Minor Thoughts from me to you

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And y'know what? It kinda works

The Tripper

I'm about two years behind the times to be only seeing this now, but that's still pretty good for me, since it's not like I keep up with horror movies at all.

The above image is a teaser for the 2007 slasher film The Tripper, the plot of which is summarized on Wikipedia as follows:

"Free-loving hippies... escape to a modern-day Woodstock for a weekend of debauchery, only to be stalked by a radical-minded psychopath dressed and talking like Ronald Reagan."

You can't help but love the tag line ("Heeeeeeeere's Ronnie!"), a clear reference to The Shining. I can't think up a better one and I've been thinking them up ever since I read it ("This summer: BLOOD TRICKLES DOWN", "You Can't Just Say No", "Mourning in America", "There'll be no recovery from this", etc. Sigh. See?).

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Better entertainment than us is available


"Writing is 2% creativity, 98% not being distracted by the internet." - Anonymous

Words of wisdom which I am intent on following today, so no posts. Yet I feel a responsibility to those of you who depend on your Minor Thoughts commentary as you depend on bread and water, and therefore herein offer in substitute the limited number of blogs I personally visit daily or weekly.

Knowing even as I do that this will probably result in you never stopping by our website again.

Twenty-Sided Tales - Shamus Young is a Christian libertarian with a gift for humor who primarily blogs about video games - and even if you don't play them, what he has to say is worth reading. Young obtained internet fame with his now-completed "DM of the Rings" series, a free web comic that dares to imagine how Tolkien's famous Lord of the Rings saga might have played out if it was a Dungeons & Dragons game. Start your perusal of his site there, but be warned: once you start, it's hard to stop.

Slacktivist's Right Behind - The theologically-educated and very funny Slacktivist (Fred) has done a solid for the world by dedicating his analytical prowess to taking apart LaHaye and Jenkins's Left Behind book series. Highly-recommended if you've read them - you'll be amazed at how much you didn't catch that Fred does.

Paul O'Brien's If Destroyed, Still True - A blog dedicated to reviewing comic books (primarily ones starring the X-Men and related characters), wrestling matches, and the top ten British songs on any given week. As with all of the sites I list here, Paul O'Brien has a great sense of humor - but he's also the only online reviewer I bother to read because he's the only one I've ever encountered with an eye for the science of writing. Great examples (don't even worry if you haven't read the stories in question, just click): his reviews of Uncanny X-Men #439, #440, #433, and Wolverine #55.


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Diversity in Ratings

Scene Stealer - The Web Is Pouncing on Hollywood's Ratings - NYTimes.com

The standard Hollywood ratings -- G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17 -- must now compete with all manner of Internet-based ratings alternatives, some of which are gaining new traction through social networking tools.

SceneSmoking.org, which monitors tobacco use in movies, issues pink, light gray, dark gray or black lungs to films, depending on how smoking is depicted. Kids-in-Mind.com ranks movies on a scale of 1 to 10 in categories like "sex and nudity" and "violence and gore."

Movieguide.org issues ratings from a Christian perspective. A "+4," or "exemplary," means "no questionable elements whatsoever." A "-4," or "abhorrent," means "intentional blasphemy, evil, gross immorality."

The article goes on to talk about how people want to "fix" the MPAA ratings, according to various pet standards.


It seems like something great is happening. People that are passionate about different things -- and have different standards of acceptability -- are creating and disseminating their own ratings. Parents, or discriminating movie goers, who care about particular standards can use the ratings from a group that shares those same standards. There's absolutely, positively no way that Hollywood -- or the FTC -- can create a single rating system that represents all of those different standards.

There's a simple reason for that. One group of parents believes that nudity and coarse language is a natural and normal part of life. They believe that sex and nudity should be celebrated while their children should be protected from exposure to violence and aggression. There are other parents who would be horrified at the thought of their children seeing some bare skin but are perfectly okay with their children seeing movies that depict massive amounts of violence. Now, design me a PG-13 or R rating that makes both groups of parents happy.

I celebrate the diversity in ratings. I may even use one standard to evaluate which movies my children will be allowed to see and a completely different standard to evaluate which movies I'll see. Vive la difference!

Wizard Rock!


I could post today about the end of Atlanta football star Vick's sentence, or how the fubar state of New York is now considering a totally insane 57% tax on its highest-earning residents - but I really wouldn't be a friend to you if I didn't instead take this opportunity to instead inform you about the recent phenomena that is Wizard Rock.

I learned about this wondrous (dare I say "magical"?) music subgenre from today's _USA Today _article on the subject, which profiled no less than four of the Harry Potter-inspired bands, including pioneer group Harry & The Potters.

Bands describing themself as part of this new movement generally seem to be of the punk rock persuasion, stylistlcally-speaking. Their lyrics range from the touching and somewhat maudlin, as in this little stanza by Draco & The Malfoys:

_He never gave me the attention he gave Harry

He never showed an interest in me

I watched him from afar, wishing I had a scar

So he would see the great wizard I could be_

...on to the more energetic (by H & P):

_Dumbledore, we all fight for you tonight

In our hearts we'll never let you die

Your love is keeping us alive_

According to USA Today there are now as many as 500 of these bands churning out similar numbers - and counting. So if you were wondering just what new kind of music scene will emerge to dominate this next decade's charts like Hip Hop in the 90's...

This entry was tagged. Entertainment

"Mutual Consent/Force"

It's a little-known fact that Steve Ditko, hailed by readers of comic books for co-creating Spider-Man and much of that character's supporting cast, occasionally still publishes new stories.

It's little-known for several reasons. First, all of these new tales can only be found between the covers of small-press magazines with extremely low print runs and sometimes a complete absence of color; Mr. Ditko's refusal to allow any publisher to compromise what he believes to be his artistic integrity has resulted in such publications being his only outlet. Second, the content of Mr. Ditko's stories nowadays is generally unattractive to mainstream audiences, as they adhere entirely to Objectivist principles of morality. All of Mr. Ditko's new fiction is and has now for years been unapologetically and indeed preachily (to the point wherein the narrator often lectures the reader on how to interpret the story) libertarian. Some of his product even eschews the art of fiction entirely and simply serves as visual for his pro-liberty ideas.

The piece of his below, entitled "Mutual Consent/Force", is a great example of that:

"Mutual Consent/Force" by Steve Ditko

I think it's a quite effective presentation; it reminds me of Jack T. Chick's successful series of religious tracts. The Libertarian Party should hire him to produce something similar they can hand out at information booths and conventions... but then, there are many things the Libertarian Party should do.

Anyway, thanks to Dinosaurs Garden's putting it up on their site, an online .pdf file containing the whole of Mr. Ditko's long out-of-print "Avenging World" comic book is now available for your perusal, should you be so inclined. It's an extremely well-drawn presentation of our world's problems and their libertarian solutions, hosted in an endearingly cliche manner by our own beleaguered Planet Earth.

Facebook Asked to Remove "Scrabulous"

This isn't going to make my wife very happy. She loves playing Scrabble online.

Facebook Asked to Remove "Scrabulous" - New York Times:

LONDON (Reuters) - The makers of word game Scrabble have asked Facebook to remove its popular online version "Scrabulous," which they say infringes their copyright.

The U.S. and Canada rights to Scrabble are owned by Hasbro Inc, the world's second-largest toy and game company, while the biggest, Mattel Inc, has the rest of the world.

"Letters have been sent to Facebook in the United States regarding the Scrabulous application," said a Mattel spokeswoman in Britain.

"Mattel values its intellectual property and actively protects its brands and trademarks.

"As Mattel owns the rights to the Scrabble trademark outside the United States and Canada, we are currently reviewing our position regarding other countries."

I'd recommend that Mattel buy Scrabulous, rename it to "Scrabble Online", leave it on Facebook -- then thank the founders for making the game more popular and accessible. Seriously, what harm is there to playing Scrabble on Facebook and why wouldn't Mattel want to expand their market?

This entry was tagged. Scrabble

It beats an altar boy

Britney confesses

CATHOLIC LEAGUE SPOKESPERSON Kiera McCaffrey is righteously indignant about an album booklet included in Britney Spears' new CD release, "Blackout", reports MTV.

Said booklet shows Britney Spears and a handsome man of the cloth getting cozy together in the confessional.

Declares McCaffrey: "What would be great is if she got serious about her religious faith and instead of mocking the confessional, maybe she could visit one for its intended purpose... [The photo of her on the priest's lap is] a cheap trick."

Your Minor Thoughts correspondents naturally take umbrage at Ms. McCaffrey's assertions. Getting a pretty woman to sit on your lap is not a "cheap trick"; it's a difficult art - especially if you want Quality. It took the writer of this article 4-5 months to get this beauty onboard, and while he's no Don Juan, he doesn't think the Catholic League could've done any better.

But this leads us to the real tragedy: because, really, having a pretty woman on your lap is simply one more Biblical value which the Whore of Babylon can never understand. Looking at these photos, the priests of Rome see blasphemy, whereas we Protestants, quite frankly, see a step in the right direction.

At least Ms. McCaffrey and her ilk have the comfort of knowing not a lot of priests are going to see what fun they're missing, though. Sales on Spears' album debuted below expectations and have been sinking ever since.

This entry was tagged. Christianity

Review: Beowulf


The new film adaptation of Beowulf's justly been receiving loads of huzzahs for its groundbreaking use of 3D technology (The Economist has devoted an article to how exactly it works), but its screenplay has received far less - if any - respect from the critics.

This is perplexing, since what writers Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman have written is something of an achievement - a new, nearly legitimate interpretation of England's oldest epic poem. The general failure of film critics to recognize this may be due to the same ignorance which resulted in their complaints about Frank Miller's 300 earlier this year. No review of that movie was apparently complete without the observation, soon trite, that the directors had forgotten to give their Spartans body armor. But this only revealed how many of those reviews' writers had actually missed one of the movie's fundamental points: 300 isn't an attempt to accurately recreate a historical event, but an attempt to accurately recreate the spirit of how Ancient Greece would retell such a historical event. The Spartans are nearly naked not because that is how they really fought, but because that is how Greek artists would depict them.

Director Zack Snyder himself has said as much:

"300 is a movie that is made from the Spartan perspective. Not just from the Spartan perspective, the cameras are the Spartans, but it’s the Spartans sensibility of the Battle of Thermopylae... If you had Spartans sitting around a fire and they were telling you before anything was written down what happened at Thermopylae, this is the way they would tell it. It’s not necessarily down to the fact that they don’t have armor on. Everything about it is just to make the Spartans more heroic [italics mine - go get your own].”

Beowulf is the same kind of creation, only far, far more ambitious. Not only does it recreate with a sometimes wince-inducing measure of honesty the kind of world in which the story purports to take place, but with only two notable (and ultimately unnecessary) exceptions that I could count, the movie is completely faithful to its source material - yet reinterprets that material in such a way that the themes of the story are doubled in strength.

The story of both the original poem and the movie is easy to summarize: an over-the-hill king named Hrothgar is besieged by Grendel, a monster who enters his hall every night and eats a couple of the king's apparently very loyal subjects. Beowulf arrives and rips the monster's arm off, then follows the beastie into its cave in order to kill its mother, too. As proof of his kill, he brings back Grendel's head. Years later, Beowulf dies saving his kingdom from a dragon. The End.

What holds all of this together, in the poem, is the comparison readers are invited to make between King Hrothgar at the beginning of the poem and King Beowulf at its end. Beowulf the movie amplifies this theme by answering the questions about the poem most of us never even thought to - but should have - asked: Why doesn't Grendel kill Hrothgar himself? Why does Beowulf return to Hrothgar with only Grendel's head? And really, the dragon's just kind've a random tack-on, isn't it?

Well, not anymore, it's not. Gaiman and Avary explain Grendel's torturing of King Hrothgar as the confrontation between an illegitimate, freakish son and his deadbeat dad. The kingdom's wrecking by a monster is the result of its king's fornification with a bewitching succubus. The same demoness successfully seduces Beowulf, when he arrives in her cave to kill her, and thus the warrior later returns with only Grendel's head.

This coupling between man and Satanic siren, of course, results in the birth of a new monster, which bedevils the crowned Beowulf many years later: the dragon. Everything thus comes full-circle and Beowulf finds himself in the exact same position as his predecessor - naturally, the very best of scenarios in which to contemplate the two mens' differences.

See what I mean about the themes being strengthened? Yes, liberties are taken in that new "scenes" are added to the story. But they're really nothing more than most theologians do with the Bible itself, imagining details that do not contradict what is known, in order to make sense of story points otherwise not understandable.


The consequences of failing to at least pay child support are brutally exposed in Zemeckis's film..

I shouldn't really be surprised that these particular writers pull it off. I'm used to Hollywood bungling its adaptations, but Neil Gaiman is a British import who's made his name writing modern takes on mythology; it's his niche, and he's good at it. Stardust is another example of his work.

And really, that might be why I enjoyed Beowulf, and you should take any recommendation here with a grain of salt; Beowulf can play the part of a straight-up action-adventure story for your typical moviegoer, but it's also a game being played by a couple of lovers of literature with their brethren. Fun-averse purists aside, inhabitants of English Departments far and wide are watching this movie with glee. And they understand why Beowulf feels it necessary to get naked before wrestling a giant.

Full enjoyment of the show is thus reserved for a select audience of which I, for once, am a member.

So, not often getting the chance to be part of an elitist "in-crowd" at anything, I'm naturally going to go see it again. Have fun doing whatever it is you, y'know, non-English Major types do with your lives.

This entry was tagged. Review

The Batwink

Batman makes a Republican funny

A new preview of coming comic Batman & The Outsiders shows Batman pontificating in his cave about why a shady corporation manufactures "quantities of Berkelium and Californium".

"Two highly radioactive substances with no practical industrial applications,"

muses the crimefighter, adding that "[the corporation] has contacts with the European Space Administration."

The writer of the series, Chuck Dixon, is well-known as one of the handful of dyed-in-the-wool Republicans that somehow manage to find jobs in the entertainment industry, so it's not surprising that he'd be the one to slip in a jab at the other end of the political spectrum. What is also not surprising is that, having suffered all my reading life through similar little apropos-of-nothing comments from the 90% of writers out there who are Democrats, I find I'm really no more amused when the shoe's on the other foot.

This entry was tagged. Humor

Loserdom has a definition

Jean Grey

Above: Oh yeah, Baby, what a... a... drawing...

We kid you not: in celebration of the release of X-Men 3 this year, entertainment site IGN.com released an article listing the "Top Ten X-Babes" - that is, the ten most physically attractive women featured in X-Men.

Not the women featured in the movies, mind you.

The ones in the comic books.

Jean Grey "burns with more than the Phoenix Force," moans the article's writer, and Storm will "never win a prize for congeniality, but it's impossible to deny her beauty." Psylocke can "stab our psyche anytime."

And IGN.com's number-one choice for hottest X-Babe (oh, you know you were going to ask)?

Emma Frost, the White Queen: "Emma's a hedonist, who wears lingerie to go jogging. And she's a teacher."

Guess there's always a bright side to these sorts of things: if these guys weren't so aroused by artist Jim Lee's pencils, the rest of us could conceivably have more competition for the real women.

(... Nah.)

This entry was tagged. Humor

Tim Minear's New Chance

I've enjoyed most of the TV shows that Tim Minear has worked on -- Angel, Firefly, Wonderfalls, and Drive. Unfortunately, three of those four were canceled after 13 episodes or less. Fortunately, Tim Minear gets another chance.

"Miracle" -- from 20th Century Fox TV, where Minear and Holland are based with overall deals -- centers on a disgraced former televangelist, a man of no faith, who finds that God is using him to perform real miracles and change lives, starting with his own.

"It's about losing everything and starting over and finding that there is a higher purpose in life," Minear said. "It's about a man who says, 'I don't know how to be good, but I'll try to be better.' "

Televangelism is a familiar territory for Minear, who had an evangelical upbringing in Whittier, Calif., and went to evangelical schools. His father is a radio engineer for religious programming. While he was growing up, Minear often listened to preachers as they taped their programs in his dad's home studio.

"Miracle" also was influenced by the series of sex and accounting fraud scandals that rocked the televangelist industry in the 1980s and brought disgrace to such heavyweights as Jimmy Swaggart, Marvin Gorman and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Others, like Peter Popoff, were exposed as a sham.

But "Miracle" "is not in any way an indictment to religion," Minear said. "It's a love letter to the religious."

What attracted him to the idea of doing a show about a disgraced televangelist was that "I love the genre, and I love stories about redemption and stories about characters that are slightly cynical and nudged by higher force," Minear said.

I'm already looking forward to it.

This entry was tagged. Tim Minear

The anatomy of Britney Spears' P.R. problem

I know this entry's headline doesn't look promising, but stick with me. This is interesting.

In a column for FOX News' occasionally shameless entertainment section, Roger Friedman underscores the true challenge Britney Spears is currently facing in trying to save her career.

Summarily, Britney Spears has a new album out now, called "Gimme More", and she needs to promote it - 'cause those albums, y'know, they don't sell themselves. Since Britney long ago styled herself as a sex bomb, of course, promoting her new CD means doing her thing - making totally obscene music videos, holding totally obscene personal appearances, singing at totally obscene concerts, etc.

The problem with such promotional gimmicks, however, is that Britney Spears, who has just lost custody of her two small children due to her "glamorous" lifestyle, would look even less fit to be a mother if she engaged in them. And it doesn't matter whether Spears cares if she ever sees the children again. The public does. Almost nobody minds watching her play the part of America's Favorite Whore at her own expense, but even her die-hard fans will think her callous if she gives up the role of mother to her boys to do it.

Some fans, indeed, have already abandoned her; the administrator of her biggest fan site, the monolithic WorldofBritney.com,put in his resignation almost a year ago.

So has her latest manager.

But it gets worse. Suppose that she does become a role model of a mother. She would still be stuck between a rock and a hard place. That's because Motherhood is simply not, at least in the world of entertainment, considered sexy. Stories about how Spears can writhe well on a concert stage but always makes sure she's home to read at bedtime - those are stories swallowed up by the audience of Reader's Digest, not Rolling Stone.

What's a pop star to do?

It's not like her new album isn't going to sell, and at numbers many musicians will only ever dream about; it's already iTunes' most downloaded song and #3 on Billboard's Hot 100. But if the album fails to achieve the sort of marketplace dominance expected of a pro like Spears, the result could be her banishment to the mid-level range of musician, from which it is historically nearly impossible to immediately return.

Perhaps that shouldn't be looked upon as a badge of shame; I can't think of any musicians offhand who have kept the spotlight on themselves for too long, anyway. Invariably, they all fade into the background, remaining big names with tons of fans that don't buy tons of records. I know I'm not searching for Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell V: Straddling the Border of Hell" or whatever he's doing now.

Still: one could reasonably object that Britney has been here before. Her third album didn't do very well, but her fourth brought her back to the charts. A good album (that is, what her fans would consider a good album) and buzz covers a multitude of sins. This album won't do well - but it may not end the Spears Saga, either.

Back to important political questions with Joe.

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New Star Wars DVDs

George Lucas is releasing the original theatrical version of the original Star Wars trilogy. This is the best news I've heard all day:

Even though George Lucas adamantly declared 2004's digitally restored Star Wars Trilogy DVDs the definitive versions of his movies, fans have held out hope for DVDs of the originals.

Their wishes will be granted Sept. 12 when Fox releases new two-disc DVDs ($30 each) of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi that include the films as they first appeared in theaters, along with the new, restored versions (now available in the four-disc $70 Star Wars Trilogy).

The individual DVDs will be taken off the market on Dec. 31, a strategy that Disney uses on many of its classic releases.

That gives me a little over three months to buy all three movies. And I'll do it too. I don't like the changes George made in the original movies. It ruins my childhood memories. Seriously. When I first saw the updated version of the movies and saw Greedo shoot at Han first, I thought I was going insane. I had such clear memories of Han shooting first and, yet, that wasn't what I saw on film. So, I've been stuck with watching pirated copies of the Laserdisc edition. (Yes, I'm that pitiful.) So, a mere $90 to regain my childhood? Cheap at twice the price.

(Hat tip to Hit & Run.)

This entry was tagged. Good News

Reviewing V for Vendetta

Bryan Caplan found it disappointing. So did our own reviewer, Adam. Here are his thoughts:

Reviewers generally seem to be praising it to the heavens. The general audience reaction at my theater was from "...It was OK." to "Great googly moogly, that was horrible.".

I was not aware of this, but the movie is only written by the Wachowski Bros.; it's directed by an assistant of theirs, for whom this is a debut. His directing is serviceable; he seems to know how to point a camera, but not a whole lot more.

Alan Moore demanded his own name be removed from the credits of this movie (the movie simply attributes its source material like so: "Based On A Graphic Novel Illustrated by David Lloyd"), and it's really little wonder why: There are a couple of moments in the movie that are genuinely smart, at least one of which is even original and not to be found in the novel. But on the whole the film is a mishmash of bad story-editing decisions, a number of which are almost physically painful (V and Evey are now in love, for instance). This goes double for the film's horrendously heavy-handed attempts to make the film "more relevant"; there's not a single modern-day bogeyman that keeps liberals up at night which the film doesn't manage to add into its indictment (the overtly Christian Fascists come to power with the help of a pharmaceutical company and in one scene execute a man for owning a Koran). I suppose if we ever wanted a window into exactly what the hardcore liberal of today thinks will happen if the Republicans are ever fully in charge, now we have it.

Summarily, what we have here is a generally boring movie that will frustrate if you are expecting entertainment or profound thought from it, but which is interesting if you come to it with the intent of analyzing its deficiencies, a mental switch I made at some point in that theater. You can see the ideas that in other hands could have been (and WERE, under Moore's pen) extremely interesting. What ideas do make it through are rendered philosophically incoherent by minds that are either not clever enough for them, or that could not help but butcher them do to the limitations of working for Hollywood masters.

I actually won two free movie tickets at a comedy show two weeks back, so I didn't have to plunk down a dime for the viewing. See at your own $7.50's risk.

This entry was tagged. Films