October 01, 2007

Movie Review: Resident Evil: Extinction

Mister Bookworm and I saw Resident Evil: Extinction this weekend.

Before I dig into the movie, I just want to say that I love Milla Jovovich. She is strikingly beautiful and I love her as an action hero. I loved her in The Fifth Element and as Ultraviolet (even though that movie sucked). She has good moves and she looks great.

So, this movie is pretty dumb.

I have only a hazy memory of them, but as I recall, the last two movies were exciting and there was this undercurrent of mystery about the Alice character. This movie lacks mystery. Actually, saying it lacks mystery is a bit of an understatement. The movie has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and I'm saying that with full awareness of the fact that this is a shoot 'em up zombie movie.

I guess it's a compliment to say that there were lots of parts that were surprising and made me and Mister Bookworm jump, but none of those parts were all that inventive.

The most irritating part about it to me was the ending. I hate hate HATE when the main conflict of a film remains unresolved at the end. If minor conflict remains unresolved and that leaves it open for another movie, I'm find with that. You know, like if the bad guy's hand bursts from under the rubble or something. That's fine. But if you start out the movie saying, "We have to stop the Umbrella Corporation" and everything people do is trying to get to that and at the end you still haven't done it... Well, that pisses me off. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 did that and I didn't like that either.

So, basically, I didn't much care for this movie. Would I recommend it to you? Wait for it to come on the SciFi channel.

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September 28, 2007

Book Review: Kinfolks

I finished reading Lisa Alther's Kinfolks the other day and I'm only just now getting around to writing my review. The full title of the book is a mouthful: Kinfolks: Falling Off the Family Tree - The Search for My Melungeon Ancestors

And also, "Lisa" is pronounced "lee-za." In spite of what you may have heard elsewhere, Lisa with an S goes "zzz" not "sss" sometimes.

Kinfolks is a thoughtful book about the author's attempts to trace her genetic heritage in hopes of finding a personal identity.

If you're not familiar with the term Melungeon, Kinfolks will illuminate the muddy waters for you. I grew up in Georgia and I only have the faintest of memories of having encountered the word. I associate it with an image of scary circus folk, but Miss Alther reveals that there is a whole lot more to it. (After reading the book, I think there's a pretty good chance that your blonde-haired, blue-eyed blogger here has melungeon relatives himself!)

While the story is told with remarkably gentle, good humor and significant effort is described as the author strives for insight into her heritage, I found the book actually lacking in depth, but not in an unpleasant way. I'm not sure other people's relatives are all that interesting in the first place, but Miss Alther does succeed in painting a colorful, fun portrait of her kith and kin. In fact, the best parts of the book are those that focus on the specific actions and reactions of her relatives as she goes on this journey of personal discovery. I actually wish I could hang out with her dad. He sounds like a hoot!

The book talks a lot about race and what people think about race. It gently explores changing ideas about race and racial identity and does probe those ideas as far as I would care to read about someone doing such probing.

All in all, it's an ok book. I gave it three stars on my Good Reads list because it's just ok. I didn't hate it. I found parts of it very amusing, especially parts in the beginning that, like I said, focus on specific events associated with people in her family. It reminds me of David Sedaris but without so much melancholy and therefore not as much insight. I don't have any big criticisms of the book, but I don't have anything really great to say, either.

Would I recommend it to you? Probably not. It's not a very remarkable book.

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September 24, 2007

Movie Review: Death to Supermodels

Mister Bookworm and I pulled Death to Supermodels up from On Demand thinking that it might be a really funny satire of the modeling industry, perhaps like Zoolander.

I think Jaime Pressly is hilarious on My Name is Earl, so I was expecting it to be similarly hysterical.

The plot is beyond improbable; it's inexplicable, inconsistent, and meandering. The humor shows a sophomoric obsession with sex, farting, and body odor. The acting is simply strange and Jaime Pressly's character is surprisingly bland.

Disappointment turned to frustration and we turned the movie off.

Do not watch this movie. Period.

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Movie Review: Helvetica

helvetica.jpgMister Bookworm and I went down to the IFC Center and watched Helvetica, which is a movie, you've probably guessed, about the typeface, Helvetica.

The movie goes over the history of the type, who made it, why they made it, how it got used, how it gets used today, and the various design ideas about the font. From the site:

Helvetica is a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which will celebrate its 50th birthday in 2007) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. The film is an exploration of urban spaces in major cities and the type that inhabits them, and a fluid discussion with renowned designers about their work, the creative process, and the choices and aesthetics behind their use of type.

The font arose out of the modernist design movement in the late 50's, swept the world in corporate rebranding efforts in the 60's and 70's and even found its way into GUI design for OS's. It's used everywhere and numerous designers in the film refer to the font as "air" or "gravity" because it is so ubiquitous in design.

I really appreciate the structure of the film which starts with history and moves seamlessly into the older designers, Swiss designers, who really adore the typeface. From there it segues nicely into the growth of the font from being regarded as archetypically modern to being archetypically, well, typical. Then, the film talks to designers who hate the typeface and rebel against it. Throughout everyone, regardless of their preferences for or against it, acknowledge the strength and timeless utility of Helvetica.

My only criticism of the movie was that I found the conclusion to be somewhat weak, in fact, my mind wandered during the last ten minutes and I don't even know what they were talking about.

Overall, though, I found the film to be really fascinating. It was well done and the cinematography definitely showed a designer's eye for composition. If you're a designer or at all interested in design, I would recommend this film to you.

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September 10, 2007

Book Review: Masque of the Black Tulip

I finished reading The Masque of the Black Tulip today. This is the sequel to The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, which you will recall I enjoyed for its giddy, romantic adventuresomeness. (Is that a word?)

I was excited about this second book because I was really hoping that some of the problems from the first book would be corrected. I wasn't completely disappointed. This book did have a reference to a dark mound of curly hair between a certain female's legs, which I read aloud to Mister Bookworm last night. He's so cute when he's horrified.

In this book, we delve deeper (no pun intended) into two supporting characters from the first novel. They aren't nearly as colorful as the previous hero and heroine, but they are fun. The conflict is a bit more well-developed, but the plot did seem to revolve more heavily around the romance and less about the intrigue. This undoubtedly appeals to the main demographic to which these books seem to be striving to appeal, namely women.

I was particularly happy to seen The Pink Carnation in action again with a little more detail. I kind of love her, so I hope she appears in another novel.

The "live" romance of Eloise and Colin continues in this latest book and it is even more distracting than it was in the first book. Eloise is annoying and banal. I want a big rock to fall on her and Colin, perhaps a moment before he confesses his love for her. I just don't go in for all this emotional distress some people have over romance. Eloise's adolescent preoccupation with looking silly in front of people is ironic given how silly she admits to being. But not the fun kind of irony.

The identity of the Black Tulip is obvious from the introduction of the character. There is one surprise at the very end that I probably should have predicted, but didn't. It's not all that shocking to me, really. I kind of hope that Lord Vaughn appears again.

I'm going to take a break from this series of books before picking up the third one, but I will still call these worthwhile reads. It's imperfect and the modern sort of personal philosophy that the author has is glaring at points, but the overall sense of life is one of childlike joy.

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September 07, 2007

I Am a Famous Book Critic

I'm famous, y'all! Arcade Publishing, the publisher of Secret Societies, found my review of their book and featured it on their website! Click the link, it's the last one in the list.

So cool!

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September 06, 2007

What's In My DVR?

Because I know you really want to know, here are the series I have set to record in my DVR:

The Dresden Files (I think this was taken off the air)
Stargate SG-1
Family Guy
American Dad
Top Design
Legion of Super Heroes (Stupid cartoon. This SHOULD be taken off the air.)
The Batman
Xiaolin Showdown
Teen Titans (Haven't been any new episodes in a long time.)
Avatar: The Last Airbender
My Name is Earl
The Office
Shear Genius
Stargate Atlantis
The Unit
30 Rock
Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School
The Sarah Silverman Program
Reno 911!
The 4400
Man vs. Wild
The Big Gay Sketch Show
Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes
Rick & Steve: Happiest Gay Couple in the World
The Venture Brothers
I Hate My 30's
Flipping Out
Welcome to the Parker
Top Chef
Tim Gunn's Guide to Style
The Closer

Anything you think I should add?

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Tim Gunn's Guide to Style

So, in case you didn't know, Tim Gunn is one of the hosts of the Bravo show, Project Runway. He's the guy who walks around while the designers are working and gives them some feedback.

He's always wearing a suit and, frankly, he's a great looking older gentleman. It's all because he presents himself well.

He's a moron with regard to his personal philosophy -- he believes in psychics and whatnot -- but he has a great look.

ANYWAY, he's getting his own show, which was to premier tomorrow night. Well, Bravo, in their infinite sneakiness, actually premiered the show tonight.

I've been really interested to see how this show turns out because, frankly, it doesn't sound very different from TLC's What Not to Wear.

In TLC's What Not to Wear, they find someone who isn't dressing themselves properly, go through their clothes, throw everything out, tell them what they should be wearing, and then give them a little shopping spree. The show is hosted by a man and a woman who proclaim that they are fashion experts.

In Tim Gunn's Guide to Style, someone who isn't dressing properly finds them and then they go through their clothes, keep some things, get rid of some things, tell them what they should be wearing, and then send them on a little shopping trip. The show is hosted by Tim Gun and supermodel, Veronica Webb.

Not very different.

The show is presented as being TOTALLY DIFFERENT because Tim isn't trying to change his subject. He's trying to teach them to find their own style.

Watching it, I have to say that I am not impressed. I hate saying that, because I want this show to be as fun and fabulous as Project Runway.

Veronica Webb is overly tan and I hate her haircut. Can someone talk to her about proportion with regard to the size of her head on camera? I can tell she's beautiful, but her head looks very small and her shoulders look very broad. Also, am I mistaken or is she eleven feet tall? She looks like a maniac, but I think I kind of like her. She might be a little too normal for television. (Also, Ronnie. You don't mind if I call you 'Ronnie,' do you? Baby, stop pursing your lips like that.)

How can I describe this show? It's dull and unfocused.

They do too many things! This woman has seen a life stylist and a clothing designer. She got a surprise handbag from Coach. She visited Tim Gunn's office where they looked at her on a computer. They went to her house. They talked to her sister. They went through her clothes. They went shopping. They went for a bra fitting. They had some surprise woman show up -- I think it was her mom. They're doing her hair and make up. And I still have another 15 minutes to go in the show!

And amid this FRENZY of activity, we get these strange, gossipy interludes of Tim and Veronica sitting in front of a blue screen talking about the show as we're watching it. Unlike the people on What Not to Wear who talk to one another and are participating in the show when they make comments, Tim and Veronica are talking to us or someone sitting in the living room with us. It's disjointed and distracting.

This show -- again I hate saying this -- is like a college production of What Not to Wear. They're trying too much and they don't seem to know what they're trying to accomplish.

They just gave her a string of black Tahitian pearls and now she's putting on a surprise fashion show. TOO MUCH! TOO MUCH!

My suggestions:
- Make the show a lot simpler. Cut out some of the activities. Focus on a few, essential few. I suggest the clothes sorting, the life stylist, the hair and make-up transformation, and the fashion show. These are personal and different from TLC's version of this show.

- Let us get to know the 'characters' a little more instead of trying to dazzle us with activities.

- Don't get rid of the Tim & Veronica chats, but try to integrate them better. These are the most informative and insightful parts of the show and spell out for us things that we might not be able to pick up on by ourselves, for example, I didn't realize the lady was as upset as she was until you told me. Just make these better.

The biggest challenges with shows like this are the limited number of characters and the extremely simple plot covering a huge arc. There are really only three people in the show and two of them are on the same "team," so conflict is difficult. Tim and Veronica are supposed to be helping them, so the conflict can't get too heated or else they will fail. And fail at what? Fail at teaching this woman how to dress herself. Not too complicated.

So, I get that.

But this show needs help.

I've got it in my DVR, so I will continue to follow it, but if it doesn't improve, they're going to have to take it off the air.

Final remarks now that I've seen the whole show.

- Love the follow-up. That could be a lot more robust. Why not show us a new week of reformed clothing to compare to the week of bad clothes we saw at the beginning?

- Veronica, love you in a fedora and a tank top even if the look is a bit too hipster for you sitting next to Tim Gunn. But it makes your head look bigger and your shoulders narrower. Much better.

Update: I forgot to mention the INSANE amount of product placement in the show. Bravo always does this, though, and I love marketing, so I'm not hating on them for it, but it's getting a little bit like The Truman Show with some of the placements.

Update 2: I am informed by Buddhista that Veronica Webb does not have a bad tan. She says, "Veronica Webb is not overly tan, she is black or of mixed racial background with bad foundation." Wikipedia alleges, "She is of African-American, German & Iroquois descent."

Buddhista also said that Veronica is very cool in person, which makes me happy. I'm glad she's a nice person, but my point is that she looked like a freak on teevee last night. Make it work!

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September 04, 2007

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

I mentioned that I was reading The Secret of the Pink Carnation before and I also mentioned that I was enjoying it quite a bit. While I would still endorse Lauren Willig's first novel, I now have the benefit of a broader view of the work.

Before you read further, I do mention some specific items from the story that may be considered spoilers, but if you read this book, you'll also see that there really isn't much to spoil about the book -- and I do not mean that as an insult. The story is predictable, but not pat. One should read the book for... well, I'll get to that.

The form of the book is that of a book within a book where the main story, that of the Pink Carnation, an English spy in Napoleon's Paris, is told amid interludes of a modern grad student in London who is researching the Pink Carnation for her doctoral work.

The overall tone of the work is one of smart good humor. Even though the author obviously enjoys making references to classical literature (something I rather enjoy reading) and exercising a very broad vocabulary -- not unlike 19th century English authors, really -- I appreciate that the book is consistently playful and joyous. There isn't a single moment where I thought the narrator was smirking at me.

I have two complaints about the book.

First, the "heroine" is an idiot. In the reader's guide, Willig says that she wanted to "bedevil [her] hero, not with an enemy, but with an unwanted ally. A strong-minded heroine set on unmasking him -- so she can help him." Yes, Amy is quite strong-minded and I appreciate that she is tough without compromising her femininity. But Amy is an idiot, an inconsistent idiot at that. At first, we're set thinking that she's actually quite smart and clever in addition to being strong-willed and determined. She read Latin and Ancient Greek classics on her own growing up. She spent her playtime devising spy plans, schemes, and disguises. But when it comes to reality, she leaps to conclusions and ignores obvious clues. Yes, this provides us with some humor and mild suspense, but in all it makes Amy look like a moron unworthy of the sort of hero that the Purple Gentian is supposed to be.

After a couple hundred pages of Amy's unredeeming bumbling and emotional outbursts, it wasn't long before I became interested in more information about Jane and Miss Gwen who are infinitely more mysterious, sensible, and unexpectedly entertaining. Jane, in particular, is poised and smart as Amy really should be. Miss Gwen is gutsy and hilariously blood-thirsty. More time could have been spent on them to my great joy and satisfaction.

Speaking of which, the recovery of the Swiss gold gets disappointingly short shrift.

My second complaint is about an excess of detail regarding the acts of romantic intimacy that the hero and heroine engage in.

Amy's nails dug into the hard muscles of his upper arms, the pressure of his arousal against her sensitive nub driving her half wild with unfulfilled desire. "Oh, Richard..."

It was more than flesh and blood could bear. With the sound of his name whistling in his ear, Richard plunged, checking only slightly as he felt the barrier of her virginity giving way.

This description and others like it manage to be both an excess and a bore.

It's excessive because the details of their physical intimacy (earlier in the book there is a mention of a finger probing dark, moist places) do not add anything of value to the book in terms of theme, plot, or characterization.

I understand that the idea is that Amy and Richard simply cannot resist one another. Their attraction is physical and spiritual, but that is well established before these details are provided, which is why these things are a bore.

If you're going to embed erotica in a novel, you need to create a sense of surprise and mystery in addition to suspense about the physical act. In this book, we read of torn bodices and know immediately what is going to happen and nothing stops it from happening. Isn't bodice ripping a cliche somewhere?

I don't object to the physical intimacy itself because I actually like that the heroes are not restrained by any foolish sense of tradition or propriety. They know they love one another and they express it through the physical act. That much is proper. I object to the presentation both in the specificity of the description and the pacing within the story.

By contrast, the story of the grad student, Eloise, which contains the story of the Pink Carnation, has so far shown significant restraint an remains somewhat intriguing to the reader, although I have two warnings (I'm reluctant to call them complaints.) about this aspect of the novel:

1) these interludes with Eloise quickly become background noise to Amy's story and verge dangerously on being interruptions. The shifts between first person and third person are an effective barrier between the past and the present, but it opens up several questions to the reader. And the fact that it's so brief leaves us wondering why it's in the book at all.

2) The progression of events with Eloise doesn't avoid patness as well as those with Amy. Eloise's story occupies less than a quarter of the whole book and moves forward with the pitch and finesse of a drunken fratboy.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read. The reason you read this book is for the bubbly, playful sense of well-being that the novel has. It's light, fun, and humorous. There isn't enough suspense to make this a real "page turner" for me, but there's enough for me to recommend taking it to the beach with you.

Thematically, there isn't anything profound here. It's merely a love story. It aims to be the sort of romantic, swash-buckling adventure sort of like The Scarlet Pimpernel (the parallels are obvious even without the several references to the Pimpernel in the book. Also, is it advisable to position a fictional character from another author in your book as real in order to lend plausibility to your own?) or even Pirates of the Caribbean. It's been years since I've read the Pimpernel, so I can't say how well it compares and a comparison with a movie is challenging.

Bottom line: it's a fun book. I'm going to read the next one and I'll let you know how it turns out.

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August 23, 2007


I started a new book the other day, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig.

I only really read on the subway when I don't have company, so I usually only get 20 pages or so done each day. At this moment, I'm not even 100 pages into the tale, but --

BUT! I am so loving it!

It's so much fun! The characters are cute, the descriptions are all vivid, poetic, and succinct. Miss Willig demonstrates a real playfulness in tone and diction that I really thoroughly enjoy.

Buddhista recommended this book and its sequel to me and I am very happy that I bought them both on the spot. I am only sorry at the moment of having waited so long to start them. And now that I looked them up on Amazon, I've found that there is a third book in the series! I do so hope that the entire book and the others live up to the expectations set in the first 63 pages of this one!

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August 02, 2007


Now and then the vandal alleged to be an artist that goes by the pseudonym "Banksy" crosses my field of view and my curiosity is momentarily piqued.

Last night, I attended another art show by a young New York artist. I had seen his work before and I am sad to say that his earlier work shows far more promise than his later stuff, which could almost make interesting t-shirt designs.

People attend art show openings for the free booze. At the last show, I was standing in line to get a free martini and someone commented about a particular painting of the Brooklyn Bridge. They liked it.

I said, "I think you've chosen well; that one does show the greatest 'artistic' (I put gentle air quotes around that word) merit. The most interesting aspect is his combination of the cezannesque distortion of perspective there with the broken horizon line and the pop-art -- even lichtensteinian -- technique. I think he should explore this technique further and consider taking it back to its folk art roots by playing with pattern."

The crowd backed away slowly. I think they were afraid I was about to ask them if they could spare a dime.

I don't like pop-art and most of Cezanne's work warrants a strong dose of dramamine, but I figure if we're going to be pretentious and stand around in all black, sipping martinis, someone should at least pay some consideration to the things on the wall. And I'm a show-off.

My other comments about this particular artist's work weren't nearly so generous, but I kept those between me and my catty friend who was with me. I think I said something about "vapid" and "socially irrelevant" and "aesthetically stupid."

By coincidence Mister Bookworm and I were talking about Banksy earlier in the day. He sent me this article from the New Yorker.

Sometimes "Banksy" is very right.

Banksy agreed to answer some questions over e-mail. He was wryly eloquent, but his banter seemed less playful than it has in the past. “I don’t think art is much of a spectator sport these days,” he began. “I don’t know how the art world gets away with it, it’s not like you hear songs on the radio that are just a mess of noise and then the d.j. says, ‘If you read the thesis that comes with this, it would make more sense.’ ”

Most of the time he's not.

The things he's most famous for are vandalism and I think, regardless of any merit one may ascribe to it, he should be punished for it.

He does do canvases, though. Garbage.

Banksy and I are both surprised that people buy it.

I think the artist I went to see is terrible, but at least he has a certain innocence to him. He thinks his work is cute, fun, interesting. He's proud of it.

Banksy is malicious and vile because he knows that what he's doing is garbage. But he keeps doing it. And he continues to do it. Anonymity aside, he's proud of the mess he makes.

Instead of rebelling against the art world by producing garbage, why not produce art that is actually really, really good?

It's been done, I guess. Shit isn't any good if it's the same shit day after day, right, Banksy?

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July 24, 2007


I just finished reading the latest and last Harry Potter book.

It was very exciting.

I won't spoil anything for you, but I will say this: every single one of the predictions I made about the book were completely and utterly wrong.

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July 23, 2007

The Evolution of Woman

Things really start going downhill for you guys at the end.

500 Years of Female Portraits Morph

Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael - Raffaello, Titian - Tiziano Vecellio , Sandro Botticelli , Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Antonello da Messina, Pietro Perugino, Hans Memling, El Greco, Hans Holbein, Fyodor Stepanovich Rokotov , Peter Paul Rubens, Gobert, Caspar Netscher, Pierre Mignard, Jean-Marc Nattier, Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Alexei Vasilievich Tyranov, Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky, Alexey Gavrilovich Venetsianov, Antoine-Jean Gros, Orest Adamovich Kiprensky, Amalie, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Édouard Manet, Flatour, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Wontner, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Comerre, Leighton, Blaas, Renoir, Millias, Duveneck, Cassat, Weir, Zorn, Alphonse Mucha, Paul Gaugan, Henri Matisse, Picabia, Gustav Klimt, Hawkins, Magritte, Salvador Dali, Malevich, Merrild, Modigliani, Pablo Picasso

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July 19, 2007

Come Again?

I allow Art.com to send me emails with special offers and whatnot because I think, "Well, sometimes I do buy arty things and maybe I'll want something," even though I have absolutely no wall space available at the moment.

Well, this morning, they sent me one such email that contained this little bit of imagery:


Can you see the problem?

On the left, we have some bizarre composition of what I am going to assume is vines and flowers and on the right we have a Jack Vettriano painting. Yet, the crazy collage a la Swamp Thing is labeled "Fine Art" while the Vettriano is referred to as merely "Decorative Art."


This is exactly backwards and I am hoping that it is a mistake.

Fine Art, or "High" Art, is art that exists for its own sake. It is what Ayn Rand defined as -- I'll come as close as I can recall -- the "selective recreation of reality according to the artist's metaphysical value judgments."

Decoration is what is added to give something a more pleasant appearance. In the case of wall hangings, posters, and Poison Ivy's baby pictures the point is to add something to the wall so that the room looks better.

You can use fine art to make a room look better, but it can stand on its own as something to contemplate completely apart from the environment in which it is placed.

Decorative art has but the one singular function; to attempt to derive deeper meaning from decoration is as to spend time searching for deeper meaning in Madonna's "I Love New York." Decorative art is largely devoid of any greater significance.

So, I am arching an eyebrow at art.com this morning for their grievous miscategorization of these two works.

Art, indeed. They should know the meaning of the word.

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July 18, 2007

The Whistling Song

Just so that I have this for reference later:

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July 12, 2007


And her MySpace page has more of her song.

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Marc Ronson Concert

Marc Ronson is a British DJ - producer who has worked with a number of big names in pop music today including Christina Aguilera, Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, and Robbie Williams. Well, after being behind the scenes for a long time, he has decided to get on the stage, so he put together a band and he plays lead guitar and a couple of other instruments. I went to see them last night at the Highline Ballroom.

Rumors were floated prior to the concert that Robbie Williams or Lily Allen might make an appearance. From Spin Magazine:

Ronson, the hot producer behind albums by Spin cover girl Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen, will celebrate the release of his solo album, Version, this Wednesday at NYC's Highline Ballroom, and he told SPIN.com that "a certain giant, male, mega-pop star from England" might be crossing the pond to perform with him.

Note the abundance of ambiguity. Important since Robbie Williams did not show.

The Highline Ballroom is a great space for a show. It has good sound, good lighting, and it's small. The downside being that it's small, so although the venue is intimate, it's a little too intimate should you -- as we did -- find yourself confronted with a pushy, bony, little woman determined to get up to the stage. Personally, I loved the space. I doubt there's any bad place to sit or stand in the whole place. Also, the small space limits ticket sales. The online tickets sold out pretty quickly.

Marc Ronson's band is a cover band, which is actually a lot of fun, especially because he spans several genres. Ronson himself is also super cute, which is good.

He did have several guests perform with him and most of them were quite enjoyable. There was Santogold (She's awesome), Daniel Merriweather (HOT), Alex Greenwald from Phantom Planet (Is he high?), and some rappers that I didn't recognize but I'm told are semi-famous. One of the rappers was a hoot.

We had a lot of fun, but we had a couple of complaints:

First, the set was very short. They really didn't play very many songs and several had no vocals. I think there were only about ten songs total. I think that if you're a cover band, you need to maximize the number of recognizable songs you play so that the audience has the joy of recognizing and participating in the songs with you. If you have no vocals, you're a really boring jam band because you're playing someone else's songs. (There. I said it.)

There was no encore. Of course, you're a cover band, but since Marc Ronson's CD dropped on Tuesday, you'd think that perhaps they'd play one of two of the more famous tracks, like the song that Robbie Williams performed.

One of the rappers did a rap about a kid named Ray who was picked on because everyone thought he was gay. The rap talks about Ray coming to the basketball park with a gun and shooting into the air to prove that he's tough and to tell everyone that he's tired of being picked on. The speaker in the rap even says that he threw the ball at Ray and I think if he had remained detached from the homophobia or even spoke out against it, it might not have been so bad. Instead, the song really sounded like it supported the homophobia even if it did sort of praise Ray for standing up for himself.

Conscious of the understatement for the purpose of making it more obvious I'll say there were a lot of gay men and women in the audience and these lyrics may at best be characterized as a misstep.

The whole set was fun, but seemed to go all over the place. The atmosphere was very much one of a bunch of friends getting together to jam to their favorite songs.

I only recognized a few of the covers: Ryan Adams "Amy" (A favorite song of mine), Britney Spears' "Toxic," Sir-Mix-a-lot's "Jump On It," Phantom Planet's "California." (The guy who sang "Amy" butchered it, unfortunately. I hope the album version is better.)

Santogold (linked above) opened for Ronson and I really think she was the best part of the show. Sure, cover bands are fun and all, but original stuff is more interesting. She's like a cross between Nelly Furtado and early No Doubt. I think she would do better with a band, but it was still very cool stuff.

So, anyway, there you have it. That's my scattershot review of the show last night. It was worth the $15 ticket, but it wasn't the best.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at 10:51 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

July 08, 2007


I've been watching some episodes of the HBO Showtime series, Dexter by way of HBO Showtime On Demand this morning.

The show is fascinating, but somehow not quite right.

It's a horrifying show.

The premise is that Dexter is both a crime scene blood specialist and a serial killer. It's important to note that he's a sociopath, too, because the show spends a lot of time exploring the psychology of this anti-hero.

Dexter's adopted father recognized that he was a sociopath and a would-be killer rather early on and tried to teach him to blend in with normal people. He also tells him to only kill bad people. So, Dexter finds people who kill other people and he kills them.

True to form, Dexter displays perfectly shallow affect. He's unable to relate to other people, although he does recognize that other people do have some sort of emotional reaction as they interact with other people. He spends some time trying to work out the intricacies of these reactions and interactions and tries to figure out how to imitate them.

Dexter is merely parroting the behavior of others according to arbitrary rules that he implements very heavy-handedly. It's an item of minor humor when he gets it wrong. For instance, he wanted to cheer up his girlfriend and strengthen their relationship. She had spent the day cheering up a friend whose fiance was killed and he said he would rent a DVD. "Something light," he said.

He came home with Terms of Endearment and when she was bawling her eyes out, he made inappropriate sexual advances thinking it would distract her from pressuring him to express emotions that he does not have and is unable to identify their... pathology.

The profile isn't quite complete, but I can't put my finger on why -- apart from the character's obsession with being a just killer and satisfying the memory of his dead father. Maybe that is what makes the portrait flawed.

Well, there's that and Dexter's perhaps unwitting sense of humor. His boat is named "Slice of Life."

The people who make the show seem to be testing our sense of justice.

Dexter kills killers. He does so out of a stated desire to give these people what they deserve. I've only seen him commit one murder and it was a man that the police had not been able to catch. He was bringing immigrants from Cuba and then killing them if their families wouldn't pay him a lot of money.

I suspect that the notion that vigilante justice is acceptable is rather common. Batman does it.

The show adds an extra level of conflict for the viewers in that Dexter isn't a mere vigilante. His motivation isn't really to bring justice. He kills because he's a killer. He's a sociopath. He is driven by a desire to kill that he only tempers and restrains with the excuse of justice. His true motive is simply bloodlust and that places the viewer in the uncomfortable position of actually siding with the closest thing to an actual devil.

This presents a lot of opportunity for stories along a single arc, but I don't see how this show could continue for very long. The theme is rather shallow.

I think I would be a lot more interested in the show, though, if the people who are (or would be) trying to catch him were smarter.

I have some other complaints about the show, but I find myself interested to see how things play out with this character. I don't sympathize with him and I don't feel any satisfaction when he kills his killers. But his brand of evil is so offensive because he does manage to pass among normal people and his own lack of extreme emotion breeds a rather clinical desire to have him shown to justice.

So far, he's managed to evade the police. We'll see.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at 12:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 26, 2007

Xtina No More

A few years ago during the Jesstinitney War of Poplet Princessdom, Christina Aguilera came away looking like a regular skank. No one can deny that the woman has a great voice but she was lacking in class.

Well, her latest incarnation is a vast improvement. I love these two videos from her latest album because they're stylized and fun. She's gorgeous and she doesn't look like a complete prostitute. (We have to ignore the song lyrics a little bit, though.) I hope she keeps this trend going.

Also, props to RCA Records for posting The Candyman video to YouTube. I love that the record company is embracing YouTube and promoting their products through that medium.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at 08:16 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 22, 2007

If the Robots Win, We'll Have to Listen to Techno

I don't remember how I found this band -- they may have sent me MySpace Spam -- but I really like their songs. I wish they had more of them.

Maldroid is a sort punk sort of band. Their lyrics are pretty simple and quirky. My favorite song is called "Heck No!" and the chorus starts with "If the robots win, we'll have to listen to techno. Heck no! I'll never listen to techno!" It's fun.

So, check them out!

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at 10:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

There's Hateration up in this Dance-arie

Reuters: Hacker claims Harry Potter's alleged ending on Web

BOSTON (Reuters) - The mystery surrounding the end to fictional British boy wizard Harry Potter's saga deepened on Wednesday with a computer hacker posting what he said were key plot details and a publisher warned the details could be fake.

The hacker, who goes by the name "Gabriel," claims to have taken a digital copy of author J.K. Rowling's seventh and final book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," by breaking into a computer at London-based Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

For months now, leading up to the book's July 21 release, legions of "Harry Potter" fans have debated whether Rowling killed Harry or one of his best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, in the final book.

Gabriel has posted information at Web site InSecure.org that, if true, would answer that question.

"We make this spoiler to make reading of the upcoming book useless and boring," Gabriel said in the posting.

Ridiculous. I don't think that the people who did this really understand the purpose of art as fuel for the soul.

I enjoy the Harry Potter books because they're about a young man learning about reality and applying his knowledge to the end of producing happiness for himself and those he loves. There are strong themes of friendship and integrity in the books as well. One reads and enjoys them because they affirm a positive sense of life. You don't read them just to find out what happens -- although what happens is the mechanism by which that sense of life is developed.

All the same, knowing how it turns out wouldn't ruin my enjoyment of the book at all.

That said, I went to the hacker website and read the alleged spoiler. I'm skeptical. I don't think the ending that he describes is wholly consistent with Rowling's philosophy, but I could be wrong.

The most interesting aspect of the whole thing is the reason the hacker gives for doing this:

Yes, we did it. We did it by following the precious words of the great Pope Benedict XVI when he still was Cardinal Josepth Ratzinger. He explained why Harry Potter bring the youngs of our earth to Neo Paganism faith.

So we make this spoiler to make reading of the upcoming book useless and boring.

The attack strategy was the easiest one.
The usual milw0rm downloaded exploit delivered by email/ click-on-the-link/ open-browser/ click-on-this-animated-icon/ back-connect to some employee of Bloomsbury Publishing, the company that's behind the Harry crap.

It's amazing to see how much people inside the company have copies and drafts of this book.
Curiosity killed the cat.

Who kill curiosity?

To protect you and your families

God bless you


Reuters made it sound like "Gabriel" is just a snotty, mean-spirited person who has set out to spoil the ending for the sake of just spoiling the book. This letter reveals that he believes himself on a mission from God, which is a very different kind of evil.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at 09:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 19, 2007

Shocked to Tears

Chip Gibbons posted this You Tube video of Paul Potts (I hope that he was born before 1975 with a name like that) singing on Britain's Got Talent:

Even though Chip said it brought him to tears the first time he saw this, I wasn't prepared. This poor man is ugly. He has speech problems. He doesn't articulate himself very well, nor does he carry himself with confidence.

The judges visibly brace themselves for disappointment when he steps to the mic and says that he's going to sing opera.

And then he sings. Boy, does he sing. It's glorious.

And I'm pleased to hear from Chip that Paul wins the contest, too.

Well done. Very well done.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at 05:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 15, 2007

Fraud, Lies, and Fiction

Fraud, lies, and fiction. Criminal, immoral, and paid.

I didn't blog about it, but maybe you followed the drama of J.T. Leroy on your own. Small world. I actually new a designer who worked with "J.T." but that's neither here nor there.

J.T. Leroy is a fictional person who wrote semi-fictional non-fiction. Did you follow that?

Basically, author Laura Albert made up this J.T. Leroy persona and then wrote semi-autobiographical novels and short-stories under the name. The stories generally revolve around transgenderism, drug use, and prostitution.

I've never read any of her work.

Well, Laura Albert is being sued for fraud. The New York Times reports on it, but I found out through Galley Cat:

Rumors have swirled the last few weeks that Laura Albert, the now-infamous writer responsible for the "J.T. Leroy" persona, was being sued by film producers on the basis that she misrepresented herself as someone else and so they shouldn't have to make the movie as a result.

Of course, Albert likely claims artistic license with regard to her fiction and lies and naturally claims that they shouldn't be conflated to the level of fraud.

Push the clutch.

In 1940, existentialist Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges wrote a story called Tlon, Uqbar, and Orbis Tertius. The story is basically one in which a bunch of people undertake to propagate a fiction as if it were true and suddenly physical artifact from their fiction being springing into existence.

In the story, an encyclopedia article about a mysterious country called Uqbar is the first indication of Orbis Tertius, a massive conspiracy of intellectuals to imagine (and thereby create) a world: Tlön. Relatively long for Borges (approximately 5600 words), the story is a work of speculative fiction. One of the major themes of "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" is that ideas ultimately manifest themselves in the physical world and the story is generally viewed as a parabolic discussion of Berkeleian idealism — and to some degree as a protest against totalitarianism.

If that sounds crazy to you, just try reading it in Spanish if you aren't fluent in Spanish. I think it took me some three hours to read it and at the end I was like, "Whaaaat?" That's true of many of Borges' stories though.

The notion of fiction becoming non-fiction or getting mixed up with the real world has been a dream, aspiration, practice of authors for a very long time.

Michael Crichton's novels routinely mix historical and scientific fact with fiction. Edward Cline's Sparrowhawk series portrays fictional characters as being involved in actual historical events, namely the American Revolution. one could make a list miles long of similar examples.

A friend of mine recently described an idea for a novel he has in which he would like to invoke the name of actual scientists and historians as authorities on a fictional ancient city-state somewhere in south-western Europe or west Asia. He wants to get their permission, of course, and his intent isn't to propagate the fiction, but merely to mix some modern-day elements of reality into his fiction.

The idea behind mixing fact and fiction is to create a fiction that is more engrossing.


James Frey got Oprah Winfrey to dress him down on national television when he wrote a fiction and claimed that it was real.

Oprah's outrage stemmed from the fact that she believed the story in A Million Little Pieces to be true, but it wasn't. She was inspired by the story of this criminal and drug user cleaning himself up and finding happiness and success in life.

I've been told that the book stands well as fiction as well. I haven't read this one, either.

I think some people are more inspired when an inspiring story is true. I have not observed a similar response in myself, but it's not beyond the realm of possibility, I suppose.

While I can appreciate the value of infusing a fictional story with non-fictional elements, the need to propagate the fiction out into reality strikes me as not only superfluous and the sign of a very weak author, but as we can see in the case of J.T. Leroy criminal.

Some elements of reality are inherently a part of all good fiction. The elements may not be specific, proper nouns, but parallels are always drawn. If an author describes a large, bustling city, readers immediately imagine New York or some other metropolis within the context of their knowledge.

Only non-art and bad art attempts to avoid any parallels with reality. For examples, please review the work of non-representational painters and sculptors or the work of performance artists, interpretive dancers, and the like. I'm fairly confident Bertold Brecht attempted something like it in theater, but I'm not certain.

Good art shows its audience the world as it really could be. Powerful art shows us the world as it could and should be.

Could these liars be considered innocent? Might we think that they're merely trying to make powerful art even closer to reality and applaud their effort even if misguided? I don't think so, but I can see someone trying to make that excuse. The problem is that one can't fake reality. Either this is a world in which the underdog can succeed through hard work and determination or it isn't. You can't make the world something it isn't by lying and saying it is.

But we needn't lie about great fiction. We know that it's a projection and not a reflection. Lying about it doesn't help it; if anything it hurts it. So, I think we can't do anything but assume that the work isn't very good if the author is compelled to lie to us about whether or not it's true.

And I think we can all agree that bilking people out of their money is just plain wrong and does nothing whatsoever to help the work.

Fraud, lies, and fiction. Criminal, immoral, and paid. J.T. Leroy, James Frey, and Michael Crichton.

Put it in park. Let's go get some ice-cream.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at 11:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)