Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"It's the profanity of the future"

So I've always been curious about the Amityville Dollhouse movie, because, you know, it's a movie about a dollhouse. That's rare enough, but ... one that's supposed to be scary?

The movie follows a bland blended family. The mom has a prepubescent son with a black Spock haircut and unnervingly dark circles under his eyes. The dad has a teenage son, a jock asshole, and an elementary age daughter who's mainly an excuse to get a dollhouse in the picture. The dad has built an enormous house on a vacant desert lot, but waits until the day they move in to open the old tool shed that was on the property, now in their backyard. Mightn't a tool shed have come in handy whilst you were building a house?

Never mind. In the shed, he finds the malevolent dollhouse, and gives it to the little girl for a birthday gift. Fortunately, his flakey New Age sister and her biker boyfriend are experts in the occult, and recognize its evil nature immediately, so I was fairly confident of where the story was going when I turned it off after half an hour or so, bored with the domestic drama. I was vaguely curious if and how they were going to explain where the house came from, but not that curious.

The dollhouse itself, a replica of the house from the original movie, is quite cool, and if the price was right, I'd take my chances with the curse.

So then I switched over and started watching season 3 of Veronica Mars. I bought season 2 sight unseen, and was kinda disappointed in it. Still well-written and all, but lacking the spark, wandering into some time-wasting subplots that detracted from the more interesting characters. (Hmm, Twin Peaks deja vu). So I'm test-driving this season, and two episodes in: so far, so good.

It's probably the best transition to college I've ever seen on a tv show. Also, it's nice that Veronica's in a temporarily angst-free relationship. I mean, why not? I always think tv shows break up couples too much and too fast, just because they're afraid of our short attention spans. Then the breakup/makeup wheel gets more tiresome than the perceived dullness of a happy couple could be.

The second episode featured a meaty Wallace/Logan subplot (always a good thing; they're the two characters whose occasional neglect is most criminal). They totally got to match wits, with Logan getting some hilarious lines, and Wallace quietly turning the tables on him. And Veronica's storyline put her in new moral dilemnas, this time based on her having too many scruples rather than too few. So far, everybody's new twists are still in character and true to their previous selves. Which is why (gush, gush), despite the occasional misstep, it's such a great show. If there's such a thing as psychological continuity, here it is.

Oh, and I loved Veronica's introduction to the word "frak," especially when she starts using it later herself. Thumbs down to the new mellow theme music, though.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Got caffeine, running around my spleen"

Well, actually, the tune has cocaine running around the brain, but in my case, caffeine is more apt. And you know that's what's important around here: strict accuracy. And efficiency. I run a tight ship.

Anyway, we listening to the reggae Club Dread soundtrack on a brief road trip through the snow flurries and the enormous pine forests, the winding roads of Middle of Nowhere Minnesota.
So actually, I guess odd juxtaposition is really what's important to me. I'm going to write a self-help guide on the Habits of Highly Incongruous People. The message will be, yes, your life could be more organized. But it could also be more fun! Why waste your time with consistency?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sexiest Men in Show Business

Yes, it's that time again, when People magazine tells me what celebrities I'm supposed to find hot, and I respond with a mocking "Ha!"

Since I did a full list of ten last year, it's been hard to come up with fresh contenders, and not just rearrange the same names, like People does. Since I just watched Series 3 of Hamish Macbeth, it was a real temptation to bend the rules for Robert Carlyle, but I'm showing super-human restraint here. But my list does continue to be dominated by British character actors. Another of the many ways in which I differentiate myself from the other, more Neo-Rat-Pack heavy listings.

1. Christopher Eccleston. I never would have dreamed I'd be saying this back in the Shallow Grave days. But mmm, mmm. You never know who'll suddenly blossom into hottiness. Doctor in Leather (that sounds kinky) -- sweet, cheerful, damaged, possibly psychotic, all rolled up in one. Invisible Man you most want to look at.

2. and 3. The Men of MI-5: David Oyelowo and Matthew Macfayden. Sadly, neither of them are on the show anymore, but that's why God made DVDs. Newer cast member Rupert Penrey-Jones is okay, too, but not quite up to their stellar standard. Worth an honorable mention. Macfayden actually did a great job in the quintesstially romantic role of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Oyelowo is probably the least known of the three, but definitely the most missed. He'll be in the upcoming No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency movie, so maybe he'll get more on the radar, where he belongs.

4. Jason Dohring. Starting out as a seemingly stereotypical character (screwed-up rich boy) on Veronica Mars, he unrolled layers of heart-breaking emotional sensitivity. I've pondered the casts of several teen and young adult shows full of pretty boys for this list, and Dohring's Logan stands way, way out as the realest and most charismatic.

5. Okay, "sexy" isn't quite the right word. He belongs on People's "Most Beautiful People" list, but I can't possibly come up with enough people for that. So as a special guest, "Most Beautiful Man in Show Business," I give you Battlestar Galactica's Alessandro Juliani. Uh, that's Lt. Gaeta to you. He's so low on the show biz totem pole that the IMDB doesn't even have a PICTURE of him. Are they freakin' blind?

And there you have it! Ten last year, five this...that's more hot guys in Hollywood than I thought I'd find when I started looking. Feel free to add your current crushes in the "Comments" section, and let's remember them all at Thanksgiving!

(For all my Blogger readers, who didn't get to read the debut list, here's last year's post. Still relevant.)

Sexiest Man Alive: Anarchivist Edition

People, Schmeople. It's really the Sexiest Actor in Hollywood, and actually, I think they just take the same bunch of guys every year, of the same level of stardom and career longevity, and throw them in a hat. So it's Brad one year and George the next, and then Brad again. Otherwise, I picture the people in a board room with a chart saying that Matthew McConaughey is inching ahead one tenth of one percent.

The Sexiest Man Alive (other than my honey) is probably some guy in India or Nebraska or the Congo that nobody knows about except the lucky local ladies. Given the impossibility of truth in advertising, here are my current picks for Sexiest Actors in Show Biz. We can just assume that Ewan McGregor has been the winner for a few years past...okay, several years...and this year I'm giving someone else a chance.

A quick word about my taste: In 1977, there was a heyday of pretty-boy teeny bop idols, a frightening precursor to the (shudder) "boy band" phenomenon that would flourish later. While Shaun Cassidy, Andy Gibb, Leif Garrett, and Scott Baio were on the covers of all the "Nonthreatening Boys" magazines (to quote the Simpsons), the year I turned 13, who was my teen idol? Richard Dreyfuss. Especially Jaws-era Richard Dreyfuss. Still totally my type! I think that's why there are so many non-American actors on my list, because in the U.S. there are too many pretty boys who rise to the top of the heap, and in the U.K. it's still more a land of character actors. As a sweeping generalization.

So, to unveil the Anarchivist's Sexiest Actors in Show Biz!

In the top slot: Michael Rosenbaum. We were a handful of episodes into Smallville when I realized how hot Lex Luthor is. What a bizarre and unlikely statement that is. I felt kind of weird about it until I read a commentary on the great Television Without Pity site for an episode where Lex is stalked by a psycho admirer. They said, "If lusting after Lex Luthor is wrong, then nobody on the TWP posting board is right." Amen! Of course, now I think he looks goofy when I see a picture of him with hair, but you can't have everything.

My first runner-up is Hugh Laurie. Those punks on Grey's Anatomy have nothing on Dr. House. Here's a guy who's been around for ages, obviously funny and talented, but now that he's all grizzled and world-weary looking, I'm all "yum!" And his character is mean, which is much more fun than the "Oh, I say!" characters I'm used to seeing him play. But it's not just the meanness. It's smart, funny meanness, and when it's clever and apt, how can you not like it?

The rest of my picks, in library associate-ish alphabetical order:

Jason Bateman: Believe me, nobody's more surprised about this than I am.
Robert Carlyle: You all saw that coming, with my Hamish Macbeth obsession.
Chiwetel Ejiofor: I just saw 2002's Dirty Pretty Things not long ago, and how exciting was it to see him turn up in the Serenity movie!
Denis Lawson: Yep. Wedge. Not quite as unlikely as the Jason Bateman thing, but also unexpected.
Dominic Monaghan: Who I used to call "the cute hobbit." I've finally started to think of him as his character on Lost: cute drug addict? Still typecast as "cute."
Gary Oldman: In Batman Returns, the reverse of the Hugh Laurie trajectory. He's much hotter here playing the heroic nice guy than I ever found him playing intense bad boys. Go figure.
David Straitharn: Who finally got a little respect last year as the smokin' (literally) Edward R. Murrow.
Tony Todd: Okay, I haven't seen him in anything lately, but darn it, I should!

Feel free to add your selections. I promise not to mock you too much if you like those pretty boys.

Friday, November 16, 2007

By the way, I too am "completely unauthorized"

Tv tie-in books and episode guides are among my guilty pleasures. Although, as always, I think some of them totally miss the point, this bunch of essays on Veronica Mars is actually better than most of the tv-show essay collections that I pick up. Maybe that's because the book is actually edited by Rob Thomas, the show's creator, primary writer, and executive producer, who also writes an introduction to each essay, talking about the behind-the-scenes, origins of ideas and themes, etc.

But I've never seen a book with such mutally exclusive book jacket marketing. The book cover says the title, Neptune Noir: Unauthorized Investigations Into Veronica Mars. The phrase "Completely Unauthorized" is emblazoned over the top of the cover. And at the bottom, "Edited by Rob Thomas, Creator of Veronica Mars."

On the back cover, Thomas is quoted, "This is a must-read for Veronica Mars fans." And lest there be any doubt about his credentials, it also tells us "Rob Thomas is the creator and executive producer of the critically-acclaimed drama Veronica Mars."

But when you open the book, the copyright page says prominently, in all caps, "The publication has not been prepared, approved, or licensed by any entity that created or produced the well-known television series Veronica Mars."

WTF? Obviously this is some sort of legal ass-covering vis a vis the network, which must be "the entity" in question (and yes, The Entity was the name of a horror movie, and sounds like it). As opposed to the person who prepared and approved the publication, and actually created and produced the series.

So in the end it's all understandable. Just a bit more, uh, aggressively contradictory in its approach than one usually sees. Hmm, maybe "aggressively contradictory" will be my new Facebook status...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Speaks for itself

In 1868, French physician Adam Raciborski "recommended a total ban on novel-reading before the age of 20, with entry to public libraries being forbidden. Like many writers of the late nineteenth century, he regarded fiction as giving a deceptive image of the world, and encouraging immorality." (Helen King, Disease of Virgins: Green Sickness, Chlorosis, and the Problems of Puberty, p. 41)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Saint Me

When I found a pink flamingo charm on the floor of a public restroom, I did not pocket it, even though it is my totem animal. I picked it up and set it by the sink, in case its owner came looking for it.

I expect some good karma to come my way, lost-item-wise.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I wasn't myself in my dream

So where did that person come from?

Between broth and brothel

Alas, "broth" comes from the Old English "breowan," to brew. "Brothel" comes from the Old English "breothan," to decay. Here I thought I was going to crack the etymological connection between soup and prostitution once and for all...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Lifestyles of the rich and DAMNED

One rant, as promised.

The trouble with rich people is that they're like Godzillas. They just stomp over other people's lives in order to walk wherever they want to walk. The first offender, Donald Trump: this time it's personal.

My favorite area of Chicago is at the drawbridges by the Chicago Sun-Times. There's always someone playing music under the watchtower (this time, a clarinet), the boat rides are just below, and you can lean over the railing and take in some fabulous, ornate architecture.
Underneath the Wrigley building, there's a nice little courtyard full of greenery that spread over into a park with a view of the river, a little McDonald's and cozy convenience store behind them, perfect for stopping off in mid-excursion. This whole spot is like my Platonic ideal of city life.

So Donald Trump wants to plunk another monument to himself in downtown Chicago. Fine. The Loop is a mighty big place, right? Nope. Trump has to stick his architecturally boring (but egocentrically massive) highrise, with his name in gigantic letters, right smack-dab in my favorite corner of Chicago.

Most of the park has been wiped away, and I was pathetically grateful that the Wrigley courtyard is still the same. The shop is still there, but obviously struggling through the construction, the cartoon map of Wrigleyville gone from the wall. All the people who were always hanging out in the park on their lunches, breaks, sightseeing...there's nowhere left for them anywhere to sit with a view of the river. Grrrr.

Fortunately, standing at the stone railing by boat launch, the new building is sort of behind my shoulder, so I can do my best to ignore it.

But Trump isn't the most egregious offender against, well, me. My honey and I always stop at the Trader Vic's in the Palmer House Hilton for pina coladas and authentic vintage Polynesian atmosphere. Every trip, the place has always been doing good business at the random times we've stopped there. This year we trooped down from a picture-taking expedition at the Carbide and Carbon Building, not an inconsiderable walk, only to discover that the Trader Vic's is gone from that spot forever, in what would have been its 50th year of operation.

The decor and memorabilia were bought out by another restaurant group, who are serving "authentic" Trader Vic's Mai Tais at the Harry Carey's steakhouses, and are supposedly planning to re-open in Chicago. Crossing my fingers -- but that doesn't mean there's any forgiveness in the offing.

Oddly, we don't have the Hiltons to hate for this, except indirectly. They sold the building to a group called Thor Equities. Or Inquities, as the case may be, since they are obviously a disgrace to their Nordic namesake. They're the ones who booted it out to open all-new bars and restaurants.

Turns out, it's the same corporation behind the current round of carnage, a.k.a. development, at Coney Island, which is trying to drive out all the people who survived the first round started decades ago by...Donald Trump's father. (See good article about the Coney Island situation in the Chicago Sun-Times at,TRA-News-Detours07.article)

As far as I'm concerned, it's all Six Degrees of Evil!

What I ate and drank on my autumnal vacation

Pizza, garlic and fresh tomato: super-deep dish by North Dakota standards, "medium crust" by Chicago's.

Exquisite crab wantons (okay, wontons) and pat Thai at the randomly selected Thai Classic. They had an item on the menu called "Squid Disco," which is totally a name for a poem, but I didn't have the nerve.

Hummos for an appetizer and fish-n-chips for the main course at the Exchequer, an English-esque pub, with food selections from all over the place. Delicious. And the coffee....mmmmmmm.

Speaking of coffee, a "jack-o-lantern latte" at an artsy hipster cafe called Uncommon Grounds. I'd forgotten about those enormous bowls of coffee, this one with pumpkin spice and an enormous amount of whipped cream. Practically a meal in itself.

A cheeseburger at the Billy Goat Tavern which is, as guessed by Trish (who knows that what I'm reading is always a dead giveaway to something), is my new second-favorite bar in the world. On one my first trips to Chicago, we were walking near the river there and saw a placard on the sidewalk for the Billy Goat. My sister-in-law mentioned that it was the place known as the inspiration for the Saturday Night Live sketch, and that it was supposed to be a dark, divey bar in the basement. It was a hot day and we'd been walking, and I thought a drink in a basement dive bar sounded like heaven.

Because we had places to go, and I was sight-seeing with non-drinkers, we never got around to it then. But this place is totally up my alley, or one floor down my alley, as the case may be. It's basically under the street (and you still go down the stairs!), so it's always like nighttime inside.

My instantaneous sense of feeling at home made me realize what I like best in a bar: a place that's just been left the fuck alone. Maybe there's something to heredity after all. My great-uncle owned a nothing-fancy bar with much that character (get a drink, a burger, and maybe some free b.s.) in a small North Dakota town. We had a cheeseburger the night we went there with the Ghost Tour, and then back a few afternoons later to take pictures, buy the book, and have a quick gin and tonic, which was perfectly crisp and refreshing. If I lived in Chicago, this would totally be my home bar.

One of the million yellow clippings on their wall, from the Chicago Times, August 18, 1944, with a picture of a bunch of women on barstools, headlined "Women Without Men." Grammar is (sic), by the way: "In moderation, tavern drinking can be innocent means of relaxation; where carried to excess, girl can become 'female barfly.' "

Ha ha ha!

And I love the fact that, hey! There was a war on! They didn't have time to waste with "an" and "the."