Tuesday, March 29, 2005


So this AOL news update I saw when I signed on yesterday...something's kinda odd about it, wouldn't you agree?

So which headline does that picture go with? The quake? Or the Big-Ass Sandwich, which is apparently some kind of hugely unhealthy breakfast thing coming to Burger King? And since when does a fucking sandwich warrant a headline in anything other than Sandwich Enthusiast Monthly?

Find the crackhead who decided to put a glorified Burger King commerical underneath a story about the deaths of hundreds of people, and shoot him before he can do it again.

That is all.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Ring Two

Oh, how the jokes just practically write themselves -- a movie so horrifying, so horrible, that watching it kills you! "Haha, just like this movie! Haha!" The Ring Two isn't that bad -- but I'm almost certain (meaning I very much hope) you won't see another film this year with a script this brazenly illogical, this stupefyingly nonsensical, this maddeningly incoherent.

That script comes to you from Ehren Kruger, the talentless scribe who forced Reindeer Games on us. Of course, he also wrote The Ring, and it's worth pointing out that everything good about that film was present in the original Japanese film, and everything bad (medical equipment in strange places, horses going crazy on ferries) came from Kruger's adaptation. Illogic, preposterousness, total incoherence -- these are the trademarks of Kruger's work, and all are on display here in large quantities.

Previously on The Ring, Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her son, Aidan (David Dorfman), did battle with the ghost of Samara, who was drowned in a well by her stepmother. Samara's spirit infected a videotape: watch the tape and you get a phone call from an ominous voice saying, "Seven days..."; seven days later, Samara crawls out of the television and kills you. Sure, that doesn't really make a lot of sense, and leaves a number of plot holes wide open (what happens if you don't answer the phone when she calls? what if you stay away from the TV?), but The Ring (in both the Japanese and American versions) coasted along with good performances and impressive visuals.

Now, an undetermined time later, another copy of the tape has surfaced and is once again tormenting high schoolers...and by coincidence (or is it?), it happens to be in the small Washington town Rachel and Aidan have fled to from Seattle. Somehow, though, these kids know how to break the curse: make a copy of the evil tape and show it to someone else. But one kid screws up, and he winds up dead and deformed ("plague-style," as my friends have dubbed it), drowned in his living room. Rachel finds out, naturally, and is horrified: how could there be another tape? "We only made one copy," she whispers to herself. Where did this new tape come from?

That's a damn good question, but you won't find an answer in this movie. How did these new victims know that making a copy frees you from the curse? Another good question, and another one the script isn't interested in. (My guess: they all saw The Ring.) In fact, the whole videotape concept is abandoned twenty minutes into the movie, as Samara decides she doesn't need it anymore -- I suppose all those people she killed before gave her enough experience points to advance to the next level, because now she's got a bunch of new powers.

She starts terrorizing Rachel and Aidan, though it isn't clear how she found them to begin with. We get more insane animal attacks (this time it's a fleet of rampaging deer instead of a horse), we get mysterious bruises, we get creepy images on the TV. Not only does none of it cohere to the predecessor, none of it gels together with itself -- the narrative practically starts over every twenty minutes, with the plot jerking suddenly in a completely new direction and forgetting everything that came before it. And in between, director Hideo Nakata (director of Ringu and Ringu 2) gives us endless scenes of creepy imagery in which absolutely nothing happens.

Case in point: the aforementioned deer attack. It comes out of nowhere -- Aidan exchanges a funny look with a deer, and two scenes later, there are fifty of them banging holes in Rachel's car. Aidan knows it's coming before it happens; just before the first strike, he whispers, "Don't stop." The deer force her to...they break the windows...and then they stop. They look at Rachel. She looks at them. She drives away. They watch her go. And it's never mentioned again. No explanation, no nothing. (Oh, Nakata's camera, late in the film, lingers on a big pile of antlers in the house where Samara grew up -- if that explains anything, it's clearly over my head.)

Samara tries, over and over again, to kill Aidan and Rachel...which doesn't make any sense, considering why she's after them in the first place. (I won't say why, even though it's in the trailer; suffice to say, it's really, really stupid.) In the meantime, both Rachel and Aidan slither like Solid Snake through places they shouldn't be able to sneak through -- police stations, coroner's vans, homicide crime scenes, hospitals, other people's homes, entire towns. Bit characters show up to provide a nuisance during these scenes, then vanish abruptly into thin air, because if they hung around the scene wouldn't work.

Forty-five minutes in, I realized that I had absolutely no idea what was going on; thirty minutes later, I stopped caring. And once the climax kicked into high gear, I literally gave up trying and just looked at the pretty pictures. It isn't scary, it isn't disturbing, and it's barely even unintentionally funny -- it's just boring.

Can there be a Ring Three? Maybe -- I honestly don't know if any threads are left open for an additional film. I know this, though -- one of the trailers that ran before this movie was for The Skeleton Key, a horror film based on the novel by the guy who also wrote Ringu. The screenwriter? Ehren Kruger.

Be afraid.

Rating: *1/2

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Another quiz

...and again, you kinda gotta see this coming.

20 Questions to a Better Personality

Wackiness: 44/100
Rationality: 50/100
Constructiveness: 38/100
Leadership: 20/100

You are a SEDF--Sober Emotional Destructive Follower. This makes you an Evil Genius.

You are extremely focused and difficult to distract from your tasks. With luck, you have learned to channel your energies into improving your intellect, rather than destroying the weak and unsuspecting.

Your friends may find you remote and a hard nut to crack. Few of your peers know you very well--even those you have known a long time--because you have expert control of the face you put forth to the world. You prefer to observe, calculate, discern and decide. Your decisions are final, and your desire to be right is impenetrable.

You are not to be messed with. You may explode.

Of the 104552 people who have taken this quiz since tracking began (8/17/2004), 14.3 % are this type.


...Yeah. Not entirely sure how accurate some of that is, but obviously the computer knows me better than I know myself.

Feed me, Sara! Feed me, Sara!

I suspected that Blogger might have something with which I could easily create an RSS or XML feed -- seemed likely they would have an automated system by which such a feed would be created for me.

As it turns out, I was correct. In fact, Blogger has been automatically creating this feed for me the whole time without my knowledge.

So, yeah. Now jwalkernet leaps (blindly) into this new wave of...uh, whatever it is.

If you're new to this whole XML party, lemme educate ya -- or, better yet, lemme let someone else educate ya...
RSS is a format for syndicating news and the content of news-like sites, including major news sites like Wired, news-oriented community sites like Slashdot, and personal weblogs. But it's not just for news. Pretty much anything that can be broken down into discrete items can be syndicated via RSS: the "recent changes" page of a wiki, a changelog of CVS checkins, even the revision history of a book. Once information about each item is in RSS format, an RSS-aware program can check the feed for changes and react to the changes in an appropriate way.

RSS-aware programs called news aggregators are popular in the weblogging community. Many weblogs make content available in RSS. A news aggregator can help you keep up with all your favorite weblogs by checking their RSS feeds and displaying new items from each of them

So. All you need now is an XML reader (like, oh, I don't know, the totally free Feedreader), plug in the feed address (http://jwalkernet.topcities.com/feed.xml), and you're in business. Whenever I update, you get a message. It's that simple.

A fair warning, however. The feed doesn't exactly look perfect. Nothing I can do about it -- Blogger's the one making the feed. According to this, I never use a paragraph break. But in any event, Feedreader's interface comes complete with a link to the actual post, so you can read my embarrassing drivel witty writings as they were meant to be read. And look upon Andy Pettitte's contorted visage over there.

I should probably note that I got the quote on RSS from this place. And bonus points if you get the movie reference in the title.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Well, yeah

Now, isn't this test result surprising?

English Genius
You scored 100% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 100% Advanced, and 77% Expert!

You did so extremely well, even I can't find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don't. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you're not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!

Thank you so much for taking my test. I hope you enjoyed it!
For the complete Answer Key, visit my blog: http://shortredhead78.blogspot.com/.

The actual test result thingy was much longer, but Blogger got all retarded and it looked terrible. So you're stuck with the truncated version.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

A series of unfortunate events

You know what sucks? Getting only two hours of sleep.

You know what sucks more? Getting only two hours sleep, and then having to wake up and go to work for nine hours.

You know what sucks even more? Getting only two hours sleep, then having having to wake up and go to work for nine hours, and the power goes out while you're getting ready.

You know what sucks most of all? Getting only two hours sleep, then having to wake up and go to work for nine hours, and the power goes out while you're in the shower.


In more pleasant news, there's a new feature around here I'd like to tell you about: the countdown. (Fanfare) If you look to your right, you should see a rather unflattering picture of Andy Pettitte along with a countdown timer to the start of the first Astros game this season. (The photo of Pettitte says everything about my expectations of the Astros' performance this year, but anyway...) I'll be using the countdown to keep track of whatever I'm most looking forward to (or dreading, as the case may be) at any given time. Right now, it's baseball season.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Oh, Mel, you so CRAZY...

Happened upon this quote earlier, from actor/director/looney toon Mel Gibson, on a banner ad for the recut version of The Passion of the Christ: "By softening some of its more wrenching aspects, I hope to make my film and its message of love available to a wider audience."

Uh, sure, Riggs. Whatever you say. I guess I missed your movie's "message of love" during the endless scenes of hate and torture and violence and death.

And to make sure you're aware, we're not talking about massive edits -- according to what I've read, five or six minutes of gore has been removed. Which doesn't mean much in a two-hour movie that had about 100 minutes of gore to begin with.

To me, it looks like a pathetic attempt to rake in some more cash on a movie that already made an insane amount of money to begin with. Seriously, if you want to cut your movie, fine, but why cram it back into theaters? Release it on DVD, like anyone else would.

In case you're curious, I'm not going to be viewing the edited version...assuming it gets shown in any theaters at all anyway.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

More Fiona, plus DAVE IS COMING~!

My search for Extraordinary Machine songs is nearing its end -- I have acquired complete versions (of varying quality) of all but two songs as of this moment.

And as much as I like it, I can really empathize with Sony at this point -- Fiona's work here is delightfully, almost willfully non-commercial. Odd rhythms, producer Jon Brion's off-kilter orchestral arrangements...radio audiences have no patience for this kind of stuff. The title track sounds like a Bjork outtake, with bouncy woodwinds, strings and chimes providing instrumentation while Fiona ratches her voice up into an almost inaudible falsetto; "Used to Love Him" compliments the piano melody with bleepy, almost Radiohead-like sound effects; "Not About Love" is a schizo masterpiece, jerking back and forth between an up-tempo jazzy beat and a wonderfully baroque chorus that churns into a saccarine string-lead break, which then slides right back into the fast stuff again and closes with a brilliant orchestral flourish. The only tracks (among those I've heard so far) that could possibly work as singles are "Better Version of Me," a rumbling little ditty aided by some wacko electronic lead instruments; and "Oh, Well," a piano-lounge-style number that probably represents something closer to what the record company wanted from a new Fiona Apple album.

Of course, the album is frocking great, which doesn't really matter in the music business. And I'm reading some stuff which indicates Apple didn't even want to make this album in the first place -- she was more or less forced to, which may explain why it's so inaccessable. I'm still holding out hope that Sony will cave and just release the album -- if only so I'll have better quality tracks -- but it doesn't look promising right now.

(If I were a person with lesser moral standards, I would probably post a link to the forum in which I found all of the songs. But I would never do that.)

In other pleasant music news, I happened to be glancing around the Dave Matthews Band site and reading over their 2005 tour dates -- the list begins with shows in Australia, so I wrote it off as an international tour...until:

Aw YEAH. I will not miss this show. I don't care if I have to kill people, I will have a ticket.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Free Fiona!

Maybe I'm behind the times, but I'm just now hearing about this: http://www.freefiona.com.

Apparently, Fiona Apple recorded an album, titled Extraordinary Machine, back in 2003, but Sony neglected to release it, citing its lack of "commercial appeal." And frankly, I can't blame them: Tidal sold by the truckload, but by the time When the Pawn Hits the Ring and Does the Thing and You Don't Seriously Think I Remember the Whole Title, Do You? hit stores, Fiona was seen as a flake by the general music-buying public, thanks largely to her disastrous MTV Award acceptance speech. (You remember: "This world...this world is bullshit!") And even though When the Pawn... was a bloody brilliant record, that hilarious title was a jump-the-shark moment if I ever saw one. So she faded away, despite making fantastic music.

The irony, of course, is that there are handfuls of vocal-and-piano chicks clogging up the airwaves these days -- most notably Alicia Keys and...uh...that other one I can't remember. Fiona's music blows all of them away, and she'd be huge if marketed correctly.

But I digress.

The point is that a rather large number of Fiona fans are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. They apparently staged a big protest in front of Sony offices in January, and have managed to get a great deal of national exposure (I read about it on Rolling Stone's website). And the story has picked up in the last few weeks, because somehow the songs -- which Sony has kept in a warehouse for almost two years -- have leaked, and DJs across the country are playing them, much to the record company's chagrin.

And if they're leaked to the radio, then you know they're leaked to the internet, too, and I'm in the middle of trying to acquire as many of the songs as I can. So far, I've managed partials of "Extraordinary Machine," "A Better Version of Me," and a complete-but-low-quality copy of "Waltz." The search continues to limp along, thanks to the difficulty in finding the songs combined with my dial-up modem. (Anyone who can point me in the direction of better versions of these or any tracks will be my bestest friend in the whole wide world.)

(And in case Sony should happen to stumble upon this...um, the last paragraph was all...a joke. Yeah. That's it. I would never download illegal music. Last time I did that, I was cornered by police and killed in a shootout. Wouldn't want that to happen again. Heh heh.)

Oh, and the songs are great. Release the damn album, you cheap bastards! FREE FIONA! FREE FIONA! ATTICA! ATTICA!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Lots and lots of work

My first website was put together in April of 2002. I later revamped the design, changed the name, and molded it into the website you're now reading. This would have been in...January of 2003.

The purpose of the site was to house movie reviews. I added a blog in February '03, only to give myself a place to talk about other things not movie-related, in a way that wouldn't get in the way of the reviews.

But now, as you can see, the blog has become the tail that wags the dog, and the reviews are almost an afterthought at times. Everything new that I add to the site I post on the blog...partly to ensure that people see it, but mostly because it's so much easier that way. Even the movie reviews go right to the blog now, a format which I think works best.

So I've now gone back and reformatted all (but one) of my old reviews into Blogger posts.

Ho-lee shit that took forever. But it's worth it, I think -- editing the Blogger template now makes sure that all but a handful of pages are consistent with the current design, with proper sidebar links and everything. It's much better for everyone.

And now that I've seen a movie this year, I can now start my screening log for this year. (The final version of 2004's can be seen here.)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Well, it's about frickin' time, huh?

The liberals of America -- of which I am one -- are living in pretty scary times, I hope you know that. Those who stand opposite of us on the political spectrum rule all three branches of our government, and each day seems to bring another attempt by the conservatives to bring us one step closer to 1984. Hell, they're not even trying to hide it anymore: witness the Jeff Gannon/James Guckert nonsense as evidence if you don't believe me.

(For those unfamiliar with this story, the gist is that a White House reporter named Jeff Gannon -- a guy who asked nothing but embarassingly biased softball questions to the Bush Adminstration, like, "You say so-and-so, Democrats say such-and-such, how do you intend to deal with those who are so strongly divorced from reality?"...and that last part's a quote -- turned out not to be a reporter at all. In reality, he was James Guckert, a male homosexual prostitute with his own website featuring prices and nude photographs of himself. And the Republicans defended the fucking guy, too, I guess because being a homosexual is horrible and evil, but male homosexual prostitution [not to mention being a scumball, worthless, spineless suck-up yes-man "reporter"] is a-okay, as long as you're on their side. In fact, judging by their endorsement of Gannon/Guckert, I'd say it's encouraged. And now Gannon is weeping on his own blog about the evil liberals who exposed him, as if it's their fault the White House is totally lacking in ethics, morality or even a conscience of any sort.)

(And you know, I'd bet a thousand dollars someone would never get away with this kind of shit in C.J. Cregg's press room. But I digress.)

The point is that when something good for our side comes along, it's nice to shout it from the rooftops. So it was a pleasant moment when I read a few moments ago that the Supreme Court has outlawed the execution of minors, citing it as "cruel and unusual punishment."

Well, duh.

Of course, the rest of us are still subject to the death penalty -- which is somehow not cruel and unusual when it's an adult, but hey, I'll take the victory. So now the 19 states which still allowed the execution of minors (like the backwards-ass one where I live) are prohibited from doing so.

Now, if we can just get the death penalty for adults thrown out, too, maybe we'll be making some progress into actual, you know, civilization. That'll be the day.

(For those who'd like to learn the whole Gannon/Guckert story, in all its horrific glory, you can read about it at AmericaBlog.)