Saturday, December 31, 2005

Aeon Flux

Hi Folks,
I know that I said there wouldn't be any more entries this year, but I came down with a nasty cold the day I got home, and it still has me in its clutches, so we didn't go to my brother's house to celebrate the New Year as planned. So, to help dampen our disappointment we went to the movies. We saw Aeon Flux.

First of all let me say that I was/am a big fan of the cartoon series, and was a big fan of the animated shorts that gave birth to the series. If you have never seen either, you might not enjoy the movie. If, however, you did enjoy the previous incarnations you should have a good time with this one. I did.

One of the most alluring, and frustrating aspects of the cartoon versions was that they never worried about continuity, or even about making sense. The shorts had no dialogue, and each episode of the series was self-contained, so it was not unusual for our heroine to die and then be back the next week. The movie, on the other hand, suffers from that annoying need for a beginning, middle, and end. But, it does manage to maintain enough of the surreality of its predecessors to still be pretty cool. Imagine A Clockwork Orange + Logan's Run + James Bond and you begin to get an idea. I won't attempt to summarize the plot but Charlize Theron, as I predicted a few months ago, personifies the eponymous assasin beautifully(she has now made it onto my list, by the way). The world she lives in is both beatific and sinister, and you know just below the surface of paradise is a raging serpent waiting to strike. The chairman of this world, Trevor Goodchild, played by Kingdom of Heaven's Marton Csonkas, maintains the 'is he evil or not' quality of the cartoons until the end, but I shan't spoil the surprise. The rest of the cast play their roles well, and Pete Postlethwait puts in a nice cameo, which is the cinematic equivalent of getting the really cool prize in your Cracker Jacks.

Overall this film is a gift to the fans of Aeon Flux, but I doubt it will bring in many new converts to the cause. I would love to see at least one sequel, but I'm not holding my breath.

See y'all next year.


Friday, December 30, 2005

I'm Baaaaack.

Greetings, Friends, and welcome to the post-Christmas, pre-New Year's edition of The Corner. Well, it certainly has been a wild time for yours truly. The wife and I traveled to South Florida to spend Christmas with the 'rents and visit as many friends as we could. Mrs. Marius had to come home sooner than I did so she could go to work at a wretched lingerie store, one that claims to be from a California town that makes movies. When she was hired she was promised at least 20 hours a week, and maybe lots more during the holidays. What has really happened is that she has been getting, on a good week, 10 hours, and they keep hiring other people while claiming they don't have enough hours to go around. Next week she isn't even on the schedule, so today will be her last day there. I earnestly hope, in the spirit of the holidays, that the store burns down in the night, leaving the rest of the mall untouched, save for a smoking hole where the store used to be. Her sporadic work schedule is also why we couldn't do a lot of pre-planning for our trip home. So to those of you I missed this time, please forgive me. I am going to do my best to get down there a bit more often. And those of you I got to see thanks for dealing with the sudden 'hey, I'm here, can I come over?'. It was great seeing y'all. Unfortunately the trip had a consequence...I'm sick as hell right now. Yesterday I was running a high fever and felt like I'd been run over by a herd of apatasaurs. Today the fever is gone, so I merely feel like shit.

On to some random thoughts.

Is it my imagination, or are the Christian fundamentalists stepping up their assault on freedom in this country? First there were the ridiculous Intelligent Design vs. Evolution battles in public schools, then Pat Robertson's damning of an entire Pennsylvania town for voting ID out of their science classes, and then Bill O'Reilly's ludicrous assertion that anyone who says 'happy holidays' is anti-Christmas. I thought Conservatives were all about the American way? Well, isn't freedom of religion pretty much the most fundamental American tenet? Or is it just that people are starting to take too close a look at the activities of the current administration, and the Right needs a new smoke screen? History will, I suppose, make that judgment.

This next point was to be part of the ongoing series, Let's Purge the Lexicon, but this is not something that needs to be gotten rid of, but rather needs fixing. The word etcetera, usually abbreviated etc., has more and more come to be mispronounced eKcetera. When average people say that I tend to not worry about it, but when I hear news commentators and other people who speak for a living mispronounce it I get annoyed. No one would tolerate a bulldozer driver who couldn't drive the machine, or an author who didn't know grammar, so if you speak for a living, use the language correctly. The same goes for the word escape. It is not eKscape.

Last month I brought my laser pointer home to see how the kitten would react to it. I was worried that it would be kind of cruel, but he loves it! He even asks for it. So if you have a playful cat or kitten, a laser pointer is a great way to entertain them without having to run all over the house with a string or some such.

Ok, that's it for today. Y'all have a safe and happy New Year's celebration. I'll be back in 2006.

Love to all,

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Cool Yule, Y'all

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and a very swinging solstice to everyone!!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

More Movie Reviews

Can you tell that the young'n is away? We get to catch up on movies, and I pass the savings on to you. :-)

The Merchant of Venice: As a theatre professional it is almost a requirement that I eventually see any film version of Shakespeare(although I have no desire to see DiCaprio's Romeo and Juliet, and don't get me started on Keanu)so we rented Al Pacino's Merchant of Venice. I must confess I have never seen, nor read this one, so I was a blank slate. Many moons ago Mr. Pacino did a wonderful film called Looking for Richard in which he portrayed the embattled Richard the Third, so I knew he had the chops for the Bard. And true to form all the performances were spectacular. Jeremy Irons, playing the good guy for once, was magnificent, as was Joseph Fiennes. Lynn Collins as Portia was the shining sapphire in this glorious crown of a cast, and for the first time I could believe the Shakepearean conceit of a woman dressed as a man fooling anyone. The directing was unhurried, but brisk, and the cinemetography was gorgeous. But...

As I said, I am unfamiliar with the text of this play, so I don't know how much had to be edited to get it to it's just over 2 hour running time, but despite Pacino's best efforts to make Shylock a real, sympathetic character it just doesn't work. The piece comes off as a horribly outdated, majorly anti-Semitic diatribe against the Jewish population of Elizabethan England. Shylock, for all the attempts to show that he is justified in his feelings of victimize, merely comes off as a monstrous caricature, determined to use the law to exact revenge upon a population that at once spurns and needs him. And in the end, when his plans are foiled and the court requires him to become a Christian, an ending that Shakespeare no doubt felt was a happy one, I felt disgusted. This film is a beautifully crafted, but horribly flawed look into the prejudices of our past, but I don't know that it is a necessary one.

The Brothers Grimm: My wife is a great fan of fairy tales, especially those of the Brothers Grimm. So we were quite anxious to see Terry Gilliam's latest when it was in theatres. Alas it did not come to pass, so we had to wait for the DVD. I, for one, am glad we did. The Brothers Grimm are two shysters, traveling about French occupied Germany, staging hauntings and demonic attacks, then 'saving the day' for a price. Then they come up against The Real Thing. Animate trees, shapeshifting wolves, bugs...bugs...bugs!! Adventures, and computer animations, ensue. But then things get a bit muddied. Heath Ledger and Matt Damon turn in fine performances as the constantly bickering eponymous duo, as does Lena Headey as the love interest/damsel in distress Anjelika, but Gilliam can't seem to make up his mind if he's making a light-hearted, somewhat campy fairy tale movie, or a sinister ride through the hellscape that spawned most of these tales. One minute we are laughing at the almost ridiculous antics of the Italian torturer, Cavaldi, the next we are retching at the sight of a henchman torn in half by an angry tree. The movie makes such leaps frequently, seeming more like a roller coaster that goes through a carnival fun house. It isn't a bad film, just an uneven one. But even with all it's flaws, my wife is happy to have gotten it for a birthday present, and I suppose that's the important part.

Attention Idiot Consumers

Ok, I have been hooked on eBay for quite some time now, and with the exception of SCA armor I have found some pretty rad deals. The same goes for thrift stores, a habit Pikaresque got me into back when we rode pteranadons to school, but these two august institutions have a similar problem...overblown prices. Why would the Salvation Army store expect me to pay $50 for a used bike when I can get a new one for $60? Why would a seller on eBay charge $4.00 to ship a CD, thus making the final price sometimes higher than buying it new? I'll tell you why...because there are plenty of idiots who will pay these prices! I have seen books and CD's on eBay going for far more than they cost on! Why would anyone buy something used for more than it costs new? Wake up, people! You are making it harder for the rest of us by showing merchants that no matter how much they squeeze, some putz will chime in with a rousing 'Thank you, sir. May I have another?' This is the same mentality that allows the Republicans to cut funding to students and the poor while boosting military and pork spending. It's high time for all the idiots in this country to either wise up, or take one for the team and find an ice floe somewhere.



Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Love Song for a Giant Monkey(King Kong Spoiler Alert)

Folks, as the years settle over me like the cool embrace of wet cement, it becomes harder and harder for a movie to have any sort of emotional impact on me...well other than being pissed off at wasting $16 bucks on another piece of Hollywood drivel. That is why I was so impressed with Peter Jackson's latest epic, King Kong. Now don't get me wrong here. I don't imagine Mr. Jackson will be making any acceptance speaches to the Academy this year, but this film was something very rare, and very precious...a work of art. I could go on about how great the casting was, or what a good job the actors all did, but that's not what impressed me most. What got to me was that every frame of the movie positively efervesced with love. Peter Jackson has been trying to make this movie for most of his life. Seeing the original Kong as a boy is what inspired him to go into film making. And his devotion to the source material is everywhere.

It is quite evident that one thing Jackson took from his experience with the Lord of the Rings movies is the use of a more relaxed pace. King Kong runs at just over 3 hours, but it rarely feels like it. Jackson takes the time to explore relationships, and areas of the story that we never saw in the original. We spend much more time in New York and on the ship than before, and the rescue mission on Skull Island easily takes up a third of the film. In the original the natives seemed like extras from a Tarzan movie, whereas now they are terrifying, with filed teeth and bloodthirsty ways. The dinosaurs in the jungle are every bit as scary as the beasties in Jurassic Park, although the apatasaur stampede got a bit silly. The bug scene was a little over the top as well. But over all the sense of danger and terror were much greater.

And then there is the big guy himself. Kong. Andy Serkis, who was the body double for Gollum in LOTR, once again dons the leotard and reflective spheres to make Kong's movements more realistic. And it's obvious he did his homework vis-a-vis mountain gorrilas. This Kong moves and acts like a giant gorrila should. And I find it ironic that the director who uses computer generated images to their fullest capacity is not a well known space opera creator, but Peter Jackson. With very few exceptions Kong was real. From his one snaggle tooth, to the fur on his back, you never doubt that this is what a 25' tall gorrila would look like. And the facial expressions of Kong are truly breathtaking. Naomi Watts, who plays Anne Darrow, pulls off the emoting at nothing with real grace and feeling, and it is the relationship between Anne and Kong that raises this film out of the realm of special effects extravaganza, and into the rarified air of art. I won't attempt to describe it, and sometimes it teeters precariously on the edge of the cheese precipice, but it never quite crosses the line.

Is this a masterpiece of movie making? Maybe not. Is this a magnificent, moving story of love at its purest? Absolutely. Kong, like all the best monsters, is not so much monsterous as misunderstood and abused, and when he finally slips off the top of the Empire State Building, one cannot help but feel like a great injustice has been done. Bravo, Mr. Jackson. Merian C. Cooper and Willis O'Brien would be proud of this movie.

Good night,

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sky High: Musings on an OK Movie

So last night the wife and I rented Sky High. We had wanted to see it when it came out, but never managed to make it to the local cine-mega-plexopolis in time. The young'n had seen it with her grandparents, and really liked 'the girl that turns into a purple hamster'(for the sake of accuracy the girl turns into a purple guinea pig, but we need not quibble about speciation here)so we knew it wasn't totally crappy. And it wasn't. It was nice...not thrilling, but nice. The story is pretty formulaic: Son wants to follow in dad's footsteps at same high school dad went to. He faces shame when he can't, and gets lumped in with the unpopular crowd, then later finds he really is as good as dad, and the misfits are all heroes in their own ways. Add the trappings of a universe filled with superheroes and it all falls into place. The adults all seemed a little too 'nudge nudge, wink wink' for my tastes, but the kids did a fine job and seemed to be having a good time. I especially liked the cameos by Linda Carter, Cloris Leachman, Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, and Bruce Campbell, but there was one thing that bugged me through the entire film. The music.

At first, when the They Might Be Giants cover of Devo's 'We're Through Being Cool' played I rather enjoyed it. But it soon became evident that the entire soundtrack consists of some of my favorite 80's tunes being covered by modern bands. Bowling for Soup did 'Melt with You', Steven Straight did the Fixx's 'One Thing Leads To Another', Vitamin C did 'Til Tuesday's 'Voices Carry', etc. Friends had told me about this, though I had forgotten, but for some reason with each successive song I grew more irritated. I can't figure this out. I love They Might Be Giants, and Bowling for Soup, and I think it's great that these songs are getting a new life, but for some reason I can't put my finger on the whole thing is bugging the crap out of me. Maybe I'm just getting sick of the 'see how cool we are to be using classic rock in our movie' mentality. Maybe I'm just annoyed that the songs of my youth are now fodder for lame covers in a mediocre kids movie. Maybe I'm just pissed about something else and this is where it's leaking out. I really don't know. Is anyone else out there upset by this? Does anyone really know what time it is? Does anyone really care?

Peace, man.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Planet, or Not Planet, That Is The Question.

Welcome to another seemingly random edition of The Corner. I say seemingly because there is one unifying thread to all of these! Welcome back to the Brownian thought processes of yours truly.

Space, the final frontier. And a source for endless debate, even over that which we all thought was gospel truth. To whit, Pluto. A planet? An asteroid? A failed comet? Goofy and Minnie's secret love puppy? For many years now there have been strong arguments for Pluto's demotion from certified planet to friendly asteroid. At a scant 2390 kilometers in diameter Pluto is smaller than our own moon(3,474 kilometers)and has an eccentric orbit that, for part of the Plutonian year, actually brings it closer to us than Neptune, and goes in the opposite direction of the rest of the planets, which seems to indicate that it was a cosmic wanderer that got snared by our greedy Sun. In its favor it is definitely round, and has at least one satellite, Charon. But Marius, you might ask, why are you telling us all this? Good question, and the answer is that this year an object, currently nicknamed Xena, was found beyond the orbit of Pluto that is significantly larger than our 9th planet. Xena, and its companion/satellite Gabrielle, orbit in the outskirts of the Solar system called the Kuiper Belt, which is very distant(extending 5 billion miles past Neptune) and is thought to be the origin of most of the cometary activity in our neck of the galaxy. The discovery of a Kuiper Belt object that is larger than Pluto has revived the planet/not a planet controversy, since Xena's distinction rests firmly upon Pluto's identity. If Pluto is a planet, then shouldn't Xena be considered our 10th planet? And if Xena is not to be considered a planet, why then should Pluto be called one? Ultimately this all boils down to the definition of the word 'planet'. calls a planet, "A nonluminous celestial body larger than an asteroid or comet, illuminated by light from a star, such as the sun, around which it revolves." But, quite surprisingly, the International Astronomical Union(IAU), whose job it is to define such things, has no clear definition. They admit that until very recently there was no need for a clear definition of what a planet is, but they are working feverishly to come up with one. What is clear is that no matter the IAU decision, this debate won't go away.

Personally I think Luna should be used as the gold standard in this debate. If it's bigger than our Moon, it's a planet. If it's smaller; planetessimal, asteroid, comet, dust, space crap,whatever. And let's not even get started on the satellites of Jupiter, Saturn, and the other gas giants.(but I'll go into those later, 'cause some of them are wayyyy cool)
Ok, gotta run. I'm going to get out my Ouija board and see what Carl Sagan has to say about all this. ;-)

See ya,

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A Moment of Silence for a Lifetime of Laughter

Richard Pryor: December 1, 1940-December 10, 2005

And may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

My God, It's Full Of Stars

Never let it be said, oh faithful readers, that we at The Corner don't have our metaphorical finger on the pulse of the world. In honor of my dear friend, JR, who lives in Holland, let us visit The Netherlands, where a great tragedy has occured. On November 14th of this year a monumentous event was being prepared. The event, known as 'Domino Day' was in it final preparations to break the world record for setting up, and then knocking over dominoes. The record number of dominoes, 3,992,397, was being escalated to a staggering 4,002,136. It took more than 100 people a month to set up the dominoes. Then, on that fateful day, disaster struck in the form of a...[dum dum duuummmmm!!] sparrow. The feathered fiend, finding itself trapped in the exposition center, and being the Devil's own song bird, took matters into its own tiny talons and began knocking down the dominoes. Panic ensued. Emotional scars were incurred. Dominoes fell like the tears of a litter-finding Native American. At long last a mighty warrior was summoned, who slew the hell-spawned demon with that most manly of air rifle. And there was a loud 'hosanna!', for the world was safe, once again, from domino hating sparrows.

Or was it?

There are those in this world who feel that a record breaking domino stunt is not worth the life of a majestic sparrow, and a great hue and cry rippled forth from Amsterdam over the slaying of the bird. Web sites were created, and an official investigation ensued. For, you see, this was no ordinary sparrow. This was a house sparrow, and a recent inductee into the endangered species club. To kill one without a permit is illegal. Justice was served, in the form of a $235 fine to the air rifle wielding exterminator, who, as a professional, should have 'known better.' And what of our tiny, endangered hero/demon/corpse? It languishes in a freezer awaiting taxidermy and then display atop a box of dominoes at the Rotterdam Natural History Museum.

See what happens when you legalize weed? ;-)

See y'all soon.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Joy Of Nog

Dear Friends, I want you to join me in a gustatory adventure I have waited 3 long years to undertake. There is a grocery store chain in Florida called Publix. They are, in my experience, one of the best chains in the country in regards to food quality, price, cleanliness, and customer service. Their store brand items are usually just as good as name brands, but once a year they carry an item so wonderous; so decadent; so mind-blowingly delicious that it makes me long for December all year round. Publix brand egg nog. Just saying it, as it rolls off the tongue, makes me feel all warm inside. Oh how I have longed for this miracle of liquid confection. I have tried other brands, since there isn't a Publix within 500 miles of Pineville, but none compare to this nectar. And now, it is time to break my nog-fast, and I want to share the moment with all of you.

The glass sits just to the right of the screen, glowing softly, its pale amber color beckoning. Tiny flecks of nutmeg hover motionless in the viscous goodness, just waiting to explode onto the pallette in a fusillade of flavor. At last, I can wait no longer. I lift the glass, it is cool and damp, and heavy, for this is no low-fat concoction. And now, finally, I drink...

Oh, sweet mystery of life at last I've found yoooooooooouuuuuuu!

It hasn't changed. It is sweet, and nutmeggy, and so delicious that I could easily down an entire half-gallon of it in one sitting. And it's even better with a bit of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum in it. In fact, hold on a moment will you?

Arrrrrr! That's some good nog, matey!

So run, don't walk, to your nearest Publix and get some of this liquid heaven. It may not be good for you, but if death tastes like this, get me to the undertaker.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What Happens If You Drop a Superball Into a Pachinko Game?

Grab a mushroom and get comfy, young'ns, and Uncle Marius will open the drain pan of his cerebrum and dump some thought juice at ya. The she-beast that rules my life, and sucks at the very marrow of my sleep patterns--the Theatre--has released me for a brief time after keeping me buried in her ample bosom for a couple of weeks. But the show hath opened, and slumbers til Friday, so now I must merely deal with recitals and concerts...annoying, yet infinately easier. So what shall we talk about?

Revenge of the scrote, part III. You have seen pictures, and read beaming commentary about the newest members of the Marius compound...the momma cat, Artemis and her darling baby, Starbuck. We have been laboring under the belief that Starbuck was a little girl kitten, but last night I noticed, as 'she' was running down the hall, that there were some decidedly not-feminine bulges below 'her' tail. "Honey," quoth I in summons to Mrs. Marius, "me thinks Starbuck is not quite the little girl we took her to be." "Oh,yeah, I noticed that yesternight." was the matter-of-fact reply. This explains much, for 'tis the male of the feline species that is oft the snuggliest, and this critter is definately of that ilk. His mother, on the other hand, is currently whoring around the neighborhood in a most immodest way, seeking to bestow upon us many more hungry mouths. But fear not, gentle readers. Unbeknownst to the fuzzy harlot, she has a date with a goodly doctor in a scant 13 days, who shall from her gently take all that kitten making stuff. And then shall we draw up our plans to remove the newly found nardlings from Starbuck, hopefully before he discovers his sprayer. Hmm, I wonder if they make neuticles for cats...

At his trial today, Saddam Hussein complained that his quarters were uncomfortable, and that he was being tortured because he couldn't exercise or smoke. Let us all have a brief moment of pity for the poor wretch. (is it possible to experience an emotion for less than a nanosecond?)

The white suit John Lennon wore on the Abbey Road album cover recently sold for $118,000 at an auction in Las Vegas. Dead guys get all the breaks.

Well, it would seem that the brain-pan runs shallow this day. Thanks for dropping by, drive safely, and watch out for the penguins.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Sick, Sad World

A horrible thing happened in Singapore yesterday. The country has some of the strictest anti-drug laws in the world, and even knowing that Austrailian citizen Nguyen Tuong Van tried to smuggle 14 ounces of heroin through the Changi Airport in 2002. He was arrested, tried, and condemned to death. In Singapore, carrying more than .53 ounces of heroin carries a mandatory death sentence. Fourteen ounces can supply 26,000 hits of the drug and has a street value of $800,000. The 25 year old man was hanged just before dawn on Friday morning, despite numerous appeals from the Austrailian government for clemency.

In a somewhat related case British pop star Gary Glitter is waiting in a Vietnamese jail after being arrested for having sex with a twelve year old girl. Glitter has been jailed in Britain after a child pornography conviction, and expelled from Cambodia for allegedly having sex with minors. In the Vietnamese case, if convicted he could face anything from 5 years in prison, to death by a firing squad.

It would appear that the smaller countries of the world are growing weary of their reputations for lawlessness and anarchy. I think Nguyen's death was a horrific tragedy, but what did he expect? Either he was ignorant of the penalties of drug trafficking in Singapore, or he ignored them. Whichever it was, he was foolish, and payed the ultimate price for that foolishness. And Glitter, well I guess he thought he could indulge his sickness in the third world where no one would care about what he did to the children there. I don't think a firing squad is called for, but 5 years in a Vietnamese prison might just cure him of his pedophillia.

Sorry this isn't funny today, hopefully tomorrow.