Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Creepy Collectible Doll Of The Week
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the doll that started it all: William.

I found William advertised in a coupon magazine that occasionally comes in the mail. I recoiled in horror at the sight of his full-page ad and knew immediately that I had to share this madness with the world. Little did I know then that Paradise Galleries was such a cornucopia of hideous malformed toys.

Here is what the coupon magazine has to say about William:
Doesn't he look just like a real baby? Go ahead and pick him up. Fully as large as a newborn and artfully jointed to sleep blissfully or snuggle in your arms, "William" captures forever that magical day your own little boy came into the world.

Some observations:
1. No, no he doesn't look just like a real baby. Once again I have to wonder what these doll artists (and I use the term 'artist' loosely here) are using as models. If you've had a real baby, and it looks like "William", I am very sorry. I hope you get that whole dominant ugly gene thing sorted out. Or maybe your spouse is a primate. Either way, I'd say you have a problem.

2. I like how the implication here is that "William" is superior to your own children. Junior will grow up and steal your car and get busted for crack possession, but "William" will always sleep his blissful monkey sleep. "William" will never bring shame to the family.

Here is a true story: I actually had a dream about "William" last night. I was walking along an empty, unfamiliar street when I came across this girl I know who lives down the street from me. She was staggering along like a zombie, and clutching a "William" doll in one hand. I believe her "William" doll was naked, which disturbs me. "Hey!" I said, "Is that a "William" doll?"

She looked at me with these creepy dead eyes and said "Yes. I love "William". He reminds me of the day my own little boy came into the world."

"But wait," I said. "You don't HAVE a little boy."

"I do now," she said. "I have "William"."

And then I woke up. The whole thing was really very chilling.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
The Quest for Knowledge - Final
I thought everyone should see where V has been getting her knowledge from....

Friday, June 23, 2006
The Quest For Knowledge: just about resolved!
Thanks to Eli for this masterful artistic rendering of the offside rule:

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Click the thumbnail to see the larger image. You will be stunned by how eerily lifelike the players are. It's as if Eli has captured the very souls of these players. You can almost FEEL the intensity of the action, as if the game itself were alive.

But, I think I get it. I think, maybe this is what the offside rule is:

Don't pass the ball to someone unless an opponent stands between your guy and the keeper. Otherwise, your guy wlll be offside IF he intercepts the ball.

Is this essentially correct? Because if it is, why can't they just frigging SAY that instead of phrasing it in the most incomprehensible manner possible?
Friday Baddie Blogging
This week's baddie is a Cyberman.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006
The Quest For Knowledge, continued
In which V is still trying to get her head around the offside rule.

FIFA gives us a rather lengthy analysis of the offside rule via the magic of flash animation.

I watched this for about 15 minutes last night and the only thing I can sort out is this: if you physically jump OVER the ball, you might not be offside. Also: your hand might not be offisde, but your face definitely is.

I begin to suspect that this is all very arbitrary.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Creepy Collectible Doll Of The Week
It's Wednesday, and that can only mean one thing: yet another bundle of horror joy from the good people at Paradise Galleries. M found this one, so you know who to thank for any resulting nightmares.

This repulsive creature doesn't even have a name. Just the compulsory references to God. Tell me, y'all... does this even look like a human baby? I THINK NOT. I begin to wonder if the celebrated doll artists at Paradise Galleries have even SEEN any actual human babies. My gut says no.

This ghastly display is presumably meant to be some sort of tribute to premature babies. The collector is encouraged to "bless this little girl with love and make her happy as she grows." This sends chills down my spine, and totally not in a good way. That is not a little girl. That, friends, is a pretzel with what appears to be a crude attempt at facial features. Plus 'she' (it?) has a square head.

There's no polite way to say it: this creeps me right the fuck out. And I have a high creep-out threshold. Also: who buys this stuff? Are there really people out there who have curio cabinets filled with various grotesqueries, lovingly crafted in GentleTouchâ„¢ vinyl? The very thought fills me with a deep Lovecraftian sense of dread.
WTF is the Offside Rule?
In which V is on a quest for knowledge. And, seriously, WTF?

If Team Awesome is to become the greatest soccer team of all time, we must achieve a complete understanding of the rules. Soccer For Dummies is helping us make considerable progress. However, this whole offisde thing escapes us. Here is what Soccer For Dummies has to say about the offside rule:
A player is offside when he or she is nearer to his or her opponent's goal than both the ball and the second-to-last opponent, when the ball is played. A player is not offside if he or she is not in his or her own half of the field or level with the last defender.

Excuse me, WHAT? And this is Soccer For Dummies, people. FOR DUMMIES. Never mind Soccer For Reasonably Intelligent Young Ladies With An Unquenchable Thirst For Soccer Knowledge.

I read this to M earlier in hopes that he, being British and therefore surely possessing an instinctual understanding of such matters, would be able to explain it to me. I read it to him four times. Slowly. We tried for ages to work it out. So... you have to have someone between you and the goal? Apart from the goalkeeper, or does he count? Who is the second-to-last opponent? What is the nature of mankind's existential angst?

We don't know. We aren't close to knowing. I feel strongly that the offside rule is best explained via illustrations and not words. Surely the internet can provide. Only time (and Google) will tell.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Behold the latest pop-culture phenomenon. I actually found out about this from my mom, who is desperate to try it, but doesn't want to attract a lot of ants to the yard. It's not often that one's mother is more cutting-edge than oneself when it comes to keeping abreast of new advances in awesomeness.

The Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos Experiments
Monday, June 19, 2006
Team Awesome is having a goal!
In which Codename V has caught World Cup fever in a big way.

I am so totally getting all into soccer. I'd never even watched a match before this past Thursday, and I was completely blown away by how AWESOME the game is. Soccer is AWESOME to the max!

So today I armed myself with a brand new soccer ball (only $10 at Wal-Mart) and a copy of Soccer For Dummies (courtesy of the public library). My new soccer ball has a place where you can fill in your name, and the name of your team. So I took out my trusty Sharpie marker and filled in my name. I decided that I'd be Team Awesome. Team Awesome will rock, and it will rock to the max.

Team Awesome has already played in two matches with a varying degree of success. Details follow.

Match 1: Team Awesome vs Team Mom And Dad

Team Mom And Dad assembled quickly once they spotted Team Awesome performing training drills. Despite some bizarre misconceptions ("they do this all day in France" and "didn't the Aztecs play this with human heads?") Team Mom And Dad were quick with the ball. Their combined footwork was challenging for the single-player Team Awesome, and everyone soon grew tired. It was determined that Team Awesome was the winner, largely because Team Mom And Dad have no knowledge of the rules and were unaware that there was any kind of score.

Match 2: Team Awesome vs Team Dogs
This was just a fiasco. Team Dogs showed a very strong field presence and largely dominated control of the ball. However both team members fouled themselves out of the game almost immediately due to jersey pulling. This was further complicated by Team Dogs being 100% unaware that they had fouled out. A motivational lecture was then given regarding sportsmanship and good conduct. Team Dogs dutifully attended motivational lecture, but failed to gain any lasting respect for the structure of the game. A draw was called.

As Team Dogs are the only reliable opponent available to Team Awesome, it remains to be seen how the season will play out. It is theorized that Team Brick Wall could be a viable option. Stay tuned for updates.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Creepy Collectible Doll Of The Week
In which V is forced to ask the question: what fresh hell is this?

So okay, you know how sometimes you get those packets in the mail full of various coupons and special offers? I got one of those recently, and it came with an ad for a particularly horrible collectible doll. Initially I'd just planned to blog about that one horrible doll, but after looking through the company's website, I now realize that there is TOO MUCH HORRIBLENESS to be contained by one post. I feel a deep moral obligation to share the horribleness with others. So I'm going to spread it out for a while and do a Creepy Doll Of The Week.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Olivia.

Presumably, Olivia is "a reminder of God's most precious gift." I have to wonder what that gift is. Could you consider looking like a subhumanoid as being one of God's gifts? I do not know these things. She has been reproduced "down to the tiniest fold and faintest crease in amazingly lifelike GentleTouchâ„¢ vinyl." I don't even want to start thinking about the implications there.

Olivia is "skillfully crafted to give her the look and feel of a real baby." This just reinforces my aversion to real babies. I apologize for any trauma caused by viewing Olivia. Really.
Bob Saget lives up to his potential.

I'm not sure whether M will know who Bob Saget is. Nor can I think of anyone who would be Bob Saget's English counterpart. This probably says something important about American culture, or the lack thereof.


Friday, June 09, 2006
Friday Baddie Blogging
This week's baddie is Orco.

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Okay, so he's not technically bad, but I always hated that little bastard. "Haha, I'm hiding in plain sight! Can you find me, kids? Hahahaha, don't talk to strangers!" Asshole.
I've got a scarf, the scarf is for football...
In honor of the World Cup starting today, I give you this classic Adam and Joe moment courtesy of YouTube.

I'm not usually much of a sports fan, but big things like the Olympics or the World Cup can be pretty interesting at times. So, go England! Woo!
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
You expect this kind of craziness from the Olympics...
In which V is convinced that the whole world has gone mad.

So, the world cup starts in a couple of days, right? So the FIFA people want to promote the hell out of soccer, and to do this they need an official song. This idea seems sane enough, right? Well. Check out this news item:

The most popular recording this year may not be a song, but rather a five-note melody called "Bamboo."

The simple chant of the word, composed by the relatively unknown Nadir Khayat and Bilal Hajji, will almost certainly be heard by an accumulated audience of as many as 30 billion TV viewers in the space of about a month.

What the hell?

Okay, just for starters, soccer fans aren't generally known for their heartfelt appreciation for the avant-garde. Soccer fans are generally known for two things: riots, and vandalism. Not exactly the sort of crowd to embrace experimental music. In fact, I would theorize that making them listen to, say, Philip Glass would just make them riot more.

Secondly: how the hell do you get a five note melody out of the word 'bamboo'? Bamboo only has two syllables. Are they going to stretch it out to something lame like Baa-aaa-aaa-aaaam-booo?

Thirdly: when I think "five note melody", I immediately think of the alien tune from Close Encounters.

Fourthly: picture, if you will, thousands of sub-literate soccer fanatics chanting BAA-AAA-AAA-AAAAM-BOO to the Close Encounters tune. Unsettling fear slowly begins to creep in.

Fifthly: it takes TWO PEOPLE to compose a five note melody around the world 'bamboo'?!

You can read the whole article about the Bamboo Song here (yahoo news). Perhaps even more frightening, FIFA have remixed the Bamboo tune into a Shakira song. OMG THESE ARE THE END TIMES.

This is the world cup, y'all. Soccer. Not the Olympics, where they decide stuff like the world is best represented by a mascot that is half starfish and half banana, or they have endless opening ceremonies that involve bizarre interpretive dance and people on stilts. I don't think I've ever seen anything on television that makes me feel as frigging alienated as the Olympic opening ceremonies.

But yeah. Bamboo. Five notes, two syllables. I'm thinking that a week from now, it's going to be everywhere...
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Nature vs Nurture: The Sad Tale of Damien Thorn
So I saw the remake of The Omen today. It was okay. Not bad, but not as good as the original. For starters, they did away with that awesome theme music. That music is iconic, like the Halloween theme music, or the knife-stabbing music in Psycho (random pet peeve: when people can't spell, and write 'Physco' instead. This happens more often than you'd think...).

But already I digress, and I'm only on the second paragraph. The Omen was... lackluster. Not because of the acting - the acting was good enough. I hesitate to say the acting was great. It was... good enough. The characters could have been played by anyone, really. Nobody really stood out. Not even the kid stood out. How hard can it be to find a really hardcore creepy kid in Hollywood these days? That kid out of The Shining was creepy. The kid out of Pet Sematary was creepy. Hell, even Dakota Fanning managed to be creepy in that one DeNiro film. If ANY kid should be creepy, it should be the Omen kid. Come to think of it, I can't remember Damien having more than about two lines. I remember him saying "Did I scare you, Mommy?" (yes, yes you did) and also "Don't kill me, Daddy" (oops). But I honestly don't think he said anything else. Mainly he just stood around emoting, and I gather he was trying to emote things like "rage" and "pure evil" but really he just gave off this bored rich kid vibe.

Speaking of being rich, how much do Ambassadors earn, anyway? Damien's dad (not his Satan Dad, his Non-Evil Human Dad) was the Ambassador to England, and they lived in this bigass house that I would figure you'd have to be a billionaire to live in. It was bigger and fancier than Wayne Manor. Think about that, people... more posh than Wayne Manor. This does not happen.

Anyway, yeah. I kind of have to wonder: Is Damien only evil because he's the son of the Devil? Or does it have anything to do with his being surrounded by Evil Nannies And Dogs? If you take away the Evil Nannies, and the Evil Dogs, would he have a shot at growing up like a normal kid? Or maybe even just only kind of evil, instead of full-on evil to the max? I suspect that just being the son of the Devil dooms you from the start. But the Evil Nannies And Dogs probably aren't going to do you any favors.

The pacing was a bit slow. To be honest, I kind of found myself dozing off a little bit, and I never doze off at the cinema. I've seen a lot of remakes of classic horror films lately, and the vast majority of them really do add something to the original story. The Amityville Horror comes to mind. But if anything the remake of The Omen actually took stuff away. That music, for example. I might not have felt sleepy if, every ten minutes, the soundtrack started booming SANCTOOOOS! DOMINOUUUUUS! or whatever those words are. Seriously. And there was just no sense of urgency. It was all sort of "oh hey, I think maybe that kid is the antichrist. I guess we'd better try to kill him. What's that? His mother was a jackal? Isn't that something." As opposed to the original, which was all "OMG OMG URGENT URGENT IMPENDING DOOM" at all times. Also, I think maybe the deaths in the original were more gruesome. It's been a while since I saw that version, though.

Speaking of mothers who are jackals, I have to wonder: how did that go down, anyway? Did Satan just kind of magically implant a devil baby inside a jackal? Or did Satan have sex with the jackal and impregnate it himself? Isn't Satan more known for having sex with goats? How was the jackal chosen? Was it random chance, or did Satan have a special jackal in mind?

At any rate, giving birth to a human baby is evidently fatal to jackals. Would the child of Satan and a jackal even qualify as a "human baby" or is it something else entirely? This film raises so many challenging questions.

Oh oh, before I forget... before the film started, I saw a preview for yet another classic horror remake. I know a few people who will react with total disbelief when I say this, but... the remake of The Wicker Man looks like it might be okay. From the preview, it seems to have a slightly different story, and the trailer hinted at loads and loads of seriously spooky imagery. I know the whole Nicolas Cage thing is dodgy, but he seemed completely inoffensive based on the two minutes that I saw. I think it might not suck.

Right, then. It's been a long afternoon.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
It's capsule review time!
Because I'm lazy. And because sometimes I like to enjoy watching films without thinking about writing them up for the blog. But, I have been incredibly slack about posting here (hey, it's summer, what do you expect?) and I have seen rather a lot of films lately. So, in no particular order, here are some capsule reviews.

1. Aeon Flux
The critics pretty much universally hated this. I thought it was good fun. Maybe it's because I remember watching the animated series on Liquid Television way back in the day, and it's kind of a nostalgia thing.

I liked this for a lot of superficial reasons. Charlize Theron had pretty hair. Jonny Lee Miller is pretty, just in general. I like to see futuristic societies, like in Logan's Run. All of these things just come together to create a very enjoyable film. I mean, it's certainly not going to inspire any sort of profound inner reflection or anything like that. But it's fun, and sometimes you just want your movies to be fun.

This had a load of people in it that I recognized from a load of other things. Pete Postlethwaite and Frances McDormand were in there. And then there's this guy, who you'll probably recognize from a lot of things if you peruse his filmography.

In short, who gives a crap about what the critics think? Who are these critics, anyway? Pffft. I liked it.

2. Casanova
This was 100% delightful. It was funny, romantic, and had a fair amount of what one might call "swashbuckling action". The ending was far-fetched and ridiculous, but that was all part of the fun. Nobody dies, gets maimed, or ends up in prison. Everyone finds love and personal fulfillment. A good movie to watch if you need cheering up or just want to be in a good mood. Highly recommended.

3. Match Point
I don't usually enjoy Woody Allen films, but this one was different. A man falls hard for his best friend's girlfriend. Prone towards making poor choices, he then marries Best Friend's Sister. Begins affair with best friend's girlfriend. Eventually gets her pregnant. Turns out they're both horribly unstable. Mayhem ensues. This was a very dark film. I thought there was something a bit Hitchcockian about it, only much grimmer than what Hitchcock generally turned out. Good thriller, very enjoyable, no justice served in the end at all.

4. Three Extremes 2
Way more extreme than Three Extremes 1. This is kind of like the Asian horror version of The Twilight Zone. You get three stories with supernatural twists, and in the grand tradition of Asian horror, the plots usually get pretty fucked up.

The first story is about a man whose wife has gone missing. Meanwhile the wife wakes up on the street with amnesia, and really creepy stuff happens to her while she tries to find her way home. Soon enough it becomes obvious what really happened to her. Highlight: scene of woman poking her finger into a massive head wound, and jiggling it about. Fun times. This segment was directed by Ji-Woon Kim, the genius behind A Tale Of Two Sisters, so if you've seen that, you pretty much know what to expect here.

The second story is about cursed puppets and seems to be set in feudal times or some such. It was creepy and good, but didn't stand out as much as the other two stories. And it was directed by someone I've never heard of before. Still, it was entertaining.

The third story was incredibly creepy. A man and his young (like, maybe six years old) son move into a decrepit apartment building. The son befriends a little girl who is pretty obviously a dead child, and winds up going missing. The dad goes looking for his son and ends up being held prisoner by one of his neighbors. The neighbor keeps his dead wife's body preserved in hopes that one day she will wake up and be cured of the disease that killed her. Turns out, they lost a child. Hmm...

So yeah, 3 Extremes 2. Recommended for people who like that sort of thing, which I suspect most people aren't.

5. Brokeback Mountain
I didn't like this. I thought it was boring. And I certainly didn't think it was this great majestic love story like most critics seem to think it is.

I sort of suspect that saying "I liked Brokeback Mountain" has become a new politically correct way of saying "I am down with gay people", sort of like when people say shit like "one of my best friends is gay!" Conversely, I suspect that some people are afraid to say "I did not like this movie" because it might be interpreted as "I do not approve of the gay lifestyle." This is the only explanation I can think of to explain why people just rhapsodize about what is in reality an over-long, over-boring story about pain, manipulation, and destruction. NOT a love story, unless you have a particularly masochistic idea of what love is.

Problem #1: Infinite sweeping scenery. Yeah yeah, I get it. They're out in the sticks. Nature is beautiful. It's some symbolic commentary on the isolationist nature of man's existence, and the self-imposed exile of these two gay men, blah blah blah.

I went to film school, I totally grasp the use of symbolism and all that. But, Ang Lee does a bit too much of this. When you watch 30 minutes of a film, and the only dialogue you've gotten pretty much amounts to YEE HAW! you've maybe gone wrong somewhere. Just saying.

Problem #2: Why do people insist on calling this a love story? What you have here is one character (Jack) who is sensitive, a bit fragile, and deeply in love with the other character (Ennis). Ennis constantly puts Jack down, constantly pushes him away emotionally. Basically sends the message that Jack is okay to have sex with every once in a while, but not good enough to forge any kind of real-world bond with. Over the course of the film, this REALLY wears Jack down and he becomes a completely broken, used, sad individual. But Ennis can't see this, because he's too busy putting people down. And if that's not bad enough, he treats his wife like shit, too.

For something to be a real love story, you have to have two characters who really love each other. Not a one-sided love affair where the other party is a manipulative bully who ruins lives.

If this film had been trimmed down a bit, I think it would have been a lot better. As it was, I was more bored than moved by it. And instead of being swept away by the beauty of forbidden romance, I was just pissed off at how much of an asshole Ennis was to everyone. I mean, seriously, by the end of it you just want to give Jack a big hug and say "you can do so much better than that jerk."

That's it for my capsule reviews. M and I are thinking up some ideas for another theme week, so keep a lookout for that. And I'll be seeing the new Omen film on Tuesday, and you can bet there will be a review.