Friday, February 24, 2006

Rose Bowl Requiem

Did you see Chicago? remember when Zelwenger's Roxie watches Lucy Lu
gets dragged into jail and she realizes her 15 minutes are up? Flicker, go the lights. Snap, goes the neon. Darkness.

That's what I thought of as SC's players walked around on the field
after the game, stunned and aimless, thier faces suddenly 15 lbs and 10
years heavier, seeing for the first time the cameras all pointing the other way.
Welcome to the rest of your life, kid. We've been waitin'.

It was quite a run. It started four years ago the night Carson tore
apart once-beaten Notre Dame.
It ended last night.
It ended, technically, when VY ran it in, on a busted play, on 4th
down, probably the all-time least surprising, most-predictable
championship-clinching 4th-down in history. I mean, who ELSE was going
to make a play on either side of the ball? Who else, to that point,
But really, it ended - the game, the streak, the magic - the second
Reggie Bush made that astonishing lateral-attempt inside the Texas 20.
His reasons are easy to understand but impossible to believe. At that
moment - for the first time since Carson-ND - one of the cogs in USC's
machine forgot how to win.
There's been the down games, the big deficits, the ND squeeker and
all the rest. There was even the two fourth downs SC failed to pick up
in this game, either one of which would have won it.
but never - not once - has one of USC's go-to players mistaken
stupid for bold. Not once had somebody panicked. Until that moment.
And then - buzz-snap - it was over.

I stayed excited and nervous and stomped around the living room
through the bitter end (even fired off a cocky TM to a friend at the
game when SC took a 12 point lead) but from that Reggie disaster on, I
had an It's-Over pit in my stomach I haven't had said Carson put up his
fourth TD pass of the night on Next-Rockne Willingham.
Reggie, both on the stat sheet and in every observable way, never
recovered. nice little run at the end with a flying walenda finish,
but even that felt empty. And you could see when they followed him to
the bench, moments later, he was still haunted.
The cold reality is, Reggie lost that game, and it was probably the
biggest post-Heisman bust since Detmer.
Surprisingly, Reggie's self-emolation didn't spread to Leinart and
White, who were simply marvelous (I hung my hopes, in fact, on the
notion that White would rise to the occasion of replacing Reggie in
this brightest of spotlights).

But "marvelous," it turns out, gets off two exits before Vince Young.

I have little to say about VY - he's a witch. He's Tiger in pads.
He's a joke. I could go on but I'll leave that to... everybody.

(VY aside 1: by far, the most delicious post-game moment was watching
ESPN's top bimbo, Kirk Herbstriet, try to simultaneously keep from
throwing up in his mouth while trying to climb on the VY wagon, weighed
down by the full weight of his month-long, any-open-mic campaign to
declare Reggie Bush "the greatest college player I've ever seen." When
UT's linemen stormed the stage, I thought he was going to cry -
fabulous moment)

So Leinart and Bush and White and that whole team doesn't get 3 (and
yes - it would have been 3), and now never will. I think after going
to the trouble of winning so damn many in a row, it would have been
nice to see them finish. But now we clearly know that VY was always
the best player in the country, by miles. It's only been 40 minutes
since the game, and already his non-win at the Heisman has that ghostly
"did I really grow a fu-manchu in '96?"-feel to it.

(VY aside 2: second most delicious moment was Lee Corso not asking or
suggesting but DEMANDING that VY be taken first in the draft - one week
after the incessant, month-long ESPN-led "Reggie Bush Sweepstakes"
drumbeat climaxed in the niners-texans "Reggie Bush Bowl")

All the things they're saying now are wrong:
- first and foremost: not a 'great game' though it had highlights.
The finish was fun, and any time evenly matched teams go for it on 4th
down five times, you've got something. But 5 first-half trips in the
redzone for SC and they score once? And how many turnovers for UT?
And how many drives stayed alive on penalties? Great games are when
two teams take turns cashing in opportunities, not blowing them.
- under no circumstances could USC have possibly NOT gone for it on 4th
down at the end; first off, they were rolling; second, they're SC;
and third, VY had 3 timeouts and almost 3 minutes - he was going to
score from Riverside if he got the ball.
- Mack Brown still can't win a big game and Greg Davis still should be
fired; all 3 of VYs rushing TDs, his (kneedown) downfield pitch for a
TD, the 2-pter and most of everything else (including his biggest
openfield run) were broken-play VY improvs. Just like last year's Rose
Bowl. Just like everything in the Mack-VY era, all the way back to
that 4th-and-27 at Kansas. Greg Davis apparently knows how to draw up
a flip over the middle to a tight end, though, and he should be
congratulated for it.
- Vince's knee WAS down on that pitch, and it's utterly meaningless;
UT (like USC if Reggie hadn't pitched) would have gone in for the TD
within 3 plays anyway.
- the one bad call that did matter was the by-a-mile fumble on the pass
over the middle, but it led only to 3 points, not enough to truly get
pissed about.
- (disclaimer: the last two items are not blame-the-refs whining - but
both of those calls are in heavy rotation in the post-game shows.
that's my rebuttal)
- I suppose I was going to be bitter, no matter what, but here's what I
want: just one - JUST ONE - of the grinning stooges on the networks to
say: "USC is 4 TDs better than Texas - but Vince is worth 5." Anybody
want to seriously dispute that? Any evidence at all to the contrary?
What would be so taboo about saying it? WHERE THE HELL IS TREV!!!

I guess in the end, the harder they really do fall. It took maybe
20 minutes for the Kings of LA to morph before our eyes into sloppy
has-beens - not quite Celebrity Fit Club, but headed down that road.
We got a chance to see what Matt Leinart looks like wearing a bad loss,
and it was incredibly unattractive: he was whiny and bitchy and pouty
after the game. ESPN said he and Reggie visited the UT lockerroom to
congratulate them, but that "class" (my least favorite of all sports
non-words) didn't show up to the cameras. He looked like one of the
Laguna kids after losing a cell-phone bitch-off.
What little I saw of Reggie in the post-game was pure shell shock.
even if nobody reading this agrees with me that Reggie lost the game
for SC, I'm quite sure Reggie does.

(VY aside 3: until last night, he'd said "i'll be back" more than the
Governator, but about 14 seconds after the whistle he wanted to "sit
down with my family and make the best decision for everyone" - time to
earn your $25 mil, Mack)

I am never interested in "would he make a good pro?" talk, but I
will confess to some fascination over the fall-out of this game. Did
we just see VY leap into the top 5? Into #1? Did Reggie just fall
out? Did Leinart just lose 7-figures in signing bonus? Did LenDale
White just pick them up?
Corso's spittle-fit aside, VY can't play like that in the pros (for
the same reason that, a week ago, it was ridiculous to even discuss
whether or not USC could beat an NFL team) and he absolutely showed no
sign of being able to throw NFL passes. And, PLEASE, enough with his
"most efficient passer in the nation" thing. I'd be efficient too if 9
guys were on the line to stop me from running and my recievers averaged
6-8. VY didn't throw a single timing pattern, a single accurate deep
ball or a single on-the-money sideline route all night. Not one. He
dinked to his tight end, hit streakers over the middle and dumped to
running backs.
That will win you State 5A Championships and, evidently, beat SC in
the Big Game, but it won't beat The Patriots.
Enough VY-as-a-pro abuse. It's his night.
But how far did Bush fall? This was the next Hershell, the guy who
you could pick-and-trade for multiple pro-bowlers. That kid? One dumb
play and he climbs under the bench - you want him? If all you had was
that tape, and you had to take Bush or LenDale - any doubts? Hell,
you'd probably take UT's running back, whoever that was. Or Limas
Sweed (hands down, best name of the Bowl season).
And Leinart? Maybe he's still the next Payton - but maybe he's the
next Leif.
no, that's too harsh - not only did he lose his first game since 7th
grade or whatever, but he had to sit there and NOT rip his own defense
for losing it. that can't be easy. And what was he - 17-for-19 in
the second half? Are you kidding? He needs to stop showing up drunk
on the internet with bimbos, but he's a player.

And finally - lost like tears in rain in the middle of it all was
the fabulous performance by Dwayne Jarrett. Prior to 4th-and-Green
Jersies, I considered him a tall, good-on-paper bust who appeared to be
on scholarship to drop third downs. Since 4th-and-That-Grass, he's
been a revelation. And he was retard-good last night, bailing out
Leinart (and everybody else) over and over, and, on his final catch,
causing two of UT's excellent Dbacks to run into each other so hard,
one broke his arm and the other broke his head. Jarrett stepped
between them and fell back over the line for a TD. Absurd performance.

But not enough to beat VY.

So that's it. it's over - bring on Booty or, I suspect, Sanchez.
Bring on the next two guys who can run and four or five Parade All
Americans who can hit. Build it from the ground up again. Mix in a
loss or two to Oregon or Cal or whatever. Even drop one to ND, so we
can go back the next year ready to pick back up.
I hope UT runs with it for a while - the number, the streak, the
bullseye, the 'nothing lasts forever' behind every corner. Let's see
just how deep a hole Mack can dig in Waco or Boulder or even Austin
before VY runs out of rope to pull him out. Lord knows they both just
earned it.

Carson to VY. thanks for reading along. as the bad 80s band nearly
said: the streak is over, you were with me all the while.
(wow. bookended with bad Chicago references. I couldn't be prouder)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

GTA: Fairbanks

I'm now as done with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (5) as I ever
intend to be. I spent the first two days here finishing off the
Airstrip and Vegas-based missions, two of which were the toughest in
the game. I'll get to those. The last one was to steal a Harrier jet
off an aircraft carrier, shoot down 3 others (more tedious than it
sounds) and bomb 5 boats in Lake Powell. When all that was boring, I
realized it was time to quit.
The only remaining missions are boring return-to-LA, gang-based
missions. But I've played all 3 cities, flown lots of planes, shot
everything imaginable and, yes, beaten up plenty of hookers, so I
think I'm done with it.
So to sum up: The initial part – about 1/5th of the game – is based
in LA ("Los Santos") and isn't that great. In fact, I almost quit
playing. It's dreary, in fact.
The second part – out in "the country" is just bizarre, utterly
different from the LA part. And by itself, I'd have quit playing it
then, too, because, again, it wasn't very engaging. No gangs or the
blight of the LA part, but then, not much else. Strange little
missions based in the strange little towns set in the hill country. I
mean, you have to steal a combine harvester from a hippy commune at
one point. A race on 4-wheelers. Strange but, with so much time
invested in that point – and with now no idea what to expect from the
rest of the game – I had to press on.
Then you get to San Francisco which is a strict GTA-city – urban,
kinda funny missions involving shooting and driving. Straight out of
Vice City. Lots of fun. Quickest part of the game.
Then comes your trip to the desert and, for my money, the game really
You go to the airstrip in the desert and learn to fly planes.
And that takes a WHILE.
Then the city of Vegas opens up and that's where the good missions
are. At this point, you start parachuting onto dams, hijacking police
bikes and running collecting them in the back of a moving van, running
motorcycles up the rear ramp of an about-to-take-off airplane, raiding
a secret desert-based military compound (Area 69) and stealing it's
jetpack (!) and generally raising hell around an amazing replica of
Las Vegas.
The final couple missions are fantastic – in one you take a Lear Jet
(you fly a lot of lear jets) to old Liberty City (Original GTA city)
and do a hit there. It's quick but a nice touch.
And then you rob the vault at Ceasar's Casino (named "Caligula's
Palace" – goes right along with calling Pirates of the Caribean
"Pirates in Men's Pants' and Excaliber the "Came-a-lot'). That's
quite a mission, using night vision goggles, blowing stuff up,
shooting LOTS of dudes and then escaping in a parachute.
Right there with the Steal-the-Harrier mission.

So the hardest missions. Two are "gunner" missions where the entire
mission is from the sites of a gun, and you are shooting at the
landscape. Two are chase mission. And then there's the flight
First is early in the game, a "tail gunner" mission where you sit on
the back of a motorcycle and shoot at the mafia guys pursuing you.
Great mission – lots to see, lots of action, but HARD. Basicly, it
becomes one of those that makes video games hateful – you just
memorize the pattern to get you a few seconds past the part where you
died last time until finally you get finished. It saps all the
creativity and fun out of it.
The second is a goofy subplot mission in San Francisco where you have
to defend a Remote Control store from dive bombing remote control
airplaines – and no, it doesn't even make much sense when you're in
(If you recall, I thought the hardest mission in Vice City was the
helicopter-based gun run mission where you shoot down at a bunch of
mafia around a property – same idea here).
Then there's several missions where you have to chase somebody and
kill them in a roughly equal vehicle. One, between two boats, simply
takes forever. You have to follow him and follow him and follow him…
and finally you can slowly damage his boat badly enough that he dies.
Takes forever.
But that's nothing next to "High Noon", a very late mission which
opens up the final hits I mentioned above. You have to chase a guy
through the desert highway system. And he's a VERY good driver. He
escaped me probably, conservatively, 30 times, before I FINALLY shoved
his car into the ocean, which is actually kind of a backdoor way to
kill him. No, 50 times.
That one was tough.
But not as tough as the Flight School. You have to pass 10 tests
flying a plane – most of which are simple (learn to land, do a loop,
parachute, etc). But you have to fly through specific gates/hoops in
the sky, and a couple of them are unbelievably demanding.
Those took me forever.
Another thing – you have to meet specific girls and 'date them,'
taking them out to eat and stuff. One of which you have to date until
she gives you a key to the vault (or something) at the casino she
works at. Here's how you pass it:
So you go see her, and her boyfriend is coming to meet her – so you
kill him. And he drops a 'weapon,' which is a 2ft purple dildo. And
no, there's no mistaking it.
Then you follow her while she goes shopping and she goes to a sex
store (this is Vegas, afterall). So you figure out that you have to
buy a "gimp" outfit, a full-body leather suit, complete with ball gag.
Then once you are dressed in that, you show up at her house 'armed'
with the dildo – instant night of sex in her dungeon/bedroom.
And the key!

So I've flown most of the airplanes (including the AT-400 Airbus-like
plane), and done all the Vegas stuff. Enough for me.

Guantlet - don't miss it.

i know BSG makes mention of it every now and then, but this season's
Real World/Road Rules Gauntlet on MTV is the Final Product. They've
finally nailed down a perfect competitive format, with members of the
losing team each week forced to fight to the death for the right to
stay. And the personalities that have risen to the top are superb.
At the top of the Rookie Guys is Alton, already a legend for setting
the world record for hook-ups and sleezy behavior in the mythic Vegas
season. Turns out, he's at LEAST as good an athlete as a pimp, because
as the team captain (who is required to do the death-battles every
week) he's like Lance Armstrong. As BSG says, "he is taking us all to
a new level."
Opposed to him, as the Veteran's captain, is the tiny, wiry,
pitbull-like Derrick. He's a small, punk of a guy who lets nobody -
nobody - step on him. Derrick was last seen a season ago beating Brad,
who he gives up 50 lbs to, in a monster-tackle drill Inferno. I can't
overstate how amazing that contest was, and how close it was
(literally, after 10 minutes of bloodthirsty rage, a ball needed to go
in a hoop for Brad to win, and it lipped-out). SC-ND wasn't as good as
Brad-Derrick. So now Derrick is center stage, and through sheer
force-of-asshole, he's great.
If there's an Alton-Derrick showdown at the end of this, it'll be
bigger than Game 7, '03.
But on the girls side, you've got the rise and rise of Beth - a
36-year-old, completely narcicistic whiny bitch roundly despised by
everyone on the show. you knew where Beth stood in previous seasons,
when Tanya threw all of Beth's clothes in the pool and nobody stuck up
for her. Well, now she is the captain for the Vet girls, after a great
turn of events: the Vet girls voted her into the Gaunlet, hoping that
Ruthie - year in, year out, the most respected, loved and athletic of
any of the chicks - would take her out. In so doing, they let slide
the useless Montana and Ainesha, both of whom do nothing but whine, and
aren't half the athlete that Beth is. A horrible gamble by the chicks,
motivated by pure bitchyness.
But when they spun The Wheel, Beth got to choose the event and,
outweighing Ruthie by probably 40 lbs, she chose tug of war. In a
great Guantlet, she used her flabby mass to wear down Ruthie and -
whammo - sent Ruthie home and took over the Captain's spot.
If VY had blown out his knee on the first snap of the Rose Bowl,
UT's sideline would not have deflated as completely as the Vets did.
If the Lost plane had crashed on the beach at that moment, they
wouldn't have reacted. A fantastic moment.

So since then, Derrick made quick work of Ace in a wrestling match
and Beth sent home Montana in another tug of war, giving her an air of
invincibility that clearly has the rest of the team reeling.

And it's only going to get better, because the weak players are pretty
much gone, meaning the Gauntlets from here on will only be more
competitive. Looming in front of Alton is the Philly Cast two-some,
the huge and capable Landon and ex-Vanderbilt wide reciever, MJ. MJ,
taller and leaner than anybody else, is playing it cool, staying low
key and just executing. We'll see what happens when the crowd
continues to thin.
For Derrick, a rematch with Brad is a real possibility.
On the girls side, Beth is clearly now in Munich mode, one by one
taking down the bitches who sold her out.

And, of course, they all get drunk and hook up every episode, too. Of
course. Catch a marathon to get caught up - it's fantastic.

UPDATE: Latest episode was subpar. Very little social drama, and the
rookie chicks went to the guantlet, again, that's good since they
needed some thinning out, but they are a pretty bloodless group.

Movie Eruption, plus Narnia

I had a little email going last week with a few friends about the
perfect storm of movies currently out. I can't remember a stronger
crop since the revolution of 94-95 - Swingers, Lonestar, Secrets and
Lies, etc - and even then i don't think there where ever this many
solid looking movies out on one weekend. Either way, this is far and
away, over the horizon, the best month of movies of this decade.

Out now: Walk the Line, King Kong, Harry Potter 4, Narnia,
Syrianna, Good Night and Good Luck, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Memoirs of a
Geisha, Brokeback Mountain, The Producers, Munich.

That's no less than an 11 movies - all diffferent, all distinctive -
that have all the indicators of at least an A-. You could even
throw in at least 2 documentries that are supposed to be excellent but
then, generally, what documentry isn't? Here we have 11 movies, with
actors and budgets and ad campaigns, that all look first rate.

this weekend also marks the first christmas in the last 10 where i'm
a) not with my parents and b) not in a war zone. so i plan on seeing
as many as i can.

In fact, from that list, I'm already at 4 - Walk the Line, Harry
Potter, Good Night and Good Luck (early returns: Walk The Line is the
Movie of the Year until somebody proves otherwise) and, as of an hour
ago, the Chronicles of Narnia.

Of The Big 11, I had the most doubt about this one. It's a
double-whammy of unoriginality: a remake of an old book, and a cash-in
on Lord of the Rings withdrawal. Plus, as ABC/Disney has ceaselessly
pointed out, the old book it's based on was actually written with a
Christ-story theme, perfect for a Holiday release. There has been no
secret at all to the 'secret' marketing campaign being conducted at the
church-level, trying to recapture some of that "Passion" magic from
'04, implicitly promising that Narnia was really a stealth Christian
Message movie. And there was some sort of church-based teenage group
in the theatre with us tonight.
I know they were a church group, because they were well behaved. In
our movie theatre, on our side of town, around our breed of teenagers,
its the only explaination.

And I'm glad they were, because it was a movie that a few loud kids
could ruin - it's a movie based around children, who say childish
things, starring at the center a girl probably, at most, 8. It has
animated animals with funny accents, and several predictable scenes and
themes designed to lure in children's built-in sense of awe. It has
careful timing and fragile plot conciets meant to slip past mesmerized
children, not too-cool-for-school teenagers. A few, "yeah rights" from
the peanut gallery would really shatter this movie.
But if the teenagers in the theatre bight their tongues, the movie
does everything so well - and the little girl in the middle of it, who
plays Lucy, is such a revelation - that, you fall effortlessly into the
same trap.

Four kids, in wartime london, armed only with grey clothing and
frowns, are sent to a country home to wait out the bombs. All four
are perfectly English: the girls with pie-eyes and moon-shaped faces,
the boys with reedy features and nasal overbites. A home run cast from
the the giddy up.
Also, the mid-century English nature of the movie never evaporates,
and that's good news. Most of the creatures are distinctly English,
both friends and foe, and the built-in sensibility of british culture
keep the magical-talking-creature-element grounded. What I mean is:
none of the talking animals tries to talk like they are Hip Hop, Saved
by the Bell or Robin Williams - they're just talking creatures and
haven't got to time to bother with whether or not they should be, what
with the world to save and all the tidying up to do.
Thanks to Lucy, they find a wardrobe which, through some quick but
well-executed baffoonery, transports them to a magical forest in
winter. They soon learn that the forest is ruled by an evil queen - a
role not played by Cate Blanchett but by someone who sure wishes she
was. They travel across the land, hobbitt-slash-gnome-slash-elf-like,
meet talking creatures and then meet Aslan, the Lion King of the realm.
All that above is about as perfectly constructed as you could want -
the world of the kids, from stuffy english house, to bizarre forest, to
cute creatures, to the grand map of the place, is revealed with perfect
pacing. You never question a single leap, and instead find yourself
wondering what's around the next corner.
Aslan and his army are ready for the kids to lead them against the
witch, which they do, eventually.

In the middle of this, in an isolated 10 minutes, you get the promised
Christ allegory.
Knowing it was coming, I thought it was a bit underwhelming. I
wanted Mandy's thoughts on it:
Me: "You know, if a hard core christian had gone to see that
expecting a Christ allegory, they'd have been pissed, don't you think?"
Her: "What Christ allegory?"
That exchange lets you know how thick they lay it on.
This movie does not feel like religious themes have been painted on.
If anything they feel scrubbed off.
And since Mandy and I both went in wanting nothing more than talking
animals and the like, we left happy. But i guarantee the
church-vertising audience left feeling a little cheated.

So while Aslan is rehabing his allegorical injury, the battle begins.
And it's a doozy. I had expected that the climactic battle scene
would have to be pretty soft - it's led by children in a children's
movie. The kid leading it, in his too-big, too-shiny brand new armor,
looks nearly Dubyaian. I figured you'd get some extras pushing each
other to the ground, the requisite archers and some burning barrels and
call it good.
Not hardly.
for a good 15 minutes, two vast armies of hatchet, club, lance,
spear, sword, claw and tooth wielding animals have at each other.
creatures of every concievable combat-suitability are in the line-up
for the two sides, and the attacks are ferocious and constant. The
queen's war chariot is pulled by Polar Bears, a terrifying juggernaut
of queen-bitch-fury not equaled since Tina Turner ran down Mel Gibson
at the end of Thunderdome. The collisions take place at a bloodless
video-game pace, but there's no short supply of bodies falling and
twitching under swords. The fight runs off the main field, back up
into the hills, where it turns into a a defacto-tunnel fight in a
ravine. the main characters here all collide and bounce off the rock
walls like sword-wielding pinballs. It's a great fight, right there
with any of the Rings collisions.

A word on little Lucy: she's played by Georgie Henley, who is 10, says
IMDB. She is miraculous. Her face is a billboard of well-tuned
emotions and as danger and then trickery and then tragedy come and go,
the movie follows pretty much only where her face leads it.
At a key point early, the boys hit a cricket ball through the window
in the country home. They both instantly freeze, the
oh-shit-we're-screwed look on their face. The older sister (weak link
of the bunch) is horrified and angry. Lucy, who'd been cut out of the
game, spins and looks on with a shock of fright at what's to come but
with unmistakable wild glee at the predictment her brothers are now in
and she is not.
She owns the movie from that point on.

More to come.

Narnia - A-

Music: Fake girl rock

A year ago, in the wake of Ashley Simpson's mythic SNL/Orange Bowl
streak plus the kelly Osbourne-rehab thing, I absolutely thought the
fake-girl-rock movement was dead, the least mourned passing in recent
musical history. Not that it had actually started - there was that
Skater Boy song by April Lavigne ("can i make it anymore obvious") and
the April Lavigne song that Wierd Al blew up ("Pi-zza! Par-ty at your
house...") and that was about it. it looked DOA, and if it wasn't,
Ashely finished it off in Miami, right?

Well, to my astonishment, it hung around. And now, fresh of my
Best-Summer-Vacation-Ever! trip to Australia, I can tap a winner.

The Veronicas. As it happens, they are twin sisters who, we can
assume, grew up riding the ferries in Brisbane. And, I guess, rocking!

I first encountered The Veronicas a few months ago, when they were on
the pre-movie audiotrack that our local theatre plays. As you eat your
popcorn, they subject you to never-heard-of-'em bands, and then a
cheesy announcer comes on and tells you who it was and that they are
The Next Big Thing. For every song.
Still, they played "Everything I'm Not" and it was actually pretty
Turns out, the Aussies agree. You can't turn on a radio for 3 minutes
there without hearing Everything I'm Not, and you can't open a paper
without reading about Veronica sightings (neither of the sisters who
make up The Veronicas, by the way, are named Veronica).

They have a few other songs - "4Ever" is a beach-summer theme waiting
to happen - which are about the same (all from the album, "The Secret
Life Of The Veronicas"). high school break up lyrics, voices
well-honed at cheerleading practice and enough musical ability to
change cords with voice and guitar without making you wince. but since
there's two of them, they sing a slightly interesting kind of harmony,
and it sounds like they actually occasionally practice. its simple,
but what else do you want these days?
I think we're all a little tired of The Killers and the slump that rap
is in right now is getting worse by the day. With the exception of
Nelly's excellent Grillz, the best rap song of the winter was the Miami
Football rap, "7th Floor Crew", which peaks in the 2nd of it's 7
minutes ("whachu name?" "big playa" whachu do?" "Hold my nuts" "How you
do it?" "With both hands a grin").
Which leaves us temporarily with fake-girl-rock. The contenders
available include:
- Kelly Clarkson's desperate last-breath re-branding to rocker with
"since you been gone," memorable for the karoke treatment it got from
the Laguna Beach girls in the back of a Limo on prom night - who, in
their collective tuneless, drunk teenage squeal, did not appreciably
damage the song.(UPDATE: predictably, it won the Grammy for Song Of
The Year - seriously, what's funnier than the Grammys?)
- the newly re-bustified Lindsay Lohan who I'm PRAYING goes Jennifer
Love Hewitt and adds her own contribution to the canon of
hubris-inspired covers of "Me and Bobby McGee." It's going to take
something special to pass up Jessica Simpson's crime against "These
Boots Are Made For Walking," but i think Lindsay has it in her.
- and continuing her flight from credibility, Orange Bowl-Ashley with
the fabulously terrible "l.o.v.e." Just as bad as you imagine it is.

So that's not exactly a list to make PJ Harvey or Ani Difranco fans
re-wallpaper thier rooms. Or even Nellie Mckay fans. But it's what's
out there.

So into this shallowest of musical shallow ends wades The
Veronicas. Are they a modern channelling of the Go-Gos? Probably not.
But they seem to be trying to hold the songs up. After listening once
or twice, it's possible to imagine they actually grew up wanting to be
in a band, not the Mouseketeers.

MAJOR CAVEAT: None of the above includes The Faders. The Faders,
behind thier iTunes-ad song, "No Sleep Tonight" could mop the floor
with anybody here - but they also qualify as a 'real band' and not a
Fake Girl Rock band.

In any case, there's not much else now to check out, so it might be
worth a listen before they inevitable climb back on a ferry and head
back to Brisbane. And have I told you yet- I went to Australia!

Fairbanks discovery: Greenlight

This is pretty much one of my major points from a week of TV in
Fairbanks, but BSG got to print with it quicker:

• Speaking of reality TV, I hope you're watching John Gulager's
meltdown on "Project Greenlight." I am now convinced that they go out
of their way to select crazy directors that will make for good TV, at
the expense of the actual movie. This guy takes the cake -- it's like
they pulled him out of line at the Store 24 when he was buying scratch
cards and Winstons, then handed him a multi-million movie. I also
loved Matt Damon's Will Hunting-like meltdown in the first episode,
when he started screaming at the Dimension execs, "The master of
horror is sitting two seats away from you and just told you the script
can't work!" I kept expecting Robin Williams to come in with a beard
and tell him, "It's not your fault, it's not your fault..."

So all i can add to that is to tie it together. In fact what happened
was this: all the 'studio' corporate guys ran over Damon in the
initial selection of the script (as a group, they had 3 to pick from),
demanding a possibly-profitable horror script written by hollywood-ish
dweebs over the smart, funny scripts written by 40+ middle managers
from Portland. Damon argued, hard, that the smart script had a chance
to be the next Bill and Ted's or something, but the Studio guys wanted
the surer, easier thing (cheap horror).
And Damon couldn't talk them down.
So when it came to pick the director, two young guys with obvious
but traditional talent interviewed like young hot shots. The studio
guys all liked one.
The third guy was Gulager, a 40+ sad sack who does wedding videos
for a shitty living. Obvious hopeless introvert wierdo. But his
audition film (3 minute movie from everybody with the same script) was
His interview was... just unbelievable. He literally didn't talk.
Not about himself, not about his vision for a movie, not about his
thoughts on film. He was a hopeless dud.
The studio guys instantly were toxic on him. But Damon (and
Affleck) wanted him. They wanted to, ya know, take a CHANCE. They
used gambling analgies.
And the studio guys caved and they hired Gulager.

And he has been unbelievable. He won't talk to a single staffer -
and keep in mind, as director he is literally the captain of a
200-person ship. He CAN'T not talk. He is offending everyone with
his absolute insistance on hiring family members for all the key roles
(sidenote: the ONLY non-white guy of the enitre 100-person cast is
one blonde, hot casting director chick. And since its her job to find
actors to fill roles, Gulager sees her as the enemy - awesome
He has no ideas, can't talk in a group and doesn't seem interested
in the movie at all.
So not only is, as BSG says, this hopeless intorvert dweeb about
to submarine this prodiction and the series - but it's completely
Damon's fault.

Also, bears mentioning: if you take the 'easy' script, you HAVE to
take the 'easy' director, right? If you take the 'edgy' script, get
the edgy director, right? but you CAN'T mix and match, right? I
mean, leadershp 101, huh?

Anyway, if you get a chance to catch up (only 2 episodes so far) on
Project Greenlight, do so. Best find of the week up here -
particularly with the weak BET playlist.