Monday, December 31, 2007

Fire Millen

Lions pack it in against Green Bay 34 to 13 to finish 7 and 9 (a 35 yard chip shot short of 8 and 8).

I now OFFICIALLY have to pay what, in retrospect, was a sucker's bet on my part.

I'll conclude this distasteful episode, with a plea to the Lions:

Fire Millen AND Hanson (heh heh)

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bless Us, Everyone

This post submitted for the Endings Blog-a-thon being hosted at Joe’s Movie Corner.

If you can get past the laughable fashion disasters and casual approach to racism/sexism that were ubiquitous to that decade, 1974's The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 , a crime thriller about the hijacking for ransom of a New York subway train, is worth the trip.

Because of the forthcoming Denzel Washington/John Travolta/Tony Scott remake, I'm hesitant to "spoil" the ending. But hey, that's the point of this blog-a-thon, isn't it?

So, here goes:

Tightly directed by Joseph Sargent (based on a John Godey novel), TTOP123 does what Ocean's 11, 12 and 13 haven't been able to do -- successfully combine comedy and drama into a CREDIBLE heist picture.

The film makes good use of it's ensemble cast that includes Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, and a pre-Mr. Costanza Jerry Stiller.

Robert Shaw plays a mercenary who masterminds the subway car kidnapping and enlists three others including a disgruntled former motorman for the New York Transit Authority (Martin Balsam). The manner is which the plot unfolds takes minimal suspension of disbelief to accept.

One interesting story element is the fact that all of the participants in the heist refer to each other by colors (Mr. Blue, Green, Gray, and Brown) instead of names. This certainly must have influenced Quentin Tarantino, a devotee of the 70s genre, for his 1992 film, Reservoir Dogs.

Playing the cops to their robbers, Matthau and Stiller try to foil the heist. I'm not sure how technically accurate the film's rendtion of the New York Transit Authority command center is. But, like the B-52 interiors in Dr. Strangelove, it just feels right.

One of the uncredited characters central to this story is an ailing New York City. Taking place near the nadir of the Big Apple's urban decay, there are five "horsemen" for this apocalypse: politics, corruption, bureaucracy, apathy and greed. These all play a role in complicating things for both the good AND bad guys.

Unlike the depictions of police officers in any Martin Quinn television show from that same era, these cops here aren't running around kicking down doors. Matthau's character isn't quite world weary yet, but he's close. Meanwhile, Stiller seems like he'd rather drink coffee, read his newspaper, and be left alone.

The "Mayor" (Lee Wallace) perfectly symbolizes the malaise of the city. For most of the film, he's wearing pajamas and bedridden due to a bad case of the flu. A similar device is used to represent the impotence of civil authorities in Death Wish (the lead police detective has a constant cold).

When the Mayor does finally decide to pay the ransom, after hemming and hawing for most of the film, it's done more out of a political calculation than compassion for the kidnapped passengers.

The hard boiled attitude of most of others in the Transit Authority control room is perfectly summed up by one of characters who, while griping about how the kidnapping is messing with his route schedule says, "Screw the goddamn passengers! What the hell did they expect for their lousy 35 cents - to live forever?"

Luckily, this institutional breakdown isn't confined to municipal entities. The infrastructure of the criminal element is also undergoing a certain amount of erosion.

As his color, would suggest, Robert Shaw's "Mr. Blue" is an old school mercenary who is cold-blooded and calculating. Career-wise, he's nearer the end of the line than the beginning. In that last respect, he seems to have more in common with Matthau's character than any of his criminal cohorts.

Also on Mr. Blue's crew is a degenerate "mafia" wannabe, Mr. Gray (Hector Elizondo), and Mr. Brown, a stuttering low achiever (Earl Hindman -who'd later achieve fame as Tim Taylor's unseen neighbor in Home Improvement).

Finally, we come to Mr. Green, Martin Balsam. He's the motorman who, in his mind, has been unjustly fired by the Transit Authority. His color aptly describes his lust for money and, perhaps, his envy for those he feels have avoided the persecution he's suffered.

Like the mayor, Mr. Green is afflicted with some sort of cold/flu bug. His sneezing throughout the film is established early on as part of his character development.

During the negotiations, Matthau only converses to the kidnappers via a microphone. He never sees them. On two separate occasions, he says "gesundheit" to Mr. Green who can be heard sneezing in the background.

This sets up what I think is the perfect ending.

After all hell has broken lose underground, the hostages are freed and three of the four hijackers are killed. Mr. Green is able to get back to his shabby, one room apartment and gleefully celebrate his luck by literally rolling around in his newly acquired wealth.

Because it's clear to the cops that someone with an intimate knowledge of how a subway car works was involved, they, in textbook fashion, compile a list of ALL former motormen who may have a grudge with the city.

This ultimately leads to Matthau and Stiller paying Balsam a routine visit. In the book, Mr. Green blows his cover by being seen trying to flee via a fire escape.

However, the movie alters this by working his malady into the finale.

At first, it appears that Mr. Green will talk his way out of being arrested by Matthau and Stiller, who seem somewhat tired and disinterested at this point. But, Mr. Green, who could have let them leave, instead gets greedy for his pound of flesh. He takes time to protest too much at the indignity of being so wrongfully profiled for the crime. At the end of his tirade, Mr. Green sneezes.

Matthau, on his way out the door, says "gesundheit" for the third and final time. Realizing the connection, he comes back in giving the now caught hijacker one of his classic looks.

Fade out to music.

There are many who say that, like a subway car an a LONG stretch of track, they could see this coming from a mile away.

However, it's a "bam" moment for me.

Did I mention the David Shire score? It's perfect too. This YouTube clip of the opening credits captures the feel of the film (I'm almost tempted to include it in the Opening Credits Blog-a-thon for next month).

As I said earlier, TTOP123 is going to be remade for a 2009 release. It's one of those situations where, box office revenues notwithstanding, I can't imagine why.

I don't expect any fresh insights to be discovered in the new outing. And I'll be particularly interested in seeing how they'll adjust the story to handle technological advancements such as cell phones.

I can envision a "Mr. Red" waiting just near the subway entrance feeding information to the hijackers in a manner not possible thirty years ago. Or maybe they'll work around it as did the screenwriters for The Ice Harvest when they had John Cusack break his cell phone in the first scene.

I mainly foresee a Tony Scott directed TTO123 involving gratuitous gun play and explosions.

Oh, I better stop. Now, I'm the one getting sick.
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Thursday, December 27, 2007


Bill Clinton on who's the strongest Republican candidate.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Paper Lions

Lions scalp the Chiefs 25 to 20.

This means that my 8 and 8 prediction is still alive (on paper) and depends on the Lions beating the Packers in Green Bay.

The Lions could conceivably win. Because of the Packers' loss to 'da Bears last week, they have no shot at home field advantage in the playoffs. So, this is a meaningless game for them. They may want to save themselves for the post-season and play conservatively.

ON THE OTHER HAND, the Packers might not want to go into the playoffs on the heels of two ugly loses and may play at 100% against Detroit.

Proving I'm a playahater, if Detroit finishes at 7 and 9 (and I lose my bet), I put it all at the inaccurate feet of Jason Hanson who blew an easy 35 yarder in the 4th quarter against the Cowboys a few weeks ago.
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McCain In 2008

Interesting results from Zogby's December 2oth results.

  • Obama beats everyone.
  • If it's Edwards or Clinton, only McCain and Guiliani consistently win.
  • I'll repeat that, ONLY McCain and Guiliani consistently win.

Obama leads 53%-35%
Obama leads 47%-42%
Obama leads 48%-39%
Obama leads 47%-43%
Obama leads 52%-36%


Clinton leads 46%-44%
Huckabee leads 48%-43%
Giuliani leads 46%-42%
McCain leads 49%-42%
Clinton leads 48%-42%


Edwards leads 50%-38%
Edwards leads 47%-41%
Giuliani leads 45%-44%
McCain leads 46%-42%
Edwards leads 51%-35%

Margin of Error +/- 3.2%

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Happy Non-specific Holidays

Forget "Frostee the Snowman" or "Rudolf the Rednose Reindeer," my favorite holiday song comes from South Park.

In a "holiday" episode, Kyle's mom successfully demands that ALL religious references be taken down from ANY public areas.

In true Cartman fashion, he sings a song dedicated to her titled "Kyle's Mom is a Big Fat Bitch."

Enjoy and Merry Christmas.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Six Degrees of Me

Today I happened to be discussing Audrey Hepburn with my coworkers, why I can't remember, and through the course of that conversation, we established that I can be connected to her (a la "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon") in four moves.

One - In the 80's I appeared for fifteen seconds on the Detroit regional broadcast of the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon which also featured local movie host and former character actor Bill Kennedy. I was presenting a check from one of the sponsoring businesses.

Two - Kennedy appeared with Lee Marvin in I Died a Thousand Times (also starring Jack Palance and Shelly Winters).

Three - Marvin was in The Caine Mutiny that starred Humphrey Bogart.

Fourth - Finally, Bogart costarred with Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina.

Bam! And yes, I realize that this is a useless exercise.
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Thursday, December 20, 2007


Is it me, or can't the staff at the Wall Street Journal read a chart?

An article by John Harwood on the current GOP candidate standings reports: (link)

After holding a double-digit advantage over his nearest rivals just six weeks ago, the former New York City mayor now is tied nationally with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 20% among Republicans, just slightly ahead of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 17% and Arizona Sen. John McCain at 14%. Other polls show Mr. Giuliani's lead shrinking in Florida, one of the states he has built his strategy around.

With the poll's margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.1 percentage points, that puts Mr. Huckabee, who had only single-digit support in the previous poll in early November, within striking distance of the leaders. Mr. Romney's national support also has nearly doubled. {emphasis added}

HOWEVER, in a chart linked from that SAME article, the "Overall" margin of error is displayed as "+/- 5.2%." That would be a statistical dead heat between ALL of the top candidates.

How did 5.2 become 3.1? What am I missing here?

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Step One: Marry Paul McCartney

An article about a possible book of "sex tips" from Heather Mills (Paul McCartney's ex) .

So, that's how she gets her kicks!! Oops, I mean her kick.

(Sorry, but what's a Heather Mills post without a wooden leg reference?)


Is Heather Mills Writing a Sex Book? (link)

Heather Mills is reportedly planning to write a sex book with tips for women. Mills thinks of herself as a "sex guru" and plans to publish her book under a psuedonym because she's worried about a public backlash.

A source told the Mirror:
“I think Heather would like to set herself up as a female sex guru. But she is worried what people will think of her so she discussed the possibility of releasing the book under a false name. Heather believes there is a gap in the market for a good sex guide for women, as manuals are normally written from a man’s perspective."

The sourced added:
“She wants to give her little secrets away on how to attract a man and how to keep him happy in the bedroom. Despite the breakdown of her marriage to Paul [McCartney], neither has ever said anything bad about their sex life.”

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Sunday, December 16, 2007


Chargers electrify the Lions 51 to 14. At least Jason Hanson didn't blow it this week.

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Intelligent Creationism

Worth a look. (
Duelity is a split-screen animation that tells both sides of the story of Earth's origins in a dizzying and provocative journey through the history and language that marks human thought.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Chopped Spam

Am I the only one getting inundated with emails enticing me to buy this stupid remote control helicopter?

This has overtaken Viagra, Hoodia, and inquiries for help in releasing funds from South African banks as my number one source of junk email.

I'm not sure what that says about me.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Object

Readers of Entertainment Weekly voted Angelina Jolie the "hottest sex symbol of all time."

I have two suggestions for the people who took part in the polling (link):
  1. Check out Angie Harmon (formerly of Law and Order) on the cover of this month's Shape.

  2. Get your eyes checked.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Et Tu Jason?

Once again, the Lions managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as Jason Hanson misses a routine 35 yard field goal that could have sealed a season rejuvinating win against the Cowboys.

I haven't jumped off the bandwagon -- I was pushed.

And regarding my bet that they'd finish 8 and 8 for the season, the check is in the mail.

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Mitch Albom: Supply-Sider

From Today's Freep: (link)

If we rebate it, movies will come

By now, some of you know that tonight, a movie of my book "For One More Day," produced by Oprah Winfrey, will air on ABC. People this past week have been saying congratulations. And this is indeed a lucky, wonderful feeling. But I have one regret.

I wish it had been made in Michigan....
I love that Albom uses the Michigan revenue crisis as an excuse to plug a TV movie based on one of his overrated books.

...You can argue that we shouldn't give breaks to moviemakers if we don't give them to everyone. You may be right. But they're going to get them somewhere. And they'll go where that is. And a portion of something is better than a whole bucket of nothing, right?
Duh. You can make this argument for EVERY industry that Michigan has chased out in the last few years.

When did Mitch become a Republican?
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Cast a Subpoena

I'm not a fan of J.K. Rowling or the Harry Potter thing at all, but I can't really blame her.

Rowling should prevail, but I wonder if her and Warner Brothers' early support of Vander Ark's site will water down their legal position.

From today's Freep: (link)

Harry Potter guru is sued by author J.K. Rowling
Mich. man tried to turn Web site into a book

...(Steve) Vander Ark's profile has risen beyond the hard-core Potter fans who mob him at conventions -- thanks or no thanks to his literary hero, J.K. Rowling. The author of the Potter series and Warner Bros., producer of the Potter movies, have sued infederal court to block a small Muskegon publisher from converting Vander Ark's fan site into a book.

The suit, filed Oct. 31, pits one of the richest and most famous women in the world against one of her biggest fans, a small-town educator whose devotion to the Potter canon has earned plaudits from Rowling herself. She admits she searches the site for Potter arcana.

One irony of the lawsuit is that Rowling and Warner Bros. have long supported Vander Ark and his site, which is linked to Rowling's Web site.

...The book, they say, "regurgitates ... J.K. Rowling's own material," with only a minimum of original commentary.

But the suit then addresses what appears to be Rowling's chief complaint: that a Lexicon book would harm her plans to "produce her own companion book to the Harry Potter she created." Rowling and her attorneys argue there is a big difference between discussing the Potter books on free Web sites and repackaging those sites to cash in on her work.

The Harry Potter Lexicon is at
RDR Books is at
J.K. Rowling's site is

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Don't Look Now!

To help celebrate Short Film Week, over at Only the Cinema and Culture Snob, I found this great advertisement for Now Magazine.

I happened upon it quite by accident a year ago via the web. For the life of me, I couldn't tell you exactly WHAT subject matter appears in Now or even where you could buy it.

BUT, this minute and fourteen second ad is a neat little piece of filmaking.

Right off the bat, a somber mood is established with a shot of a fat, hairy guy staring out of his window onto a drab, overcast urban setting.

In the background we hear Dusty Springfield's Son of a Preacher Man.

Then we see our "hero" is making his way down a sidewalk. Looking as grubby as the neighborhood storefronts around him, he's almost a face in the crowd.

His very first act is to walk past a mother pushing a stroller and jarringly flip the sunvisor up.

Like the mother, we react viscerally to the sudden (almost violent) action committed in close proximately to a baby and ask ourselves "who is this jerk?"

His next "victims" are an old couple (more innocents) at a flower stand. From behind, he forcefully shoves them to the ground.

The act is so shockingly capricious and seemingly filled with unexplained maliciousness, that we almost don't notice a second later when a car crashes through that same flower stand.

The motivations of the hero starts to become more obvious in the next scene when he trips an unsuspecting young boy who's chasing after his errant soccer ball.

Again, the staging of the action gears us to hate this mysterious pedestrian.

But, as the young man's soccer ball is buffeted under the wheels of fast moving automobile, the real pattern starts to emerge more clearly.

In what is the hero's least violent, but conversely more personal encounter, he stops walking, turns, and thrusts his harm into the face of another man next to him on the sidewalk.

The man, his comfort zone completely and inexplicably violated, looks up scared, puzzled and confused.

What the hell is going on here?

From on high, a television set comes crashing to the pavement in the precise spot where the man would have been.

Ah, we get it now. Our hero isn't a jerk after all.

There's one more "rescue." Someone dressed only in his underwear runs out of what looks like an adult bookstore fleeing thugs with baseball bats and escapes into the safety of a cab the door to which our hero, again with perfect timing, has just opened.

From there, we go back to our first "victim," the mother with the stroller. She now looks skyward at the start of a sudden, heavy rain. This isn't a cleansing downpour. Her baby protected under the recently lifted sunvisor, she ineffectually tries to pull up her own collar against the cold wet onslaught.

The last shot is interesting in that it shows the product (Now magazine) being uncerimoniously tossed by our hero into a trash bin.

The world is a garbage can, it seems to say, and Now certainly can't fix that. But, it can help you cope.

I'm sold.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

They Just Don't Get It

My outrage over the shoddy judging at the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest continues.

This cartoon CLEARLY depicts an assembly line that produces gag eyeglasses and a worker on that line who LOOKS like the product he's making.

He is NOT trying them on. He's holding ONE pair of the gag glasses AND there's only ONE empty spot on the assembly line.

With that in mind, my entry was:
"Hey Ted, why don't you switch places with 'lefty' over at the joy buzzers line."

While I admit it wasn't side splitting, my punchline DID actually relate to what was in the cartoon -- the fact that the line worker LOOKS like someone wearing joke glasses and a fake nose.

Instead, the winning entrees are all based on the mistaken premise that the worker was wearing the goofy item.

  • "This part of the job is easy—it's the whoopee-cushion testing that annoys me."

  • "Yeah, that one's funny, too. Next."

  • "I'm just glad we don't make lingerie."

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Barbarians At the Gate

The Vikings pillaged the quickly fading Lions 42-10. The score speaks for itself.

8 and 8 is looking tougher all the time.
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Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Nano Winner

In case your wondering where I've been...

For the last ten days, I've been finishing up the twenty-five thousand words I needed to get to the fifty thousand in a month required to "complete" my Nano Wrimo novel.

What is NaNoWriMo? (link)
National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

The organizers of the effort say "Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap."

And they were right.
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