Sunday, October 28, 2007

NFL '07 - The League Goes To London; Or Whose Bright Idea Was This?

The New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins are playing today at Wembley Stadium in London, England. The Giants are 5-2 and the Dolphins are 0-7. Will anybody care?

Who thinks these things up, anyway? Did they pick New York and Miami because those are the two most likely U.S. airports for British travelers?

The Giants are having a decent year but Miami's a disaster. Couldn't the league put everybody on notice that someone's going to go to London in Week Eight and then send that week's best matchup?

Oh, but this is just part of the TV show that is the NFL. I forgot. The main thing is to show huge football players wandering around London and listening quizzically to authentic Cockney, as spoken by someone originally from Pakistan. That's a'right, innit?

Last week's quiet 8-6 narrowed the deficit a bit to 40-56-7.

NYG - 9.5 vs. Mia at London

Buf +3 at NYJ

Cle -3 at StL

Chi -5 vs. Det

Ind - 6.5 at Car (note: Indy defense has only allowed 95 points over six games - an average of 15.8)

Ten - 7.5 vs. Oak

Phi -1 at Min

Pit - 3.5 at Cin

Hou +9 at SD

TB -3.5 vs. Jax
NO -2.5 at SF

Was + 16.5 at NE (note: Here's where the Pats break down a bit. 'Skins have allowed 88 points - an average of 14.6 per game. )

GB +3 at Den (Monday night)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lesser Fu Manchus

Hot on the trail of the remaining Christopher Lee Fu Manchu movies, I hit a dead end. The films have disappeared like a mysterious arch-criminal into the wilds of the Central Asian steppes.

So I had to investigate other avenues to satisfy my curious new obsession:

The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) stars Boris Karloff as the good doctor and Myrna Loy as his daughter. Karloff hams it up, especially when he's got the guy strapped under the huge bell, but he can't rescue this turkey from deserved oblivion.
Mask is interesting as a historical curio; phrases like "You yellow devil!" would raise a plucked eyebrow today.

It's short, but not short enough. One coil.

Do these people look Chinese to you?

The Adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu is a set of four television shows from 1956, starring Glen Gordon as an entirely too Occidental version of the evil genius, and the decidedly Latina Loretta Luez as the bizarrely-named daughter Karamaneh.

Gordon ah-adds-ah rotsa ah-so raffs in a performance that would be embarrassing if anybody gave a damn, and the plots have a real Cold War paranoia to them - in one episode, Fu Manchu teams up with Adolf Hitler, who now sells insurance from a bunker in the South Pacific.

The "So Solly" stuff and the inclusion of the Red Chinese menace (as opposed to the Yellow Peril) earn this collection an extra half a coil.


Chino pants, aka "khakis," are of course the default trouser for Regular American Men, and the best around are made by Bill's Khakis.

The M1 model has a long rise and puts those stupid "relaxed fit" Dockers and crap to shame. In the flat front version, this is the pant your forefathers wore in the Big One, WW II.

The M2 is better suited for those who spend some time in the gym.

Both come in pleated versions; the M1 pleated is superior, with one forward pleat. The M2 has the more familiar double reverse, which because American men insist on wearing the pants at their hips like skinny teenagers, balloon out and look thoroughly absurd.

Bill's are not cheap; the standard chino twill is just a shade under $100 a pop. But the good news is for this price you can get them all hemmed or cuffed and ready to go from Hansen's Clothing.

Tip: Get your chinos cuffed, and get the cuff big - one and three-quarters inch.

I also got a pair of Bill's cords from them recently, and a nicer pair of winter pants I can't imagine.

Monday, October 22, 2007

From Kooky Calvinists to Fenway Fatheads

With the Boston Red Sox heading to the World Series again, I feel it is important to point out something to their fans:

Just because your team is good after all these years doesn't mean you should act like Yankee fans. Which you are.

In my day job, which actually takes place at night, I mingle with people watching the playoff games, and to a man the Boston fans are the most obnoxious of the bunch.

"Effing Sawx effing rule!" is about the most intelligent thing out of their mouths thus far, although I expect that sentiment to be exceeded during the World Series.

My favorite, though, was a comment on a TV crowd shot in Cleveland. "Theah ah some effing ugly people in that town," said one big thinker, who clearly hadn't taken a clear-eyed, analytical glance around the room.

And the New Breed, like their Yankee counterparts, abandon ship at the first sign of trouble. When the Indians were smacking around the preposterously-nicknamed "Dice-K" in the third game the assembled geniuses had some choice remarks for the Japanese import, material that might have been lifted from a WWII propaganda film.

(And what's with "Dice-K" anyway? Are you people completely illiterate? Even the broadcasters, who as a group possess the IQ of approximately one small doughnut, can handle "Matsuzaka.")

I much preferred the Red Sox fans when they believed in the Curse and trudged through life expecting the worst. They were grateful for whatever crumbs of good fortune came their way, and when their hopes were dashed, rebounded with New England stubbornness.

But now they're just Yankee fans with a different accent.

Effing Sawx, indeed.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The NFL - How To Go Broke Without Really Trying (Week Seven)


Last week's modest 8-4-1 showing brought the overall season totals to the brink of wretchedness, and at 32-50-7 all is not lost.

Unless I have a couple more 4-10 weeks.

I hate to bring this up at all, but frankly, the NFL is pretty damn dull. I watched the Yale-Penn game yesterday and it was interesting - fun, even. The players don't look like The Thing From Another World (above) and they don't prance after making a tackle.

The pros are impossibly over-hyped; the games can't possibly match the hoo-hah. And the ads - the relentless, dreary onslaught of ads, ads, and more ads.


When the broadcast of a football game takes four hours something's wrong.

Anyhoo, here goes:

NYG -9 vs. SF

NYJ +6 at Cin

AZ + 8.5 at Was

Atl +8 at NO

Bal -3 at Buf

Dal -9.5 at Min

NE -16.5 at Mia

TB -2.5 at Det

Ten -1.5 at Hou

KC -2.5 at Oak

Phi -6 vs. Chi

Sea -8.5 vs. StL

Pit -3.5 at Den

Jax +3 vs. Ind

Unabashed Commercial Dept.

Your basic football fan wears a licensed jersey when he watches the game. This is in case the person whose name adorns the jersey is injured; the fan can then magically step in for, say, star running back Honolulu Jones and save the day for the Port Arthur Potzrebies.

But if you want to create the impression in a lady's mind that you are not a complete moron, even though you spend an inordinate amount of time watching football on television, try wearing something presentable, such as a shirt from Mercer and Sons, caterers to the cognoscenti.

Mercer's standard blue or white oxford cloth buttondown collared shirt, in exact neck and sleeve sizes (none of this S-M-L-XXXXXXL nonsense) are what Brooks Brothers shirts used to be: substantial, durable, and enormously comfortable. Ironed and worn with a tie they are suit-worthy; unironed and worn under a sweater they are the epitome of cool casual.

And first-time customers get a break on the price of the basic blue or white ocbd (that's oxford cloth buttondown).

Sullivan says check it out.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Superior Fu Manchu; Kung Fu Too!

The 1940 Republic Pictures serial The Drums of Fu Manchu is just flat-out terrific. The episodes last about 15 minutes and always end with something evil or sinister about to happen.

Henry Brandon's Fu Manchu has a curiously high-pitched voice and sounds so similar to various characters created by Monty Python's Eric Idle that I keep waiting for Fu Manchu to command a Dacoit to fetch the comfy chair.

He also says genuinely Eville things like "He is clever, this young American. But not quite clever enough."

The male second fiddle gets the crap knocked out of him in highly entertaining ways. In the first six episodes, Fu Manchu drops this fellow in a tank with a killer octopus; abandons him in a plane with no fuel; straps him to a table with a sharp pendulum blade swinging ever closer, a la Edgar Allan Poe; and finally steals his face at the airport.

The guy also gets attacked regularly by Dacoits, Fu's henchmen, of whom there is an apparently endless supply.

And this Fu Manchu has some primitive martial arts fighting scenes that beat the usual chop-socky because, well, they're short.

I forget where I left off. The good guys, headed by Sir Nayland Smith, is trying to stop Fu Manchu from finding the sacred dagger in the lost tomb of Genghis Khan so he can start a war in Central Asia; Fu got away with the Karnak Segment or the Oshkosh Papyrus or something. The second disk with chapters seven through 15 is on the way. I can hardly wait.

No coils, just a hearty endorsement.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Cinema - The Incomprehensible Blood of Fu Manchu; The Dog-Ass New York Times Screws It Up, As Usual

(A typical night at home with the Fu Manchus and their guests.)

The dog-ass New York Times newspaper brings to mind an old journalistic saw: "So-and-So couldn't find his fanny with both hands and a flashlight."

The DANYT has a bunch of movie reviews on file, so that the legions of black-clad, skinny eyeglass-wearing freakazoids that scurry about the city can appear to know what they're talking about at parties.

So when Google turned up a DANYT review of Jess Franco's cheese-whiz deluxe production of "Blood of Fu Manchu," I had to look.

According to the DANYT, "Fu has discovered a rare poison which affects only men, and uses it as lipstick for ten beautiful women, who are to deliver a kiss of death to each of 10 public officials."

Wrong, dog-asses. The poison's in the snakes, and the snakes bite the women, who act as carriers, which if you'd been paying any attention at all to the film instead of trying to eat your hummus wrap and re-read your dog-eared copy of Truffaut on Hitchcock while hitting the fast-forward and yakking with your nasty fat girlfriend with the funky teeth and magenta hair...

The dog-ass reviewer continues: "[Star Christopher] Lee's wooden performance is alleviated by an amusing turn by Ricardo Palacios
as a revolutionary, and a beautiful female cast."

Does this mean Palacios played both a revolutionary and a bunch of beautiful women?

(Pssst - Palacios plays a bandit, not a revolutionary, but the DANYT wouldn't get that, being unrepentant Commies.)

(Ricardo Palacios, cunningly disguised as a New York Times reporter, after the company picnic)

And finally, the DANYT calls the film "entertaining, if extremely sexist," a sniveling liberal weeny cop-out if I ever read one.

In fact, Blood of Fu Manchu (1968) is yet another one of Jess Franco's films that makes you wonder how on earth this man ever convinced anybody to give him one red pfennig to do anything except go away.

His films are masterpieces of schlock and stock footage, clumsily glued together; day-for-night shooting, whether the so-called plot demands it or not; gratuitous everything, be it breasts, cocktail jazz, or beat poetry; and a heavy hand on the zoom.

Christopher Lee, no doubt happy to have a role that didn't involve false teeth, hams it up as best he can with his eyelids glued shut, wearing a satin nightgown, and with little in the way of lines except "Kill them," or "My enemies will receive the kiss of death."

There's some decent dungeon stuff, and enough with the snakes to keep the herpephiles happy, but mostly this is a typically disjointed Jess Franco piece of doo-doo, and one of the reasons Netflix is successful - if you use the service enough, renting Blood of Fu Manchu costs almost nothing.

Which is what it's worth. Six breasts, one fat bandit chief, three kisses of death. Snakes. Bad dancing. Bad mariachi music. Fat dictator. No plot but lots of characters. One coil.

The Cinema - How To Get Your French-Canadian Girlfriend's Psychotic Dead Sister To Turn Into a Scottish Werewolf and Kill Lots of People in California

Now that the New York Mets have completed their astonishing collapse and baseball is now a matter for detached, professional observation, I have returned to the couch in the darkened room to watch more of the World's Worst Movies (So You Don't Have To).

A trifecta of tripe today:

Zodiac (2007) is a well-meaning but ultimately tedious exercise, kinda like the book that inspired the film, if something so sluggish can be said to contain inspiration.

A geek cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle gets interested, then obsessed, with finding the identity of the Zodiac serial killer, even after the cops retire or fade away and the lead writer on the story for the paper drinks himself to death. There's some decent police stuff, a visit to a suspicious and disgusting trailer home that made me glad I don't keep squirrels, and a fine creepy scene in a basement.

But otherwise it's just endless crap: well-produced, mind you, but absolutely Snooze City. Half a coil.

Brian De Palma's Sisters (1973) is a fun (and blatant) Hitchcock hommage, but what really makes it a horror movie is Margot Kidder's having to keep up an atrocious French accent through the entire thing (a la John Cleese in
Monty Python and the Holy Grail).

A French-Canadian model, Danielle, meets a groovy black guy and takes him home. After a night of passion, he decides to buy her a birthday cake, but she stabs him with the knife. Or is it her crazy sister, Dominique?

(This split-screen scene would not have pleased Hitchcock, but it was 1973 and, ergo, groovy.)

A nosy reporter for a crummy little Staten Island paper happens to look out the window over her Selectric and see this happen. She calls the cops but they're too busy complaining about her articles to be of much use.

There's a lot of plot that gets in the way of the story, and a lot of Hitchcockian gimmickry: body hidden in more or less plain sight (Rope); private eye with dubious sense (Pyscho) is almost caught in the bad girl's apartment while heroine watches from across the way (Rear Window); ostensible star is killed off early in picture (Psycho); and so on.

We also get a look at the young Margot Kidder mostly nekkid, which doesn't hurt.

Stabbings. Body hidden in foldaway couch. Charles Durning in a jump suit. Bad French accent. French shrink. Evil mansion. Staten Island. Margot Kidder's gazongas. Three coils.

Neil Marshall's Dog Soldiers (2002) is a tight and extremely gory werewolf movie. The heroes are British Army reservists on a training exercise; they run into werewolves who are well-organized and very large and mean.

Eventually holing up in a farmhouse, they defend themselves until morning. Or at least that's the plan. It's a set-up very similar to that of the besieged citizens in
Night of the Living Dead.

And like that film, only one guy makes it.

Gallons of blood. Gobs of guts. Dog pulling on someone's guts, while that someone is still using them. Really mean werewolves. Evil Special Forces jerk. Dead cow. Cute girl who turns into a werewolf at the worst possible moment, thereby dashing any remaining hopes of a gazonga sighting in this movie.

Great special effects, in the sense that they are completely convincing without jumping up and announcing themselves.

Three and a half coils.


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