Sunday, November 16, 2003

Elf doesn't suck 

Let me say this right up front. I fucking hate Will Farrell. Over time, I have grudgingly come to accept that he's funny. I don't have to like it. As a matter of fact, if Jon Favreau hadn't directed "Elf", I never would have considered seeing it.

That said, "Elf" is really funny. Director Jon Favreau has done an amazing job. The casting in particular is stunning. Bob Newhart is a perfect choice for Farrell's adoptive father, as is James Caan for his biological father. Bit parts to watch for are Leon Redbone as Leon the Snowman, Andy Richter and Kyle Gass as children's book writers, and Ed Asner as Santa Claus. That's right, Lou Grant plays Santa. And he's damn good.

The story is a traditional Christmas classic. Farrell plays Buddy, a human who was adopted by Elves at birth. At age 30, Buddy realizes he's human, and sets off to find his father (Caan) in New York. We follow Buddy around New York watching his child-like sense of wonder and the standard fish-out-of-water gags. Farrell is good here, but he's no Jim Carrey. That's OK though. Jim Carrey is no Jim Carrey anymore.

Really, it's the little touches that make the film. Buddy's North Pole is right out of a Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation Christmas Special, right down to the snowflakes. And to my mind, there's nothing more Christmassy than Santa punching out an Elf.

To sum up, I hate Will Farrell, feel-good movies, and I'm not a big fan of Christmas in general. All that said, Elf is the best Christmas movie I've seen since A Christmas Story. I laughed out loud.

Thursday, November 13, 2003


I was reading Wil Wheaton's blog, as I regularly do, when I came across this entry. It reminded me of my own blackout story.

As you will recall, there was a massive blackout on the East Coast on August 14th. By an odd coincidence, my apartment complex lost power the night before. I hadn't been through one of these in a while, so I was totally unprepared. With PG&E estimating that power would be restored at 4 am, I was in a strange situation. What to do, what to do? No TV, no computer, no light. I was facing a dull dull night. And, due to this being crunch time at work, I was in no mood to go out and be social. I actually considered going back to work at 8 pm.

Luckily, cooler heads prevailed. I ran out to Safeway, 1 block away and glowing with light, to buy some candles. I figured I'd do an Abe Lincoln: read by candlelight. I quickly learned that that's harder than it sounds. I don't have candleholders, so I had to prop up the candles on dinnerplates. Also, candles don't put out much light. I had to light five at a time to see the page. Next, I had to find a book with large enough type for me to see it clearly. I wasn't going to pull out any of my comic books around dripping wax and open flame, and I don't have the new Harry Potter, so I dug out my old copy of Flatland. 12 point type. Yummy.

Next problem: several of my appliances have internal batteries so they can warn me that the power's out. And they did. Even though there was no power, I had two power supplies and a phone beeping at me every few seconds to tell me what I already knew. The power supplies I could turn off, but I had to stash the phone in the bedroom and cover it with blankets to muffle the sound. Kind of like Mom used to do to us when we were kids.

I also decided to take advantage of the quiet and the absence of both TV and computers to call some people. I figured what better time to call the people I've been meaning to talk to for way too long. The down side of living on the West Coast is that all my East Coast friends are asleep by the time I get home from work. And the West Coast crew wasn't answering (Jace was working. Tommy was at rehearsal. Adrienne doesn't have an excuse (or a web site). Hey, how about sharing the love, Adri?). OK, I tried.

It's times like these when you really notice your surroundings. My battery-powered Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law clock is amazingly loud. Louder still was my neighbor, Superfan. With no sports to distract him, he began seranading the neighborhood about 9:30 pm. There's nothing quite like a drunk guy holding a sparkler and singing selections from "Evita" to perk up a quiet evening at home. I was just getting ready to call Security on him when someone else went over and got in his face. Superfan simply didn't see why people weren't overjoyed to have him standing in his doorway singing showtunes at us. After all, who's trying to sleep at 10 pm? Surely none of the local school kids. Finally, the power came back on about 11 pm, just in time for me to go to bed.

So, what did I learn? Keep candles and large-print books handy in case of blackouts. Seems like there oughta be more, but I'm blanking.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Paging Dr. Obvious 

I took the NeoCon Quiz at the Christian Science Monitor's site. Apparantly, I'm a liberal. Ya think?

Monday, October 20, 2003

Kill Bill Vol. 1: Is there any blood left? 

I saw "Kill Bill", the long anticipated new film from Quentin Tarantino. Wow. Just wow. Is there any fake blood left in Hollywood? I'm not kidding, this is the most blood I've ever seen in any movie ever. I've seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Day of The Dead, even Chopping Mall, and I've never seen this much blood. Every time a limb got cut off (and that happened a lot), there was a geyser of blood.

Let's recap the plot first, because it won't take long. Uma Thurman was a member of a group of assassins called the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. For some reason, the other members attack her wedding party killing all but her. Four years later, The Bride (Thurman) emerges from her coma and swears revenge. That's about all the plot you need. Let the bloodbath begin.

No, wait. I can explain the plot better. It's "Quentin Tarantino's 'Charlie's Angels'". Yeah, there we go. If the Angels were assassins instead of detectives, and Bosley was a fighter instead of the guy who waits back at the office, this would be the film version. For reasons as yet unexplained, Jill Munroe leaves the Angels to marry. Charlie sends the rest of the crew to kill her, her husband-to-be, and anyone else in the room. Four years later, yadda yadda yadda.

You want a shorter version? Fox Force Five.

Quentin Tarantino has never been short on visual style, and his film vocabulary can't be topped. You want a drinking game? Every time there's a reference to another film, drink. Play with beer, because this is a rich canvas. Drink twice for a Tarantino trademark.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 is a Mack Truck of a film, an almost unbroken three hour action sequence. I get the feeling that Tarantino is trying to replicate several different genres of 1970s B action films. We begin with a knife fight between Thurman and Vivica A Fox that screams "Foxy Brown". A little plot and a lot of violence later, we change gears entirely and it's a Hong Kong action movie. Thurman goes to Okinowa to commission a sword to kill O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu). Here, we get something new. O-Ren Ishii's origin is told in loving detail in a fantastic animated sequence. I was left with two thoughts: 1) Why is so much screen time devoted to a single origin story of a supporting character? No one else gets an origin. 2) I wonder if Tarantino could do animation? From here, it's one long sword battle. It must go on for at least half an hour, but never gets dull. Michael Bay wishes he could do action like this.

If the critics were hoping this is where Quentin Tarantino finally screws up and turns in a 50 million dollar turd, sorry guys. It's no Pulp Fiction, it's no Reservoir Dogs, but it's brilliant in it's own way. There are many reasons to hate Tarantino: he's pretentious, arrogant, and he's a lousy actor who insists on casting himself. The one thing he's not is a bad director. Kill Bill Vol. 1 is a brilliant film that's worth seeing twice: once now, and again in February when Vol 2 is released.

Oh, and you'll never reach for the breakfast cereal again without thinking of Kill Bill.

Sunday, October 19, 2003


I'd like to take a moment and sing the praises of my laptop. It's a Chembook from 1998. How old is it? 333 mhz, 64 mb ram, and it's got a sticker proudly proclaiming that it's "Designed for Windows 98". At five years old, it's the oldest piece of technology I own. Put it this way, it's so old I can't even run Linux without hacking together some special drivers. Seriously, I'd have to be running Red Hat 5.6 If I want to use X Windows.

So, who cares? What's the big deal, Logan's too cheap to upgrade his laptop, why's he bragging?

I just dropped it.

I had it balanced on the arm of the couch, and I knocked it off. Ironically, I was actually thinking "Be careful, Logan. Don't knock your laptop off the couch." when I knocked my laptop off the couch. It fell about 2 feet, bounced off the coffee table, and hit the ground with an expensive crash.

It didn't even shut down. I'm typing on it right now. This is the second time I've dropped it, and it's perfectly fine. The hard drive seized and the display froze, but after a quick reboot, I'm typing away again.

I've never been totally thrilled with this thing, but now I'm sold on Chembooks for life. I'd take this bad boy into combat.

No Lesson, No Moral 

You ever have something happen to you that scared you in a different kind of way? The kind of scare that's more of a signifier than an actual event?

I was just gassing up my car at a local Chevron station. I pulled up a little short at the pump, maybe two feet, and I had to stretch the hose a little. I looked at it, wondering if I should pull up a little more, but it seemed OK. I set the pump going and set to washing my windshield. When I was almost finished fueling, I went back to the pump anticipating the shutoff. And that's when it happened. When the autoshutoff triggered on the pump, the nozzle flew out of the tank and on to the ground, spilling fuel.

That's not supposed to happen.

I stared at it for a minute, wondering if I was about to die in a particularly cinematic way. There's fuel on the ground, and the nozzle is mostly metal. One spark, and I'm on the news. All I could think of were movies where gas stations explode: "Robocop", mostly. After so many movies where so many bad things happen in slow motion, I was amazed at how fast it happened. There's no match tumbling end-over-end while a guitar rumbles in the background, not reaction shots as the onlookers see what's about to happen, just a tube flying through the air and a far-too-late realization that I could have been killed, and a follow-up that I wasn't, but that standing here looking at the gas nozzle wasn't particularly smart.

So what's the lesson? What did I learn? Pull up closer to the pump next time? Don't go to the Chevron at Homestead and De Anza? Seems like there oughta be a moral to the story, something I can take away from this little misadventure, but other than already stated, I'm drawing a blank.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Comedy Alert! 

The Punchline in San Francisco is celebrating their 25th Anniversary next week, and they're doing it in style. All week long, they've got a different headliner every night. And they're good comics, too: Sarah Silverman, Christopher Titus, Tom Rhodes, why, there's failed sitcoms as far as the eye can see!

What's important here is that the world's greatest living comedian, the funniest man ever to walk the planet, Patton Oswalt is playing The Punchline at 9 pm on Tuesday, October 21. Ticket price: $10! If you live in San Francisco, you have no excuse not to go. If you live in San Jose, you have no excuse not to go. If you live in Seattle, get on a plane! Put it this way, my workaholic brother is going to a club in San Francisco on a weeknight. "I'll show up late on Wednesday. :-) ", he says. Patton is just that good.

What more do you need to know? Get off your fat, drunken, bulbous ass, plant it at The Punchline and prepare to see one of comedy's giants.

Screwed by the liberal media 

The weirdest thing just happened. Molly Ivins is in town pimping her new book, "Bushwacked". Mom's a big fan, as am I. I got on the horn to my brother, and we decided to get Mom an autographed copy for Christmas. Feelin' pretty good about this one, as it's a good gift Mom'll never expect, and I'm doing my shopping a good 8 weeks before Christmas. I'm so damn clever.

Eric and I arrived at Kepler's in Menlo Park about 15 minutes early, and the place was packed. There must have been 2-300 people waiting to get their books signed. I was amazed. Menlo Park is a pretty affluent part of Silicon Valley, which is anything but poor to begin with. Furthermore, this wasn't a crowd of young bomb-throwing radicals. Most people were in their 50s, and reminded me of nothing more than my parents. I call this a good sign: elderly rich people coming out in force to meet a left wing writer. I realize that this is the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the most liberal parts of America, but I'm still encouraged.

We decided to get dinner and come back later. Fast forward 90 minutes, we're back, and there are still at least 50 people still waiting in line. Sadly, Kepler's was sold out of Molly's book. Sold completely out. Every single copy. We were completely baffled by this, I mean, it's a book, not an album, and it's Molly Ivins, not Metallica. We stood around for a while baffling and working on a plan. Here's what we came up with:

Plan 1: Buy a copy of Al Franken's new book and have her sign it. I figured I could say Al's coming to Kepler's next week (he is) and I'm gonna buy a copy of her book then and have him sign it. As it turns out, Mom already has all of Al Franken's books.
Plan 2: Same thing, but with Bill Maher's book. I know Mom doesn't have it and the reviews are good, but Bill's got kind of a potty mouth and I don't think Mom would appreciate his humor as much as I do. After all, I gave her a couple of Henry Rollins CD's back in '95, and she didn't think he was funny at all.
Plan 3: Get one of Ann Coulter's books and have Molly Ivins sign it as a joke. Sadly, this would mean giving Ann Coulter money and contributing to her reign of stupidity, so that's out.
Plan 4: Declare defeat, go home, and watch Futurama reruns.

After much discussion, we went with Plan 4. Merry Christmas, Mom.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Bubba Ho-tep 

You want a movie? I've got a movie for you: Bubba Ho-tep. Get this: Elvis and JFK fighting the Undead. It gets better, The King is played by Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell, and Ossie Davis stands in for JFK. You heard me. Here's the plot: Sometime in the mid-70s, Elvis switched places with an Elvis impersonator, freeing himself from the pressures of his Vegas/Memphis lifestyle. 25 years later, he's recovering from a broken hip in a cheap East Texas retirement home. And that's when the Mummy shows up.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Bruce Campbell IS Elvis. For all I know, The King got plastic surgery back in 1977, drove to Detroit, signed on to "Evil Dead", and has been living as Bruce Campbell ever since. I've never seen anyone do Elvis like Ash does. This is a career-topper of a movie. Bruce Campbell is truly amazing, showing acting chops we never knew were there, and his chemistry with Ossie Davis is something to behold.

As the film opens, Elvis is bed-bound, and barely there. Life buzzes around him at a speed beyond his comprehension. When he does get out of bed, he hobbles around with a walker awaiting treatment for a growth on his pecker. This is a sad state for The King of Rock and Roll, and he knows it. Lying in bed, he laments his estranged ex-wife and daughter, the opportunities he missed and squandered as he waits for death. When a series of grisly murders occur, Elvis begins investigating with the help of an elderly black man (Ossie Smith) who claims to be JFK. With a real project to work, Elvis is more alive than he's felt in decades. He finds that he has a chance to be the hero he always pretended to be in his movies, and he rises to that challenge (in more ways than one).

Let's be clear, this isn't high art. This is Elvis Presley and JFK fighting the Undead in East Texas. Still, Director Don Coscarelli, the man behind the horror classic Phantasm, brings some pathos and depth to the story. Honestly, this is the best horror movie I've seen in years. In the grand tradition of Halloween, Alien, and The Thing, it's good for a drunken Saturday night midnight movie with your buds, or for art school students to hyper-analyze whether the Mummy represents the death of heroes or the end of American innocence. Either way, this is one HELL of a movie. Bubba Ho-tep: Now playing at the artsy theatre by the college with bad seats and a sticky floor.

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