Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Science Fiction

So apparently, drinking too much water while exercising can kill you. And fat people live longer. And nobody agrees on when to yank wisdom teeth. And the only reason to circumcize a baby's penis seems to be conformity.

It's disheartening when someone who lives his life within the confines of reason and scientific inquiry encounters some of the recent insanity of the medical profession. There's no sense to anything anymore. One day they tell you milk does the body good. Then it's some evil, pus-and-blood-filled fatty poison. Today's cure-all is tomorrow's carcinogen. Why can't we get this shit straight?

I mean, human beings have been investigating everything about their bodies from the moment we got them. Scientists write research papers on everything from how many times we blink in a day to the chemical composition of our farts. And after thousands of years of investigation, only last week do we discover what happens when we drink too much water? Water? We spend $55 million to build 450-mile tunnels to study subatomic particles traveling through Deluth, Minn. Why in fuck are we only learning about the dangers of overdrinking now?

And if any of you have Showtime, you MUST watch "Penn & Teller's Bullshit!" premiering Mondays at 10. This week they examined the stupidity of lopping of the top of every penis born in the United States.

Now, I'm happy and comfortable with my penis, something I'm sure comforts you all. Uncircumsized penises look odd and a bit frightening to me, and I take it, many women. But if there is no medical advantage to removing the foreskin (and there is no clear evidence that there is) and if slicing through a newborn baby's most senstive part can be construed as traumatic and cruel (you've got to see the graphic footage on this show if you have any doubt) and if the foreskin is apparently chock full of nerves that aid sexual arousal and trigger ejaculation, then why destroy something that we are born with? As Penn points out, a doctor's first duty is "do no harm." It seems strange that because of the hocum of religion and bunk science, we routinely alter something that must have some evolutionary value. We don't chop off pieces of our children's toys if the box doesn't tell us to.

All that being said, I'll keep my penis, thank you.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Bold Face Names

I've lived in New York City for about 7 years. For no particular reason, here's a partial list of the celebrities I've seen and where I saw them, without any cool stories surrounding them. In none of these instances have I attempted to speak to or otherwise bother these people. They live here for a reason, I figure.

I'd be curious to see whom any of you have seen. I know my brother blows this list away with two actual, somewhat organic interractions he's had with Mohammed Ali and Harrison Ford.
  • Donald Sutherland (MASH, Animal House) seen at a movie theater downtown
  • David Cross ("Mr. Show," "Arrested Development") walking down Jones Street, near my old apartment
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer asking my friends if there were an empty seat next to us during a Friday night showing of Sideways; also riding a bike (with a helmet) on the West Side greenway
  • Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liassons) walking on Bleecker Street
  • Former Mayer Ed Koch sharing an elevator in his the building of his law office
  • NY Ranger Mark Messier shortly after he was traded to Vancouver and immediately after peeing next to Perl at Prohibitions on the Upper West Side
  • Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes, husband of Kate Hudson) walking on Varrick Street; also eating with his brother Chris at an outdoor cafe on 7th Avenue
  • Jackie Mason (Borscht Belt comic and Broadway star, Caddyshack II, "Chicken Soup") briefly sitting next to my family on the Upper East Side for a Mother's Day brunch before leaving for another restaurant
  • John Lithgow (Shrek, "Third Rock from the Sun") walking into a sushi restaurant on 9th Avenue
  • Al Franken ("Saturday Night Live," author of Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them) waiting for a 6-train that never came on a rainy day at the 33rd Street stop near the Air America studio
  • Alan Cumming ("Caberet" off Broadway, X-2) taking his dog to the Washington Park dog run
  • Famke Janssen (X-2, GoldenEye) walking her dog on 7th Avenue
  • Rick Okasek (The Cars, husband of Paulina Porizkova) walking on 6th Avenue and then three years later walking on 4th Avenue
  • Lou Reed (Velvet Underground), Steve Martin (The Jerk, LA Story), Salman Rushdie (The Satanic Verses, Midnight's Children) and John Cleese (Monty Python) in the audience of Ricky Jay's one-man off-broadway show "On the Stem."
  • Michael Showalter (Wet, Hot American Summer, "The State") riding the L train
  • Ron Howard (Splash, Apollo 13) buying popcorn at the Cineplex Odeon on 86th and 3rd
  • Christina Ricci (The Addams Family, Prozac Nation) walking into Sushi Samba on 6th Avenue in the Village
  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg campaigning outside my Christopher Street subway stop in the summer of 2001
  • Claudia Schiffer walking into a screening at the Tribeca Film Festival
  • Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Wargames) parking his scooter in a lot on the final night of his first run with "The Producers" on Broadway
  • Joel Siegel ("Good Morning America") watching a press screening of Hustle and Flow on Broadway
  • Natasha Lyone (American Pie, Detroit Rock City) eating dinner at the Blue Water Grill on Union Square
  • Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Spider-Man) walking down Hudson Street

Fall Boy

Eight-year-old Jason Cecil falls 30 ft. from the roof of his school in the Bronx yesterday. He's OK, and so is this story.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Benedict XVI: Revenge of the Sin

Die Jews, Die!

Just wanted to use this headline to attract some of that coveted neo-Nazi traffic to my blog. And direct you all to this story in the Forward on the rise of anti-Semitism.

It's actually not a threat. But as Sideshow Bob might say, it's German for "The Jews, The."

Have I mentioned that we have a new pope?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Episode III: Revenge of the Shit

Well, it's almost May 19 and time to put an end to this Star Wars crap once and for all. My brother has already bought our openning night tickets (we are nerds). And I'm getting a little nostalgic for all of my venom from the previous two prequel travesties, which I will now post for your reading pleasure.

Of course, if Lucas continues to tinker with his movies until he dies, there will be plenty more where this came from. Enjoy.

But more importantly, TV Barn reports that Cartoon Network will be screening all Chapters 1-25 of the Clone Wars cartoon on Saturday, May 14th at 7pm ET/PT. This is the real deal people. Sublime action and storytelling without all the droning dialogue and wooden acting. If Lucas had only let these brilliant animators script and film his movie...

Episode I: The Phantom Memory of Childhood

Inconsistent. Other than “disappointment” this is the best word to describe the new Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. That’s inconsistent within itself, and inconsistent in tone and content with the other Star Wars films.

I’m a pretty rabid Star Wars fan. I grew up playing with the toys, inventing my own back stories and creating my own scenarios with friends—always in the very same spirit in which the films were imbued. I can remember having more fun as a six year-old, playing with action figures than I did watching this brand new Lucas-helmed project last night. A great deal of the appeal of this new effort is in its nostalgic pull on those old enough to have been influenced by more than the video, cable, and the recent theatrical re-releases. This movie was a piece of my childhood, and a piece, which in its current incarnation, betrays some of those memories. And that’s the biggest disappointment, and the harshest criticism I can offer.

Star Wars was always envisioned as child-inspired entertainment, but it never condescended to its audience. This new movie is filled with so many goofy little touches and outlandish stabs at comedy, it feels more like a well-drawn Saturday morning cartoon than the great human and alien space opera it once was. At times, I felt like I was watching the product of a little child who got into his mother’s Industrial Light & Magic drawer and started playing $120 Million dress-up.

It looks great, moves fast, but at the expense of story-telling and character-building. And even if the original movie succeeded in telling only the simplest of stories and building cheesy archetypes for characters—it was a simple, time-honored and time-tested story and the characters were archetypes for a reason. They were easily and quickly identifiable, and they spurred the imagination. There is no such craftsmanship in these “new” characters, even though many are earlier versions of those same once-successful archetypes. The characters still have mythic resonance, but now lack emotional resonance. This is the fault of writing, and not acting—since these people just have nothing important or meaningful to say to each other. And Mark Hammil couldn’t act, either.

In this story, we are supposed to witness the formative years of the child who will become the most menacingly evil presence in the galaxy—The Adolph Hitler of a long time ago and far, far away. And in Lucas’ movie this amounts to a carefree, starry-eyed giddy little tike with the world’s most cushy enslavement by a lovably comic rascal of a slavemaster and a loving, if not reticent and slightly moronic virgin mother. Their slave quarters on Tattoine is bigger than my apartment and half of my neighbor’s apartment together. Young Anikan has plenty of free time for friends and to build and race his pod-racer. If Hitler were reared in such an emotionally stable and supportive environment, he’d have grown up to be a fastidious haberdasher or a singing telegram.

So what is Lucas telling us, by focusing on a child so gosh-darn wholesome that he trots offscreen belting out an ecstatic “Yipee!” when told he is going to be taken away for Jedi training? [Yeah. Like I ever pictured Darth Vader saying Yipee. No dark lord of the Sith should ever be the kind of person to say Yipee. That’s just fact.]

He is telling us that in the great tradition of Lando Calrissean, any character can be swung 180 degrees in the opposite direction at the toss of a hat with absolutely no foreshadowing, rhyme or reason. Whatever provides a weak surprise, whatever serves the plot will do.

That kind of stuff might be fine for a secondary character like Lando, but if one sets out to make three films describing the seduction and corruption of a great villian, one would hope that progression doesn’t turn on a dime. And since there is no evidence of his evil potential in this first film, why even make it at all? Why not start the story when it starts to get interesting? When it feels as though something is at stake, as opposed to making a glorified kids’ film without any hint of the obvious. My mom (never a huge fan of these movies) left the theater and called to tell me she didn’t know until someone told her afterwards, that the kid grew up to be Darth Vader. That is exactly what’s wrong here. If someone can somehow be as uniformed on this matter as my mom and walk away from the film without any sense as to that inevitable fate, then the film has failed to do anything except pass the time. Which it does in passing entertaining fashion, but the obviously belabored point is that it could have, like its predecessors, been so much more.

There is just no consistency between the ultra-positive tone of this film and the ones that preceded it (in actuality, not fictional chronology). Characters don’t bond, bleed, have any emotional stake in any bit of the action, or—except for C-3PO and R2-D2—resemble in personality, their later selves.

Speaking of C-3PO, in this movie, we get to meet his creator on Tattoine. How come if he was built on Tattoine, does he seem so out of place and curious when his escape pod lands back home at the beginning of Episode IV? And why is he so negative about his home planet in the beginning of Jedi—with no indication he’d ever spent a great deal of time there? This wink at the later chance encounter between the droids and Luke is creative, but it violates story continuity by ignoring what we already know about the future. This movie is filled with these Star Wars universe anachronisms and drastic inter-movie mood swings.

Like, why is the technology in this movie—supposedly 40 years before the action of the original—so much more advanced and trouble-free than it appeared in 1977? Luke’s land-speeder looked like a broken-down flattened Camaro with the funky Trans Am spoiler shaped into a triple-tiered engine foil. Part of the appeal, was the everyday nature and imperfection of the fantastic technology we saw then. I know computers can make cooler devices, weapons, and spacecraft than the pre-ILM techies could 22 years ago, but that doesn’t excuse them for abandoning the films’ uniform style and accuracy. Anakin, as a slave, built himself a suped-up flying monster truck funny car and 40 years later, Luke is zipping around in a beat up old Buick. All the spaceships in this film are far more advanced and provide a smoother, less mechanical ride than anything seen before—which is of course many years after the events have taken place.

As for the much maligned Jar Jar Binks, let it merely be said that Mush Mouth from “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” does not belong in a Star Wars movie.

There was plenty I liked about this movie, but there is nothing I feel as strongly about as I do the shortcomings. The art direction and imagination that went into the look and feel of this picture is unprecedented, but I couldn’t help but wish it was all used to stage a better, more character-driven story.

Darth Maul isn’t nearly as menacing as he could be. He just kind of shows up and wreaks havoc for a little while. No big deal. They never show him doing anything really bad—doesn’t strangle his co-workers, doesn’t torture princesses, doesn’t speak or breath cool. He’s got too much to live up to, and Jake Lloyd, with Lucas’ bland script nonexistent acting ability, doesn’t muster any of the Vader we crave. Judging by tone alone, this movie could just as easily been the first chapter in the Greedo story.

I’m not sure what more I can say. Most writers know that severe character changes need to be foreshadowed if they want their audience to buy into it. Without the proper preparation, major shifts in motivation and morality of a character we thought we knew can be jarring since one can only suspend disbelief so far. If everything we know about a character in Act 1 says that he is X, but then in Act 2 or 3 something happens and he bang turns into Y, we feel cheated. The writer needs to show a little Y before the change so we can believe it when it happens. Maybe Lucas is hoping that by the time his second movie comes out, we will have forgotten this one. And Y we felt cheated.

Episode I: The Menace of Jake Lloyd

I was taught to never beat a dead horse. Why? I mean, what’s the harm really? The thing is already dead, right? Maybe dead horse beating is a decent way to blow off steam. It’s certainly a lot safer than trying to beat the animate and bucking variety.

Anyway, all of this is prelude to another of my endless rants about the deadest horse to ever clomp on my expectations and leave only a steaming pile of stanky shit. Of course, I’m referring to the video release of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace.

I’m a relatively forgiving sort. I try not to hold grudges, and I was more than willing to give this flick a second chance (not including the 2nd and 3rd chances I’d already allotted during its eternal theatrical run). Here, in the safety of my own home, with a decent (if not suberb) surround-sound system and the appropriate wide-screen format, I hoped to vanquish all criticism and simply get swept up in the pure joy of watching a new Star Wars movie—the first of its kind in over 16 years. Unfortunately, this new hope did not strike back.

This movie really sucks. Not just in comparison to the giants that preceded it. No. All by itself, this movie sucks. If there never were any Star Wars, Empire, or Jedi, in fact, this might be one of the dumbest, most poorly acted, horribly written, and just plain shitty movies of the year.

Now, I absolutely loved the technical and design elements to this film. The sound was as pristine and thundering and as perfect as a sound mix could be. This movie is almost as good to listen to as to watch. Which isn’t to say it isn’t beautiful to behold since ILM artists have put together some of the most detailed and inspired vistas ever set to digital canvas and projected on a screen. And they’ve established a new standard when it comes to fully integrating CG characters and elements into live action. Spaceships that don’t exist are completely realized and solidly present in scenes. And characters like Jar Jar Binks fully inhabit every scene in which they appear, interacting and playing off of flesh and blood costars. Of course…

Of course, the fact that this particular character exists at all is less a superior technical achievement than a suicidal gesture from the film’s writer, director and main inspiration. Jar Jar doesn’t belong as a walk-on for after-school TV animated tripe like “Thunder Cats” much less the Star Wars Universe. Every comedic misstep, every grating vocalization, every ear flop and bug-eyed double-take plays like a chorus of Rosanne Barr singing the national anthem accompanied by Phyllis Diller on the stainless steel fork & chalkboard.

And even if you somehow excised Binks from the movie (and substituted something less caustic, like a CG fig tree perhaps) you wouldn’t solve the film’s biggest problem: young Jake Lloyd.

How long did it take to search the known universe to cast this role, and this the best they came up with? Was Haley Joel Osmont busy studying The Bard when Lucas called or did he actually choose a questionable Bruce Willis flick over the most anticipated movie in Hollywood history? Obviously, either Lucas’ casting people didn’t look hard enough or even the second coming of the younger Culkin kid couldn’t have saved the sappy, inane-bordering on retarded dialogue Lucas had written.

“Yipeee!!” This is young Anakin’s reaction to being told he can finish one last slave task before going home for the day. “Yipeee!!” This is young Anakin’s reaction to being told that he can join Qui Gon and Obi Wan to begin his Jedi training. Is it Lloyd’s fault he was directed to deliver this moronic exclamation? I say no, but refuse to absolve him from blame for delivering it with such gosh-darn boyish glee. What a sissy. Makes me want to hunt down and destroy the Jedi myself just for introducing him to me.

Jake Lloyd’s litany of poor line readings are always timed for the weakest effect at the most crucial moments. We can assume he’s asked to display anger or some form of displeasure at times such as when he snappily corrects Padme that he’s “…not a slave, I’m a person and my name is Anakin!” As opposed to planting the first seeds of doubt as to this wunderkind’s potentially evil nature, we are left puzzling at the amateurish mopey-face that Lloyd employs as the piercing squeal of his clueless voice diverts our attention toward his particularly irksome mop-headed vacuity. His feigned attempt at indignation when Yoda won’t let him play with the big Jedis or the quasi-chemistry supposedly generated between him and the Queen are equally inept and distracting. It’s as though we are watching a child’s failed final assignment in acting pre-school rather than a developed character behaving in a film. Blame Lucas. But don’t blame me if this kid ever works again. I told you so.

There’s another great scene that Lloyd doesn’t even ruin by himself. It’s the one where he’s working on his pod-racer (not a bad set of engines for a slave, eh?) and his little Fraggle Rock-esque friends come by to tease him. You know, the scene with the midget-sized Greedo. Amazingly, this film cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make, and somehow, here’s a scene that plays exactly like one from my third grade play about the Declaration of Independence. Each kid reads his line, in the order they’re standing, and sets up the next kid as though they are passing a microphone hand-to-hand. At least two of these kids must be related to Lucasfilm executives since they are too young to have bought or slept their way into the movie.

Bad acting can’t account for every problem. As I’ve stated, bad writing is equally culpable, if not the ultimate culprit. Even Samuel Jackson is forced to make quizzically opaque and ponderous statements like “This could be the clue we need to unravel the mystery of the Sith.” Huh? What mystery? In fact, what clue? This statement comes at a time in a scene after Anakin is refused Jedi training, and Mace Windu shifts gears abruptly toward the Naboo situation. He offers another strange take when Qui Gon first requests that the council grant an audience for the boy. After some pointless resistance to the concept, he shrugs it off and acquiesces to see the boy. The way it is spoken, and through Jackson’s body language it’s as if he is being asked to wash Anakin’s pod racer with a tooth brush rather than interview a potential “chosen one.” In the context of these scenes, and in the context of the whole movie, these lines just don’t make sense. They don’t add anything, and wind up making Jackson’s Mace look like a heavy-handed idiot.

Same thing with Liam Neeson. He actually has to field this question, that comes out of nowhere, sounds like it was read off of a cue card by a dyslexic, and feels more tacked on than wood paneling in suburbia: Young, moronic Anakin says, “Qui-Gon? I heard Yoda talking about midi-chlorines. What exactly are midi-chlorines?” And poor Liam Neeson needs to explain this psuedo-scientific gobbledy-gook with a straight face and Mr. Wizardesque delivery. What Grade-A Crappola.

A few random questions:

Why is everyone always “too old to begin the training” of a Jedi? Do they normally train fetuses?

How come the Jedi weren’t allowed to speak up at the Senate hearing about the Federation invasion of Naboo? The Federation representatives denied there was an invasion, and demanded evidence. Shouldn’t the two Jedi Knights that almost got run over by Federation invasion vehicles have thought about attending this pow-wow to provide their eye-witness account? Aren’t they trusted for their words to be taken at face value? Or is the Federation asking for another, more corrupt task force to investigate and report back to the Senate? And how the fuck long would this take anyway? Don’t these people travel at light speed? That ain’t fast enough? It’s all just a poorly conceived writer’s excuse to have Queen Amidala unwittingly side with Palpatine against the current Chancellor.

How can the Force be both self-deterministic (“Remember, Anakin, your focus determines your reality”) and fatalistic (all talk of “destiny” and being “mindful of the future”)? Can’t really be in charge of your own destiny and at the mercy of fate, can you?

Anyway, I could go on forever about what is wrong with this movie (I think I already have). Don’t even get me started on the whole Anakin built C-3PO on Tattoine, but Threepio has no memory of the planet and Vader doesn’t display any recognition of him in any of the other 3 movies. Ugh.

Suffice it to say, my expectations for Episode 2 couldn’t be lower. That’s one horse I ain’t betting on.

Episode II: Attack of the Cloying Drones

So, whatya think about Episode Dos? Me? I had a good time watching a very, very stupid movie. I mean, This movie is ridiculous. Hopelessly retarded and demonstrably absurd. And yet, still a good time for a long time fan.

I think it's important to simply accept that the fun, but never cloying or insipid tone of the original trilogy is dead and buried. Lucas has decided to make movies for 8 and 9 year-old boys and girls and that's that. Sad, but in a perfect world he would simply have scripted 3 movie treatments and left it to someone more talented or more in tune with what made these films special to write the actual script and direct the movie I really wanted to see. He is 26 years removed from "A New Hope" and it shows. Clearly, his primary talent is assembling and orchestrating an army of gifted animators, computer technicians, art directors and costume designers. Certainly not writing or working with actors. So. So, I'm left asking questions like:

Why are Jedi such pompous assholes? They constantly ignore advice, send a single Jedi to do work more suited to a larger contingent, and generally think they're better than everyone else. I don't know, it just bothers me.

Does any Jedi have a healthy, productive relationship with his master? They're constantly bitching at or attempting to kill one another. What gives? Somebody should re-think this whole padawan thingy.

Why is romantic love forbidden to the Jedi? What kind of Catholic Church twisted John Lennon Communist crap is this? Imagine no plot conventions, it's easy if you try...

Heh. Even better: "Nothing's gonna save you from a love that's blind/ Slip into the dark side across that line..." When the main crux of your film can be reduced into sentiments shared by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band's ghost-writing for the fictional Eddie and the Cruisers fronted by a squinting Michael Pare, you know you've got some trouble.

And why in the hell would Padme fall in love with a whiny, fey, confessed homicidally maniacal brat? Cuz he's cute, I guess.

Why are there so many inconsistencies in tone and technology with the original trilogy? I understand that the wonders of CG have provided Lucas with an amazing new palette to create vistas and vehicles and creatures heretofore relegated to matte paintings, models and guys in masks. But nothing looks or feels like it once did. If he is attempting to create and inhabit a cohesive 6 film universe, he should be more mindful of creating ships and droids that move similarly to their earlier movie (but later timeline) counterparts. The ships in Episodes 1 and 2 are much sleeker and “high-tech” than anything that appears in the original movies. And what the hell is a 50's greasy-spoon diner and malt shop doing supposedly a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away from Lucas's “American Graffiti”?

And worse, who can explain the inconsistency within the core narrative? In Return of the Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi explains to Luke, “Anakin was a good friend. When I first knew him, your father was already a great pilot. But I was amazed how strongly the Force was with him. I took it upon myself to train him as a Jedi. I thought that I could instruct him just as well as Yoda. I was wrong.”

Um. Who ever took these words to mean that when Obi-Wan fist met Anakin, he was a snivvling little 9 year-old slave-boy pod-racer? And why is he taking credit/blame for what was clearly Qui-Gon Jin’s intuition and folly, ultimately approved by Yoda and the entire Jedi council? Because regardless of pretense to the contrary and some supposed 6 film master plan, Lucas is making this shit up as he goes along. It’s obvious that whole Leia-is-Luke’s-sister thing was an afterthought as well. Otherwise, why all the Han-Leia-Luke love triangle stuff in Empire?

But why complain? Great myths and touchstones of youth should remain in the past where they belong. These new movies aren't more of the same or as good that they could be. They are something different. And while not all that good, still contain some rousing moments.

Like the exhilarating, momentous surge of Jedi warriors slicing through the battle droids. Obi-Wan smashing through a glass window to grab a hovering assassin droid. Or Yoda striking kung fu poses with his light saber. This is the stuff of giddy dreams.

I also liked the little touches aimed at long-time fans. You know, the er, geeks. Like C-3PO's greeting Anakin as "The Maker," thus echoing his Episode IV oil bath exultation "Thank the Maker!" And the return to the "future" Tatooine homestead of Owen and Beru Lars. R5-D4’s cameo (and the apparent origin of its bad motivator). And the musical cues foreshadowing the Empire Theme of the original movies when Anakin is being particularly evil and the very end when the republic army is getting ready to do start some serious dark side trouble.

I like the constant repetition of familiar setups and payoffs. A hand dismemberment. Swinging to safety. A race or chase through a maze of obstacles. The eponymous “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

But that last one. That piece of dialogue--so perfectly fundamental to the gee-whiz, comical sci-fi adventure serials of Lucas’s youth and the original trilogy-- here seems so obligatory. Especially when surrounded by endlessly expository dialogue concerning separatists and trade routes and political machinations as stiff as though frozen in carbonite. It definitely helps to watch this movie with an audience savvy enough to laugh at such inanities as Anakin bitching about this and that and professing his love as though he’s in the Care Bears movie. Which is how it occurred to me, precisely what is missing from these movies that has not been adequately replaced (impossible) or replicated: Harrison Ford.

Where is the cocky, everyman shoot from the hip cowboy? Where is the spirit of fun and skepticism inside all this solemn brooding and inexplicably lame whiny angst? Apparently, he’s putzing around with Calista Flockhart. See? Even he misses his relationship with Greedo.

He was the center of all that rippling dialogue and friction and camaraderie. Without that core, the movie is hung on flimsy effects and bland pronouncements. Rumor has it that a young Han Solo might make an appearance in Episode III, as a trainee at an Imperial military academy. That might just save the picture. Even better than the prospect of a familiar black helmet concealing the sourpuss of premature darkness we endure in the current picture.

Oh, but it’s still fun to watch.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Benedict XVI: Freddy vs. The Pope

You know when a group of people are singing "Happy Birthday" and it gets to the part with the person's name and because everyone calls him something different, some people hedge their bets or just hum something unintelligible and others sing loud to try and set the record straight and it just degenerates into some kind of slurred wimper?

Um. Isn't that, sort of, you know, funny?

Just thought I'd bring that up. Anybody got a good name for it?

Also, we've got a new pope.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Bronx Tales

Spent yesterday tracking down Yankees fans on the streets of New York for opinions about the new stadium design. Then went to track down a large, thick blood stain in the middle of a North Bronx street. All in (an unpaid) day's work.

This week I'll be busy covering the Tribeca Film Festival for The Indpendent. I've already seen a bizarro "Highlander"-esque Russian fantasy/horror film called "Night Watch" that was just...so...Russian. Will try to post my thoughts on other stuff as they come to me.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Hit & Run & Wait

Spent most of two days waiting (read: staking out) in front of an apartment building of a man whose wife was killed by an unknown hit-and-run driver on Madison Avenue. He eventually came down to talk to us. Very sad. Nothing more to say about that.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The bible and multi-dimensional geometry: together at last

Bible Head Code

Much like any of many participants in late night, bleary-eyed dorm room conversations held under the smoky glow of a black-lit Pink Floyd poster, Stan Tenen thought he had discovered a universal truth about the nature of existence.

What Tenen found — and has worked with mathematical models and limited funds for more than 35 years to prove — is at once seemingly logical and utterly dizzying, with confounding implications that stretch from the mystical realm to that of quantum mechanics.

“If I’m right, I’m shaking the roots of western civilization,” Tenen said in an interview with the Forward.

Read all about it here.

In the same issue, you can also read about a little-known historical connection between Jews and The Dominican Republic.