelly figured out that a handful of cat kibble dropped into the Busy Ball Popper will be expelled like buckshot. Science ... on the march!

*Of course, we did dress him in that camouflage jumper ...

June 02, 2005

Twenty-five Things I'm Glad I Am No Longer Required To Do
  • Show you the money
  • Wake up and smell the coffee
  • Want a piece of you
  • Sit on it
  • Keep it real
  • Wang Chung tonight
  • Get all up in your grill
  • Think outside the box
  • Be there (and/or be square)
  • Talk to the hand
  • Take it up a notch
  • Kiss your grits
  • Get jiggy with it
  • Catch you on the flipside
  • Open up a can of whoop-ass
  • Gag you with a spoon
  • Keep on truckin'
  • Get with the program
  • Eat your shorts
  • Take it easy
  • Give mad props
  • Bring it on
  • Touch base
  • Quiero Taco Bell
  • Not go there