Friday, June 27, 2008

Ask Mr. Movie Person

Q: Mr. Movie Person, what did you see this week?

A: Mr. Movie Person saw Wanted, a new action thriller with Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman. It's based on the 2004 Top Cow comic book series by Mark Millar.

Q: What did you think?

A: Mr. Movie Person thought it was OK. It's the story of how a young schlub (James McAvoy) learns of his connection to a guild of super-assassins called the Fraternity (Yes, Mr. Movie Person knows that technically Ms. Jolie is a soror rather than a frater, but he didn't write the movie). He is recruited by Ms. Jolie and taught by several of the guild, including its Obi-Wan figure, played by Mr. Freeman.

The fight, chase and shooting effects are probably the first time since The Matrix that something new shows up in this area, and are real eye-poppers. The story has a Lucasian twist about two-thirds in that will totally take you by surprise if this is the first movie you've ever seen. Writers Michael Brandt, Derek Haas and Chris Morgan also apparently didn't think a movie with bloody bullet effects and people being beaten up quite graphically could secure the rating they wanted, so they put the R rating's magic word in everybody's mouth, including Mr. Freeman. The first time he says it kind of rocks, but the second is stupid.

Q: Should both of your readers see it?

A: They might like it, but they should probably wait for the dollar-theater run.

Q: Any fun previews?

A: We saw the first trailers for Righteous Kill, starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and a host of Mr. Movie Person's favorites. It probably won't be as good as Heat, the only other time DeNiro and Pacino shared a screen, but Mr. Movie Person will pony up like the crime drama sucker he is.

We also saw a trailer for Pineapple Express. Mr. Movie Person is reluctant to say this will be the stupidest movie ever, because he hasn't seen every movie ever made. And he doesn't want to judge it without seeing, but he has no intention of wasting two hours of his life finding out. So Mr. Movie Person will stick with thinking it'll be the stupidest movie ever.

Q: Mr. Movie Person, a few days ago you said M. Night Shymalan's new movie, The Happening, was dumb. Could you elaborate?

A: Mr. Movie Person thinks that, in the category of movies about plants that want to kill people, The Happening beats out Little Shop of Horrors (both versions) in believability and writing but lags way behind The Day of the Triffids.

Q: Did you just stick that in because you don't have enough material on The Happening for a full post and you wanted to get your Triffids joke in?

A: Next question.

Q: Are you familiar with Dave Barry's old question-and-answer format schtick of his Mr. Language Person column?

A: No relation.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Seen at the (New) Gym...

The TVs were tuned to the College World Series (although for a few terrifying and nauseating minutes, the one directly in front of me was on Wife Swap).

I noticed all the players wore gloves when they batted. I'm not sure what I feel about this. Now, I should mention at the outset that I am in no way some great ballplayer. If Clark Kent tossed me underhand slowpitch softballs and I swung a kryptonite bat, I'd go one for four, and that only because the scorekeeper felt sorry for me and ruled a hit the error that let me on base.

But on the other hand, let's look at some numbers. The last guy to average better than .400 in a season was Ted Williams, who hit .406 in 1941. The last guy to come close to hitting .400 was George Brett with a .390 in 1980. Neither wore batting gloves. Brett is the only guy to win batting titles in three different decades, and as mentioned, he didn't wear batting gloves (He was known to prefer an alternate method of improving his grip). The baseball equipment company he owns with his brothers does not sell batting gloves.

Take the top 100 seasonal batting averages in baseball and the only guy who makes the list who wore batting gloves is Larry Walker, whose 1999 mark of .379 ranks 96th.

In fact, since Rusty Staub became one of the first players to wear batting gloves regularly in 1969, Brett and Walker are the only two to have a season-long batting average among the top 100. Supposedly Ken Harrelson was the first player to wear a glove in a regular season game, when he donned a red golf glove to protect his blistered hands on Sept. 4, 1964 in Kansas City, as his Athletics played the Yankees. Harrelson said he hit the ball an estimated 450 feet, and wore gloves the rest of his career. His career average was .239.

In unrelated news, I debuted in the Kansas City area two days later, and I am told the doctor wore gloves as well. I don't know if he followed the Cosby childbirth method, which would have made the glove a catcher's mitt.

So before gloves, lots and lots of seasonal averages among the best 100 in baseball history. After gloves, exactly two, and only one of those players wore gloves.

Someone should do the math.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In the Hands of Such a Lot of Fools...

Moving back into a larger metro area means, among other things, more radio stations to choose from. This gives me the problem of just which ones do I want to program in my truck: Only six buttons, so six FM and six AM are what I've got. Before, I might settle for a preset on a station I might listen to for 30 seconds in order to avoid a really obnoxious auto dealership commercial (I know -- that doesn't narrow the list much) just so I could avoid blank buttons. Now I'm wondering just which stations I want instantly available and which ones I'll have to wait two or three whole seconds for while the search button finds them.

Among the offerings is KOJK-FM, a station that calls itself "Jack-FM." The Jack format is used by about three or four dozen stations around the US, Canada and the UK and describes itself with the tagline, "Playing what we want." The story at the format originator station, in Canada, was that a longtine radio guy named "Cadillac Jack" Garrett finally bought his own station and would now play what he wanted to play instead of what a corporation or station told him to play.

"What we want" is a mix of big and maybe not-so-big hits from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, with a sprinkling of more recent stuff thrown in from the adult contemporary lists. The songs are mixed randomly, so Billy Joel might lead into U2, who might themselves lead into KC and the Sunshine Band. The Jack FM station in Kansas City once followed The Captain and Tennille's "Do That To Me One More Time" with AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long," and my sister claimed it gave her whiplash.

Jack-FM stations don't have on-air personalities. Sometimes you miss them, but I have to say that every time some radio inflicts Jack and Ron on me I consider the no-DJ policy to rival Hammurabi's Code for regulatory wisdom.

The Jack-FM format takes longer to get tired than most radio formats, since the playlist usually has more songs in it. But it does get tired eventually. There's never anything new, and rarely anything old. It's my age group's version of the classic rock format the Big Chill-dren imposed on us when we were in our teens and twenties and wanted to hear something on the radio other than "Satisfaction," "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" or "Knights in White Satin" again (True story: Once, when listening to an OKC classic rock station, I heard a man call in an request a Led Zeppelin song. "Which one?" the DJ asked. "Oh, waitaminute, man, I'll go look at the album and tell you.")

It'd be easy to say that OKC radio stinks -- but most radio today stinks in most places. The only different things you hear are over on the left end of the dial when the local NPR stations do some of their various shows featuring some blues, jazz or world music that will never ever ever ever ever get played on a commercial station. Other than that, they're all stuck in format ruts. For example, I know that if I hear a female singing on KATT-FM, it'll be Amy Lee, since the hard rock musical format's girl division apparently has room only for Evanescence. Maybe Lita Ford will get a temporary visa to KATT-land when she plays Pryor next month.

Music radio's homogenized sterility comes as companies buy more stations and re-tool them to save costs, pre-programming formats across the country and piping in morning shows from somewhere else. A station in Oklahoma City sounds no different than a station of the same format in St. Louis or Tuscon or Schenectady, and pretty soon you're listening to Radio Nowhere. Usually the claim is that reduced quality is an unfortunate and really, very minor side-effect of the changes needed to maintain profitability. Maybe. But then I look at the amazing variety of music people listen to, download and chat about online and I have to wonder if the homogenization isn't the cause of the reduced revenue, instead of its solution.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Does Whatever a Spider Can...

Peter Parker, please call your office...
(Yes, it's probably a viral ad campaign, but still it's pretty darn neat-looking)

Four Words You Can Say...

Thank you, George Carlin.

He was no great friend of organized religion and chalked up a lot of humanity's problems to what he called religious superstition. But Carlin had a first-class mind and offered some pretty pointed critiques of society that would not be out of place in the pulpit on Sunday morning, like this one (Warning for those concerned: Carlin's free-range vocabulary is evident).

Carlin understood that satire works best as a scalpel, which has to make its cuts cleanly and with precision. Way too much stuff that gets called satire today, either in print or performed, works more like peeling a grape with an ax. The target is indeed sliced open, but since it's pretty much destroyed, and there's nothing left of it, who cares?

He critiqued his targets with this satirical eye, never seeming to forget that one of satire's key ingredients is humor -- if you mock something and nobody laughs, then all you're doing is complaining, and there's plenty of that to go around.

Happy trails, Rufus.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What the? (Again)

It would seem that in order to be a judge in Canada, you not only don't need much of a legal mind, you don't need much of a mind at all.

Seriously? A judge actually hears the case of a 12-year-old suing to overturn her grounding, let alone decides in the little darling's favor? Add this to the Canadian issues with free speech, and it seems like someone should get in touch with M. Night Shymalan, because it looks like there's some kind of massive brain shutdown across the country and he just made a lame movie about exactly that phenomenon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I'm a science-y kind of guy. But you know, I just can't believe this is going to end well...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I haven't watched much NBA over the last couple of years -- I don't much like the game the way it's played up at that level, with the banging, slapping and non-calls for superstars on the court and the frequent lack of responsibility and adult behavior off the court.

So I'd forgotten how much fun it is to watch the Lakers lose, and how much more fun it is to watch them lose big. The only way I could have enjoyed it more would be if Kevin McHale decked Kurt Rambis again for old times' sake.

Monday, June 16, 2008


What would have been No. 9 on my list about my move, if I hadn't decided to hook it to Dad's Day:

9) Hanging out with my dad for three days while he helped me move. Yes, he drove me nuts by hands-and-knees scrubbing a floor that was going to be scoured by a professional cleaning service within a few days, but it was still cool to spend the time with him. We did breakfast at Braum's every single day he was here, because both Altus and Newcastle have them.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lucky Stops Time!

The new hourglass marshmallow charm in Lucky Charms cereal supposedly demonstrates how Lucky the leprechaun now has the power to stop time, in addition to the powers the previous charms gave him, like instantaneous teleportation (the rainbow) or control over gravity (the balloon).

I have to confess I always thought he was just one of the acceptable ethnic stereotypes we're still allowed to use, like his countryman, the Fightin' Irishman of Notre Dame. I never realized he was badder than Chuck Norris, able to bring things to life (using the heart) or turn invisible (blue moons) as well.

Since I was never a Lucky Charms eater, I'm not really tempted to rush out and buy a box to get a gander at the new charm. But if I wanted to, I could. The ability to buy any kind of cereal for any reason, whether it's just to get the cool toy inside, and to do so even when you haven't finished the box you have in the pantry -- well, that's one of the signs of adulthood.

The Lame's Afoot, Watson!

Maybe Guy Ritchie felt jealous of his wife's desire to ruin Casablanca. So now he's been hired to ruin Sherlock Holmes.

"When the impossible has been eliminated, whatever remains, however improbable, must be true," the great detective used to say. I don't think I'm alone in wishing that it was impossible for Mr. Madonna, creator of Swept Away, to be allowed a hand in interpreting Sherlock Holmes for the big screen.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Parker's Resolution

In 2005, Robert B. Parker took a little detour to the Old West in Appaloosa, his first Western with his own characters and story. He'd moseyed through the era with 2001's Gunman's Rhapsody, a retelling of the Wyatt Earp/OK Corral shootout, but this time brought two characters -- lawmen Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch -- out of his own head.

Appaloosa probably seemed like a lark for Parker. His mainstay, the wise-cracking private eye Spenser, recycled his own life history about once a decade (three times, the man's had the same almost break-up with his ladylove, Susan Silverman). His newer series, one featuring Paradise police chief Jesse Stone and the other Boston female P.I. Sunny Randall, started out fresh but had found themselves in the same rut. Jesse's stuck with his unfaithful ex-wife Jenn and Sunny with her ex-husband Richie, and neither one of them can make their relationships work or end them. Even a Jesse/Sunny liasion fizzled, and Parker's most recent Stone novel, Stranger in Paradise, wore its Spenser retreads and inheritance from the Paradise series' goofiest entry (1998's Trouble in Paradise) like dual millstones.

But then Parker moved to one of publishing's most-worn sets: the dusty trails, smoky saloons and blazing high noons of the Western. And Appaloosa crackled with the tension, life and freshness that used to give the top-flight wit of his dialogue and characterizations stories worth their cleverness.

In Resolution, Parker returns to the West and sends us on another ride with Hitch and Cole. Their opening reunion clunks a bit; he may never have intended a sequel to the first book and didn't leave a smooth way to pair them again. But once past that bumpy stretch, Resolution surges forward and sends the two on a trail that doesn't stop for breath or offer a hint of its final destination until just before the end.

Although it really hasn't been that long, it seems like a whole shelf of Parker novels has settled into libraries and dens across the country since he told a story with this much energy. I'm a Parker nut -- I could read that dialogue all day and I'm pretty sure that even when he phones it in he beats out any five major bestsellers in his genre on any given week. But it's a whole lot more fun to get one of those calls when he's got an interesting story to tell. Let Spenser retire to that bouncer job in a retirement home he once predicted for himself and let Jesse and Sunny make the fanboys' day by getting together and making Paradise, Massachusetts safe for miniature bull terriers. I'm all for Bob setting his time machine to the late 19th century and staying there.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Free the Speech, Eh?

Apparently, not every nation descended from the people who thought up the Magna Carta understands the meaning of "freedom of speech."

We should tell them we'll stop watching hockey if they don't shape up...hey, don't laugh. This year, the Stanley Cup Finals ratings were higher than professional wrestling.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Woo Hoo

The move, she is 99.8 percent finished! So now, I have learned in moving from Altus to Newcastle:

1) Moving reaaaaalllllly stinks. Especially when you have a couple of make-up trips to get the things you couldn't quite shoehorn in any of your trucks.

2) Church members who help you load are cool.

3) Church members who help you unload are cool.

4) The H.E. Bailey Turnpike has to be the only road in the free world paved in Braille.

5) Driving a U-Haul truck from west to east in a 30 MPH south wind with gusts up to 50 MPH blows.

6) Heh.

7) Sometime between the years 55 and 122, Tacitus said, "Formerly, we suffered from crimes. Now we suffer from laws." Bet on the bigger numbers as to when he said it, but not too big, as Publius Cornelius Tacitus probably died in about 117.

8) Ronald Reagan said, "Government takes from the needy and gives to the greedy." I learned this from the other side of the billboard that quotes Tacitus. The first known use of this phrase by Reagan actually refers to urban renewal programs in the early 1960s, rather than the whole government. He said it in a speech called "A Time for Choosing," delivered on national television on behalf of Barry Goldwater's presidential bid.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Kvetch, Whine, Grumble

Worst thing about moving is when I've packed up my DVD's and my player and I suddenly get the urge to watch something.

I just read a short essay on Joss Whedon's lamented Firefly, and the writer cruelly quoted some of the pilot's closing dialogue (Simon to Mal: How do I know you won’t kill me in my sleep? Mal to Simon: You don’t know me son, so let me explain this to you once. If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake, you’ll be facing me, and you’ll be armed.). So now I want to watch at least the pilot episode again, but everything's packed up, so...

Probably for the best. I've got a lot of packing yet to do.

Massively Stupid Pants

Although Dave Barry would probably tell us that "Massively Stupid Pants" might make a great name for a band, this link actually takes you to some pictures of really stupid-looking jeans.

We can say that we have hope for the world if it turns out nobody buys these things, but how much hope can we have when cold truth tells us that someone has already designed them...