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?

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