Monday, September 07, 2009

I just got back from District 9. I was watching it with a friend I haven't seen in nearly 10 years. It was an amazing film. But! But partway through, the people behind us started talking. It was a young couple - well into their 20s - and it seems like the guy was explaining the movie to the girl. It was like a DVD commentary for stupid people. Seriously.

So my friend, God bless her, turns and politely says, Can you please be quiet? And they were for the most part. Fair enough. But when she did, I guess my friend accidentally kicked the guy in front of her. And the guy didn't say anything! For the whole movie! Until the lights went up! And then the swearing began and the middle fingers flew.

I realized something at that moment. I haven't been in a fight - and I mean a real fight - since high school. I thought to myself, I'm going to have to fight this dude.

And I realized at that moment, I would not have minded in the least.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A hero for our times:

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

No matter which side of the health care debate you come down on, you have to admit, comparing either side to Nazi's is over the line (I say that now, of course, before I get into an argument with someone whom I don't agree). So I say, "Hat's off, Barney Frank. Hat's off."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

This is one of the last things Heath Ledger worked on before he died.

King Rat

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

This one is for Lord Loser...

Wednesday Cat Blogging!!!!

That's right, I've got a cat! For about a month. A friend of mine is out of town and I'm taking care of Kahlua (or however you spell it), and she's got the run of the apartment. Later on, I'll have less blurry, non-BlackBerry photos of her, doing what cats do best.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Another post! And it hasn't even been a month yet. This is from

Friday, May 22, 2009

Yeah, it's been a while. I've been busy with... stuff. So, to make up for it, here's some Green Onions.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I came to the show "Angel" late in its run. But I did grow attached to the characters, especially as I watched them in reruns. So it is with heavy heart that I post this: 

LOS ANGELES — Andy Hallett, who made his mark playing green-skinned, good-guy demon Lorne on the TV series "Angel," has died of congestive heart disease. Hallett was 33.

Hallett was taken by ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after having problems breathing and died there Sunday, following a five-year battle with the heart condition, his agent Pat Brady said Tuesday.

His father, Dave Hallett, was by his side.

"Andy was the all-American boy from Massachusetts," Brady said. "He was a hoot. He was comfortable wherever he went. Girls loved him. He was a very gregarious, happy young man."

Read the rest here.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Before I forget, Happy Pi Day!!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rebus Part 2

Of course, being pushed to the side in favor of newer and/or younger detectives doesn’t really bother Rebus. Rankin has Rebus fall into cliché at that point, making his character so determined to follow through on the case that nothing will stand in his way, not even police hierarchy. And of course the story follows suit, in that Rebus is almost always right.

Fair enough. I can live with that, if only because it grates on his allies. I believe that in most other novels and series, those under him would fall in line, but here, even his best friend on the force, Siobhan Clarke, gets rankled. Instead of wanting to be just like Rebus, Clarke spends a substantial amount of time – especially towards the end – worrying that she’ll wind up just like him. And there are signs that something like that is happening. But more on her later.

 This wariness, coupled with the real-time aging process, is what sets Rebus above his counterparts in the world of crime fiction. That’s not to say he’s the only crime fiction character to have aged (Tom Ripley from the Patricia Highsmith novels aged, but not in real-time, and certainly there are other characters out there). But it certainly sets him apart.

 Now, Rebus is a Noir character. He gets beaten up quite a bit (he’s lost teeth, been cut, shot, stabbed, and so on). And he doesn’t mete it out himself. He simply takes a lot of punishment. So while he’s screwed up cases before, it’s never been through violence. In fact, I’m not even sure he carries a gun (in the book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, David Simon writes that most homicide cops don’t really ever use their guns outside of the firing range, and it wasn’t unheard of for them to leave them locked in their desks, forgotten… by the way, go buy that book).

 This is the hallmark – or a hallmark – of a Noir hero. Another hallmark that Rankin explores – again, toward the end of the series – is that the overworld is just as bad, if not worse, than the underworld. As Rebus’ nemesis, Big Ger Cafferty, gets older, he starts to move the public face of his empire into more legitimate businesses. David Simon’s series on HBO, The Wire, explored this as well, and I wondered sometimes if Rankin was taking a cue.

 This leads me to something else: The villains of the series range from murderous thugs – the people you’d expect – to more institutional villains. Though they may not be doing anything expressly evil, are still doing damage in their own way. When the new Scottish parliament is to be built, the land chosen in Edinburgh is a housing estate, or, as we say in the States, the ghetto. It’s assumed that when the new parliament is complete, the land around it will become valuable. And so, people are moved out. At the time he dropped it into the story I wondered what Rankin was getting at, since he never really explored it. Looking back at it now, I think he was beginning to hint at the themes he would visit in the later books.

  So what, I wondered, was Rankin trying to accomplish with Rebus. Well, to be honest, I figure he was just trying to tell a good story. And if that’s the case, then I think he did a fantastic job of it. On the other hand, by the end, he wasn’t preaching, but he did seem to be reaching for more. Was he saying that crime has many faces? That the law doesn’t always serve Justice? I think that’s a typical Noir trope anyway. So yeah, he probably was.

 But with shows like Law & Order and CSI on, showing us run-of-the-mill villains committing crimes in all kinds of strange ways, Rankin shows that the rot is all around. And by the time the series wraps up, he seems to be saying that we need more cops like Rebus, who give themselves over to the job almost completely.

 More later, mi vaqueros.  

Friday, February 20, 2009

Inspector Rebus, Part 1

Back in 1987, Scottish writer Ian Rankin wrote his first Inspector John Rebus novel, "Knots and Crosses." It was the first of around 16 novels (including one novella and a short story, which I haven't read... sue me). The story was simple, and a little more over-the-top than the books that followed (Rankin described it as Gothic), and Rebus wasn't technically an inspector (he was a Detective Sergeant). Quite simply, a serial killer is out in Edinburgh, killing little girls. There seems to be a personal connection to Rebus from his days in the British army. Beyond that, little is known about the killer. 

As the story unwinds, clues are uncovered, chases ensue, and we begin to find out more and more about Rebus' world - his preferred pub (the Oxford), his relationship with Detective Sergeant Gil Templer, his brother Mickey, and two of his underlings, Siobhan Clarke and Brian... huh. I forget Brian's last name. For good reason, too, which I'll get into later. 

According to Rankin, though, this was supposed to be it - a one-off. Finito. The ever-lovin' end. 

But it wasn't. 

Several years later, a sequel came out, "Hide and Seek." This time, Rebus has become a Detective Inspector. In fact, he will not get another promotion for the rest of the series. And "Hide and Seek" is the beginning of a change in tone for the series. While on the one hand, the murders and crimes covered in the series are more extravagant than your usual, say, drug murder, they are grounded in the general atmosphere of the prose. Sure, in "Hide and Seek," some kid seems to have been murdered in a Satanic ritual. But the murder itself is treated out of the ordinary, and the motivation is toned down. Instead of looking for Satanists, Rebus and crew look for drug dealers, criminals, the usual suspects. Buying into the idea that a cult is responsible would be beyond the pale. 

And that's how Rankin keeps it in subsequent novels. Certainly, sometimes the villains are larger than life in some ways (for example, a recurring villain - Rebus' main villain - Big Ger Cafferty), but even their crimes are well within bounds of, dare I say it, the real world (yes, I dare say it). 

Rebus himself falls into some of the typical cliches of a noir hero. He's hard bitten. He's had a rough life. He doesn't take well to authority. He's virtually estranged from his family, including his daughter, Samantha. He gets suspended a lot. He drinks like a fish for most of the series (he does get sober for about half a novel). His love life is hit or miss. Sometimes, he has to bend or even break the law to enforce it. 

One of the more annoying cliches I found came later into the series, and that is that everything is connected (for example, in 2000's "Set in Darkness," three wildly different murder victims are connected (one is a homeless man, another is a politician from a rich family), not only by business, but by family bonds as well. And this kind of storytelling runs through, almost to the end of the series. 

On the other hand, even though he's right 99% of the time, it doesn't always end well. More often than not, there are stalemates. He might find out the identity of the murder(s), he's not always able to bring them to justice (remember, he bends and breaks the law himself sometimes). So while the reader may get the satisfaction of knowing the identity of the villain, 

Overall, this builds a compelling world, but one you could find anywhere else. However, there is one thing that Rankin stresses about Rebus that I've found rare in mystery novels: Rebus gets old. 

Not only that, Rebus was aging in real time. 

Don't get me wrong, we never really know his age. But when "Knots and Crosses" begins, Rebus is in his late 30s. By the time the latest novel, "Exit Music," rolled around, he was in his late 50s. 

To me, this really made Rankin's series stand out. There was a progression for Rebus, and a built-in end point that Rankin was going to stick to. Now, this doesn't mean Rebus' adventures are over. There were at least two "outs" in "Exit Music" for Rebus to continue under the auspices of the police. But it was his last novel as a cop. I can't think of any series where this aspect of the character is so front-and-center (if I'm wrong, feel free to list the series... I'm talking mysteries here, not SF or Fantasy). 

It makes for a compelling read the closer you get to the end of the series. How Rebus is treated changes over time. At the start, he's a good cop who sometimes bends the rules to get the bad guy. By the end of the series, he's a nuisance that the force can't wait to get rid of, no matter the results of his investigation. By the final two or three books, in fact, he's often not even the lead detective on a case. 

Sunday, February 08, 2009

So, yesterday, Saturday, the 7th day of February, 2009, was a day that I won't forget, but also of which I have a hazy memory. Because on that day, I met Takashi Miike, one of the greatest living filmmakers ever, and perhaps the most influential filmmaker I have ever seen. When I got my picture taken with him, he was very gracious, and he shook my hand twice. TWICE!!! He doesn't speak English, so all I said was "Thank you." Twice. 

He's in the city to hype his latest flick, Yatterman. He dropped by the Japan Society, and they sold tickets, and I got a pair, so I went to hear him speak. And I asked a question - something about his process of directing - and he answered sincerely, and happily, and made a few jokes (through a translator, of course). Afterwards, there was a reception, and he talked to fans (or, they talked at him, and he nodded along). And then I got this:


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I know, I promised this would be a book(s) review, but something pretty big happened in the city this weekend: Joe Ades died. 

Who's Joe Ades, you may be asking. He is - was - a salesman who hung out in Union Square across from the Barnes & Noble and the Petco, selling a vegetable peeler. Now, I never bought from Joe (though I did get one of his peelers as a gift - and it's one of the greatest things ever). But I know plenty of people did. He would always put on a show, and I always watched for a little while before moving on. He had prime real estate in the square, simply because he was always at the edge of the farmers' market. Plenty of potential customers. 

I always figured he'd be there, perpetually in the background, like a loud swatch of aural wallpaper. But now he's gone, and Union Square - for all its its purple broccoli, bright yellow carrots, dark green leafy greens - is a little less vibrant.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

If you're a Facebook friend, I asked you to watch the night sky. Something was coming. 

Well, everyone, it's here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The plot of Star Wars explained by someone who hasn't seen Star Wars.

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

I dunno, I think she was pretty accurate, yes? No? Oui? Non?