Thursday, February 27, 2003

Song of the week:

"Locked in the Trunk of a Car"
by The Tragically Hip

They don't know how old I am
They found armour in my belly
From the 16th century
Conquistador, I think
They don't know how old I am
They found armour in my belly
Passion out of machine-revving tension
Lashing out at machiine-revving tension
Brushing by the machine-revving tension

Morning broke out the backside of a truck stop
The end of a line, a real rainbow-likening luck stop
Where you could say I became chronologically "fucked-up"
Put ten bucks in just to get the tank topped off
Then I found a place, it's dark and it's rotted
It's a cool, sweet kinda-place where the copters won't spot it
And I destroyed the map, I even thought I forgot it
However, every day I'm dumping the body

It'd be better for us if you don't understand
It'd be better for me if you don't understand

I'll give real money to the first person who can tell me what the hell he's talking about.

Monday, February 24, 2003

The Hours

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.

--Pink Floyd, "Time"

It's certainly the way of the women of The Hours. Across time, across continents, the one constant running through these characters is the desperation of their own lives. Led by director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot), the most stellar ensemble of the year creates a film that is no less than a masterpiece.

The Hours opens with a river, and like that river, the film flows through the lives of three women, each somehow connected through a single novel. In England in 1923, Virginia Woolf (a nearly unrecognizable Nicole Kidman) begins work on Mrs. Dalloway while struggling to deal with the life around her. In Los Angeles in 1951, Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) reads Mrs. Dalloway as a way to escape the family she doesn't know how to care for. And in 2001 New York, Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep) finds herself lost as she plans a party for her AIDS-stricken friend Richard (Ed Harris), who calls her "Mrs. Dalloway" as she fits her life to the people around her.

Daldry and his editor, Peter Boyle, make it all flow together seamlessly, cutting back and forth between the three women in a stream-of-consciousness narrative that is unbelievably powerful. The most mundane of events -- the cracking of eggs, for example -- is connected through the film to reveal more and more about the characters. It's not an easy task to weave the three stories together, but the editing is perfect and never distracting. Also excellent is the haunting, beautiful score composed by Phillip Glass.

The performances are flawless. Kidman shuffles around her English cottage, puffing away on cigarettes and glaring over her nose at the servants. Whether she's watching her niece and nephews give a funeral for a dead bird or hissing her frustrations at her well-meaning husband Leonard (Stephen Dillane), Kidman perfectly captures the brooding Woolf, turning in the best performance of the year, female or otherwise. Meryl Streep is her usual dependable self, but Julianne Moore is positively heartbreaking, as she manages to turn the simple act of baking a cake into an epic struggle. Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, Miranda Richardson, John C. Reilly, and Toni Collette are all excellent in small roles.

The Hours has moments of stunning power, scenes that stick with you long after the credits roll. One scene in particular sticks out for me. Laura drops her son off at a babysitter and heads to a motel, bottles of sleeping medication in her purse. Even she's not entirely certain what she's going to do. This is intercut with Virginia confessing to her niece that she may have to kill off her own heroine. Back in the hotel, Laura lies on the bed, the bottles on the dresser next to her, her eyes vacant...and suddenly water fills the room, flowing upwards, covering her completely. The film immediately cuts back to Virginia, with the audience as choked and breathless as Laura. It's a haunting piece of filmmaking, one that's impossible to forget (and I'm fully aware that this limp description does the scene no justice at all).

I know that I said About Schmidt was the best film of 2002, but I've changed my mind. The Hours is one of the most gut-wrenching films I've seen, a complex, emotional masterpiece that is the easy choice to take Best Picture. It's perfectly acted, directed, written, and edited -- a pure, flawless masterpiece.

Rating: *****

Saturday, February 15, 2003

The kind of mail I get.

Anybody else out there seen something along these lines? I must get three of these things -- all worded exactly the same -- every day.

(received just moments ago)

Subj: rocktmbstn,hi there...:)
Date: 2/15/2003 12:11:15 AM Central Standard Time

First thing I hope this is the right email address ...:) You probably don't remember me, but we talked online a while ago.

I don't really know what happened, but I guess we both just got really busy or something. I feel really bad because I don't want you to think I was ignoring you or anything.

Anyway, I know we haven't talked in a while but I thought we had the beginnings of a pretty good thing going so I was just wondering if you'd be interested in getting back in touch. Maybe with a few emails first so we can feel each other out again?

You probably don't remember what I look like, there are some pics of me at:

My User name is laurie243 .

I hope you're still interested. I'm gonna feel pretty dumb showing you that website if you blow me off.....but I hope that gives you some confidence that I'm for real. I DEFINITELY don't just hand that out to people.

I hope this works out for the best, you were the most compatible guy I met on that site and I feel horrible for letting it slide.

Anyway, check out the site and email me if you want to get together. I hope so. Talk to you soon!

Love ,XX


Well, a few things come to mind right away:

1) "You were the most compatible guy I met on that site." What site was this, exactly?

2) I've never met, spoken to, or otherwise come in contact with anyone named Laurie in my life.

Now, what is going through the minds of the people at, who obviously sent this to me? Do they think I'm really stupid enough to fall for this and go to their site? And if that's the case, why are they shooting themselves in the foot by sending it to me over and over and over again?

The weird thing is that, about a year ago, I did exchange several e-mails with a girl named Leslie, and if they'd used that name, they might've gotten me (although there was no "site" for me to be "the most compatible guy" on involved). But in every one of these mails, it's always Laurie.

My morbid curiosity is begging me to go to this site just to find out who this mysterious Laurie is, should she actually exist. I'm betting it's merely a ploy to get me to go to the site and get blitzed by the pop-up ads.

If anyone from is reading this, just so you know: it's time for a new plan of attack.

Friday, February 14, 2003

"The nice guys are all over there. In seventh place."
---Leo Durocher

"If love is blind, I guess I'll buy myself a cane."
---Guns N' Roses, "Locomotive"

"If you could, save me from the ranks of the freaks who suspect they could never love anyone."
---Aimee Mann, "Save Me"

More insomnia, so I'm taking it out on you.

It is once again Valentine's Day. And I am once again (perhaps that should be "still") single. So much in my life has changed in the last 365 days---a different job, a different car, a different home...and yet, I'm still sitting here on Valentine's Day, just like I did last year. I guess I should be grateful for at least that little bit of stability.

I have to watch myself here, because this could easily slide into a fit of whining and crying and feeling sorry for myself, and that's really not what I'm intending to do. So I'll tread lightly.

But it's hard not to feel shitty on this day. I mean, the entire world is celebrating something I don't have. V-Day just shines a great big spotlight on this empty patch in my life and says, "Hey, look over here! There's a big fuckin' hole!" The fact that I'm not seeing anyone doesn't bother me on most days, but when it's called to my attention so bluntly, it has a tendancy to get under my skin. Not enough to the point that I'll do something drastic, but it's not pleasant.

A guy at work told me that if he's seeing someone as Valentine's approaches, he dumps her, to "avoid the hassle." This type of mindset baffles and astounds me. I feel like Lester Burnham, watching Ricky quit his job and just standing in awe.

"How can you do that?" I asked. "Just throw away a perfectly good relationship, just to avoid buying her flowers?"

He shrugged. "Dunno. But there's always other women." And he'll dump them, too, of course.

"It's same thing with their birthdays," he said.

What's sad is, he's right---there are always other women...for that guy, and guys like that guy. [Here comes the bitching...] Have you seen that Coke commerical, where the two guys are talking, and one of them says something really smart about the vending machine, only to laughed at by friend? Then, these two girls walk up, and the "friend" uses what the smart guy said as a pickup line...and it works! The smart guy is just left standing there drinking his Coke, looking like the jackass sidekick to Mr. Smooth. If a dime for every time that happened to me...

...well, I'd have about $2.20. But hey, that's a lot of dimes.

So it's yet another Valentine's Day of bitching and moaning. At least some things can be counted on.
After months and months of waiting, my copy of Scott Keith's Tonight...In This Very Ring arrived via UPS. If you are at all interested in professional wrestling in any way, I highly recommend picking it up. It's a fun, fast read, immensely entertaining (which is particularly notable considering that I already knew 99.2% of the information contained in the book). I can't stand to watch the WWF -- err, excuse me WWE these days, but I can still read Scott Keith's stuff.

So I give the book ****1/2, a clear improvement over his previous effort, The Buzz on Professional Wrestling, which was good enough as a history book, but in attempting to be objective, Keith became oddly distanced from the subject matter, and smothered his own brash, hilarious writing style, which I why I read him in the first place.

(I should note that the star rating I use to rate movies was stolen directly from the wrestling world, and more specifically, from Scott Keith. Credit where credit is due, and all that happy horseshit.)

But all that stuff is perfectly intact here, along with a seemingly unending series of jokes at the expense of HHH, which is always welcome. For wrestling fans, it's a must-read; for non-fans, it's still a great, funny look at the bizarre Kingdom That Vince Built.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

The Late-Night Movie

It's a quarter to five in the morning. I can't sleep. So I'm sitting up, sitting on my couch, watching TV. Some bad movie is on, the type of C-grade thriller that only airs at a quarter to five in the morning on a syndicated network. Does this stuff ever see theatrical release? Or is it specifically produced to occupy this kind of timeslot?

See, I can't just watch a movie. My obsession with film runs too deep. I can't just accept that it's a cheap thriller and leave it at that; I have to think about it. I analyze it. And some questions occur to me.

Do the actors in this movie (and the director, and everyone working on it) know that it's terrible? Are they actually convinced that what they're doing is entertaining, meaningful art? Or did the actor playing the villain have to do thirty-seven takes of the scene in which he yells to the hiding protagonist "Come out, come out, wherever you are!" just to get the disgust out of his voice? Does the screenwriter know he's a hack? Is he secure in this knowledge? Is he proud of it? Or did he read over his finished script with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a loaded pistol in the other? Do his friends make fun of him behind his back? Does he even tell his friends what he actually does for a living, or do they all believe he's a librarian or something?

My biggest fear is that I'll end up like that guy. To me, that would be worse than never making it in the movie business: making it, only to find my movies playing on the WB at five a.m. on a Thursday.

Of course, I say that, but if some C-grade producer called me tomorrow and offered me a job directing crap like this, I'd be on a plane to Hollywood in a heartbeat. Directing crap is better than not directing at all.

Isn't it?

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

I've finally decided to begin my prose adaptation of my current Vampire chronicle, entitled En Prise. I'll post each new section here as I write it.

This section is merely a brief prologue, an introduction to the larger work.

by J. Walker


Samantha watched as the sun shrank under the horizon, casting the town into darkness. Soon, the Quick would return to slumber and the true masters of this world would rise to take their place. Her plan – okay, their plan, she corrected herself – would soon set into motion an epic chain of events. And the Quick would remain ignorant, as they always did, of the entire world shifting around them.

She laughed at herself. The entire world shifting around them…that’s deep, Sam. Fortunado would have had a good laugh at her expense if she’d said that out loud. Samantha held minor poetic aspirations, the end result of which was statements such as those. And Fortunado never missed an opportunity to offer his “constructive criticism.”

But where was Fortunado, anyway? He was at least thirty minutes late, which was twenty minutes later than usual. Samantha began to worry, more about her (their) plan falling apart than Fortunado’s safety.

She took a quick look at her surroundings. The small town around her offered little aesthetic beauty; seeing it through the Shroud didn’t help matters any. The roads below her were cracked and poorly paved, the houses in disrepair. From her vantage point, the town seemed to fade as the last rays of sunlight touched the tops of the trees and houses.

And suddenly, there he was, standing right next to her. “Sorry I’m late,” Fortunado said, throwing an arm around her as she jumped in alarm. “Oh, I’m sorry, did I frighten you?” A playful grin spread across his lips.

“Dammit, I told you to stop that.” She pushed him back with one hand while gripping the rail with the other, trying to regain her composure. Jesus, you’d think you’d be used to that by now. “I’m assuming that everything is okay?”

“Of course. What kind of idiot do you take me for? Don’t answer that,” he cut her off. He pulled his old cigarette lighter from a pocket and began idly twirling it in one hand. “Everything went exactly as we planned.”

“Then it begins tonight?”

“Looks like it.”

Samantha nodded. It felt so strange, knowing that the months – years – of preparation were coming to fruition soon.

Fortunado was peering over the rail, taking in the sight of the town below. “All this work and effort for this shitty town. Doesn’t seem right.”

“It’s not about the town. You know that.”

“Still doesn’t seem right.” He once again put an arm around her. “But here we are, fighting the good fight. You and me against the world, kiddo.”

And he makes fun of the way I talk. “I’m over a hundred years older than you. Don’t call me ‘kiddo’.”

Fortunado didn’t respond. Samantha didn’t bother moving his arm.

Together, they watched the sun disappear completely. Night reigned over the town.

As Samantha saw that complete darkness envelop the city around them, a fleeting panic washed over her. What if they wrong? Her predictions had never missed before, but they were sometimes less than fully accurate. She could have missed something, a detail, a miniscule detail, and the whole plan could be upset and thrown out of balance. They should stop it. There was still time, they could--

She felt Fortunado's mouth at her ear. He whispered kind words to her, soothing words. She always panicked in times like these. Fortunado knew it as well as she did, and knew just what to say to calm her. It was good having a friend like him. Even if he was an arrogant prick most of the time.

When she calmed completely, Fortunado released her and once again looked over the railing. "Doesn't seem right," he said once more, flicking absently at his lighter.

A few moments later, they saw a lone, familiar figure fiddling with the lock on a building down below them.

Fortunado leaned close again and whispered, “And so it begins….”

The first chapter will be posted soon. Feedback is appreciated.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

"Not that I expected anything different...."

I call myself a pessimist. And I am, as anyone who knows me will certainly agree. I have an unique ability to see the dark cloud within every silver lining. I don't like it, but it's the truth. I'm exactly like Eeyore, except I'm not a donkey, or purple, or homeless. Nor do I have a removable tail. But you see the point. In fact, at my old job, I was frequently referred to as "Eeyore," and several items featuring the character were giving to me as gifts.

But beneath this harsh, dreary exterior, there's an optimist, hiding way down deep inside (I'd call it my inner child, but I was pretty pessimistic as a child, too). And that optimist loves nothing more than positive things to happen, if only to shut Eeyore up for a little while.

The only problem: when I'm in a good mood (as I am at the moment), the dominant Eeyore mindset has no idea what to do, and I turn to an emptyheaded idiot. I'm lucky to be forming coherant sentences at this point.

My day at work was surprisingly painless, and even enjoyable at times. I was making pretty good tips, I wasn't overburnded with a ridiculous number of deliveries, and the weather wasn't bad. I had good music on the radio, flipping between the score from Magnolia and Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head. I felt myself coming into a good mood as the music played and the hours flew by.

My final delivery was to a neighborhood I'm not usually big on going to. It's near the junior high. It's not exactly a ritzy area, and tips aren't very good there. But it was my last delivery, and then I could go home, so I was still somewhat pleased.

I knocked on the door. While I waited for an answer, I heard a dog barking behind me. I turned to look for the dog, but saw none. As I looked, the door opened behind me. I turned back, and said, "Hello ----"

The girl who answered the door was very attractive. She was short, early twenties, with long blonde hair.

And no clothes.

I consider myself to be an intellectual person. I do, really. I'd like to think that this image wouldn't effect me. But there she was, totally nude, and Eeyore just said, "Fuck it." My brain completely shut off.

I think I somehow managed to convey the amount she owed me. She handed over the cash (which I think was enough to cover it; I didn't count), and said, "Tell all the people you work with, the faster you get here, and the more breadsticks you bring, the more we" ...She motioned toward another girl (fully clothed) on the couch... "take off." I nodded and promised to deliver the message.

I realize how ridiculous it sounds. I'm not entirely sure it actually happened, to tell you the truth. It sounds like the stuff out of bad erotic fiction, like Logjammin'. Eeyore would like nothing more than for me to wake up in a hospital tomorrow morning, discovering that I had been in a terrible car accident, and the previous twenty-four hours were no more than a dream.

But until then, I'll just stay an idiot.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

Darkness Falls

I miss Mystery Science Theater 3000. I miss Crow, Servo, Mike, Joel, and the Satellite of Love. I remember a time when laughable cinematic garbage like this would be inflicted upon us by Dr. Clayton Forrester, as part of his evil plan to take over the world. But now, those days are gone, and we are left to fend for ourselves. We must be strong!

If you're in the right frame of mind, a movie like Darkness Falls can be a blast. The trite dialogue, ridiculous plot twists, and horrible characterizations can be either painful or hilarious, depending on how you look at it. Take, for instance, the basic plot of the film: In a small town called Darkness Falls, the Tooth Fairy haunts and murders the children when they've lost their last baby tooth.

Yeah, that's right, the goddamn Tooth Fairy.

I could explain why the Tooth Fairy wants to kill everybody, but it's not really relevant (and indeed, the film itself mentions it once at the beginning only because it has to). See, now the Tooth Fairy is out for revenge against Kyle Walsh (Chaney Kley), the only child to escape her wrath. Since his encounter with the spirit twelve years ago, Kyle's become plagued with night terrors and a paralyzing fear of the dark, obsessing about the Tooth Fairy. But now he has to face his fears and return to Darkness Falls as a favor to his old girlfriend, Caitlin (Emma Caulfield). It seems that her brother, Michael (the profoundly annoying Lee Cormie), has also escaped the Tooth Fairy, and she's coming for him, too.

If it sounds silly in print, wait until you see it on the screen. The Tooth Fairy floats around, hissing and groaning from darkness as her potential victims cower in the corner. Her one weakness is light, so Kyle carries around a bag full of flashlights...but he should know better than that: this is a horror movie, so any flashlight will only remain lit for 15-30 seconds before it starts flickering (the response to which is always the flashlight's holder banging it and whispering, "Come on, come on"). The very first establishing shot of the town telegraphs where the final confrontation will end up; it's pretty easy to guess.

The acting is bad all around, but usually bad in that Keanu Reeves way -- it's a hell of a lot of fun to openly mock. The only exception to this Lee Cormie as the cute widdle kid Michael -- he is bad in that John Travolta way, so bad that you begin to actively root for the Tooth Fairy to kill him to end your own misery. The characters are all stock stereotypes, from the Jewish lawyer to the flannel-wearing drunken rednecks to the disbelieving police officers. The fact that it took three people to write this crap is astounding, and depressing. Jonathan Liebesman's direction is the only thing halfway respectable about the whole affair, and even it is barely pedestrian at best.

That said, Darkness Falls can be very entertaining under the right circumstances. When the DVD is released, pick it up at Blockbuster, and invite all of your friends over. We'll make the Satellite of Love gang proud.

Rating: DUD


Chicago is a whole lot of fun. It's a delightful romp, fast, sexy, and loud, and it's a great way to mark the comeback of the musical. It doesn't reach the apex of style that was last year's Moulin Rouge!, but it's a very good film all the same. What it lacks in technical achievement (and it does lack a great deal), Chicago makes up for in the enthusiasm of its performances and the rush of its music.

The problem with musicals nowadays -- with the exception of animated Disney films -- is overcoming the audiences' built-in cynicism toward characters suddenly bursting into song. Chicago oversteps this hurdle nicely in the first shot: the camera zooms into the right eye of our starry-eyed heroine, Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger). More than anything, Roxie wants to sing and dance on the stage; so when her life is turned upside down overnight, she soothes herself and adjusts by imagining the world around her a full-blown cabaret show. All the singing and dancing takes place only in her head, so that cynical hurdle is nicely avoided.

The life-changing event occurs when Roxie murders her lover (Dominic West) in a state of blind panic. She's soon shipped off to the big house, threats of execution hanging over her head. She finds herself confronted with the crooked warden, Mama Morton (Queen Latifah), rows and rows of similarly convicted women who all claim "he had it comin'" for such crimes as gum chewing, and her idol, Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who's also in for murder. But Velma's become a bigger star in the slammer than she was outside of it, thanks to her lawyer, Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), and Billy's got similar plans for Roxie.

The film is at its best during its musical scenes. When Roxie's fellow prisoners line up to sing the "Cell Block Tango," the movie soars into the stratosphere. Roxie's husband, Amos (John C. Reilly) bemoans his own uselessness in the film's best song, "Mr. Cellophane," while Richard Gere tap dances (literally!) through a sticky trial. The stars do all their own singing and dancing, and it's surprising how well they do. The weakest is easily Gere, who has a rather odd British accent in his songs, but is clearly having so much fun that it's easy to ignore.

Unfortunately, when not in sing-a-long mode, the film falls a little flat. The muddy cinematography, odd lighting, and drab set design become more apparent, and less enjoyable. Also, the film manages to say nothing at all about society's fascination with criminals, though it seems to want to. Whenever the film was in the "real world," I was sitting back, waiting for the film's bandleader (Taye Diggs) to introduce the next musical number. It also seems to drag quite a bit toward the end, as the ending seems to get farther and farther away. But whenever I'd get bored, another song would burst out, and I'd be swept away again.

I never thought I'd say something like this, but I'm glad to see musicals are making a comeback. As long as they're as fun and inventive as Moulin Rouge! and Chicago, I'm perfectly happy.

Rating: ***1/2