Friday, January 23, 2009

Camera Obscura: Anime, Kung-Fu, Texas Hold Em and Werner Herzog

Actor Keanu Reeves will leap into anime if his current project continues to move forward -- the project being a live action version of the anime series "Cowboy Bebop" with Reeves starring as the laconic hero Spike Spiegel.

Urf. This is not really happy news. I was hoping for another animated feature from the series which ran for 26 episodes in 1998. The story is set in a science fiction world of bounty hunters, but the real pleasure came from the characters and their failures and successes - and the arc of the story is rather non-linear and goofy, an anti-action tale with anti-heroes, a genius dog named Einstein and a computer whiz child named Ed. It's oddity is endearing, but I truly doubt Hollywood can do anything at all worthy of the time and money they'll throw at this.

Do yourself a favor and watch the original series, the one feature they made and be happy with that perfection.

Hollywood sort of flirts with animation and comic book tales - especially if they make money. Does that mean the just-announced Oscar nominations for Heath Ledger as The Joker, and the other nominations for "The Dark Knight" will actually earn the award itself? (Oh boy, here I go on comics again. Fanboy rants and raves about comic books are akin to those tedious scenes in "High Fidelity" where the characters talk about music and records. It's full-blown nerdiness.)

Here's what I know - Ledger's performance was surely one of the best I saw all year. And with Hugh "Wolverine" Jackman hosting this year's awards, maybe the comic book is finally --- naw, Hollywood loves money first and last. (Though Oscar does love tragedy, such as Ledger's untimely death last year.)


Via the pages of Topless Robot (a blog about toys and nerds which is on my daily must-read list) we get the new trailer for a kung-fu movie called "Chocolate". It is absolutely my kind of Valentine's Day flick:


Texas Hold-Em poker has never been more popular - and a raft of comedians get a chance to create a mock tournament improv movie in the often-hilarious "The Grand". The cast includes a grizzled Gabe Kaplan (who is a bona fide player on the poker circuit these days) as a deranged dad of two in the movie, and former SNL player Chris Parnell, a math genius player who also hurls insults culled from books like "Dune" at the other players. The movie is a broad and scattershot work, but has tons of funny performances and crazy moments -- Michael McKean recalling how he lost his hearing after he swam into a school of Man of War jellyfish, for example.

The real jewel in this movie, the one that makes it an underground classic, is director Werner Herzog, who plays a cruel contestant, known only as "The German". Herzog and "Grand" director Zak Penn have worked together before in also hilarious mockumentary "The Loch Ness Incident". Check out all the familiar faces in the trailer:

Let's talk horror movies -- or rather horror movie music.

Blogger rhsmith at The Movie Morlocks blog from Turner Classic Movies gives us the rundown on some hefty collections of music from horror movies from days long past and has an encyclopedic knowledge of all kinds of spooky music and how said music landed on vinyl.

Read his full post here.

Smith also has a great list of pop music used in the movies in highly original ways. It's a trend I go for too - often bringing whole new legions of fame to old (or new) pop songs. Like the way the song "Mad World" infects everything in the movie "Donny Darko."

Smith offers a list of his favorites in this post, a collection of tunes and movies which is easily as nerdly as the above mentioned discussions of comic books. Read his list of favorites here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday Web-Walking

It's too dang cold to blog.

Sure, the constant hum of the Internet can warm your cockles, unless maybe you're still shivering from watching everyone else shiver as they live-blogged and twittered the inauguration.

-- One inauguration story brought a smile to my chapped lips:

If we break a rabbit's legs and throw it in there, he will eventually go in to finish it off. Doesn't work with dead rabbits, though. Cheney only eats what he kills."

Full report here.

-- Maybe you avoided the whole monumental shift in U.S. government yesterday and just plunked around with your toy guitar playing Guitar Hero game. Just know that while you mash buttons, an 11-year-old Japanese girl already can actually play a musical instrument and rock out to Rush's "YYZ" way better than you play that game:

-- Meanwhile "Lost" returns to television tonight, and the idea has me oddly upbeat, or as this blogger says "I'm giggling like a schoolgirl about to ride a pony". Be sure and check out the preview clips at his page, or just wait for the surprises and confusion to roll out as you view the new episodes.

-- A dog named Java survived an icy plunge into a frozen pond.

-- This wee kitten got hurt somehow but seems to be resting somewhat comfortably despite the wee cast on it's wee leg:

-- Since I'm talking about animals, did ya know that raccoon meat sells out mighty fast?

Eating raccoon has never gone out of style. It's just hard to get unless you know somebody."

-- And finally, in news about news, Google says No More Newspaper Ads.

Man, it is cold out here. I'm gonna go chug some soup or something.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Parties Span the Ages

I know I'm about two days older than dirt, but I cannot dredge up any memory of a previous presidential inauguration where children and young adults got their own massive parties to celebrate, much less have those celebrations air on television.

Last night the Disney Channel aired "Kid's Inaugural - We Are The Future", an huge bash hosted by the likes of Jamie Foxx and featuring performances by Miley Cyrus and The Jonas Brothers -- watched most carefully by President Obama's young children who even got to take the stage with the famous 'tween superstars. You can watch the event here online.

And tonight young adults can tune in to MTV for "Be The Change" ... and again, when was there an inaugural party on MTV? Performers include Kanye West, Kid Rock and Fall Out Boy and the newly sworn-in president will make an appearance as well. MTV News has coverage now for the broadcast which will air at 10 p.m. tonight.

When was the last time you recall seeing political programming for kids and young adults where shouts of "God Bless America!" or "We have a new president!" drew cheers from that same group of young people?

President Obama - Day One

"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


"I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: 'Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails.' Somebody's gotta say it."
-- Rush Limbaugh


From the speech given at the Inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama:

"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions -- who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -- because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.


"So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Change Is Gonna Come

(Cartoon via McClatchy)

The nation changes leadership on Tuesday, and it makes me think of a job I once had where a new office manager arrived after some very troubled years had taken place. The outgoing manager was first in his class at bad management, often misrepresenting his stubborn ways as his 'principles', many of the inherent benefits of the job were just gone, and morale had been sucked down to a level so low as to be non-existent.

The new manager, while known to a few at the workplace, got an immediate lift among employees simply because he was new and the old one who had dragged everyone down was finally gone. Still, in the first six months to a year, this new manager also created many positive changes, often by simply seeing opportunities where the old manager was content to go on tirades about problems. He encouraged us to work harder, noting it was not our fault our business had been mismanaged. He found ways to acknowledge employees for their efforts, often expressed thanks, created projects where our business could excel and inspired us to dream big as we tried to improve our business. There were still some problems which took longer to correct, but the new manager stayed focused and overall made the business more successful and all of us employees earned direct benefits from that success.

So here's to the new manager about to take the post at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Hilzoy at Washington Monthly has highlighted an editorial from 1933, just prior to the inauguration of FDR, which has some eerie similarities to the America of today and the challenges ahead:

It was a Grand Old Party -- for them [Republicans] -- while it lasted. Makers and beneficiaries of our politico-economic system, these are the men whose failure is now written large in the towering empty edifices that scrape the New York sky, in the hundreds of thousands of "For sale" and "To let" signs which adorn our cities, in the closed banks, in the foreclosed farms, in the whole picture of devastation which has come under their rule.

Have these captains and kings departed -- not to return? The epoch of their wanton and repulsive leadership is ending. Their incompetence and their betrayal are manifest. But much of the evil they have done lives after them. The coming years will see the struggle to purge America, to reassert the promise of American life, to validate, in consonance with the changed times and conditions, the high aspirations of the founders of the nation."

I was glad to see the Sam Cooke tune "A Change Is Gonna Come" performed in Washington at the Inauguration celebrations Sunday (you can watch the celebration free via HBO online).

Here's to real change, which only the citizens of the U.S. can create.