Thursday, November 30, 2006

It's finally happening!

It looks like the animals have had about all they can stand and they're finally doing something about it:

Killer whale attacks SeaWorld trainer

California sea lions attack humans

Fla. man loses arm to alligator attack

Right now I'm sitting in dread waiting for the headline about apes on horseback hunting humans for sport.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

NOT From THE ONION...

U.S. bans sale of iPods to North Korea

Yep. That'll show 'em.

From THE ONION...

Pierce Brosnan Offended By Way New James Bond Holds Gun

HOLLYWOOD—According to a source close to Pierce Brosnan, the former James Bond actor felt affronted by the performance of Daniel Craig in the latest Bond film, Casino Royale. "Pierce just felt that he should have carried his gun in such a way that people knew it was James Bond they were dealing with, and not some 'first-year Bobby who doesn't know the first difference between an Aston Martin that transforms into a snowmobile and one that turns into a submarine,'" said the source, who added that Brosnan said the Bond girl bedded by Craig may have appeared attracted to him, but he could tell she was faking it. "Pierce felt the performance was amateur and that in general the film lacked a certain je ne sais quoi." Former Bond actor Roger Moore reportedly agreed with Brosnan's assessment and added that, while he was glad to see someone other than Timothy Dalton in the role, no actor has delivered the pithy elegance befitting 007 since 1979's Moonraker.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sein of the Times

Until now I've very deliberately stayed out of the cesspool that is the Michael Richards fiasco. At this point what more is there to really say on the subject? At worst he's a bigot, and at best he has some very serious problems. Okay, move on, nothing to see here, right? Absolutely, but you'd never know it from the four car pile-up that was media coverage of this thing over the past week. Still, this video cobbled together by the folks at National Lampoon gave me enough of a chuckle that I thought it was worth sharing. And now let us never speak of this again.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Zaki's Review: Casino Royale (2006)

When last we left him in 2002's Die Another Day, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan), armed with an invisible Aston Martin, a gun-toting Halle Berry at his side, had just defeated a face-changing Korean colonel and his giant space laser. If that description elicits more of a groan than a gasp, you're not alone. After forty-plus years of cinematic spectacle, it's easy to understand why Agent 007's recent adventures haven't done very much to leave expectant audiences shaken or stirred.

It wasn't always like this, of course. There was a time when a James Bond movie represented the pinnacle of filmmaking -- both unceasingly innovative and wildly subversive at the same time. With their unparalleled technical prowess coupled with heaping helpings of violence, action, and innuendo, the early Bond films forged the path that nearly all commercial blockbusters follow to this very day.

But then, that was a long time ago.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Recommended Reading

So, the Democrats have taken control of congress, and surely they'll put the brakes on any Iran-centric invasion plans the Junta is hatching, right? Not so, says Seymour Hersh.

(Check back tomorrow for my Casino Royale review.)

Friday, November 10, 2006

UPDATED - Spider the Third

Here's the spankin' new trailer for next summer's Spider-Man 3, now nicely embedded so you can watch it right here without clicking away.


(Edited to add the iFilm player and remove the old dead link.)

From THE ONION...

Rumsfeld: 'My Half-Assed Job Here Is Done'
WASHINGTON, DC—After nearly six years of much-publicized service as Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld announced his resignation Wednesday afternoon, saying that he had "proudly accomplished everything [he'd] set out to bungle." "Years ago, I decided to bog this great nation down in an extended, grueling foreign occupation, and I'm happy to say that's exactly what I've done," said Rumsfeld in a farewell address at the White House, during which he urged Americans to continue waging the ill-conceived, mismanaged, and evidently unwelcome fight for democracy in the Middle East. "Each of my actions—from undersupplying troops with body armor to focusing on capturing Saddam Hussein while Osama bin Laden remained free—has led America inexorably toward our current state of extreme crisis. Well, anyway, goodbye!" President Bush expressed confidence that Robert Gates, his new nominee for Secretary of Defense, will be able to "f___ everything up the rest of the way."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sorkin Sense Tingling!

Some much-needed good news today for fans of Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which has been fighting off cancellation rumors almost since the moment it made its ballyhooed debut several weeks back: the show has been picked up through the end of the season.

While there are plenty of naysayers out there (including my good buddy Rich Nelson), and there have certainly been a few creative missteps along the way, I have to say that the show has never been less than involving for me, growing more sure-footed with every new installment. It would be a shame to see it go the way of the dodo when barnacles like According to Jim manage to hang in there for several seasons past their syndicate-by dates.

This past Monday's episode was classic Sorkin, with homosexuals, Chinese dignitaries, joints, Jesus, and John Goodman thrown in for good measure. Hopefully this order for the back-nine eps will encourage more viewers to sample the show...and stick around.

In other Sorkin news, this past Tuesday also saw the release of this veddy nice series set of his recently-ended/already-missed The West Wing. The faux-leather attache case contains the entire series on forty-five discs, plus the complete pilot script written by the man himself. Whether you followed the show for the duration of its run or haven't yet had the pleasure, there's never been a better way to own one of the greatest shows in TV history than in this gorgeous box.

And no, I'm not on Aaron Sorkin's payroll. Really.

Oh, geez...

Sen. Reid Backs Lieberman for Homeland Security Chairmanship

You just knew there had to be a fly-in-the-ointment after the bevy of good news over the past few days.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Random Thought

With George Allen's nail-biter of a loss tipping the scales in the upper house over to the Democrats, you think they'll start calling the senate "The House that 'Macaca' Built"?

Basil Poledouris, RIP

With the passing of Basil Poledouris earlier today due to complications from cancer, one of the greatest film composers in the business has left our stage a little more silent. My first exposure to Poledouris' music was the bombastic, pulsating music from 1987's RoboCop, though I didn't come to truly appreciate his masterful compositional skills until I had occasion to listen to his beautiful, unforgettable music for 1982's Conan the Barbarian, which remains some of the definitive fantasy music of all time. Proving his capability with multiple genres, Poledouris' resume includes projects as diverse as the miniseries Lonesome Dove and the submarine thriller The Hunt for Red October. You can see his filmography in its entirety here to get a sense of what a big loss this is for the film world.

NOT From THE ONION...

GOP Says Rumsfeld Is Stepping Down

Wow. More from me later.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote.

"My great-grandfather’s great-grandfather was Dr. Josiah Bartlet, who was the New Hampshire delegate to the second Continental Congress, the one that sat in session in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776, and announced to the world that we were no longer subjects of King George III, but rather a self-governing people. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident,' they said, 'that all men are created equal.' Strange as it may seem, that was the first time in history that anyone had bothered to write that down. Decisions are made by those who show up. Class dismissed."
- President Bartlet (by way of Aaron Sorkin) in the West Wing episode, "What Kind of Day Has it Been"

Friday, November 03, 2006

John the Joke-Killer

The tragedy of the John Kerry fracas over the past week isn't his supposed insulting of US armed forces, nor is it even the Oil Can Harry manner in which the GOP spin-machine pounced all over the story, or the two-days-too-long that it stayed in the spotlight. No, the real tragedy here is how, rather than as a president or even a presidential contender, Kerry's name may well be forever synonymous with a screwed-up punchline -- as in, "Boy, Kerry really 'Kerryed' that joke about Iraq, didn't he?" Bill Barol explains:
Comedy is a fragile thing, and there are many ways to botch a punchline. My personal favorite is the Shmenge, in which the emphasis is placed on the wrong word or syllable, causing a fractional bump in the audience's attention and derailing the rhythm of the entire joke. (Alert readers will intuit that the Shmenge is named for Yosh and Stan Shmenge, the accordion-wielding brothers played by Eugene Levy and John Candy on the old "SCTV" show, who memorably introduced themselves with the words: "I'm Stan Shmenge... " " ...and I'm Yosh Shmenge.") Almost as bad, however, is the method which involves leaving out one key word in a carefully-crafted punchline, altering its meaning and undercutting the intended effect. This has at least two results: It produces a baffled audience and a roomful of comedy writers with their heads cradled inconsolably in their hands. In neither case does it engender confidence or respect or affection, at least one of which I need to feel for a person before I can cast my vote.
And there endeth the lesson.

"GOP Must Go"

That's not coming from me, that's the headline of this editorial from The American Conservative. That's right, The American Conservative. Read the following and tell me who you think they want you voting for come Tuesday...
There may be little Americans can do to atone for this presidency, which will stain our country’s reputation for a long time. But the process of recovering our good name must begin somewhere, and the logical place is in the voting booth this Nov. 7. If we are fortunate, we can produce a result that is seen—in Washington, in Peoria, and in world capitals from Prague to Kuala Lumpur—as a repudiation of George W. Bush and the war of aggression he launched against Iraq.
Okay, so scratch the conservatives and the evangelicals off the White House Christmas card list. Remind me again, who is Bush's base exactly?

Oh yeah.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Recommended Reading

The meme currently being circulated by the media punditocracy is that both parties have used the occasion of this election to sling record amounts of mud at one another through advertising, whisper campaigns, and just general misstatements, making for one of filthiest, sneakiest, lyingest political campaigns in recent memory. As Slate's Jacob Weisberg points out, while there's certainly plenty of dung being flung, it mostly seems to be originating from one side of the aisle -- and it ain't the Democrats.

Zaki's Thesis: On the Defensive

So, yesterday was judgement day for the three-fifths of my paper I've completed up to this point. I sat in a room with my committee chair and my two committee members for what felt like an eternity as they seemingly grilled me over every aspect of everything I've done up to this point. I'll tell you, I think I maintain a reasonably cool head under pressure, but for most of those ninety-some minutes I felt like I was sitting under a hotlamp and being waterboarded by Dick Cheney. By the end, I wanted to find a nice table to crawl under and just curl up in the fetal position.

All that being said, I passed, and by all accounts it went exceptionally well. This of course immediately leads me to wonder how the bad ones go, exactly. Anyway, with the prospectus defense out of the way, the clock is still tick-tick-ticking down, and I have one month to get everything else wrapped up and accounted for before my final defense. I'm thinking for that one I'll just bring my own set of electrodes.

Recommended Viewing

Keith Olbermann presented a particularly effective commentary last night, taking aim squarely at the Junta's newest tactic du jour of attacking John Kerry to cover for their abject failure in every other area of actual governance. Yeah, doesn't make much sense to me either, and Keith sums up the reasons why far more eloquently than I ever could. Video and transcript here.

Colbert on Kerry

Well, YouTube may have been forced to take down all of their Daily Show/Colbert Report clips, but at least we can still count on OneGoodMove to keep us up to date with all the latest, such as this bit from last night's Colbert, wherein Stephen gives a piece of his mind to the senator from Massachusetts, although really it's Tony Snow who ends up with egg on his face.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Kerry Kontroversy

By now the newscycle has pretty much done its thing with the tempest-in-a-teapot surrounding John Kerry's nonexistent insulting of the US troops in Iraq, with the most recent development being Kerry's hasty mea culpa to make the whole thing disappear.

Now, I get completely that he was joking. I see where he was going. The set-up was promising, but he stuck the landing, and the rest is the stuff that media maelstroms are made of. Still, I think you'd have to be kidding yourself to interpret his comments as anything other than a malaprop, and I would hope that the GOP's naked attempts to tar-and-feather the guy are obvious to all -- especially ironic considering that Captain Malaprop himself, President Bush, was the one leading the charge.

Now, that being said, one of the fundamental tenets of the public speaking course I teach is how to effectively incorporate humor into your speeches. And it's no easy thing, believe me. Ultimately, while there are a lot of nuances and subtleties to telling a joke, the way I boil it down for my students is by saying simply that if you have to read a book to figure out how to deliver a punchline, maybe it's best to just steer clear of the zingers. Based on yesterday, and similar forehead-slappers from the '04 campaign, it seems to me that John Kerry could use some similar advice in perpetuity.