Otto's Coffee Shop
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Thursday, July 03, 2003

It looks like Mr. Jerkass has a new job - he's the new soda jerk at ye olde Otto's Soda Shoppe!. Make with the clicky and help him keep his job. Good luck, jerkass.

Quick Hits

Okay, so today's my last day at work for awhile, as the wife and I are moving up north to some sort of survivalist compound, I expect, in order to wait out the coming war with the rest of the world (except Britain, whose government seems to still like us, at least in public. Seriously, though, isn't it time that they removed the "Great" from in front of the "Britain?" Don't get me wrong, I'm as anglophilic as the next guy, but please. They're a teeny island in the North Atlantic with very few natural resources and it rains all the time. Contrast that with, say, Fiji, which is a small island in the South Pacific with few natural resources where it doesn't rain all the time and you can sit on the beach all day. Britain doesn't sound so "Great," now does it? But I digress . . .)

Anyway, moving north, so I will have spotty computer access at best for about two weeks. Sorry in advance if I don't update again till the 17th or so. And since this is my last day at work, I've got a lot to do, so no time for the promised full review of Ghost Ship. Instead, here's a few quick points:

Vegas - Yet another reason to love Vegas! Mark Evanier has the story about a new breed of cocktail waitresses at the Rio (scroll down to the top entry from Wednesday, July 2. No permalink that I can discern). God, I miss Vegas.

Music - Sunny Day Real Estate's "The Rising Tide" is the best 80s metal record to come out of the nineties. I busted it out again yesterday, so it's on my mind.

Comics - Formerly Known as the Justice League #1 came out yesterday, by the "classic" late 80s team of Giffen, DeMatties, Maguire and Rubenstein. I think my friend David said it best, "it's like a TV reunion movie that's actually good!" It's got all the sight gags and the witty repartee of the original series, without simply rehashing old jokes. Though I'm not as up on my Vaudeville as I'd like to be, a lot of the gags strike me as having that almost timeless, vaudevillian comedy feel (if superheroes were on Vaudeville). Glad to see Bob Lappan back doing the lettering, too, since to my eyes, his letters were the perfect compliment to Maguire/Rubenstein's art and I was afraid that DC would use one of their new in-house letterers. Somewhere, Kevin Dooley is smiling. I still miss Guy, though, and hope they can find a way to bring him in.

Ghost Ship - Since I'm sure some people were wondering what I thought of it, Steve Beck's latest horror offering is, well, pretty sucky. Juliana Margalies left ER for this?!? How low can Gabriel Byrne sink? (apparently to a role where he blatantly rips his singular character trait off Jack from the Shining, that's how low). Ghost Ship is a pastiche of the worst kind of horror movie clich├ęs, from the "token" black guy who's pretty much only there to get offed (oh wait, the "token Latino" gets offed first) to the evil dude who's trying to steal people's souls (shades of Beck's previous "masterpiece," Thir13en Ghosts - which has to have the worst kewl movie title ever) to the last remaining crew member's willingness to sacrifice herself to rid the world of this ultimate evil (but look! She survives anyway!). And it lacks the self-conscious humor of Scream, meaning that somehow the filmmakers want us to take it seriously! Oh, and Ron Eldard is in it (which should have been enough to warn me off it from the beginning). Should I have known better than to rent this trash? Yes, but somehow I found it enticing by the simple trashiness of the tagline ("Sea Evil") and the premise.

I guess that wasn't really so quick, was it. Oh well. More later, perhaps. Otherwise, I'll be back in a few weeks.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003
Movies: The Recruit

Finished watching The Recruit last night. It was actually pretty decent, for the type of flick it was (meaning relatively low profile action/adventure flick). The cast was good, the plot was, well, if not exactly believable, at least reasonably internally consistent. I can see why people like Collin Farell: he has a kind of Brad Pitt-esque "roguish charm" or, as my wife calls it, "mischevious little boy" appeal. He's interesting to watch on-screen, and probably has a wider range of facial expressions than Mr. Pitt, though I think it'll be some time yet before anyone is able to adequately evaluate his actual acting ability, given the roles that he tends to choose.

Now, my problem with the movie, and I suppose I should warn anyone who hasn't seen it to stop reading now, since I'm going to give away a major

PLOT SPOILER AHEAD

is that it suffers from what I call "Kiss the Girls syndrome,*" in which only two big name or reasonably big name actors are in a movie, with one as a point of view character cum protagonist, and the other in a role as an aid or mentor, but certainly not a MAJOR CHARACTER. One has to be the "star" and the other the heavy. It doesn't fail. So, twenty minutes into the movie, I decided that Pacino must be the heavy (because, really, who really cares if the girl was a double agent?), even though there appeared to be no real reason for him to be anything other than he seemed. The role was just too small, and more importantly, too sedate for him. And you know what? He turned out to be the heavy, in a "shocking plot twist" that "you'll never see coming!" In a way, I almost hoped that I'd be wrong and it would turn out to be just what it set out to be - all a game (that's what I love about Fincher's The Game, it was exactly what it said it was from the start, yet it still had you on the edge of your seat throughout), but alas, it wasn't. It did give Pacino the chance to do one of his incredibly obnoxious "Pacino-speeches," that I think he's yelled out in every movie since he won the Oscar (maybe not in The Insider, he was subtle Pacino there).

*I call it "Kiss the Girls Syndrome" because that was the first movie where I figured who the heavy was just by the casting. Cary Elwes may not be much of a somebody, but he's a much bigger name than his role in three-quaters of that movie. I'm sure that the scripts seem very twisty and interesting, but if you cast two big names in a flick with mostly non-brand name actors or bit players, and they aren't buddies, then one of them is the baddie, I can almost guar-un-tee. And it takes some of the surprise out of movies like, oh, say Unbreakable.

END SPOILER

I suspect that there are also a lot of Vonnegut references in the film, though since I'm not as well read in my Vonnegut as I should be, I only caught the explicit references to Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five, and the only slightly more subtle reference to Breakfast of Champions. I'm not really sure what the movie has to do with Vonnegut, but maybe there's a subtext there that I missed. More than likely, though, it was just the screenwriter showing himself to be hip with the literary set.

I was also going to talk about Ghost Ship today, but it's getting late, so I'll save that for tomorrow (provided I can even remember it tomorrow).

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Welcome to Blogosphere to my friends Billy and Jeff!

So, why Otto's Coffee Shop? When I was in college, Otto's on 39th street in Kansas City was the place to go to talk about, well, anything. It was kind of a retro-kitsch fifties diner, in all the right ways, that had been built into an old garage. On nice spring and summer nights, they'd open the garage doors and create a "patio" for people waste the night away chatting incessantly with the moon on one side and the florescent-yellow glare of the diner on the other.

My friends and I would go there after a concert, after a movie, whenever we felt like it and we'd just talk and drink coffee as long as the conversation lasted (till dawn more than a few times). And occasionally have chili cheese fries (they had the best chili cheese fries ever). It was *our* place to hang out and chat; no other coffee house or fifties diner in KC had quite the same atmosphere, and nowhere else inspired quite the same fervor of passionate conversation. We'd talk about whatever was on our minds, and often our server would jump in on the conversation (I'll never forget the night that Rudy, our favorite muscle-bound, ponytailed, Buddhist server, explained to us the religious symbolism of the movie Predator in excruciating detail). It's where I could go on any given night if I had nothing else to do and, inevitably, someone that I knew would eventually show up and we'd end up spending hours discussing things like who was more influential on 90s music, Pearl Jam or Nirvana, or who the best James Bond villain was and why?

Otto's was a special place for my small-ish group of friends. The few times I went back after college, it just wasn't the same. The whole place had a self-consciously "hip" atmosphere that it was lacking when I used to frequent it (at least in my perceptions). When one of my friends told me that Otto's had finally closed the garage doors for the last time, I wasn't sad, because the Otto's that I remembered had been gone for years.

So, I christen my new blog "Otto's," and hope that it inspires me to communicate my thoughts in as free-flowing way as its namesake did several years ago. Who knows, maybe some of my old friends will stumble across it and we can begin the dialogue anew. I can hope, can't I?

Hmmm . . . Well this seems to be working. Now the question is whether or not I truly have anything interesting to say. If I'm extremely thoughtful and erudite, maybe this blog will assume a place in the Blogosphere. Maybe this'll just be my corner of the web where I can type my thoughts and keep my sanity, and I don't have to worry about anyone actually reading it (in which case my friend Jeff will kill me for wasting *our* site name on this silly blog).

This is a test of the emergency blogger system. Should there be a real blogger emergency, this post would be followed by further instructions.

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