Ekkekos, Elections, and “Er Ist Wieder Da”

17 Oct

We’ve not written much about the upcoming U.S. Presidential election. The thing’s already a surrealistic debacle, so we didn’t think we had anything to add to the mess.  And what the heck, we don’t, except to notice that many people treat their favored candidate like their own personal ekkeko.  “What’s an ekkeko”, you ask?  So did we. Years ago we received a gift of a small open-mouthed guy in a brown suit and bow tie.  He’s  festooned with a tiny basket, bags of grain, small play money, a box of laundry detergent (go figure),  a small pair of huaraches, and the like. (There was also something in a small plastic bag, but we put him on our workbench in the basement and a mouse ate whatever was in there – we forgot what that was.) We lost the tag that goes with him, which explained that one puts things on him related to what one wants to manifest in one’s life, so his burden of treasures increases over the years.  (When we were studying computer science, our youngest daughter thoughtfully drew a picture of a computer and put it on our diminutive plaster person. What the heck, we got an A.) Only after a Web search did we recall that this droll little man is called an ekkeko, and it comes from the Incan tradition.

ekkeko

We’re on Facebook, and some of our friends (and people we don’t really know – we’ve gotta adjust our filters) like to post things of a political nature. We wonder if the candidates are emotional ekkekos of sorts, something for people to pin their hopes and dreams on.

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We’ve seen David Wnendt’s “Er Ist Wieder Da” (“He’s Back”, or “Look Who’s Back” in English) twice now. The first time, we didn’t realize that there were optional English subtitles on this German language film and we missed about half of what’s going on.  (Nevertheless, we have long believed that if you want to see if a film is engaging, watch it with the sound turned off – if it still holds your attention, then the film is cinematic.  Some very good movies may fail this test, but on the whole, it’s not a bad way to judge a movie.) “He’s Back” could be described as “Borat meets Network meets Rip Van Winkle.” It’s based on a novel of the same title by Timur Vermes, and the one who’s back is none other than Adolph Hitler (played by Oliver Masucci.) As the film begins, we hear Hitler’s voice over expressing amazement that the German people have survived World War II, despite his order that all Germans be killed.  We see shots of clouds, and it’s not clear if Hitler has descended from the sky or been vomited up from the bowels of an Earth that has rejected him, as we then see him lying in the dirt near the former Führerbunker. In the course of the film, a hapless videographer named Fabian begins an uneasy relationship with the dictator, thinking him a demented actor who refuses to break character.  He takes him on a road trip of sorts around Germany. We don’t want to say too much else about the picture, as we’re always cautious about revealing plot points, but we found the film intriguing, funny, and disturbing all at the same time.

look_whos_back

We suspect that the novel is less Borat-like than the film is.  Oliver Masucci, the actor who plays Hitler has said that during scenes shot at the Brandenburg gate, many people seemed happy to see him, and unprompted, begged him to bring back concentration camps.  (One woman hit him, and he felt that it was the healthiest reaction he received.)

The one quibble we have is that Masucci, a 6′ 1″ tall actor, is too tall for the role (Hitler was 5’9″.)  Nevertheless, the film is worth your time, and it raises some disturbing (and in this election season, timely) questions.

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Werner Herzog’s “Lo and Behold” (and the Mud Guy)

22 Aug

Werner Herzog may well be our greatest living filmmaker, with a body of work spanning decades and as diverse as Aguirre, the Wrath of God (a film about a crazed conquistador), and his current documentary, Lo and Behold, an often disturbing exploration of the Internet.

As the film begins, we learn that the letters L and O were the first two characters ever transmitted between two networked computers (the sender was attempting to log in), whereupon the recipient machine crashed.  In those early times, the entire community of internet users could be (and was) listed in a single directory.  From such humble beginnings came the networked world we know and love (and hate) today.

Herzog’s film is wide ranging, exploring such topics as networked driverless cars that learn from the mistakes of their peers, the potential for total internet disruption by solar flares, a family cruelly traumatized by internet trolls, young people addicted to internet games, the problems stemming from an inability to track individuals on the internet, the problems posed by too much internet trackability, and internet communications on Mars (Herzog expresses an interest in going even if it means remaining there.) We especially liked Herzog’s interview with Kevin Mitnick, a famous hacker who paid dearly for his hacking with a prison term.

Over the years, Herzog has pretty much figured out that people find his Teutonic eccentricities a mite zany and he now seems to go out of his way to include Herzogian touches in his films.  For example, “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams” ends with a bewildering epilogue about albino crocodiles living near the cave in water flushed from a nearby nuclear reactor.  While Herzog does not go that extreme in Lo and Behold, his voice over declares the corridors of a university building ‘repulsive’ and he throws in a bit about Buddhist monks tweeting on iPhones in a future Chicago where the populace has apparently emigrated to Mars.  It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but we like it ‘cause it gives a chance to nudge our partner as if to say “Oh, that Werner.  What a zany guy!”

Eccentricities aside, “Lo and Behold” gives the viewer a lot to think about and it’s well worth your time.  The one thing we found odd about the documentary is that Herzog manages to explore the topic of the Internet and its implications without ever mentioning two Internet mainstays: pornography and cat pictures.

Lo_and_Behold

______________________________________________________________

Our eldest daughter is a photographer  who often creates assemblages from disparate photographic elements. She recently asked us to be the subject of one of her photo shoots.  We don’t like to be photographed (it steals the soul), so we didn’t take to the idea until she told us that we were to be covered in mud.  Being caked with mud would provide a certain anonymity. Too, there was something Werner Herzogian (see above) about being covered in mud that appealed to us.  We agreed to  be photographed.

On a weekend, we conducted the shoot.  Clad in shorts and our own hirsute epidermis, she and her sister used sponge brushes to apply the mud. After about 10 minutes of application, she pronounced the result satisfactory.  We assumed that we’d then shoot among some trees, but she posed us in front of the white garage door.  We’d be electronically separated from the background in the final assemblage.

As we awaited her instructions, we decided that channeling our inner Incredible Hulk would be just the thing.  We began to psyche ourselves up, putting what we fervently hoped was a Hulk-like grimace on our face.  With the camera in position, our daughter gave us an instruction that was breathtaking in its simplicity. “Dad, I want you to look at the tail light on that car”, she said, indicating her sister’s vehicle about 10 feet away. That was all we needed. We forgot all about the Incredible Hulk, and abandoned the idea about psyching ourselves up. The world now consisted of that tail light, and if we were supposed to look at it, then by gum, we were going to look the hell out of it. As the shutter clicked, she provided a few more instructions, but stressed that we should continue looking at the tail light.

At length the session was over and our daughter had the images she wanted.  She explained that the mud guy was to take up only a section of the final piece. We went inside to wash off the mud, reflecting on how powerful a simple instruction to a non-actor can be. It occurred to us that when directing people (especially space cadets like us),  a simple instruction often suffices.

We caught a glimpse of the mud guy in the bathroom mirror. Some of the mud had dried, while some of it was still wet.  The two-toned effect was awesome. We thought about reporting for work the next day still caked in the mud.  Since that was impractical, we washed it off.

Jaws and Scams

9 Jul

The perception that the English have terrible teeth is supposedly a myth, but we’re not so sure. Our ancestry is a mélange of Irish, Scottish, and English folks, and we’ve got the crooked teeth to prove it.  Less than a week after we finally had our wisdom teeth out (our oral surgeon laid a big guilt trip on us for our not attending to this in our teens), we busted our jaw chomping down on a Bahn Mi sandwich. (It’s a French- Vietnamese fusion of pan-fried marinated tofu with thinly sliced carrot and chipotle mayo on a baguette – our taste buds are dancing just thinking about it.) Our jaw has been wired shut for the past three weeks. Some setbacks have their advantages though – it’s done wonders for our figure (we’re sipping meals through a straw), and now we can do convincing impressions of Stephen Hawking.  On the down side, it’s a bloody nuisance. This might be karmic payback for something rotten we did in a previous life.

busted_jaw

Teeth

If you’ve not had your wisdom teeth removed and you’re in your teens, now’s the time to get it done (ideally, you have dental insurance.)  It’ll save you a guilt trip from your oral surgeon later.  If you’re past your teens, you might want to look into it – it becomes more of a big deal the older you get.  If the teeth are really impacted, you may wish to be careful and eat softer foods for the first month or so after you visit the oral surgeon – baguette isn’t exactly hard, but it’s rather chewy, so go easy on the chewy stuff.

Several days after this misfortune, we got a call from a guy (telephone number 1-156-566-5556) who said he was working with Microsoft and they’d discovered a lot of Internet traffic from emanating from our PC (or something to that effect – the upshot was that our PC had been taken over by others and he, concerned guy that he was, would tell us how to fix it.)  He sounded like he was in a room with lots of other good Samaritans also making phone calls. It was clearly a scam, but we decided to play along.  He told us to open a command prompt and run netstat -an.  This command essentially shows you information about network connections. The guy offered this as proof that the computer had been taken over by invading marauders (it proved nothing of the kind.) He then asked us to run other commands which also did nothing to show that the computer had been compromised but were apparently intended to convince us that he knew what he was talking about.  (He didn’t) We pretended to follow his instructions, waiting for him to get to the heart of the scam. By and by, he did, asking us to open a browser and visit some Web site that would cure our PC’s ills.  At this point we got bored and starting making things up when he asked us to describe what was on the web page.  We hadn’t even bothered to open the browser.  Sensing he was getting nowhere, he said he’d call back when we were actually in front of a computer.  We thought that’d be the end of it, but he actually called back several days later. This time, we weren’t amused and told him not to call back.  (He hasn’t.)

This post has been brought to you as a public service announcement from the British Dental Association and the Society for the Prevention of Guys Running Telephone Computer Scams  – exercise caution after oral surgery, and don’t believe some guy who calls you saying he’s going to ‘fix’ your computer.

Lemming of the BDA

Our man Lemming from the British Dental Association.

Blood and Robots

1 Jun

Our local Red Cross chapter called recently to ask if we’d donate some blood platelets.  Since we had some left over, we said “sure.” To get the platelets, a machine whirls the blood around in a centrifuge, as a tube in one arm sends blood to the machine and one in the other arm receives blood back from the machine (sans some of the platelets, we assume.)  The whole process takes about two hours or so.  As the arms must remain still during the process, reading a book is out; there’s no one to turn the pages. The procedure is, however, tailor-made for watching movies, which our local chapter thoughtfully provides on DVD.  We steered clear of the Adam Sandler section – we wanted a pleasant movie-watching experience, not the Ludvico technique from  A Clockwork Orange. We got hooked up to the machine and with the centrifuge whirling, the nurse started the film we’d chosen to re-watch, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, directed by Robert Wise (the original one, starring Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal.)

Gort

Gort

We think this 1951 film is one of the better sci-fi films of its era, but thematically, it’s a bit muddled. At the opening, a huge flying saucer touches down in Washington, D.C.  Out steps Klaatu (Michael Rennie) and his laser-eyed robot friend, Gort. Klaatu, as we come to learn, is an odd mixture of Jesus of Nazareth and Al Capone.

Here’s the Jesus part. Klaatu is wounded when he reveals a gift for the President that a soldier mistakes for a weapon. Taken to Walter Reed hospital, he doesn’t spend much time on the mend. Klaatu swipes a suit from the hospital cleaners (?) and soon he’s out to explore D.C. on his own. Examining the tag on the purloined suit (which just happens to fit perfectly), he sees it belongs to a man named Carpenter. Later in the picture, Klaatu is killed by the military, who shoot first and ask questions later. It’s Gort to the rescue as Patricia Neal awakens the behemoth with the words Klaatu has given her: “Klaatu barada nikto.” (Memorize these words in case you’re ever on a quiz show, and with a million dollars on the line, they ask what the words are.) Back aboard ship, Gort hooks his humanoid master up to a gizmo, and in short order, raises him from the dead.

Here’s the Al Capone part.  Klaatu has come to give the people of Earth a message.  Sure, he comes in peace, but he’s backin’ up his peaceful words with muscle.  Earthlings have developed atomic weapons and them atomic weapons make Klaatu’s people and those on other worlds a mite nervous. (The fact that Earth people have no interstellar delivery systems for those weapons, and until he showed up, didn’t even know there were other inhabited worlds seems to have escaped Klaatu’s notice.)  He doesn’t give a fig about how Earth governs its own affairs, but if Earthlings start waving those atom bombs around on his world, well, they just might have to reduce Earth to a burned-out cinder. The Luka Brasis of Earth are gonna sleep with the fishes. With that, he and Gort hightail it out of there at warp speed.

As the credits rolled up the screen, the centrifuge ceased its whirling, the platelets were collected, and we gorged ourselves on juice and cookies.

Outlander, Dr. Who, Star Trek, and Brigadoon

28 Apr

We were at a bachelor party some years ago (a rather sedate one) where a chap gave us his observations about the difference between Star Trek and Dr. Who.  Star Trek, he explained was the “American Male Fantasy”, whereas Dr. Who was all about “Labor Relations.” Dr. Who, he observed, mediated quarrels between bellicose aliens, whereas Captain Kirk got all the women.

We wonder if Outlander, now in its second season, functions as Star Trek for women – a not-necessarily-American female fantasy. Even the show’s  theme  song  muses “Say, could that lass be I?” After falling through a stone into 18th century Scotland last season, the main character Claire is unfazed by the era’s lack of modern plumbing. This season, she and her husband Jamie travel to France where they make their entrée into the French court with surprising ease. All the while, Claire runs around in the haute couture of the day. If she has to make that temporal jump to the left, a woman could do worse. And like the proverbial hedgehog, Claire knows one important thing; the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 must not happen.

We know that it’s going to happen, though. The show removes all doubt with the opening sequence of the first episode of the second season.  Claire’s back in the 20th century asking a passing motorist who won the battle of Colloden.  (Hint:  it isn’t the Scots.)  In stories involving time travel, at least two schools  of thought contend. One is the “Watch out – the slightest thing you do in the past will change everything in the future” school.  (Think  Ray Bradbury’s  “A Sound of Thunder”, for example.)  Another is the “No amount of meddling in the past changes the future one bit” school.  (Think Alfred Bester’s “The Men Who Murdered Mohammed.”)   Outlander seems to be in the latter camp. (By the way, we took issue with the fact that Claire’s 20th century husband is upset that she’s been away for two years –  just because she’s spent two years in the past does not mean that two years have passed in the 20th century.  However, that’s how author Diana Gabaldon apparently chose to do it, so we shouldn’t quibble.)

The show is a bit of a mixed bag – it’s a romance, but it’s punctuated by scenes of ultra-violence that would give Sam Peckinpah pause. Production values are high, and the acting is top drawer. We particularly like the scenes with Simon Callow, who plays the Duke of Ham Sandwich or the Duke of Sandringham or something like that.  Also high on our list this season is Andrew Gower, who plays  Bonnie Prince Charlie with dotty fervor.  He can hold forth on how it’s the will of God that he should reign while delivering this heartfelt speech in a bordello.

Bonnie_Prince_Charlie

You’re a dotty one, Bonnie Prince Charlie!

As per usual, we don’t know where we’re going with this.  We started watching Outlander because our spouse was watching it, but we’re not sure if we’ll be able to stay with it – it’s a show that makes one uneasy (we’re wusses, what can we say?) Our adult youngest daughter perhaps said it best: “I can’t watch Outlander for the same reason I couldn’t watch Brigadoon as a kid. It’s a story about being trapped in the past.”

Trumpe l’oeil

15 Mar

We just got an idea for a sci-fi screenplay. Being the layabouts that we are though, we know we’ll never get off our lazy duffs to write it. We’ll pitch it to you and maybe you can do something with it.

It’s a dirty story of a dirty man and his clinging wife doesn’t understa – wait, that one’s been done…

No, actually, this one takes place in the not-too-distant future. A guy is running for President. He’s rich, he says racist things, and he’s a bit of a bully. He actually encourages his supporters to use violence at his rallies. (Remember is a sci-fi dystopian future-type story, so if the scenario we’re describing seems really far-fetched, just remember, this is fiction.) The guy is not as wealthy as he makes himself out to be – he has bankruptcies in his past and the book he’s written is not the best-selling book of all time, despite his assertions that it is. Our character has an overweening ego and always uses superlatives to describe himself.

By now, you’re probably saying, “Wait we know who this guy is – it’s the bad guy from Steven King’s ‘The Dead Zone.'” OK, we’ll admit, there may be similarities between King’s villain and ours, but we’re trying to go in a different direction with our story – it’s sort of a Dead-Zone-meets-Citizen-Kane-meets-Philip K. Dick mashup.

Citizen_Kane

Dead-Zone-meets-Citizen-Kane-meets-Philip K. Dick

In our screenplay, we drop hints that the guy is an alien, with an orange-hued visage to suggest he just might be from some other planet or perhaps another dimension. We’ll also suggest his other-worldliness by the hypnotic effect he has on his followers. No matter how outrageous his statements, his followers praise him for his “straight talk” and for “telling it like it is.” They even raise their arms in a gesture reminiscent of the Hitler salute. OK, we know we’re now straining credibility to its breaking point, but stay with us.

To cut to the chase, the guy keeps winning primary after primary, racking up impressive wins without anyone understanding how he’s doing it. After a rancorous convention, he wins his party’s nomination. In debates with our anti-hero, his opponent makes reasoned arguments, only to see them fall flat. With a combination of bluster, bullying, and low humor, our dystopian candidate wins every debate.

We then cut to Election Night. Things are going well for our anti-protagonist as several states fall into his column. It looks like he’ll soon be slouching toward Washington to be inaugurated. His supporters are ecstatic! It’s then that the CIA (those wonderful folks who brought you MK Ultra) make their move, sticking a hypodermic in the almost-President-Elect’s derriere and spiriting him away in a black limo.

We then see the CIA guys head for a shadowy underground location with scientists in lab coats and armed, burly MPs at every door. Using the latest in Virtual Reality technology, they construct a scenario where our anti-hero sees himself in front of adoring masses who hang on his every word. We see subjective shots where he tells them that a neighboring country has just acquiesced to his demand that they pay for the large wall that has just been completed on his decree. The crowd cheers. The almost -prexy is blissful. The scientists will keep him in this state for at least eight years

Meanwhile back at the ranch, our would-be dictator’s followers undergo a shocking reversal. It’s as if the mind-link connecting them to their hero has somehow been severed. With the polls still open, they head to the polls en masse, and to the surprise of  the pundits, vote against their erstwhile idol! The country is saved! (well, not really saved, as the opponent is not all that great, but much better than our orange-hued alien.)

OK, that’s the gist of the thing. Some of it might need punching up and you can change the ending if it’s too cliche. Again, this is so far-fetched as to be laughable – American voters certainly aren’t as naive as we suggest, but suspension of disbelief is at the heart of the movie-going experience.

Waiting for “Waiting for Godot”

13 Feb

“I’ve never heard of that book”, said the puzzled book store employee when we asked whether the store had any copies of Waiting for Godot. Things weren’t looking good for Godot.

derby

Several years ago we saw the film Vanya on 42nd Street in which a group of well-known actors rehearsed Chekov’s Uncle Vanya at a run-down theater in New York without ever intending to stage a full-blown production of the play. That gave us an idea. What if we rehearsed Waiting for Godot with our friends? Since we see our friends infrequently, the idea languished on the back burner for the better part of a year. Then in December, we got together with our friends Louie, Sam, and Fred for beer and pizza. At the end of the evening we pitched our idea, which earned us some quizzical looks from our buds. We thought that was the end of it, until Louie contacted the gang via e-mail and suggested that we all give the idea a try. Sam and Fred only vaguely remembered the conversation, but said they were up for it. We met at Louie’s on a chilly night in January.

We had only one copy of the text, which we gave to Sam.  We, Louie, and Fred hooked up laptops and read from a copy of the play we found online.  We were the only one in the quartet who had seen the play (albeit on DVD.) The casting was done on the spur of the moment. Sam said that he’d be Vladimir, one of the two tramps who wait for Godot, so the part was his. Louie volunteered for the part of Estragon, the other tramp.  That left Pozzo and Lucky (and the little boy who comes in at the end of both acts.)  We knew that Fred would make the perfect Pozzo, so we chose Lucky. As for the little boy, we’d just wing it.

We tore into the material.  About 15 minutes into the reading, Sam looked pointedly at us and said “Harry, what’s this play about?” (Sam is a lawyer by trade, and used to dealing in things that can be known.) We told him quite honestly that we didn’t know. We once heard of a movie goer who, having seen Ken Russell’s Lisztomania gushed , “I didn’t understand it, but I loved every minute of it!” 1 That’s how we feel about Waiting for Godot – we enjoy the play, but we find ourselves unable (and unwilling) to pin it down.

The reading continued until just after 9pm, when the looming work day on the morrow forced an early stopping point. We hadn’t even reached the end of Act I. Everyone agreed that the play was intriguing and we made vague plans to meet again to continue the reading.  That gave us time to score three more dog-eared copies of the text. Several weeks passed without a firm plan to meet again.  Sam took the initiative, e-mailing “So when are we going to meet again?  I want to know what happens to Vladimir.” Beckett had apparently awakened some dormant creative impulses in our band of grumpy old men.  We’re shooting for February 19th.

Waiting for Godot has been described as “a play in which nothing happens, twice” (and this was written by Vivian Mercier, a fan of the play.)  We hope Mercier is wrong – we’re hoping that this nothing happens more than twice.

  1. Not having seen Lisztomania, we can’t say whether this enthusiastic view was warranted. However, the director is Ken Russell, so we kind of doubt it.

High Plains Drifter and the race for the Republican presidential nomination

18 Jan

This article contains spoilers, but given that the picture in question was released over 40 years ago, we figure that if you like this sort of thing, you’ve already seen it.

We’re fans of some pretty bad movies.  We love Arnold Schwarznegger’s Commando as well as some bad Clint Eastwood movies (The Gauntlet, for example.) While channel-flipping last week,  we found High Plains Drifter, which we had never seen.  We don’t recall which film critic coined the term “adult fairy tales” to describe pictures of this type, but it fits this movie to a T.  The moral universe of the movie is unrelentingly ugly. ( The picture was made in the early 70s when anti-heroes were starting to be a thing -Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange had been released two years earlier in 1971.) One of the first things Clint’s character (who’s never given a name) does when he arrives in the Western town where the film is set is to rape a woman because, well, he’s Clint and he can.  He also establishes his street cred as a gunslinger.

We then see violent flashbacks of three bad men as they brutally bullwhip the town’s former sheriff to death. This sequence goes on waaaay too long.  The townsfolk watch this horrible spectacle and do nothing to stop it (and as we later learn,  they’re complicit in this murder.)  The scene makes no sense: if these guys want to bump off the sheriff, why don’t they simply shoot him?  Well, that would be direct and to the point, whereas the writers (and Clint, who also directed) apparently want to make this scene as nasty as possible.  What the hell, they succeed.

The three who killed the sheriff are expected to return and they’re mad at the populace, so the townsfolk hire Clint to protect them (sorta like the Seven Samurai, but in this case, there’s only one.) Clint balks, so they sweeten the deal;  in return for his protection, he can have anything he wants.  Big mistake – there’s a whole lot of things that Clint wants.  After a while, the folks get pretty sick of Clint’s demands and plot to shoot him while he sleeps.  In a scene straight out of a Warner Brother’s cartoon, he’s waiting for them on the balcony and tosses a bundle of  dynamite into the room.  Ka-boom!  That’s all, folks!

Unfazed by the attempt on his life, Clint has the townsfolk paint all the buildings in the town red as he renames the town “Hell”.   That’s where we quit watching the picture – unlike The Gauntlet, which to us is a good bad movie, this was a bad bad movie.  Besides, we pretty much knew how the thing was going to play out. There’d be a lotta mayhem, the bad guys’d be killed off, the townsfolk’d get their comeuppance and Clint would vamoose. (Based on what we read on IMDB, we were pretty close.)

high_plains_drifter

Clint paints the town red

The picture is deliberately unclear about Clint’s relationship it to murdered sheriff – is he the ghost of the sheriff, the sheriff’s brother or what?  One thing is clear, the picture is apocalyptic, with an entire town in chaos, in turmoil, being destroyed by a malevolent interloper.

We then turned to the news and saw that Donald Trump was still doing quite well in his bid for the Republican nomination.

Star Wars: The Force Rehashes

30 Dec

Note: Not wishing to ruin anyone’s fun, we have not revealed any major plot twists in this post, but we have spilled the beans on some minor plot points.

The latest Star Wars offering is on track to make a gazillion dollars on top of the gazillion dollars it’s already raked in. We’ve always found the
series entertaining but we were never die-hard fans. (We skipped the two that precede the current flick.) Not using superlatives to describe Star Wars: The Force Awakens seems akin to being lukewarm about Mom and apple pie, but we must confess that we found the film diverting but not exceptional.

SW:TFA (or SW:WTF if your prefer) has the added rush of including Han Solo, General Leia (not just a princess anymore), Luke Skywalker, and of course, Chewbacca, C3PO, and R2D2. In this go-round, R2D2’s been in a funk since Master Luke went away and (like Timothy Leary’s opposite) refuses to turn on. (We think that he’s really in a snit because a smaller, cuter robot named BB-8 has stolen his thunder.)

star-wars-bb-8-1024x576

We think you might be jealous,  R2.

How do you top what has gone before?  Well, you apparently do that by rehashing the first film with a young woman named Rey in lieu of Master Luke. No Darth Vader? No problem – invent a new bad guy named Kylo Ren or Rilo Kiley or something like that and give him a light sword that goes up to 11.

The bad guys in the first Star Wars film had a nasty weapon called the Death Star. In the new one, the bad guys have a nasty weapon that’s kinda sorta like the Death Star only different, a sort of non-Death-Star Death Star.

Of course, there are some new characters too, the aforementioned Rey, and a Stormtrooper-turned-good-guy named FN-2187 (one can imagine the writers being at an impasse over what to call the character, and one exclaiming “Call him effin’ 2187 for all I care!”) who is later called Finn.

This picture’s got all the stuff that you expect from the series – the Millennium Falcon flying sideways through narrow chasms, lots of whoosh noises, s**t that blows up, the whole nine yards. However, it struck us that the series has become an endless cycle, like the same Wacky Races cartoon run over and over again. The Rebels are oppressed, they defeat the Empire and celebrate their victory. The Empire strikes back, the rebels defeat the Empire and celebrate their victory, in an endless cycle of samsara. We asked our son-in-law whether George Lucas had any involvement in SW:TFA, to which he replied “Not even a little bit.” We can understand why – after all this back and forth, a profound ennui has set in.

Video

The Rabbit Joke

24 Dec

‘Tis the season to be jolly.  In spite of that, we decided we’d post this joke.  It’s not our joke – the comedian Pete Barbutti told it on the Carson show years ago.  It happens to be our friend Eddie’s favorite joke and he appears in the accompanying video.  We’ve been sitting on this video for over a year – we weren’t sure whether we should visit this joke on the world.  Then we realized that we haven’t posted anything in awhile, so we thought we’d post it at long last.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you.