Friday, January 30, 2004

How excited am I for Survivor All-Stars? Come on, this is going to be the most entertaining thing ever in the history of the universe, aside from that New York, New York roller coaster in Vegas that makes you feel like you’re going to slam into the replica of the Statue of Liberty and instantaneously disintegrate. So forget the Super Bowl, here’s my pre-game analysis of the ultimate Survivor showdown. Please, no wagering. I have read no spoiler info and don’t plan to, so this is all just speculation based my casual (okay, obsessive) observations of seasons past.

Each of the three tribes has a dominant personality type, with one person sticking out as the obvious exception. Mogo Mogo is the Power Tribe – it’s got two winners and the rest are all top three finishers, with the exception of Shii Ann from Thailand (who got screwed by the non-merge fake-out). Soboga is the Nice Tribe – all the audience favorites like Rupert, Rudy and Ethan, but with much-hated villain Jerri from the Outback thrown in the mix. Chapera is the Big Mouth Tribe – hotheads like Sue Hawk, Boston Rob and finger-wagging Alicia, along with one of the most passive, invisible players ever, Amber. (Clearly selected for eye candy reasons after the more popular Colleen and Elisabeth declined to participate.)

Conventional wisdom has it that the previous winners will be early targets, and no one with a bigger target on him than Richard Hatch. But I’m not counting on Rich going too early. If Mogo Mogo can avoid tribal council the first time around, he may be good to go for a while. If they do go to TC, I think they’ll likely target the other winner, Jenna M. Her “charms” won’t work on this crowd.

If Chapera goes to TC first, I’m looking at Sue as their first boot. Come on, is this group really gonna put up with her for too long? I can see the two Robs scooping up Amber and maybe Big Tom and sending Sue to the vultures. If Soboga goes to TC first, I gotta think Jerri is a lock to be voted off, unless they decide to send off 127-year-old Rudy as a sort of mercy killing. But in the pre-show clips I’ve seen, Rudy still looks fit, so who knows? A Rudy and Rupert alliance would be Survivor geek heaven.

Anyway, it all starts this Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! Who knows exactly when the Super Bowl ends, but probably between 9-9:30 here in Central Time. Oh, and I’m picking the Patriots 20-13 over the Panthers. Go Pats!

The Big Bounce. I think mine is one of the kinder reviews. It really wasn't that bad, at least until the end.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

My final package of research materials from the underground has arrived - rarities from the outer fringes of redneck cinema. First there is Demon Lover Diary, one of the all-time great hickumentaries. If you've seen American Movie, well, this is that movie's evil twin. I've only seen it once, back in the days of Funhouse Cinema screenings at the Ritz (there's another one for the Golden Days of Austin list), and it's never been officially released on video. This is the description on the box I received today:

"Remember the 1976 film The Demon Lover? No? Most people don't. But thankfully the cameraman and his girlfriend thought to film the production and from that chaos of egos and miscommunication came this terrific documentary. This is the real truth behind no-budget filmmaking, with blood, arguments and gunshots all on display!"

As for the other four movies...well, once again I'll leave it to the box descriptions:

"Preacher and full-time cracker Estus W. Perkel teamed with the newly Christened Ormond family (Girl From Tobacco Row) to create a quartet of the most violent, sexually charged Christian scare films in history. I remember terrified kids in the hood coming home screaming from church after watching Jesusploitation bloodbaths."

"The Grim Reaper tells the sordid tale of a young father & race car driver who dies and goes to Hell. His family are haunted by visions of his burning forever! Now that's the way to get people to believe!"

"39 Stripes is more of the same mentally challenged hilarity!"

"If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? - The outlandish masterwork of the genre with Commies taking over and killing all the Christians!"

"The Burning Hell actually takes you into a cut-rate Hell of Angeresque demons, devils and carnage!"

So come on over! I'll make the popcorn!

It's starting to look like Spalding Gray didn't just go out to see a really long movie. Vanishing Act.

Here’s an interesting discussion of two books I’m looking forward to reading as soon as I have time to read again. (Which will theoretically be 30 days hence. Sleep is not in the forecast any time soon.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Here's the promo poster for the new Sopranos season:

It's not officially up on the site yet - I think this is a scan someone did from the HBO monthly guide, which is why it's kind of fuzzy. But man - that's one grim image, eh?

Here are some recent Google searches that led folks here:

you're fired + trump
apprentice trump you got fired sound file
difference midget dwarf
midget dwarf difference -sex –hardcore
gabe kaplan speedo [NOTE: okay, now you people are just messing with me]
Linden Larouche Libertarian
dunk tank wedding pictures
"champagne for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends"
redneck movies

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Well, what can I say? Sunset Blvd. is one of my top five movies ever. But if I'm really that fame and success hungry, I'm sure taking my sweet time about it.

Oh, and if you take this test and you get Schindler's List? Give me a fucking break already. Go back and take it again and be honest with yourself.

Apparently Jerry has lost some weight. Sadly, there's no "after" photo.

Oscar nominees.

I dunno, could be worse, I guess. Shattered Glass was robbed, though. At the very least it should have received a screenplay nomination and a Supporting Actor nod for Peter Sarsgaard. And where's Scarlett Johanssen? Was that a one-man show Bill Murray put on in Lost in Translation? I think not.

Anyway, the big Return of the King coronation is inevitable, so let's just get it over with.

Monday, January 26, 2004

It was, as best I can recall, January 26, 1996, when I arrived in Austin with my Ford Escort packed to the gills with all the earthly possessions I could fit in it. I left boxes of stuff behind in L.A. that are still unclaimed. Perhaps they’ve been given to the Salvation Army by now. But I digress! I’m here with Part II of my little waltz down memory lane.

Top 10 Things I Love About Austin

10. Daniel Johnston Mural. Pictured above, this is a longtime fixture of the Drag and was recently in danger of becoming part of my previous list. Sound Exchange, the record store that hosted the mural, is no more and its space is being taken over by…some taco chain or another, I forget. They were planning to get rid of this landmark, but the citizenry protested and the weird frog-alien guy lives! Which brings me to…

9. “Keep Austin Weird.” Come on, what other city would have a slogan like that? “Keep Shreveport Weird”? Give me a break. It’s the spirit of keeping Austin weird that buoys such oddball events as…

8. Spamarama/Eeyore’s Birthday. What’s weirder – an annual festival devoted to an inedible potted meat product or an annual festival devoted to a fictional donkey’s birthday? Doesn’t matter – we’ve got ‘em both here. If drum circles and fragrant hippies are your thing, Eeyore’s is the place to be, while if your pastimes include cramming pinkish squares of processed pork into your mouth, you might be better off at Spamarama. But if you just enjoy the spectacle, the outdoors, the music and the beer, why not do both?

7. The Book People/Whole Foods/Waterloo Records & Video Confluence. The Keep Austin Weird contingent also managed to stomp out a proposed super-Borders across the street from the valued collection of local shoppes. (Okay, Whole Foods is a bit beyond ‘local’ at this point, granted.)

6. White Trash Wednesdays! This is a judgment call, because it’s sorta still around and sorta belongs on the now-defunct list. Used to was, the city put on free shows at Town Lake on Wednesdays in the spring and early summer, and every trailer park for 15 miles around would disgorge its population onto Auditorium Shores. The bands were usually not so great, but they were beside the point – it was all about people-watching and drinking Red Dog tallboys. Now they’ve moved it to Waterloo Park, and the music seems to be a little better, but the crowds just aren’t the same.

5. Barton Springs, Hike and Bike Trail, Dog Parks. This is just sort of a round-up of outdoorsy Austin. It gets powerful hot here in the summer as you may have heard, but Barton Springs is cool all year round. The Hike and Bike Trail is scenic in more ways than one, and thanks to my boy Maury I’ve now discovered the hidden society of Austin dog parks and the fascinating social order thereof.

4. The Food! Okay, that’s a broad generalization, but I’m thinking specifically of: the migas at the Magnolia, the breakfast tacos and bagels at Jumbo Bagel, the tacos and chips at Guero’s, the chicken fajita salad at Kerby Lane, the Sergio Leone pizza at Frank and Angie’s, the turkey plate at Stubb’s BBQ, the fries at Hyde Park Grill, the chicken vindaloo at the Clay Pit…lordy, I should be dead by now.

3. The Dog and Duck/Lovejoys/Casino El Camino/The Carousel/Ginny’s Little Longhorn. Come on, I can’t be expected to pick just one favorite drinkery. Too many good times associated with all of the above (and honorable mentions to the Hole in the Wall and the Driskill Hotel Bar). The Dog and Duck and Lovejoys are best for the casual meet-me-for-a-beer, the Casino has the best jukebox and some good people-watching, the Carousel has the creepy-cool circus vibe and the eclectic mix of townies and hipsters, and Ginny’s has chickenshit bingo on Sunday afternoons. I’ve left live music out of the equation because…

2. The Live Music Capitol of the World! Well, maybe, maybe not. The city government surely doesn’t go out of their way to help the live music scene, much as they love to cash in on the nickname, and it seems clubs are closing left and right. But I still can’t imagine another place with such a variety of great local bands and venues. And with SXSW in the spring and now the Austin City Limits festival in the fall, music-loving Austinites are guaranteed a couple long weekends a year of total sensory overload.

1. My Peeps. Not to be a Corny Cornball about it, but none of this stuff would mean much without the good people of Austin, from my close friends to the local weirdos I enjoy observing from a distance. Otherwise I’d just be like Charlton Heston in The Omega Man, and who wants that? Special shout-outs to the Thursday night Survivor crew, the TDS crowd and my cohorts from the ol’ indie film days.

If I forgot anything, that only means there’s much more than 10 things to love. (Like the Alamo Drafthouse! I meant to mention that somewhere.) Here’s to the next eight years.

Wow. The Office wins Golden Globes for Best Comedy Series and Best Comedy Actor (Ricky Gervais). How did that happen? I would've actually watched the Golden Globes if I'd thought there was any chance of that.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

This weekend marks my eight year anniversary in my adopted hometown of Austin, Texas. Which means I've been here long enough to bitch about all the stuff that isn't here anymore. Don't get me wrong, I still love it here and at this point can't really imagine living anywhere else, but it's an Austin ritual to whine about the good ol' days, so without further ado...

Top 10 Things I Miss About Old Austin

10. Aquafest. Okay, I don't actually miss this. I'm just getting warmed up. Aquafest was a sort of county fair deal at Town Lake, with rides and live music and whatnot. I only went once.

9. Ruta Maya. This still exists, sort of, but it's way down south and just not the same. When you were dead-dog broke and starved for entertainment, you could always head for this downtown coffee house, pull up a spot on the sidewalk and watch the parade of nightlife go by. And, try as we might, who could forget the Spinning Guy?

8. Liberty Lunch. A legendary rock club, killed for absolutely no good reason whatsoever. Ween, The Cramps, Southern Culture on the Skids and the Prince Hoot Night were just a few of the memorable shows I took in at this venerable establishment. After unceremoneously evicting them, the city was going to help the club relocate, but that notion just sort of faded away.

7. Morningwood. Talented? Marginally. Lovable? Endlessly. Morningwood were five young ladies with more enthusiasm than musical ability, but we loved their tongue-in-cheek glam-rock anthems like "Mystery Date" and "Incestuous Town" nonetheless.

6. Jay Clark. I knew I would be moving to Austin when, while down here visiting friends, I walked into a David Lynch movie in the form of Jay Clark at the Carousel Lounge. We stepped out of scorching daylight into a dark bar with circus decor and a big pink elephant at one end. Sitting in front of it was a blind man at an organ, plunking out old Sinatra standbys while an older couple made their unsteady way around the dance floor. It was a beautiful thing. Jay had to retire a few years back, but fortunately the Carousel carries on.

5. The Indie Film Scene. If you read the local weekly rag, you'd think Austin is movie-making heaven. And I guess it is for Linklater, Rodriguez and the two or three other guys who get all the ink. But it seems like the group I first knew and hung out with here is defunct - either out of the game or moved elsewhere. There are a bunch of folks who worked hard, made good stuff, but never got their due. It's a shame, but this is a parochial town in some ways.

4. The Electric Lounge. Yeah, there was nowhere to sit most nights, and you had to wait a long time at the bar, and there was no ventilation so you had lung cancer by the end of the night, and if you parked your car too close to the railroad tracks you might never see it again. But it was an epicenter, dammit. The Austin Slam Team had their matches there, all the coolest bands played there, the indie film community (see previous entry) had their meetings there, my good friend Genevieve was employed there for a while, a bunch of us went there after fireworks on the 4th of July one year - it was just good times all around. Now it's some kind of yuppie cigar bar or some such.

3. Shoulders. Technically Shoulders still exist, in kind of the same way The Who still exist. They play once or twice a year, always vowing that this is the year they're really gonna come back and start playing on a regular basis. There's a couple guys who are always in the band and the rest sort of shift in and out. They were always erratic, so in the days when they played on a regular basis, you never knew if you were going to see a mind-blowing show or an interminable descent into drunken rambling. At their best, though - as a sort of unholy union of Tom Waits, the Pogues and the Shriner's circus - they could not be beat.

2. The Black Cat Lounge. Just about every Saturday night for the first three or four years I lived here, our little posse of near-broke bachelors would meet up at Lovejoys for a brew then head over to the Black Cat, where the doorman usually let us in free. They had Pabst Blue Ribbon for a buck. The Flametrick Subs and Satan's Cheerleader's took the stage at midnight. All hell broke loose. The night wasn't complete until a fight broke out. If it was summer, it was too hot to breathe. If the Cheerleaders were inducting a new member, there was an elaborate panty ritual. And the Subs could do "Folsom Prison Blues" in under 90 seconds. It burned down a couple years ago. Electrical fire.

1. Waterloo Brewing Company. Oh man, this is a travesty I still haven't gotten over after, what, three years? Every Friday for I don't know how long, I would finish up the working week with a pint and a couple of tacos at this place. Several times a year they had free all-day music festivals, always with great bands and around Halloween they had the pumpkin ale, which you wouldn't want to drink too much of, but you had to always have at least one. Now it's a corporate chain version of an English pub. I never have and never will set foot in the place.

Stay tuned for the much more upbeat Part II - 10 things I like about Austin that are actually still here!

Friday, January 23, 2004

I can't think of anything to write about today, so how about a contest? Identify this upcoming 2004 release:

Thursday, January 22, 2004

It's the wee hours of the morning after poker night at the "melon ranch." It's been years since I've had a regular poker game and I've missed it. I never played with this group before, so I was a little worried I was coming into a situation where I'd be the rube and they'd all be the sharks, but that was happily not the case. (Unless it was their strategy to lure me into complacency for next time.) I actually walked away from the table with $6.75 in profit, which I think made me the third biggest winner out of seven players. I'm happy with that. Plus I learned even more crazy poker games, including my new favorite, "Screw Your Neighbor," which is sort of the Survivor of poker games and at which I kicked much ass.

So - more poker in '04!

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Thanks to a consortium of generous individuals, I have just watched the 2-part Christmas special (and series finale) of The Office, which has not yet aired in America. I don't want to give away any spoilers here, but suffice it to say, I am blown away. I don't think I breathed for the last fifteen minutes of this thing (the two episodes total 96 minutes, so it's basically a feature film). The whole series was brilliant, but the wrap-up is genius in such an unexpected way, I'm pretty much an emotional wreck at the moment. Here's hoping BBC America airs it sooner than later.

Ach. Bad vibes abound. Innocent parties are distressed. Chaos reigns. But what’s done is done. And as a wise man (or at least a wiseguy) once said, “Nobody knows what the future holds, my friend.”

Okay, that made no sense at all. Moving on:

Pope did not endorse Mel Gibson movie. He did, however, endorse Torque and “that one with the hobbits.”

It sure was sporting of Dick Gephardt to drop out of the Presidential race so quickly, since I kept forgetting he was running anyway. Now I can only hope Joe Lieberman gets shellacked in New Hampshire and follows Gephardt’s lead. The quicker that horrid little gnome is out of my life, the better. I can’t say I’m displeased with the Iowa results – not that I have anything in particular against Dean or for Kerry, but I’ll take whatever little traces of democracy I can get at this point. I get tired of the whole concept of a front-runner we’re all supposed to line up behind months before anyone has even cast a vote. A real four-way battle between Dean, Clark, Kerry and Edwards over the next few weeks would add some much-needed juice to this dreary campaign. (I know Kucinich and Sharpton are technically still in it too, but I’m trying to confine my fantasies to planet Earth.) Let’s see who (if anyone) really has the fire for this thing. A Bush re-election may be inevitable, but maybe one of these dweebs can surprise us yet.

(Wasn’t that insightful and well-reasoned? This is why we don’t do politics often here on Moonshine Mountain.)

In other news, check out our latest link, the comprehensive website for the emperor and empress of North Adams, Mass.: John’s Library of Skulls. They got writin’ and pitchers!

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Out with the truckers and the kickers and the cowboy angels...

I'm trying to remember a time when every waking hour didn't consist of watching redneck movies, researching redneck movies or writing about redneck movies. I'm sure such a time existed, but not in the year 2004. Someday this war's gonna end.

Tonight I just could not take it. Had to get out of the house, and one of my fave local bands was playing two minutes away. A no-brainer, right? Except there's personal weirdness involved, so I did the ol' sneak in after they start playing, sit at the dark end of the bar and slip out before they finish. (Of course, a couple of the band members read this blog, so I'm not exactly CIA material when it comes to stealth activity.) Had a beer, listened to the music, felt like a Camus character, or Huck Finn at his own funeral. Was this the right thing to do? I dunno. It was interesting. Occasionally I'd glance over and see people I like sitting with He Who Must Be Disemboweled With a Red Hot Poker, and that wasn't so great. But overall, it was nowhere near the worst case scenario. Stayed maybe 25 minutes or so, then they started up a tune that hit a little too close to home and I made my getaway. Now more hillbilly movies await. Someday this war's gonna end.

Friday, January 16, 2004

It seems the 1000th visitor to Moonshine Mountain So I won't be giving out any prizes. Sorry.

Here's my review of Torque, a movie that does nothing to change the popular perception that the studios treat the month of January like a toxic waste dump. I so hated this movie, I guess I got a little carried away, since the copy desk busted out the red pencils for the last two graphs. They originally read:

Even gearheads who insist nothing matters but the action are bound to be disappointed. The racing sequences are so awash in computer effects, it’s impossible to tell if any actual stunts were performed at all. No matter what supposedly spectacular events played out onscreen, all I could see was a roomful of bleary-eyed techies hunched over their computers, compositing and rendering away.

This is director Joseph Kahn’s first feature film, but the press notes assure us that he’s won "armfuls of MTV music awards," which comes as no surprise. Credited scribe Matt Johnson had no screenwriting experience prior to Torque. He still has none.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

The Sundance film festival is getting underway and I’m somewhat taken aback to realize it’s been four years since my own Park City odyssey. The actual impetus for my visit was Slamdance 2000, where a movie I co-wrote and co-starred in made its debut. I’d tell you what it was, but truthfully, I don’t know what the current title is and I don’t think it’s available on video in this country or any other. Last I heard there was a lawsuit involved, but I’m not exactly in the loop. In fact, I wasn’t really in the loop even back then. I had been brought into the project by the director, over the objections of the producers, one of whom was the other co-writer. I was never fully able to shake my “interloper” status, and as a matter of fact, had to pay my own way to Park City, even though many other cast and crew members got a free ride on the production’s dime.

Still, they did manage to squeeze me into the condos they had rented for the week, even though I had to shuttle around a few times. The big payoff came on the last couple of days of the fest, when the financers of the picture left town early, thus freeing up their mega-swank condo for myself and a couple others.

Here’s the view from the hot tub of that condo:

Anyway, despite some friction with a couple of the people there, it was an amazing week overall. I’ll never forget tromping up and down Main Street with armloads of posters and flyers, stapling them to the bulletin boards, only to have to repeat the process a few hours later when they’d become completely covered by flyers and posters for other movies.

The highlight was the premiere party for our movie, the budget for which was roughly equivalent to that of the movie itself. The financers hired supermodel Rachel Hunter to host and flew Shawn Colvin in to perform. The place was packed, with many a celeb in attendance (well, Jason Priestly and Ethan Hawke, anyway). We were rock stars that night, but it didn’t exactly translate into buzz for the actual movie. We made the front page of the Arts section back home, with the local critic spending most of the article bemoaning the fact that Sandra Bullock didn’t show up at the party as promised. (But he did quote me a couple times. I can’t seem to find a link to the article online at the moment, unfortunately.)

Anyway, I’m not there this year. But I’ll get back there, maybe next year.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Seems like an awful lot of people are googling 'Moonshine Mountain' lately, and my humble abode here is currently #1 on the hit parade. But something tells me a lot of you folks are actually looking for this:

So just to be clear, if you're looking for increasingly psychotic ramblings about hillbilly movies, you've come to the right place. If you're looking for a snow tubing park, go here.

You may notice my posts here getting increasingly psychotic. I've got a book deadline in less than seven weeks, and I'm pretty much in all-work, no-play mode, which is only going to get worse towards the end. And since 'work' incorporates watching movie after movie about hillbillies running around swamps with shotguns, me poor brain is turning to grits. My timing is good, though, because this should all be ending just in time for SXSW and the accompanying revelry. I'm gonna be ready.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

OK, one more link. A movie adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has been in development hell for something like two decades. I believe the first director attached was John Landis (and what a monumental sack of crap that would have been). In recent years, Jay Roach, the man behind the Austin Powers movies, was slated to direct (see above re: monumental sack of crap and add even more crap). But now it appears to finally be moving forward, with actual British people in charge. I dunno much about the filmmakers except that they've made Fatboy Slim videos (hey, so has Spike Jonze), but the casting of the lead role is spot-on: Martin Freeman, Tim of The Office, will play Arthur Dent. More here.

(The above picture is from the not-so-good BBC TV version.)

Busy, bummed and braindead this morning, so it's a lazy links day.

Here's a profile on Larry David from the New Yorker. The first season of Curb Your Enthusiasm is out on DVD today.

Here's a weird one. Spalding Gray is missing.

Some condom chowder perhaps?

Survivor All-Stars lineup. Pictured above is the Mogo Mogo tribe: Colby, Kathy, Lex, Shii Ann, Rich and Jenna. I just like typing 'Mogo Mogo.' I think it will become my new rallying cry. "Mogo Mogo!"

Monday, January 12, 2004

What drives traffic to Moonshine Mountain? Is it my insightful commentary on today’s pop culture? My humorous flights of fancy? My tales of woe and heartbreak? Using the amazing site meter technology, I have compiled a list of the phrases Joe and Jane Q. Public have typed into their search engines, little realizing those phrases would lead them here:

"robert conrad" speedo

Lynda Carter dunk tank

Girl in a dunk tank?

battle network stars speedo men

chihuahua/beagle mix

jerry lewis blogger

female dunk tank

24 "ryan chapelle"

gabe kaplan speedo

how to cook turducken

"the office" gareth shorts DVD –horrendous

telly savalas speedo

Disturbing, no? Why bother trying to drive up your site’s hits with phrases like Britney’s wedding or Paris Hilton sex tape when what people really want to see is washed up or dead TV stars of the 70s in speedos?

Friday, January 09, 2004

The fifth season premiere of The Sopranos is still two months away, but already the sadists at HBO are running tantalizing promos designed to drive us hardcore fans insane with anticipation. Creator David Chase leaked a few small tidbits to the press yesterday – that Steve Buscemi will be joining the cast as Tony’s cousin Tony Blundetto (Tony’s cousin Tony? Isn’t that a little confusing? They couldn’t have called him Stevie Blundetto?) and that the season “has to do with the limitations of family relationships and friendships in a sort of materialist world.” (Hey, watch it with the spoilers there, pal!)

He also put to rest (I hope, anyway) the question that always drives me nuts: “When is the Russian coming back?” The Russian is, of course, the mobster Paulie and Christopher pursued into the Pine Barrens back in season three. He disappeared and the two wiseguys were forced to fend for themselves in the wild. Ever since then, no matter what happens on the show, there’s a huge contingent of Sopranos viewers who just won’t be satisfied until they find out what happened to the Russian. Did he die? Did he get out of the woods?

These questions always exasperate me, because they totally miss the point. That episode wasn’t about the Russian, it was about the shifting dynamic between Paulie and Christopher. It was a pivotal episode in which Christopher rose in Tony’s estimation while Paulie plummeted, and it had a huge impact on the fourth season. Tony began grooming Christopher as his heir apparent, while a disgruntled Paulie sold out the Sopranos to Johnny Sack, a move that backfired when he finally realized he’d been played. The characters have come so far since that episode, it would be totally pointless to bring back the Russian now. Anyway, as you can see here, when asked point-blank about the Russian, Chase says “He’s gone.”

Speaking of the idiot box, I did check out the premiere of the new Donald Trump reality show, The Apprentice. Hey, it’s a Mark Burnett production, I had to give it a shot. It’s basically urban Survivor (“This island is the real jungle," Trump tells us), with 16 would-be masters of the universe vying for the ultimate prize: a job as president of one of Trump’s companies. I see a few problems with the show:

1. Donald Trump. Does anyone really like this guy? There’s way too much of him on the show – he’s the host, judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one.

2. The prize. You get to work for Donald Trump? What the hell kind of reward is that? How about if you win, Donald Trump works for you. That would really get the competitive juices flowing.

3. All the contestants are people who want to work for Donald Trump or worse yet, be Donald Trump. When Trump gives the victorious women’s team a tour of his ghastly penthouse apartment, they stare in wonder and awe at their surroundings as he tells them that, one day, they too might live like this. I guess if you like solid gold, diamond-encrusted toilet seats, that’s something to strive for. Personally, I prefer my dwellings to be a little homier than the lobby of the Bellagio, but then, I’m not a multi-billionaire.

Still, I might give the show another shot. There is at least one spectacularly weaselly contestant who might make things interesting, and as far as reality show kiss-offs go, the Donald’s blunt “You’re fired!” gives even “the tribe has spoken” a run for its money.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

How about some new links for the new year? I've deleted a couple of inactive ones and added the following: The High Hat, the new issue of which will be up any day now, I'm sure. My page at Rotten Tomatoes, giving you instant access to hundreds of my reviews at the click of a mouse. The entertainment section of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where new reviews by yours truly appear most every Friday morning. A Violently Executed Blog, not only because it's "more fun than an alien rectal probe," but also because the proprietor actually reads Moonshine Mountain on a semi-regular basis and even comments, unlike the rest of you bums. And last but not least, the North Adams News Round Up, your one-stop source for the lowdown on the latest happenings in a peculiar western Massachusetts town.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Lordy. More evidence that cameras and alcohol don't mix:

Is it a publicity still from The Manson Family Christmas Special? Or simply Andrew, myself and Bebe after a few too many eggnogs? Feel free to add your own caption...

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

I’m up to my fascinating hair in deadlines, so it must be time to fritter away precious minutes blogging. Might as well round up a few year-end thoughts while 2003 is still fresh and festering in my memory. I did movies already, so how about music? I’m sure I must have purchased or illegally downloaded (just kidding! heh heh) at least a handful of ’03 releases, but not many are springing to mind. Let’s see, I picked up the new ones from Ween and Lyle Lovett, but didn’t end up listening to either very much. Warren Zevon’s grand finale The Wind isn’t as good as his two previous albums, but if the overpraise and high sales made his final days better, I’m not complaining. The Kill Bill soundtrack was a hoot. Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” video was amazing.

The CD I listened to most was actually (I think) an ’02 release, All Relationships Are Doomed to Fail by the Meat Purveyors. Well, there’s nothing like a great new heartbreak record that comes along at just the right time, and this one even came with a special ironic twist as the year wound down, which just drove the knife in further. And isn’t that what you really want when you’re licking your wounds?

Also, used a Christmas gift certificate to pick up two of the recent Dylan reissues, Nashville Skyline and Street Legal, and they sure sound spiffy. Especially Street Legal, which I always thought was an underrated album that unfortunately sounded like crap. But now it’s crisp and bright where it was muddy and dim – thin wild mercury music indeed. Now I’m gonna have to shell out for all of these, dammit.

Live music highlights were plentiful. The Austin City Limits festival in particular was an embarrassment of riches: Los Lobos, Liz Phair, Dwight Yoakum, the Gourds, the Damnations, Spoon and the grand finale, back-to-back mindblowers from Ween and REM. I got my money’s worth. There was also the peculiar ballooning festival in western Massachusetts, where Brave Combo, the Asylum Street Spankers and (especially) They Might Be Giants put on great sets, and I got to take a brief hot air balloon ride. And though it’s bittersweet to think about now, I had many good times at James Hand’s happy hour sets at the Saxon, Dale Watson’s chickenshit bingo extravaganzas at Ginny’s Little Longhorn, and many Trouble Down South shows at various drinkeries, most notably the venerable Carousel Lounge.

As far as television goes, season two of The Wire was tops in my book, along with both seasons of the brilliant British sitcom The Office. And if someone had told me a year ago I would watch just about every damn episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in ’03, well, that person would have had some explaining to do. But I did, and I suppose I have some explaining to do…but I’m not gonna do it.

What else? Live theater? Uh…none, unless Esther’s Follies counts. Books? When I finish writing mine, I might actually read one again. Final thoughts on ’03? Well, it wasn’t boring, I’ll give it that much.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Between 12 noon yesterday and 12 noon today I watched 24 straight hours of hillbilly horror movies. I had my reasons - it's all part of my forthcoming redneck cinema opus. The features, in order of screening:

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1-4
The Town That Dreaded Sundown
Poor Pretty Eddie
Motel Hell
Redneck Zombies
(abandoned after five minutes)
Southern Comfort
Hunter's Blood
Blood Salvage
The Hills Have Eyes 1 & 2

Here, as a public service of Moonshine Mountain, are the top 10 things I learned from this experience:

10. Ask nicely, and don't taunt the rednecks.

9. A man who whistles "Bringing in the Sheaves" is probably bad news.

8. Moonshine is flammable - use this to your advantage.

7. The sheriff is in on it.

6. The old man at the gas station? He's in on it, too.

5. Swamps ain't for skinnydippin'.

4. No good can come of picking up hitchhikers.

3. That shortcut that's not on the map? Don't take it.

2. Yes, that's your boyfriend's face, but that is not your boyfriend.

1. Don't eat the beef jerky.