Monday, April 30, 2007

THE DARJEELING LIMITED

Poster for the new Wes Anderson film:



UPDATE:

Poster is apparently a fake according to this site.

It's still pretty though!

---
UPDATE 2:

Ok, I'm making up for the faux-poster with a still from the movie.
(It would be pretty amazing if this TOO was a fake....)



---
UPDATE 3

(And the updates just keep on a comin!)

Screwing around, looking for more Darjeeling stuff, I found a still of Natalie Portman from Wong Kar-Wai's new movie My Blueberry Nights. It looks beautiful!!!!:


HOSTEL II...SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER?




















With Hostel II opening in a few weeks, this morning's NY Times looks at the film's release in the context of a post-Cho America.

---

The independent studio (Lionsgate), a clearinghouse for some of the entertainment industry’s most graphically violent fare, still plans to release on June 8 its “Hostel: Part II,” about the torture killing of college students.


[...]

Given its subject matter and the marketing campaign that has already come with it — posters featuring a woman’s severed head and other grisly images are now scattered on the Web — the Lionsgate film is emerging as a test of continued audience enthusiasm for such onscreen brutality, which some commentators have connected with the Blacksburg gunman Seung-Hui Cho’s video and its possible echoes of the Korean revenge film Old Boy.

“What might have been traditionally acceptable exploitation in one period can be seen as stupendously bad taste in another,” said Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California, which examines the links among entertainment, commerce and society.

---

Saturday, April 28, 2007

HOT FUZZ














The last 30 minutes of Hot Fuzz is the best stuff I've seen at the movies this year. It's an audacious and accurate send-up of the Hollywood action film, but done with appreciation, not mockery. Director Edgar Wright keeps in the most feel-good aspects of the genre - masculine love, justice, teamwork, self-sacrifice, and humor - to gives us a genuinely emotional experience, not just a good time.

For good measure, Wright does some nifty reinventing (like in the zombie appreciation film Shaun of the Dead) as well. Hot Fuzz practices the "peeling back the veneer of a friendly town" plot line, but pumps it full of steroids and energy drinks. The elderly white collar criminals that have been "ethic"ally cleansing the town of Sanford, go out blazing like the finale in The Wild Bunch. It's comic, but it's also frightening to see the rage on the face of a 70 year old in a trench coat. Call me an ageist, but the old people of Hot Fuzz brought to mind the zombies of Shaun.

We're in a post-Columbine, post-Cho age where heavy scrutiny is given to the impact that violent movies have on human behavior and morality. Edgar Wright argues that the impact can be beneficial. What's generally left out of this debate is the relief or therapeutic pleasure an action film can give to its predominantly male audience. (Nicholas tells Danny that watching Point Break is a good way to "turn it off"). There's a unifying thread throughout. Strict guidelines that provide comforting escapism for personal uneasiness. Right & Wrong, Love & Betrayal, Heaven & Hell, Truth & Lie.

With Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright stands up for the fan boy philosophy. Obsession can sometimes lead to guidance, and liking Bad Boys 2 will never be uncool again.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A MAN APART

Next week Christopher Hitchens will release the book he's been talking about for awhile. Like most things Hitchens writes about, this is sure to cause some irritation. They say you can't judge a book by it's cover, but I think Hitchens is pretty clear about what's inside these pages.



Slate is publishing excerpts from the book this week.

Below is a sampling:

---

"If the followers of the prophet Muhammad hoped to put an end to any future "revelations" after the immaculate conception of the Koran, they reckoned without the founder of what is now one of the world's fastest-growing faiths. And they did not foresee (how could they, mammals as they were?) that the prophet of this ridiculous cult would model himself on theirs. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—hereafter known as the Mormons—was founded by a gifted opportunist who, despite couching his text in openly plagiarized Christian terms, announced that "I shall be to this generation a new Muhammad" and adopted as his fighting slogan the words, which he thought he had learned from Islam, "Either the Al-Koran or the sword." He was too ignorant to know that if you use the word al you do not need another definite article, but then he did resemble Muhammad in being able only to make a borrowing out of other people's bibles."

SEPARATED AT BIRTH #3

Kevin McDonald & Nicolas Sarkozy





Thursday, April 26, 2007

HAPPY MEAL?




















GRANDMA FINDS CONDOM IN MCDONALD'S BAG


WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - A grandmother was alarmed to find a condom in a happy meal gift pack bought for her 7-year-old granddaughter at a McDonald's restaurant in New Zealand, local media reported Thursday.

The condom was discovered Tuesday night in a bag that came with Maia Whitaker's meal, which her grandparents bought at a McDonald's outlet in the city of Wellington.

Grandpa Rowan Hutch told The Dominion Post newspaper it was lucky his wife was first to look inside the small sports bag that came with the meal.

She was aghast when she found the green condom and its packet inside the bag, he said.

"I was pretty horrified really. The fact my granddaughter was going to look in the bag and find this thing. It would be difficult to explain, she's only seven," said Hutch.

The outlet quickly swapped the happy meal for a hamburger and pencil case. McDonald's is investigating the find.

Spokeswoman Joanna Redfern-Hardisty said because of its popularity, the previous happy meal gift had sold out at the outlet and prepackaged sports bags were substituted as children's gifts.

One was left unsealed for display purposes and "somehow" had ended up with the customer, she said, without explaining why the condom was present.

-----

I like how the dude at McDonald's swiped it out for a pencil set. And did he keep it for later?

Now you gotta wonder how many other kids around America are thinking "whoa, look at this weird balloon that came in my Happy Meal".


PHIL SPECTOR





















Dedicated readers to this blog may know that I am a big fan of weirdos, but Phil Spector ended up on the wrong side of weird!

Phil Spector on his colleagues (NY Post):


---

* Michael Jackson is "the most depressing, heinous thing," Spector said. "Starting out life as a black man and ending up as a white woman. What's that all about? But the King [of Pop]? He's no King . . "

* On Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys leader and songwriting legend who battled mental illness for years, Spector declared, "I don't feel sorry for Brian Wilson. I never thought he was that talented to begin with . . . I'd be more impressed if somebody with a brain idolized me."

* Oasis, the British band fronted by Liam and Noel Gallagher, are "jerks."

* On Tina Turner: "I made her famous, and she resents that . . . But give it up, for God's sake . . . Why say, '[Bleep] you.' Just leave me alone."

* Bruce Springsteen, who borrowed the "Wall of Sound" technique for his breakthrough hit "Born to Run" in the 1970s, "should have paid me royalties . . . Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery until it becomes plagiarism." Spector also said the Boss' career is stale: "He's protected himself with three new songs and 25 old ones."

* On Motown founder Berry Gordy: "I don't see Berry doing very much. Wrote some good songs, 'Money' and all of that. But beyond that I feel there were more talented people in the organization."

* And on "American Bandstand" legend Dick Clark: "That's where payola started. Everybody around Dick Clark went to jail, except for Dick Clark."

---


ME:

Yeah...well, at least they didn't MURDER someone, Phil!

The amount of ego in Spector's heart (heart?!?!) must be enormous. Too bad so much talent went to a guy so ethically crippled.

---
UPDATE
new thought:

Maybe Phil Spector and Steve Albini are related.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

HIP-HOP WARS




















Today in the NY Times, pop-music critic Kelefa Sanneh gave his opinion on the latest Hip-Hop lyrics maelstrom via the Imus controversy. He seems to be supportive of Russell Simmons' "voluntary censorship" idea, although he shares my confusion on whether Simmons' means for radio, albums, OR both. One paragraph stood out to me:

"You can scoff at Mr. Simmons’s modest proposal, but at the very least, he deserves credit for advancing a workable one,..."
Workable? At best, Simmon's proposal is vague. I guess vaguery is one way of making a difficult situation seem workable but right now Simmons' has only thrown out an idea. What's his game plan? Will he personally support and promote artists and labels that do voluntarily censor? I wonder how Simmons would feel about asking Def Jam president Jay-Z to censor artists on the label that he himself founded?

"...and for endorsing the kind of soft censorship that many of hip-hop’s detractors are too squeamish to mention. Consumers have learned to live with all sorts of semi-voluntary censorship, including the film rating system, the F.C.C.’s regulation of broadcast media and the self regulation of basic cable networks."
But radio already has its equivalent of the "film rating system" in the FCC. Although, I guess Sanneh is suggesting that the music industry have it's own inside-industry regulators like the MPAA for films. But, then again, aren't PARENTAL ADVISORY stickers comparable to an PG, R, or NC-17 rating? (I think both are probably loosely enforced by the 17 year olds behind the ticket counters and registers). Ah well...I feel like I am tripping all over myself going up and down in an internal debate...and I'm tired, and it's time to go home.

to be continued...

THR3E














Last week The Catholic Church did away with the concept of limbo. However, this fabled place still exists within The Motion Picture Association. The PG-13 rating can be a claustrophobic box for a thriller/killer/horror film. Disturbia handled this constraint well. Thr3e, on the other hand, plods along for 101 minutes before it's descent into damnation.

Thr3e was part of the January-February film dump earlier this year. If you haven't heard of it, it's b/c it came out on January 5th...the worst time for a new film to be released (unless you have pre-Oscar hype). It's Se7en meets Saw with an Exorcist hangover, but without the gore (PG-13...remember?). Seminary student Kevin Parson (parson...get it?) is a philosophy wiz, upstaging the professor on the work of Kant. Meanwhile, there is a morally righteous serial killer on the loose, looking like a member of Slipknot and preaching the wages of sin to his victims. These two lives intersect, and ZOOM....the thrills begin.

Really though, Thr3e could serve as the unintentional spoof of the psycho-killer genre. It could be its Hot Shots, its Scary Movie, its Naked Gun. You have the police woman who wrote the book (literally) on the serial killer, the haggard detective with loosened tie, the protagonist with a "secret past", the "3" in the title in place of an "E", a house with stacked newspapers, a woman with 1992 Courtney Love make-up and dirty prom dress, roaches, ticking bombs, writing on walls, gray cinematography etc. Basically, it's a film that Nine Inch Nails (or the Christian-Pop version of Nine Inch Nails) would love to write a closing-credits song for.

Still, Thr3e is so bad that it's better than Se7en. We are given some resolve with a cheesy cherry-top ending instead of Gwyneth's head in a box. And if you wanna have a fun night with a friend(s), laughing for the wrong reasons, rewinding to make sure you just saw what you just saw, and witness the most unconvincing portrayal of a detective I've ever seen, then Thr3e would be a good get.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

****COMMENTS NOW OPEN****

Dedicated reader D. Paige offered Tractor Facts $20,000 to open the comments section. We are always willing to change our policies for some money, so of course we accepted. (The funny thing is, we would've caved for some Baked Cheetohs, but oh well...)

*****WARNING*****

Tractor Facts is not responsible for any commenter usage of the "N" word, "B" word, "H" word, "C" word(s), "F" word(s), "J" word, "T" word(s), "P" word(s), L,M,N,O,P word(s), R,S,G, & A word(s), and/or the "Q" word.

(gosh...selling out is hard b/c you have to do all this disclaimer bullsh*t...er I mean "cow mess".)

INFIDEL




















Ayaan Hirsi Ali again disagrees with Islam, and again the reaction is predictable:

Imam Fouad ElBayly, president of the Johnstown Islamic Center, was among those who objected to Hirsi Ali's appearance.

"She has been identified as one who has defamed the faith. If you come into the faith, you must abide by the laws, and when you decide to defame it deliberately, the sentence is death," said ElBayly, who came to the U.S. from Egypt in 1976.

It will never seize to amaze me how fundamentalist Muslims, living in the US, can nonchalantly talk about death sentences for apostates and you have to dig through the blogosphere to find anything about it.

A Google search at 12:10 AM for "Hirsi Ali, ElBayly" turned up nothing from any media outlet, or even a major Pennsylvania newspaper -------> Google search at 12:10 AM

Monday, April 23, 2007

DAVID HALBERSTAM (1934 - 2007)




















David Halberstam wasn't one of my favorite writers, but he was one of the best I'd ever read, and one that I greatly admired. He could take a decade, a war, or a baseball season and wrap it up all nice and accessible for us average people to read. Halberstam was also a regular guest on my favorite talk show - The Jim Rome Show - and he would always give a clear-sighted, articulate interview. David Halberstam was always very polite and respectful.

David Halberstam died this afternoon, and he will be missed by everyone that was lucky enough to experience his easy wisdom.

------->Halberstam's books.

---
UPDATE:

OBIT in the NY Times

Sunday, April 22, 2007

FRACTURE















Art imitates life in the new - and dull - thriller Fracture. Ryan Gosling is prosecuting Anthony Hopkins, and in doing so, is outwitted by the elder in every court drama chess move. In the scenes where Gosling and Hopkins face off with each other, the disparity in talent swells off the screen. Gosling has 2/3 more screen time than Hopkins, but being the performer that he is, Hopkins unintentionally exposes Gosling's true self...his inner Tobey Maguire.

Is there a more overrated actor right now than Ryan Gosling (just this past week Scott Foundas compared him to Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson....whoo boy!!)? He's a likable guy. I like him. But why all the ga-ga over him? It's because he's sexy. It's because it's sexy to like him. Gosling doesn't so much act as he charms the ladies with his facial ticks and strained agony. He's a good looking man, so when he strokes the bridge of his nose, rubs his skull, squints, nibbles gum, loosens his tie, and hurdles up with a crack pipe, people mistake it for great acting.

Gosling is just getting started. He's young, at 27, and capable of improving, but look at his resume and it's a list of films people will soon forget or that are already forgotten: The Believer, Stay, United States of Leland, Half Nelson.

The Notebook was the exception. It has it's following, and it was a box office success. Why? I don't know, I haven't seen it, but I know the poster shows him rain wet and sexy, kissing Rachel McAdams.

IT'S A BRAND NEW ERA
















UPDATE:

------

Ok...so the era isn't that new. Thanks to the HTML powers of my friend Karen O., the old Tractor Facts is back!!!

Well...oldish. We have some new things, and some new things will be coming...if they can be done without crashing the site again....

So it's Tractor Facts version 1.5.

------


Well here we are....

Some online activists broke into the Tractor Facts headquarters and destroyed the classic template that was built back in October 2006.

But thanks to donations and charity, WE ARE UP AGAIN!!

It may be rough at first.
The old posts look a little shoddy.
But we will make do, and float on!

Here's to Tractor Facts version 2.0!

- Fox.

Friday, April 20, 2007

IN DEFENSE OF ALEC BALDWIN
















Sleazy gossip site TMZ.com got ahold of a message Alec Baldwin left on his daughter's voicemail. It's a mean rant, and it's disappointing to hear a father talk to a daughter in that tone, but the way some media figures are going after him is slimy.

If you're a public figure, especially one that is politically active, then you should expect to be criticized. You're fair game when you enter into that arena. But this "phone message" attack is out of bounds. I don't see the relevance.

Who knows what the context of that call was (although it's hard to imagine there being any justification for his slurs)? More importantly, the message was a private exchange between Baldwin and his daughter. To put him on blast, publicly, for something he did in his private life is cheap.

I suppose people will argue that he's verbally abusing his daughter and that's why it's our business. Well, I don't know. There are many things I've said in my private life that I would shudder to have people hear. "But it's a child he's yelling at." I see the point, but the dirty campaign that's going after him feels wrong to me.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

THIEVES LIKE US













Watching Robert Altman's Thieves Like Us is like following along with a picture story on a slowly unraveling scroll. Its seamless and fluid. In Thieves Like Us most seductive parts, you forget you're watching a movie. The action feels like it's in the center of the room. On the excellent commentary track (perhaps his last?) Altman mentions how these scenes "just sorta happened", and while filming "you just gotta work with what you got". True geniuses are modest, because the observation of humanity in Thieves... didn't "just sorta happen".

Without being wholly singled out, Keith Carradine is the star of Thieves... . He plays Boey, a fresh-faced innocent man child with a bowl cut and a healthy obsession for Coca Cola and baseball. He's America, post-depression, mid-New Deal, going through phases and changes, because that's the reality for a country trying to get up off its knees. We see Boey's appearance go from plain white-T, to Gatsby-esque townie, to stern ruffian, to smoking cap soon-to-be daddy.

Altman bookends the film with images of people and train tracks: a chain gang riding a cart westward, and then a crowd of people ascending the stairs to a train headed out West. This may not have been intentional. It's very possibly another example of the "Altman instinct" peaking on all levels. When Altman rehearsed Shelly Duval for her first role he said he got angry b/c he thought she was "putting him on" with her odd behaviors and mannerisms. But..."No, Shelly was the real deal", he said. That statement shows Altman's dedication to everything genuine. It's the attitude of someone that makes things happen, not someone who's around when things "just sorta happen".

Monday, April 16, 2007























Good, warm thoughts go out to everyone in Blacksburg, Virginia right now.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

DISTURBIA













Movies such as Bloody Beach, Phone, Cellular, and Pulse connected the thriller genre to a new generation of teens by using cell phones, text messaging, and chat rooms as plot devices. Disturbia distances itself from being just another Rear Window knockoff by making a fun thriller for the YouTube era.

After a series of no good, very bad days, Kale (LaBouf) knocks out his Spanish teacher and is put on house arrest. But in 2007, house arrest can be better than having freedom and a summer job...iTunes, digital cable, internet, XBox 360...it's not exactly punishment. So mom (Moss) cuts the cable, cancels the iTunes, and takes away the XBox, leaving Kale to get creative in an age when creativity is given to you OnDemand.

After sneaking peaks for a few weeks, Kale suspects his next door neighbor (Morse) is a serial killer. Does Kale have cabin fever, or is he peeling back the layers of suburbia? Yeah, the premise is silly, but the b-movie set-up allows director D.J. Caruso to have a free for all with the electronic toys we use on a daily basis. If Harriet the Spy was written today, would she use a camera phone instead of a notepad?

Disturbia takes hand held video recording past the days of Rodney King voyeurism into the days of YouTube exhibitionism. In the films last scene, Kale and Ashley keep kissing with a grin while their friend Ronnie catches them on camera and says "you know I'm putting this on YouTube". And the suspected neighbor seems to relish being recorded. He catches Ashley tracking him with her camera phone, yet doesn't take it away from her, and almost respects the spy cam that Kale has crafted out of an ordinary hand held.

Along the way, an iPod allows Kale to stage some playful revenge without leaving the house, and a familiar ring tone brings some comic relief. Without playing off of this topical gadgetry, Disturbia probably would have been another boring genre exercise. Kudos to Caruso for keeping the under-18 crowd attentive and curious for longer than their normal 15 minutes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"CHARMER"/"ON CALL" - KINGS OF LEON





















Most bands grow up in between albums, but in today's hurried, gotta-feel-it-now(!) pop culture, the Kings of Leon decided to mature in between songs.

"Charmer" is the second song on their new album, Because of the Times. It's sloppily recorded, but still good. It sounds loose. The lyrics are about living loose: "She's such a charmer...she stole my karma...why's she always looking at me?" I guess it's about being horny, OR having a one track mind b/c the horniness is driving you wild. The opening bassline is a direct lift from The Pixies "Debaser" (save a note or two), as is the howling "WOW" vocal hook of Caleb Followill's. It's a fun time. Nothing to hang your career on, but fun.

Then comes track number three, "On Call". After an intro, it also starts with a bass line, but a much more assured and deep one...one that walks with maturity. Caleb Followill still has a one track mind, but it's for his marriage: "I'm on call to be there/One and all to be there". It sounds like a promise note the young singer gave to his wife before he went out on tour. The vocals aren't as shaky, the guitars are cleaner, and the solo is perfectly measured.

The funny thing is, Caleb and the guys in KOL are only about 25 years old. From three girls a night to "I love my wife" at such a young age. Then again, it's only a pop song...and they haven't hit the road yet.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

MULTICULTURAL WATCH






















Hot Cross Buns, offensive? ------>HERE

Teaching the Holocaust, offensive? ------> HERE

Mohammed's face in a French textbook, offensive? ------> HERE

Monday, April 09, 2007

DEAR JOHN,














Today is the first day of the John Carpenter Blog-A-Thon.
Yes, blog-a-thons are about as geeky as you can get, but you're a geek...so who cares?!?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

CRYBABY CHIC





















The feeling after a really strong cry is a great high, but does it have the same effect if you phony-it-up with onions? There is a club in London called Loss where you pay to go inside and wail.


Billed as 'an evening of exquisite misery', this is where clubbers can go to indulge their inner gloom. The onions are there to help them along a bit, should they struggle to shed their British reserve.

Loss is one of a new breed of crying clubs to arrive in the UK from Japan, where tears have become something of an industry in recent years.

In Tokyo, stressed businessmen can rent rooms by the hour to watch weepy movies or pay £5 a time to attend group cryathons and 'tear therapy' meetings.

--------->Daily Mail

Saturday, April 07, 2007

SHOOTER















Taking full advantage of current conspiratorial chic, and the public's political distrust, Antoine Fuqua makes another silly film in Shooter. It's gonna be a loooong 124 minutes of movie, when, into the 7th minute, the disillusioned Bob Lee Swagger (Walhberg, in full-on hilltop hipster "swagger") turns on his laptop and has Z Net as his home page. "Let's see what lies their feeding us today", he says to his dog.....oy.

Back in Washington, Colonel Johnson (Danny Glover....oy) opens files and learns of Bob Lee Swagger and his sharp snipe shooting skills he picked up in the military. The Colonel seeks out Bob Lee so he can help the FBI sniff out a sniper plot to assassinate the President.

But...BOO YA!....jokes on you Bobby! What was a stakeout is actually a setup (Oswald style, from a window) to make Bob look like the assassin of the visiting Ethiopian archbishop. You see, the American government wanted the archbishop dead because....ah, forget it. Fuqua does what he does. His wannabe Tony Scott (not a good "be" to "wanna") action sequences are filled with forty foot flames, bald brutes, fat senators, and a hot girl muzzled and tied to a chair - as Bob Lee bait.

Fuqua's music video education has kept him from developing a connection with real life. Overnight, FBI agent Memphis (Michael Pena, in Shooter's only worthy performance), swallows conspiracy theories, uncovers corruptions, connects dots, and is ready to ride side-by-side (with Che t-shirt on!) with Bob Lee to 'da trooth! These things would be funny if the makers didn't take themselves so seriously. (For a much better, and more human, take on third world greed, check out Peter Berg's The Rundown).

The best part of the film was when an audience member - no joke - hopped three aisles of seats and flew out the door under the glowing red EXIT sign. I saw him after the lights came up, so it was probably nothing serious. Maybe the diarrhea up on screen was just contagious.

Friday, April 06, 2007

WOMEN IN COMBAT











Yesterday in Iraq, two female soldiers were killed while patroling a dangerous area. It led Colonel Bob Stewart to make these comments:


Col Bob Stewart, who was the first British commander of UN forces in Bosnia, yesterday said that he was against women being close to combat as their deaths or injuries had a debilitating effect on male soldiers. "It's disquieting for a lot of people in this country when women are put into the front line because when they are wounded or killed, the men around them find it very difficult to operate," he said.


I think this is a good point, and I agree with it.

I'm confident that some women can do just as good (or better) a job in trained combat as a man, but there is a reflex in men to feel protective of women. It's not about equal rights, it's about human instinct, and if you're on the battlefield and witness a fellow female soldier die, it could bring on feelings of guilt (or"debilitation", as the Colonel put it), along with the sorrow.

I don't fully know how I feel about women in combat, I just think the colonel makes an interesting point.

UPDATE ON THE CRITICAL MASSACRE















Editorial from today's SF Chron:

---
Cool it, Critical Mass
Friday, April 6, 2007

THE VOLATILE clash between the Critical Mass cyclists and a Redwood City family in a minivan was all too predictable. The only surprise is that something like this hadn't happened sooner. It was a blessing that no one was seriously injured in the confrontation.

For too long, the pack of rude and sanctimonious bicyclists who call themselves "Critical Mass" have been tolerated in San Francisco. The police have looked the other way and elected officials have been afraid to confront a determined political force in this city.

But as the flood of responses to a SFGate.com blog indicate, plenty of residents and visitors have been gritting their teeth as Critical Mass bicyclists flood the streets and run traffic lights with impunity, and then respond with hostility to any pedestrians or motorists who dare to challenge their demonstrations.

It's time to make them respect the law. The assault on Susan Ferrando's minivan, with two terrified daughters inside, is only going to escalate tensions on the street. There should be zero tolerance for such lawlessness.

The more militant of the bicycle advocates fail to recognize that they are undermining their cause with their open provocation. Yes, San Francisco is precarious terrain for bicyclists, with its hills, narrow streets and concentration of people and cars in 49 square miles. It's also a difficult city for motorists, pedestrians and the many residents who must rely on the Municipal Railway to get around.

The way to make this compact city work for all modes of transportation is for San Franciscans to share the streets with civility, humility and adherence to the rules of the road. The Critical Mass rides contain none of the above.
---

Thursday, April 05, 2007

R.I.P., BOB CLARK

Film director Bob Clark, and his son, were killed today in a traffic accident.

He had a bizarre career. He's mostly known for A Christmas Story, but when you tell people that he also made Porky's they're like "for real?!?!".

And it gets weirder....before making one of the most beloved Christmas family films, he made the the cult movie Black Christmas (I still don't understand the ending to this movie...please someone e-mail me if you do).




















But the best film I ever saw by him was the even more cultish Deathdream. It's about a soldier coming home from Vietnam, but he's actually a "living dead" soldier....a zombie soldier. What's surprising about it is the emotional turn it takes. It's definitely a b-level film, but the final sequence where the zombie soldier son just wants his mom to bury him so he can finally "sleep" is touching in a way that most horror movies aren't.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

MILITANT BIKERS GO CRAZY IN SAN FRAN





















San Francisco was having a Critical Mass (i.e. the unemployed ride their bikes around and get in the way of people trying to be productive), and some militant bikers decided to lose their skittles and make some little girls cry:

Not being from San Francisco, Ferrando thought she might have inadvertently crossed paths with a bicycle race and couldn't figure out why the police, who she had just passed, hadn't warned her.

Confusion, however, quickly turned to terror, she said, when the swarming cyclists began wildly circling around and then running into the sides of her Toyota van.


Filled with panic, Ferrando said, she started inching forward until coming to a stop at Post and Gough streets, where she was surrounded by bikers on all sides.


A biker in front blocked her as another biker began pounding on the windshield. Another was pounding on her window. Another pounded
the other side.


"It seemed like they were using their bikes as weapons,''Ferrando said. One of the bikers then threw his bike -- shattering the rear window and terrifying the young girls inside.


All the while, Ferrando was screaming, "There are children in this car! There are children in this car!"



---------->SF CHRON

THE GOOD SHEPHERD















The Good Shepherd is refreshing in its nonpartisan handling of United States counter-intelligence. Robert DeNiro fits 30 plus years of history into a 2 1/2 hour film, while keeping the real focus on the human story of Edward Wilson (fictional character based on true intelligence agents). The tact and humility of The Good Sheperd exposes why films like Syriana and Why We Fight are irrelevant.

Wilson (Matt Damon) carries the burden of being a good patriot and (trying to be) a good father/husband at the same time. DeNiro shows the unimaginable difficulty of leading a life of secrecy under the roof of a two-story home. There are great moments when Wilson's son watches him take high-level calls right after he'd been tucked into bed. From the crack in his bedroom door, the boy is only feet away from witnessing international intrigue. How can you be a father when your son's curiosity could threaten national security?

The Good Shepherd also fits in well alongside the current "invasion of privacy" hysteria by showing investigations and interrogations as a necessary sacrifice. But DeNiro doesn't candy coat this. A Russian defector, suspected as a spy, is tortured to the point of suicide while the real spy has been cozy with US intelligence for years. DeNiro shows the inherent ugly truths (the costs and benefits) when you're waging a war of information.

During the film's entirety, we don't see much of the outside world. Surely Edward Wilson laughed at the comics, or watched Ed Sullivan, but by stripping the film of these simple pleasures DeNiro sharply defines the parallel world Edward Wilson lives in. He doesn't have the privilege of nuance that every regular citizen does. His is a world where you must live behind distinct lines. Undying allegiance can be a good thing...it just depends what side your on.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

BLADES OF GLORY















DOH!

There is a moment in the new film Blades of Glory that really leaves you frustrated. There appears to be a brilliant comedic sequence blossoming and then ...

CUT!

Will Ferrell is being chased (on ice skates) by Will Arnett, who is trying to pull a Tanya Harding before the two square off in a final competition. The chase starts on a frozen pond, but Ferrell must make it to the arena which is over a bridge, across a street, up some stairs....in other words, some of the chase (on ice skates) will take place off the ice.

I was sitting in the theater, enjoying this average comedy, when I felt the action building up. My eyes got excited and I thought "YES! Go for it, go for it!". Directors Josh Gordon & Will Speck went for it, but they should have "went" about 4 minutes longer.

DAMMIT!

But what is on screen is a few minutes of physical comedy bliss. Ferrell and Arnett fly across the ice, then waddle, slip, and plod over cement and marble while continuing the intensity of the chase.

Oh well...it was great while it lasted, and Amy Pohler did get in a blast about "snow boners", so I'm still glad I went.

SIGH...

EMO KIDS WOULD NEVER DO THIS






















The upstaging game of "I'm more rock n' roll than you!" just got taken to another level!

Ozzy? ha!

GG Allen? wuss.

Iggy Pop? amateur.

------> THIS (!) is freakin' rock n roll!

...thing is, Keef may be on to something. We've often wondered the secret to his longevity. Maybe this is it.

MARLON BRANDO





















Happy (would be) 80th Birthday, you glorious weirdo!


Highlights:

On the Waterfront (1954) - at his most parodied.
Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967) - at his most beautiful.
The Missouri Breaks (1976) - at his most freewheelin'.
Superman (1978) - at his most greedy.
The Freshman (1990) - at his most cuddly.

Monday, April 02, 2007

"GIVE IT TO ME" - TIMBALAND

















It's very probable that the best single this year will be the Timbaland, Timberlake, and Nelly Furtado collaboration, "Give It To Me". Like most Timbaland produced songs, I can't get it out of my head, and boy am I OK with that!

Each pop star gets a verse, and each verse is followed by a perfect chorus (sung by Furtado). The chorus reminds me of the chorus to DeBarge's "Rhythm Of The Night", although at a slower tempo. Or maybe it's a The Jets song..."Crush On You"? I don't know...but something gets triggered in my memory whenever I hear it.

It's no coincidence that two of 2007's other best singles are the Timbaland produced "What Goes Around...Comes Around" and "Say It Right". Dude's been on a hot streak for 10 years now! Artist of the decade? Probably. Who else is there? Radiohead? pfft. OutKast? nope. White Stripes? uh-uh. Kanye West? No way.

------
p.s. I heard the new Maroon 5 single tonight and I thought it sounded really good. (note: I never found anything they've done before this to be worthwhile). It has a more soulful/dance vibe to it, probably do to Mike Elizondo, who's producing their new album.

TODAY IS A GOOD DAY

Today is the best day of the year.
I felt pep in my steps to the shower this morning.

I didn't mind getting out of bed.
I didn't mind the girl in front of me at Starbucks taking her time.
I didn't mind getting a prissy e-mail from a co-worker.
I didn't mind the snub we got from the bosses after another strong close.

I don't mind much, and my minds not on much other than baseball.

It's OPENING DAY !

















The Houston Astros are (and always will be) my team.
Here is their Starting Lineup:

1. Craig Biggio - 2nd Base
2. Chris Burke - Center Field
3. Lance Berkman - 1st Base
4. Carlos Lee - Left Field
5. Morgan Ensberg - 3rd Base
6. Luke Scott - Right Field
7. Adam Everett - Shortstop
8. Brad Ausmus - Catcher
9. Roy Oswalt - Pitcher

(The Houston Astros happen to be my friend Mandy's favorite team too.
She likes it when you send her Astros pictures and e-mails.)