I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Texas Tech Bell Ringer

Green Lantern Trailer

At 1:54, you'll notice that the citizens of Coast City are running through the streets from some unnamed threat. It just so happens that a good friend of mine named Chad P., the person who has been helping me catch up on Green Lantern comics starting with the destruction of Coast City, was an extra in Green Lantern and a citizen of Coast City. Here's a still of his appearance in the trailer:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Best Monologues: Alec Baldwin in Malice

Top 3 Batman Villains For The Dark Knight Rises

3. Catwoman

Last year there was an internet hoax in which Megan Fox was supposedly confirmed for the role of Catwoman in the third Dark Knight Christopher Nolan Batman film (which we now know by the name The Dark Knight Rises). I was furious. Megan Fox can't act and I've never found her attractive (with the exception of a couple brief moments in the film Jennifer's Body). Megan Fox as Catwoman was, to me, like feeling the need to throw up, feeling that poison welling up in your abdomen and your entire body preparing to forcefully remove it. Likewise, the clarification that this was a vicious rumor and that no casting choices had been made for the upcoming Bat-film felt much like that moment of happiness once a poison has been purged.

The fact, however, is that the conclusion of The Dark Knight sets the stage perfectly for a Catwoman storyline. (I would argue that a Batman/Superman story would actually fit better, but Nolan said he didn't want to introduce Superman in Batman's story. I also think that there is a significant setup for a Batgirl storyline.) Batman is a criminal. His existence is against the law. He belongs, like those he has brought to justice, in Arkham Asylum. He is forced into the dark underside of justice, and who better to accompany him than everyone's favorite cat burglar with a conscience.

Between the rumors that Joseph Gordon-Levitt would play The Riddler and the confirmation that Tom Hardy will be in the film but that he will most certainly not be playing The Riddler, there was a rumor that Inception co-star Marion Cotillard would be joining the cast as Catwoman. Of all the rumors, that is the strongest public casting choice that I have seen so far. At the same time, however, I think Cotillard's talents might be better used elsewhere, but I'll explore this later. For me, the greatest Catwoman was Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns. Pfeiffer's Catwoman, like Nicholson's Joker in Batman, is the standard of comparison, if we deem comparison necessary. Who, like Pfeiffer, can do the role of Catwoman justice? The first thought that came to my mind was Kristen Bell, but maybe that's just because I would love to see her in that costume and I know from Fanboys and Veronica Mars that she's a geek. Naomi Watts would be fantastic, but I fear that she is getting too old for audiences to buy into this casting choice. Scarlett Johansson's already tied to the Marvel films, but would that be a problem? Halle Berry had already played Storm in two X-Men films when she was chosen to play Catwoman in Catwoman. (If you want to know where I think Halle Berry's portrayal of Catwoman fits in the spectrum, you will find it at the exact opposite end from Michelle Pfeiffer.) Kate Beckinsale?

In the end I don't know who the best choice for Catwoman is, but I know Catwoman is one of the best choices for The Dark Knight Rises.

2. Ra's al Ghul

There are a couple of significant difficulties with bringing back Ra's al Ghul for The Dark Knight Rises. The first difficulty is that Ra's al Ghul was killed in a train wreck in Batman Begins. The second difficulty is that resurrection via the Lazarus Pit seems a little too mystical and extraordinary compared to the tone that has been set for the Christopher Nolan Batman films.

I think that if we assume that Ra's al Ghul is simply not a viable candidate for the villain in the next Batman flick then we are underestimating not only our own imaginations, but the imagination of Christopher Nolan. If you remember how Ra's al Ghul was depicted in Batman Begins, you will remember that he was always enshrouded in some sort of mystery. The first person we believe to be Ra's al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) turns out to be a decoy and we find out that the real Ra's al Ghul is a man we have come to know as Henri Ducard. At Bruce Wayne's birthday party, Ra's al Ghul suggests that as an idea he is immortal.

So, how does the idea of Ra's al Ghul come back to life? I think it's possible that Ra's al Ghul was suggesting that the concept of Ra's al Ghul is something that any of a number of people could partake in, that it is perhaps more of a role than a particular identity. The decoy Ra's al Ghul may have been just as much Ra's al Ghul as the Henri Ducard Ra's al Ghul. I wouldn't immediately dismiss this idea. First of all, Nolan continues to describe his Batman films as a trilogy, meaning that there's a strong likelihood that issues dealt with in the first movie will resurface in the last creating a greater continuity. The League of Shadows certainly could have been behind some of the events of Dark Knight as well. Second, there may be a precedent for this transformation of the identity of Ra's al Ghul from the personal to the corporate. In Marvel's Iron Man, the character of Mandarin, originally understood as a martial artist who came upon ten rings of power in a crashed alien space ship, is transformed from a single individual enemy into a terrorist group known as Ten Rings. If the Mandarin identity can be understood as belonging to multiple individuals, why not the Ra's al Ghul identity? The mystery and identity confusion of Batman Begins are basically begging for this to be true and it gives us a chance to see a very Nolan understanding of the classic rejuvenation and resurrection themes that accompany any understanding of Ra's al Ghul.

Who should play the next Ra's al Ghul? Why not Tom Hardy? He's already confirmed and he sure isn't playing The Riddler.

1. Talia al Ghul

The solution to all of your Batman casting problems is Talia al Ghul.

Talia al Ghul is the best way to resolve the Ra's al Ghul/League of Shadows storyline from Batman Begins. You don't have to think so hard about identity and illusion. Instead you get to enjoy an incredibly beautiful woman in the interesting and complex role of Ra's al Ghul's daughter.

Talia has the dark side of a Catwoman character without introducing too many extraneous characters to the storyline. She belongs to the storyline as a successor to Ra's al Ghul. Similar to Catwoman, Talia al Ghul fills the necessary lead female role in Bruce Wayne/Batman's life that was emptied when Rachel Dawes was killed in Dark Knight. This provides an extra pay-off for comic book fans who know that she is the mother of Bruce Wayne's son Damian Wayne in the regular DC universe.

As for casting, here's where Marion Cotillard comes in. She's sexy and exotic, which hits the nail on the head for Talia al Ghul. She's got a rapport with Nolan, which seems to have worked for Tom Hardy. Most importantly, she can really act. I say this because Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhaal were the two weakest links in the casting of Batman Begins and Dark Knight. Gyllenhaal was miles ahead of Holmes, but she was also miles behind what I would consider her normal acting capability. With Cotillard we could have an enticing female bat-villain who steals the show from acting titans Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.

In the end, I am just happy that Christian Nolan is in charge. For the most part, I trust his decisions and I feel certain that The Dark Knight Rises is going to astound me and be one of the best films of the year.

Now to figure out how I'm going to pass the time until 2012. Any suggestions?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Star Wars: Baroque

This is the Death Star, baroque style. There's more where this came from on the Behance Network and it can be viewed here.

Mercury Tears: In Defense of John Doggett

Before you view my words as the gospel truth, I want to warn you that I have not watched every episode of X-Files, but from a perspective near the end of the eighth season I have come to feel terrible about the bad name Special Agent John Doggett has been given over the years. I have this terrible image of Robert Patrick looking back on his years as John Doggett with remorse and regret because of how hard he worked only to be shunned by the public. I imagine T-1000 shedding a mercury tear.

Obviously, if John Doggett committed some horrendous crime against humanity or betrayal of Mulder and Scully and Skinner in the final season of X-Files I'm unable to comment. From the perspective of most of season eight, the characterization of John Doggett is beyond this reproach. When he first appears on the scene it seems certain that Special Agent John Doggett is a career oriented jerk who could be the Director of the FBI some day, and yet it is obvious early on that Doggett, like renegade agents Mulder and Scully, does have truth and human good as his goal.

Special Agent John Doggett has experienced great success at the FBI after a fruitful career as a police officer. Whereas Mulder and Scully have been marginalized and mocked in the Bureau, neither of them capable of having a normal outside of their work, John Doggett had a wife and a child. He's one of the guys when he's at work, able to engage in manly water cooler talk. He laughs and mingles and it seems like he has the life that Mulder and Scully can never have. But this is just a superficial view of a deeper sense of brotherhood and camaraderie which, combined with his devotion to always doing good police work, makes him perfect for the X-Files. It is clear that the duty to ones partner, whoever that may be and whatever she may believe, is central to John Doggett's characterization. In this case, his partner is Dana Scully, and his duty to partner resembles a kind of love. Doggett hunts for Mulder with great vigor because it matters to Scully. He pushes himself to be a good cop while on the case, but he also pushes himself to do the difficult job of entertaining the impossible, and this comes from respect for Scully. He is seriously disturbed by Scully's absence and evidence of hospitalization, and this is because he truly cares for his partner.

John Doggett has an admirable sense of duty, but this does not describe the magnitude of drive that goes into Doggett's search for Mulder. After only a couple of episodes it is revealed that what we've seen of John Doggett's successful existence is only the vestiges of a golden era, a veil concealing the great tragedy of a murdered son presumably resulting in a broken marriage. In the episode "Invocation," when his loss is first addressed, we see John Doggett as the man who will push himself beyond the point of hope in the event that a child is missing, as if he's a mechanism of the universe whose purpose is to reunite people with their estranged loved ones. X-Files changes focus in season eight from a search for the truth to a search for the missing agent Fox Mulder, and who better to conduct this search than the X-Files's own patron saint of the missing, Special Agent John Doggett?

In the face of such a shining character, how can people justify this negative attitude toward John Doggett? The answer is simple. John Doggett is cool, but he's no Fox Mulder. I completely agree. John Doggett is not Fox Mulder. He's a completely different character, incomparable to Fox Mulder, never intended to be or become Fox Mulder. John Doggett is his own man. If John Doggett were judged by his commitment to the X-Files, to Mulder and Scully, to the truth and to the United States of America, to being a really cool dude that we enjoy on screen, he would be one of the most glorified names in modern sci fi. Unfortunately, he's judged only by the fact that he replaced Fox Mulder as Dana Scully's partner. John Doggett is denied a personal identity. For all intents and purposes we might be better off calling him not-Mulder, because that's what we've reduced him to.

The last two seasons of X-Files are widely considered a disappointment compared to the previous seven. The last two seasons of X-Files are also the era of Special Agent John Doggett. Was John Doggett the cause of the fall of the X-Files? No. The need for Robert Patrick's addition to the X-Files cast and the relative weakness of later seasons are not cause and effect. They are both unfortunate effects of a confluence of events involving but not limited to David Duchovny's contract and possible hubris in the expectations of the creators. When The X-Files: Fight the Future concluded the first half of the X-Files storyline and kicked off the second half, Chris Carter was in a fantastic position to negotiate a fixed amount of seasons in which to conclude his story, to negotiate the contracts of all key characters to guarantee that things would proceed as planned, and to finish his story properly. I can easily imagine Chris Carter completing two very concise and important seasons following the events of the movie and that being the end of the X-Files.

But that is not the ending we got. We lost David Duchovny/Fox Mulder before the story could be properly concluded. As a band-aid, Robert Patrick/John Doggett was introduced to lead us to the end. He was the best band-aid we could have gotten. I propose that we stop making Special Agent John Doggett our scapegoat for the possible shortcomings of FOX, Christ Carter and David Duchovny. All I am saying is give John Doggett a chance.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

American Psycho Mentos Commercial

DIY Turtle Van

If you're anything like me, then you wish that you owned the Turtle Van that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles used in the original cartoon. A 23-year old woman named Britney Schneck has used her automobile detailing skills to transform 1 '94 Caravan into her own personal Turtle Van. I'm super jealous.

Here is a before and after picture of the Caravan and the Turtle Van.

And finally a comparison between the toy Turtle Van and the full-sized Turtle Van.

So far as I'm able to track it, the original story was posted on CarDomain and can be read here. Jalopnik and Slashfilm retell the story here and here.

Hugh Laurie

Actor Hugh Laurie. Since 2004, Hugh Laurie has been quite possibly the most consistently amazing actor on network television as Dr. Gregory House on FOX's House. It's not often that virtuosic acting skills combine with reliability of performance, but when it does you've found yourself a star that can burn bright without worry of extinguishing all too soon. That star is Hugh Laurie.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Clobber Texts in Context

The LGBTQ community finds one of its most common enemies in the church, and one of the reasons for this is that many people believe that the Bible supports their anti-homosexual perspective. For some time now, a series of Bible verses (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:18, 21-25; 19:1-25; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10), commonly known as clobber texts, have been appropriated for the battle against the LGBTQ community. For decades, however, people have been questioning whether these verses ought to be used in this way. The following is a short exercise in placing these verses in context and determining what the Bible says regarding the lawfulness or unlawfulness of loving and consensual relationships between adults of the same sex.

Genesis 1:27-28; 2:18, 21-25

Perhaps I'm not the smartest banana in the bunch, but I have a lot of difficulty seeing how the Creation account has anything to do with the LGBTQ discussion. None of these passages say anything about homosexuality, positive or negative, and yet these verses continue to be used as clobber texts because of the command in Genesis 1:28 to "be fruitful and multiply."

There are two good reasons that this commandment to be fruitful does not make sense as an anti-LGBTQ passage. First of all, if all relationships are defined by their necessity of resulting in the production of children, then we really need to protest those heterosexual couples who are unable to have children due to sterilization and impotence, those heterosexual couples who remain together after the female has gone through menopause and can no longer bear children, those heterosexual couples who choose not to have children because of career motives or the guarantee that the child would be born with a debilitating disease or the feeling of irresponsibility of bringing a child into a world where hate dominates faith and common sense in religious discourse, and also those heterosexuals who remain single unto death. Second of all, if bearing children becomes a sacred law of being in a relationship, we have to deal with the difficult question of whether simply bearing one child is enough to satisfy your legal duty or whether one ought always to be pumping out children one after another in intervals of nine months or less until death.

If you are reading this you are committing an act of treason before God because you are reading a blog and not procreating, and this is only one of the ridiculously negative consequences of turning the creation story into a rant against homosexuality.

Genesis 19:1-25

I've heard more people talk about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as God's definitive expression of hatred for homosexuals than any other Biblical story. The text never explicitly names the sin of Sodom as homosexuality. We are told that Sodom is a wicked place, we are given an example of wickedness, and then the Lord completely annihilates Sodom. There are Bible verses that speak of the sins of Sodom. According to Ezekiel 16, Sodom's sin is greed and indifference. In Matthew 10:12-15 and Luke 10:10-12, Sodom's sin is simply inhospitality. Jude 7 and 2 Peter 2:10 refer to Sodom's sin as sexual immorality, not of men laying with men, but of mortals violating immortals.

The New Testament accusations of inhospitality and sexual immorality are perhaps not worded strongly enough. While they are sufficient to suggest that the destruction of Sodom was not in reference to consensual loving relations between adults of the same sex, it is insufficient to describe the horrors of this story. The men of Sodom were attempting to violently gang rape a pair of guests, possibly the most terrifying breach of any concept of hospitality that one can imagine. When the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is twisted into an anti-homosexuality polemic, it distracts believers from the real problem of sexual violence.

Leviticus 18:22; 20:13

The prohibition of men laying with men in the Holiness Code (Leviticus 17-26) is the only place where homosexuality is directly condemned. The reason the sexual act is taboo is because one of the males must betray his masculinity and act as if he were a female. As a result of this enactment of femininity, both of the members involved are liable for the condemned act.

The Holiness Code is concerned with what is customary. Rather than dealing with ethical concepts of good and evil, right and wrong, harmful and beneficial, it deals with social etiquette. (The modern equivalent of rules of etiquette, only now-a-days we don't slaughter animals when we put our elbows on the table.) Among other things, it asks men to act like men and women to act like women. Paul writes, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). If we're to take Paul seriously then a code of masculinity and femininity has no place in our understanding of morality.

If this is not convincing enough, consider all of the other rules modern Christians must follow if we are to condemn homosexuality. Wearing two different types of fabric together is an abomination. Eating pork, shrimp or rabbit is an abomination. Planting two different kinds of seed in the same general area is an abomination. Anyone working on the Sabbath is a criminal. Anyone with round haircuts or tattoos is a criminal. Anyone reading a fortune cookie or horoscope is a criminal. And let's hope you don't like football, because playing with the skin of a pig is prohibited as well.

Romans 1:26-27

Romans 1:26-27 is significant for two reasons: it is the only place where there is so much as a complete sentence regarding same-sex relations, and it is the only place in the Bible where female same-sex relations are referenced. While this is one of the only passages in the Bible that has anything whatsoever to do with homosexuality, it is first and foremost a polemic against idolatry.

In Paul's journeys he was able to see a great many things, Greek things, that his predominantly Hebrew audiences would have never witnessed. What he saw in Greek pagan religion was sexual practices he'd never before encountered, drunken orgies, castration, prostitution, any number of acts that Paul considered strange, and these acts as means of worshiping and honoring Aphrodite or Dionysus.

What is the message Paul intends to get across in this passage? Don't worship idols. If you do, the living God will abandon you and leave you to your empty rituals. To say that these people were abandoned by God because of homosexual acts or to say that these people were punished by being turned into homosexuals is simply a bad interpretation. This passage implies that you cannot have both the fullness of God through Jesus Christ and at the same time worship inanimate objects and statues. The choice is not one of gay versus straight; it's a choice of worship of God versus worship of false idols.

1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10

These two passages are part of a series of laundry lists attributed to Paul in which certain sins deter someone from entering the Kingdom. The two words that are commonly understood to be anti-homosexual are translated in the NRSV as male prostitutes and sodomite, but in other translations like the NIV these two terms are combined and translated as "men who have sex with men."

The translation of these two Greek words, malokois and arsenokoitai, makes all the difference in determining whether Paul was addressing people involved in homosexual relationships. Both of these words have a stronger connection with prostitution than they do with loving homosexual relationships. I doubt that we even have a word in English that describes the intended meaning of either of these words. The best understanding of the meaning of malokois is adolescent boys who prostitute themselves to older men. In this context, arsenokoitai, a very difficult word to translate, most likely refers to these old men who pay young children for sex. In English, we would call men like this lechers or pedophiles.

This is yet another example of our ignorance to serious crimes like prostitution and pedophilia as a result of misinterpreting the Bible according to our hateful biases.

Kanye's Choice Awards

Say what you will about Kanye West, but the dude has some pretty fantastic taste in music. Here are just a couple of examples.

Kanye West, "Stronger"

The song "Stronger" was the second single from Kanye's 2007 album Graduation. The song is a re-imagination of the Daft Punk song "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger." My buddy Adam hated the song for some time because he felt there was no need to rework this song, but when he found out that Kanye is a fellow Daft Punk fan he was won over. I love Kanye's tribute to Daft Punk even moreso because he includes a tribute to Prince and Purple Rain for anyone listening to the lyrics: "You know how long I've been on ya? / Since Prince was on Appollonia."

Kanye West, "Coldest Winter"

I'm sure you've figured out by now that I'm a big fan of Tears for Fears. If you've also figured out that the Kanye West song "Coldest Winter" from 808s & Heartbreak (2008) is a cover of the Tears for Fears song "Memories Fade" from The Hurting (1983), then you have probably figured out why it is one of my favorite Kanye West songs.

These are just a couple of examples of Kanye's great taste in music. If you have more, feel free to share them with me. Nooch.

Tina Fey

Actress Tina Fey. When I think about the many talents of Tina Fey, I think it's incredibly unfair that all of those things can exist in one person. She's has been a writer for Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, and is responsible for writing the thoughtful and entertaining high school comedy Mean Girls. She's also a fantastic voice actress, as we've witnessed in Ponyo and Megamind. Oh, and she's an actress, but you knew that if you have ever watched SNL, 30 Rock, Date Night or Mean Girls. I can't imagine that somebody wouldn't love Tina Fey.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cowboys & Aliens Trailer

Conspiracies Gone Wild: The Lone Gunmen and September 11

The Lone Gunmen is a short-lived spin-off of X-Files that I recently began watching, featuring X-Files alumni John Fitzgerald Byers (Bruce Harwood), Melvin Frohike (Tom Braidwood), and Richard "Ringo" Langly (Dean Haglund). While watching the pilot episode I had this strange feeling. Maybe you'll understand. The Lone Gunmen uncover a plot in which a group of terrorists are going to crash a passenger airplane into the World Trade Center in Manhattan, and get this - the terrorists are U.S. government employees.

I know that The Lone Gunmen's one season aired within a year of the events of September 11, 2001. While watching this first episode I felt certain that this episode aired shortly after September 11 and we could see it as a commentary on 9/11. The Lone Gunmen is a spy program surrounding the hijinx of three paranoiacs who write for a conspiracy newspaper of the same name, so it makes sense that this show would introduce us to the possibility of government conspiracy regarding 9/11. It's insensitive, yes, but it makes sense that if there is an accusation to be made it will come from the mouths of The Lone Gunmen.

At the climax of the pilot, Byers finds himself in an airplane on a collision course with the World Trade Center, an event that will kill a main character, everyone else on the plane and a great deal of people in and around the building. A viewer watching this episode today knows that a variation of this plot was carried out and lead to one of the greatest tragedies on U.S. soil, but this same viewer also knows that there is a significant problem in killing off a main character, possibly the main character, in the first episode. So, what happens? Do they crash the plane or prevent the tragedy? The answer is that due to the heroic actions of three patriots, unlikely heroes devoted to questioning the government and big business for the sake of ensuring the safety of the American populace, the pilot is able to pull up and fly over the World Trade Center at the last minute. Because of these men, everyone is saved. What I thought was an insensitive indictment turned into a respectful and very sweet re-imagination of events.

It turns out I was wrong on both accounts.

The first episode of The Lone Gunmen aired on March 4, 2001, some nine months before the tragic events of September 11. (The tenth episode, "Tango de los Pistoleros," which suggests that an invisible Cessna could be flown into the White House, aired on April 27, 2001, only eight months before 9/11.) I was so astonished by the discovery that creator Chris Carter has essentially predicted the terrible tragedy of September 11 that I needed to tell somebody. As it was, I found myself alone in my apartment. I could have knocked on the door of one of my neighbors, all of whom are amiable and would share a laugh with me before closing the door and texting their friends about the crazy dude who lives next door, but instead I shared this revelation on Facebook.

The first response to my post was, "Terrorists watch TV, too." When I read this comment two things popped into my head. The first was that I was annoyed that someone's snarky comment could have potentially turned this whole incredible realization into a media pro-censorship campaign. If Osama Bin Laden learned all of his tricks from Chris Carter then he and his likes should be shut down. This was not something that I could stand for, certainly not in the United States of America. The second thing that popped into my head was that if I were Chris Carter, the creator of The Lone Gunmen, and an episode of mine resulted in the loss of human lives I would feel absolutely terrible. I was fighting with two very different understandings of responsibility.

In order to deal with the tension in my brain and in my feelings, I decided to plot out what I knew. I knew that the terrorist strike on American soils happened nine months after the air date of The Lone Gunmen episode that some might claim as its inspiration, but despite the whole pregnancy metaphor that nine months forces me to think about I found it hard to believe that 9/11 was carried out only nine months after its inspiration. I texted my friend Adam, whose roommate is a brilliant military and political strategist. He explained that, according to the best data, it would have taken at least eighteen months to carry out any plan like this. As a side note, he also said that it only cost the terrorists a few thousand dollars to attack us whereas our response has cost billions of dollars to date.

The Lone Gunmen episode was not a response to September 11. Neither was September 11 a response to The Lone Gunmen episode. I know that by either coincidence or by some brilliant political and strategical acumen, Chris Carter wrote a story about an event that would happen later that year. What I don't know is whether he was really all that special for predicting this. Some part of me tells me that Chris Carter was merely repeating things that he had read, things that he had picked up in meetings with government officials who consult for his television programs. I almost fear going down this trail, because it seems like the end result is the indictment that people in our government knew something like this would happen and yet they weren't capable of stopping it.

This is not an accusation I feel qualified to make. It's more like a feeling that I am inclined to go to every time I meditate on how many people were killed on September 11 and how many people were killed since then as a result of our response. The hurt want to place blame, and it's that very mechanism that brings me to this difficult place. My reason tells me that our federal government attempted to keep something like this from happening by jacking up airport security, but that some of their methods could not be justified unless something like September 11 actually happened. It tells me that the military has had plans for a very long time in order to deal with this very problem. If someone knew that something like September 11 would happen and couldn't stop it, my guess is that this person's suggested methods were either too expensive or violated too many human rights.

But then again, maybe nobody ever seriously thought anybody would ever crash a passenger plane into the World Trade Center. Perhaps Chris Carter is the visionary who can see past the things that we don't want to believe could happen. There are many dimensions to this discussion, many sides to find yourself on. My guess is that the truth, which we know to be "out there," is actually somewhere between the strongly worded rhetorics. Here's to hoping that our government employs all the creativity available in order to make sure that September 11 never becomes plural.

When They Were Cool: Tom Hanks

In the 1990s I remember there was always some buzz about the crazy things Tom Hanks was doing to prepare for a role. Malnutrition was a necessary preparation for both Philadelphia (1993) and Cast Away (2000) (almost 90s). (Although Hanks is probably best known for this seemingly destructive attitude toward his body, I can think of few more insane feats of preparation than Christian Bale's transformation from normal Bale to sickeningly thin Bale for The Machinist in 2004 to massive and buff Bale for Batman Begins in 2005.) I'm pretty sure Hanks even spent a week in a box for a movie. (Did I dream that headline?) And Hanks was rewarded for his efforts - he was making money hand over fits and he received the Academy Award for Best Lead Actor two years in a row (Philadelphia in 1993 and Forrest Gump in 1994). Tom Hanks was working his butt off, and the payoff was big, but working hard is probably the single easiest way to lose cool points. The Fonze jumped a shark and it didn't require immersion training. He made it look easy. That's why the Fonze is cool and 90s Tom Hanks is not.

Flash back to The Money Pit (1986). (I never watched the Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore film Duplex, but the trailers gave me the uncanny feeling that it was a rip off of The Money Pit, and this infuriated me because I really like The Money Pit.) Tom Hanks plays Walter Fielding, Jr., the husband of Anna Crowley Beissart (Shelley Long). This is long before Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer), mind you (The Office). Heck, Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) haven't even been invented yet (FRIENDS). We're talking Sam (Ted Danson) and Diane (Shelley Long) days (Cheers). Hanks is hilarious and skinny (naturally skinny, not Philadelphia skinny) and he's starring beside the most important woman on TV. It is because of this movie and a few others (Bachelor Party, Big, The 'Burbs, Turner and Hooch, Joe Versus The Volcano) that Tom Hanks used to be cool.

The complication comes from the fact that Tom Hanks is cool in the 80s but he's not cool for the same reasons as people like Tom Cruise or Eddy Murphy. Tom Hanks was never the Fonze. He's not the guy who wears the leather jacket and sunglasses, the cool guy who is beyond reproach. Tom Hanks has always had to work, and even though I told you that working hard and being cool simply don't coincide, it worked for Hanks in the 80s but no longer worked for him in the 90s. Tom Hanks was the peoples' cool guy, subject to Murphy's Law, dealing with every difficulty either by taking it in stride or by spazzing out or by saying, "Screw you, world," and who couldn't relate to that? Unlike Tom Cruise, who was cool by divine mandate (leave space for Scientology joke), Tom Hanks was elected from among the people. He paved the way for normal people to be cool, and then he left our plane of existence.

Tom Hanks came from among us and we elevated him to coolness. He then gave us his power and left the world of cool. Where did he go? He studied the art of becoming someone else, and we showed him with our patronage that we believed in these transformations. And then he just disappeared (in other words, he got involved with producing movies). What do we do now? We look at Hanks's early work and learn the lesson he taught us - be yourself, and be yourself well, the best you that you can be, for that is the path to coolness.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Off the Bone BBQ

Off the Bone BBQ is the second barbecue restaurant in Fort Worth that I've chosen to put my good name behind. Like the first (Jesus BBQ), Off the Bone ought not to be judged by its outward appearance. It looks like a gas station turned restaurant turned abandoned building, but it is actually a great restaurant that serves the best ribs I've ever had in Fort Worth.

Before I even got my food, I was pleased with Off the Bone BBQ and that's because of the friendly service of one employee who exemplified all I used to strive for when I worked in concessions, fast food and retail. He was genial and charming, the kind of guy who cares about what you have to say and remembers you the next time you come in. Furthermore, he was keen on making sure we got our money's worth by emphasizing that we ought to take advantage of their free refills policy. I remember sitting down at the table before I received my order and despite my growling stomach I felt pleased. This one counter worker hooked me before I could even make a judgment regarding the quality of food. He did his job so well that I was already looking forward to coming back to Off the Bone in the future.

When we received our food, I was doubly prepared to return to Off the Bone. The ribs were fantastic. The meat fell "off the bone" (so it's not just a clever name). It was smoked and tender with a light char. I am no rib connoisseur, but my senses told me that I had just encountered something great. Luckily I was dining with a real rib pro, Gabe Pfefer, a Missourian familiar with the barbecue culture of Kansas City who with his vast knowledge affirmed all of my exclamations. These ribs are certifiably good. They're Facebook official.

I would also suggest experimenting with the sides. A rib dinner comes with Texas toast and two sides. It's a good sized meal with a lot of options for supplementary great taste.

I paraphrase the Men's Warehouse guy in saying, "You're going to love Off the Bone BBQ. I guarantee it."

Off the Bone BBQ
5144 Mansfield Hwy
Forest Hill, TX 76119

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My Eight True Loves of the '00s

1. Zooey Deschanel

I first encountered Zooey Deschanel as the neurotic older sister Anita Miller in the 2000 film Almost Famous. I think I really fell in love with her though in Elf (2003), one of the only Will Ferrell comedies that doesn't annoy me more than it entertains me. What can I say? I'm a sucker for big, beautiful eyes.

2. Naomi Watts

If steamy lesbian scenes like the one between Naomi Watts and Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001) were a requirement for my love, I can think of a whole lot of other women who would be on this list. But yet, only Naomi Watts made it. Why? Because she has one of the prettiest faces I've ever seen, she's a brilliant actress, and at the age of 42 she has proven that it is possible to age with grace and beauty.

3. Rachel McAdams

After The Notebook (2004), Rachel McAdams was that actress who you were pretty much required to love. If you'd been watching your popular movies, however, you would have seen her coming on the scene in the ridiculous Rob Schneider film The Hot Chick (2002) or in the surprisingly poignant film Mean Girls (2004). She may not have been taking roles as that girl you have to love yet, but she was certainly flexing her acting muscles in places where you wouldn't expect an actress to shine.

4. Scarlett Johansson

The first movie I remember seeing Scarlett Johansson in was either Eight Legged Freaks (2002) or Lost in Translation (2003), whichever one I watched first. The first time I saw her it was an accident, but every subsequent time was on purpose. I have since realized that I can be thoroughly entertained if I cater my movie watching to movies that Scarlett Johansson is in. I was even able to sit through He's Just Not That Into You several times, and inflict this movie like a Korean grudge film on those around me, simply because Johansson was in it. She's a great actress, and she's wonderful to look at.

5. Evangeline Lilly

While she wasn't the sole reason for my obsession with the television program LOST, Evangeline Lilly certainly added her share to this addiction. I am bowled over by the fact that she is so talented and yet this was her first significant acting role ever.

6. Kristen Bell

Kristen Bell is smart, sassy and she has a sense of humor. She's also beautiful. The thing that puts Bell above all the rest is the fact that she caters to her geek audience. On Veronica Mars, Bell commonly used the word "frack" instead of other forms of foul language as a shout out to the Battlestar Galactica fans. Furthermore, she was the lead female in the movie Fanboys (2008), which tells the story of a group of people who are really excited for Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace (1999). She's the kind of girl who you could go on a romantic date with and she'd probably want to play D&D with your friends the next day.

7. Felicia Day

Felicia Day is another champion of the geeks. I first saw her in the internet sensation Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008), only to find out that it was based on another internet sensation called The Guild that Day had been doing since the writer's strike in order to be productive instead of just playing World of Warcraft all day. She can sing. She can dance. She can write. She can direct. She can produce. She can create. She can act. She's understated and a natural beauty.

8. Alison Brie

The last addition to the list, but certainly not the least, Alison Brie caught my eye near the decline of the decade when the hit comedy program Community premiered in 2009. I found it interesting how she developed from a cute school girl to a sex icon during the first season. On interviews she's charming and flawless. She makes me excited for what this coming decade has in store.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Radiohead Kid A (2000: Capitol)

1. "Everything in Its Right Place" - 4:11
2. "Kid A" - 4:44
3. "The National Anthem" - 5:51
4. "How to Disappear Completely" - 5:56
5. "Treefingers" - 3:42
6. "Optimistic" - 5:15
7. "In Limbo" - 3:31
8. "Idioteque" - 5:09
9. "Morning Bell" - 4:35
10. "Motion Picture Soundtrack" - 6:59

Thursday, November 18, 2010

James Remar

Actor James Remar. Giving you a proper sense of Remar's resume in the film and television industry would take more time and space than any of our attention spans would allow. If he looks or sounds familiar, it's probably because he plays Dexter's father Harry Morgan on the television program Dexter. James Remar is probably one of the most tragically under-appreciated actors in all of Hollywood. He's a brilliant character actor who pops up on every other television show you've ever watched. (I most recently saw him as Meier in two episodes of Battlestar Galactica.) He's also a voice actor involved in superhero cartoons, and you know how much I value that!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mary McDonnell

Actress Mary McDonnell. She is probably best known as President Laura Roslin from the cult re-imagination of Battlestar Galactica, but I remember first encountering her as Rose Darko in the film Donnie Darko (2001). I think the words of her on-screen husband Eddie Darko (Holmes Osborne) sum it up best: "You're not a bitch. You're bitchin', but you're not a bitch." Mary McDonnell brings integrity and grace to every character she plays. So say we all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When They Were Cool: Eddie Murphy

In the 1980s, cool was still cool. In successive decades being uncool defined what was cool. Grunge made the high school loser into the heroic icon of cool. An anti-pop movement started, probably influenced by Radiohead's growing control of what is accepted as cool in music, and it was no longer cool to like anything on mainstream radio. By the turn of the Willennium, the heroes of the modern movie were incredibly skinny or incredibly overweight awkward boys who like eclectic music from the 70s and 80s like Michael Cera. If asked, "When was such and such cool?" the likely answer is, "the 80s." Some have posited that this is related to the death of Miles Davis, the inventor of Cool, in 1991.

Eddie Murphy used to be cool. What? You don't remember him ever being cool? Well, he sure was. When?

Pay attention. The answer is the 80s.

Murphy's appearances on Saturday Night Live and his comedy special Delirious (1983) made him into an overnight sensation, and quite frankly, his influence on the acceptance of blacks in show business is probably largely overlooked. In a world without Richard Pryor, one might even go so far as to say that Murphy is the most important black figure in comedy movies, commanding America and setting the tone of comedy to follow. That's something that you can't take away from Murphy. Unfortunately, Murphy is not allowed to rest on his laurels. You have to keep performing. Eddie Murphy is important, but he sure isn't cool anymore.

In the 80s Eddie Murphy talked about flatulence, and it was cool. He didn't call it farts. He said "fahts." And it was cool. He was homophobic. He wasn't politically correct. He's probably part of the reason that everyone became so hyper-PC in the 90s. But regardless of what you think about this, he made it cool. And that made things difficult for 90s politicians. Murphy also had glorious teeth and an impressive body, so women loved him. And women loving you makes you cool.

Maybe you disagree. Here's an indisputable proof. The Golden Child and Coming to America. You don't get it yet? IN The Golden Child (1986) Eddie Murphy and a little boy get chased by a giant flying demon. A GIANT FLYING DEMON! In Coming to America (1988) Murphy is a king from an African nation who really doesn't get American customs. He's basically a wealthy black version of Uncle Travelling Matt from Fraggle Rock. Many of his films are even socially aware and sensitive to ideas of class and race, especially Trading Places (actually, that movie may just be about Jamie Lee Curtis's breasts... Can you remember anything else about Trading Places? Hmmm...).

 A decisive end to Eddie Murphy's coolness is not completely clear. Remember that Miles Davis died in 1991, so it must have been pretty close to that time. Tom Cruise survived until 1992 as a cool dude, after all, so its possible to be cool in a world without Cool. Murphy's dignity was certainly gone by the time he did Nutty Professor (1996). The combination of putting on a fat suit and playing multiple characters is the epitome of lame comedy, a fact that some people really don't understand (ahem... Martin Lawrence... Tyler Perry...).

This article ought not to end on a negative note. After all, its very possible that Murphy passed the torch of coolness to Will Smith. In 1990, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air premiered on NBC. As we all well know, Fresh Prince set Will Smith up for Blockbuster Independence Day films, and these films set us up for the Willennium. It's Thanksgiving, so let's be thankful for all that Eddie Murphy has given us, thankful for the dude who hasn't been cool for two decades.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Left 4 Dead: The Sacrifice

I was already a fan of the cinematic quality of Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 on PC, but as they began to release more and more extra content I became more and more interested. The Sacrifice, a four-part web-based Left 4 Dead comic book mini-series, was a wonderful cap to the experience. It fleshes out the characters from the original Left 4 Dead while also including some of their better known one-liners and techniques. It employs classic zombie film themes regarding the military and how humans are their own worst enemy. The story was interesting and strangely heartfelt and I felt that it was probably the best comic book I've ever read that was intended as promotional material for a video game.

Left 4 Dead: The Sacrifice is available via the L4D web site here. The comics can also be downloaded in PDF form: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

14 Movies From Which a Justin Tiemeyer Can Be Constructed

(In chronological order)

1. The Care Bears Movie (1985)

Amy now gets annoyed whenever I sing The Care Bears Movie theme song Care-a-Lot by Carole King.

But I keep singing it!

2. The Labyrinth (1986)

My aunt used to baby sit us during the summer sometimes, and the really cool thing about being a teenager at Aunt Sue's house was that she usually had one or two premium movie channels that we did not have. One afternoon, a movie called The Labyrinth came on, a beautiful creation of Jim Henson and David Bowie, completely new to me in the mid-90s, and yet eerily familiar. When it came to the scene of the baby walking on the ceiling, I recognized a scene that I'd seen in dreams for most of my life, that I'd described to my mother on more than one occasion. When mom and dad got home from work and picked us up, I talked to them about this strange feeling, and in quite a Dickensian fashion it was revealed that some months after my brother had been born, making me three-years-old, my father took me to see The Labyrinth. Showing this children's film to his child was an excuse for him to get out of the house and enjoy a film starring one of his favorite musicians, David Bowie. Since my Labyrinth renaissance of the '90s, I've come to enjoy much more of the work of the Thin White Duke and I've gotta say that it's brought my father and me closer.

3. Robin Hood (1973)

One of the most told stories of my childhood is that my mom had recorded the Disney animated Robin Hood film from the Disney channel when we had one of those free weekends (back when there was programming on Disney worth paying more for), and that I watched that video until the tape was worn straight through. I bought it again a couple years back, but I have trouble believing that Robin Hood will ever be the same with what I now know about those Crusades that the good king was off on.

4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)

If you've ever been to a karaoke bar, there's always that one white guy or girl who gets a kind of ironic kick out of doing a token rap song, the grin on his or her face shouting out, "Hey, I'm singing black people music and I'm not a black person." And it's cute, because this karaoke bar is a hole in the wall that only white people go to anyways. These people generally sing either "Baby Got Back" or "Ice Ice Baby." I've always been of the opinion that if you're going to go Vanilla Ice (wipe that smile off your face!) there's a better way to do it: "Ninja Rap." Instead of saying "Yo VIP, let's kick it," for example, I'm much more inclined to say, "Yo, it's the green machine, gonna rock the town without being seen. Have you ever seen a turtle get down?"

5. Wayne's World (1992)

Wayne's World is the occasion of the first time I ever really felt cool, like I was a part of something. The kids I went to school with never defined what was cool. The TV shows I watched kind of did. (I mean, come on, I watched the Ninja Turtles and Saved by the Bell - how does that not define cool?) In truth, it was the comedic interchanges between my Uncle Paul and my cousin Angie that first defined cool for me. They were always quoting some funny lines from Airplane or Naked Gun or Caddy Shack, and I would just bask in wonder. Their wit was sharp and fast, and they quoted some of those favorite lines non-stop. I wanted to be like that, and my first opportunity was with Wayne's World, which I saw in the theaters at least three times and continue to watch to this day. This was one of the first, and last, times I ever studied anything in my life, and the object of my study was Wayne's World. The result was magnificent, however: I attribute my relationship to my Uncle Paul to this movie, a man I consider not only one of my best friends of all time but also like a second father, the first person after my nuclear family that I want anyone I care about to meet, 1/2 of my concept of who and what a man ought to be. All I can say about that, and forgive me if I lapse into Mandarin, is: Zang!

6. Jurassic Park (1993)

When I was younger I was much better at writing novels. By that I mean that I get more than thirty pages into writing them before giving up on the idea. If I listed the names of some of my early novels, you might get an idea of what one of the most important movies in creating a Justin Tiemeyer was: Prehistoric Park, Cretaceous Park, Prehistoric Park, and Golden Gate Park (about a dinosaur park under the Golden Gate bridge). You guessed it, I was a really big fan of Tron. (PSYCH! I was really into Jurassic Park. DUH!)

7. American Beauty (1999)

Lester Burnham (played by Kevin Spacey) strongly prefigures the latter years of my high school experience when he begins to see life as a farce and simply starts treating life as a farce. It seems simple in writing, but in actuality it is radical - it is both incredibly sad and incredibly comedic. A short while later I would have a similar experience. School is aimed toward people who don't care and don't know anything. The woman I was infatuated with at the time had begun dating my best friend. The bottom seemed to have fallen off of reality and my guiding principles were falling apart, something which has happened at least two other times in my life. But like Lester Burnham, I felt a kind of freedom, a kind of second chance at life. I spoke out in classes, half as comedic disruptions, half as well-thought answers and comments on the topic at hand. My popularity began to sky-rocket, getting me elected to the court for two dances (but never king!), and out of that turmoil I found a bigger, stronger version of myself that, despite issues with depression, would turn into a juggernaut of self-confidence. I was an iconoclast and rebel who stuck by Lester Burnham's sarcastic words: "You don't get to tell me what to do ever again." He was speaking to his wife. I was speaking to the world.

8. The Shining (1980)

When I first saw The Shining, I encountered Jack Torrence, a father who wore the same kind of clothing as my own father, who had difficulties with alcohol and who ended up attempting to kill his entire family. I have to admit that Stanley Kubrick's presentation was so brilliantly strange, and yet close to home, that I was kind of frightened of my own father for a couple of weeks. The man who my mom had offered as assurance of security when I heard strange noises in the night was now the object of fright, of intense fright, of the killer you live with. I think the difference between my father and Jack Torrence, however, is that my father hasn't attempted to kill us all.


9. American Psycho (2000)

I remember the occasion of my first viewing of American Psycho fairly vividly. We had a half day at high school for some reason. I went to the mall with some girls I knew (and made them hold my hand whenever we went into a clothing store). Afterward, Jared and I decided that we were going to see American Psycho up at Studio 28, a theater that was kind of far away but featured the only reel of American Psycho in the area. A girl named Lisa, a girl I would later date for three months, called us up and decided to tag along. I think if Lisa were to describe herself in high school she would probably say that she was sheltered. She once told me that the only reason she knew of any of the songs on Guitar Hero and/or Rock Band was because she dated me. If you know anything about American Psycho, you can see why I find this occasion fairly humorous. She's a sheltered girl from a hardcore Christian Reform family and the first scene we see when we arrive at the theater somewhat late is of a businessman killing a homeless person and his dog. You think that's funny? The two of us ended up watching Requiem for a Dream a couple weeks later in Jared's basement. Lisa is happily married now, which suggests to me that I did not, in fact, break her.

10. Mr T's Be Somebody or Be Somebody's Fool (1984)

I couldn't talk about movies without talking about the wildly successful movie night that happened at the Tiemeyer household once a week involving my little brother, all his little friends, and his loser older brother (me). We would watch ridiculous movies from Chuck Norris's Forest Warrior (where he transforms from a bird to a ninja, mid-jump-kick) to Monster in the Closet. But the crowning jewel was Mr. T's Be Somebody or Be Somebody's Fool, a movie Micah found on the free children's and instructional rack at Family Video. After sharing this movie often with one another, we went off into the world and shared it with others. I shared it with my calculus class senior year and it was such a success that it made its way into my Salutatorian's address at my graduation. 

11. Donnie Darko (2001)

I currently own three copies of the film Donnie Darko. The first is a VHS copy of the film that I bought before we witnessed the massive conversion to DVD. The second is a DVD copy of the film that I bought not because I thought VHS was on the way out, but because it included various bonuses. Most people forget that it is precisely bonus features, and not some human drive toward progress, that really sky-rocketed the DVD medium into mass use. The third is a DVD copy of the Director's Cut, possibly the most unique re-presentation of a film I have ever seen, focusing on the science fiction elements that were hinted at in the original, but also including a hilarious featurette on Donnie Darko's biggest fan. I still have use for all three copies, because Donnie Darko is one of the movies I am most inclined to loan out to friends. It is as if watching this movie is understood as a condition for understanding who I am. (For example, who I am is a fan of Tears for Fears, but this was not so until I watched this film, which features "Head Over Heels" and a cover of "Mad World.")

12. Purple Rain (1984)

Eye once tried 2 write a story where Jesus came back n the 1980s n he was essentially Prince, being very much like the Purple One and yet very Jesus at the same time. When eye became blocked on that story, eye decided 2 write a kind of Andy Kaufman story about a writer trying 2 get a story published n which Jesus comes back in the 1980s and is essentially Prince. Then eye just gave up on the whole thing and listened to some of the best music that has ever been made. It was probably the best decision eye could have made.

13. Dawn of the Dead

Last semester I went to see a movie in Fort Worth with a couple friends/colleagues of mine. The movie theater spanned multiple floors, the first consisting of a large parking garage and a couple smaller businesses, and the upper levels of the ticketing counters, the concession stands and the theaters themselves. I remember leaning over to my friend David and admiring with him how defensible this structure would be in the event of a zombie apocalypse. The garage could be armed with explosives and fire traps in the event that we'd need to clear the area and bolt, but this might be better done with ladders and ropes as other tall buildings were within climbing or swinging reach. A gigantic picture window overlooked the square, a picture that at this point in time was dominated by a muddy construction site. Between this and the area overlooking the escalator one could easily snipe zombies. Laughing over the choke points and strategies, I honestly think David and I became better friends.

14. There Will Be Blood (2007)

I'm finished.