The Scrabble Challenge

OK, I'm shamelessly ripping off this idea from the good group of people over at pedrothelion.org/forum (on a side note, I like how the spell checker for Blogger tries to replace pedrothelion.org with betrothal). I'm itching for a little online Scrabble to test my skills. Who's in?

Visit e-Scrabble to get an idea of what I'm talking about. You just set up a game with four e-mail addresses and then everyone throws in their word when they get a chance. This could take years to finish!

I hold a certain fondness for games that take a long time to complete. For instance, myself and Gavin playing a best-of-seven series of one-on-one basketball that lasted the entire summer of '95 (or was it '96? Either way, this is something that I really need to write about at some point). Another example: I recall when Carl and I played a game of Monopoly that must have lasted a week. Risk holds that same attraction. There's something to be said for knowing that you must invest a significant portion of time. It makes the pay-off all the sweeter.

Its like when you sit down with the Sports Night DVD box set and try to watch all of the episodes in chronological order. You know this is going to take a couple weeks, but ultimately, you know you'll be a better person for having done it. This is practically the same thing.

If you miss out this time maybe we can work you in for the next game. Maybe we could work out a "winner stays" rule like playground basketball.

So, who's in? Bottom line: I'm taking the first three people who e-mail me (you know my address). No excuses.


The Village Redux

I had a chance to screen The Village again this past week. It finally made its way to the Zeotrope after a long absence from the Regal Cinema in Bellingham. I was getting really nervous because I thought its quick box office drop-off may have precluded its visit to the 'Trope. Thank goodness I was wrong.

We have already had discussions regarding how Manoj films stand up on multiple viewings so I will try not to rehash that. You all know how I stand. I just wanted to mention that in some ways I actually enjoyed it even more the second time around. While the scares were definitely lessened since I knew the timing and outcome going in, there was more opportunity to simply enjoy the story for what it is. My mind was active, searching for any little clue that would give away the eventual ending. Here are a few things that I picked up on or appreciated even more the second time around.

  • "The animals!" I finally caught this line for myself. This is when they discover that Noah had the costume. Of course, Noah was the one who had done the killing at the wedding.
  • Which leads right into the wedding. Indeed, you do not see any shots of Noah during the dance scenes. He's absent because he's gallivanting around as the creature.
  • Which leads right into the visit where the creatures mark all the doors with red. It was interesting to see that Noah and Ivy are playing hide and seek just prior to this happening. As such, we get to see a shot of Noah hiding in the closet. Of course, he's right before Ivy's eyes and she doesn't know he's there. Originally, I had thought that this was just a shot to provide some comic relief. However, upon further inspection, I feel that its important that Manoj included this. It helps us to easily identify that this particular intrusion by the creatures is not Noah's doing. It makes a lot of sense in retrospect.
  • Perhaps my most satisfying revelation was in the scene where Elder Walker tells his wife that he wants to leave the village to retrieve medicine for Lucius. On my first viewing it seemed that the wife was seriously over playing this scene, as she utters over and over again "You made an oath! You made an oath!" It goes hand in hand with my major (and only?) complaint for The Spanish Prisoner in the scene at the airport where the mother whines "You've got your dirty fingerprints all over your book. Your fingerprints are all over the book." In both cases it feels like the director is just stretching it a little too much, trying to clue the audience in to an important detail. However, at least in the case of The Village, it became apparent that the character wasn't trying to tell the audience this tidbit of information. She was trying to tell her husband. She was saying, without explicitly stating, that she approved of sending Ivy to the towns. The reaction of the two characters as they cry and fall into each others arms further confirms my suspicions. Just another exquisite slice of subtlety from Manoj.

Bottom line? If you haven't returned to The Village, I recommend it. The Village is waiting for you with baited breath.


The Man, The Legend

I felt it prudent to release the following announcement regarding products in the line of the second greatest man who ever lived: Larry Bird: A Basketball Legend is getting new life on DVD come November 2nd, 2004 (by the way, this film is glaringly absent from IMDB.com, for shame). I recommend that you make an advance order through Amazon.com (insert "early Bird" joke here). While you're at it, feel free to have a copy shipped directly to the home of your favorite blogger. Contact me if you need shipping instructions.

This is the 25th Anniversary Edition of Larry Bird: A Basketball Legend, which seems odd since the original film was released in 1991. Apparently, they are commemorating 1979, the year that Larry joined the Boston Celtics and the NBA. Of course, that doesn't make much sense, since this in-depth films covers much more than the professional years of Larry Legend. No, it goes way back, to his childhood, his failure at Indiana University, his re-birth at ISU, etc., etc., and so on. None of this makes much of a difference, though, since it matters little what flimsy excuse the distributor had for this re-release. The point is: the moment we've been waiting for with baited breath has arrived. This is a good thing; this is a great thing; in the way of basketball films, this is the only thing you need.


Jeremy On 727

I was able to take in some Jandek On Corwood last Wednesday night and felt it would be appropriate to share my thoughts, feelings, and reactions. I will try to keep this post shorter than my Napoleon Conquers The Zeotrope novella, but to truly give the reader the experience that I went through I must go beyond the film and delve into the theater itself. The theater and the audience seemed to tie in nicely with Jandek On Corwood. They were even more appropriate than if the film had come to the Zeotrope.

Let us begin with the venue, the Coolidge Corner Theater located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America. I'm not sure who designed this place, but apparently they decided that there was no need to actually face the street. That made it somewhat hard to find. It was a relief to finally get inside and pay for my ticket.

My limp paper ticket stub directed me to "Theater 3," and my ticketing agent instructed me to go upstairs. How this room could be called "Theater 3" perplexes me. In fact, I could only see one other theater and this room that I had entered was properly named the "Video Screening Room."

Video indeed. I had read about this room online so I the room was not a complete shock, but it definitely went beyond what I had expected. There 45 seats arranged into 6 rows with one aisle down the middle. The screen was probably 8', though I'm not good at estimating these things. You were really on top of it, though.

The speaker system? Just a Bose surround sound setup like you would expect to find in someone's living room. The tiniest little speakers that seemed like they could fit in the palm of your hand. I say surround sound, but in fact I could only see the two small speakers in the rear of the room attached to the ceiling. I'm only assuming that there were more. The subwoofer just sat randomly at the front of the room, beneath the screen. It was almost calling out ... "Have you plugged me in yet?"

At least there was air conditioning. I can be sure of this fact because the air conditioner sat right before our eyes. It was dangling out of the window on the left wall like it would dangle out of anyone's bedroom window in their house. Now, if only someone had turned it on.

I looked towards the rear of the room to try to determine the location of the projection room. But there was none. Looking up I could see projectionist for our film was an InFocus ScreenPlay projector (forgive, I forget the model number). On their Web site they list this as perfect for home theater. Well ... good thing I was at home.

But all of this made perfect sense in the context of the movie that I was about to see. Jandek, a musical artist from the Houston, Texas area is all about minimalism. Absorbing his music is all about taking in something a little off-kilter and perhaps enduring something painful, but at the same time worthwhile. Jandek is (for the most part) a loner, generally recording a single instrument accompanied by voice, all by himself in what everyone assumes is an empty room. His anonymity is his heaviest attraction.

As I looked over the crowd I saw the types of people who could very well be Jandek, if I didn't know any better. Nearly everyone in the room was disconnected. Loners abounded. Hey, I was a loner myself for this experience. Maybe I am Jandek. You know its going to be a special movie when the seating arrangement from side to side always seemed to be occupied, empty, occupied, empty, occupied, empty. There were buffer seats as far as the eye could see.

And the feel of the room just added to that experience. We weren't going to viewing this movie in a conventional way or with the regular comforts.

Of course, the one thing that was somewhat shocking in context of all that was the stadium seating that we were treated to. In fact, the chairs and seating setup probably was the most expensive part of the entire theater.

When 9:30 p.m. rolled around an employee entered the room and opened a closet (a CLOSET!) near the front. Inside was the technical setup. The receiver, projector remote control, and the Sony DVD player (yes, we were just watching the DVD, sans special features). She struggled with the remote and finally got the thing to start.

The movie begins with rocks crashing against waves. There's silence. The employee is still fidgeting with the remote, trying to figure out how to get some sound out of those Bose speakers.

Meanwhile, a group of three women, who had been sitting across the aisle from me since I had entered, got up and began to leave. Apparently they were hold-overs from the movie that had just ended. Two of them quickly and quietly exited, not wanting to disturb the viewing audience. If only the third had the same respect for the people in the room. Instead she loudly starts talking as she moseys on down the aisle.

"Our movie didn't have crashing waves! What's this? We didn't get this?" All said in a sarcastic tone, as if anyone present cared. Then she stops at the closet and begins talking with the employee. "What's this movie called?! (interrobang omitted) What is this movie all about?" The employee is trying to quiet her and lead her out as she can see the disturbance that is beginning. I swear if this had continued any longer they may have had a riot on their hands. The tension of the audience was palpable.

Finally, once the woman has left someone from the back row shouts out "Can you just start the movie over?" The employee was very obliging and did just that, allowing us to experience the waves and crashing rocks once again, this time accompanied by the grating voice of one January D.


The story of Jandek has been told many a time, and in much better fashion then I could possibly recount here. So I won't even attempt it. In short, Jandek is a man in a room somewhere in Texas making what some would call music on a creaky recorder. He has released more than 35 albums in about 25 years. No one knows who he is and it seems that not many people care. Jandek On Corwood is his story, told through interviews with music critics, fans, and record store owners.

The film is excellent, plain and simple, but its definitely not for everyone. For one thing, Jandek provides the constant soundtrack, and as was mentioned earlier, some will find that this alone makes it unpalatable. If they could just grin and bear it they would be in for quite a treat. The story is too good to be ignored. There is so much mystery wrapped up in this solitary creature that you can't help but be sucked in.

It helps us examine some of his lyrics, his songs, his story. It takes us through the cover art of his records and the existence of his company, Corwood Industries (bonus link for those in the Houston area). In the end, we are left with no more true picture of who this man is than before we entered the theater, but we get the feeling that that's the way it should be. If we knew who Jandek was, we probably wouldn't care.

The film ends with an excellent audio-only 10 minute interview with the man himself, recorded in 1985. This was probably my favorite part, because it finally lets us connect with Jandek, at least as much as we probably ever will.

One thing that impressed me with this film was the humor that the director was able to interject. It just wasn't something that I expected from a documentary on a subject such as this. Yet it was present throughout. I actually laughed out loud more times watching this than I have watching many of Hollywood's purported "comedies."

As I told the director of this film in an e-mail conversation, "The kids'll love it."


Fall Film Challenge

Hey guys, the Phoenix Film Project is having a Fall Film Challenge. 3 minutes of horror or suspense. I know we're all pretty busy, but do you think we could kick out 3 minutes? I'll front the 10 bucks!
We are announcing this years Horror/Suspence film challenge. The films must be 3 minutes or less. We will show ALL the films on the big screen. We will have an audience vote to determine the winners the same night of the showing. The winner will receive a plaque, two filmmakers passes, T-Shirts, and automatice entry to the 2005 Phoenix Film Festival. The runners up will receive a certificate, festival day passes to the 2005 Phoenix Film Festival, and T-Shirts as well. The only format accepted is MiniDV. The submission deadline is October 24th at 6:00pm. The entry fee is $10 ***ALL ENTRANTS OF THE FALL 2004 FILM CHALLENGE ARE AUTOMATICALLY ENTERED FOR CONSIDERATION IN THE PHOENIX FILM FESTIVAL!!!***


Bridge School XVIII

It's that time of year again. My spidey sense always seems to kick in and say 'Hey, you need to keep an eye out for an announcement about the Bridge School benefit concert!"

Bridge School has been a yearly tradition since 1997, interrupted only (and bitterly, I missed ThomYorke solo) by unemployment in 2002. The Bridge School is a Bay area educational institute for kids with disabilities that keep them from fitting into the structure of the public school system. Neil and Peggi Young founded the school some time ago and the annual concert if the primary funding source each year.

Bridge School is always an eclectic mix. Usually eight to ten bands from many genres, all top names, all acoustic, and all of whom play each of day during the weekend. At $40 a day, it's the best value in live music entertainment anywhere. And since it's a Bay area hippy vibe, everyone is safely "mellowed out" by showtime to engage in wanton violence and mayhem. It's fun for the whole family.

Neil always calls out the big guns for this show, and acoustic jam-influence regulars like Dave Matthews Band and Blues Traveler. Pearl Jam is there every two years. Neil also likes to invite bands that you wouldn't think would fit into the scene, challenges them to adapt to the acoustic setting, and they all end up coming off great, and usually being heavily influenced by their senior colleagues. Green Day, Incubus, Billy Idol, Metallica, and Red Hot Chili Peppers come to mind. He also likes to break young singer-songwriters as the openers. The day usually starts with Neil saying hello and playing a song or two, and ends with most of the day's performers coming on stage for a grand finale. You've never seen so many people playing acoustic guitar at the same time before.

This year's lineup is:

Neil Young
Paul McCartney
Tony Bennett
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
Sonic Youth
Los Lonely Boys
Tegan & Sara

Legends, contemporary, alternative, latin-flavored, funk, pop, it's got it all. The Pumpkins were my initial draw, but it was such a cool show, I had to come back.

My one complaint is the lack of advance notice leading up to the show. The concert is usually announced just five weeks or so before the show, so it can be tough to find decent plane tickets and other accomodations. I missed the boat entirely this year, so we have only lawn tickets both days. I'll have to watch eBay for reserved seat bargains before the show. The lawn is a cool scene, but it's nice to have a seat at least one day.


Jandek On Corwood

I think I've told you all about Jandek at some point in the past. Jandek has become a mild obsession for me over the last year. Music aside, the story of Jandek is fascinating. In brief, Jandek has been putting out strange, haunting albums, presumably on his own label, for some twnety-six years now. Thirty-seven albums and counting of mostly sloppy vocals and untrained guitar work with lyrics that consistently read like a suicide note. If this is a practical joke, he's shown infinite patience in the payoff.

The phenomenon that is Jandek prompted the documentary film, Jandek On Corwood, as much about mystique of reclusivness as any perceived musical genius at work. The film has been making the film festival circuit over the last year, but never come to Phoenix. Finally, it has been announced that the film will be available on DVD November 23. It's also playing right now at Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA, for one week only. Like Jandek, the filmmakers have successfully limited avaiability to create anticipation and underground demand.

Debit Or Credit?

You hear that question all the time. Most often you probably hear it at the grocery store. Statistics shows that the grocery store is the place you are most likely to use your debit card. Maybe I'm the only one who has pondered this question, but why the choice? And which method does the store prefer? Really, it has to be broken down into three elements: which does the store, cashier, and customer prefer, since they may all be different?

I have been holding on this to this question for years. Probably ever since I first got a debit/credit card from Fleet and then visited my local Roche Bros.

For some reason I always had a hunch that the debit card was preferred by the cashier. My thought being that they didn't have to wait for the credit card receipt to print up, instead just having you enter your own PIN. One day I even ventured to ask the cashier at a Stop & Shop and she confirmed my suspicions. It is simply an easier, faster transaction for the cashier.

As for the customer, it never really seemed to make a difference, at least to me. It honestly didn't feel like it mattered one way or the other since the money is all coming from the same place.

Then I heard some disturbing news that people may actually be charged an off-network transaction fee if they use debit, akin to the fee you would get visiting a rival ATM. This definitely had sinister written all over it. I quickly went online to Fleet Home Link to see if any sort of transactions fees were recorded in my history. There were not. Still, it is said that more banks charge the fee than do not. This is something that you should probably look into if you haven't already.

If there is a fee then the question becomes a no-brainer. But how unethical to have no warning of the fee during your transaction. For shame, James. So if these fees are bad for the customer than why do grocery stores even offer this option. Because what's bad for the customer is not always bad for the store. Which brings us to ...

The method that the store would like you to use, without a doubt, is debit. Why? Because this brings more moola to their own bank accounts. Its quite simple really, though it had never occurred to me before. We all know that credit cards charge transaction fees on all purchases. A certain percentage of whatever you spend goes to the credit card company instead of the retailer. Previously, this fee had been about $1.64 out of a $100 purchase. As of August 1st of this year I'm told that this number has actually decreased to $1.16 for the same purchase.

Why would they decrease their fees like drastically? They're just trying to keep up. You see, when you use your debit card for a $100 purchase the retailer only gets sacked for about $.09 - $.25. Imagine how quickly that would add up for the store over just the course of one day if all of their customers used debit instead of credit.

This brings us to our next question: If stores would rather have you use debit then why don't they just come out and say so? The answer: they finally have. Well, at least some have. This past weekend I was down on Cape Cod for the Gastaldo Family Bocce Ball Doubles Tournament (which ended in disaster, but that's another story). While there I did a little shopping at the Hyannis Stop & Shop. As I checked out, lo and behold, there was a sign above the card swiper recommending that you use debit instead of credit.

Of course, they mentioning nothing about the money that they'll be saving. Instead, they make it seem like its all about the customer, telling you how its more secure, easier, and how convenient it is to get cash back. Now, we already know that its not really that much easier. Perhaps others use the cash back feature, but I never do. I just go to the ATM. And while it certainly would be more secure if you were required to enter a PIN, those that steal your credit card probably won't be choosing debit so that shouldn't pose too much of a problem for them.

Once again in consumer America, its all about the benjamins. Feel free to stick it to big business and indulge in the delightful answer of "credit."


Our Land, Under Heaven

Christopher Doyle talks about the calligraphic character used in Hero, and its many meanings, in this article. Lots of other interesting insight on a number of films. Enjoy.


Conspicuous Proconsumption

Here it is, the Panasonic PV-GS400, the new top-of-the-line prosumer camcorder. Got to give it a thorough run through at Fry's Electronics today, and it's very solid. Everything I expected from reading the reviews. Great manual control and not hard to figure out.

In case you guys are interested, you can find some actual footage shot using this model on this DV.com forum post. Prices are starting to really drop, too. Hopefully, street price from a decent retailer will be around $1200 a month from now, when I can buy.


The Ramen Noodle Diet

Have you seen these ridiculous "Angus Diet" advertisements that have been floating around the tube of late? You know the ones. Where the guy that reminds me of Al Franken back in the day (maybe its the hair) touts the wonderful benefits of eating Burger King's new Angus Steak Burger, performing an effective parody on the Atkins Diet. Anyway, for some reason these commercials made me think back to a diet of my own invention: The Ramen Noodle Diet.

First, I will lay out the details of the diet itself. Then I will detail my own results.

This is probably the simplest diet that you will ever come across. Exercise is kept to a minimum. There is no counting carbs, calories, fat, or anything else for that matter. The only counting you will be doing is counting the number of pounds that you've lost.

We will break this down into the three basic meals and the allowable snacks.


Breakfast consists of nothing. This may seem a bit drastic, but these are the sacrifices that must be made for physical appearances. Besides, the recommendation of the Ramen Diet is to wake up at around 11:00 a.m. With that in mind you can get yourself through the morning by thinking about how close to lunch you are. Small mid-morning (which I guess would be 11:30 a.m.) snacks are allowed.


For lunch you will be dining on the food product at the core of this diet: Ramen Noodles. For the purpose of the Ramen Diet we recommend Nissin's Cup Noodle. While this is far (very far) from the top quality and taste of Ramen noodles available on the market, we choose this brand because it is tried and true. Its nutrition facts also come into play with this decision. Chicken is recommended and shrimp is to be avoided.

This brings us to another key feature of the Ramen diet: the price. While Atkins has you buying expensive meat and dairy products and avoiding the low cost items like bread, we encourage you to go for the cheapest consumable item. If you can find the case at BJ's or Sam's Club we highly recommend it. You will go through it in no time. But at about $.25 per meal this should not be a problem.

There is one beverage choice: A&W Root Beer in a 12 oz. can. Try not to drink too much water. If you drink too much you won't be thirsty for the root beer.


Before attempting to consume dinner, first we recommend that you locate someone (a brother perhaps?) that will be paying for your meal. Whoever you find must be capable of laying on a heavy guilt trip on account of having to pay for you. To not disregard this; it is an important part of your dinner arrangement.

Because you feel so much guilt you will no doubt order less (or at least less expensive) food. We suggest some fine restaurants: Valle Luna, Denny's, Olive Garden, etc., etc., and so on. Wherever you go be sure to order the chicken caesar salad and a Diet Coke (if only to add legitimacy to your endeavor). Desert at the restaurant is a no-no, but don't worry, we haven't gotten to snacks yet.

Dinner at home should be avoided if at all possible. If you must, fix yourself some Velveeta Shells and Cheese (you have to visit this link). No substitutes. Have another 12 oz. root beer. Be careful when straining your pasta in the sink. Steam billows up quickly and hands should be removed from the strainer when this occurs.


You have two main options for snacks: mini Kit Kats or mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Please purchase the 1 lb. bag and keep it in a cupboard that you have easy access to. You'll be raiding it often throughout the day.

If you need a more substantial snack then go for another Nissin Cup Noodle. That should satisfy you.

In Conclusion

Some may say that Nissin Cup Noodles are fattening. Some would say that they have an obscenely high content of sodium. All of those people are correct. But you can't argue with scientific results.

I left Massachusetts on June 3rd of 1998, headed for Arizona to live with Joshua for the summer. I had reached a then personal high weight of 167 pounds (yes, naked in the morning).

I left with about $300 in my pocket. As you can imagine, that money was gone within about 2 weeks. From then on out I was at the mercy of Joshua's wallet. If he said that he didn't want to buy me dinner then there was no dinner eaten. It was my own fault and he was actually more than generous considering the circumstances. Although I still have issues about the fact that he made me sleep on the floor for 3.5 months.

At the time I didn't even realize that what I was consuming would be considered a diet. But as the Angus Al tells us in his commercials, "What you eat is a diet." That's true.

Joshua did not have a scale at the time (does he have one now?), so there was no way for me to measure myself during the entire summer. It really didn't even occur to me to do so. I knew that I had lost some weight, but I didn't think it was that drastic. I never went hungry; I always felt full. Little did I know the shock that I was in for (not to mention everyone else).

When I finally returned home on September 14th of that year one of the first things that I did was hang out in the basement of John and Mary Beth's house. That's where we were living at the time as Gina was saving up for her house. John and MB were very hospitable and we thank them for the use of their home (and their scale).

Michael Wells and his brother Rob were down in the basement hanging out with Carl and I. That's where they could be found for most of that summer. They were all relating what a summer I had missed, how Michael had moved in (I'm not sure that John and Mary Beth even knew about this, never mind approved of it), all the crazy things that had transpired in that little dark dungeon.

Rob looked at me as we all laughed about the mayhem. For the first time in his life he had a serious look on his face. "You look like an AIDS patient," he said to me. And you know what, I kind of liked it.

Upstairs I raced to find a scale.

1. 4. 2.

That's right. In 3.5 months (= 104 days = 2496 hours) I had lost 25 pounds by eating Ramen Noodles, chicken caesar salad, and more mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups than a person should eat in a lifetime. And I felt great about it. No more paunch, paunchy!

You can argue with my methods, but you can't argue with my 25 pounds ... 'cause their gone.