Sunday, October 30, 2005

"I imagine now you will renew your strange interest in Caesar's health"

Suicide, murder, incest, public humiliation, toga-draping: this week’s episode of Rome has it all. Note especially the amorous glances between Servilia and Octavia at the dinner party – as everyone knows this is a trope, or “big deal”, in Roman love poetry. Also we finally learn that Timon, Atia’s lusty mercenary, is totally Jewish.

PS - Extras is as always sublime.

When I say Wiener, You Say Schnitzel

So I finally finished applying for the Wenner-Gren, a grant which supplies anthropologists with mad benjamins so that they can do their thing big-style. This took me many hours and involved the use of a staple remover and much swearing at the computer. Anyway, I decided to celebrate the way most of us young people do: going out to an extremely early dinner at a German restaurant with my parents and talking about auto-erotic asphyxiation over a round of Feuerwurst and mashed potatoes. The highlight of the dinner, other than basically the whole thing, was that the German-language edition of the breakout Euro hit of 2003, “Life is Life” came on during desert. Also, a grotesquely fat man almost scratched the exquisite finish on our Touareg.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Strange Days

So I have been watching this BBC series called Strange (offered on one of the Cinemax bizarro-channels), which is about a defrocked COE vicar who has kind of an amateur interest in hunting demons – every single media product that I have seen for the past two years is about hunting demons.  If you blended in unequal parts Buffy, Angel, The X-Files, Brimstone and the original comic-book version of Constantine, you would get this show exactly.  The hero is actually named John Strange and has some pretty boss hair (see picture).  His demon-hunting team consists of a literally retarded gardener named Kevin, some sort of computer whiz (with a VAIO), and a sarcastic nurse love-interest named Jude whose live-in boyfriend/baby daddy turned out to be Magnavox, Demon of Electricity.
     Each show basically works out as a detective drama in which Strange tries to figure out who the demon is before it kills again.  I’ve only seen a handful of episodes (there are only six total) but I worry that the formula will get tiring – fortunately the writers supply red herrings and sinister bit players a-plenty, so it hasn’t dulled yet.  They’re starting to spark a romance between Strange and Jude, intimations of a dead ex-fiancée are surfacing, and the villain, Canon Black, is fronting on mad sinister machinations.  It’s filmed in delightful BBC-o-vision, which is not as good as HBO but is better than broadcast, and if someone walks into the room they will assume that you’re watching Poirot or Miss Marple.  Also, hella Church of England inside jokes.  If you get Cinemax Eight: The Ocho, be certain that you will wile away many a happy hour on Strange.  Be sure to marvel somewhat at the competent yet unexciting special effects.
     Also I watched literally eight hours of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.  Not as good as I originally thought – I must have managed to catch the three best episodes or something.  Other than a sublime episode about an invisible duck which turned into a 25-minute extended fart joke, it was pretty much a waste of time.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Television is so Good that it Makes my Heart Hurt

Seriously, we live in a golden age in which all of our desires are identified before we even become aware of them.  While writing grant essays this weekend  I watched many hours of television – every single show now appears to be written by me or specifically for me.  Yesterday I alternated STNG with reading Don Kulick’s Travesti, an ethnography of transvestite Brazlian prostitutes who like to inject themselves with industrial silicon.  This produced an indescribable effect, especially when Picard had to recite some of Shakespeare’s sonnets in order to rescue Loxana Troy from the Ferengi.
Today I saw several episodes of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, one of which was called “Prank Call of Cthulu” (they omitted the final h for reasons of their own) and one of which involved the ghost of Lord Byron becoming lodged in Billy’s mouth.  Lord Byron then taught Billy the way of the fop before disappearing into a cleansing light (At one point in a paroxysm of nerdy simultaneity Byron recites the Litany of Fear from Dune).  I followed this with several hours of Spongebob, which is like having an inexpensive brain operation.  Also, I am now in love with the squirrel, Sandy, who lives under the sea in some kind of sophisticated biodome.  This blended into Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, which is more conventional than its name implies.
Finally, Jessie and I watched a sublime Food Network show in which six chefs competed to create gigantic, tacky sculptures out of cupcakes.  The winning entry honest-to-god involved a dragon fighting a horde of fairies.  Hark to the call of the whyte wyrm!  The Solstice Season is upon us, and Queen Mab demandeth an attractive arrangement of pastries which is at least three feet tall and 70% cupcake!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

There's Something About Nibelungen

Let me just say this about Hagen of Tröneck: dude knew how to wear his ceremonial bird-helmet.  Also [MAJOR SPOILERS!] if I am not mistaken he totally kills Siegfried while Siegfried is reading an article in the Lifestyles section of  Der Nibelungenspiegel about torq maintenance.  I don’t know the details, I left before the end of the movie because of my retarded commute.  Anyway, if you are looking for sweet sword-testing scenes and a dragon which is actually more scary and interesting than any monster in a film post 1981, look no further than Die Nibelungen.  My only objection: not enough actual on-screen Nibelungs.  Also, both Brunhild and Kriemhild are brutishly ugly (Fritz Lang fans note that Müde Tod plays Volker the Bard!  IT’S LIKE I DON’T EVEN HAVE TO WRITE THE CROSSOVER FANFIC!).

PS – For those of you who have not guessed this there is a Fritz Lang film series this semester, conveniently on Wednesdays.

Monday, October 17, 2005

I am So Proud of Lindsay Lohan

Seriously.  She has really pulled it together.  According to the most reliable sources (E! News Sponsored by Rampage) she is really nailing the accessories this season.  They also praised Jeremy Piven for wearing a velvet blazer, which I have been doing since 2003.
In other news I would like to register my desire, officially, on the internet, to be reborn as a savage opium-addicted Egyptian royal c. 50 BC.  It has everything I could possibly want: wigs, eye-makeup out to here, palanquins, slapping people, intense hair.  I could go on.  Seriously, Rome could not possibly be any better – I thought their wacky voyage to Egypt-Land would tank the series, but in fact it just provided more of what we love: wieners, beheading, and awkward sex.

PS This picture is not supposed to be Lindsay Lohan, guys. It's Cleopatra from Rome, played of course by Winona Rider's British equivalent.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A Tale of Shitty Knives

My apartment has a block with four knives in it, from Ikea.  They are the worst knives in North America.  No human being could enjoy using these knives.  The Zoroastrians believe that in hell Ahriman saws continually on a hot chorizo log with these knives, producing an annoying series of slivers and wedges instead of a normal round slices.  One of these knives is about two feet long and serrated like crazy, but still struggles like a club-footed orphan when it comes to slicing a fresh bagel.  THESE KNIVES!  These knives cost only $2.50, but a foul and bilious cloud of saturnine and sanguinary smog hovers over them.  These knives!  One can buy a Henckels santoku knife at TJ MAXX for around $8.  In fact, I think I will go ahead and buy myself a Henckels knife and use it to chop these Ikea knives into a thick coulis of cheap Chinese metal.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Is Drawn Together a very good series?

No, it is not.
It does have one funny episode where a few of the characters discover that Ling-Ling (their homage to Pikachu) secretes a hallucinogen when he is dissapointed. Of course, the concept of an emotion condensed into a substance has a very clear cartoon genealogy: the tears of ultimate sadness that Cartman's victim weeps.
Also, I am in possesion of a zoetrope that depicts Elizabeth Rossiter applying a flame to a cigar, clearly anticipating a pleasurable smoke, only to find, to her great dismay, that a saboteur has contrived to tamper with her cheroot, inserting into its end a substance or device which causes it to emit an actinic flash of light and foul sulfurous vapor, besmirching her face to a degree that she is indistinguishable from a spavined rag-a-bond.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Tha 'Crete

My little fat dog Charlie is learning to skateboard.

Them Mass-Transit Blues

Oh, that Terrorism Rag!  One wonders why, in this post September 11 world, I would decide to give up my car and move to New York City.  Does anyone know an efficient and clever way to get between Brooklyn and New Jersey without using the subway?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

It is Virtually Impossible to Run a Bakery Without Drug Money

So I have watched the rest of the season of Weeds.  It continues to improve.  By the ninth episode MLP’s Chicano muscle is putting the squeeze on Cash’s cartel and everything is starting to look more like The Wire than Desperate Housewives.  Not really but it is pretty entertaining.  Even though most of the characters are deeply annoying.

Also, I spent a large part of the day watching the Style network, as I always do in Connecticut.  I ran across a program I had seen before once or twice called The Modern Girl’s Guide to Life.  In it a largely attractive, multi-racial group of women learn to perform simple tasks which they compare to either sex or eating and then they become empowered since they know how to change doorknobs or purchase a digital camera.  It is basically the best show on television and features frequent re-captions which are usually 1.5 entendres (During a segment on golf: “Girls can also play with balls”).

Another great show is Clean House.  In it, these Style Network employees come into the houses of various pitifully deranged people and throw away most of their belongings.  The houses always look like a Sears threw up in them, and the male members of the household invariably have a large collection of Akira dolls and South Park merchandise.  They also usually have a garage sale, which is my favorite part because it exposes this sort of Sartre/Dickens underworld of the most pitiful people and events you could possibly imagine.  Picture a 40+ year old guy in a Motorhead t-shirt with profound sweat stains, leaning on a crudely duct-taped crutch and haggling bitterly over a ceramic elf-head (the lone remaining part of a set) which was originally priced at $1.75.  He has a stubbly beard because he just lost his home in a flood and some Laotians beat him up last time he tried to shave in the bathroom of the Texaco*.  Then closet expert Linda Koopersmith tells him that he looks adorable with the elf head and that the money is going to a good cause: making John and Melody’s house look like adults live in it.

* Mad love to the people of Laos – this is just describing a few bad eggs.

A Review of Gladius, a Game which it is Possible to Purchase

Gentle readers, since I have not posted anything for a while I thought I would treat you to this out-of-date review of an antiquated xbox game that I played last summer, amidst gentle sighs and the pliant rustling of leaves.  I would rise languorously around noon, breakfasting on a simple dish of eggs and Dannon La Crème premium yoghurt, then devote myself entirely to the pursuit of this virtual bloodsport.  I wrote this review in a kind of mania, late at night, for, but at the last minute I decided not to post it for fear that it would be lost among the many other opinions; how can my frail words resist the measureless might of “I LIKD GLADIOATOR UNTIL I SPILED A CHEESER ON MY KYBARD!”?

There is certainly no reason to play Gladius for the plot – the game is set in an unnecessarily fictionalized version of ancient Rome in which all the names have been replaced by generally dumb-sounding near equivalents, as if by eighth graders.  Thus Rome becomes “Imperia”, Gaul and Germany turn into “Nordagh”, etc.. It seems that not all is well in Imperia; there’s some backstory about old imperial conquests and rebelling provinces that might actually have turned out interesting if it had not been saddled with the boring and clumsily named “Affinity Gods.”  Bearing such exciting names as “Maritimus” (can you guess he’s the god of water?) and “Aeris” the Affinity Gods have some sort of opposition to the god of the Dark Affinity, who is a representation of man’s inhumanity to man and looks like a giant tapeworm.  Why, oh why, didn’t they just cobble something together out of the perfectly good Roman pantheon?
     Two different personal dramas play out against this backdrop – you can play as Ursula, who sounds like she’s managing a gladiatorial school as part of her semester abroad from Amherst, and Valens, a pleasant and self-effacing doormat who also happens to be the son of a great, recently-murdered gladiator.  Both protagonists have a passion for skimpy leather outfits and helping the weak (Ursula’s brother, Urlan, provides a Bill O’Reilly-esque counterpoint to the cheery friendliness of the main characters, but unfortunately sounds more like an employee of Gold’s gym than a barbarian warrior).  There is some kind of prophecy about Ursula which pits her against the Galdr, a cabal of witches who dress like chickens and wear fancy eye makeup (and also drop out of the story entirely about a third of the way through) and everyone is worried about a provocatively dressed sorceress and her legion of the damned.  I think there’s also some kind of Oedipal thing going on with Ursula, Urlan and their father.
     None of this plot stuff matters since the game is basically about buying sweet equipment and then watching your gladiators wail on their opponents in various violent (and occasionally juvenile) ways.  This part of the game is perfect and totally addicting.  The battles are all basically the same (there are a few variations, like king of the hill and barrel-smashing), but they only occasionally become boring since all the gladiators have so many skills and abilities (individual animations sometimes become really grating though – perhaps some people enjoy seeing a tiny computer sorceress wave her staff over and over in exactly the same way, but I don’t).  Add to that a system with different weight classes of gladiators and some imaginatively-designed arenas (not all are great by any means, though) and you have a really fun, relatively complex game.  It doesn’t beat around the bush or pretend that it’s not about the battles – you pretty much just pick your fights from a menu and then fight them.  But it’s hella fun and certainly worth the money.