Monday, October 31, 2011

Celebrating The Geekiest Halloween Costumes

Over at Engadget, they're celebrating the geekiest of all Halloween costumes. My personal favorite was the gentleman who dresses himself up as a giant, cardboard Game Boy.

I still say my Green Man is the best of the best, but I guess I may be a little biased.

25 Things You May Not Know About Me

1. My ultimate goal is to travel to another planet and conquer it, rectally probing most of the planet’s residents, enslaving the others and stealing all their water for my personal use.

2. When I was a baby I got drunk hit the bars and things got a little crazy. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was a a father-to-be, and thus was forced to raise the resulting baby about my own age – Tyler, who would one day become one of my best friends – as my own. I gave him away to the circus because he was worthless.

3. I used to think that people who liked 30 Rock better than The Office were morons. I am now also a moron.

4. I am a whore in public but a churchgirl in the bedroom.

5. One of my more depressing shortcomings is that I am 11 wives short of attaining a quorum in the Celestial Kingdom.

6. I didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, but Plymouth Rock landed on me.

7. I would have been able to play in the NBA if I hadn’t been discriminated against back in high school for my lack of size, speed and intelligence.

8. I try to work the phrase “You dun smoke yourself retarded” into one conversation per day.

9. I don’t understand the fashion concept of “matching.”

10. Abraham Lincoln was actually a reincarnation of me. The explanation for how this happened is too long to get into here, but bear in mind it includes a time-traveling DeLorean as well as several voodoo rituals.

11. I was Time Magazine’s 2006 person of the year. Look it up.

12. I believe all country love songs by dudes are sung with farm animals in mind.

13. My greatest fear is being buried alive.

14. I believe golf columnists are the most fetishistic and pathetically stalker-like of all sportswriters.

15. I feel sorry for dolphins that live in the wild because they don’t get the chance to jump through flaming hoops.

16. I still own every baseball, football and basketball card, as well as comic book, I ever purchased and keep them stored in shoeboxes in a closet for no reason.

17. I am too lazy to write 25 things about myself, so I must stop at

18. And yet I persevere anyway, deciding that it’s better to half-ass eight more to conform to the demands of the format rather than cut myself off in the name of artistic integrity.

19. When I was a kid I had an imaginary rival named Jacques Jejajeun. I’d play him in paddle ball, Nerf basketball and Rad Racer.

20. When I was in fifth grade I convinced myself that if me and my friends played recess basketball well enough we’d get a chance to play against UNLV in a nationally broadcast exhibition game.

21. I hate yet am in inspired by people with no talent who have lucked into successful careers. (i.e. Kevin Kolb, Robert Pattinson and the Black Eyed Peas).

22. I have no sense of direction. This affects me the most when I play first-person shooters.

23. I like reading about video games more than playing them.

24. When I was a freshman in college I would recycle my excess cereal milk and use it the next day. Yep, I went green before it was cool.

25. I’m not even trying anymore and haven’t been after the first seven in all honesty. But I still count this as one so now it’s over.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: Bossypants

BossypantsBossypants by Tina Fey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tina Fey is brilliant, and proves it at times in this book, which sometimes feels like a miscalculated rush job. It was pretty lazy to include a script of a sketch, as well as a sequence of jokes from 30 Rock. Her observations on life and growing up, as well as her smack-talking about Lorne Michaels and Sarah Palin, make the book worthwhile.

View all my reviews

Books Geeks Love

Wired, that bastion of celebrating geekdom, put together a post suggesting the essential geek reads.

I love the list, which includes such masterpieces as The Hithchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Watchmen and The Lord of the Rings. Did I enjoy the post simply because it consisted mostly of books I've read -- and if not read, have at least heard of and read enough about to fake like I have -- because it made me feel like a well-read geekology professor? Probably. But that's beside the point.

If you want to be a real geek, or be able to hold a literature-based conversation with one, you need to read these books. Or at least their Wikipedia pages.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review: The Rum Diary

If they ever make a time travel tourism film about 1960 Puerto Rico, it will be the opposite of The Rum Diary. Hunter S. Thompson’s vision of the setting is as bleak as the Miami Dolphins’ playoff hopes, with thuggish, resentful locals fuming at mainland interlopers, rathole apartments with water that walks rather than runs and a kangaroo court legal system geared to either run English-speakers off the island or lock them up indefinitely.

Yet these are the places in which legends are made. Thompson drew upon his experiences as a young writer who placed his dreams on hold to toil at a mediocre newspaper job in an exotic location to pen the novel, which he wrote at age 22 but didn’t publish until 1998. In a booze-swilling haze, the writer formed his moral code, honed his participatory journalism technique and found his voice.

Pushing 50, Johnny Depp would seem to be too old for the part, but that would only apply if the actor wasn’t the love child of Dorian Gray and Benjamin Button and either gets younger or ages backward as the years pass. Depp easily passes for a guy in his early 30s. And thanks to nearly a decade toiling as Captain Jack Sparrow, he has ample experience playing a drunken fool who can barely walk.

The movie captures Depp’s character in a never-ending hangover, in which regret-filled nights bleed into bleary-eyed mornings, which themselves are only sleepwalking continuations of the previous wasted day. He buddies up with a burned-out photographer (Michael Rispoli), tries to avoid his Nazi-sympathizing, drug-addled coworker/roomie (Giovanni Ribisi) and cowers under the demands of his creativity-crushing editor (Richard Jenkins). He indulges his wide-eyed corruptible tendencies by allowing himself to be romanced by an evil land developing ring led by Aaron Eckhart and his comely girlfriend (Amber Heard).

The actors are all superb, but Ribisi is disgustingly phenomenal in his transformation into a human snot rag, swiping scenes from the indomitable Depp. You cringe whenever Ribisi slinks on screen to deliver nasally one-liners that draw nervous laughter.

While the movie lacks the absurdist panache of the Terry Gilliam-directed, Depp-starring Thompson adaptation Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, it’s more content to tell a personal, often harrowing tale. The Rum Diary catches a nice buzz early on, spinning Depp and company through an unrelenting house of horrors, but tires toward the end by preaching rather than letting its smaller moments do the fear and loathing for it.

It’s probably impossible to make a perfect movie out of a Thompson book, but The Rum Diaries is a darn good try. Maybe we’ll see perfection a decade from now. Maybe by then, Depp will finally be playing characters his own age. But probably not.

Starring Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Rispoli, Amber Heard, Giovanni Ribisi and Richard Jenkins. Written by Bruce Robinson, based on a novel by Hunter S. Thompson. Directed by Robinson. 120 minutes. Rated R.

My novel, Stormin' Mormon, is available as a Kindle book for $1.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Joys Of Reading Books On Cell Phones

Working multiple jobs while raising multiple kids while supporting time-consuming hobbies such as writing for fun, football watching and video game playing has forced me to largely cut the act of reading books out of my life over the past few years. And feel guilty about it. But that's changing, thanks to my new pastime of cell phone book reading.

I used to be irritated at the idea of e-reading, and the idea of plowing through an entire book on a tiny cell phone screen sounded impossibly stupid. But now that I am more than halfway through Tina Fey's Bossypants, which I've read on my phone primarily during bathroom breaks, I consider physical books to be impossibly stupid.

Smartphones equipped with the Kindle app allow you to tote around an infinite number of books in your pocket. Booklights, bookmarks and scotch tape are now obsolete, because this technological revolution allows you to read in the complete dark, always keeps track of your page number and does not allow you to accidentally rip its pages. I could drop my Droid 2 in the toilet and just shrug and pick up where I left off on my laptop or iPod Touch.

The main reason I enjoy reading books on my phone is because of the video game like quality. It feels as though you're playing a text-based adventure game in which it's impossible to screw up and die. Just read what's on the screen and swipe your finger and you win! Then you win again 13 second later! Since each virtual page is so tiny, you get a greater, more frequent sense of reward and progress. And I adore the fact that you can always tap the bottom of the screen to see your completion percentage.

About the only bonus I would add would be a da-dink sound, accomplished by a graphic that says "achievement unlocked" after I "beat" each chapter. I also wish it kept track of the length of time I'd been reading, and switched into audio book mode when I'm driving.

Now that I've discovered the joy of cell phone reading -- not e-reading as a whole mind you, because Kindles, iPads and Nooks can't fit in your pocket and are only truly portable to dorks who wear European man-purses -- I vow to read more than ever before, but may never touch a book again.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My NYC Observations

I got back from my first trip to New York a week ago yesterday. The vacation seemed like it lasted 5 hours instead of 5 days. Jessica and I saw Wicked and Addams Family with Brooke Shields. Went to Comedy Cellar and saw Colin Quinn perform. I'm happiest that we didn't get mugged or stabbed once.

Here are some observations about the city:

*The restaurants are stingy with the drinks. Waiters weren't cool about giving free soda refills, or even asking whether you'd like to order another. This was true at an Irish Pub in Times Square -- although I was slyly upsold to a full-price refill -- a hipster health food joint in SoHo, a pizzeria in Little Italy and an Italian place in the Village. There must be some sort of NYC syrup shortage going on, and I guess I was glad to do my part to conserve.

*It's odd yet adorable how all the subway Metro card dispensaries tell you to "dip" your credit card to pay rather than slide it.

*Locals there weren't rude. They seemed to keep to themselves and not be abrasive or resentful of tourists' presence. Maybe because they're outnumbered by tourists.

*Everyone had enough money. I expected to be shaken down constantly by aggressive panhandlers, but the only time I was asked was at a Dunkin' Donuts by a polite kid.

*We had perfect weather, but I bet it sucks to live there if it's either hot or rainy. NYC is a utopia of public transportation, and it was a dream not to have to deal with cars. But all the necessary walking would make it tough to get around in extreme heat or snow.

*An earthquake, even a tiny little 5.8 variety that the city experienced a while before I got there, would be freaking terrifying if you were stuck on top of the Empire State Building or inside a subway stop at the time.

*It would really blow to have kids there. Everyone who had a kid in tow also sported a look of gloom and misery. Guess it's not much fun to lug a stroller up a set of subway stop stairs. By the way, NYC is the least wheelchair accessible city I've ever heard of. If you break a leg or lose the ability to walk, stick with Jersey, I guess.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Broadway Musical Death Match: Why Addams Family Is Better Than Wicked

I saw two shows on Broadway last weekend, and was surprised at which one was better.

I expected to hate Addams Family because of how lame and stupid the idea to base a musical on that seems, but I actually liked that better than Wicked. Wicked was good in the second act but the first was way too slow and had mostly terrible songs and no famous people. We got stuck with the second-string cast that did the national tour. You go to Broadway to see the best of the best, not the roustabouts who play Topeka.

Addams Family at least had Brooke Shields, who was entertaining in a Surreal Life sort of way. That show reminded me of the billions of episodes of it I saw as a kid, and convinced me that the characters were always stronger than I gave them credit for. Also, Addams Family played in a tiny little theater, so the actors were basically on top of us. Wicked played in a giant megatron theater and we had terrible seats that still cost $17 trillion. The great Addams Family seats cost only $2.5 billion. So, better value.

One thing that angered me about Wicked was the way it handled the Scarecrow. Everyone who's read the books or seen Return to Oz knows that the Scarecrow becomes king, not some sick bastard who runs off with the Wicked Witch of the West for fornication in another realm, never to be seen again. And if the Scarecrow really was the witch's lover who got transformed into a brainless farm doll in an ill-advised attempt at magical protection by his spell-casting, pointy-hatted hook-up, why would he actively help Dorothy and the others try to hunt down and kill her, while pretending he didn't know that the Wizard of Oz was really the fat balloon man behind a curtain? I guess we're supposed to believe that he was just playing along as a way to hitch a ride back to his green-skinned love's wicked mansion, but that's quite a stretch, especially since she sets him on fire in the movie. Now that's some serious method acting to throw everyone off the trail.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review: Footloose

Every generation, it comes time for the cinema to teach us an important lesson about life. This lesson is that loud music and dancing are the devil's tools and must be eradicated by rule of law. A wise pastor/town dictator must obliterate that silly division between church and state.

To stoke fear in the hearts of the just, movies about this subject must present the sum of all fears -- that a hedonistic youth will shake the foundation of such just ordinances with a swirl of cartwheels and air-splits.

The new Footloose, like its 1984 progenitor, provides ample entertainment while stirring the pangs of wrath in your heart. The remake copies the original beat for beat, which is necessary because the first film was cinematic perfection that cannot possibly be improved on by man nor beast.

Leave it to director Craig Brewer to emerge from his humble beginnings, making the multiple Oscar-nominated Hustle & Flow, to rise to his true calling -- learning how to use the "copy" and "paste" functions of FinalCutPro to replicate the work of others.

Brewer expertly re-uses the two main songs from the original, "Footloose" and "Let's Hear it for the Boy," because in the past 27 years, no better songs than those have been invented. Even if, for some reason, this is actually no longer the way kids danced, and in fact never was the way anyone danced, but the style was just an odd 1980s movies construct, you must give the choreographers credit for driving home the point that dance is indeed an abomination that must be outlawed.

It's of little doubt that star Kenny Wormald, who plays the vile antagonist, the new kid in town with the loosest of feet, will go on to be the namesake of a parlor game called Six Degrees of Kenny Wormald in the future. Or that Julianne Hough will match the illustrious career of Lori Singer, and in 37 years be so far along that she'll be able to snag a role that's the equivalent of the bit part Dede Aston in season 12, episode 22 of CSI: SVU.

As far as acting goes, these kids certainly can dance, causing myriad problems for the heroic preacher played by Dennis Quaid, who finds deep layers of determination by refraining from splashing holy water on his detestable daughter or her malevolent suitor as they break the town's law repeatedly for 113 minutes.

Also, kudos to the choreography team for nailing the embarrassing arms-waving tap-dance-like style, which they copy from the first Footloose. They clearly did their research, discovering that this is exactly how kids dance today.

Starring Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid and Andie McDowell. Written by Craig Brewer and Dean Pitchford, based on a story by Pitchford. 113 minutes.

My novel, Stormin' Mormon, is available as a Kindle book for $1.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

This Email Made Me Happy

Hi, Phil,

My editor-in-chief read and enjoyed your proposal for LEARN TO SPEAK GEEK. Also, I discussed it at our general editorial meeting today and I think it went well. Right now, the proposal is being read by our publisher, our directors of sales, publicity and marketing, as well as our digital marketing/content manager. All of them seemed enthusiastic about this, so I am cautiously hopeful. I will be in touch soon, I hope.


-Book Editor (not his real name)

Monday, October 03, 2011

How To Solve Any Problem

Send Desmond into the center of the island light and have him do whatever until the unstabbable guy who can become a smoke monster whenever he likes yet chooses to be an old man instead becomes stabbable and the parallel church world born of a nuclear time travel explosion pops up and rescues everyone in a big ol hugglefest.

In case you can't tell, I just shotgunned the entire Lost series in the past couple months.