Monday 5 September 2022
Are you feeling Lucy, punk?
I admit that the allegory of perpetually giving Charlie Brown false hope loses some punch in the aftermath of UGA's first championship win in 31 years, but it's patently un-American to let reality get in the way of a good story. At least the football on this sign can't move.
Interestingly, this is the first sign I've put up that has been vandalized. It went up on Sept. 1, and the morning of Sept. 3, some kids threw rocks at her face, denting it. Which, when you think about it, is exactly what Charlie Brown should have done years ago.
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Saturday 3 September 2022
EPISODE TWO: THE ASSASSINATION, PART TWO
Cobryn opened the ship's coms system. "Starliner Corona's Light, this is the shuttle Chutoi making a scheduled delivery of nabana fruit for one of your guests."
"Chutoi, we've been expecting you. Please follow the docking beacon."
"Roger," Cobryn replied. He snapped the microphone off and reached across the piloting console to set the autopilot to the beacon's signal. He was thankful for the assistance. This close to the sun, he'd had to close all the windscreens and fly by instrument alone, which was something he generally preferred not to do. Cobryn hadn't become a pilot just to let computers do all the work.
Sahara leaned back into the captain's chair. "Remember, everyone, we're about to interrupt the vacation of some very rich and powerful people. The only way we're going to emerge from this safely is if we protect our identities scrupulously."
"What does 'scrupulously' mean?" asked Quig.
"It means we need to be very careful. If anyone finds out we're not just deliverymen, we need them to think we're working for the Wolf Pack."
Cobryn said, "It won't matter who they think we're working for if we fail to kill Eye One."
Sahara sighed. "Look, if that's all that's important to you, we could still go with my first plan."
Striker One shook his head firmly. "No. We must keep the killing to a minimum. Otherwise, we're no better than the families."
Cobryn chuckled at the android's naivete. "Who says we're better? Sure, they're liars, thieves, and murderers, but last time I checked, so are we. The only difference between us and them is scale."
"Let's keep it that way."
"Fine. Plan B it is, then," said Sahara. "But if anything goes wrong…"
"It won't," said Quig.
Technically, the decided course of action was plan C. The second plan suggested had been Cobryn's idea to drug the nabana shipment with sleeping draughts then give away free fruit to the entire crew. Sahara had judged that plan "unreliable," claiming they couldn't be sure the crew would willingly eat the fruit. Cobryn suspected it simply wasn't bloodthirsty enough for her.
Cobryn turned his attention back to the piloting console and watched as the autopilot brought the ship gently past the fighter escorts into alignment with the starliner's docking bay. Taking back manual control, he skillfully piloted the shuttle to a rest inside the Corona's Light.
An officer and two security droids were waiting for Cobryn by the time he walked down the Chutoi's loading ramp, nabana in hand.
"Permission to come aboard?" Cobryn asked, offering the standard courtesy when boarding a vessel.
"Permission granted," said the officer. "Your delivery is expected on D Deck."
Cobryn smiled congenially. "Great. It won't take us any time to unload. In the meantime, would you like a complementary nabana, sir?"
"I'd love one, thank you." The officer took the offered fruit and bit into it guilelessly. "What kind of person turns down a nabana?"
What kind of person indeed?
Thursday 1 September 2022
Believe it or not, we've finally reached the 17th Annual Wriphe.com Batman and Football Month. Am I excited? You betcha.
Earlier this year, the University of Georgia Alumni Association urged me to take a picture of myself "Calling the Dawgs" to drum up support for giving more money to an institution with over a billion dollars in endowment. (If you have a billion dollars what do you need more for? Is UGA planning on starting a space program?)
But I'm a loyal dog. So since I'm not on Facebook or Friendster or whatever the kids are doing these days, here's my picture on my own anti-social media.
Now that I've done as you asked, put those unpaid football players* who earned the University $46 million in net profit last year back to work for my entertainment!
*Okay, fine. They get Tuition and Living Expenses out of the deal. For an average student, that's about $27,600 in value. So it's not like they get nothing. But $46 million in profit could pay for an additional... 1.6 thousand students. That'd be a big football team!
Tuesday 30 August 2022
Sunday 28 August 2022
I know I just reviewed a batch of movies two days ago, but when I wrote that, these two felt like they should get a separate post. So they did.
103/2112. The Single Standard (1929)
Greta Garbo's capricious protagonist suffers through a series of romantic misadventures that illuminate how differently men and women are treated by society. There are a surprising number of suicide attempts, all of them by men, suggesting that maybe women aren't the weaker sex.
As it happens, I just a few days ago watched a surprisingly similar movie:
119/2128. The Grasshopper (1970)
Jaqueline Bisset's capricious protagonist suffers through a series of romantic misadventures that illuminate how differently men and women are treated by society, this time adding race and homosexuality and youth culture and drugs into the mix. I'm inclined to call this an exploitation film, both for its slapdash craftsmanship and overly sensational subject matter — Jim Brown beats a racist pedophile for raping his wife and is then shot to death in a revenge killing... on a basketball court!
Despite their stylistic differences (which, frankly aren't so different considering the cinema sensibilities of their eras), both The Single Standard and The Grasshopper ask their female leads to carry most of the emotional weight. The former seeks to showcase Garbo's protagonist's 1920s strength while the latter wallows in Bisset's 1960s weaknesses.
Did society change so much, or did Hollywood? Frankly, the key difference is probably that Garbo's movie was written by women, while Bisset's was written by men (including Garry Marshall of Happy Days and Pretty Woman fame). Everyone loses when their opponent is allowed to tell the story.
More to come.
Friday 26 August 2022
99/2108. The In Crowd (1988)
Start with Hairspray, subtract the cynicism and commentary on racism, add a sexual predator father, and you get this! It's not without charm, especially scene-chewing VJ Joe Pantoliano and the "biker versus nerd" dance-off.
100/2109. Repo Man (1984)
When I was in high school, there were several boxes for movies on the "Cult Classics" row at Blockbuster that I looked at and looked at but could never bring myself to rent. Repo Man falls into that category and demonstrates how bad my decision-making process was in 1991. This is a punk-rock film that delights in subverting expectations.
Cars, beers, and Coca-Cola are the few brands in this movie pointedly populated with generic products.
101/2110. The Fearmakers (1958)
Dana Andrews comes back from Korea to discover that gangsters have taken over his PR firm to advance a Communist plot: lobbying Congress! The film wisely focuses on the tighter picture of Andrews trying to avenge his former co-worker and plays as a pretty entertaining noirish crime story.
102/2111. The Watermelon Woman (1996)
I enjoyed the half of this film that is a fictionalized biography representing how poorly Hollywood treated colored people in its early days (as if anything has changed), but the other half, a companion plot about the young, gay, black would-be documentarian's messy personal life felt like something I had to sit through to get to the good stuff. I suspect most viewers have the opposite opinion, and I do not deny that both halves contribute to a superior whole.
More to come (sooner than later).
Wednesday 24 August 2022
Monday 22 August 2022
EPISODE TWO: THE ASSASSINATION, PART ONE
The speaker of the secure radio in the secret hideout crackled to life as it translated the encoded broadcast. Striker One listened to Haze's computer-modulated voice with growing incredulity.
"After decoding the data you appropriated in your heist, I have discovered that the android Eye One is on a sightseeing starliner orbiting the sun. In an attempt to avoid detection, he is traveling incognito with limited support staff. This presents a unique opportunity for you to cut off the head of one of the Three Families."
No doubt Eye One was a tyrant and a threat to all sentient life in the galaxy, but the leader of The Helpers had a well-earned reputation for foresight and caution. Eye One had built the Helpers from the ground up, making a lot of enemies along the way. For self-protection, he was known to change his appearance and biosignature as often as other creatures changed their shirts. If they couldn't identify Eye One, how could kill him? What were they going to do, shoot down an entire starliner?
Striker One was pleased to hear that his companions shared his reservations.
"Just how do you propose we do this?" asked Sahara. "We're hardly a crack team of assassins."
"We're not assassins at all," clarified Quig.
Maybe you aren't, thought Striker One, but Cobryn had proven himself handy and willing with a laser pistol during the heist, and Sahara… Sahara was colder and harder on the inside than most androids. Maybe Haze did know what he was doing.
"Eye One is aboard the Corona's Light, a state-of-the-art pleasure ship compliant with all Core World regulations, including escape pods for all passengers. In this case, each state room is its own luxurious escape pod. However, there's a key flaw in their design: the orbit of the Corona's Light itself. If there was to be a sudden emergency on board the ship and the escape pods were launched before an appropriate recovery vessel was notified…."
"The pods would be trapped by the sun's gravity and fall into the sun," finished Cobryn. "Those regulation escape pods are tombs!"
Striker One smiled. It didn't matter what Eye One looked like or how clever he was if they could trap him in his room and incinerate the whole apartment. There was just one problem.
"Only the captain of a starliner can trigger an emergency pod separation, and the bridge will be secured and guarded. How will we gain access?"
"I have a plan. Tell me, do any of you like fruit?"
Striker One suspected Haze already knew the answer to that, too.
Saturday 20 August 2022
Thursday 18 August 2022
93/2102. The Buddy Holly Story (1978)
Must all Hollywood biopics be commercially compelled to warp facts to fit their desired narrative? We're led to believe that Holly was a diva and The (racist, sexist) Crickets' careers died with him, neither of which is true. Good music, though.
Hit the road with Coca-Cola!
94/2103. The Westerner (1940)
Gary Cooper's usual "gee, shucks" cowpoke is alternately persecuted, befriended, and persecuted again by a caricature of infamous lawman Judge Roy Bean. Given that there is never any doubt that Cooper will win in the end, I found the experience punishingly boring.
95/2104. Mystery Train (1989)
Anthology movies can be real hit or miss, but everything really works here in a setup that presages (in style and function) what Tarantino will bring to prominence a few years later with Pulp Fiction. If you like indie cinema (or Elvis mythology), this is totally worth a watch.
96/2105. The Bronze (2015)
This movie answers the unasked question, "What if Kerri Strug grew up to be a total bitch?" Forced to train her successor, not-Strug's story is a gymnastics version of Kingpin told by less competent filmmakers. There are a couple of genuinely funny moments, but they are far too few and far between.
97/2106. Hollywoodland (2006)
This movie avoids answering the much asked question, "Did Superman kill himself?" That's the question the fictional protagonist detective is investigating, but the whodunnit is only superficial. The real subject is the more metaphysical question of what gives a man's life meaning. It doesn't answer that question, either, but it does rule out some commonly held possibilities. Not bad.
Up, up, and down the hatch!
98/2107. Alice's Restaurant (1969)
What's most surprising about this anti-war comedy movie (based on an anti-war comedy song) is how cynical it is about counterculture. Society is so rotten, even those who would try to escape it are already corrupted, and all we can do is keep a sense of humor about it. Obviously, I liked this.
More to come.