28 April 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

The funniest thing about this movie might be how the advertising campaign, which includes posters and billboards that read "You Suck, Sarah Marshall" and "My Mother Always Hated You, Sarah Marshall," has made life for the real Sarah Marshalls of the world difficult. Some of them have struck back with "You Suck, Judd Apatow" signs.

While I'm no Sarah Marshall, I concur with them: most of the Judd Apatow movies do suck. Check out the films he's produced and directed. Hilarious fare like 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Walk Hard, Superbad, Talladega Nights, etc. Ugh. Apatow has earned my ever lasting love for Freaks and Geeks but he (and his progeny) have clearly gone for raunch over nuance.

I'm really glad Jason Segel and Seth Rogen have been able to get ahead in life but really, they're not good enough to be leading men. If not for the adorable Mila Kunis -- and Russell Brand (as Aldous Snow) -- this movie would have been a total waste of time. The entire thing is uneven and swings wildly from sometimes amusing set piece to totally off the wall unfunny set piece.

James (Okapix) has this theory that anything over 90% on Rotten Tomatoes is worth watching. His thinking is that if a wide majority of critics and viewers like something it must be good. But I tell him repeatedly that anything the masses like is actually much more likely to be terrible. This film is a perfect example of that. 85% on RT and great reviews from most of the critics.

Skip it and forget it, seriously.

The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)

Jet Li and Jackie Chan together at last. It's the equivalent of an Arnold and Sly pairing in the 80s. Sadly, this film was more like Schwarzenegger and Stallone making a movie together now.

Why watch a semi-drunken style Jackie Chan when you can go rent the real thing? Why bother watching Jet Li in this when he's superior in almost every other (Chinese) movie he's made? The title is misleading too. There's nothing forbidden about the kingdom at all.

The main character, played by Michael Angarano of Sky High fame (who I swore was Shia LaBeouf for a second), seems to waltz quite easily into this fantasy land as well as the enemy's fortress at the end of the movie. Seriously, nobody stopped him at all. It's similar to the packaging on the back of Fiji Water bottles. Look, it's impermeable! Wait a second...

Along the same lines, this movie is almost unwatchable but hey, I had to hop it anyway because it's Jet Li and Jackie Chan. Gotta show some support.

26 April 2008


In a recent article I was reading, Joan Rivers states that "Men find funny women threatening." That's horrible isn't it? If laughter is the best medicine, who wouldn't want a partner who makes you laugh all the time? Well, apparently there's guys out there who find a funny woman too much to handle. Is it mere male insecurity? Or is there something deeper?

When the role of the funny guy is upsurped by a female, does it make guys uncomfortable? Does a girl who is too quick with her quips, too dryly sarcastic, too quick to make fun of something (or someone) lose major dateability points?
"[Kate] Sanborn pointed out that women have good reason to keep their one-liners to themselves. 'No man likes to have his story capped by a better and fresher from a lady's lips,' she wrote. 'What woman does not risk being called sarcastic and hateful if she throws the merry dart or engages in a little sharp-shooting. No, no, it's dangerous -- if not fatal."
-Why Women Aren't Funny-
Anecdotal evidence from my many intelligent and accomplished female friends suggest that it's often smart (in the short run) to play dumb in the relationship game and it's apparently also advantageous for women to laugh instead of to create laughs. I addressed the issue of funny girls before [Jan 30, 2004] and the Lil'Ho had confirmed that some women are indeed less funny around men in order to maintain their attractiveness.

Does it truly take a special man to appreciate the loveliness of a sharp tongue or a quick wit? I noticed that on Match.com's list of potential turn-ons and turn-offs, "sarcasm" is listed along with items such as dancing, tattoos, candlelight, thunderstorms, boldness, public displays of affection, and brainiacs. That seemed really odd to me. I mean, maybe a negative attitude combined with sarcasm would be bad, but generally it's good right?

In conclusion, as always, boys are dumb (and girls are funny).

21 April 2008


I just finished reading Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, by Cory Doctorow, editor of BoingBoing and also a well known scifi writer (pioneering giving his work away for free in every format imaginable). There's lots of fun things going on in this book's near future but two of the main ones are the obsolescence of death and the replacement of money as the most important currency.

People don't die anymore because they can, at any point, be restored from a mental backup and a physical clone. Some people die weekly, some people only die a few times; everybody lives forever. The only caveat is that if you forget to back up, you could lose the time between your last backup and your restoration. Sometimes, that's a great thing. For example, if you have had a terrible six month relationship you'd rather forget about, you can just revert to a backup copy from before that period.

The other thing is that since you can live forever, boredom is a huge issue. For those people, you can go into sleep mode, "deadhead," for a few decades or hundreds of years and then be resurrected when life might be more interesting.

The other innovation, Whuffie, replaces money by measuring how much respect you receive from people around you. The computer implant in your head -- you're always connected to the net -- automatically gives your stamp of approval to the people around you for good (or bad) actions. You think so-and-so is awesome? Their Whuffie goes up. With high esteem and a good rep, you get perks like better seats at a concert or a restaurant. It more or less functions like money but is centered around good deeds. It's a way to identify and tag assholes basically.

Looking around at most of the social networking sites, this constant measuring of personal reputation is exactly what is happening. Amazon, eBay, Xanga, MySpace, all of these things are promoting getting rep from your friends and fans and then using your rep as currency. Actually, that's pretty much how Google works. Your site gets ranked higher when people link to you and the more influential their site is, the more heavily weighted their vote toward your awesomeness counter is. Whuffie is probably right around the corner.

Doctorow is known for riding the technology curve out to a technological singularity, which is when, as explained in this review, "...sophisticated technologies like nanotech, biotech, life-extension, and human-level machine intelligence would transform life completely."

I, for one, can't wait. Given a chance, I'd deadhead right past this decade and into the next one.

19 April 2008

My Blueberry Nights (2008)

Wong Kar Wai's films are moody, atmospheric, and romantic and I'll readily pay up to watch anything he does. Yes, the title for this particular movie is laughable but after you watch the movie, it seems less silly -- sort of.

This is Wong's English-language debut and it boasts Norah Jones, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, and Natalie Portman. All the performances are terrific and I really like Natalie's blonde-fro look. Norah Jones doesn't have too much to do despite being the main character but that's alright because she plays the part of observer quite well.

The cinematography is beautiful as expected however there's definitely something missing. I felt like In the Mood and 2046 had a lot more story and meaning. My Blueberry Nights has neither. There's a sort of lesson in there about dealing with life, love, and loss but it's more heard than seen and the film doesn't really leave you with any lasting impact past the visuals. There's still enough bright spots here though to warrant a big screen watching.

Smart People (2008)

It looks so good doesn't it? A quirky sarcastic movie starring Dennis Quaid, Ellen Page, Thomas Hayden Church, and Sarah Jessica Parker? Well the important thing to take away from Smart People is that well... nothing actually. Along the same lines of the far superior The Squid and the Whale, Smart People is about self-absorbed academics and their dysfunctional families. That's where the similarities end though.

There's just not enough memorable lines or scenes in this movie and the emotional growth the characters undergo is contrived and hokey. Thank god for (a pre-Juno) Ellen Page, who's as caustic as ever, even if she's saddled with a strange semi-incestuous sort of love story. I read that this script was bouncing around Hollywood for awhile and now I know why.

16 April 2008

Settlers of Venus

"When we're holding out for deep romantic love, we have the fantasy that this level of passionate intensity will make us happier. But marrying Mr. Good Enough might be an equally viable option, especially if you're looking for a stable, reliable life companion. Madame Bovary might not see it that way, but if she'd remained single, I'll bet she would have been even more depressed than she was while living with her tedious but caring husband."
-Lori Gottlieb, Marry Him!-
Here's an interesting article for the ladies. The tagline is "The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough." Aaaah. Everyone is familiar with this problem. Single women who have achieved in so many other areas of their lives are faced with that great big molehill: a serious relationship.

The article's advice? Settle. Take the man that kind of fits your needs and priorities and lock him up now so you can get on with it. Holding out for Mr. Right could make your eggs dry up in the process. Nobody can tell you when he'll show up at your door, or in your inbox, and nobody can even assure you that there is a Mr. Right for you. Why wait when you can just get on with life and stop having to be nagged about "So, got a boyfriend?"

The problem is, doesn't settling suck? I mean, it might if you look at it in the ultra-romantic way that we've all been raised into. True love should equal marriage. There's not a lot of fairy tales about the conveniece of Mr. Not Too Bad. The thing is, if you swap out your thinking, you might be able to convince yourself that you're not settling at all (even if all your friends say you are).

I mean, the alternative is to be alone forever. But the upside is that I'll be readily available and always willing to come over and watch a movie or something. After all, as the article points out, men don't have to settle.
"What I didn't realize when I decided, in my 30s, to break up with boyfriends I might otherwise have ended up marrying, is that while settling seems like an enormous act of resignation when you're looking at it from the vantage point of a single person, once you take the plunge and do it, you'll probably be relatively content.

It sounds obvious now, but I didn't fully appreciate back then that what makes for a good marriage isn't necessarily what makes for a good romantic relationship. Once you're married, it's not about whom you want to go on vacation with; it's about whom you want to run a household with. Marriage isn't a passion-fest; it's more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business. And I mean this in a good way.

I don't mean to say that settling is ideal. I'm simply saying that it might have gotten an undeservedly bad rap."

14 April 2008

Beautiful Island

Here's a semi-interesting story about the "Last Days of Taipei." Recently, Taiwan's been getting a lot of attention because of last month's presidential elections. Many Taiwanese citizens flew in from the U.S. to vote. The ultimate result was the reinsertion of the Kuomintang (KMT) into power a few weeks ago. For those not in the know, Taiwan and China are not the same thing. Alert, the people may look similar but are not the same! When the Communists took over China, the KMT fled across the sea to Taiwan and essentially displaced the Taiwanese people and government.

So a big political schism is between those who feel Taiwan should be independent of China and those who feel China and Taiwan are one. The abbreviation usually appended after Taiwan, R.O.C., stands for "Republic of China." People feel pretty damn strongly about which side of the China-Taiwan debate they stand on. Some Taiwanese parents don't even want their children to marry Chinese. Nothing endears you the parents of a beautiful Taiwanese girl like being Taiwanese yourself.

Anyway, the article sheds less insight than the bold title declares and has the worst navigation of any article I've ever seen, but hey, it's worth a read since it contains interesting tidbits such as:
"'The Old Capital' is crowded with horticulture. I asked Chu why. When the Japanese came, she said, they planted flame trees, cherry trees, azaleas and eucalyptus all around Taipei. Later, the Chinese nationalists chopped many of these down and planted banyan trees and king palms.

When locals chafed at the way a small gang of mainlanders ran Taipei, officials began planting native camphor trees. In less than a generation, camphor-lined streets have become the picture of modern Taipei. The stout, twisting laurels grow quickly, like so much else here."
Unrelated but related. The protests during the running of the Olympic torch are ridiculous. I love how pro-Tibet supporters are agitating everyone and hope to make their point by extinguishing the Olympic flame. The whole idea of the Olympics is a peaceful arena for athletics, free from politics and violence. Of course, that conception has been shattered nearly every year the Olympics have been held in recent memory (it's hard to ignore the reach of billions of viewers I guess) so this is just more dirt on the coffin of the Olympian ideal so this really shouldn't be that surprising.

I do feel sorry for the poor saps who waited around to see the torch in SF but then were disappointed by the duping and alternate routes. Don't even get me started on the idea of a boycott. It must be horrifying to be an Olympic athlete, never knowing when events out of your control will completely torpedo your dreams and aspirations. Oh wait, that's just life. Can't wait till August to watch all these people wilt under the Beijing sun, dirt, and smog.

11 April 2008

Stuff I've Been Reading 5

  • The A-List - Zoey Dean
  • Hollywood Car Wash - Lori Culwell
  • The Wal-Mart Effect - Charles Fishman
  • Confessions of an Economic Hit Man - John Perkins
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - Michael Chabon
  • Best American Non-Required Reading 2002 - ed. David Eggers
Upon finding out that I hadn't read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Lilly was kind enough to immediately purchase a copy for me because she thought it was just my type of thing. She's right, of course, it's exactly the type of book I like. I mean, it's about comic books! And it has big words I have to look up in the dictionary, and it qualifies as a big important novel because it won the Pulitzer Prize, in 2001.

I'd always known the name "Michael Chabon" because he's unavoidable once you read Eggers and McSweeney's and he's prolific and ubiquitous once you're aware of him, but I hadn't ever read any of his works. Why is beyond me. Amazing Adventures is not only brilliant but also highly entertaining and poetic. I hate that it's been out for eight years and I only discovered it now. The next author I really need to explore is Dom DeLillo because he's been recommended more than once and I don't want to pass him up anymore, just like I did Chabon.
"I was afraid that the book, on its surface, would be off-putting to women readers. It's about comic books, and in my greatly enlarged recent experience it's become clear that women have a very negative attitude toward comic books. They didn't grow up reading them, for the most part.

I was surprised that my wife thought it was a good idea, then again with my agent, another woman, then my editor, another woman - in spite of the fact that all three of them reacted positively I still have this fear. It probably reaches deep down into my childhood history as a geek, being interested in comic books and getting nowhere with girls. Those two things going hand-in-hand. But the response has been very positive; women readers are finding lots to enjoy."
-Interview with M.Chabon, Powell's-
There's really no denying it, comic books and super heroes are cool again. Which means, Soon I Will Be Cool (err, Invincible). Okay, fine, maybe not, but geeks have inherited the planet and I'm ready for my time in the sun. Mainly because I'm pale as a sheet from never being awake during daylight hours. I need summer, and beach time, like right now.

While waiting around for my roast beef sandwich at a deli where long waits are par for the course, I saw that the counter girl was reading Card's Speaker for the Dead. While Ender's Game is quite a popular (relatively) sci-fi book among the normal girl set, I was very impressed that she was onto the sequel and seemed to not be able to tear her attention away -- she was almost done -- to accept my cash at the register. That's awesome.

10 April 2008

The Cool School (2008)

San Francisco is an excellent destination for watching films, I gotta say. How else would I have been able to catch a movie about the Los Angeles modern art scene from the late 1950s through the 1960s, embodied by the Ferus Gallery on La Cienega. While names like Walter Hopps, Ed Kienholz, and Irving Bloom didn't ring any bells -- thus the promotion of the film using more familiar names like Frank Gehry and Dennis Hopper (despite being mostly minor commenters) -- the documentary was fascinating.

I'm hardly studied in art enough to really understand abstract expressionism, installation art, or most of the actual pieces the film displayed but it doesn't matter because in the end it's about a group of people carving out a moment (if not an actual movement), much like Dogtown and Z-Boys and grabs your attention irrespective of previous expertise on the subject.

One of the things mentioned in the movie was the requirements for creating an "effective" art scene. It consisted of having artists to create, galleries to display, critics to praise, and ultimately, collectors to buy. I have often wondered why certain cities seem to have an art scene and some don't and this formula sheds some light on the linear pieces that have to be compiled to create something out of nothing.

09 April 2008

City Lights

I've been looking for the heart of San Francisco for a long time. I feel like every time we come up here, I'm trying to figure out what defines SF. I'll go to other cities craving certain foods, particular experiences, and looking forward to getting something unique to that area. With San Francisco, I can never seem to find it. I've done Fisherman's Wharf, the Mission, North Beach, Union Square, J-Town, Inner Richmond, Financial District, the Marina (where my sister lives), Haight-Ashbury, and spent a whole day wandering all over the city on foot.

Reputed for great shopping, good food, and a potpourri of people and experiences, I'm usually underwhelmed by all of the above and more impressed with SF's bookstores. The landmark that's made the most impact on me? The Six Sisters of Full House fame. Seriously. I haven't found much in the city to be overly excited about or that different from something I couldn't readily find elsewhere. Yet many people I respect and admire pledge allegiance to the Bay. I must be missing something.

Maybe the answer to the whole "Who is San Francisco" question is that it can be anything you want it to be? It can be an excellent night life city or it can be the domain of outdoorsy types -- or you can mix and match pleasures. On the plus side, there's certainly a lot of culture and interesting activities going on, but I'm rarely here long enough to consistently partake in much of anything. Perhaps therein lies the problem. San Francisco seems like it might only reveal its secrets to me if I stick around for awhile.

If that's true, then it's perhaps the most commitment-centric city I've encountered so far. Commitment. Sigh.

07 April 2008


Lester: Aw, man. You made friends with them. See, friendship is the booze they feed you. They want you to get drunk on feeling like you belong.
William: Well, it was fun.
Lester: They make you feel cool. And hey. I met you. You are not cool.
William: I know. Even when I thought I was, I knew I wasn't.
Lester: That's because we're uncool. And while women will always be a problem for us, most of the great art in the world is about that very same problem. Good-looking people don't have any spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls, but we're smarter.
William: I can really see that now.
Lester: Yeah, great art is about conflict and pain and guilt and longing and love disguised as sex, and sex disguised as love... and let's face it, you got a big head start.
William: I'm glad you were home.
Lester: I'm always home. I'm uncool.
William: Me too!
Lester: The only true currency in this bankrupt world if what we share with someone else when we're uncool.
William: I feel better.
-Almost Famous-

03 April 2008

More Than Meets the Eye

Every geek knows who that is in the picture right? It's Snake Eyes! The most popular mute ninja on Earth. There's a GI Joe movie being made right now, out in 2009, and it probably won't have much to do with the original cartoon -- or the classic animated movie -- but it should be amazingly cool nonetheless. The costumes will be sick at least (compare the movie version of Snake Eyes to this image).

I remember the joy of owning my Snake Eyes toy, the one with his pet wolf. It was all unique and stuff until they started re-releasing the original figures. I think I still have this version of him. Yes, there might be a tin of GI Joes somewhere in my closet. So what? You don't keep your childhood toys around?

One of the best things about GI Joe was how real life people started appearing in the cartoon. Sgt. Slaughter anyone? Everyone knows he became a Joe, but how about William "The Refrigerator" Perry? I'm pretty sure I mail-ordered away for both of them. Oh and the vehicles! The vehicles were always so intricate and well designed. I had a boat, a motorcyle, and a jeep-tank thing. Of course, twenty years later, I only have a white Honda Accord. And not even one ninja assassin friend to speak of...

More importantly, was "Scarlett versus Lady Jaye" the "Ginger versus Mary Anne" of my generation? Should it be?

Anyway, the movie stars Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Rachel Nichols, Sienna Miller, Ray Park, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Should be interesting.
Five unforgettable GI Joes
Storm Shadow
Tomax and Xamot
Quick Kick

01 April 2008

It's Like, Right Now

So a friend was contacted by a producer at Current TV to possibly have one of his projects showcased in the future. "Current TV? Never heard of it." Well, apparently it's like MTV plus YouTube and is definitely the most interesting thing happening on television. Strangely, it was started by Al Gore. Maybe he really did invent the intranets.

Users create "pods" which are uploaded to the site and then fans can vote for these pods to receive their own spot on television. Each pod is typically only a few minutes long -- perfect for your miniscule attention span -- and many of the topics are on things you'd never see anywhere else. Pods on pre-fabricated houses, an insane no-holds barred shooting range in Kentucky, a Wax Poetics magazine feature. Check out what Current's playing right now.

Another cool thing is that many of the ads on Current TV are also viewer generated. So you make an ad for say, T-Mobile or Toyota, and if it airs, you get paid.

The most impressive thing about all this is that the production values are really really good. I'm not sure how it happens, if producers come to film your idea when you've been chosen for distribution, or only the cream rises to the top, but the segments are all nicely filmed, produced, and edited. It's what MTV could have been and what YouTube wishes it could be. It's the future!

Our first great find on Current TV was "Joe Gets." It's just a series of little clips where this guy goes around learning about different skills, jobs, and lifestyles. Joe Gets Air, Joe Gets Saddled, Joe Gets Goth, Joe Gets Served.

The first one I watched was Joe Gets Pix. Anyone who says "you're a hungry hungry hippo" to a model while trying to get her in the mood is pretty awesome. The one-liners, quips, and reactions that Joe dishes out is hilarious.

If Joe looks familiar it's because he was on Beauty and the Geek where he was voted off pretty early and didn't get to display his sense of humor at all. After that, he was just an average schmo submitting stuff to Current but he got promoted and picked up after his videos consistently rose to the top of the rankings. Now he's the funniest man on television.