Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Some of the ideas I'm about to present I like better than others. Some work more as a personal gift in the name-drawing method, some are more suited to the White Elephant, and some have crossover appeal. In any event I hope you find even a fraction of the amusement in reading the list as I did in compiling it.
And like I said, there was a good deal of trial and error involved, which is of course ongoing. For example, one of my first ideas was a hit of ecstasy- usually available for $20 to $25 (or so I've been told)- but then I thought "Hey, that's actually an awesome gift." Back then when I first set out on this worst-possible-gift journey, I was operating under a looser guideline of least-appropriate-gift. Amusing as that was, it didn't feel right to have the gift be something that someone would actually want. Thus the quest evolved.
Another early inspiration (after transitioning form inappropriate to unwanted) was found driving down the freeway. As I passed a U-Haul truck on the road, I couldn't help but notice the "$19.95 rental!" offer emblazoned on the side. What a perfect fit for my price range, I thought to myself.
And so begins the game, again keeping in mind that the gift has to seem thoughtful. If it was as easy as getting something useless you could just pick up a DVD of Glitter and be done. But there's no art in that. No finesse.
That being said, if you don't care for one of the ideas or if you see room for improvement, leave a comment. And if your comment is really good, you may find yourself the recipient of a special gift next year.
A U-Haul truck. Make certain it's accompanied by a note that says "return by noon tomorrow with a full tank of gas."
A coupon for 12 minutes of therapy. The guise of helpfulness or concern, and the unspoken suggestion that someone needs that kind of help.
A 5-gallon jug of gasoline. The high-octane stuff, don't chintz on quality.
2 large pizzas. Better if you get somewhat unusual toppings. Not too fucked up though, don't kill the gag. Best thing about this is that by the time your gift is opened it'll be cold.
A syringe and a vial of flu vaccine.
A $20 gift certificate to Bo-Rics. This works on so many levels- the thought that anyone would willingly go to Bo-Rics, the fact that it likely won't cover an appointment, and the backhanded complement that you think their hair needs improvement.
A puppy. Because who doesn't like puppies? Better yet- a pound dog. A pretty mangy one, too. I love this idea because it's sooo presumptive, that the recipient even wants a dog.
A $20 Christmas tree. Again, it'll seem thoughtful but it's hugely presumptive.
A box of condoms or a carton of cigarettes. Especially good for a "name-drawing" type of party.
A bootleg DVD of whatever hot blockbuster movie just opened, complete with shoddily (but not too much so) handmade cover and case.
Something- and here's where you can exercise your own creativity- that you can withhold part of. Like a cake with a slice gone, a chess set minus the bishops, a CD boxed set missing one of the discs. And earnestly explain that the missing piece is due to the fact that it was priced slightly above the pre-determined budget.
When all else fails, go to a pawn shop and ask "What can I get for $20?" Perhaps better- a gift certificate to the pawn shop, with the suggestion that their money can go farther there.
So that's my own personal game I play every year. I cannot stress enough that the gift has to appear thoughtful or the ruse becomes transparent.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
We created NOODGE as the antithesis to the consumer whore-dom of Christmas when we got tired of the insane crowds, the capitalistic urgency, and the requisite feeling that Corporate America was telling us that we just had to get each other the best, hottest, most perfect gift currently on the market.
Our non-commercial, non-religious, omni-cultural festivity is an acronym for Neutrally Organized Observation of Days for General Enjoyment. It's our new end of year holiday, and can be celebrated pretty much anytime in late December. Notice it's plural. It can be one day or several. For us, we prefer to celebrate NOODGE anytime we have the opportunity to take days off, or if we just plain want to ditch work. It's a time for relaxing, not shopping, not stressing, not fighting crowds... and enjoying people who bring joy and happiness to your life. It's all about leisure activity: renting movies, sleeping in, spending time with friends and family, frisbee, bar crawls, golfing, strip clubs, shopping.... No judgment. Whatever you like. Sure, shopping was one of the reasons we started NOODGE, but if you enjoy it and you can handle the crowds, cheers.
No gift giving is undertaken... in fact, giving of material gifts undermines the spirit of NOODGE. It's not at all about materialism. However, in the spirit of appreciating the things for which we're happy in life, it is definitely acceptable and encouraged to reach out to those less fortunate... Then again, the NOODGE is not the boss of you. If you want to throw the bitchinest beer bash of the year, or lose a skullful of brain cells in Vegas, that could be NOODGEriffic too.
If you're gonna give a NOODGE card, make your own. Creativity is one of the driving forces behind NOODGE. So don't buy some crappy, Hallmark junk; not that anyone makes NOODGE cards anyway. No specific decorations to be hauled out annually either. I do like to design a NOODGE shirt every year though. This year's design is below. What's that? The previous paragraph railed against materialism? Fuck it- our holiday, our rules. Also, I would recommend a big mug for cocoa or moonshine whatever it is you drink. A big mug means fewer refills!
Since most holidays seem to have totems or patrons, we have chosen "the dude" as the mascot of NOODGE. The dude and his old lady are the harbingers of mellowness and tolerance, peace and love, representing the antithesis of all that's wrong with commercial holidays. But be forewarned... if you have not been groovy this year, the dude will visit your house during NOODGE and piss on your rug.
One more thing about the timing of NOODGE... you can take a "floating NOODGE" anytime during the year if circumstances are right. Time off, impromptu gatherings, just plain feeling like it...
When celebrating NOODGE with others, try to keep it distinct from the other holidays. Don't use "happy" or "merry" in front of it. We'd like to maintain it's spirit of vitality.
I usually have the shirts on Cafepress, but they didn't like my use of the Fight Club logo so they yanked this one. Same thing that happened to my '07 NOODGE shirt.
Older Noodge shirts can be seen here.
Monday, December 7, 2009
I found god at the stroke of midnight with your tongue in my mouth, on New Year's Eve
I found god when I was twelve with my cousin, trying to get a buzz from shots of listerine
I found god in a Dr.Suess book
I found god in a dirty magazine
I found god in the words of Steve Miller: I really like your peaches, wanna shake your tree
I found god on a Wednesday afternoon, drinking boxed wine and wishing you would call me
I found god in the middle of the woods, spitting at the stars and making love to a tree
I found god when I quit smoking cigarettes
I found god in a bag of weed
I found god in the back of my head: Too scared to even talk to you, but dreaming you would marry me
I could find god if I could taste you
I could find god if you'd lay down next to me
I could find god in your secret places
I could find god if you'd only talk to me
I found god in the back of my head: too scared to even talk to you, but dreaming you would marry me
I found god in the words of Steve Miller: I really like your peaches, wanna shake your tree
This is a band my wife turned me on to a couple years back, and they never cease to blow me away with their music. I could probably write a freaking thesis on how amazing they are. That is, if I had the time, the patience, and the focus. I'm pretty sure that if ADD exists- which I don't necessarily believe it does, I think it's a cultural/societal phenomenon rooted in technology and our Western lifestyle in general, fast-paced as it is- I've got it in fucking spades. Shit. What was I talking about?
Oh yeah... Anyway, they are such talented musicians. They are literally uncategorizable. That's right, new word. Their music crosses almost all genres, they have so many different styles that you honestly can't pigeonhole them into one particular type of music.
And they are such passionate musicians, I think that's the thing that really hooks me in. Their music is just so magical and overflowing with pure emotion, the intensity is palpable. It's just a visceral experience; the only musical accomplishment that surpasses them for sheer emotional content and intensity is Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt." I swear, I can't even listen to that song without first steeling myself for the experience lest I be overwhelmed by the magnificent sadness of that performance.
With Cloud Cult, so much of their music is permeated by that raw, driving emotion. There are songs of theirs that I know I can turn on and change my mood if need be. Another favorite of mine:
Like some kind of sonic drug, they just wash away all the superficial, dramatic bullshit and leave me basking in the glow of their delicately powerful aura. Not to say that the emotion is always positive; much of their music has a melancholy to it that Billy Corgan would trade his right arm for. Especially poignant are the songs they (or rather, "he," meaning Craig Minowa, the heart and soul of the band) wrote about their (Craig and his wife, Connie) son Kaiden, who died when he was 2. Craig wrote literally hundreds of songs about the tragedy- none that are really obvious in meaning on the surface- and he pours his heart into them. The best example of which is the song "Your Eighth Birthday," which is not only written for (as the title implies, 5 years after he died) but sung to his departed son. The lyrics are so childishly silly, perfectly capturing the innocence of youth, but still profoundly sad. I mean, just listen to the beautiful pain in his voice as he calls his son's name in the chorus, with an intensity that almost feels strong enough to pierce the veil between our world and the afterlife, letting his too-soon-departed son know that he is still greatly loved and even more greatly missed:
Holy. Shit. Gives me goosebumps just listening to it. Just amazing. Nothing else I write (nor anything I've written so far) can possibly capture the essence of what their music does for me. So I'll just be done.
Wait, one more nugget of the intricate link between love and sorrow- After Kaiden died, Craig and Connie split up. A fate none too surprising for couples who suffer that tragedy. But after splitting up, they eventually reunited and are now expecting another baby.
There is so much more that's cool about Cloud Cult- from the live paintings that are performed on stage at all their concerts, to the massive efforts they put into being a truly green band- that they definitely deserve all the success they achieve. Check them out.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I didn't see the movie, but I saw the previews. And for a movie like this that's really all you need. The effects, in all fairness, look amazing. But once you try to affix some semblance of a plot to special effects, the entire production becomes a shitfest.
How much longer must we suffer the "Disaster Porn" genre (not to be confused with "porn disaster," ie the Jimmy Kimmel sex tape, more recent Jenna Jameson fare, etc)? The Day After Tomorrow- from Roland Emmerich, the same man behind 2012- represents the height (or rather, depth) of the genre, which also includes Poseidon, Deep Impact, Armageddon, and both of those shitty volcano movies, which were so horrible they barely deserve to be recognized as 2 distinct entries. Quite a pedigree, no?
Although one could easily point to Twister as the harbinger of the Disaster Porn genre, with its at-the-time revolutionary scope of realistic effects, I blame Will Smith for Disaster Porn's rise to the forefront of our cinematic culture. Independence Day (not coincidentally, also a Roloand Emmerich vehicle) was not only the first movie to take the "disaster" element to it's hyperbolically titillating pinnacle, with the total decimation of a globally-known landmark (the White House), it also engineered what has evolved into the modern era of the summer blockbuster.
It's coming close in terms of sheer annoyance to the "spoof movie" genre, and in truth I couldn't think of a worse double feature to be torturously subjected to. The good news- it's sure to be dethroned this weekend. But do I take solace in the fact that it's being knocked off by glittery, emo, tween vampires? That's barely a consolation. Sort of like the doctor telling you "Good news, you don't have swine flu. You have SARS."
That these movies continue to be made is a travesty, the likes of which should place Emmerich on the 'most wanted' list with at least equivalent stature as Roman Polanski. That the moviegoing public continues to go see these movies in droves is another issue entirely. Then again, it IS the same country that re-elected Bush.
Ah, fuck it. At least Rob Schneider has stopped (or been stopped from?) making movies. I'm going to see some REAL cinema this weekend- the aforementioned Boondock Saints 2 or Zombieland (for the 2nd and 3rd times, respectively).
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Overall, very interesting. Pretty cool concept, intriguing details revealed at a tantalizingly slow pace. I felt it took a bit too long to get into the story, but once it took off it was pretty effing great. But then the end was a bit of a letdown.
I would almost relate it to a season of Lost condensed into 2 hours: cool premise, lots of questions raised that really hook you in, answers to questions raise more questions, but then not enough payoff. For me, anyway. I'm all for leaving some loose ends, but you have to be fair and give me a little more resolution.
One of the odd things (to me) was that it's set in 1976. And honestly, it seems like the only reason for this is so Richard Kelly can interject clips from some of his favorite childhood TV shows. Seriously. It's that obvious.
Fun tangent- one of the pre-movie trailers they showed was for a Mel Gibson flick called Edge of Darkness. Brief synopsis: He plays a rogue cop who brutally suffers the loss of a loved one and is driven to revenge at all costs.
Read that again. Because I don't know about you, but I'm not sure Mel can pull a role like that off. Kind of out of his range, doncha think? (go to IMDb and look up how many movies center on either revenge, loss of a loved on, or both. Nevermind, I'll save you the trouble- it's a fuckin' shitload. Signs, The Patriot, Braveheart, Payback, Lethal Weapon, Ransom... fuck it. I give up.)
Last thing about the movie- it further reinforces Richard Kelly's fascination with water and his love of diagrams of people with arrows projecting from their chest.
Oh, and he may be a misogynist. Not sure yet, but the movie supports it.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
But we'll stick with magnificent. I have been cautiously awaiting Boondock Saints 2 ever since whispers of it were heard on the internet, following closely on the heels if the underground success of Duffy's first film, an action masterpiece. I don't think I've ever met anyone who didn't like Boondock Saints. If you didn't like it, you're obviously a jerk.
So with the massive cult popularity of his first movie, it is understandable that I had a slight degree of trepidation regarding the follow-up. Would Duffy's (allegedly) massive ego get in the way of what should be a fantastic sequel? Would the 10 years (holy shit! Has it really been 10 years?!?) that have passed weaken the integrity of the story?
Fortunately, the movie was effing brilliant. It opened a bit strangely, but didn't take long to find it's footing and re-ignite the amazing dynamic of the McManus brothers.
I will admit, there were a few moments in the first couple reels that made me worry that Troy was going to stray from the path of success that should be inevitable, given the characters and material he left himself to work with. A few instances where it seemed he was trying too hard to recapture his original glory. It's a fine line between recreating brilliance, and stumbling over a too-conscious effort to try and recreate it.
And Troy definitely stumbled a couple times, with groan-inducing lines that were (in my opinion) too calculated, too "Hey, this will be clever!" And painfully obvious re-hashes of things from his first film. Luckily, after these minor bumps in the road, he seemed to stop trying too hard and just let himself be Troy, writer and director of kick-ass Irish shoot 'em ups.
Never was his brilliance more evident than in the words and actions of the brothers themselves. And although this could just as easily be a testament to the acting abilities of Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery, you have to think that Troy- as writer/director/ creator of the insanely cool McManus brothers- had just as much to do with that.
Fans of the original will be greeted with a few familiar faces, and be introduced to some new ones- one of whom I originally thought fell into the 'trying too hard to draw on the first movie' category, but this character quickly smoothed out and hit their stride. Another new character went the opposite direction- too much of a caricature- before settling into a believable and welcomed addition to the franchise.
There are a few surprises, especially regarding some of the old familiar faces. But not bad surprises. Not like he intentionally made "surprising" choices for what happens. Everything that transpires feels natural and fitting for the universe that the McManus brothers inhabit, which isn't to say that it's all welcomed; just entirely plausible.
I almost felt that a bit of backstory that shows up felt forced, like Duffy shoe-horned it in just for the sake of over-complicating the story. But that too developed into a fitting and enjoyable arc that really complemented the movie.
The writing- except for the (thankfully) few instances where Duffy is clearly trying to hard to be Troy Duffy, is tight and well done. Again, the brothers themsleves are pitch-perfect when compared to the first movie. Most of the nods to the original are fun and clever. And on top of all that, Duffy really shows his directing chops with a hell of a lot of visual style that he injects throughout the movie.
Bottom line- holy shit, it was surprisingly awesome! I mean, I was hoping- if not expecting, given the trepidation mentioned above- that this would be good. But it was fucking AWESOME!
Go see this movie right now. Unless you haven't seen Zombieland yet, in which case what the fuck is your problem??? I thought we already talked about that? But as soon as you see Zombieland, go see Boondock Saints 2.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
SOOOO good, I can't even tell you. It is hands down the best movie I have seen in freaking forever. Better than D9. Better than Basterds. Better than The Hangover. Better than (dare I say it?) Watchmen. That's right, flame on, punks.
If you want a movie that is funny, scary, action-packed, a wee bit sad, chock full of fantastic meta-humor Hollywood in-jokes (and they are really good), with amazing- and I mean AMAZING- cinematography, and even a bitchin soundtrack (from Metallica to Velvet Underground), then get off your lazy ass and go see Zombieland.
I'm serious. Drop whatever the fuck you're doing right now and go. Nothing could possibly be as good as seeing this movie. Tell your boss you're sick, or call in. Dose the kids up on NyQuil. Whatever it takes, just get your ass to the theater. I guarantee you will love it. And if you don't, then fuck you, because you must be some kind of contrarian asshole (tell DJ Request I said "Hi"). This movie is that fucking good.
Zombieland does everything right, and I mean everything. From taking tired old zombie cliches and dumping them on their head, to refreshing the genre as a whole. You are not going to see a better movie for the rest of your life.
In fact, the only even remotely negative thing I can say is that the protag is essentially a Michael Cera clone. Seriously, actor-kid who starred in this, find yourself a new niche; Cera has forever staked his claim on the style you unfortunately pull off so naturally. And he was here first. But you seem like a genuinely cool dude, so I hope you can reinvent yourself before you get typecast as a poor man's Michael Cera.
The zombie walk itself (before the show) was a bit underwhelming. They were doing free zombie makeup for attendees. And somehow, with 7 or 8 zombie makeup artists, I got stuck with the one who is a closet Twilight fan. Am I right? I mean, what part of my pic says "Zombie" to you? I look more like Ziggy Stardust auditioning for the lead in a Gary Glitter biopic. Sheesh.
But overall the movie was epic. YO GEORGE ROMERO, I KNOW YOU'RE THE KING OF ZOMBIE MOVIES, I'MA LET YOU FINISH, BUT ZOMBIELAND IS THE BEST ZOMBIE MOVIE OF ALL TIME!
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
McG and I are done professionally, man. How is it not only possible, but permissible, to take something that is so cool, so awesome, so much a part of our pop-culture psyche, and turn it a steaming lump of shit?
For those of you who don't know me, I absolutely hated Transformers. That movie was fucking garbage, plain and simple. And yet knowing what I know now, I would have much rather sat through Transformers 2 than subject myself to the travesty that was Terminator Salvation. Yes, it was that bad. At least with Transformers you know up front that it's a Michael Bay movie. You know to go in with minimal storyline expectations (if any), with a huge lack of accountability towards reason and plausibility. Terminator was almost like a trick. It's like someone saying they're going to take you out for Italian food, and then you end up at Olive Garden. At least with Michael Bay, you know you're headed to Olive Garden from the beginning. This movie masqueraded so deceptively as not just a decent cinematic experience, but as a reinvention of the franchise. To be fair, it was "reinvention." In the same way that excrement is a "reinvention" of the food that you digest.
This would have been a great movie if it came out in the 80's, because it so desperately clings to those once-cool-now-tired 80's cliches. Do you remember Jr High, when your vision of a post-apocalyptic future was crumbling cities, burned out cars, and rag-tag survivors outwitting thier would-be robot overlords with ingenuity and urban resourcefulness? Well so does McG. His vision of the Skynet future is overloaded with burnt out rubble fields where cities once stood- that still have random fires burning among the wreckage; patrolling robots of various types because they are all single-purpose specific; plucky young rebels who get by on heart and wit. Yes, it's all there in glorious detail.
Sadly for McG, storytelling evolves. It has to in order to be interesting. McG lives in the same reality that we as a movie-going audience do. And yet he steadfastly refuses to update his pathetically dated version of a "post apocolyptic future." The original Terminator came out at a time when it was entirely plausible to think that if something like Skynet happened, there could concievably be pockets of humanity surviving in decaying rubble, fighting against machine opressors. It wasn't out of the realm of possibility. It was the 80's- we didn't even have the internet. Today we have ipod nanos, flatscreen TVs thinner than Cheney's credibility, and nanotechnology. But for some reason McG takes a technological leap backwards and gives us big, clumsy, slow-moving robots and grimy, smoke-belching factories that produce them. Do you think that's what the inside of Apple R&D looks like?
For that matter, why do Terminators look human at all? At this point they're still just metal monsters, so what's the point of a humanoid form? That can hardly be the most efficient form for hunting humans. I think something that flies would be much more suitable. Even if Skynet must use human form, why go so far as giving them fingers, mouths... hell, even eyes? Is visual data really that reliable? What about infrared? Motion detectors? Radar? Their main base is actually patrolled by Terminators who are ON FOOT and LOOK for anything suspicious. Fuck me. Anything, really, would be better than visual input. The most ridiculous example of this was a Hunter Killer airship that had tracked a submarine to its location off the West Coast... and for some reason it shined a SPOTLIGHT onto the surface of the ocean. As if it could see the sub down below. Or that a floodlight would help. Haven't we become sophisticated enough as an audience that we need things to make a little more sense now? Maybe not (see "Michael Bay" above).
Why on Earth would these Terminators- these ultimate killing machines- resort so often, so disappointingly, to fisticuffs when trying to kill a target? Sure, they carry guns, but when they lose their weapons, they seem to go into "bar brawl" mode. Not really effective. Certainly not as lethal as lasers, missiles, bombs, poison gas, electrocution. But no, they just punch and throw like a drunken Quinton Jackson.
Technology aside, McG falls victim- well, more like celebrates- so many bad, cheesy movie cliches that you'd think he stopped watching movies himself somewhere around '89. The military leaders are a perfect cross-section of humanity, as well as the brief glimpses of multi-cultural Resistance fighters (who, for some reason listen to Connor's broadcasts- which somehow Skynet is not able to pick up- on shitty old Sony tape deck/radios. Really. Even though they have all manner of helicopters, jets, secret bases, submarines, even medical teams that can peform a fucking heart transplant. Just no decent radios) and yes, even the "good ol' boy" rogue resistance fighters who see a woman and automatically think "Let's rape her!"
Skynet- if not its progeny- is really freaking smart. It has to be to pull off this Usual-Suspects-level-of-situational-engineering caper. Creating Marcus- a nearly-human robot- as a Trojan Horse of sorts, planting it in the desert, nuking it, hoping John Connor survives the nuke, counting on Marcus making his way to LA and meeting Kyle Reese, befriending Kyle Reese, being accepted by Kyle Reese, surviving the ensuing attacks (which, given the compexity of this plot, almost had to be staged), having Marcus witness Kyle get abducted to Skynet's main HQ, having him subsequently get picked up by John Connor's crew, begrudgingly win their trust, and (finally!) lead Connor into a trap. Keyser Soze's a pussy- THAT is a logistical nightmare.
But let's say all that happens. I mean, the Lions could win the Superbowl next year, right? So let's give 'em that. It's the other part of Skynet's master plan that falls apart. Letting the Resistance think they have discovered a secret code that can disable the robots, to the point that 2 robots they test the signal on actually pretend to become disabled... what's that? They weren't pretending, and the signal actually worked? But then why didn't it work on the Hunter Killer that tracked the submarine to the Pacific... oh shit. My brain just cramped.
The only part of the movie that I enjoyed were the nods to the previous installments. But McG even beat the life out of that horse too. The first couple callbacks were kinda funny, clever even. But by the time he used the music from T2, it was such a sad attempt to prove his fanboy street cred I almost felt bad for him.
In the face of all these tremendous failures, it's important to catch all the minor failures as well lest we not give McG enough credit as a top-notch hack.
1) How the hell did they ID Kyle's face? When would they have ever had his face on file somewhere?
2) Why would the terminator motorcycle have any manual controls at all? Or manual controls on the doors of the main Skynet base?
3) How did Marcus know exactly where his "chip" was?
4) Why not just kill Kyle right away and pretend he's till alive? There was no reason to keep him alive at all.
5) What really was the point of leaving Marcus with a human heart? Besides the tin-man-esque metaphor of "heart" conquering the enemy. And the contrived plot device of him donating it to Connor.
Don't even get me started on the exposition- "the signal works!" "We're in a cattle car." C'mon, McG, that's screenwriting 101.
If I ever meet you in real life, I'm asking for my $8 back.