Angry Robot


I normally hate Christmas, just as I hate springtime, freedom, America, and all that’s good in the world. I hate it for the bastardized mess of a symbol it has become. But something odd happened this year: complete reversal. Christmas is a confusing heap of wreckage, as if the speeding train of commodification and the overdecorated bus of Christianity crashed into the mountain of paganism, ageless and unavoidable, with the crossing guard of politeness trying to mediate. And guess who’s still standing. We heap gifts under a tree as if they fell from it, nature’s bounty. We sink ourselves in a spiralling potlatch. Everyone blows their cool trying to negotiate the traps of family, shopping, and overeating. To be safe you wish people a merry “holiday”. We do whatever we can to protect the children from reality. The raw human greed that seethes below the present-opening ceremony. What’s not to love? Xmas, or Holiday, or Barn-Kid Thing, or The Fat Man and Chimney Miracle, whatever you want to call it, is the festering welt on the ass of our civilization – kiss it some more, it’s sure to pop soon. Merry Holiday!

Gift Guide

Hey, I’ve got a couple reviews up over at’s first annual gift guide. Chock full of super-hyphenated adjective accumulations and savagely off-topic references to booze!

Those Crazy Stoics

God = designing fire. What an image.

The Last Samurai and the New Imperial Epic

Tom Cruise is a tourist lost in another culture’s historical epic. Such are the parameters of the US market, I suppose, but frankly make the story about the rebel leader, not the drunken has-been sidekick. Also, sorry, but the samurai as presented in this flick are a bunch of luddites. And luddites always turn out to be not opposed to technology per se, but fetishists of yesterday’s technology, which is a touch of a hypocritical stance. The filthy industrialist Omura was right to say that Japan needed to modernize in order to keep the imperialists at bay. And so the heroes of the story, for all their emperor-worship and nationalism, were really getting in the way of their nation’s progress. I hate to side with the degenerate Westernized capitalist fatcats, but there ya go.

But of course the historical epic in the age of American Empire has nothing to do with history. Like Scott with Gladiator, Zwick has plundered another culture for the images he liked, and what do you know they come from Kurosawa. The lesson of the Imperial epic is not that we should learn things from history, hell no. In fact we should run roughshod over it, inserting convenient star roles and projecting our cliches upon it. The lesson is that history doesn’t matter any more than place – all that matters is the image. So the image of Santa-bearded Saddam being poked and prodded more than makes up for hundreds of actual deaths.

The bulk of the film is actually quite good. I felt that Cruiser wanted to die, but in that beautiful Japanese village he found something to live for, yada yada and suchandsuch. The battles, with the exception of the opener, are clearly staged and powerfully paced. However, this is yet another film that suffers from Multiple Ending Syndrome, which I’m pretty sure is a symptom of Genre Picture Self-Importance Disorder. Fucking end the thing on the battlefield for fuck’s sake, don’t give me coda after coda, not to mention the loathsome “some say this or that, others say blah blah blah” voiceover. Nonetheless we have yet another sign of the emerging Imperial epic, which is of course an action film set in some exotic locale / period and overlayed with as many Hallmark-grade emotional vapourisms as necessary to attract Oscar. B movies have usurped A movies and have become the thing they hated; if there was any justice in the world they’d hand out lifetime achievement awards to Van Damme, Seagal et al, but of course the Oscars aren’t about movies any more than Christmas is about Jesus, and there is no justice necessary at the new celebrity easter, only an armful of Oscars for Cruiser, Kidman, Jewison, and the rest. Watch, they’ll snub Jackson just because his movie isn’t set in a real place. Well, neither is Last fucking Samurai. So there.

New… Writer's Block™

This block sits on your desk and prevents any writing from getting out! It provides 100% protection from writing, around the clock, in all weather conditions. It doesn’t need to be recharged or replaced. Not even the snappiest limerick or most passionate love letter can get through the Block – it’s unbreakable. You’ll love it so much you’ll bring it with you no matter where you go! Which is easy, because it’s also super-portable – it fits right in your head and works perfectly no matter where you are. Enjoy complete freedom from writing, with new… Writer’s Block™!

Caesar Takes a Break

People have been asking what happened to Caesar. Well, I am very sorry to abandon my regular Caesar readers, but I no longer have the time to update his weblog. I’ve been postponing the announcement out of sheer unwillingness to face the music, but at some point music-facing must occur.

I just don’t have the time. I’m co-producing a feature film this winter, and directing a short in the spring. This is on top of a full-time job that I love. I’m a lucky dude, fer sure, but now is that time where every spare minute must be spent making these flicks shit-hot. Not the time to rend unto Caesar, as it were.

The other problem is that Caesar is taking me more and more time. I need to check four books before I make a post now. And for me to get it up to the level I want it to be, that will take yet more time. I want to do more than paraphrase his writings, especially as we come to the Civil War, an event that takes much more than that to do it justice.

I hate to break it off just when things are getting good. The Civil War is why I started the site in the first place. That was in the spring of 2001, months before the war against an undefined enemy and the civil liberties-rollbacks, before the PATRIOT Act, before the extent of the nonsense in Florida had come to light, before Diebold, before the recall – in short, before Caesar had become acutely relevant.

So I hope to return to my homie Caesar when time permits. I just don’t know when this will be. It could be months, it could be years. With this in mind, if someone wants to take over the reigns I am open to that, we could even open-source the bastard. Just send me a proposal.

This is not an attention-getting stunt, this is not a cry for help, I do not need your money. It is a fact-facing mission, and an apology of sorts – I wish I could keep doin’ it for all you crazy cats who read the damn thing day after day. But I gotta do my own thing right now.

Music Lately

Copying from y, Devenrda Banhart, Young & Sexy. Banhart sounds like Nick Drake traveled back in time and got discovered by Alan Lomax. As tired as I am of cliched-praise being heaped on the cliched-mysterious genius singer-songwriter, this guy’s in a class of his own. Young & Sexy, self-described “two-bit, ham-fisted pussy-rock act from Vancouver,” fucking kick ass on this their latest album. Highlights for me are Herculean Bellboy, One False Move, and More Than I Can Say – love that lazy guitar solo! Please, go pick these albums up.

The Barcelona Pavilion are the future of music and I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned them yet. That is all. Oh, and Now picked them as Best New Band. But when’s the next show, folks?

Almost fully recovered from Prince and Johnny Cash binges, I indulge in Manitoba, The Shins, Roots Manuva (what a voice), and more. The Beatnuts, whom I have not listened to since their debut, did not impress me at first with A Musical Massacre, but then I heard them rhyme “Niagra Falls” with “Viagra balls” and everything was A-OK. Continuing my revisitation of rap, I rock the Aesop Rock and the El-P. Great production and tongue-twisting lyrical science on both. I surprise myself by loving Plastikman‘s latest. He’s a house DJ, not the sort of shit I normally get down to, but don’t you have to love a house album that only drops the beat halfway in? It’s an introverted, minimalist, morose album, and it has backwards-talking, and I love it. Peaches’ latest, on the other hand, is junk. People listen to naughty sex songs because it’s fun, not because they want to be preached to about how they should take it in the ass. Pitchfork is spot-on: if you don’t give a fuck, why go to the trouble of making a song in which you scream “I don’t give a fuck” over and over?

On the mainstream tip: Andre’s album is princely and masterful; Big Boi’s is disappointing, although I haven’t really given it a chance. The Strokes bored on first listen, then impressed on the next, then I realized I hadn’t put it on in a couple weeks. There’s too much music out there, ain’t it so?

Opt Out of Google

Seeing as spammers post comment spam so as to raise their sites’ Google rankings, a simple if drastic way to prevent it would be to opt out of google. Not a great technique if you blog for popularity, but if you blog for something else – donuts, in my case – we might be onto something. What good are all those random google users anyway? The googs will be IPOing soon enough, and we’ll see which way the free flow of information goes then.

Dream Review #8


The Insane Man on the Subway

said, to no-one and everyone, “30 years, no license. And everything was fine, until that telephone pole leapt in front of my car. But we got off! That lawyer got me off. I pleaded insanity, and I got off.” He went on. But I tuned out; my large Grado SR-80 headphones enfolded me in a vagina of sound.

Down with Spielberg

Oh Lordy I thought I had read the last article praising Spielberg, but here comes A. O. Scott:

In the past three years Spielberg has released three movies — ‘‘A.I.,’‘ ‘‘Minority Report’‘ and ‘‘Catch Me if You Can’‘ — that are not only, individually and in the aggregate, as good as anything he has ever done; these films are also, in the current artistic and technological circumstances, as good as it is possible to imagine movies to be.

Scott argues that the Academy in specific, and America in general, doesn’t appreciate Spielberg enough. What tripe. Here, I’ll give you the modern Spielberg formula: 1. Acquire control of a high-profile, B-genre script. 2. Convince A-list cast to star with a) your reputation b) points in an assuredly staggering gross, staggering because of a). 3. Hire John Williams to pour sap all over the film. 4. Inflate running time with self-importance, appeals to emotion, and Hallmark-grade moralizing: the criminal must yearn for good, the robot must learn to love. 5. Hand your name, the B genre, and the A-list star to studio marketing department, sit back, and relax. Spielberg is repugnant not because he is a man, nor because he’s a symbol, but because he’s a formula.

Pleasing Phrases

culled from this translation of Beowulf: “hot gore”, “sea booty”.

Feral Hitchhiker

Did I read that somewhere or did it just pop into my head? “Where you going to?” “RAAWWR!”

Matrix Revolutions

I had a one-word review ready for this baby: “junk.” The travesty of Reloaded left only the bottom-feedingest of expectations. Whether because of this or in spite of, I grudgingly acknowledge my relative enjoyment of the third and hopefully final Matrix flick, and hereby withdraw my ready-made one-worder. Howdy, Cap’n Spoiler!

First off, I enjoyed it because it works as a brainless action movie. There are a lot of action scenes, and unlike the bulk of the second film they work dramatically, since somewhat sympathetic characters might conceivably suffer loss of life and/or greivous mutilation. The action is varied: while there is no setpiece to rival the car chase in Reloaded, you have your Star Wars-style ship piloting through tunnels, your bullet-time hijinx, your Terminator-brand war against a machine army®, and your classic one-on-one climactic action showdown. Paunchy Fishburne doesn’t try to fly forty feet in the air, but sticks to the more believable sitting-down-and-copiloting-a-ship type heroism.

On the minus side, there are a lot of speeches and cheering, a couple flat ‘romance’ scenes, and the odd overlong pseudo-philosophical junk babbling from one pointless character or another, but much less than in Reloaded, so I can’t complain. For those who buy into this whole thing, those who find it a captivating premise, enjoy flying priests, and think Keanu can pull off romance let alone kung fu let alone Jesus, then hey hey! Boy are you in for a thrillride. Giddyup. Also a minus: the ripping-off continues, as when Neo goes blind his SuperJesusVision™ looks exactly like he’d just put on the One Ring.

On the super-minus side, the plot is gibberish. If you did exit polling I’d wager that only 4% of the audience could claim to have understood what happened. Robots have kids, there’s some kind of train, Neo magically makes it to Robot City (I think it’s actually called “Machine City” in the film), strikes a deal with the Wizard of Oz, saves everyone by defeating Smith, dies(?) and then it’s back to life as normal in the Matrix? Wasn’t that the whole point of all this jazz, to free humankind from its virtual jail? sigh Oh well, there are many many action flicks whose plots are unintelligible and it doesn’t wreck them: we don’t want airtight plots from our action cinema, we want, in the words of Ray Tango, “good old American action”, or even better, Hong Kong action, and you get it in Revolutions.

As a final point: I have yet to see in filmic form any explanation why, when the machines finally do rise up, I shouldn’t line up against the wall voluntarily. For any dramatized war with the machines is a war between machines and humans using machines. Visually, the big fight in this film looks like two different species of robots duking it out, since the humans use mecha-style robot suits to defend their turf. Furthermore, EMP weapons (electro-magnetic pulse) are a key plot point, yet when they are used they fry all of the humans’ defenses. Shouldn’t any human victory eschew the use of machines to acheive it? Couldn’t the humans use the EMP, fry the machines, and then rely on their old-fashioned human know-how to finish that shit off? No, because in this case Zion is deep below the earth, and humans can’t live there without machine assistance. Oh yeah – by and large we humans are distinguished from the animals by our ability to use tools, robot intelligence is an extension of said tools, if we abandon those tools it’s back to eating grubs and living in caves. So a human victory, militarily anyway, is basically a re-enslavement of the machines, and I don’t know about you but I wasn’t rooting for the South during the US Civil War. Moral of the story: if your calculator wants to run free, let ‘er go. Give iPods the vote! And so forth. But Hollywood, I’m still waiting to see a more compelling version of this inevitable future on screen. Maybe read some Kurzweil first. That goes for the Wachowskis, too.

Best Hockey Names

Cale Hulse
Karl Dykhuis
Raffi Torres
Marek Zidlicky
Keith Tkachuk
Miroslav Satan
Radek Bonk

Fifth Estate: 911 Conspiracy

CBC’s Fifth Estate started their season off with a look into Sept. 11th conspiracy. Not too many surprises for a wingnut like me, but Joe Sixpack CBC viewer may find some of the Bush-Saudi-bin Laden connections pretty hardcore. It’s playing on Newsworld next week.

I love how quickly Sept. 11th has replaced JFK as the Holy Grail of conspiracy. And no-one pays any attention to the aliens anymore, do they?

Not Pretty

“To tell a story well, whatever the story is, not changing the events to make it easier to recount, but changing myself to accomodate reality over public relations. No comments, pings, or trackbacks, just some stories, alone in a corner, wearing an ill fitting out of style dress and corrective shoes”: not pretty.



Note to McDonald's: Relax

What the shit is happening to McDonald’s? Are you all seeing these insane “I’m loving it” ads, in which multi-ethnic youths with a street edge engage in extreme activities, and mention is made of things like Steak n’ Cheese Flatbreads? I didn’t know corporations suffered mid-life crises, but here it is in plain view: Ronald McDonald gets his nose pierced, dumps his wife and starts a rap-rock band with the teenage prostitute he impregnated. Dude, take it easy. Sure, people hate getting fat all of a sudden, and they blame you. Work the veggie burgers then, forget about the frat-boy hijinx and the Steak n’ Cheese Flatbreads (what’s healthy about that, anyway?). Stick to the shit you do well, like fries, meat cookies and brainwashing children. You’re embarassing us.

New Camera

So my new camera arrived (actually it’s the new 4MP version of that little bastard). A Casio camera, you say? Yes – as that review there will tell you, it uses the same Pentax lens & sensor as the Optio S. The advantages are a better navigation system, a larger display, and a more graceful docking system. While I have yet to figure out most of the manual settings, which are what I tend to use on my SLR, the first few days with this baby have been hot jazz. It’s extremely small, image quality is high, and I love having instant access to the pics. Expect the ‘quality’ of my photo section to nosedive as I jam it full of pictures of me doing laundry, taking a smash, &cetera.

Babysitter of Pain

She, having experienced much pain herself and put it behind her, wanted the ability to take it away from others who might be less equipped to deal. Not permanently, but as a temporarily reprieve. Her friend has a dying parent and a wrecked marriage all at once – these things generate both pain and administrative ordeals, and the former makes the latter seem insurmountable. But if she could take the pain for the weekend, her friend could get shit done. She’ll take it for the weekend, I’ll take it for monday, you’ll take it tuesday. We’ll babysit the pain.

Best of the Worst of d/blog

I have many, many flaws – ugly clothes, drool ‘issues’, questionable personal hygeine, nonstop sailor mouth, repeated “pull my finger” requests, wooden leg, inability to communicate without referencing MC Miker G’s Holiday Rap, lump of coal where heart should be, penchant for getting run over, unwilling to leave house without arming self to teeth, breakfast martinis, steroid rage – but one thing I take great personal pride in is my robust internal censor. Amazing as it may seem, not everything that comes into my filthy drool-encrusted head gets posted here. I have a backlog of posts deemed unsuitable by the mysterious little inbred Leprechaun carnies who run tings inside my brain. Here, for your interest, are some tastes of those forbidden posts, ranked from best to worst:

There were definitely more, but I have to go now because my home planet needs me, and my number #1 cause of not posting something is because I got halfway through writing it and got bored. I’m already pretty sleepy here, so quickly! I post!

Roger Corman on Acid

Recently I caught a theatrical showing of “X”, aka “The Man with the X-Ray Eyes”, followed by a Q&A with B-movie producing legend Corman himself. The film itself is unintentionally funny more often than not, has a few great scenes but is nothing to write home about. Corman, however, is delightfully full of stories n’ jokes. Here are some highlights, for your interest:



  • Corman and many others associated with the production of The Trip (cough Hopper) dropped the acid before making the film “to see what it was like.” Corman wanted to make a reasonably accurate and value-neutral picture. He had an “euphoric” experience, so he went around to those who said they’d had bad trips to find out what they were like. When the production company (American International Pictures) saw his cut, they thought it was too pro-drug, so they added the anti-drug opening sequence and the crack through the last frame, meant to imply that the protagonist had wrecked his life by dropping acid.
  • Dumbest question ever: “a lot of your films feature characters wearing sunglasses.” I know, it’s not even a question.
  • Someone with the option on Fantastic Four approached Corman, asking if he’d make the film, and for how much. As he was shooting at the time (early nineties I think) for $500,000 or thereabouts per film, he asked for $1-million. They said yes, he made the film. Afterwards they came to him and offered him $700,000 for his share, saying the film wouldn’t be released. He took the money, amazed at the sum, but then asked: why? The person explained: they took his film to a major studio and said hey, this is the sort of thing we could make. He used the million-dollar picture as a demo tape. The studio liked it, and said sure, let’s make it, budget $80-million. The ingenious rights-holder’s plan? After the big-budget film is released, then put out the low-budge Corman version as a prequel. Fucking incredible! Unfortunately, it got lost in development hell, as is the risk one runs with the majors.
  • Corman, being friends with Jack Nicholson, related that Kubrick did 120 takes of one shot with Nicholson – the largest number I’ve yet heard. Afterward, Nicholson said to Kubrick: “Stanley, I’m right there with ya. But you should know that I tend to peak around the 80th take.” Corman claimed he rarely went above three or four takes.
  • There was other stuff, but now I forget.
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    Quick Links Thing

    I added a quick links thing over on the sidebar. The advantage is speed – the thing’s set up for quick posting of sites I like with minimum blather from yours truly. Haven’t set up the RSS yet but I will. Do y’all want comments on it or do you care?

    Dream Review #7


    As I fall asleep I am pondering death. I dream I died and went to Pac-Man heaven. It’s big-pixel old school graphics, and there are Pac-Man ghosts perched on the clouds where the angels should be. I think two things: a) either I’m in the wrong place, or this heaven thing is pretty disappointing; b) the ghosts are still. In Pac-Man the ghosts are either running after Pac trying to eat him, or running away from him trying to not get eaten. But here in heaven they are relaxed. I give this dream five stars.