May 222016
 

They say it takes 15-20 years of touring to make a good stand-up comic.  In this case “they” is a whole bunch of venerable comedians, including Louis CK and Doug Stanhope.  It’s a weird art form (for lack of a better term) that is demanding in unique ways, and there’s apparently no shortcut – it simply takes that much experience to be as good on stage as those guys are.

Bo Burnham’s currently 25, and a lot of his stuff on YouTube (including the clip below)  is from a few years ago.   What he does isn’t exactly stand-up, but he’s got that glow you see in a few really smart and talented kids (Donald Glover also comes to mind), and I’ve enjoyed the hell out of what I’ve seen so far.  I can’t wait to see what his act looks like in a decade…

May 222016
 

Zootopia is an adorable, well-written, well-executed piece of holy-shit-awesomeness.  Apparently Disney is back in that business now.  The story behind that is complicated, to say the least, and I’m way too drunk to do it justice, or even understand it myself.  Here’s a boozy overview based on 10 minutes of wikipedia…

John Lasseter was “Chief Creative Officer” and “Executive Producer” for Zootopia; however, it was a product of Walt Disney Animation Studios, not Pixar.   The reason this film isn’t a train-wreck is that he basically runs both of them now.  Disney’s first attempts at acquiring Pixar during the Isner period were rebuffed, but a happier marriage was arranged once Iger took the reins and offered to make Lasseter czar of all Disney animation.  The two animation houses operate separately under his freakishly-talented leadership.

May 192016
 

FYI there are a few excellent websites where you can vastly reduce the amount of unsolicited junk mail and phone calls you receive.  You can read more about them at this FTC site:  https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0262-stopping-unsolicited-mail-phone-calls-and-email

 

Do Not Call Registry: http://www.donotcall.gov/

  • This is the simplest, most essential thing everyone should do: removes your phone number from almost all telemarketer and robocall lists.  There are some exceptions like surveys (after all, no politician’s going to let you opt-out of polling).

Direct Marketing Association’s MPS:  http://www.dmachoice.org/

  • Another biggie: DMA’s Mail Preference Service can greatly reduce mail circulars, etc for 5 years.  You can also opt-out of a lot of spam email here.

Insurance and credit-card offers: https://www.optoutprescreen.com

  • Does what it says: most of this stuff comes to you courtesy of data sold by the big credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, etc).  Opt-out 5 years via web form, or permanently if you mail something in.
May 162016
 

Louis CK has a cool website where you can buy some of his shows very inexpensively with minimum hassle.  He has a great mindset/attitude about this sort of thing – highly recommend his excellent Charlie Rose interview:

The Punisher Armory (1990 – 1994)

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Mar 272016
 

The Punisher (like Doctor Who) is one of those one of those properties that, in my personal opinion, has enormous potential but that nobody has ever gotten quite right.  I don’t mean to denigrate any of the fine efforts made over the years in either case.  They’re what IT people refer to as edge cases – both involve truly unique characters that are damn-near impossible to really nail writing-wise.

The Punisher Armory comes the closest I think – it’s certainly my favorite Punisher comic.  Which is admittedly a little strange, since Frank Castle never appears on a single page.  Neither does anyone else, for that matter: the entire ten-issue series consists of still-shots – mostly of equipment – narrated in text-box format by the man himself.  Eliot Brown wrote and drew these in a manner Frank would respect: plain, no-nonsense, and in their own way, beautiful.

It features no action or dialogue whatsoever. These are instead the quiet, personal moments that make-up the bulk of Castle’s existence.  It’s convenient to summarize his character as a one-man army driven by rage over the loss of his family one sunny day in the park long ago.  But his day-to-day reality is that of a stone-cold professional for whom every hour of combat is preceded by 100 hours of training, reconnaissance, and preparation.

punisher_armory_02

punisher_armory_01

The Queen (2006)

 History, Video  Comments Off on The Queen (2006)
Mar 162016
 

I used to dismiss the British royal family as an irrelevant institution – lots of people do. But over the years my opinion’s mellowed a bit.

England’s peculiar historical triumph is that of a country whose transition from absolute monarchy to democracy was a gradual, mostly dignified transfer of power: there’s something to be said for a monarchy that didn’t end in a bloody revolution.  David Starkey’s BBC documentary series Monarchy (2004-2006) makes a good case for this notion.  But I also have to admit, I’m just plain won-over by Queen Elizabeth II – lots of people are.  It’s not about her “class”, which has always been a dirty word here in the states, for some pretty good reasons.  It’s that she has class. 

Highly recommend The Queen (2006).  I’m also looking-forward to the upcoming biographical series from Netflix, The Crown.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

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Mar 162016
 

This is one hell of a movie, about one hell of an interesting guy.  T. E. Lawrence still has historians scratching their heads and arguing vehemently a century later.  Depending who you ask he was an imperialist tool, an opportunistic adventurer, a traitor to his nation, or a hero for the ages.  It’s undeniable he was crucially important in shaping the modern Mid East.

Lawrence was a bundle of contradictions: a quiet, bookish young man whose stamina and sheer force of will propelled him during his college years to undertake lone journeys to places so remote and foreign that no sane Englishman would dare go without a massive retinue and the resources to match.  A lifelong romantic whose boyhood dream was to become a knight, when unexpectedly presented to the King of England for just that reason, he walked away.  A loyal subject of the crown, he betrayed secret details of the Skyes-Picot treaty to his Arab allies because he believed theirs was a destiny more important than colonial aspirations of old-Europe.  And strangest of all, a mild-mannered academic who on his own initiative stepped-forward as a military leader whose bravery, audacity, and tactics were of the first order.  In short, a really, really weird dude.

Anyway, the movie’s first-class, a sprawling epic on the order of Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now”, and generally does justice to the historical facts.  The bits it leaves-out are generally even more unbelievable than what it leaves-in.  And Peter O’Toole’s performance – well, it’s hard to piece-together, even now, exactly what sort of man Lawrence was – but I think he probably nailed-it pretty damn well, and either way, he’ll knock your socks-off.  Make sure you watch it in good honest high-def, or else you’re cheating yourself.