28 February 2008

We Are All Witnesses

I'm sure something like this is way old by Internet standards but I just got around to viewing it. It's Improv Everywhere's "Frozen Grand Central" mission and I think it's their best one yet. Simple, effective, and very viewer friendly. Heck, the damn thing got Charlie Todd (the founder of Improv Everywhere) on The Today Show recently.

There's really only two reactions to something like this: "awesome!" or "that's retarded." I mean, it's hard to stay indifferent to the antics, especially when it's done on a grand scale. Some of Improv Everywhere's gigs are classics, like the one targeted at Abercrombie & Fitch, and most of them are pretty funny. I'm impressed by the intricacy of some of the missions too. I mean, check out "The Moebius," which is a pretty neat idea and had to be executed with precision and dedication. Best of all, the crowds and surrounding people get into it on many of the missions -- sometimes spectacularly.

I'm most impressed with the commitment level on display here. I mean, pulling a prank or creating comedy usually requires 110% staying in character and committing to a cause even when it seems really stupid. You ever get that feeling of doing something that seemed so incredibly funny five minutes ago but is currently just making you look stupid? Well, that must happen on some of these missions but the Agents plug on and in the end, get a few laughs and a cool story to recount.
"It's only in a camera-crazy tourist haven like New York that you can go into a public bathroom, snap photos of men standing at urinals, and not only will they NOT be angry, they'll often take out their own camera and snap a pic of that same urinal, thinking, 'Huh, this toilet must be famous.'"
-McDonald's Bathroom Attendant-

21 February 2008


I've been having this recurring dream where I'm involved in "Ice Skating with the Stars." I believe this really was a show and I can't fathom why my subconscious is choosing to star in this of all things. I'm not even a very good ice skater. I tend to plant my left foot and just use my right to push off, kind of like you would a skateboard. That's not the proper way to skate at all.

Anyway, the greatest thing about these dreams is that they're episodic; complete with recaps and commercial breaks I think. Anyway, last week (or a few nights ago) I emerged as one of the quarter-finalists and America has chosen me as their darling. Somehow, I've become the crowd favorite and this Thursday, I'll be skating my little heart out for a chance at the finals. This particular show is like March Madness, head-to-head, so from four contestants we'll be dropping down to two.

George is really excited about my success and everything has turned upside down because of my sudden fame. For a few moments when I'm waking up, I'm totally convinced this is actually happening and yesterday I almost called someone to make sure they tape the next show. Is it weirder when dreams make complete (logical) sense or when they're totally off the wall and obviously fake?

Anyway, wish me luck, I'm going to bed soon and with your support, I'll be one step closer to being America's super ice skater.

19 February 2008

The Savages (2007)

There's getting old -- as in quarter or mid-life crisis -- and then there's getting old -- as in sick and unable to take care of yourself. This movie's about the latter, sort of. In most people's views, sending a parent to a nursing home is a sign of defeat and/or selfishness. For Jon and Wendy Savage, it's both of those and oh so much more. I went into this movie thinking it was a "dark comedy" but buyer beware, it's no such thing. There's certainly humor in the film but it's more accurate to describe everything as "depressing but with lots of places to smile."

Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman are excellent as usual. I wonder if Linney is actually that neurotic in real life or if she gets typecast because she's so good at it. She's one of my few must-see actresses around. And isn't it a bit stunning to think that Hoffman played Chris O'Donnell's roommate in Scent of a Woman?

I wonder if naming the characters "Jo(h)n" and "Wendy" was a reference to Peter Pan...

14 February 2008

Here Comes the Hotsteppers

I'm a little late to the party since the season is already in full swing but since I'm a sucker for dance shows (and movies) this needs to be covered. Randy Jackson's "America's Best Dance Crew" is on Thursdays at 10pm -- MTV of course. I'm shocked it's taken so long make a dance series about a group as opposed to individuals but here it finally is.

My television watching is all shot to hell without DVR but I've been able to see clips of the show on YouTube and it already looks better than anything "Dancing with the Stars" and/or "So You Think You Can Dance" (or the boringness that was J-Lo's "Dancelife") can muster. Of course, I'm a little biased because I'm a big fan of Kaba Modern and Jabbawockeez

It's a foregone conclusion that Kaba will win -- short of horrible judging or something. The really amazing thing about them isn't how good they are as just individuals, it's how clean they are as a big group -- or as a huge group. I've seen like thirty people crammed on-stage at the same time, everyone hitting perfect angles, timing, everything. Even on the smallest isolations. It's crazy! These kids (theoretically) have school and homework; although I feel like the lure of dancing with Kaba at Irvine is enough for some people to forgo the whole academic portion of college.

Also, the Jabbawockeez appear to have a cameo in "Step Up 2: The Streets." Strangely, when Lil'Kim announced at the end of "You Got Served" that it was time to take it to the streets, I'm pretty sure she wasn't calling for another dance movie to make a sequel with that title. Then again, they did release "You Got Served: Take It to the Streets," an instructional video; maybe that was their semi-sequel. And don't think I haven't seen it either.

I was going to name my top five dance movies but thought I'd better hold back a little. Preserve my dignity and all. Instead I'll leave you with this, in the words of the immortal Mikey Minden: "I don't do cat fights... I do choreography."

13 February 2008

Stuff I've Been Reading 3

  • I'm letting this section go. I discovered the library and really, I don't buy that many books anyway
  • Adverbs - Daniel Handler
  • Seven Seconds or Less - Jack McCallum
  • Friday Night Lights - HG Bissinger
  • The Sword and the Chain - Joel Rosenberg
  • The Heir Apparent - Joel Rosenberg
  • The Black Swan - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • McDonald's - John F. Love
  • The Search - John Battelle
  • The Chess Artist - J.C. Hallman
  • Out of Control - Kevin Kelly
  • Cultural Intelligence - Thomas/Inkson
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible - Austin Grossman
  • Here's a big problem for me. As I try to write this semi-monthly column about the books I've read (or tried to read at least), it's becoming increasingly hard to fit the titles into the space at the top of each post. Every book title now has a long description about itself after the ":" mark. It's useful for marketing and selling purposes I'm sure, but it's killing my blog.

    I mean, Jack McCallum's "Seven Seconds or Less" is actually supposed to be "Seven Seconds or Less: My Season on the Bench with the Running' and Gunnin' Phoenix Suns." I had to check that twice over just to make sure I got the wording and punctuation right. Try fitting all of that on one line.

    For aesthetic reasons, I refuse to let a book/author pairing go over their allotted space. If I wasn't so anal, here's what this month's list would look like:
  • Adverbs: A Novel - Daniel Handler
  • Seven Seconds or Less: My Season on the Bench with the Running' and Gunnin' Phoenix Suns - Jack McCallum
  • Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream - HG Bissinger
  • The Sword and the Chain - Joel Rosenberg
  • The Heir Apparent - Joel Rosenberg
  • The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • McDonald's: Behind the Arches - John F. Love
  • The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture - John Battelle
  • The Chess Artist: Genius, Obsession, and the World's Oldest Game - J.C. Hallman
  • Out of Control: The Rise of Neo-Biological Civilization - Kevin Kelly
  • Cultural Intelligence: People Skills for Global Business - Thomas/Inkson
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible - Austin Grossman
  • Ridiculous right? It's like trying to run the 100-yard dash with a huge wedding train flaring out behind you. Actually, I even cheated a little because the copy that I have of "Out of Control" is actually sub-titled "Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, & the Economic World." Which is, to be sure, much more explanatory than "Out of Control: The Rise of Neo-Biological Civilization." But which one sounds cooler?

    While this long title problem is more prevalent in the non-fiction world -- where the abstract titles sometimes do need a bit of an explanation and a hook -- take a look at "Adverbs: A Novel." I'm not sure why that's there; the book is fiction and clearly adding "A Novel" doesn't help explain anything. I mean, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) is a wonderful writer but I'm trying to figure out if it was his idea to add the appendage or if it was something tacked on by mistake. Check out the cover for Alice Sebold's "The Lovely Bones." It clearly has "A novel" printed on it, which is semi-helpful I guess, but it's not part of its official name.

    Perhaps my book should have been "The Rough Guide to Blogging: A Guide about Blogging." Or maybe with my next book I can incorporate " : A Book" into it somehow to create "My Brand New Book: A Pretty Decent Book (if you don't mind me saying)."

    Anyway, what I've decided to do in the interest of beautiful blog posts is to shorten any title that is way too long, leaving only the essential bits for your consumption -- or just little ditties I make up. I figure if you're really interested in one of these books, you're only a few clicks away from Googling it. Also, that's my rationale for not listing full names of multiple authors and editors. So here's what my list this month should look like:
  • Adverbs - Daniel Handler
  • Seven Seconds or Less: The 2005 Phoenix Suns - Jack McCallum
  • Friday Night Lights - HG Bissinger
  • The Sword and the Chain - Joel Rosenberg
  • The Heir Apparent - Joel Rosenberg
  • The Black Swan - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • McDonald's: Behind the Arches - John F. Love
  • The Search: How Google... - John Battelle
  • The Chess Artist - J.C. Hallman
  • Out of Control: The Rise of Neo-Biological Civilization - Kevin Kelly
  • Cultural Intelligence: People Skills for Global Business - Thomas/Inkson
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible - Austin Grossman
  • 06 February 2008

    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

    If there was a more perfect movie made recently, I challenge you to watch this gem for comparison. I know "perfect" is a word that's readily tossed around and the film isn't without parts that might be tweaked here and there but as far as conception, acting, direction, and execution, The Diving Bell has few competitors. Add in a script that's funny, touching, poignant, and almost every emotion you could think of, plus the fact that it's based on a very true story, and you've got a film for the ages.

    The story goes like this: Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor of Elle magazine, suffers a stroke. After emerging from a coma, his body is frozen (save for his left eye) but his brain is perfectly fine -- the rare condition is called "locked-in syndrome." Eventually, after learning to communicate by blinking, he pens the titular memoir. It's an amazing tale and the movie does it justice. Definitely get out and watch this while it's still in theaters.

    03 February 2008

    Cloverfield (2008)

    Genius. I loved this movie. Not because it was the best movie in the world but because the entire experience was something new and refreshing. You have to watch it in theaters, there's no substitute. Sure, the shaky camera work makes people dizzy, people start throwing up, whatever. If you can handle watching your cousin's amateur wedding video, you can handle this. Cloverfield has been (accurately) compared with The Blair Witch Project but it's much better in concept and execution.

    Part of the genius of the movie is turning monster movie convention -- something that's been around forever -- neatly around. Instead of creating Godzilla Part 30 or some such derivative, director Matt Reeves and long time friend and partner J.J. Abrams (co-creators of Felicity) went smaller instead of bigger; focusing on the little people.

    It's impossible to watch this movie without thinking about 9/11 -- the roiling dust cloud from collapsing buildings, the shaky panic shots -- but I liked that it wasn't afraid to visually reference the event. Overall, it's just a clever and engrossing film. I think it's terribly brave of Reeves, Abrams, and Paramount to put out a movie -- with some significant marketing push too -- which will automatically be discounted by people who can't get used to the handheld cameras.

    Don't believe the anti-hype, go watch it in a big theater right away before it disappears.