Friday, January 27, 2006

Mailing it in again...

Those that know me know that I love reviews of terrible movies. Or, more accurately, terrible movie reviews. So, I'm mailing some more in this morning. Here's one from Slant that was great:

and one from

and, finally, one from Dennis Schwartz on Ovus' World:


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Quaker Quakes Chili Cheese Potato Stix

It's Nine-ish at the moment and I've just had a handful of these. I can't decide whether they're terrible or just okay. The 'stix' (or, as I prefer, "Styx") look like crinkle-cut fries, which makes them appear to be more fried than they actually are. That said, there is a general taste something like a french fry, only crunchy and completely devoid of grease. I'm torn on this absence--isn't this why I eat fries? Why I would want to?

Thankfully, Quaker has replaced the grease with chili powder and forced me to forget about the absence of the "fry" in french fry, rendering these Quakes less like a fry and more like a Cheetoh. A more shapely cheetoh, sexier and probably confusing to a three-year-old. But then, three-year-olds don't tend to care for chili powder. None that I've met, anyway.

Not the point. My mouth is burning a little, and I should get something to drink. There's also a slight potato-chippy taste in my mouth, like I've doused a bag of Lay's in actual taco seasoning. But for some reason, nonetheless, I'd eat more if given the chance.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Here's a review of *this week's #1 Film* I stole from the Arizona Daily Star:

Underwhelming ripoff of 'Matrix' movies
By Phil Villarreal
Tucson, Arizona Published: 01.21.2006

Remember those "Matrix" movies? The producers of "Underworld: Evolution" sure do. And by "remember," I mean "copy."
Seemingly every shot, camera trick and design aspect, right down to the black-leather kung fu with techno music in the background, is ripped off from "The Matrix" and its sequels. At least the "Underworld" people had the imagination to subtitle their film "Evolution" rather than "Revolutions." And, just so absolutely everything wouldn't be a wholesale copy of "The Matrix," the elaborate and grotesque death scenes are cribbed from "Mortal Kombat" video games.
The theme for "Underworld" is that vampires and werewolves have carried on a discreet rivalry for centuries, battling for supremacy while hiding out from humans.
In case you haven't seen the first movie, and few have, judging from the paltry $52 million domestic gross, the new movie opens with an extended prologue. The opening, set centuries in the past, proves that even in the year 1202, unnecessarily shaky cameras and stomach-churning rapid-fire editing plagued the Earth. Then comes a CliffsNotes version of the first film, including its best scene, in which the bad guy's head is sliced diagonally in half, causing the top portion to slide off.
Flash forward to modern times, and death-dealing vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) has learned that her family has told her a series of lies her whole life, or something. Whatever; anything for an excuse to run around exploding things. Alongside her is Michael (Scott Speedman), the half-human, half-vampire, half-werewolf — that's a lot of halves — who shared a forbidden romance with her in the first film.
This time around, the romance isn't forbidden, because vampires and werewolves not only don't fight so much, they're the best of friends, protecting each other's hidden castles and pouncing through walls to one another's defense. After all the vitriol between the races in the first film, the friendship seems a little fishy, almost uncomfortably buddy-buddy, in the vein of George Bush and Bill Clinton.
Most of the fighting in the sequel is vampire-on-vampire violence. Whenever werewolves appear onscreen, they always tear in for the kill, while vampires at least have the decency to taunt their foes with archaic dialogue. It's easy to see why the 'wolves are so angry. There are absolutely no werewolf chicks to hang out with. The vampires have all the ladies, who leap around in tight leather and often partake in wild orgies in dark catacombs.
The villain, Marcus (Tony Curran), can transform into a bald bat and jab people with spikes that protrude from his wings. He's more powerful than the other vampires, thanks to an infusion of werewolf blood.
One important question the film never confronts is what to call a vampire-werewolf mix. The term "hybrid" is casually bandied about, but c'mon, that's so Honda Civic. At least go werepire or vampwolf.
You can always tell who's really a vampire, if not for their protruding fangs, then because they walk around with miserable pouts that resemble Ben Stiller's "blue steel" male model facial pose in "Zoolander."
Selene, in particular, has the look down cold. She makes passionate love to Michael — blue steel. She learns a grave secret about the origins of her family — blue steel. She learns she won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes — blue steel.
OK, that last one doesn't happen; they've got to save something for the threequel.
● Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or

Friday, January 20, 2006

Queens photos

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Cue up the Coltrane...

Instead of a review, I’m going to make a random list of my thirty favorite things. In no particular order.

1. Jill
2. walking to work
3. the first four Black Sabbath albums
4. Slacking at work
5. The Pumas I bought on Monday
6. Harvey Pekar (the comic book guy)
7. Writing
8. Listening to music in headphones—it’s like your mind is rocking out
9. Zippo lighters
10. Miller High Life
11. Toni Morrison
12. Breathing in sync to a cricket outside the window so that I’m briefly scared that smoking is causing adverse lung issues that are just now becoming apparent, but then realizing that it’s only a cricket.
13. warm Januaries
14. Queens University of Charlotte
15. Painting
16. Harvey Pekar (the cat)
17. Encouraging people to write
18. Chewing gum.
19. Homemade burritos
20. The Cincinnati skyline
21. Sundays between August and February
22. The Roebling Suspension Bridge
23. Eraserhead
24. Blaise Weller
25. Mara, and all the people involved therein
26. Putting on socks and hats
27. Cold weather
28. Knowing that there’s a wedding coming
29. Playing Pool
30. Looking at creepy pictures of stuff

I'm sure to get some more reviews out of this list... stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Fossil FS-2900

The band is made of metal, which is my primary criterion for liking a watch. My only criteria, actually. And, somehow, I feel bad for having it. It’s because it’s a returned gift. Well, the first watch was returned and traded in for this one, this all-metal, blue-faced replacement for something that I didn’t first care very much for.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like it—the original one was a nice, thick leather-banded watch. But it was uncomfortable on my wrist—I couldn’t move my hand with it on… it was like wearing a manacle or a nuthouse restraint. So Jill took it back the next day, braving the returns crowd and walking back through the store, the watch section, and selecting a new one.

She brought it home to me, and I opened the box, her standing in front of me smiling. She asked, “Did I do good?”

I put the watch on and looked at it, at the band, the shiny metal band, its cold comfort wrapped around my wrist. I thought to myself briefly—Jesus did not get one of these. Ever.

I sat down with the watch, Jill following me to the couch and I set it to the right time, the face staring back at me, aligned with the world. I grew curious about the three spare hands decidedly not spinning, so I took out the instructions and discovered that I have a stopwatch, too. I pushed the lower button and the second hand sped around the face and stopped at the 12 second mark. I pushed the top button and the stopwatch function sprang into slow action, the tiny minute hand and the tiny hour hand inside the wider circle of the primary clock taking their time, eventually meeting their destinations and continuing to their next.

I looked at the face, watched its parts move and shine in their newness.

“Yes,” I said. “You did good.”

Monday, January 16, 2006

Abigail Thomas

Two Januaries ago, I was at Queens University for school, at the residency’s opening reception, standing outside, smoking. I had a small-talk conversation with a woman about what it was that I wrote, who my teacher was that semester, and so on. She was beautiful and worn, and her clothes hung off of her in a strange, elegant way. I mention this—the clothes, that is—like it’s important to me what she wore… I don’t know how important it is, but she has a seemingly stated sense of style—she wears what she wears like it’s hers, though, and it’s striking to me. She owns everything about herself. Especially the eyes. Her eyes tell you she listens, that she has listened in the past, that she’ll continue to listen so long as she can. Abby struck me to the bone. That’s what I’m trying to get at. Right from that first instant, she struck me to the bone.

Later in the week, she read a particularly painful passage in the auditorium about her husband that, for me anyway, defined love. This isn’t to say that I hadn’t intellectually known it before, but she broke down some wall that I’d had inside, probably for all my life. It’s about caring. That’s all. It sounds simpler than it is, I discovered, to care all of the time. To be sure, there are things that just don’t matter, like what color the toilet happens to be, or how many keys you’ve got on your key ring, but there are things that do matter. Like people. Like family. Like lovers or spouses or things that you like or want to do. And it’s deeply vital to care about all of those things all of the time. There’s a lot of energy to divide, but without doing it, a life will never be fulfilled.

Abby Thomas is a picture of a fulfilled life. A picture of caring all of the time about all of the things around her. She might not agree with me, but every time I see her, she inspires me to be more like her. And every time I see her, I care a little bit more.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Penguin--Charlotte, NC

It's been quite a while since I've posted. The good news is that I've got a few reviews backed up, and I'm also no longer a graduate student. *MFA Hey!*

Anyhow, here's a review from 1/10:

I got into Charlotte at around 3:30 on Saturday, and Laura picked me up at the airport. I had agreed to take her to dinner for the favor, so we went to the Penguin, which isn’t far from the South Park/Queens University area, my locale when I’m in the (other) Queen City.

We got a booth and sat down to a couple Cokes and ordered some fried pickles. Over them, we talked writing and graduation. The conversation was pleasant and it helped me to slide back into the week that is a Queens residency. Mostly, though, it was just good to see Laura, as she’s one of my favorite people in the world. She’s a broad, broad person; wider than anyone can know. Her experience in life is at once common and uncommon; she’s both complex and simple. And she makes me happy and comfortable. Like fried dill pickles.

That’s what I wanted to get to—the pickles. In my previous experiences with deep-fried dill pickles, they were good and comforting spears, easily identifiable in their shape alone, the surprise inside the batter not a surprise at all, but good all the same. The Penguin, though, is a different experience altogether. The majority of that, to be completely honest, is more in the food and the atmosphere.

It’s like a neo-1950’s greaser diner. That’s what I presume the intent to be anyway. That guy from Social Distortion would blend in with the staff, who are likely hundreds of times more pleasant than he is. But it makes you feel tough to have that burger in your hand (they’re all named after types of automobile engines, by the way) and to take a bite from it, like you’re saying something akin to “I’m going to eat the fuck out of this hamburger, bitch.”

The pickles, though, are sort of an anomaly here, because deep-fried dill chips (that’s how they’re aesthetically different from the other ones I’ve had) aren’t necessarily food for a tough guy. A fried boot, maybe, but not a pickle, which, if it were a spear, would perhaps have a strange Freudian air to it. No matter. The point that I want to get to (and, for some reason, I’m making it harder on myself than I should be) is that these dill chips are the real motherfucking deal. Spend five bucks, bring a dear friend (who, hopefully knows some of the rockin’ staffers), and you’ll be in for something you’ll remember—kind conversation, their comfort and warmth and words, and the slight vinegar sting of a pickle slice rising out of the flaky sweet of the batter. Nothing else like it, or as good.