Thursday, September 28, 2006

More weirdness from YouTube...


Ok, highlights from what has to be one of the strangest clips I've seen so far on YouTube (and that's saying a lot--David Hasselhoff alone deserves his own spinoff site).

Kudos to Mike Bohman for bringing this little fellow into my life.

1. The footage is too grainy to tell for sure (perhaps this is a good thing), but I can't tell if this is a little kid or an Indian version of Gary Coleman. Either way, the little dude can dance, and the perma grin and those sparkling whites are priceless.

2. While the obvious focus is the little dude, don't miss the other dudes grooving along with him.

3. In the middle of your hypnotic trance, the mother figure comes out of nowhere and shuffles everyone off like they're tormenting a cat or something--and the dad hides his smoke.

4. My favorite part: the first time the camera switches to the side angle, the dancer is moving in slow-motion...or so we think. Suddenly he speeds up his groove, and you realize the kid was deliberately dancing in slow-motion, and the camera had nothing to do with it.

5. Most tragic/comic moment: while you're still shaking your head from the dance, the kid comes back out and starts telling the dad how it is. Defeated, the guy relinquishes his smoke to the kid, who takes a drag like he's in a Marlboro commercial, and the clip ends suddenly. What the--?

I can only imagine the original context of this clip. Or maybe that would kill the enigmatic quality that makes it so, so...

I'm sorry. I still don't know what to make of this thing.

Lots of lines for Franco in "Flyboys"

2 1/2 stars out of 4

“Flyboys” is the latest “Pearl Harbor”-style attempt to merge the overdramatic big dumb action movie with the violent reality of shockers like “Saving Private Ryan”. I enjoyed the movie, but I can’t help feeling that all this technique does is alienate both ends of the spectrum. It’s too violent for families, but too hokey for hard-core folks.

Regardless of how the film does, it had to come as a relief for actor James Franco, who plays the lead hotshot pilot. “Spiderman II” was a great movie, but all Franco got to do was show up in random friend scenes and make out-of-place bitter Spiderman references. In “Flyboys”, Franco gets to fly airplanes, kiss French girls, and hardly ever has to bring up Spiderman.

The premise of the story is…well, it’s about a bunch of World War I fighter pilots that try to shoot down German airplanes. That’s it. Naturally, the good guys are a bunch of colorful misfits from diverse backgrounds. There’s “rich kid trying to make his dad happy” guy, “All-American boy that gets shell-shocked” guy, “poor orphan farm kid” guy (Franco), “black underdog ex-boxer” guy, and “possible German spy and eventual amputee” guy.

The best one is “ultra conservative Christian” guy, who embodies every tired stereotype of religious Americans today. According to “Flyboys”, everyone who believes in the Bible makes constant references to it in their daily speech, looks like Ollie from “Hoosiers”, and sings “Onward Christian Soldiers” while he shoots down the bad guys.

Of course, the cast wouldn’t be complete without “brooding bad boy” guy, the seasoned vet that goes out on solo runs to try to shoot down the Germans responsible for killing his original squad-mates.

That’s the goofiest thing about this movie: not the revenge thing, the idea that these pilots pretty much came and went as they pleased. At one point in the movie Franco gets in trouble for flying off to rescue his French girlfriend, but there’s no serious threat, since brooding bad boy guy has been coming and going at random for the whole movie. Then the hit man from “Professional” gives Franco a medal for it anyway.

This movie only works in a “turn off my brain” kind of way. The action was well-done, and outside of brooding bad boy guy’s pet lion (!), the CGI didn’t look too fake. My only serious gripe was the failure to use “Kashmir” on the soundtrack for the scene when the flyboys attack the German Zeppelin.

For all of the dedicated family men that will read this, (I don’t think any family women will…I don’t think any women read this blog at all, really), I have to issue a word of warning due to the violent content of the film. For a movie that plays off like “Memphis Belle”, bringing up swelling music for simple horseback rides, some of the air battles are pretty bloody. Not “Saving Private Ryan” bloody, but “did that guy just get shot in the eye?” bloody. Franco also goes Jack Bauer on a guy’s forearm, but it happens off-screen.

Outside of the violence, “Flyboys” is rated PG-13 for scenes of Franco making out with the French gal, some profanity, and having to watch the Christian dude forsake his rigid standards so he can get plastered with the boys.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

An Open Letter to George Lucas

Dear Mr. Lucas,

Last night I watched my roommate’s brand-new copy of Episode IV on DVD. Not the Special Edition one, the bonus disc that has the original version we saw in the theaters.

I have to say, I’m pretty bummed.

I’m writing to you because I feel very conflicted over the way you’ve handled the Star Wars franchise over the last few years, and I want you to know my feelings on the matter. Sure, my feelings may not matter more than the other 500 million Star Wars fans in the world, nor may they matter more than the 500 billion dollars you’ve made off your pet project in the last thirty years. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention.

Just so you know, I’m a lifelong fan of your work. “Star Wars” came out six months after I was born, and I can’t even remember seeing it in the theater, though my parents maintain I was scared of the Jawas. Darth Vader apparently was no problem.

For the first ten years of my life, I spent a good portion of my free time pretending to be Han Solo, as evidenced by the enclosed photograph. I consider my second grade Han Solo costume to be my second-greatest Halloween costume achievement, next to last year’s pimp outfit, but that’s only because you can’t deny the power of a big fuzzy white coat.

My point is this: “Star Wars” is your creation, and you have all the rights and privileges associated with that ownership. But millions of your fans consider the films to be a part of our childhood, and in a sense, that makes it our movie, too. In the sense that we paid for your multi-billion dollar fortune, that makes it our movie also.

We know you don’t like the original versions of the movies. We know you cut out certain scenes—like the ones where Luke talks to Biggs—because they didn’t fit. (They actually give “Star Wars” an “American Graffiti” feel, which is kind of interesting). But would it betray your sense of artistic ownership to offer up a decent version of what we knew growing up? The versions on the new DVD’s suck. They’re all grainy, and they look like they’re being broadcast on TV. Why not restore the originals and throw in some deleted scenes as a bonus? Don’t you think we’d shell out the money for them? I used to have Han Solo underwear, for Pete’s sake. Making a concession to a devoted fan base isn’t selling out; it’s making an investment.

If you keep moving in the direction you’re headed, people are going to start saying “George Lucas is the best and worst thing to ever happen to ‘Star Wars’.” Actually, they are saying that on My worry is that you’re going to become the film version of Al Davis. Both of you are headquartered in the Bay Area. Both of you have strange affections to clothing styles (you to flannel, Al to jump suits). And both of you are cultivating the image of an aging maverick rebel who refuses to listen to those around him.

We know you fought the studios to win your autonomy, George. Don’t become a studio yourself.



PS: Han shot Greedo first.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

All linked up with no place to go

Seriously, who wouldn't want to return an e-mail from this smile?

Confession time: Last month I joined 50,000 fellow Mormons on At the time I told myself I was doing it to increase my employment opportunities; namely, to get more people to read this blog.

But we all know the truth.

It always seemed absurd that while living in Davis County—the upper left ventricle of the Mormon Heartland—I would ever have to look online for dating opportunities. Six years ago I posted a temporary profile on after a friend showed me all the cute girls on the site (he married one six months later). Three days later I stumbled onto my own profile and was so disgusted I never logged on again.

Something changed.

Most people cringe at the thought of telling friends and family that they met their spouse online. I was one of them, but nowadays I just don't care. Whether I meet my wife online, at church, or at WalMart, the net result is the same. Who am I to resist this high-tech, modern culture of ours? Why deliberately cut options? Why else would I still be accepting blind dates?

Six weeks into my fling, here's the initial report:

Friends: 49
Endorsements written: 21
Endorsements received: 5
Unsolicited e-mails sent: 7
Girls who've responded: 3
Dates: 0
Seizures from reading other profiles: 1,578

One reason I justified signing up was that I'm a better writer than a conversation-starter. I might make a better first impression with my wit than with my shaved head. But so far the online dating scene is about the same as the regular one. You interact with people you already know, you give more love (friend endorsements) than you get, and half the girls you try to contact pretend you don't exist.

You can try to e-mail people you at least have common friends with, but there’s really no way to navigate the site without feeling like a stalker. And how do I know I’m not trying to date roommates? Again?

It’s a lot like Social Amway. The ultra-high-maintenance girls have “friend lists” stocked with beefcake churro salesmen. The beefcakes stock their lists with ultra-high-maintenance girls. The endorsement comments make you feel like you have a better shot at getting in Robert DeNiro’s “circle of trust” than of actually getting a date.

To be fair, I've gotten my share of unsolicited invitations, too. Mostly via the QuickNote—a pre-written comment you can send without the undue stress of typing "hello". According to most profiles it’s the single most hated feature of the site. A few QuickNotes and some unseemly invitations have kept me honest in the “no one loves me” department.

My sister’s experience makes mine look tame. Within hours of signing up she almost pulled her profile after guys from overseas started sending her romantic overtures that may or may not have involved green cards and naturalization. I guess when you’re thousands of miles away, you can afford to take a few risks.

It seems in the online dating world, just as in the real dating world, it doesn't really matter what you say or do, cause if the person is into you, you can do no wrong, but if they aren't, you can do no right.

Still, joining Ldslinkup has been my best new source of humor since joining the XCel gym last February. Sometimes I'll surf along, marveling at the asinine things people post on their profiles. There’s more preening and posturing than on an episode of “Elimidate”. Many indicate they’re only on to “keep in touch”, but spend three paragraphs giving detailed descriptions of their future spouse. Some of these same profiles claim to already have a spouse. Others are so jammed with “lol’s” and “UR’s” they look like HTML code. And the photos must be seen to be believed.

Some of the profiles are obviously fake. For example, I am currently "friends" with a hot dog vendor in New York. Why he chose to add me to his friend list I will never know, but I was grateful for the laugh.

Ultimately, the site has been useful in reconnecting with friends I haven't seen in a while. "Staying in touch" seems to be the principle value of the site, as well as the most frequent justification for membership. But you can't tell me these people wouldn't jump at a chance to hook up with their true love.

May as well be honest about it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Guest Perspective: Utah Driver Training Needs Improvement

Dear Wounded Mosquito guy,

I am a long-time veteran of the Utah highway system, and thought I had a pretty good grasp of the rules of the road. Then the other day on I-15, I just casually say to my wife, "Hun, you ever figure out what this big mirror-thing stuck on my windshield is for? It seems so redundant."

"That's your rear-view mirror, dear," she said.

"But what's it for?" I asked. "I've already got a little mirror on my visor here, which serves me plenty when I need to pop a zit out on the open road."

"The rear-view mirror lets you see who's driving behind you, dear," she said.

To my shock, she was right! I moved the mirror around a little bit, and suddenly I could see a big line of cars backed up behind me on the freeway. The guy right behind me seemed really mad, too!

"Wow," I said, "the traffic behind us is outrageous today!"

"That's because you're in the fast lane, dear," my wife said. "you're supposed to yield the fast lane to passing traffic."

"What!" I exclaimed. "When did they announce that?"

"Haven't you ever wondered why people are always honking and cutting you off and giving you the finger?"

"I thought it was road rage."

"Don't you read those signs that say 'Slower Traffic Stay Right'?" she asked.

"Sure, but that's so people don't drive on the left-hand side of the road. I mean, that would be straight into oncoming traffic! I'm not that stupid!"

Just then, a white Honda Accord swung by me on the right side and cut into my lane, honking his horn.

"What a jerk!" I said.

Then I noticed that my exit was about 100 yards away. But as I moved into the center lane, another guy honked at me.

"What's his deal?" I asked incredulously. This was starting to get on my nerves.

"You didn't use your turn signal, dear," said my wife.

"I'm not turning, Marge, I'm changing lanes!" Finally, score one for Big Daddy!

Finally we made it off the freeway and over to the Golden Corrall for dinner. I tried to enjoy the meal, but I had so much on my mind it was hard to concentrate on my chicken fried steak. Slowly I realized that for years I had been the unwitting victim of a woefully insufficient driver training system in Utah. A pawn! A pansy! To think! All those years, I was supposed to YIELD the left-hand lane! YIELD!

In my defense, I can't always see too well behind me. Most of the time the dualie wheels block my view. And that doesn't even account for those times I've got my boat behind me. Look, I'm doing my best here. I've already sent another letter off to the Department of Motor Vehicles, hopefully we'll get this resolved before anyone else gets out on the road unprepared. Until then, folks should just put on some music or call a friend; they shouldn't be in such a hurry. Maybe we'll get lucky and the state will raise the speed limit up to 65 or something.


A concerned driver.

Get me out of this office, Earl...

Before I address today's main topic, let me first salute the good people of Utah's oil and gas community: after watching gas prices drop forty and fifty cents a gallon across the country over the last three weeks, I drove by Maverick this morning and was greeted by a generous two-cent markdown on regular unleaded.

Way to go, guys!


OK, last night my dad and I hit Bajio's for an evening meal, then kicked back in the family living room for a little Thursday night TV. We watched episodes of "My Name is Earl" and "The Office", a pair of much-hailed shows that have bolstered the NBC line-up of late.

My dad had already introduced me to "My Name is Earl" a couple of weeks ago, and I had been excited to see another episode, when my usual schedule of teaching, socializing, lifting, and zoning out would allow. Last night, it allowed.

Now, I've never been a huge fan of the Foxworthy/Engvall/Larry the Cable Guy redneck thing. Yes, it's funny, but it's kind of a one-note act, in my opinion. That being said, "Earl" is hilarious. Kind of a blue-collar version of "Arrested Development", and the blue-collar aspect of the show might save it from AD-style cancellation. In what I've seen so far, the characters are likable, interesting, and fun to watch. The show's got endless possibilities, given the fantastic "list" device. And a classic rock soundtrack doesn't hurt, either.

I've been a fan of Jason Lee ever since I saw him in "Almost Famous", and it's fun to see him do so well here. Earl is too screwed up to be considered an "everyman", but like the twisted tales in "Seinfeld", Earl's philosophy and life have a way of making you relate to him. His brother is a great foil, an uber-idiot compliment to Earl in the same way Niles was an uber-neurotic compliment to Frasier. Plus, you can't go wrong with an electric-fro coifed stoner named "Crab Man".

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for "The Office". People have been even more vocal about this one, but I just can't get on the bandwagon. I can see why people think it's funny, but that's exactly the problem: I've seen it before. I've seen it in half a dozen Christopher Guest films, on every episode of the Daily Show, and ten thousand commercials/skits/parodys over the last four years. The idea is the same over and over again: mockumentary footage of awkward everyday losers who think their lives are more interesting or important than they really are.

Like I said, it's not that it isn't funny; it's just that it's not that original. And since I've seen the same angle played out over and over again, it ceases to become funny. Which is too bad, because it's obvious that the cast is very talented. (Another hit against the originality bit? The show is a remake of a British comedy.)

But originality isn't the only problem. Last night's episode was indeed the first one I'd sat all the way through, and the ending further cemented it's place on my "thumbs down" list. After playing the mockumentary bit for a half hour, suddenly they come with this wrenching confession of love from one coworker to another engaged coworker. And it wasn't done for laughs. In fact, it was more sincere than anything I've ever seen on a soap opera. It would have been quality stuff anywhere else, but this felt totally out of place. "The Simpsons" can get away with cute family-friendly morals at the end, and "Seinfeld" knew better than to even try to make sentimental commentary. So what on earth is it doing here?

It took me a couple of years before I could finally come out and tell people that I hated the Dave Matthews Band. Doing so was a refreshing step in life. I don't hate "The Office" by any means, but I'm not going to wait around for three years to tell people that I don't think it's all that great.

Sorry guys, I know where you're coming from, but for now, I'm off the wagon.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Introducing your 2006 Salsa Champion!

SALT LAKE CITY- History was made Saturday afternoon in the University of Utah Golf Course parking lot, where Josh was officially crowned champion of the First Annual Salsa Contest.

"This has been a long time coming," declared the winner. "At last I am recognized for my superior intellect and sublime culinary skills." Josh punctuated the comment by standing on the hood of his car and pounding his chest repeatedly.

Josh's entry rose above six other stiff competitors by a slim voting margin to take the 2006 title. "It was neck and neck through the final round," said contest founder and fellow contestant Bryan Tippetts, "then we found a couple of people that hadn't voted yet, and for some reason they both picked Josh."

The winning entry was a largely traditional salsa, built on fresh ingredients like tomatoes, onions, and cilantro.

"It's all about the cilantro," declared this year's winner. "you don't got cilantro, you don't got a pot to pee in. Word."

According to Josh, he only started making fresh homemade salsa this summer.

"I'd mostly been living off of handouts from friends and leftovers from my visits to Red Iguana," he says. "Sometimes I'll go down to the Farmer's Market and buy stuff from the Salsa Kings, but five bucks for an 8oz. container can get a little steep for an English teacher. So I just drove up to Brigham City and bought $25 worth of fresh vegetables so I could make my own darn salsa. It's not like it's hard or anything."

Not everyone was thrilled with the outcome of the contest.

"It seems a little shady to me," says fellow Ute Tailgater Landon Clark. "I mean, Tip pretty much gets off his death bed to be there, and Josh takes the title? I don't think he even comes to the games. What a jerk."



5 Fresh Tomatoes
1/2 White or Yellow Onion
1/2 Green Pepper
1/2 Red Pepper
3-4 Whole Jalapeno Peppers
3 Garlic Cloves
6 of those funny-looking Yellow Tomatoes that look like mini squashes.


1. Chop it all up and mix it together. Real rocket science here.
2. Taste it. If there's too much garlic, use it to fight vampires.
3. Win local salsa competitions.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Funky Bunch ’76 scores with “Invincible”

"Invincible", 2006
2 1/2 Stars out of 4

Picture this: Somewhere around 1995, Vanilla Ice leaves behind his fledgling rap career, and through a series of films like “Perfect Storm”, “Planet of the Apes”, and “Three Kings”, becomes a legitimate B-list Hollywood actor. Oh yeah, Vanilla also has a pyromaniac brother in Menudo who gets a bit role as the guy that shoots Bruce Willis in “Sixth Sense”.

OK, now sub Mark Wahlberg for Vanilla Ice (and his brother Donny from New Kids on the Block), and you’ve got the Marky Mark story.

Well, Marky Mark just put out another movie, with a 1976 version of the Funky Bunch in tow. In “Invincible”, he plays real-life pro football walk-on Vince Papale, who played three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles back in the 70’s. The film tells the story of how Papale steps away from his bartending gig, tries out for the team (thanks to an unprecedented open tryout put on by then-brand-new Eagles coach Dick Vermiel), and starts the 1976 season.

There’s not a lot of suspense in this one, since you know going in that he makes the team. The only surprises are saved for what happens when he actually makes it to the field. Kind of like a pro football version of “Rudy”, only without the Hobbit.

I’d slap this one down somewhere between “Remember the Titans” and “Friday Night Lights” on the “True Stories that Were Turned Into Football Movies” scale. “Remember the Titans”, or “Denzel Washington Makes the White Kids Get Along With the Black Kids”, was an enjoyable flick with a lot of glossy Disney overtones; “Friday Night Lights”, or “Billy Bob Tries to Shield His Disillusioned High School Football Team from Parasite Journalists, Tim McGraw and a Bunch of Locals with Nothing Better to do than Micromanage the Local High School Football Team”, was a grittier film that showed a lot more depth to its characters, as well as a lot more real-life struggle. “Invincible” wants to be gritty—and the Philadelphia it shows is certainly that—but the Disney folks put on a little too much gloss to take this film too seriously.

In fact, “Invincible’s” greatest strength is its look; its greatest weakness is its depth. The 1976 version of the Funky Bunch—Papale’s buddies at the local bar—are a typical group of underdog inner-city blue-collar no-names with great 70’s moustaches. There’s the “unemployed guy”, the “my union is striking and I’m worried about my job” guy, and the “I lost my brother in ‘Nam” guy. Then there’s the “bartender with a big heart” guy—played by Joe Jr. from “While You Were Sleeping” (the “leaning” guy—remember?)—and his niece, the “gorgeous blond that hangs out in a South Philly bar with the Funky Bunch even though everywhere else she’d be doing cover shoots”. They’re fun characters, and the vintage 70’s soundtrack makes them all a likeable bunch, but we don’t really get to spend enough time with them to really generate any bonds.

No, mostly the movie focuses on Vince, who’s trying to fight off all his demons and take a shot at a dream he’s not even sure he wants. He’s a fantastic athlete for his age, but even though he lacks the ‘stache that seems to be holding his other buddies back on the job market, he just lost his gig as a substitute teacher (Note: the movie doesn’t clarify what exactly Vince teaches, which begs the question: which of your high school classes would you have been most surprised to have Marky Mark sub? Chemistry? Calculus? Driver’s Ed?) Not only that, but his wife just left him and called him a loser. His biggest motivation seems to be a desire to prove her wrong.

When you whittle it down, “Invincible” is just your basic feel-good underdog movie, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The characters are likeable, the sets look authentic, and the football hits sound brutal. (In fact, most of the football footage takes place in the local vacant lot, where Vince and the boys beat on each other without pads and throw each other onto the hoods of nearby cars). Surprisingly, the story is pretty true to life, too; at the (rather sudden) end of the film, flashback highlights show actual footage from the real Vince Papale’s career.

Speaking of which, I hear Al Davis is taking applications…

“Invincible” is rated PG-13 for cussing, Marky Mark making out with the blond, a bunch of violent football hits, and pervasive gratuitous 70’s moustaches.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

One Last "Crikey" for Steve

Well, the Crocodile Hunter's dead.

I'm really not sure how to feel about it. Obviously it's a tragedy, and he really did seem like a good guy, but at the same time, the man made a living by hanging out with dangerous animals. I mean, EVERYONE saw this coming, right?

This is the same problem I have with those "inspiring" segments about the motocross racers that snap their necks in some crash, or the bull rider that gets stomped on, then make a triumphant return to the sport six months later. Are these really stories of heroism? The TV producers certainly want us to think so. The motocross racers and extreme sports guys certainly want us to think so. "Grizzly Man" clearly wanted us to think so.

Me? I'm not so sure.

The Crocodile Hunter was a great entertainer, and he did a lot for education by presenting the world of zoology in a way that kids loved to see. For that, I'll remember him fondly. (I'm not so sure I'll remember his movie so fondly...I'll still take "The Gods Must Be Crazy" and "Crocodile Dundee" for my exotic comic adventures). In fact, the argument could be made that Irwin's legacy was to better inform the public about the truths and myths about the animal kingdom, thus better preparing the insulated public for encounters with the dangers of the natural world.

It's a little more reassuring to know that Irwin himself wouldn't feel sorry for his sudden departure. Apparently he made it very clear that if he were to ever get into a potentially fatal situation, his crew had strict orders to keep the cameras rolling. He seemed to aspire to the notion of going out in a blaze of glory. No word on whether his wife and kids felt the same.

I don't know, I don't just want to lambaste the guy with another "I told you so". I'm sure the world of Steve Irwin is getting plenty of those right now. The guy was hilarious, and will be remembered for a long time for some genuinely good work. My concern is the link between Irwin's persona and the culture of thrill-seeking today, which seems to push and push for a way to feel something because in the process we've numbed ourselves to the things that used to make us "feel" before.

Mary Buckheit of ESPN Page2 just published an article on Ultimate Fighting that covers much of this same ground. And like Mary, I also have to admit that despite the obvious criticism of our increasingly bloodthirsty society this kind of thing inspires, I too find the stuff mesmerizing.

But maybe that's taking things on too far of a tangent. Steve Irwin is at least six degrees of separation from the UFC. So I think the best thing I can do to honor Irwin, then, is to finish with a link to the project he inspired in my own work, my parody of both The Crocodile Hunter and of our culture's rabid fascination with "reality" television: The Baboon Shavers.

Rest in peace, Steve.