Sunday, September 30, 2007

Song of the Day - I Don't Feel Like Dancing

Even before Addison danced naked to this on the series premiere of Private Practice, this Scissor Sisters tune was in heavy rotation on my iPod. This catchy, toe-tapping number sounds like the love child of Leo Sayer and Elton John. Not surprisingly, since Captain Fantastic himself is credited as a co-composer on the tune. I like to refer to this "disco hoe-down" but whatever you call it, it's the most dance-able song about NOT wanting to dance probably ever sung...

(Lyrics courtesy of a fan forum on the official Scissor Sisters website. I believe these came from a scan of the CDs liner notes, so I expect they are accurate...)

I Don't Feel Like Dancing

Wake up in the morning
with a head like “what you done?”
This used to be the life
but I don’t need another one…

You like cutting up and carrying on
You wear them gowns
So how come I feel so lonely
when you’re up getting down?

So I’ll play along when I hear that special song
I’m gonna be the one who gets it right
You better move when you’re swinging ‘round the room
Looks like that magic’s only ours tonight.


But I don’t feel like dancing when the old Joanna plays
My heart could take a chance, but my two feet can’t find a way
You’d think that I could muster up a little soft shoe gentle sway
But I don’t feel like dancing, no sir, no dancing today

I don’t feel like dancing, dancing
Even if I find nothing better to do
Don’t feel like dancing, dancing
Why’d you pick a tune if I’m not in the mood?
Don’t feel like dancing, dancing
I’d rather be home with the one in the bed ‘til dawn with you


Cities come and cities go
just like the old empires
When all you do is change your clothes
and call that versatile

You got so many colors
it’d make a blind man so confused
So why can’t I keep up
when you’re the only thing I lose?

I’ll just pretend
that I know which way to bend
I’m gonna tell the whole world that you’re mine
Please understand
when I see you clap your hands
If you stick around I’m sure that I’ll be fine


You can’t make me dance around
but your two-step makes my chest pound
Just lay me down
as you float into the shimmer lights…


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pitch, Hit, Score!

The most viewed article on is titled Tampon Protests Distract N.Y. School. Well, of course it is--just look at the headline! It's got a bit of sex, violence and rock 'n roll right there in five little words. People who viewed this article also viewed stories titled, Woman Dies After Airport Arrest and Man Eats 21 Pounds of Grits for Title and Isolating the Menace in a Sterile Supermax. Wow--I have no idea what that last one means, but it sounds like the plot of a Battlestar Galactia episode, doesn't it?

All in five to seven brief words these headlines generate enough interest to get someone to click on them and read the story. Sort of like a logline pitch--concise, coherent but enough to induce curiosity. Distilling the story of entire screenplay down to a few sentences (or less!) is one of the hardest things for a screenwriter to do. A story that can be summed up in a few words is known as "high concept" while one that requires more explaining is, uh--a Wes Anderson movie. Not that there's anything wrong with Wes--it's just that the harder a story is to pitch, the harder it is to sell. Harder to get someone to "click" and want to read your script.

My favorite logline is for my dark comedy script, The Prophet. I tell people it's about "the mass marketing of a modern-day messiah." That generally gets people to take notice and say, "I want to read that." For my other comedy, I say it's about "a nice girl who unleashes her inner badass when she becomes a professional dominatrix." That generally gets people's attention as well. My multi-plot line, ensemble drama with the semi non-linear timeline? Almost impossible to condense into a logline, impossible to pitch--and therefore almost completely unmarketable. I probably should have tried coming up with the pitch before writing the script, huh? Oh well, maybe someday some young indie director will read it and fall in love with it...

So go read some headlines--see how few words it takes to grab attention. And then use that knowledge to create your loglines and practice your pitching.

The End of Analog

Another technology bites the dust. Just recently I've had to deal with the "new" AT&T's dismantling of the TDMA network. They sent me numerous threats about the impending demise of my cell phone service. So I was forced to do what any sane and intelligent person would do under these circumstances--I switched to T-Mobile. AT&T continues, however, to barrage me with warning letters. Dudes, I dumped you. Get over it!

But TDMA isn't the only technology to face extinction soon. According to an article in the Washington Post, the drop dead date for switching to cable or satellite or high-def TV is February 17, 2009. On that date (a Tuesday) broadcasters will cease to send analog signals--which means if you're tuning into ABC's hit show Cavemen that night, you are S.O.L. OK, seriously--Cavemen most likely will not last until February 2007, but if you're one of the 70 million people in the U.S, using rabbit ears (like me!), it's time to get your ass in gear and upgrade.

This is a public service announcement on behalf of all TV lovers. We now continue with our regularly scheduled programming...

Friday, September 28, 2007

More Season Premieres

Thursdays are tough. I've got an NBC favorite (My Name is Earl) directly competing with an ABC favorite (Ugly Betty). What I tend to do is watch one and flip the channel during commercials hoping to catch the full episode during rerun season down the road. I really need to get TiVo. Last night I had hour long episodes of My Name is Earl and The Office--as well as the season opener for Ugly Betty. I checked into Grey's Anatomy briefly. Mainly to see if it was still as obnoxious as last season. It was.

By far, the best show of the night was My Name is Earl. Earl began his two year prison sentence--he confessed to a crime he didn't commit to save his ex-wife Joy from going to jail. The episode opened with a very clever homage to The Shawshank Redemption when Earl wakes up in his prison bunk to find his cellmate had escaped by digging a hole in the wall and hiding it underneath a Dolly Parton poster. The show focused on Earl's attempts to survive behind bars, Randy dealing with life without his big brother and Joy feeling guilty about Earl taking the fall for her.

Both Catalina and Joy had different approaches to helping Randy deal with being alone on the "outside." Catalina created an Earl sock puppet but Joy used tough love--snapping Randy with a rubber band every time he was indecisive or stupid. The show is so sweet--Joy (a terrific Emmy-winning Jaime Pressly) adds the tang and spice to keep it from being too saccharine. Anyway, the hour long premiere hit all the right notes--very well-written and a joy (no pun intended!) to watch.

The Office was a bit uneven. It started off with a bang--or perhaps more accurately, a thump--as Michael accidentally ran Meredith over in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot. Of course that plot quickly devolved into the usual Office insanity. The subplot where Angela suspects Dwight of euthanizing her beloved cat, Sprinkles, was hysterical. Ryan's off at corporate and Karen has disappeared--without explanation or so it seemed from last night's episode (perhaps I missed it while flipping to catch Ugly Betty). Jim and Pam are now together--which of course we all have been rooting for but which now leaves the writers with an interesting dilemma. What do you do with these characters now that their love is not unrequited? Do they live happily ever after? Do they fight and bicker? Do they break up? Unfortunately zero conflict equals BORING.

Ugly Betty had its hands full catching up with all the various plot lines left in the cliffhanging season finale. Ignacio is still in Mexico, Henry is still with Charlie, Daniel is still in the hospital, Alexis is still in a coma, Wilhelmina still has her claws deep into Bradford, Claire is on the lam, Amanda is fat and Justin is still fey--and a fashion elf. The only real interesting subplot was Hilda and Santo. At first I thought (as I was supposed to) that the writers had copped out (ala Matt Parkman of Heroes surviving 3-4 bullets in the chest) and let Santo live. But it turns out that it was all the figment of a deeply grieving Hilda's imagination (almost taking a page from the film Truly, Madly, Deeply starring Alan Rickman, Juliet Stevenson and written and directed by Anthony Minghella. If you haven't seen it, put it on your Netflix list!). That thread was full of poignancy and pathos in an episode that was otherwise confusing and frenetic. Although I'm sure my channel flipping didn't help...

The opening of Grey's Anatomy was humorous with the interns now residents and taking a page from Bailey's book as they become "Nazis" for interns of their own. One of those interns is George--repeating his internship under Meredith's direction and another is Meredith's half-sister Lexi, who is the new "girl from the bar." It looks like she might be replacing Meredith as Dr. McDreamy's love interest. Maybe she'll replace her as focal point of the show. We can always hope. Her voiceover has got to be better than Ellen Pompeo's whiny, flat, nasal delivery. That's about as much of the show as I could muster--although I did see the tearful reunion of Izzie and George. Bleeech!

Black Sheep DVD arrives Oct. 9th!

I had an opportunity to see this when it opened here in L.A. in June--along with some WordPlay buddies and some of the gang from the SoCal Film Group. Unfortunately, I had another commitment--so since I didn't get to see writer/director (and WordPlayer) Jonathan King's feature debut in the theater, I jumped at the chance to review the DVD.

As well as jump a lot during the viewing of this gory take on what happens when good sheep go bad. Really baaaaaddd. Sorry--couldn't resist! I haven't had the chance to meet Jonathan but if his film is any indication, he is one sick twisted son-of-a-bitch. I like that in a person. Black Sheep mixes special effects (compliments of Peter Jackson's WETA Workshop), splatter-gore and dark humor in this cautionary tale of hubris and ethics.

Wait--that makes it sound really highbrow and classy, doesn't it? Black Sheep is actually more Shaun of the Dead than The Shining in tone and effect. Yes, it's graphic and gory--plenty of blood, mayhem and dismemberment. I guess I'm lucky I didn't see it with my WordPlay comrades--because they'd probably be teasing me about the amount of time I spent grimacing and looking away from the screen. How Jonathan King is able to make--without makeup or special effects--a stupid, woolly, ridiculous looking farm animal look menacing is beyond me. But he does it.

The story starts in a bucolic setting of a sheep farm in New Zealand. A sick and gruesome prank pulled on Henry by his psychopathic brother Angus gives the young boy a life-long case of angoraphobia. Oh wait--that's fear of fuzzy sweaters. Anyway, he's afraid of sheep. His twisted brother Angus on the other hand is an "angora"-phile--in every sense of the word. Henry, who is undergoing therapy to deal with his issues, comes back to the farm to sell his share to Angus. While there, he finds out that Angus has been doing genetic experiments to create a new breed of sheep--and that the result is an infection the travels through the flock turning them into blood-thirsty, flesh-eating killers. Sheep zombies if you will.

And if that weren't enough, a chomp wound from an infected sheep will turn the bitten into a sheep zombie, too--showcasing the terrific WETA Workshop special effects as the mutation/metamorphosis occurs. It's grotesque and graphic and silly and fun all at the same time. The DVD includes these Bonus Features:

* Five Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
* Blooper Reel
* Commentary by Writer/Director Jonathan King & Actor Nathan Meister
* The Making Of Black Sheep featurette
* “Early Morning” – Surprise Scene shot exclusively for DVD

If you love a good scare, definitely check this flick out! You'll never look at a mutton chop the same way again--I promise!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Re-runs equal ratings?

It used to be that in order to win the ratings war, you needed to consider your lead-in, audience demographics, scheduling, programming competition, Q factors, etc. Heck, some showrunners even go so far as to kill off characters to goose their numbers. Now, thanks to a change in how Nielsen calculates viewership, network execs have another tool at hand: the well-timed repeat.

Repeat shows usually get LESS ratings than a new episode, but now if a show is aired twice within a calendar week (that's Monday through Sunday in Nielsen-land), Nielsen will count the viewership of BOTH airings. Washington Post television reporter Lisa de Moraes explains the new ratings calculation in detail in her article Network Ratings May be Higher Than They Appear.

Check it out.

DWTS Update...

(For Hollie and anyone else who is interested...)

As I predicted, model Josie Maran was indeed the first "star" to get voted off the island--er, I mean show... She and billionaire Mark Cuban were in the bottom two last night (although I don't know if it was the OVERALL bottom two or if since they initially kept the men and women separate, that the voting was separated, too...) Note to Mr. Cuban: Stop gloating about selling your company for $5.7 billion dollars. This will not win you any fans or votes!

Although he gave by far the worst performance of the two nights, Wayne Newton managed to rake in the Jerry Springer give-a-geezer-a-break sympathy vote and stay in the running for another round. It was astonishing how awful he was--this is a guy who has been a Vegas showman for 40 years...Anyway, he'll hang on far longer than he should. Poor Cheryl Burke, the professional dancer unlucky enough to be paired with Wayne. Oh well--she's had two wins. I guess the producers felt it was her turn to get the lamest partner this time around.

S-A-L-E...My Favorite Four Letter Word

I got an e-mail from Lucy, the women's activewear store, announcing their end of season sale. An additional 50% off of already marked down prices. Lucy's stuff is basic, but high quality. And expensive. My philosophy for purchasing workout wear is that I won't spend more than around $10 for something I'm going to end up sweating in. Maybe up to $20 or so for yoga pants or a track jacket. Usually my visits to Lucy have me zooming straight to the sale racks in back and then right back out the door empty-handed.

But 50% off the already marked down price? I was pretty sure I wouldn't walk away empty-handed today. So I trekked out to the Century City location in search of new yoga wear. And this time I left with a little orange Lucy bag stuffed with a brand new outfit. First off, the top. It's a pointelle, cap sleeved T-shirt. The website says the color is "zinnia." It looks peach to me. Maybe salmon. Or cantaloupe. OK, zinnia. Whatever... Originally retailed for $34, marked down to $22.99 and then 50% off that equals $11.50. Just a tad more than $10. Sue me...

Next, a pair of Lucy's Ideal Dance pants. Although I won't be doing any dancing in them--just downward facing dog...These I got in "olive" although they look more "moss green" to me. (Can you tell someone had the really BIG box of Crayola crayons when they were a kid?) These retailed for $54 originally, marked down to $36.99 and with 50% off--I got them for $18.50. So that's a whole new yoga outfit for $30! Whoohoo--how cool is that?!!!

They also had really nice track jackets (in brown) marked down to $15 after 50% off, a lot of capri length pants (if that's your style--they don't really do it for me...) and even some cute, striped Splendid camis. The sale goes through Sunday so if you have a Lucy near you, I suggest you check out it soon before the selection gets too picked over. I can hardly wait for yoga class tomorrow night!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

And while we're on the subject of television...

Emil Steiner has a delightfully snarky post about the ABCs new Cavemen show on his OFF/Beat blog.

(I hope this show dies a quicker death than Maya and Alejandro!)

While you're there you should also check out the post about the Nebraska Senator who is suing God and the follow-up about the lawyer defending Him.

Too Many Heroes?

I was talking about Monday's season premiere of Heroes with my friend Peter at work today. We both agreed that the addition of Maya and Alejandro as the newest "Heroes" is yet another Nikki and Paulo just waiting to happen. Interestingly enough, a recent article by Matthew Gilbert in Slate talks about The Plague of Cast Overpopulation, specifically using Heroes as an example, saying about the ever-growing cast, "You almost want to write up name tags: "Hello! I Am _____ and My Power Is ______."

Gilbert traces this practice back to the diverse "casting" of reality shows:

"Survivor showed producers and networks that cramming a series with actors of various ages, colors, personalities, and body types could increase the odds of attracting a broader, bigger, and potentially even international audience."
The pros of a large, diverse cast are not only the large, diverse audience it may attract, but also the security it gives the networks come contract negotiation. If Hugh Laurie holds out for more money, most likely he's going to get it as there wouldn't be a House--uh, well, without House. But if one of the cast members on heavily populated shows decides to be a squeaky wheel, chances are they might not be getting any grease.

Another benefit to mass casting comes during those harvest periods (aka "sweeps") when writers have license to do a bit of pruning or weeding (hear that, Ellen Pompeo?) says Gilbert:
But shows with massive casts can give their writers license to kill—or, as they say so poetically on reality TV, "eliminate"—characters without damaging the show's DNA. In the last few seasons, Lost, 24, The Sopranos, Desperate Housewives, and Heroes have all goosed their ratings and left fans buzzing by rubbing out a character or two.
Heroes is upping the ante this session with a midseason, six-episode miniseries, Heroes: Origins in which one new hero will be introduced in each hour and viewers will vote, American Idol-style, to put one of them in the cast of the regular series. I have a better idea--let's have a viewer vote on which character to KILL OFF during sweeps! You could have a results show ala Dancing with the Stars (which is on in less than an hour!) and Tom Bergeron could tell each Hero or Grey's Anatomy doctor or Brother or Sister or Desperate Housewife, husband or son or daughter who was safe--or who was in the bottom two.

I'm not sure all this can be blamed on Survivor. Richard Hatch, Elisabeth Hasselbeck--yeah that's Mark Burnett's fault. But large ensemble casts in dramas can be traced back to--soap operas. And aren't all these serialized dramas really just soaps when it comes down to it? So, if there's any sweeps-induced "eliminating" coming up, my money's on Maya and Alejandro to buy the farm. Of course, as we all know, no-one ever really dies on a soap opera...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Speaking of television...

Ah! The return of television. After a long, dry summer it's finally here--season premiere week. And in some cases, series premiere week. But, although I might sneak a peek at some of the new offerings this fall, I am mainly interested in catching up with some old (and not so old) favorites. (Warning to time shifters: spoilers ahead!)

First off, ABC's Dancing with the Stars. I don't know how or why I became addicted to this show. I will not explain or defend it. I just am. The premiere of the fifth season had season two champion Drew Lachey doing co-host duties with Tom Bergeron--filling in for Samantha Harris who had just given birth to a baby girl. I never realized how important Samantha's contribution to the show was until I witnessed it being lamely performed by Drew. Don't get me wrong, when Drew was a contestant on the show I was totally rooting for him to win--but as host material...let's just say he's no Ryan Secrest. Or even Joey Fatone. Seriously, wasn't Leeza Gibbons or Lisa Rinna available?

Anyway, last night it was just the women dancing. No woman has won the coveted mirrorball trophy since Kelly Monaco in season one, but this time around my money is on the Cheetah Girl Sabrina Bryan. The guys haven't even been up to bat yet, but I think it's already over. This chick can DANCE! As long as she has a fan base to go with the judges' scores (because let's face it, this is part dance competition, part popularity contest), she's a shoo-in. I'm guessing she probably does--given that last year Billy Ray Cyrus hung in for an unseemly amount of time due to the Hannah Montana crowd.

Jennie Garth looks like she can go the distance, Marie Osmond looks great--from the neck up and the knees down. What the @#$% happened in between? It looks like she's wearing Donny around her waist...Model Josie Maran is my pick to do the first off Paulina Porizkova exit come Wednesday. Unless Wayne Newton or Mark Cuban pulls a Tucker Carlson--but I bet it's Josie.

Now to the main event--Heroes. After a fairly anti-climatic season finale, it would have been great to have a kick-ass series premiere. Unfortunately last night's episode was pretty underwhelming. A basic "what I did during summer vacation," we learned that mind-reader Matt Parkman survived the 3-4 bullet wounds in his chest and is taking care of "Hero tracking system" Molly, along with Mohinder Suresh--who is on a quest to obtain funding to stop the plague that might wipe out this race of "superhumans." Parkman is now divorced--although one can't help but wonder what about the child his wife was carrying? Will he/she turn out to have super powers, too? The powers, after all, appear to be genetic...

Claire and family have relocated and Mr. Bennett has created their own personal witness protection where Claire is admonished to be "normal" and "ordinary." Unfortunately, this is not possible for the rebellious teen and she soon attracts trouble in the form of a bad boy type who apparently has some secrets of his own. Another "flying man"--just like dear old biological Dad.

Speaking of Claire's biological father, Nathan is also divorced now--and depressed and drinking. Apparently despondent over the death of his brother, Peter Petrelli. There was one point during the show where Nathan catches a glimpse of himself in a mirror and sees a deformed visage of a burn victim. Now how is it that Nathan survived when Peter blew up in his arms, but Peter with his regeneration skills did not? For a moment, I thought maybe that Peter had acquired the shape-shifter's ability and that Nathan was actually PETER and that why he saw the deformed reflection in the mirror. That would have been a cool twist...

Turns out that Peter is alive, but for some reason locked in a crate on board a freighter. He looks none the worse for wear--not even sporting that wicked looking scar that was prominent in the Five Years Gone episode from last season. I guess that regeneration technique worked better the second time around, eh?

The most disappointing part of the episode was Hiro--who accidentally teleported himself back to 17th century Japan. This is one plot line I can do without. Right now, it just seems silly. The two new characters of Maya and Alejandro win the Nikki and Paulo (Lost) award for most annoying new characters most likely to be killed off due to fan resentment. The writing for that subplot was definitely subpar. Really heavy-handed--like Maya reading Dr. Suresh's book to Alejandro in the back of the truck? Or having the drivers makes their lewd advances TWICE? Hit us over the head, why don't you?

Hopefully future episodes won't be so heavy with exposition. The Channel This blog's review of the show called for Less Talk, More Action. And I'd have to agree with that assessment... Caught a glimpse of Chuck and Journeyman--and my interested is not piqued with either.

Is TV Gay Enough? Update...

(A follow-on to my previous post Is TV Gay Enough?)

GLAAD is at it again. Their accounting of the new TV season shows a decline in the number of regular GLBT characters on network television series (from 1.3 percent to 1.1 percent), although an increase for cable shows according to this article in The Washington Post. In addition, GLAAD reviewed the representation of women and minorities on television finding:

"Whites make up 77 percent of network series regular characters, up 2 percent from last year. Blacks remained steady at 12 percent and Asian-Pacific Islanders at 3 percent, while Latinos dropped from 7 percent to 6 percent.

Male characters outweighed females 58 percent to 42 percent on network shows."

That dropped in Latino characters most likely due to the cancellation of The George Lopez Show...

I still feel it would be more prudent for GLAAD to examine "how" rather than "how many." Quality vs. quantity. Personally, I feel the end of Will & Grace was no great loss to the gay community. It's no coup to have gays portrayed in a stereotypical fashion as preening queens and fussbudgets.

Another article on the same subject claims that "Gay people are becoming an endangered species on network television." Wow. If you think gays are endangered on TV, try traveling to the Middle East. Apparently they have no homosexuals at all in Iran...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Filter Magazine presents BIG TIME featuring The Darjeeling Limited

Filter Magazine, in association with the Hammer Museum, presents BIG TIME, a bi-monthly event showcasing innovations in art, music and culture. This time features a screening of The Darjeeling Limited, written and directed by Wes Anderson and starring Adrian Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman.

Schwartzman, along with his cousin Roman Coppola, also co-wrote the script with Anderson. If you're a fan of Anderson's previous films, you no doubt remember Jason's work as Max Fischer in Rushmore. I loved Rushmore--as well as Bottle Rocket and The Royal Tennenbaums (note to self: must Netflix The Life Aquatic...), so I'm looking forward to yet another quirky comedy filled with oddball characters. Unfortunately, I can't make the screening--but here's all the details if you'd like to check it out:

Date: Thursday, October 4th (must RSVP by 5 pm on Oct. 2nd!)

Time: 7 - 11 pm (Box office opens at 6 pm)

Place: The Hammer Museum
10899 Wilshire (at Westwood) Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90024

Cost: FREE with RSVP!

RSVP to (again--by 5 pm on Oct. 2nd!)

There will also be an art exhibit featuring the works of Francis Alys among others and music from the new PJ Harvey album. Do I take you to all the best places or what?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

U2's PopMart Live from Mexico City - now on DVD!

I've been a fan of U2 since their earliest days. Sunday Bloody Sunday, I Will Follow, Two Hearts Beat as One were all favorites of mine during the 80s. Even before their breakout performance of the stunningly beautiful Bad at the 1985 Live-Aid concert, I've been in love with Bono's soaring vocals, The Edge's blistering lead guitar and the pulsing backbeat of Adam Clayton's bass and Larry Mullen Jr.'s drums. The passion of their music and lyrics as exemplified in their tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Pride (In the Name of Love) has attracted legions of fans over the years--and I am definitely one of them.

So it was with great pleasure that I was able to review this new DVD version of their 1997 Mexico City performance of the PopMart concert tour. Set against a back drop of a 100 ft cocktail stick skewering a giant olive, a golden arch and giant golden lemon mirrorball with Andy Warhol-esque and Roy Lichtenstein imagery flashing in technicolor on what looks like an oversized Lite-Brite (in actuality--a 170 ft by 56 ft LED screen comprising 150,000 pixels), the concert consists of over two hours of an eclectic and electric mix of U2 classics--old and new.

But take away the gaudy glitter and flash and dazzle and you're left with the music. And even without the fabulous light show and pyrotechnics, the music and the performance definitely stands on its own. Sure, there are times that Bono's voice is restrained--almost just a breathy whisper. But then he unleashes his familiar primal scream and all is right in the world. The Edge, so often eclipsed by the showmanship of the band's ubiquitous front man, gets his due during this show--giving a soulful stripped-down solo rendition of the classic Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Originally filmed on analogue video, the film has been transferred to a digital format with re-graded and cleaned pictures. Great care was been taken to maintain the original look by simply enhancing it, with an added degree of sharpness and contrast unavailable when originally filmed. The audio has also been re-mastered and mixed in 5.1 Surround Sound. The DVD is both visually and aurally stunning--even on my dinky TV. It would be a simply AMAZING experience on a wide-screen home theater system.

You can check out the trailer for the DVD here and purchase it here. U2's PopMart Live from Mexico City is available in two formats: a Standard 1-disc format containing the concert, and a Special Limited Edition 2-disc format, the 2nd bonus disc containing previously unreleased live audio and video material, including documentaries, a PopMart tour visuals montage, and DVD-ROM extras. If you're a fan of U2, I highly recommend adding either to your collection.

1408 - DVD release October 2nd!

Just in time for the season of ghoulies, ghosties and long-legged beasties, a.k.a. "Halloween," comes the DVD release of 1408 starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. Now I have to admit--I'm not a big fan of horror movies. Because I am a big wuss. So I watched this in the middle of the day with the lights on. And you know what?

It's really not that scary.

Creepy at times. Anxiety inducing at others. But it's not a slash-fest, splatter-gore horror flick. Thank god for that! While there are some mind-bending moments and great special effects, the film hinges on the fairly solitary performance of Cusack. And, as usual, he does a solid job as the cynical skeptic writer of paranormal novels, Mike Enslin, who meets his match in an allegedly haunted hotel room. Warned by the Dolphin Hotel manager, Mr. Olin (a classy, understated Jackson) that "it's an evil fucking room," Enslin disregards attempts to dissuade him from his research and settles in for the night.

From the possessed clock radio that blares the Carpenters "We've Only Just Begun" (now that's scary!) , walls that bleed and the appearance of his dead young daughter, Enslin is bombarded by a series of graphic images and creepy happenings. Cusack does a fine job of portraying a man who becomes steadily unhinged as events unfold--but is this really happening or is it one big mindfuck? The interesting thing about 1408 is that in addition to being a (mildly) scary thrill ride, it offers a metaphysical metaphor. Aren't many of us trapped in psychological "rooms" by our doubts, fears, regrets?

Based on a story by master of horror, Stephen King, 1408 is not as classically scary as The Shining. But it's definitely a welcome change from gross-out graphic torture porn that purports to be entertainment these days. The script by Matt Greenberg and Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski is intelligent and offers clues to the character's past and psyche without hitting the audience over the head. I think more could have been done with the metaphysical mindfuck theme as, in my opinion, the scarier moments were found in the growing anxiety of Cusack's character and anticipation of what was around the corner than in the jump-out special effects. To rephrase Sarte, Hell is not other people--but in fact, the demons lie within.

The DVD includes 2-discs with deleted scenes, commentaries by the director and writers and the director's cut with an alternate ending. I actually preferred the alternate ending to the one in the theatrical release. So if you're like me and you like a good thriller that WON'T give you nightmares for weeks to come, 1408 is definitely worth checking out.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Summer's End

This is the last day of summer. Tomorrow brings the Autumnal Equinox and the beginning of Libra. It's starting to feel like Fall already. Cooler during the day--even a bit chilly at night. I love this weather! So much nicer than the hot, humid stuff we had to suffer with just a couple of weeks ago. All in all, it was a pretty decent summer weather-wise. I bought a second box fan from CVS and between the perpendicular cross breeze I was able to go most of the summer without cranking up the air conditioner.

We've had rain the last couple of days. It's been nice--since we haven't had much this year at all. Still, it reminds me of when I first moved out to L.A. I thought the weather was always sunny and 80 degrees. And it was the first couple of months I was here. It was like that Hammond and Hazelwood song, "Seems it never rains in southern California..." And then came March and it rained. Incessantly. Heavily. Every freaking day. Leading me to recall the rest of that 70s song,

"It never rains in California,
but girl don't they warn ya
It pours, man it pours."
And does it ever! The gray weather and impending equinox have made me a bit pensive. A little reflective. So I thought it would be a good time to look back at the last couple of months and see what I did on my summer "vacation."

Hmmm....not much.

Went to a lot of movies: Shrek III (blech!), Die Hard IV (awesome!) , The Bourne Supremacy (ditto!), Inland Empire (if you're a die hard Lynch fans, see it...)--as well as Manda Bala, Talk to Me, Sicko, Stardust, The Nines, December Boys and let us not forget Trail of the Screaming Forehead. In addition to all the films I saw in the theater, I Netflixed even more...

My friend Stevie had two parties at her gorgeous beach house in Long Beach. There's always a good mix of nice people at her parties--as well as tons of food and Stevie's famous 'tini-type mixed drinks. Last time I got to catch up with my friend Sheri and met Stevie's friend Trish and her hilarious fianc&acuttee; Eric. We got on the subject of how Google has changed our lives and it turns out that Trish is a Google-aholic, much to Eric's chagrin. You see, back in the "old days" (B.G.--"before Google"), Eric and Trish would have little bets on trivia subjects. Eric used to be able to bluff his way into convincing Trish that HE was right. But not anymore. In a blink of an eye, Trish is online googling the factoid. Eric has lost many a bet since Google. God, I love the internet!

In addition to Stevie's parties, I attended my friend Jack's Blue Moon shindig (so named to celebrate the second full moon in June) and my friend Ari's birthday party. I also got to hang out with my friend John down at the Santa Monica Pier a couple of times and my friend Dave came over for our semi-regular Entourage marathon.

Let's see--I celebrated my half Birthday by getting some new tattoos. I got a new cell phone, my quarterly checkup with my endocrinologist went well. (My cholesterol is awesome, but my globulin is a bit low. Whatever the hell globulin is...) I was rejected by the Mentorship program I applied to--and apparently did not make it to the semi-finalist round for the screenwriting contest I entered. Although that contest didn't even bother to send me a "Dear Applicant" letter to let me know.

Basically, my biggest accomplishment this summer is setting up this blog and posting to it consistently. I also helped Stevie with some issues she was having setting up her blog and uploading podcasts and last weekend I helped my friend Jon set up a blog for his documentary, Angel from Hell. One of my other comrades, Tami, refers to me as a "blogging goddess." Blogging Goddess. I can live with that.

Onward to autumn!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Best of Craigslist - The Candy Wars

From the Tampa Bay area, this "Best of Craigslist" post cracked me up today. It's been awhile since I've eaten M& I'm getting all nostalgic. Sigh. Well, at least I can fantasize about them!

"Survival of the Fittest:

Whenever I get a package of plain M&Ms, I make it my duty to continue the strength and robustness of the candy as a species. To this end, I hold M&M duels.

Taking two candies between my thumb and forefinger, I apply pressure, squeezing them together until one of them cracks and splinters. That is the "loser," and I eat the inferior one immediately. The winner gets to go another round.

I have found that, in general, the brown and red M&Ms are tougher, and the newer blue ones are genetically inferior. I have hypothesized that the blue M&Ms as a race cannot survive long in the intense theater of competition that is the modern candy and snack-food world.

Occasionally I will get a mutation, a candy that is misshapen, or pointier, or flatter than the rest. Almost invariably this proves to be a weakness, but on very rare occasions it gives the candy extra strength. In this way, the species continues to adapt to its environment.

When I reach the end of the pack, I am left with one M&M, the strongest of the herd. Since it would make no sense to eat this one as well, I pack it neatly in an envelope and send it to M&M Mars, A Division of Mars, Inc., Hackettstown, NJ 17840-1503 U.S.A., along with a 3x5 card reading, "Please use this M&M for breeding purposes."

This week they wrote back to thank me, and sent me a coupon for a free 1/2 pound bag of plain M&Ms. I consider this "grant money." I have set aside the weekend for a grand tournament. From a field of hundreds, we will discover the True Champion.

There can be only one. "

I'm a peanut M&M aficionado myself, but note to the Craigslist M&M tester: Thanks for the laugh and keep up the good work!

Trail of the Screaming Forehead

My friend Ari Halpern was the script supervisor for this movie, so when it opened at The Egyptian in Hollywood last night, he invited me (and a bunch of his other friends) to come out and see it. It was written and directed by Larry Blamire, the man responsible for The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra--and like that 2001 cult hit, it's a spoof of the 1950s sci-fi/horror B movie.

Trail of the Screaming Forehead has the same tongue in cheek sensibilities of its predecessor--complete with inane and redundant dialogue, stock characterizations, overwrought and melodramatic performances and cheesy special effects. Unlike Lost Skeleton which was shot in black and white, Screaming Forehead is filmed in color and makes use of the Craniascope technology--whatever the hell that is! Most likely it's just figment of Blamire's sick and twisted imagination. The color, however, is well-used and kudos go to Anuradha Mehta for the production design. Kudos are all Mehta is likely to get as I doubt Screaming Forehead will be nominated for any Oscars...

The cast features many people whose names you might not recognize, although their faces will have you thinking, "Hmmm, he looks familar..." Such as Dan Roebuck who plays Amos,the first victim of the alien forehead invasion and who you might recognize as Artz from Lost--the high school science teacher who ended up accidentally blowing himself with by dynamite. Andrew Parks, who plays Dr. Philip Latham, has a long list of credits to his name--but in addition he's the son of Betty Garrett (also featured in this movie) who you may remember as Irene Lorenzo from All in the Family or Edna Babish on Laverne and Shirley.

Brian Howe plays Big Dan Frater in this film but I recognized him from his role as the guy who gives Will Smith's character his shot as a broker in The Pursuit of Happyness. And another Pursuit cast member shows up in the movie--James Karen playing Reverend Beaks--who you are sure to remember from multiple TV and movie performances. Larry Blamire even shows up playing the sleazy Nick Vassidine.

The movie is silly, funny and family-friendly. If you're a fan of MST3K, this flick might be right up your alley. If it doesn't make it to a theater near you and you can't wait for the DVD release, Blamire and Co. have created a series of shorts which are running on YouTube called Tales from the Pub which feature the silly send-ups of Twilight Zone type TV shows.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I love shopping. Strike that--I love BARGAIN shopping! It's like a sport for me. Nothing makes me happier than to score an awesome deal on some designer duds that most people shell out big bucks for. Yesterday I did so TWICE--and now let me indulge in a little cyber gloating...

I have been looking for knee high black boots to replace my current pair of knee high black boots. They're Sam & Libby--faux suede, stiletto heel, pointy toe. Very sexy. I got them at Ross a couple years ago for $17! YES!!! They're killer. I mean that both literally and figuratively. They look fabulous but they actually kill my feet. One time I wore them, not intending to do much walking ('cuz these boots ain't meant for walking!), but I ended up getting lost and so was hobbling around in my killer boots for far too long. When I got home, my feet and calves were all bruised and mottled looking. Not good. Yup, unless I can be escorted around on a lectica carried by some hot buff guys, these boots are staying in the closet.

Fortunately lightning strikes twice in Ross often for me. I've found Miss Sixty and Earl jeans, great blouses by Tessuto and Urchin and even a Guess leather jacket. Tuesday was no different. I found a great pair of Steve Madden black knee high leather boots. The heels were high enough to be dressy, but low enough to walk in without injuring myself. Unfortunately, although I usually wear size 8, I could not get my foot into the boot. They pull on so no zippers, and I couldn't get my foot past the bend at the ankle.

Drats--thwarted! So I wandered around the shoe section trying to see if I could find a pair of 8 1/2 miscategorized somewhere (this happens a lot at Ross--it's always worth a shot looking in other sizes to see if yours is there!). I didn't come across any 8 1/2s, but I found another pair of 8s. These I could slide my foot past the ankle--but as it turns out, my foot was smack up against the toe box. 8 1/2s were the size for me.

As I searched for my size, I saw a pair of knee high brown western-styled boots by Nine West. These were horribly cute and even though I don't really need another pair of brown boots, I couldn't resist trying them on. They fit! I looked at the price--retail price $159, Ross price $19.99! What a deal! How could I pass them up?

So I continued walking around, Nine West boots in hand (another bargain shopping tip--if you find a deal, hold onto it. You can always decide not to buy it, but if you put it down and someone else snags it you're SOL!). In another part of the shoe section, I saw another pair of the Steve Madden boots. Looked at the sole--voila! 8 1/2! Tried them on--fit perfectly! Retail price $159, Ross price $19.99! So I got two pairs of knee high designer label leather boots for $40 total! How cool is that?

Event Alert: Artist Exhibit in Costa Mesa!

This Saturday artist Peter Harper will be showcasing his most popular pieces from the past ten years at Rico Garcia Fine Art gallery in Costa Mesa, CA. The event is open to the public and will feature over 50 pieces display and celebrity collectors, media, socialites and trend-setters will be in attendance. In between picking their favorite pieces, guests will nibble on hor d'oeuvres from Corner Bakery Cafe, sip cocktails from Danny DeVito's Limoncello (making it's Southern California debut!) and O Water, and enjoy music from special musical guests DJ Blackarach and Michael Chandler.

Peter is only one in a family of many talented artists and musicians which also includes brother, Grammy Award-winning musician Ben Harper. Working in clay, wax and bronze, Peter uses techniques dating back to the ancient Egyptians. He cuts, scrapes, heats and polishes until each sculpture is revealed and its story told. Peter's collectors include Meg Ryan, Laura Dern, David Arquette and Jessica Cauffiel.

Date: Saturday September 22nd

Time: 7:00 PM

Place: Rico Garcia Fine Art
1599 Superior Ave, Suite 8-2
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Typeractive - part II

The Washington Post had an interesting op-ed piece about the whole texting phenomena called Love in the Age of Texting. I could really relate. I hate the whole texting thing. I've even got it blocked on my cell phone. I'm not a fan of IM either.

The article is a pretty savvy follow-on to my post on the Internet Paradox, as writer Natalie Y. Moore recounts her relationship with her ex-boyfriend--who dumped her for being uncommunicative, although SHE was the one who wanted to TALK and HE was the one who preferred to TEXT. Says Moore:

"A flirtatious text here and there is fine, but a text of more than 100 characters? That's overkill (not to mention hard to read). When the time comes, I don't want to see the words "will u marry me" in one-point font. Call me old-fashioned, but I wonder what's so "advanced" about these so-called advancements in communication. When they're abused, they can make a caveman's grunt seem refined. The same gadgets that allow you to be in touch all the time sometimes mask the fact that you never really touched at all."
In rebuttal, writer Ryan Mink sings the praises of texting stating "when I get a text message at work saying, "I love you!!!" with three, -- count 'em, three! -- exclamation points, it makes me smile. You can never have too much of a good thing."

Ah Ryan! Three exclamation points does not a love affair make...Call me old-fashioned but I'll take a real smile or wink over an exclamation point or emoticon any day.

Ahoy Mateys!

Today is National Talk like a Pirate Day. I blame Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio for this. After all, they co-wrote the 2003 Disney smash Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl which has grossed over $654 MILLION at the box office, and probably another zillion dollars in DVD and VHS sales and rentals. The movie, which was inspired by the famous Disney theme park ride, in turn inspired two sequels (the most recent being At Worlds End) which had combined box office grosses of about $2 billion.

But in addition to the sequels, the Pirates movie has spawned video games and actions figures and even a breakfast cereal. And if that weren't enough, the pirates craze has been co-opted by Legoland with their own pirate themed ride, a Pirate Dinner Adventure near Knott's Berry Farm and an episode of ABC's WifeSwap featured a couple who lived by "piratical" principles--including dressing and talking the part. Enough is enough!

Actually Talk Like a Pirate Day originated in 1995 (eight years before the first POTC movie) as the brainstorm of John Baur and Mark Summers while they were playing racquetball. (I think one or both of them may have gotten beaned in the head with a ball or a racket, but whatever...) As the story goes (according to their "Official Website"):

On this day, for reasons we still don't quite understand, we started giving our encouragement in pirate slang. Mark suspects one of us might have been reaching for a low shot that, by pure chance, might have come off the wall at an unusually high rate of speed, and strained something best left unstrained. "Arrr!," he might have said.

Who knows? It might have happened exactly that way.

Anyway, whoever let out the first "Arrr!" started something. One thing led to another. "That be a fine cannonade," one said, to be followed by "Now watch as I fire a broadside straight into your yardarm!" and other such helpful phrases.

By the time our hour on the court was over, we realized that lapsing into pirate lingo had made the game more fun and the time pass more quickly. We decided then and there that what the world really needed was a new national holiday, Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Well, that may be the case but I still blame Ted and Terry for this phenomenon. After all, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was around for DECADES but who ever heard of National Talk Like a Pirate Day or thought of Knit Like a Pirate, a website featuring "knittin' and stitched items with a bucanneerin' theme," or contemplated buying a book called Pirattitude!--a how-to primer on being a pirate, before Johnny Depp swaggered (or is that staggered?) across the screen as Captain Jack Sparrow?

I supposed I could blame all this on Johnny--but Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio (along with Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert) created the character which has spawned all this piratical madness. Bastards. (Actually I've had the pleasure of meeting both Ted and Terry and they are really nice guys...) It's enough to make a person cry out, "Aaaarrrrrggghhhh!"

I mean, "Arrr!"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Convenience, Value, Stupidity?

Went to CVS today to pick up a prescription. Unlike most of my other visits, they actually had the prescription filled and ready to go. Well, almost. The order for 100 B-D Ultra-Fine II syringes was replaced by 100 B-D Ultra-Fine syringes. The difference? Ultra-Fine II are 3/8" and 31 gauge. Regular Ultra-Fine are 1/2" and 30 gauge (the higher the gauge, the thinner the needle). Believe me, when you are sticking one of these suckers into your body, that extra 1/8" makes a difference!

This was the same mistake CVS made the last time I had this prescription refilled. I didn't catch that one until I ran out of my old syringes and went to use the ones from the newly filled prescription. Damn, why does this needle look so GINORMOUS? (That was for you, Elisabeth--heh heh!) I thought maybe I was suddenly turning squeamish--but that didn't make sense. After all, I've been sticking needles into my body for almost two years now.

I checked the box. 1/2", 30 gauge. Is that as small as they go? I checked the B-D website. Nope. I brought the box back to CVS (although I did have to use one of the syringes since I had run out. Ouch!). They checked their computer. I was right--it was supposed to be Ultra-Fine II, 31 gauge, 3/8". They replaced the box with the correct size. This time around I caught the error before I left the store.

The pharmacist asks me how much insulin I inject. What does that matter? It's not a problem with the size of the SYRINGE, it's the size of the freaking needle! They checked their computer again. Again I was right. When will they get it right? Sigh.

News on the 'Net

If you're still not satiated by the incessant coverage of the latest O.J. debacle, Celebritologist Liz Kelly has a round-up of editorials and other assorted musings on the fallen former football hero. O.J.'s latest escapades are money in the bank for Fred Goldman who was awarded the rights to the Simpson book If I Did It, now getting a second printing.

In other famous murder trial related news, apparently the testimony of five women who testified that a drunken Phil Spector held them at gunpoint was not enough to convince the jury, currently deadlocked, that the sixth one wasn't so lucky.

If the subject of accused murderers is too heavy for you, then Emil Steiner's snarky post on Fighting Airborne Sartorial Terrorism might be up your alley. Or perhaps an update on the 30 day Freegan experiment conducted by Newsweek blogger Raina Kelley is more to your taste. (Apparently the whole Freegan thing isn't what it's cracked up to be. Please send Raina some Skittles!)

Finally, a fitting follow-up to my blog on Obsolescence, this Newsweek story about How Computers Transformed Baby Boomers.


Monday, September 17, 2007

I'm NOT a Barbie Girl

Well not anymore, anyway. I did play with Barbies growing up--although back then my sister and I only had a couple dolls. There was Barbie, Julia (based on the groundbreaking black character on the eponymous show starring Diahann Carroll), Stacey and I think we had Midge, who was sort of like Skipper.

Anyway, ours was nothing like the collection of the daughter of a friend of mine. With Barbies costing less than $10 these days, some little girls get a doll or two for Christmas, Hanukkah, birthdays, Easter, President's Day...My friend's daughter had DOZENS of Barbies--there was Ariel Barbie (based on the Disney Little Mermaid character), Belle (Beauty and the Beast) Barbie, Jasmine (from Aladdin) , etc. Most of the dolls were undressed and unkempt--looking like the family dog had buried them and then dug them up. Except there was no family dog...

One day my friend's daughter wanted me to play Barbies with her. She got the Ariel Barbie and gave me the generic Ken doll. "Hey babe--would ya get me a beer?" my Ken doll said. That was the end of our Barbie game...Recently I read an article about the "shocking things" girls do to their Barbies. According to the story, "when girls outgrow their Barbie dolls, torturing them is commonplace." Hmmm, my experience is that torturing dolls is commonplace even BEFORE one outgrows them. The article goes on:

That's the peculiar conclusion researchers at Great Britain's University of Bath reached after questioning approximately 100 children about their attitudes to a range of products as part of a study on branding. "The girls we spoke to see Barbie torture as a legitimate play activity and see the torture as a 'cool' activity," Agnes Nairn, one of the researchers, told The Associated Press. "The types of mutilation are varied and creative and range from removing the hair to decapitation, burning, breaking and even microwaving."
Microwaving? Now, that's twisted! If you go to YouTube, you can find plenty of examples of Barbie Torture Porn--Boiling Barbie, Burning Barbie, Beheading Barbie--all captured on digital video for your enjoyment. My doll mutilation experiences were limited to cutting hair. And I did give a couple of my dolls a nice henna rinse as well. According to the research, "[b]oys didn't have the same reaction to their action dolls; they felt nostalgia and affection instead." I can certainly attest to this. I remember when my parents sold the house my brother had grown up in. He was desolate. "But Mom, you can't sell the house! I buried my G.I. Joes in the backyard..." "James, you never had G.I. Joes--" "It's just an expression," he sulked.

The researchers hypothesized that the Barbie mutilation was a rite of passage--as the girls outgrew their once beloved doll and therefore rejected her. It's easy to see why girls might cease to relate to the iconic fantasy figure. While there are certainly many different kinds of Barbie dolls--Givenchy Barbie, Cher Barbie, NASCAR Barbie (although, seriously--the doll isn't wearing a racing jumpsuit--she's dressed in a hoopskirt. What the @#$% is that about?), CEO Barbie, Pet Doctor Barbie (um, we couldn't call it "Veterinarian Barbie"?), they're all basically variations on the flavor vanilla.

Mattel might want to take a page from this "Burqa Barbie"--aka Fulla, the Islamic version of the doll. While princesses and mermaids appeal to 5 year-olds, older girls might like a Barbie that better reflects who they are, or who they might grow up to be. Obviously we can't all grow up to be Fairy Princesses or fashion models...

For example, you could have an "Emo Girl" Barbie--she'd have dark bobbed hair, nerdy glasses and be wearing jeans, a Fall Out Boy t-shirt, hoodie and Converse All-Star hightops. Or perhaps "Goth Girl" Barbie, with kohl-rimmed eyes, dark lipstick, long stringy black hair and wearing an Elvira-like get-up with Doc Marten boots and a skull jewelry.

Or what about "Biker Barbie" complete with tattoos, leather jacket, miniature Harley and an optional sidecar for Ken? Or "Punk Rock" Barbie with pink mohawk, pierced nose and ripped t-shirt held together with safety pins..."Butch Barbie" could sport a mullet, flannel shirt and Timberland boots, "Wiccan Barbie" could be dressed in flowing gypsy clothes ala Stevie Nick, "White Trash" Barbie would be a bleached blonde number wearing leggings, stilettos, big hoop earrings and a low cut top. Oh wait a minute--that sounds a lot like REGULAR Barbie...

In any case, Mattel could certainly expand their market share by offering more variety of Barbie dolls. It's already difficult to relate to the wasp-waisted, big chested, perfectly coiffed and made up image that Barbie conveys. And maybe this is the real "why" of the mutilation. Perhaps we're just sick and tired of Barbie being so damned perfect...

P.S. For a different look at Barbie, you might want to check out the short film The Tribe, which is a crash course in Jewish culture as told through the history of the Barbie doll. The 18-minute film, which has won many festival awards--including Sundance and Tribeca--will be available for download from iTunes starting October 2nd. Written, directed and produced by Tiffany Shlain and narrated by Peter Coyote (E.T., Bitter Moon), The Tribe asks “What can the most successful doll on the planet show us about being Jewish today?” The short film traces the Barbie doll’s Jewish roots to shed light on what it means to be an American Jew in the 21st Century.