Friday, June 27, 2008

Make Thumb Love Not Thumb War

Hello, welcome to the Peverett Phil-E. Sorry, we just saw Wall-E so that little robot custodian was on my mind. President Bush has ordered his troops to find Osama bin Laden. He really jumped on that one, didn’t he? The CIA thinks they know where Osama bin Laden is. They think he’s hiding in the mountainous regions of Pamela Anderson. John McCain’s daughter is writing a children’s book based her father’s life. The children’s book is called, "James and the Giant Prostate.” Ralph Nader attacked Barack Obama for refusing to accept public financing for his campaign and said that Obama was too closely tied to big business. Then the guy sitting next to Nader on the park bench said, "Shut up.” Britney Spears flew to Mississippi this week to help her sister Jamie Lynn with her new baby. Britney says it’s really important that she spend time with the baby now — because soon it will be busy raising it’s own baby. Christie’s auction house in New York is auctioning off life vests from the Titanic. Why would anyone want a life vest from the Titanic? I’m pretty sure they don’t work. Scientists have come up with a pill that makes you less shy. It makes you more outgoing; it gives you more personality. And I’m thinking, “Great — now I have to bring two pills when I go out with Jen." Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone are going to be in a movie together. They’re doing a movie called, What the Hell Are They Saying? An interesting study was released. People in California are less convinced there is a God than people of any state in the country. On an unrelated note, more than 800 wildfires are burning out of control here. There you go — God is real; he’s mad; and he’s trying to kill us. It’s very hard for firefighters to get them under control, because the vegetation up in northern California, where the fires are, is about 40 percent marijuana plants. Support crews are supposed to be bringing in supplies, but they keep bringing in Doritos and chocolate milkshakes. The Dutch think the world’s going to end on Dec. 12, 2012. It has to do with the Mayan calendar. That and a lot of pot smoking. Next week is the Fourth of July. I will be celebrating as I always do. I get completely naked; I go up on the roof and sing the national anthem at the top of my lungs. The networksalways run these fireworks safety videos to make sure no one has any fun on the Fourth of July.
I know they’re supposed to make us scared of fireworks, but after seeing them I feel this intense desire to blow something up. The only thing we learn from these videos is it’s a bad time of year to be a mannequin.


From the home office in Groveland, Florida, here is this week's top ten list.
Top Ten Possible Titles For George W. Bush's Memoir
10. "Tuesdays With Moron"
9. "Surviving The 12-Hour Work Week"
8. "What Being President Learned Me"
7. "The 7 Habits Of Highly Incompetent People"
6. "All I Ever Really Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten"
5. "Sloppy Joes Is Tasty"
4. "It Takes A Village Idiot"
3. "How To Lose Wars And Alienate World Leaders"
2. "At Least I Never Had A Gay Date In An Airport Bathroom"
1. "Huh?"


George Carlin: Tonight's forecast calls for increasing chest pains followed by perpetual darkness.


God Lucky Howard, 39, landed in the Hillsborough County Jail on cocaine charges Saturday. The crime drew little notice. The name was another story. This God made TV and the Internet. But God Lucky Howard is not the only God in Florida, nor is he even the only God in trouble. Elsewhere, there's Glory of God Cummings of Pensacola, God Fearing Philippe of Lakeland, None God of Jupiter, God Medeiros of New Port Richey and God Goldman and God V. Torres of Dade County, state records show. Allahzar God Allah, 62, has been in a Lake County prison for almost a quarter century serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. God is not simply in Florida.God is also in Illinois. The day before Howard was arrested, an Illinois judge gave a man named Steve Kreuscher permission to legally change his name to "In God We Trust," the Lake County News-Sun reported. The 57-year-old artist and bus driver said the name grew from his devotion to God. He also confessed to an ulterior motive.
"There are billions of artists out there," We Trust told the News-Sun. "If you don't do something to stand out in the crowd, the world won't recognize you." Howard, if convicted, might be recognized by the Florida Department of Corrections. He previously served prison time on drug charges, state records show. When booked in the Orient Road Jail on Saturday, he reported that he was a self-employed mortgage broker and that he lived at 3505 20th St. N. Now he faces eight charges of cocaine delivery and possession. Tampa police say he sold drugs near a public housing complex, near a school and near a church. Bail is $86,500.


Mormon leader Joseph Smith, along with his brother Hyrum, are shot and killed by a mob while in jail at Carthage, Illinois. According to church legend, after Smith is shot a man raises a knife to decapitate him, but is thwarted by a thunderbolt from heaven.
Hillel Slovak, original guitarist from sock-friendly rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers dies of a smack overdose in Hollywood.
The LAPD arrests streetwalker Divine Brown on Hawthorn Ave. where she is discovered giving British movie star Hugh Grant a blowjob in his white BMW. To be fair, they also arrest Grant for procuring said blowjob.
Police arrest comedian Paula Poundstone in Malibu, California on charges of lewd conduct with a minor. Poundstone's pending criminal trial remains front page news for the next three months, until it is overshadowed by the World Trade Center attacks in September. Soon thereafter, she pleads guilty to a lesser charge, and the details of her indictment are never disclosed to the public.


Thank you very much, Steven Moffat. You can't satisfy yourself with making me terrified of statues, now you have to make me afraid of the dark as well. Besides scaring the pants off me, this episode is the highlight of this season so far (having seen the second episode already, I can assure you that one is just as good). Since all the remaining episodes after this two-parter are written by Russell T. Davies, I may be able to stand by that statement before watching the rest of the season. As I've mentioned before, Mr. Davies is an excellent writer (and recent O.B.E. recipient) and I will always be greatful for his actions in returning "Doctor Who" to television, but the man just can't write science fiction. The 2010 incumbent "Doctor Who" showrunner continues his streak of incredible episodes. His writing seems to get better with each successive season. He masters characterization, plot and twists in better ways than M. Night Shyamalan and his "happening" could ever hope to. Having Moffat in charge of "Doctor Who" reminds me of the 1974 to 1977 Tom Baker seasons in which their best writer Robert Holmes was also the script editor. Those seasons produced the most memorable episodes of the show (including "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" which is among the favorites of current showrunner Russell T. Davies). Needless to say, my hopes are sky-high. This episode finds the Doctor and Donna landing on a planet-sized information repository in the 51st century called "The Library." I cannot help but notice that other than 20th century Earth, the 51st century seems to be the Doctor's most common point of disembarkation in the past four seasons. However, all human life on the planet seems to have disappeared. According to the planet's computers, the lives have been "saved." It turns out our intrepid travelers were summoned to the planet by a message appearing on the Doctor's psychic paper. As they search the planet for answers, they encounter a team of archaeologists led by Professor River Song. Professor Song apparently has met the Doctor in his future and their relationship was, shall we say, more than friends (their exact relationship was left as a mystery to the viewer and to the Doctor as well). Song is careful not to reveal any future information to the Doctor or Donna, giving the simple warning of "spoilers" It is this relationship that is the center of the story. What does Professor Song know about the Doctor? Is she a future companion, a future lover, or what? When Donna inquires about her future, why does Professor Song remain silent? Is it a concern about "spoilers" or something more sinister? I do wonder if River Song was intended as a surrogate to archaeologist Professor Bernice Summerfield, a companion created by writer Paul Cornell in the novelizations of "Doctor Who". It turns out that the human population of the planet were consumed by a race called the Vashta Nerada. They are microscopic, feed on human flesh and hide themselves as shadows. Moffat even adds a particularly ominous plot point: the spacesuits that the archeologists are wearing possess communications devices that link their thoughts, a side-effect of which is a "data ghost" that exists in the suit after they've been killed. It's eerie to hear a disembodied voice of a skull wondering who turned the lights out. To add even more depth to the plot, there seems to be a young girl in therapy with a Doctor Moon who can see everything going on in the Library. Doctor Moon is trying to convince the girl that the Library is a fantasy. It's a marvelous plot device because in effect the little girl becomes the audience. She is reacting to the Doctor's adventures in the same ways Moffat believes the audience would react. The philosophies of truth and reality come into question. It's the mark of a good writer to be able to work on many levels like this.
In the end of the episode, Donna gets "saved" as well when the Doctor tries to get her to the safety of the TARDIS. This is made evident by the appearance of her face on an abstract sculpture in the Library. So among the River Song questions, there is now also the question of the identity of the girl and her relationship to the Library. All this to be answered tonight. Other interesting bits/observations... The atmospheric design of the Library was superb. The CGI seemed especially well done. Several books in the library were by past "Doctor Who" writers or were books featured in previous episodes. Among those were the operating manual for the TARDIS, Origins of the Universe ("Destiny of the Daleks"), The French Revolution ("An Unearthly Child"), the Journal of Impossible Things ("Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood"), The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (written by Douglas Adams, former "Doctor Who" writer and script editor), Everest in Easy Stages ("The Creature from the Pit") and Black Orchid (a book first seen in the Fifth Doctor serial of the same name).
I liked how the book jacket of the Doctor's life was reminiscent of the design of the TARDIS. The "emergency program" used by the Doctor to try and get Donna to safety was the same one used in the Season 1 finale on Rose Tyler. That didn't work out so well either when Rose momentarily became a god as a result and eventually cost the Ninth Doctor his life. Looking forward to part 2 later on tonight. According to Doctor Who Magazine (and repeated on several "Doctor Who" message boards online), the finale of Season Four ("Journey's End") is going to be 65 minutes in length, as opposed to the usual 45 or 50 minute length of the season's episodes so far. This length, of course, deals with the original broadcast on the BBC and not the American broadcast. The question is: when it airs eventually on the Sci Fi Channel in America, what will the network do? Will they allocate extra time for the broadcast (as I hope they will) or simply cut the episode to bits? The Sci Fi Channel has cut down the time of Doctor Who episodes before, most notably with the Season Three finale "Last of the Time Lords", the original length of which clocked in at 52 minutes.


Get Smart
During the opening of Get Smart, the new big-screen re-visitation of the '60s spy spoof TV show created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, we're shown a montage detailing the mighty workings of the modern intelligence apparatus; covert microphones, satellite communications intercepts, frantic translation, secretive meetings. As top analyst Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) walks the streets of Washington to the hidden headquarters of the secret agency where he works, listening to intercepted conversations to better understand the plans and thoughts of America's enemies, his iPod switches over ... to Abba's "Take a Chance on Me." Spies, it seems, are people too. And pause here to think about the challenges facing any director who wants to make a spy comedy in our modern times. If you depict spies as too competent, the audience unconsciously fears for their civil liberties; depict spies as too incompetent, the audience unconsciously fears for their lives. Make the film's threat to the free world too credible, and the film's more scary than silly; make the threat to the free world too fantastic and foolish (as in the earlier Get Smart big-screen project, 1980's The Nude Bomb) and the film's more goofy than gripping. The makers of the new Get Smart seem to have thought about this, and have transformed the character somewhat from Don Adams's nasal know-nothing in the '60s TV show; as played by Carell, Smart is a bright, dedicated, insightful analyst for the secret agency CONTROL who dreams of being a field agent. And Max learns he's passed the field agent's exam with flying colors; still, his boss The Chief (Alan Arkin) rejects Max's request for transfer to field work because he needs Max behind a desk. But fate -- and the bad guys -- change that plan; the evil organization KAOS, as part of their newest operation, learns the identity of every CONTROL agent in the field and lashes out at them, meaning that heavy-hitter field agents like Max's pal Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson) have to come in from the cold before it gets too hot. The only people CONTROL can put out in the field to stop KAOS's new plan are the only two KAOS doesn't know the identities of: Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), whose recent plastic surgery has given her a new face ... and Max. This is not a bad pitch; in fact, it's a far better pitch than a big-screen adaptation of a TV series usually gets, where other producers in the past have wagered and hoped we'll just wander into the theater in a numb narcotized nimbus of nostalgia. And the cast is top-notch, from the good guys (Carell, Hathaway, Arkin and Johnson) to the bad guys (Terence Stamp and Ken Davitian) to the weird cameos (which I won't spoil). Okay, with all that said, we all loved it (even Jen) and we all gave it a 10.


WALL-E, from Pixar studios, shows us a ruined city, centuries from now, where a single (and singular) robot toils to cube trash and, it seems, will never lack for work. WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter (Earth-Class)), a two-treaded solitary worker robot, spends his days cubing trash and his nights shut in safe from the cataclysmic garbage-gales that sweep the planet, inside a repair truck he's filled with things that have fascinated him; garden gnomes, butane lighters, a copy of Hello, Dolly! And in WALL-E's nearly-silent opening minutes, we get a sense of the world he lives in. Everything is ruined; there are no signs of life but for cockroaches; the only voices you hear come when the motion-activated Buy 'n' Large holo-billboards go off. WALL-E strips his broken-down brethren for parts and recharges by the sun's rays and stacks trash-cubes to imitate the skyscrapers decaying all around him, garbage as a pale reflection of glory. But one day is different from any other day, as a ship lands and drops off a probe -- smooth and shiny, a gleaming higher-tech robot who seems dedicated to her mission. (I know, I know; she's a robot. But, trust me, she's a lady, too). Her name is EVE, and she's looking for ... something. WALL-E wants to get close to her, but she's pretty focused on work; in time, though, they do connect, which is when WALL-E offers her one of his treasures as a gift ... which is, of course, exactly what she's been looking for. The opening half of WALL-E is, bluntly, awe-inspiringly well-made, combining the silent-film skill and timing of Buster Keaton or Jacques Tati with the big-scale futurism of George Lucas or Stephen Spielberg at their finest. WALL-E even sounds a bit like a Lucas creation, which is no coincidence, as his bleeps, blurps and utterances are all designed by Ben Burtt, the sound designer who crafted the soundscape of the original Star Wars films. (I think the best possible anecdote that explains Burtt's devotion to, and enthusiasm for his craft is how, at his wife's sonogram for their soon-to-be-born child, he brought along a tape on the off chance he could use the fetal heartbeat for his upcoming work on Phillip Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers; he could, and he did.) But even with tips of the hat and evocations of the past, writer-director Andrew Stanton's film is also uniquely his. WALL-E's world is sad and scary and lonely; we can feel WALL-E's relief and trepidation when he meets EVE, and then his joy at companionship, and then his frantic worry at the idea of that being taken away. EVE's recalled to her homebase, and WALL-E tags along. And soon, WALL-E is crawling through the gleaming halls of the starship Axiom -- a joke nearly on par with "Nomanisan Island" from The Incredibles -- where the remains of humanity scoot through the ship in hoverchairs, drinking their meals from to-go-cups, holoscreens inches before their faces, essentially (in the words of social critic Neil Postman) amusing themselves to death. And while events aboard the Axiom may move the plot along, I couldn't help but miss the movie that was left behind. When we're just watching WALL-E rove and explore the wasteopolis of the future, you feel like you're watching the kid's movie Stanley Kubrick never made; as soon as we get on board the Axiom, the film becomes a series of superbly-executed but nonetheless familiar series of plot points and platitudes, moral messages and misadventures. You occasionally get a glimpse of sharp teeth behind the smile: The Captain (voiced by Jeff Garlin) celebrates the 700th anniversary of The Axiom's five-year mission and a pre-taped message from the CEO of Buy 'n' Large (Fred Willard) advises "Stay the course." Part of me thinks that Stanton's going easy on the conservationist message and anti-consumerist satire so that it'll sink in with people later; another part of me thinks that WALL-E's message is precisely calibrated so that any parent who purchases WALL-E toys for their kids won't feel guilty enough to stop, but will at least be inspired to put the packing cardboard in the recycling. And, really, you don't feel inspired to have arguments like this about Open Season or Shrek or The Ant Bully. Pixar may have earned awards and laurels as the pioneers of digital animation, but the true secret of their success is stories so smart and superbly-tuned that you could tell them with sock puppets and still move the audience. That's the case with WALL-E, just as it was for Toy Story or The Incredibles or any of Pixar's finer films. And, at the same time, the animation in WALL-E is astonishing, from big things like the ruined Earth WALL-E's meekly inherited or the star-lit space ballet of two robots dancing in the void to little things like heat shimmer or the ghostly workings of barely-visible machinery through EVE's translucent shell. Anthropologists tell us that every object we create is also a mirror, the maker's intent and values and aspirations reflected in the thing they've made. WALL-E is appealing to us not because of his human affectations but because he reminds us of the best parts of our own humanity -- his love for silly-smart things like Rubik's Cubes, musical theater and Christmas lights; his refusal to let a friend down; his capacity for bravery in the face of danger and for joy in the face of sadness. WALL-E isn't quite in the Pixar pantheon of greatness alongside The Incredibles and Toy Story, but it's close. Too many kid's movies are created to give kids things to buy; WALL-E is a kid's movie that might, perhaps, give you and your kids pause to think about what things truly cost. I give WALL-E an 8.

There, phans, another entry of the Phile. I still want to hit 5000 views by Thanksgiving, so tell your phriends about the blog. The next entry will be updated on Thursday next week, so don't forget. In the meantime, inbetween time, check out my friend Jeff's blog called Story Time With Jeff, and spread the word, not the turd. I will leave you with a quote from the great George Carlin: "When cheese gets it's picture taken, what does it say?" Peace.


1 comment:

leilaandben said...

This was the first I heard about the Dutch thinking the world is going to end in 4 years and I live in Holland! It must be the crazy right wingers that think that (and they aren't the pot smokers). Maybe they are right - maybe there will be a huge flood and the great dams and levees that they've built and are so proud of will fail... Luckily a lot of people have boats here already (and someone has even built a recreation of the noah's ark!). Floridians better be buying lifeboats too!