Saturday, December 31, 2011

The eight best media moments of 2011 - Nyan Cat

And Number One: Nyan Cat!

A world where a kitten/poptart hybrid can fly through outer space shooting rainbows behind it while a relentless techno-pop repetition of the Japanese version of “meow” plays in the background can’t possibly be all bad.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The eight best media moments of 2011 - Moneyball

Number two: Moneyball

Rare indeed is the movie that earns four stars upon first viewing in a theater, at least in part because when the 8sails staff ventures into a theater it’s usually in search of some escapist trash rather than a genuinely good movie. Moneyball was a rare exception, not only to the “movies in theaters are bad” rule but also the “baseball movies tend to not ‘get’ baseball” rule. I went in skeptical but came out impressed, a truly noteworthy moment.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The eight best media moments of 2011 - Everybody Poops

Number three: Everybody Poops

I’m genuinely in awe of the folks at Bad Lip Reading. They go over footage – most often from music videos and political ads – and figure out what other words might sync up perfectly with the onscreen mouth movements. Often the result is pure gibberish (which in the case of the Michelle Bachman video wasn’t all that big a departure). They’re all funny, but the one that had me literally in tears was a bizarre hybrid of the basic thesis from Taro Gomi’s popular children’s book synced up with the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” video.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The eight best media moments of 2011 - Honey Badger

Number four: The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger

Take footage from a wildlife show about our friend the honey badger. Add some fairly random narration by some guy named Randall, and suddenly it’s a minor-league culturalphenomenon. A friend even found a honey badger T-shirt at Wal-Mart (the “Honey Badger don’t care” version rather than “Honey Badger don’t give a shit,” naturally).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The eight best media moments of 2011 - Guy on a Buffalo

Number five: Guy on a Buffalo

One of the big themes of Media 2011 was “repurposing” – taking something somebody else already did and messing with it until it turns into something new. A lot of people suck at this, but not The Possum Posse. These guys found some crazy, copyright-expired movie about a frontiersman who rides around the Wild West on the back of a hapless buffalo. Cutting it way down and putting it to music renders it absolutely hilarious.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The eight best media moments of 2011 - This blog

Number six: This blog

Because a blog this fabulous can’t go unnoted. Seriously, though, this was the first actual “blog” blog we tried, and at this point I’d describe it as reasonably successful. The goal for 2012 is to get more content in here.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The eight best media moments of 2011 - Science book

Number seven: The Gary Busey science book

If the one-day fudge on the last one was a “bit of a cheat,” this one’s massive malfeasance. This article originally appeared on nine months before 2011 got underway. But I didn’t run across it until earlier this year. And it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, well worth bending the rules to call it to your attention.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The eight best media moments of 2011 - Deadwood

In years past I’ve written up the eight best media moments of the past year as a Hoffman Lens column. But the format seems to fit well here. Plus this way I can draw it out for eight days and finish it on New Years Eve.

Without further ado:

Number eight: Deadwood on Blu-ray

Technically this one’s a bit of a cheat, because the Blu-ray box set of all three seasons was issued on Dec. 31, 2010. But we didn’t get it until months later, and we didn’t start watching it until December. Oh that we could have started earlier. The image quality is truly breathtaking, making the visuals a worthy counterpart to the writing and the acting. The experience left me longing to be back in a cabin in the Black Hills again (not that I wasn’t longing for that anyway).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The 12 days of do you really need that

I originally wrote this for another blog, but I thought the 8sails audience might enjoy it as well.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

12 Rorschach coasters

11 nerdy pencils

10 custom Muppets

9 smoking bunnies

8 walnut rockets

7 bad swear snow globes

6 candid doormats

5 hooooooooowling rings

4 squirrel games

3 Apple charts

2 airquote mittens

And an elaborate outdoor cooker

Also, when exactly is the 12th day of Christmas? Is it January 5? Is it December 25 (making the first day  today)? Or given that the Christmas crap hits shelves as soon as the Halloween crap exits for the bargain table, is it November 12?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review – Eye of the Killer

Somewhere between his dating-Julia-Roberts popularity in the early 1990s and his kicking-ass-on-24 popularity in the 2000s, Kiefer Sutherland went through a patch in which most of the jobs he could get were movies like this. He plays an alcoholic – big stretch – cop who gets a sharp rap on the head and ends up with psychic powers. Imagine the dullest, most predictable path such as set-up could take, and you've seen this picture without having to actually see it. Originally released as After Alice. See if desperate

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A scary moment

Just a couple of minutes ago, I completed the last of the structural work on the Media Survival Guide. From here I have three more chapters to finish researching, and after that it’s all writing (and web page building of course). So that’s three “feature length” chapters and five shorter “specialty” chapters to go.

For the first time The Project seems like it might actually have an end.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review – Death Becomes Her

Saying “This would have been a better movie if it hadn’t been a stupid comedy” is a little like saying “Bruce Willis would be a better actor if he had an ounce of talent.” Two Ladies of a Certain Age (Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn) up the ante in their battle over a man (Willis) by taking an eternal youth potion. Sadly for them, the potion keeps them going even after they’re both killed (head twisted around backward and huge shotgun hole in abdomen, respectively). Some of the effects are sorta fun, but the script relies far too heavily on silly clich├ęs. A screwball comedy doesn’t need to be acted as intensely as something more serious, but there’s still a big difference between “employing a lighter touch” and “phoning it in.” See if desperate

Review – After.Life

This is one of the most annoying movies I’ve seen in quite some time. Is this young accident victim (Christina Ricci) dead, or is she being held captive by a psychotic funeral director (Liam Neeson)? After less than half an hour of this mess I’d thoroughly ceased to give a shit. They blew the bucks for the cast and the production values, but at heart this is a meandering piece of amateur theatre. If you’re a big fan of go-nowhere plot twists or just desperate to see Ricci with her clothes off, then this is the movie for you. Otherwise ...  see if desperate

Saturday, October 22, 2011

AGF #2

Anytime a character in a horror movie goes into a medicine chest for anything, we know it’s a cheap excuse to close the chest and suddenly reveal in the mirror that the ghost/killer/whatever is standing right behind her.

But of course when she turns around there’s nothing there.

In fact, maybe mirrors in horror movies in general should be absolutely goddamn forbidden.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Duck Slayer

I’m doing some research for an upcoming Veterans Day list of celebrities who have surprising backgrounds as war heroes. During my digging, I ran across this interesting tidbit: when Tom Savini was serving in Vietnam, he got spooked while on guard duty by something in the underbrush triggering a warning flare. Contrary to orders, he began firing blindly into the bush, only to have a duck waddle out. Apparently the incident earned him the less-than-heroic nickname “Duck Slayer.”

And on only tangentially related lines, George Romero was inspired to make horror movies at least in part by an early experience shooting a segment for Mr. Rogers Neighborhood about the host getting a tonsillectomy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How my attention span works

I’m beginning to get the impression that “popular science” is an oxymoron. Case in point: How the Universe Works, a series from the Discovery Channel about, well, the obvious.

To be sure, there’s some hard science here. And pretty pictures. Lots and lots of pretty pictures. So many, in fact, that they start to get in the way of any genuine understanding of the topic at hand. Stars blow up. Planets collide with one another. The universe looks like a big Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster.

Some of the graphics are unrealistic, either showing events at a greatly accelerated pace (with no note to that effect) or showing impossible scenes that look good but bear no direct connection to physical reality. And of course in true high-band cable style, they use the same animated sequences over and over again.

More troubling are the attempts by narrator Mike Rowe and many of the scientists interviewed for the series to sensationalize the science involved. For example, antiprotons are called the “arch enemies” of protons, two antagonists squaring off like gunfighters in some dirt-paved cowtown main street. Cataclysmic doom scenarios abound, as do science nerds’ stereotypically lame attempts at humor.

Sensationalism is one thing, but some of the statements play a bit too fast and loose with actual physics. The discussion of the Big Bang was particularly bewildering. Several of the scientists made statements akin to “One millionth millionth of a second after the Big Bang, the universe was the size of a baseball.” Such claims ignore the proven physical fact that neither time nor space is a constant. Particularly under extreme conditions such as those present just after the universe blinked into existence, things like “seconds” and “baseballs” wouldn’t have had any meaning that would correspond to our current understanding.

This slipshod attempt to simplify science for public consumption left me wondering if any of these folks had any idea what they were talking about. Though I appreciate the effort to explain things in terms that can be easily understood by the average Discovery Channel audience member, there’s still such a thing as dumbing things down until they aren’t true anymore.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Absolutely goddamn forbidden

Sequences in horror movies in which something scary (and non-undo-able) happens to a character, but then she wakes up and oh, it was only a nightmare.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Our first YouTube video

Yeah, it doesn’t particularly amount to much, just 15 seconds or so of an LED circuit I built out of Elector magazine (and modified a bit). The trick here is that I shot it with my phone, uploaded it to YouTube and added it to this blog entry just to see if I could do it.

And lo and behold, I can. Fun stuff.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Review – Buck

I haven’t seen The Horse Whisperer, so I don’t know what the fictionalized version of Buck Brannaman’s story is like. But the real guy is unusually interesting. Coming from a childhood of abuse, he developed the notion of treating horses with kindness and respect rather than “breaking” them with indifferent cruelty. The non-intrusive documentary style of this picture does a great job of telling his touching story. Worth seeing

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review – Contagion

On the surface this is a perfectly acceptable picture – at least until the plot twists take a turn for the ridiculous – about a killer plague temporarily devastating the human race. However, the problem with making a production about paranoia is that it tends to make your viewers paranoid. The more the movie encouraged me to fret about how many times a day I touch my face, the more keenly I noticed the bizarre politics of the drama. The pro-homeopathy, anti-establishment blogger is a creep and a profiteer. But then then the medical establishment gets tarred for taking too long to approve drugs, concerning itself with profits over people, and helping itself before aiding anyone else. Thus I struggled to figure out what lesson I was supposed to learn, other than “Gwyneth Paltrow makes a disturbing corpse” and “Matt Damon coveys emotion by repeating himself.” Mildly amusing

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ah, that’s more like it

For the last couple of entries I’ve been picking on our good friends at Chasing Fireflies for offering boys’ Halloween costumes that would most likely get your son’s ass beat by a bully. In the spirit of holiday cheer, objective fairness to the retailer and parents’ need for good advice as well as bad, here are some selections from the catalog that should safeguard your kid’s ass from potential beating.

Now this is a lot more like it. Scary costume = true spirit of the holiday. Plus if your son’s class is going to do a Halloween parade at a local rest home, there’s nothing the residents like better than the Grim Specter of Death (even a miniature version). 

Anything with a gun is a fairly safe bet.

“Astronaut” is a good blend of science nerd and macho man. Plus unlike Soldier, Cop or Cowboy, Astronaut has no Village People connection (not, mind you, that most 12-year-old bullies are likely to have heard of the Village People).

If your kid insists on going as a clown, this is a more ass-beating-safe option than more traditional Bozo suits. Here we have a solid blend of “whimsical” and “Juggalo.”

They also have Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, but Gene Simmons is your best bulwark against ass beating. No Paul Stanley, so if he’s your favorite member of KISS … well that’s just sad.


I’d maybe leave off the Super Mario moustache, but the rest of this should work. If nothing else, a bully might not want to risk a self-defense briefcase to the jaw.

Like astronauts, most superheroes are a nice blend of nerdy and tough. This Iron Man comes with extra weaponage, making it an excellent option.

I have no idea what this even is, but it looks badass.

“Robot” doesn’t automatically say “don’t beat my ass.” But this one looks enough like metal that a bully might fear bruising his knuckles. Plus those crab claws portend danger (though good luck to your kid trying to trick or treat with them).

Bully’s thought process: “Wow, that kid’s parents dressed him as a Speed Bump. They must hate him even more than my parents hate me. Maybe I’ll cut him some slack.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quiz answers - Bad Halloween costumes

Yeah, so it was a bit of a trick quiz. The short answer is “all of them.” The specifics:

The snake head is an excellent start, but problems crop up below the waistline. Despite evolving public opinion about sexual orientation, at this point it’s still a bad idea to send your son out in a dress.

 I am Poseidon, Lord of the Sea, King of Getting My Ass Beat

The ghost thing is a step in the right direction, but this execution isn’t exactly a ticket out of ass-beating land.

Even Hollywood has figured out that you pretty much have to dress Robin Hood in jeans and a T-shirt in order to keep him from looking like the Sheriff of Nottingham is going to beat his ass. If you want to do the outlaw thing, try “biker” rather than this.

“Behold, I am the Thief of Ass Beat!” Seriously, that sword isn’t fooling anyone.

Harry Potter and the Painful Ass Beating


Octopi rock. But this one’s just a little too glittery, and for those of us who remember the 70s it’s also too Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. Plus I think we already had the dress conversation.

Bully: “Quit molesting yourself! Quit molesting yourself!”

Traditional vampire = goth outsider = ass beating. However, if you have to do the vampire thing, this one is way better than …

This one actually has matching costumes for sister, Mom and Dad. So your entire family can experience the joy of getting your asses beat by a 12-year-old.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Review – Exorcismus

So is the title Latin for “exorcism,” or is this one of those cases where a word in another language sounds like something in English but actually turns out to mean something completely different, such as “stupid” or “boring”? It’s more than apparent early on that this is yet another indie exorcism movie (and why are indie producers so attracted to exorcisms all of a sudden?), but I watched it anyway because Doug “Pinhead from Hellraiser” Bradley was on the cast list. Turns out he’s in it only briefly, and the rest of it is a moody teenager who gets more and more grimy as a demon latches onto her and her Catholic priest uncle tries to drive it out. See if desperate

Quiz Time! Bad Halloween costumes

The first week of October means that the holiday season is once again upon us. And that means parents are searching for answers to the first of a long string of holiday-related questions: what are the kids going to dress as for Halloween?

Not being a parent myself (unless you count a couple of cats who would kill me if I tried to stuff them into costumes), I’m generally not much help with such issues. However, earlier this year the good folks at Chasing Fireflies were kind enough to send me an unsolicited costume catalog. And after going through it, I’ve actually come up with some input parents may find helpful.

First let me say that this company is staffed by nice people and offers a wide selection of Halloween-related merchandise that actually doesn’t suck. What concerns me, though, is the array of costumes for boys. Many of them are perfectly acceptable. But a handful … well, see if you can spot the problem.

Which of the following costumes are likely to buy your 10-year-old son an ass beating from a 12-year-old whose idea of a Halloween costume is a Knicks jersey?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Farewell, my curmudgeon

This coming Sunday Andy Rooney will do his last segment for 60 Minutes, capping off more than half a century of annoying the crap out of audiences. Now future generations will have nobody to encourage them to ponder the mysteries of why coffee cans contain less coffee than they used to, what Lady Gaga thinks she’s doing, why computers need to be replaced more frequently than typewriters, how hard the Pope’s job must be, what it feels like to be punked by Sacha Baron Cohen, and how much simpler and cheaper everything was when I was your age.

Spot the fake story in that list. Hint: none of them.

In honor of Rooney’s professional passing, I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes from the Book of Beavis:

“Why do they call it ‘taking a dump’? You aren’t taking anything. They should call it ‘leaving a dump.’

“Funk dat!”

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Progress update

For some reason it takes Amazon 24 hours to put a book up on Kindle. So WWDG didn't actually make its debut until this afternoon.

When it finally showed up, it was weird. There it was on Amazon, just like everything else on the largest online retailer in the world. Disorienting, really. But in a fun way.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Progress update

This morning I figured out how to publish books on Kindle.

I started with Staban Beria’s “Witchy Women and Diamond Girls,” as it was pretty much the perfect length, neither too short to be inconsequential nor too long to be cumbersome.

What I haven’t figured out is how to make it available for free. Amazon insists that we charge at least 99 cents for the title (presumably because it isn’t a public domain work). Now, why anyone would want to pay even a buck for something that’s available for free at the site and via downloadable PDF, well, that’s another question. Maybe in the future 8sails Press will produce something that isn’t available online for nothing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Too many organs

Somebody give an an answer to this question: why is creative writing almost always taught primarily through the use of group discussion?

Basically what you’ve got is a class full of people who have little or no understanding of the topic at hand, and they’re supposed to learn the ropes from each other. Other students are even worse as teachers than some random person dragged in off the street, because at least a non-student stands a chance of being a typical reader rather than someone blindly stumbling around in the early stages of learning a craft.

Imagine if other subjects were taught this way.

Physics: “I thought the part about the masses of two objects was fine, but I think the Gravitational Constant needs some work. And distances between two objects? Please! Nobody’s going to buy that.”

History: “I felt the Constitutional Convention was trite and unconvincing. I mean seriously, who would go to all the work to set up a new government? Plus the ending was an obvious set-up for a sequel. What are you going to call it, Constitutional Convention Two: The Bill of Rights? Audiences hate it when you pull tricks like that.”

Anatomy: “Why do you have both a large intestine and a small intestine? Save everyone some time by just combining them into a single intestine. And what’s with all this extra nonsense? Gall bladder? Pancreas? Nobody even knows what any of that’s doing in there. Just cut it out.”

I openly admit that my own efforts in the creative writing realm have been less than stellar. I’ve never taught creative writing, and I probably never will. So perhaps I’m in no position to criticize the earnest efforts of professional practitioners of the art.

However, in my undergrad years (when I wasn’t busy running away from the dinosaurs) I did take a Fiction Writing class from Paul Lim, one of KU’s full-time writing teachers at the time. We did a lot of the group critique stuff, most of which was useless and none of which I even remember. What I do recall was that Lim placed some limitations on the discussion (such as “Nobody is allowed to say ‘This reminds me of ...’”) that helped cut down on the “group therapy” aspect of such exercises.

I also remember his direct feedback to me. That’s what I was there for: some help from a professional who knew the craft and could tell me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. Not a bunch of blather from frat boys and emo kids who were there mostly because they figured the class would be an easy A and didn’t read the kind of writing I was trying to do.

There’s nothing wrong with having everyone read everyone else’s writing. But the bulk of the feedback needs to come from the pro in the room, not the other students who represent neither learned expertise nor the market for the product.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Review - Farewell to the King

Lay this failure at the doorstep of writer/director John Milius. The setting – Borneo in World War Two – is an environment rich with interesting stories. The lead character is a little Colonel-Kurtz-y, but his struggles to save his adopted people from Japanese invaders and Allied "help" aren't without dramatic merit, though someone besides Nick Nolte might have done a better job in the role. The landscapes are beautiful, though the filter work could have been a little more subtle. All the gripes are minor save one: the script is really, truly dreadful. Milius seems to think he's writing a philosophical instruction manual to help 12-year-old boys live more honorable lives. This plus Red Dawn makes me wonder what kind of sadly cartoonish life this man must lead. See if desperate

Death is here

After promising that “Death is coming soon” for nearly five years now, Death to Culture has finally arrived.

This section of the 8sails web site is like no other, as its distinctive look and feel indicate. It’s designed to be a little “edgier” than the rest, more openly antagonistic to some of the nonsense that goes on. If 8sails in general is the guy muttering criticism to the other folks at his table in the bad American Media Comedy Club, then DtC is the extra-drunk heckler down front.

The new section may eventually include essays and maybe even original art. At the moment, however, all the entries – all four of them – are lists of grievances. Which is nice, because lists are easy to add to, and we’ve all got grievances now and again.

I’m also pleased that activation of this section means that we now have no more “dark” pages on the left-hand side of the Octopus. Still some dark and dim spots in the Media section, but we’ll get there soon enough.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Progress update

The Herd is done.

This is likely to be the last work on the guide that's going to be visible anytime soon. I've got a lot of behind-the-scenes prep work (info gathering, organization, writing, graphics, etc.) to complete before I'm going to be ready to upload more stuff.

Still, I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review – The Evictors

Once again something that's billed as a supernatural drama turns into a simple case of poorly-motivated murder. After being violently evicted from their house, some rustics lurk around waiting for anyone who tries to buy the place and move in. Mystery non-mysterious. Script non-existent. Gore unconvincing. Trouble not worth taking. See if desperate

Friday, September 2, 2011

Progress update

Four more cows added to the herd this morning. That's 15 spots down and five to go (with reasonably solid concepts for all of the unfinished graphics).

Some trivia about the ones I added today:

In the Television graphic, the picture faintly visible in the background is a Soviet-era test pattern from Russia.

The Radio picture is of course our friend the Survival Cow masquerading as the inestimable Dr. John Romulus Brinkley.

And the Books graphic is a combination of a couple of pages from the Book of Kells (plus a little 21st century addition).

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Progress update

Work's getting pretty serious now. I'm moving from spot to spot a little more than I'd like. Progress would be easier to monitor if I was doing all of one section rather than shifting from section to section. However, at least for now I'm satisfied that the effort is proceeding apace.

For the last day or two I've been focused on "The Herd," the splash page for the whole Survival Guide. I've finished all the "road signs" and four of the chapter buttons. Fans of last month's Custer Expedition take note: the background of the "Socialization" button in the lower righthand side of the Herd is the sky above the Little Bighorn Battlefield.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Review – Eyes of the Mothman

Though normally I'm a sucker for urban legends, cryptozoology and the like, even way back when I first read about the Mothman my reaction was, "A dude with giant moth wings? That's just stupid." This documentary did little to change my opinion. The first 40 minutes don't even talk about the monster at all, instead exhausting the history of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and the surrounding countryside. And even when they finally do get down to the title menace, it's, well, a dude with giant moth wings. This would have been a merely a mediocre production with some genuinely awful grammar (not just the interviewees but the narration as well) if not for the Silver Bridge collapse. That these yahoos are willing to tie their silly little monster game to the tragic deaths of dozens of people is just pathetic. See if desperate

Friday, August 26, 2011

Abandoned – House of Fallen

Netflix Instant is so helpful. Thanks to its "recent activity" list, I can see that I gave up on this precisely 21 minutes and 31 seconds in. Sadly, the descriptions are less precise. The paragraph about this stinker made it sound like a horror anthology rather than the cheap-ass Prophecy rip in turned out to be.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Progress update

The first chapter of the Media Survival Guide is done. To be sure, it's still a little rough at this point. I'm not happy with the link colors, which should be different than they are. Some of the underlining is a bit weird as well. I'll have to fix that.

Further, if you're visiting it now you'll notice that most of the pages have spots for links at the bottom and that there aren't currently any links on them. My workflow scheme at the moment is to finish the text itself and then backtrack to add the links I've been piling up. I may change my mind later and add variety to the project by intermixing writing and linking. But for the moment it's just my pearls of wisdom and no hyper-ties to the rest of the universe.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Abandoned – Monster

Because a ripoff of Cloverfield was necessary for some reason. I struggled through it for 20 minutes or so hoping to catch a glimpse of whatever was destroying Tokyo, but the pointless, meandering script sucked so bad that even if the monster had turned out to be Godzilla in a hockey mask and Dracula cape flinging Phantasm balls at everyone, it still wouldn't have been worth it.

Abandoned – Chain Letter

The description said this was about some computer geeks who suffer the ill effects of failing to forward the title nuisance. So I figured maybe it wouldn't be part of the film industry's recent fascination with torture porn. It took roughly three minutes to figure out that I figured wrong.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review – Basket Case

I've said it before and I'll probably have to say it again, but if a movie is going to be this terrible it ought at least to make an effort to keep quiet so I can sleep through it. This is one of the screamingest pictures I've ever seen. A disturbed youth with his formerly-conjoined, largely-unformed twin in a basket (so it isn't just a catchy title) shows up in the Big Apple to seek revenge on the doctors who separated him from his brother. I you're doing a term paper on the early history of gore flicks, you'll probably need this for your section on the early 1980s. Otherwise you shouldn't need it for much of anything except maybe as an alarm clock. See if desperate

Monday, August 15, 2011

Progress update

This entry's strictly a matter of record keeping. Unless you're a big fan of 8sails behind-the-scenes stuff, you don't need to read it.

Today I finally figured out how to make a small icon for the bookmarks bar (and other similar browser locations). So now we're represented to the outside world by a tiny octopus. Fun stuff.

Work on the Media Survival Guide is genuinely underway at this point. I've finalized the page design, and I'm roughly halfway through creating master blank pages for all the subsections. Just about ready to start adding content!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Review - Father of the Bride

If having kids makes you into this bad of a sappy idiot, then I'm glad I never had any. The title character (Steve Martin) struggles with the expense and complications of putting together a storybook wedding for his daughter. All the humor involves the efforts of people around him to tolerate him while he spazzes, and especially toward the end even that limited modicum of entertainment gives way to pure sap. So if you need some treacle to adjust your blood sugar level, enjoy. Otherwise avoid. See if desperate

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Abandoned – The Last Airbender

Usually a kids' movie with a budget this big will throw in an element here and there to keep the grown-ups in the audience entertained as well. At least my oath to stop watching M. Night Shyamalan movies remains intact.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review – Arctic Blast

A hole opens up in the ozone layer above Australia, letting in a blast of cold air that creates a wall of ice fog that destroys everything in its path. In other words, here's another SyFy-ish take on the laws of physics. Uninteresting characters struggle to find a way to plug the hole before the audience loses patience. See if desperate

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review – Dead and Buried

Writers Donald Shusett and Dan O'Bannon must have really shot their load on Alien, because all they had left for this pedestrian picture was enough for a run-of-the-mill creepy town tale. The local sheriff tries to figure out why strangers keep disappearing in friendly little Potters Bluff, why they later reappear as townspeople and why nobody else seems to notice anything amiss. Stan Winston contributes some reasonably good gore effects, but they're largely wasted on a boring story. See if desperate

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pay attention

Sorry to be gone so long. Truth is, with my first going-somewhere vacation in eight years and the heat making it hard to work after we got back, there hasn't been a lot to report.

However, yesterday during an 8sails staff lunch we floated the idea of Getting Rich and Quitting Our Day Jobs by starting a reality show called "Pay Attention to Me." Contestants will face an American-Idol-esque panel of judges, and all they'll need to do to win is get the trio to pay attention to them for five minutes. Anything short of physical contact with the judges is allowed, but if anyone's attention drifts the buzzer sounds.

I want to be the Simon Cowell judge.

SeacrestBotMark7: Bryan, what did you think of that performance?

Me: What? Oh, sorry. I wasn't paying attention.


Anyone who survives the first round goes on to Level Two. This time the judges have their cell phones with them, so the acts must compete with incoming calls, texts, chat notices, pushes and various and sundry other 21st century interruptions.

If this show turns out to be the success we're hoping for, the spin-off will follow the same format only with a panel of teenagers for judges. This one will be called "So You Want to Be a Teacher."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review – The Crow: Wicked Prayer

So let me make sure I've got this straight. This is a movie based on a novel based on characters from a series based on a comic book? I liked the original picture near the bottom of that heap, but somewhere between there and here I should have gotten off the bus. Edward Furlong is particularly ridiculous in the lead role, looking less like an avenging spirit and more like a surly counter girl at an indie record store. When Tara Reid turns in the best performance of the picture, you know the overall experience was wicked bad. Verdict: see if desperate

Friday, July 29, 2011

Review – The Animal

I want to write the next Rob Schneider movie for Happy Madison. A guy who eats a lot of food from Subway is hit by a bolt of lightning and fused at the molecular level with his lunch and goes on to fight evil with his newfound lunchmeat powers. Some random doofus swallows a radioactive booger and ends up with uncontrollable chest hair and fingernail growth, so he battles the forces of darkness with his long hair and nails. A ne'er-do-well clerk gets animal part implants from a mad scientist and uses the animal powers to beat bad guys and win the woman of his dreams. So okay, other than the title giving it away, what's the difference between the actual plot of this movie and the other two that I just pulled out of my ass? Seriously guys, just do a deal with Lorne Michaels and make Copy Machine Guy: The Motion Picture. It couldn't be much worse than this. See if desperate

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review – Deadtime Stories Volume One

Oh George Romero. Out of respect for Dawn of the Dead, Creepshow and your other really good contributions to the horror genre, I'm going to pretend that your appearance in this turd was taped after the producers got you really drunk at a sci fi con and tricked you into reading bad poetry for the camera. Other than Romero's less-than-stellar-but-at-least-brief performance, this is just three progressively-worse horror shorts crammed together. If there's a Volume Two, it's a movie that will not be seen by me. Wish I'd skipped it

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review – Chain Reaction

I like big bombs (and I cannot lie), so I enjoyed the explosions at the beginning and the end of this picture. The rest of it not so much. After the cheap hydrogen from water project they're working on gets destroyed by sinister government agents, a couple of researchers (Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz) find themselves framed for murder. Most of the rest of the picture is a protracted chase scene. Morgan Freeman turns in a good performance as a nice-guy-or-uber-creep helper character, but otherwise the only real fun here is watching a chunk of Chicago destroyed by a massive fireball. See if desperate

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Quiz answers - Fireworks or STD?

As promised, here are the answers to last week's quiz. If you haven't done the quiz yet, view the previous post before reading this one. Oh, and credit where credit is due: this website provided the slang.

Bees in a Thicket - Firework

Flap Dragon - STD

Jumping Bug - Fireworks

Blue Boars - STD

Fire Ship - STD

Hot Pot - Fireworks

Burner - STD

Nimgimmer - STD

Tonga Exotica - Fireworks

Autumn Drizzle - Fireworks

Crinkums - STD

Nutty Monkey - Fireworks

Cats in the Cupboard - Fireworks

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Review – Behind the Burly Q

This is a reasonably good documentary about the origin and heyday of burlesque shows. The filmmakers managed to track down a lot of the bigger names, not only the dancers but also the comedians, novelty acts and other folks in and around the business. One thing I noted in particular was how down-to-earth most of these elderly women were about their "misspent" youths. Many documentaries about the arts are marred with tedious boasting from talking heads, "I invented graffiti" or "we were the first punk band in Boston." The closest any of the subjects here come to that kind of annoying nonsense is an occasional "she tried to steal my act." Overall this picture does a solid job of covering a topic I didn't know much about. Mildly amusing

Friday, July 1, 2011

Quiz time! Fireworks or STD?

In honor of the upcoming holiday, 8sails serves up our first ever Blog Quiz.

Each of the following items is either a firework we bought for our annual Fourth of July celebration or a Victorian English slang term for sexually transmitted disease. Can you tell which is which?

For the answers, come by the house at around 9:00 or so (or whenever anyone sobers up enough to be trusted around explosives) and see what we've got. Otherwise I'll post the answers next Tuesday.

The list:

Bees in a Thicket
Flap Dragon
Jumping Bug
Blue Boars
Fire Ship
Hot Pot
Tonga Exotica
Autumn Drizzle
Nutty Monkey
Cats in the Cupboard

Good luck!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review – Batman: Under the Red Hood

After a college roommate did a thorough job of exposing me to high-quality animation from Japan, I've never been able to go back to the produced-on-the-cheap stuff made for the American market. As this picture is no exception, I mostly just turned it on for background noise while I worked on something else. Oh, and I initially thought it was a different movie. Still, taking it for what it is and not expecting it to be anything else, I guess it wasn't too bad. Batman runs up against a new enemy – the mysterious Red Hood – who appears to simultaneously be killing off Gotham's drug criminals and setting himself up as their overlord. Mildly amusing

Review – The Burning Bed

Farah Fawcett turns in one of the first "if I de-glamor myself will you take me seriously as an actress?" performances in this at-the-time-groundbreaking drama about domestic violence. She plays Francine Hughes, a lower-class woman from Mississippi stuck in a long-term relationship with an abusive man (Paul Le Mat). When family, friends and authorities all fail to help her escape the rising tide of violence in her home, she takes matters into her own hands and sets fire to the guy while he's asleep. Her subsequent murder trial (not to mention this movie and the book it's based on) did a lot to draw national attention to a serious problem. Unfortunately, that makes it a bit of a creature of its own time, important in 1984 but now at least a little dated. Mildly amusing

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review – Dead of Night (1977)

Awhile back we watched a 1945 English movie of the same name based on the recommendations of respected film folk (including Martin Scorcese). I put this one in the Netflix queue based on the chance (the hope!) that they actually meant this picture rather than the older stinker. Nope. This one was even worse than the English production. Screenwriter Richard Matheson cooks up a good Twilight-Zone-esque intro speech, but the three stories that follow are little more than an obvious attempt by Dan Curtis to pilot another horror TV series. The first is some time travel nonsense about an old car, twaddle that even Ray Bradbury would have found excessively sentimental. The remaining two – a vampire whodunit and a monkey's paw – are a little better but still not anything that would ever have become a going concern. And to make the attempt even more pathetic, the disc's special features include a shot-on-video episode of a DOA TV series that looked like it was supposed to turn into some kind of half-assed live action Scooby Doo (minus Shaggy and Scooby). See if desperate

Monday, June 20, 2011

Review – Clonus

Clones of the power elite live on a clone farm unwittingly awaiting the opportunity to become organ donors for their wealthy originals. Most of them have been lobotomized, so they don't make much trouble. But their scientist creators – suffering from Scientist's Syndrome (the pathological inability to avoid tinkering with things) – leave a few of them un-pithed. And of course one of them wises up to the operation, escapes from the farm and journeys into the real world in search of his progenitor. Despite the dated look-and-feel and a few plot holes here and there, this is a reasonably entertaining tale. As a compromise between director and distributor, it was originally released as Parts: The Clonus Horror. Mildly amusing

Review – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (2005)

Though this picture is way more concept than actual movie, it's still an intriguing concept. Working exclusively on a green screen set, the cast and crew recreate Robert Wiene 's silent classic only this time with sound. They even use some of the backdrops digitally captured and directly imported from the original. Needless to say, this doesn't exactly break much new ground. But it is fun to watch (not to mention listen to). Mildly amusing

Review – Cold Heaven

Director Nicolas Roeg manages to muster all the dullness of productions such as The Man Who Fell to Earth without including any of the stylish visuals or occasional interesting twists. A woman (Theresa Russell) contemplates killing her husband (Mark Harmon) so she doesn't have to sneak around behind his back anymore. But then he dies all on his own in a boating accident. But then the body disappears from the morgue, and things just turn into a boring parade of what's-really-going-on dreams and hallucinations from there. See if desperate

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tommy's Holiday Camp

Once again I've a small bone to pick with Mental Floss. The last time I got a whole column out of it, but this time the gripe is a bit smaller.

Just about every issue the magazine includes the latest entry in its list of "101 Masterpieces." In the July-August issue the masterpiece being celebrated is The Who's Tommy.

I don't begrudge it a spot on the list. Though the work is a little uneven, it stands on its own as a legitimate work of art. The problem is the notion that it spawned other art works that contributed significantly to the world.

Here's the list of albums and shows that, according to writer Bill DeMain, owe a huge debt to Tommy:

  • Pink Floyd's The Wall
  • Green Day's American Idiot
  • Evita
  • Jesus Christ Superstar
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch 

To which let me add at least two more:

  • Kilroy Was Here
  • Trapped in the Closet

Yeah, thanks guys. Western civilization marches on.


As does computer repair. I've got Dreamweaver reinstalled and the site downloaded. So now I just need to busy myself with getting caught up.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review – Edge of Sanity

The next time I fall for the Anthony-Perkins-is-in-this-so-maybe-it-will-be-good trap, I need to remember Ken Russell's Crimes of Passion. Here we get yet another twist on the Jekyll and Hyde tale. This time around the good doctor is accidentally exposed to an experimental, cocaine-based anesthetic that brings out his childhood sexual trauma, but otherwise the only difference between this go-around and most of the earlier versions is that the rough sex is a bit more explicit. See if desperate

Bean there, done that

A few days ago I was watching Black Death, a singularly non-entertaining piece of crud about misery in the Middle Ages. So sort of like making a movie about white people in coffee shops or wheat in Kansas.

Bored and in need of distraction, I noted that one of the stars was Sean Bean. Though I'm sure he's a perfectly good actor, I've had trouble taking him seriously ever since his appearance in Patriot Games many years ago. The problem didn't arise from the movie itself or his performance in it. Rather, it cropped up during the opening credits.

While we were watching the credits, Bean's name appeared (naturally enough, as he's the lead bad guy in the movie). Someone in the group (I'm looking at you, Ms. Rauber) was temporarily puzzled by the spellings of his first and last names. "Sean Bean?" she asked.

It isn't odd at all if you pronounce his first name "Shawn." But because of the similarity to his last name, she read his first as sounding like "Scene." And of course that made it funny.

What made it even funnier is when we started coming up with relatives for him, such as his grumpy grandpa Mean Bean. His creepy uncle Obscene Bean. His eco-friendly niece Green Bean (try making it through grade school with that one).

Did I mention that this was years ago?


In site news, guess what? Another massive hard drive crash! This time it was the desktop computer from which I do almost all my work.

Thus this crash took just about everything I've created for my classes for the past 13 years. Oh, and a big chunk of the preliminary work for my sabbatical project. At the moment the dead hard drive awaits more expert attention than I can give it.


Fortunately just about all the content for 8sails was already uploaded to the ISP. And having at least partially learned my lesson from the laptop crash a few months ago, I've been doing a lot of my work "in the cloud" using the 8sails wiki.

So if you absolutely can't stand to wait a couple of days for me to set things right, you can toddle off to the wiki and read the drafts before they're officially made part of the site. Otherwise just give me a bit and I'll recover from this mess and get back on track.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Abandoned – Witch's Sabbath

Because "Stripper's Sabbath" would have made less sense, though it would have been more honest. This was shaping up to be the most spectacularly boring use of bare boobs since Orgy of the Dead. Ten minutes

Review – Bloodlock

This is one of those movies that I forget almost literally as soon as they're over. It's a guy-with-a-video-camera-and-some-friends-who-can-kinda-act production about a not-happily-married young couple who move into a house with a vampire locked in the basement. See if desperate

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review – Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia

It came from the crappy action movie box and went straight to video. American commandos are abandoned in Columbia (so it isn't just a catchy title), framed for an assassination attempt on drug lords and military officials. If you find yourself entertained by plot-free gunfights in the 4:3 aspect ratio, then prepare to be entertained. See if desperate

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Review – Eight Men Out

John Sayles turns his ever-so-slightly-too-artistic eye on the notorious "Black Sox" scandal from the 1919 World Series. He works with a solid cast of familiar faces to tell the no-winners tale of how desperately underpayed ballplayers fell under the sway of petty crooks bankrolled by a big-time mobster looking to fix the White Sox's looks-like-a-sure-thing win over the Reds. Though I could have done with a trifle less filter work, the production does a solid job both as a crime movie and a baseball picture. Oh, and a quick side-note to Pete Rose (whom I'm sure reads 8sails all the time): if it was up to me, you'd go into the Hall of Fame right after Shoeless Joe (i.e. never). Worth seeing

Friday, June 10, 2011

Review – Black Death

This is one of those movies that left me wondering why they even bothered to make it. I watched it because it looked like they spent some money on it and the Netflix description identified it as a horror movie. The former was correct. The latter, on the other hand ... maybe it's just that "horror" and "horrible" sound alike. The central thesis here seems to be that life sucked during the Middle Ages, especially after the Bubonic Plague broke out in the 14th century. Sean Bean heads an ensemble of grimy witchfinders in search of a village that has magically been spared from the disease ravaging the rest of the peasantry. Before the end everyone (witchfinders, peasants, innocent young protagonist, etc.) manages to deftly avoid either a literal or a moral victory. So thanks, people who made this, for bringing a little pointless misery into my life. See if desperate

Monday, June 6, 2011

Review – Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde

In this bizarre twist on Stephenson's classic, the good doctor turns into an attractive-yet-evil woman rather than a brute. Oh, and s/he is also Jack the Ripper. Oh, and s/he is also in league with Burke and Hare. It almost goes without saying that the errors in chronology and geography aren't exactly the worst part of the production. That distinction belongs to the complete lack of context or purpose for the gender-swapping variation. We get a brief (and somewhat less than plausible) explanation for why the Hyde formula turns its drinker into a woman. But beyond that, she might just as well have been any other Hyde. Oh, well. Any excuse for building some female partial frontal nudity into a Hammer production. Mildly amusing

Review – Deranged

As movie versions of the Ed Gein story go, this one isn't too terrible. They play a little fast and loose with the facts. And the production is also saddled with some annoying conventions, such as changing the killer's name to "Ezra Cobb" and plugging in a journalist narrator who infests the first half of the movie at oddly awkward moments and then vanishes almost entirely once the murders get underway. And of course the victims are young, attractive women rather than the middle-aged "mother" types Gein actually preferred. But the parts that show a little respect for the true story are entertaining enough. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Abandoned – Bram Stoker's: To Die For

Because if Dracula was a woman and she lived in Los Angeles, that would definitely be original. Definitely. I made it 20 minutes or so before determining that the oddly-placed colon in the title wasn't going to be the movie's worst trespass against intelligence. And I should note that both this one and The Lost City were "quit" for us by Netflix, which took them off the instant view list before we could get around to finishing them.

Abandoned – The Lost City

Oh, Andy Garcia. The world barely needs the David Mamet we already have. We don't need you to ape his "style" with a star-infested version of the fall of Havana. 60 minutes

Review – De Sade

This movie has no excuse for being as terrible as it is. The cast is solid enough, with Keir Dullea and John Huston heading a squad of capable actors. Richard Matheson's script isn't his finest hour, but it's passable. The big problem is that this movie came along at the exact wrong moment in film history to make a picture about the title pervert. Mores in 1969 allowed enough nudity to excuse the filmmakers from clever innuendo, but depravity on the Marquis's level was still a bit too much. The result is awkward at best, employing camera tricks such as bad focus and red filters whenever the action gets heavy. And worst of all, this is the umpteenth production to seize on De Sade's flair for theatre as an excuse to make something stiff and over-arty. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Picking a "trail name"

Last Friday at the 8sails staff meeting a couple of us watched a PBS program about the Appalachian Trail. For some time now I'd been curious about what it might be like to hike part (or maybe someday even all) of the trail.

I am curious no longer. I sincerely hope the show was a misrepresentation of the actual experience, because if it's accurate then the Appalachian Trail is the habitation solely of Trail Nerds, white people sufficiently well-to-do that they don't have to concern themselves with anything but hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Quick symptom of the problem: all of the interviewees had "trail names," sort of like CB radio "handles" only with a distinctly more hippified flair.

So on the off chance that I might ever lose my mind and give this a try, I'll need help picking a trail name. Here are the leading contenders:

1. Bryan Whitehead

2. Frodo Baggins (just in case I decided to give in and play along)

3. Jason Voorhees

4. Watongo (do a search on "Deadbolt Zulu Death Mask" if you want to track down the origin for this one)

Email me your fave (or another suggestion if you've got one)!


In site news, a bout of insomnia this morning gave me the chance to finish the rest of the backlogged site updates. Though my original plan was to include more material than just movie reviews for January and February, the fixes were taking too long. Besides, I expect the world can wait until next February for the (currently incomplete) list of our eight favorite Presidents' Day movies.