Tuesday, January 31, 2006

 

Like HELL It's A Western



I started to post this at film geeks... but it's more of a political thing; one of my outbursts. So I posted it here, instead.

I read this in the paper the other day and just about launched out of my chair:

Western fans can rejoice once more. A tale of cowboys on the range is back in the saddle as lead contender for Academy Awards nominations...

Of course, Brokeback Mountain is not your father's Western, not John Wayne riding through all those John Ford epics, not even Clint Eastwood striding with anti-hero bloodlust in Unforgiven.

Set in more contemporary times, Brokeback Mountain is the story of two men who have a romantic fling as young sheepherders, then find their summer of love blossoming into a lifelong passion they conceal from their wives.


Whoa, whoa, whoa, there, buckaroo. Let's back on up here a second, alrighty?

First of all, regardless of it's merits (or lack thereof) as a movie, Brokeback Mountain is NOT a Western. It's nothing LIKE a Western. If Brokeback Mountain is a Western, then I'm Mary, Queen of Scots.

Just because the movie is set in a mountainous area and involves (I'm told) ranching and livestock and guys in cowboy hats who ride horses (among other things), that's no indication that the movie is a Western.

There are a few criteria for a movie to qualify as a Western, and Brokeback Mountain doesn't meet those criteria. As a fan of Westerns, I feel qualified to make the distinction. My favorite movie of all time is Unforgiven, and I've written a 10,000 page essay about it. I've seen more John Wayne movies and Clint Eastwood movies and Sam Peckinpah movies than I can shake a stick at. And, I enjoyed 'em. I enjoyed 'em quite a bit, and I enjoy watching them again when I get the chance. I can clear this up. I'm qualified for this job.

First of all, for a movie to be a Western, it must NOT tell the story of a man getting in touch with his feminine side. It must ABSOLUTELY NOT involve a man getting in touch with ANOTHER MAN'S feminine side... and it must ABSO-DAMN-LUTELY NOT tell the story of a man getting in touch with another man's backside. This is basic. Fundamental. There is no breaking this rule.

So, you see, right off the bat, Brokeback Mountain is not a Western.

Westerns aren't sensitive movies. They're not about sexual uncertainty, vulnerability, unexplored urges, or the sudden desire to rip Billy Bob's chaps off and plow the back forty, if you know what I mean.

Westerns aren't movies that make delicate affirmations.

Westerns aren't movies that open viewers up to consider alternative intimacies.
Westerns are movies about gritty, dirty people who smell bad and drink a lot and ride horses and occasionally end card-games by shooting one another.

Westerns are loud. Westerns are patriotic. Westerns are simple. Westerns are movies that make you want to play a harmonica, eat beans, brand cattle and protect Miss Susie's ranch from that damned double-crossing banker and his hired guns.

Nobody in a Western is allowed to ever tell another man that he's "never felt this way before." Ever. About anything. Nobody in a Western ever feels anything for the first time, and if he does, he gets drunk and shoots an extra.

There's been a lot of confusion about the idea of "gay cowboys" since Brokeback Mountain was released. Just for the sake of lucidity on this issue, here's a few visual aids that durn-well ought to clear things up:


GAY / COWBOY RATIO:
100% GAY.....0% COWBOY


The picture above is a "gay cowboy," according to the internet. This is one of the images that comes up if you go to Google Image Search and type in "gay cowboy." I DO NOT recommend doing that.





GAY / COWBOY RATIO:
70% GAY.....30% COWBOY


The guys above are Heath Ledger and Donnie Darko, the stars of Brokeback Mountain. I doubt that they're entirely gay... but I have had my doubts about Ledger ever since he broke up with Naomi Watts. No heterosexual male would break up with Naomi Watts.





GAY / COWBOY RATIO:
0% GAY.....100% COWBOY


This is a real cowboy. This guy started chewing tobacco in the bassinet. His bassinet was a hog trough. He once shot a man in Reno just to infringe on Johnny Cash's copyright. This guy is 100% straight. He doesn't know that homosexuality exists. He also doesn't know that toilet-paper exists.





GAY / COWBOY RATIO:
???% GAY.....???% COWBOY


This is John Travolta. I have no desire to hear from his lawyer.





GAY / COWBOY RATIO:
60% GAY.....40% COWBOY


This is country-and-western singer Kenny Chesney. He's a hard one to pin down. He sings songs about women, so he didn't strike me as gay when I heard his music. But his music is awful. And the first time I saw a picture of him... I mean, look at the guy. He looks like he's ready to cuddle up with the guy in the first picture. Then, he got married to Renee Zellweger and I thought, that seals it. He's definitely gay. Because Renee Zellweger looks like an undernourished Hungarian boy, right? Then, he got divorced from Renee Zellweger, so I got even more confused. Then I found out that he has an album called All I Want For Christmas Is A Real Good Tan, and I thought, yep, gay. Gay for sure.





GAY / COWBOY RATIO:
10% GAY.....90% COWBOY


This is Clint Eastwood. Eastwood is my hero, so it pains me to admit that I have a reason to believe that he's ten percent gay.

I hope it's clear that my intention here is not to knock Brokeback Mountain. The movie is getting it's share of heat, and I'll admit to having made fun of it in an around the water cooler environment. Nonetheless, I haven't seen the movie, so I can't condemn it. My wife saw it and she loved it. That's fine. Nonetheless, I'm not interested in the subject matter. Besides, I think that Heath Ledger's acting skills are such that, if you pushed him off a cliff, he couldn't "act" like he was falling. I don't plan to see the film, but I'm willing to concede that, as likely as not, it's "cinematically correct."

That's all well and good.

But it ain't no Western.


 

NEWSFLASH: Christians Yadda Yadda Yadda



OK, I'm the first to admit it... I'm a closed-minded, egotistical jerk. There, that's out in the open, there shouldn't be any need to debate that particular issue any further.

Having said that, I have to say that sometimes I just sit here, slack-jawed and dazed, when I read some of the things that reporters in the mainstream media write about Christians and Christianity.

Sometimes, I don't even need to read the stories. Sometimes, all I need to see are the headlines:



Yeah, that's a real shocker, there. Usually he screams about all the people he hates (in German) and throws things.



WHAT??!? Noooo! Surly you jest! Racism and Christianity aren't the same thing? Really? What about discrimination against cripples? We can still do that, right??



Oh, those crazy Christians with their hairbrained schemes. Next thing you know, they'll be wanting to build churches.



Good question. I mean, after all, they live in a culture known for supporting and encouraging religious diversity and for promoting womens' rights. Yet, they still cling to the beliefs of the heavily-armed terrorists that they're married to. What's up with that?

Like I said, I'm a closed-minded, egotistical jerk. Sue me.


Monday, January 30, 2006

 

Just Your Average Southern Conservative



Found this quiz over at MCF's blog. The results are below, under a large, pointless gap that the results code forces on blogs:












Your Social Dysfunction:
Normal



Being average in terms of how social you are, as well as the amount of self-esteem you have, you're pretty much normal. Good on you.
















Take this quiz at QuizGalaxy.com


Please note that we aren't, nor do we claim to be, psychologists. This quiz is for fun and entertainment only. Try not to freak out about your results.







What can I say? I'm just a regular guy.

A couple of interjections: One, "normal" people don't worry about what these stupid quizzes "indicate" about them, so I'm not really normal or I'd not have taken it. Two, I wish the people who put this quiz together could have come up with a "normal" html code for posting results, so that the table wouldn't look all screwy like that.


Friday, January 27, 2006

 

News Round-Up, 1-27-06



  • Soup Nazis!

    Charity groups with far-right links serving pork soup to homeless people face a crackdown by French officials.

    Protesters have accused the groups of deliberate discrimination against Jews and Muslims, who do not eat the meat.

    Strasbourg officials have banned the hand-outs and police in Paris have closed soup kitchens in an effort to avert racial tension.


    Just a few thoughts off the cuff about this odd story:

    French pork soup: Blech.

    I don't know that you can really call this discrimination... are these charity groups offering the soup to everyone? If so, then those who chose not to eat it are making their own choice. Isn't it enough that they're doing something for the homeless? Do they have to be told exactly what kind of food to offer?

    Blech. Seriously. French pork soup? Are you kidding? BLEEECH. I wouldn't eat it, either.


  • The Warped Passion Of Jann Wenner

    By now you've probably heard that rapper Kanye West is posed as Jesus, with a crown of thorns, on the latest cover of Rolling Stone. The gut reaction by those of us who find that offensive might be to ask who this smug rapper thinks he is. Really, though, it's those behind the scenes at Rolling Stone (like longtime publisher Jann Wenner) who should get the blame.

    In fact, as the Catholic League points out, West might just be a victim of the publishing game:

    At first glance, it appears that both Kanye West and Rolling Stone are equally culpable of misappropriating Catholic iconography. But on closer inspection, it looks like Rolling Stone deserves the lion’s share of the blame.

    West is a young rapper who is hard to peg. On the one hand, he eschews gangsta rap and likes to sing lyrics like, ‘They say you can rap about anything except Jesus/That means guns, sex, lies, videotapes/But if I talk about God, my record won’t get played.’ On the other hand, he is capable of saying plainly foolish things, e.g., the government is responsible for the spread of AIDS among blacks and gays.

    If it is true that West is a morally confused black young man, it is also true that Rolling Stone is staffed by morally challenged white veterans: they are to West what white boxing agents in the 20th century were to black boxers—rip-off artists.


  • Cry Me A River

    Michael Moore is sooooooo upset. His attempts to shape politics in Canada are working out about as well as.... well, about as well as his attempts to shape politics in the US.

    Neil Waugh, writing for the Edmonton Son, takes some of the vinegar out of Mikey:

    "Seriously," (asked) Moore in his (open) letter to his "crazy cold Canadian neighbours. You're not going to elect a guy who should really be running for governor of Utah?"

    I think we just did. And about time too.

    Have another doughnut, Michael. I think your blood sugar is running a little low.


  • You Feelin' Lucky, Punk?

    John Kerry has started using the "F" word (filibuster) with reference to Sam Alito. Virginia's Senator George is ready to open up a can of whoopass on Kerry, "Dirty" Harry Callahan style:

    “Well, hearing this news today, Senator Kerry must be feeling lucky because he wants to make my day. If Senate Democrats follow his advice, then I say we must pull the trigger on the Constitutional option. Senators should vote on this nomination and not hide behind partisan political processes to deny this exemplary nominee the fairness of a vote. Senators can vote ‘yes’ or vote ‘no’, but it is our responsibility to vote,” said Allen.


    YEAH! YEAH!

    I love George Allen. If you don't know much about him, here's a good interview that ought to fill you in.



  • Guess Who's A Weirdo?

    Guess who recently turned up in public, in drag, shopping with his kids? That's his picture to the left. I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count. Give up? Here's the whole story.



  • Thursday, January 26, 2006

     

    Feel Good



    This video is two and a half minutes long. Click it and feel good.





    Wednesday, January 25, 2006

     

    RIP Chris Penn



    One of my favorite actors died yesterday.

    Chris Penn, also known as "The Good Penn" to those of us who can't stand his brother, was found dead in his home. No cause of death has been named as of yet.

    Chris Penn was an amazing talent... just as good an actor as his brother. Apparently, though, he didn't think that being a good actor and knowing what's best for the whole world were the same thing. His brother never figured that out. Anyway, Chris was great... you might not be sure if you've seen him in anything, but he was so good in such diverse roles in so many movies, I'm certain you've seen him.



    My favorite Chris Penn performance, as the gonzo gangster "Nice Guy Eddie" from Reservoir Dogs, is probably his best work. Thanks to the popularity of the movie, Chris Penn fans can own an action figure of their favorite actor.



    As a farmboy who wanted to learn to dance, Chris was first noticed by the critics in Footloose. I'm not a fan of Footloose, but I'm always surprised by how many people don't realize that Chris was even in the movie.



    A small role as a detective in True Romance (among an outstanding ensemble cast) enabled Chris to steal every scene he was in, along with the Tom Sizemore as his partner.



    The criminally, CRIMINALLY underseen At Close Range might be the only movie Chris made with his brother Sean, I'm not sure. At Close Range is an amazing piece of cinema and boasts great work from Chris and Sean... plus outstanding performances by Christopher Walken, David Strathairn, Mary Stuart Masterson, Crispen Glover, and Kiefer Sutherland, who looks about twelve years old in the film.

    Chris Penn was an outstanding, under-rated actor. It is to his credit that I have no idea where he stood on any political matter. He didn't see his talent and his fortune as a reason to try to run the world. He'll be missed.

    Labels: ,


    Tuesday, January 24, 2006

     

    Stumbling Around On The Internet



    I started out at MCF's Phantasmic Links for the week, and from there I was able to picture myself on The Simpsons:



    Then, I randomly generated a Garfield strip that makes no sense at all and, yet, is somehow offensive:



    And then I read a great 100 step plan for being the perfect Evil Overlord.

    Then, once I left MCF, one click lead to another... as it often does on the net... and the next thing I knew I was watching some huge security guy smack the tarnation out of Glen Danzig, who may have deserved it. (Explicit language)

    From there, I wondered into a virtual cemetery, where I could generate the tombstones that suited me best:



    Next thing I knew, I was reading an article that made me pretty hopeful about the new POD album. I think that Satellite is one of the best albums of this decade. My hopes are high for the new album, considering that the last album they did was really crappy. I might pick up the new one soon, and if so, I'm sure I'll review it. There's a bit of a buzz threatening to build.


    Monday, January 23, 2006

     

    This Will Make Me Smile All Day





    I've written about Code Pink before. The quick synopsis: they make me sick.

    This is from the indispensable Michelle Malkin:

    Code Pink, the radical anti-war guerilla group that has hounded wounded troops outside Walter Reed Army Hospital, won't be monopolizing its street corner for quite some time. Seems they forgot to renew their permit.

    Oops.

    The permit now belongs to the DC chapter of Protest Warrior.


    Here's the long and the short of it... Injured soldiers, being treated at Walter Reed hospital, have seen this kind of thing, right across the street, for months now:











    Now, because the permit to protest on that corner belongs to the wonderful Protest Warrior, soldiers in Walter Reed see this kind of thing across the street this morning:











    God bless you, Protest Warrior.

    God bless you, American soldiers.

    And God Bless the United States of America.


     

    The Pictures Prove It!



    The main stream media is rejoicing today, having found photographs of the President with disgraced, crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff, of course, is the Washington insider who is believed to have bribed many politicians, most of them Republicans.

    Since the Abramoff story broke, members of the media have dug like rabid gophers, hoping to find something... anything... anything at all... that might link Abramoff to the President. The diligence has paid off. Today, stories surfaced that indicate that there exists FIVE photographs of Abramoff with George W. Bush!

    Well, THAT ought to do it. If those pictures don't bring Bush down, then the whole world might as well spin off it's axis.

    After all, everyone knows that Presidents very, VERY rarely pose to have their pictures taken with anyone.

    And when they do bother to have a picture taken with someone, it's ONLY because they are intimately involved in some nefarious plot with that person. There's really no reason to have your picture taken with someone, after all, other than as a souvenir of the cementing of your shared evil plans.

    Yep, if the president shows up in a picture with Abramoff, that's PROOF POSITIVE that he and Abramoff are undeniably, clearly, and unmistakably linked in a criminal activity of some sort.

    If you doubt me, just look at some of the VERY FEW pictures that have been taken over the past six years of George W. Bush. In each one, you see him posed with someone evil... someone he's plotting with... someone with whom he hopes to bring down the world:



    Here we see the President with Yogi Berra on his left. What, you might ask, is the evil plot that those two share? Come on! It's GEORGE W. BUSH and YOGI BERRA! Obviously, they plan to join together and DESTROY the English language.



    Here the President and some unknown evil woman plan to press their torsos together and crush the short, innocent woman who stands between them.



    Here's Dubya with an old man and an old woman. It's rumored that they plan to join forces so as to ensure that they can keep those damned kids off the lawn. Oh, how the youth have suffered since the George W. Bush presidency began!



    George W. Bush poses in this photo with noted wife-abuser, criminal, and Godfather of Soul, James Brown. In a desperate attempt to preserve his anonymity, Brown seems to have applied heavy eye makeup and lipstick. We see through his disguise.



    It's unknown exactly what the President was plotting with the Queen of England... but experts theorize that it involves silly hats.



    Unknown to Laura Bush (who insiders say is a sweet, innocent woman) George W. Bush has a second, secret family in Wallace, Idaho. On weekends, he sneaks off to the land of potatoes to live his surreptitious second life. Here, he poses with the other Mrs. Bush and their sons, Wally and the Beaver. Oh, if the two families ever find out about each other, you can imagine the comic hijinks that will ensue! Serves him right, the bastard!



    It's rumored by many that this man, Richard "Lon" Cheney, has been working with President Bush to take over the world. It's unclear exactly what their plot is, but the mere existence of this photo proves that they're up to something.



    Sometimes, Dubya's evil plots backfire. A few years ago, the President arranged a meeting between himself, his dad, and the most famously evil man in the universe, William "Darth" Clinton. It seems that the Bush family hoped to join forces with Clinton and destroy the universe with some sort of very large bomb. Clinton attended the meeting, but merrily spent the hour-long summit having the Bush boys "pull his finger." Here, he shows the photographer exactly which finger it was that he used to deceive the President and his father.



    Amazingly enough, by the time they got back to the car, Clinton had managed to con Dubya into pulling the other finger, too. They don't call him Slick for nothin'!


    Friday, January 20, 2006

     

    SouthCon Radio



    The other day I found out about Zoe's Radio Show, a really good podcast blog done by a 15 year old kid in ... uh, California, I think.

    One of the best things about blogs... audioblogs in specific... and the internet in general, is that it gives the average person a chance to play DJ. Zoe does a good job with her podcast, and listening to it really had me jonesing for my own younger days when I worked in radio.

    I had a lot of fun in radio. I miss it. It struck me that putting together my own audio podcast might be an entertaining way to relive my own youth a little bit, just generally have some fun, etc.

    Yesterday I was at home by myself... Wendy was at class, the kids were in school, I had nothing but time on my hands... so I grabbed some CDs, ripped a few MP3s, and put together my own "radio show" podcast.

    It was fun. It killed the morning, and I entertained myself.

    I decided to go ahead and upload it to the blog, but I don't have a very good audio compression program. I found some freeware, and with it I was able to compress the hour-or-so of material into a (fairly) small MP3... but it sounds like crap. It sounds like a transister radio in the next room.

    But, hey... like I said, I mostly did this to entertain myself.

    Anyway, if you'd like to check out the first (and, probably, only) "podcast" of Southcon Radio, you can stream it by clicking here.

    Just so you'll know what to expect... this is just an hour of music with me playing "DJ," like in the old days of radio. No commercials, of course... it sounds like college radio used to sound back in the late 80's. If you listen to it, you'll hear Morningwood, Ryan Adams, the Deftones, Better Than Ezra, John Popper... just various songs I like.

    There's no ranting from me about politics here. No ranting at all... just an hour of music that I happen to enjoy, and all you'll hear out of me is the names of the songs and the bands.

    I guess this is legal, by the way. I hope it is legal. Like I said, the compression makes the songs sound like crap, so it's not like it would be worth your time to try to download it and isolate the songs and rip them.

    If nothing else, I killed a couple of hours and had some fun. If you decide to stream it, I hope you hear a song or two that you like, and that the compression rate doesn't make the sound quality so bad that it's unlistenable.


    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

     

    McFat The Sixth



    More from MCF:

    1) As you all no doubt remember, back in October I wrote about popular bands picking up former vocalists of other popular bands. If you could choose any one band and any one singer that have never collaborated, and put them together as a new entity, who would you choose? Have fun with this one. You can mix and match styles and eras, and choose artists living or dead. You might even NAME your creation.

    This is an easy one. Answering questions like this is the primary focus of the daydreams that help me pass time at work.

    The dream lineup is as follows: Ben Folds on piano, Vernon Reid on guitar, John Bonham on drums, Vic Wooten on bass, and Rob Halford on vocals.

    The band would be called The Sleestacks, because members of my generation are at the age now where anything retro sells like hotcakes.

    .



    I won't bother including links to pages about the artists mentioned above. If you haven't heard them, and if you have to ask, you'll never know. Do yourself a favor, look them up, check them out. You don't know what you're missing.

    Of course, in reality, this band probably wouldn't work. Each of these artists is a virtuoso... each one is the thing to focus on when he's on stage. I don't know that any of them could slide into the background like all the members of a really great band have to do from time to time.

    Then again, the reason that Zepplin worked was because of Bonham's ability to BECOME the background. Plant did his vocals, Page did his solos... meanwhile, the reason the songs worked is because Bonham carried them. It is only the second or third time you hear any given Zeppelin album that you realize how damned awesome the drummer is.

    And Wooten carries the amazing Bela Fleck on his shoulders, so he could work out one outstanding rhythm section with Bonzo. Not every song would have to be all about the bass. It's just that when Wooten is playing, for me, it's ALWAYS all about the bass.

    Why did you have to get me started, MCF?

    Halford is just a great vocalist and he never gets the props he deserves. Period.

    And Ben Folds on piano? Forget about it. Jerry Lee Lewis invented rock piano and then nobody did a damned thing with it until Folds came along and perfected it.

    Vernon Reid, by the way, is the greatest electric guitarist ever. Because of that, he might be the weak link in the chain, in a perverse and surprising way. It might be that the band would sound like all-Vernon, all-the-time, regardless of the amazing talent that fills out the line-up.

    Ah, geez. I love rock and roll.

    2) How would you react in a hostage situation?

    Honestly, it depends. How are the hostages behaving? Are they giving me a lot of lip, or are they sitting there quietly and behaving themselves?

    Why have I taken these people hostage, anyway? Is this the result of another one of those long blackouts where I kinda "wake up" and find myself in an extreme and ugly situation and have no memory of how I got there? Man, I HATE IT when that happens.

    3) What is your favorite board game?

    Trivial Pursuit. No other game need apply.

    4) Which is worse, being buried alive or getting locked in a freezer? Include reasons and potential methods of escape.

    Once again, I'm going to need more information. Is the freezer on? Is there anything to eat in there? Is it ice-cream? Is it Moose Tracks ice-cream? How long will I be locked in there? Is there anyone else in there with me? Have I taken them hostage? Do I have to share my ice-cream with them, or have they brought their own food?

    How the hell did we get in this freezer? I HATE IT when this stuff happens!

    As far as being buried alive, what are we talking about here? Are we talking about being buried alive in dirt... or being buried alive in super-models? Is there ice-cream?

    Really, more information is going to be needed before I can do a feasibility study on this. I've just finished reading The Andromeda Strain and I'm in a pretty clinical mood, so be thorough. Spend 16 pages (plus two graphs and a map), for instance, telling me about the carton that the ice-cream will be in.

    5) In light of by the ”Draw Batgirl” meme I linked to yesterday, what other characters do you think would be appropriate for a similar meme? Hundreds of people with varying artistic abilities have rendered versions of the character. Some have been cartoonish, some amateur, and others professional. There have been countless variations and deviations, and all have been fun. I'm NOT asking for drawings(yet), so don't feel intimidated. Just name a comic character and at a later date I may choose one and invite readers to post their interpretations--and stick figures WILL be welcome.

    This, by the way, is the coolest incarnation of Batgirl... although I like it when certain artists draw this incarnation differently. Less like a super-shapely typical hero chick and more like a skinny, scrappy little street-hellion.

    And while looking for this, I found all these gnarly wall-papers.

    I suppose I'd like to see different people's versions of Venom. I'm not happy with the way he looks right now in the current Marvel titles... although I'd admit that there is room for improvement on the old-school Venom. Maybe Venom as drawn by the great Frank Miller would be pretty cool.


     

    Our Long National Nightmare Is Over



    Like most Americans, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and relief this morning when I heard on the radio that the feud between Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant was over.

    Shaquille O'Neal, of course, is an extremely popular actor and musician. If you've seen Shaquille O'Neal act, or heard him express his musical gifts, then you know that the man is art personified. It's a shame... in fact, it's a crime... that someone with his passion and virtuosity has had to support himself by selling things like hamburgers, candy-bars, cola, video games, shoes, and toys. I mean, why does the National Endowment for the Arts even exist if not to promote the artistic expression of visionaries like Shaquille O'Neal? Answer me that, Mr. big-shot congress guy.

    Kobe Bryant, of course, is an extremely popular accused rapist.

    I'm sure you can relate... and sympathize... when I say that the feud between O'Neal and Bryant had gone on for so long that I no longer even remembered what it was about. I just wanted it to be over. Every night I'd go to bed and pray for a peaceful resolution to this conflict. Why did it have to be this way? Why couldn't there be peace between our country's most talented artist and most beloved accused rapist?

    I did a little checking into it... because, like I said, I couldn't remember why they'd been feuding to begin with... and I learned some things:

    Apparently, both Kobe and Shaquille are or have been involved to some degree with professional sports. I think that, specifically, they've each had some connection to basketball. The disagreement may have stemmed from some sort of athletic competition. Isn't that amazing? As hard as it is to believe, this feud... which had torn our world apart for so long... was resolved on a basketball court.

    Peace was finally attained yesterday, when Shaquille approached Kobe as a friend. That's no surprise, considering Shaquille's famous knack for decorum. Peace was reached... peace in our time... and on Martin Luther King day. There is a connection there, as well.

    On the way home from work, I heard Kobe interviewed on the radio. I don't mind telling you that I was stirred beyond words when he expressed his concern that the bad blood between him and Shaquille might have negatively affected the many "African American yoofs" who idolize them.

    I wasn't sure what a yoof was, so I looked into it and that's when I realized the connection between Kobe, Shaquille, and Martin Luther King.

    As Kobe said:

    "...this being MLK Day, it's good for all the African-American youths (yoofs, as he pronounced it) out there who idolize us and look up to us to see that as being mature and putting everything behind us."


    I'm fighting back tears, here.

    And with that, we finally have the peace we've longed for. Remember, it was Martin Luther King himself who said "If I have a legacy... if I am to be remembered for anything... it's the hard work and countless hours I've dedicated to promoting peace between shoe-salesmen and accused rapists. The 'yoofs' of America, after all, need the best role-models they can get."


    Sunday, January 15, 2006

     

    Randomly



    I have never heard this band, but I am prepared to name them the greatest band of all time, simply because they have the greatest name of any rock band ever:

    The Eagles Of Death Metal

    Just thinking about the name of the band makes me laugh. Plus, their album title ("Peace Love Death Metal") is really funny, too.

    And, on top of all that, their lead singer, Jesse Hughes, looks like one of the Mythbusters.

    Actually, he looks like both of the Mythbusters.

    Now that I think about it, he looks like some weird genetic hybrid of James Hetfield, Gary Oldman, and one of the Mythbusters. Something tells me I may have just lost you with that one.




    What's this? Is it a photo of a transvestite prostitute and an angry dwarf?


    No. It's Eminem and his estranged, strange wife. They're back together again. And this time, sniff sniff, it's forever! Whooopie.




    I love this cartoon from this weekend's USA Today.






    I'm not going to put up the picture of the poor little cyclops kitten... but if you have the stomach for it and you haven't seen it already, click here.




    Happy MLK Day.




    Friday, January 13, 2006

     

    ALWAYS Use A Rolled Up Newspaper



    DOH! Stupid spiders:

    A 19-year-old broke his leg in two places while kicking at a spider in the NSW Southern Highlands.

    NRMA CareFlight said the teenager was flown to Liverpool Hospital in a stable condition from a property 25km west of Mittagong after the incident involving a large huntsman spider before 1pm (AEDT) on Thursday.

    The force of the man's kick at the spider broke his right leg in two places and also killed the spider.


    I'll never again tell my wife that her fear of spiders is irrational.


    Thursday, January 12, 2006

     

    SouthCon News Roundup 01-12-06




  • Green Pigs And Ham
    I read the headline that scientists in Taiwan had genetically engineered green pigs that glow in the dark. I looked at my calendar and said "Nope, it's not April first." So, I read the rest of the story, and, sure enough, scientists in Taiwan really have genetically engineered green pigs that glow in the dark.

    You know, I always thought that a lot of this genetic-engineering monkey business smacked of "playing God." I've had my qualms. I've put all that behind me, now. I want to extend my heart-felt gratitude and express my appreciation to this brave and brilliant team of scientists. Finally, somebody had the ingenuity to tackle the problem of pigs that fail to be green and glow in the dark. At last I think we can say without irony that, as a world culture, we really have put the middle ages behind us for good:

    (The scientists) claim that while other researchers have bred partly fluorescent pigs, theirs are the only pigs in the world which are green through and through.

    The pigs are transgenic, created by adding genetic material from jellyfish into a normal pig embryo.

    The researchers hope the pigs will boost the island's stem cell research, as well as helping with the study of human disease.


    Well, of course these pigs can help with human disease. They may not provide any information that will lead to the cure of any given disease, but I'm sure that sick people will at least have the opportunity to feel better if they're taken to a dark room and allowed to pet a glowing, green pig.


  • Wal-Mart's Planet of the Apes / MLK Mixup

    At first this struck me as just stupid and kind of funny... but then I thought about it, and I really think there might be another explanation here:

    Human error is to blame for an offensive link at Wal-Mart's Web site that recommended a film about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to potential buyers of a ''Planet of the Apes'' DVD, the retail company said Friday.

    The mistake resulted from a well-intentioned effort to promote a DVD about the black leader, said Carter Cast, president of walmart.com, the online shopping arm of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.


    OK, fine, but here's the thing... there is really is a connection between the message of Dr. King and the message of the movie The Planet of the Apes. At least, the original movie. If you've seen the original sci-fi classic, you know that it's really a satire, like the very best science fiction often is. The Planet of the Apes is a social satire, and it clearly mocks things like government-sponsored racial oppression. At least, that's what I got out of the original movie. Now, the Planet of the Apes material at the Wal-Mart website wasn't the original movie, it was the DVD set of the terrible TV show based on the movie. Still, it seems possible to me that the link to the racially sensitive DVDs was provided by someone with good intentions.

    It seems possible to me.

    Besides, this is one of those areas where racism is probably in the eye of the beholder. Wal-Mart could have taken the high-road and said that the idea of a racist connection seemed absurd to them, that only a real racist would think there was any kind of tangibly racial connection between a movie about monkeys and a movie about black people.

    But that's just me. I could be out in right field, here. You know how I get.


  • With Friends Like These...

    Isn't Great Brittan our alley in the war?

    A senior British officer has criticised the US army for its conduct in Iraq, accusing it of institutional racism, moral righteousness, misplaced optimism, and of being ill-suited to engage in counter-insurgency operations.

    The blistering critique, by Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who was the second most senior officer responsible for training Iraqi security forces, reflects criticism and frustration voiced by British commanders of American military tactics.


    This is an official British opinion, now. Not French. British.

    In a related story, the ghost of John Wayne held a press conference in which he accused the British military of institutional priggishness, moral ambiguity, haughty pessimism, and of being ill-suited to engage in WAR AGAINST THE UNITED STATES 200 YEARS AGO, BECAUSE WE KICKED THEIR GIRLY ASSES! BOOOYA! HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW, YOU RED-COATED SISSYMEN?!!

    OK, it really wasn't the ghost of John Wayne who said that. It was me. I'm sorry.


  • Some Scumbag Needs A Butt Kicking

    OK, here's how the foodchain works: On top, there's humans. Below that, there's the animals. Below that, there's the little creepy-crawly things you learn about in science class; the things that crawl in the mud. Below those guys, there's the French. Below them, there's compost and rot and filth. And below all of that, there's the kind of sleezeball who'd do something like this:

    Someone is trying to take advantage of the West Virginia mine tragedy by asking for support for the lone survivor.

    Several people say they have received e-mails, allegedly from a West Virginia University Hospital doctor, asking for donations for Randall McCloy.

    McCloy is being treated at the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning and is in critical condition.

    The messages, which appear to have originated in India, are fake.

    The scam has been reported to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.


    Just find the guy who did this, put him in a room, give me a rake and BB gun, and I'll take care of everything.


  • Judge Alito and the Democreeps

    Check out the Political Teen for a brief bit of video that I think is pretty moving. During his hearings, the liberal wastes of oxygen in the Senate have really been raking Sam Alito over the coals, trying to portray him as some sort of racist, sexist hatemonger. Senator Lindsey Graham took a moment to apologize to Alito. Of course, the cynics on the left are going to see this as nothing more than propaganda, just a well-rehearsed bit of spin-control by the Republicans. Whatever. It was clearly more than that to Judge Alito's wife. Seated behind him during the hearings, it must be tough on Mrs. Alito to hear her husband drug through the mud by people with the unimpeachable character of Ted Kennedy. Her reaction to Graham's remarks was pure and emotional, and it was one of the very rare "real" moments of American politics.

    Then, if you have any real doubts about Alito's character, check this out. Susan Sullivan is a former clerk of the judge's. She calls herself "a social progressive... a card-carrying member of the ACLU and a liberal pro-choice advocate who supports abortion rights... favor(s) gun control, support(s) gay marriage and oppose(s) the death penalty." This is what she has to say about her old boss and his nomination:

    As a liberal, what scares me is not the prospect of having Sam Alito on the Supreme Court; what scares me is the way my fellow liberal Democrats are behaving in response to the nomination. I’m appalled and embarrassed by the fear mongering, the personal attacks and what I see as an irresponsible and misleading distortion of his real judicial record as well as his character. Now the threat of a filibuster lurks, and Senator Kennedy’s tirade about documents being concealed seems like little more than a pretext to justify such a threat...

    In my experience, having worked closely with him, Judge Alito never allowed his personal or political opinions to dictate the outcome in any case irrespective of its subject matter. On the contrary, he approached every case, including Casey, thoughtfully and carefully. He was always open to discussion and argument and always willing to listen and consider all relevant points of view...

    If you really want a Supreme Court justice who will approach each case carefully, thoughtfully and will reach a decision irrespective of his own personal or political agenda, please don’t “F” Judge Alito.


    This is a woman with no political reasons to support Alito. Sounds like she genuinely thinks that he is ideally suited for the job. When I read stuff like that from principled liberals (FDR wasn't the last one?!?), I find it thrilling. American in general... and the American left in specific... needs more Susan Sullivans and Joe Liebermans ... and fewer Howard Deans, Ted Kennedys, Hillary Clintons and Michael Moores.


  • Female Hygiene Products Are Sexist!

    Ok, I admit, this item is goofy... but follow me here.

    Have you seen the new (I suppose they're new) Kotex television commercials? Here's a link to the one I'm talking about. The text of the ad goes like this:

    "Biologically speaking, women win. We get amazing curves, sexy hairless backs, miraculous ovaries... "


    The ad goes on to say that using Kotex brand products gives women more time to enjoy "feeling superior."

    Yeah, it's silly. It's harmless. As a matter of fact, I happen to agree with the ad. Biologically, women do win. Just look at a woman; the female form is the standard of beauty for the human species. Now, look at a man. We look like sparsely hairy apes who can't control any of our physical functions. Yeah, Women win. The ad is fun, and it's silly and harmless.

    It would also be silly and harmless if, for instance, Zebco did an ad like this:

    Biologically speaking, men win. We have strong backs, we can parallel park, and we have incredible testicles!


    Maybe the ad could end by encouraging men to grab a Zebco fishing pole and hit the riverbank and spend some time "feeling superior."

    That would be harmless, too... right? Right? Nobody'd get mad about that. Right?

    Sure.




  • Wednesday, January 11, 2006

     

    Three Movie Reviews



    I've got three movie review up at film geeks, if you care. And, all three of them are pretty good flicks:

    The 40-Year-Old Virgin (four out of five stars)

    The Missing (three and a half out of five stars)

    The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (A five star movie!)

    Ya know, considering that the past year saw the release of King Kong, Batman Begins, Wallace and Gromit, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Sin City, I really gotta say that 2005 was an outstanding year for movies.

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    Morningwood Rocks



    The best new album of the year (so far) is the self-titled debut by Morningwood. OK, alright, the year's just begun. I'll grant you that. I'll be surprised, though, if I hear an album I like more than this one between now and December.


    Morningwood kicks ass. Morningwood kicks all the ass. Morningwood is a weapon of ass destruction.

    Their debut album is really good. It's part punk, part disco, and part techno, with a little metal thrown in for good measure, and yet a totally 80's retro sound. There's no logical way on God's good earth that this mix should work, but it does. It should be a big mess... but it's just good ol' rock n' roll. The songs are catchy and fun, and the louder you play them, the better they sound. Standout tracks include "Nu Rock," "Jetsetter," and "New York Girls."

    Mark my words... 2006 is the year of Morningwood.

    Labels:


    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

     

    More On Captain Confederacy



    Just a little more on this item from yesterday...

    Captain Confederacy was written by Will Shetterly. Shetterly has a blog, where he mentioned that he'd seen the news story I linked to, and he contacted the reporter who wrote the story, saying in part:

    I'm surprised that your article mentions my web site, but doesn't mention that my email address is there. If you'd sent me email, I would've happily responded.

    Captain Confederacy is a science fiction story set in an alternate history in which the South seceded from the Union. The heroes are a multicultural group who ultimately overthrow the racist government. This may not have been clear to Jeanette Boswell because she bought the fourth chapter in a twelve-chapter story.


    Shetterly calls the story a "teapot tempest," and he's right. I've already given it more attention than it deserves, considering that:

  • It's a story about a woman who bought reading material for her son without reading it first, so she'd know what she was giving him.


  • It's a story about a woman who seems to have presumed that the comic book is racist largely because it's about the "Confederacy" and the south.


  • She apparently didn't even read the story herself after she decided to become offended, or she'd have realized that the hero fights against racism.


  • Once offended, she apparently alerted the media... ostensibly because it's the media's job to raise her kid for her?


  • The media reports the mother's assertion that "whoever is writing this" should "stop putting out this offensive material" ... and the comic hasn't been published for years.


  • The media can't even agree among itself about the specifics, with one outlet reporting that Marvel's press release says that the comic wasn't created by Marvel employees, and another media outlet reporting that Marvel says that the comic was created by Marvel employees.


  • Meanwhile, I guess the media's work is done here as long as everyone who reads the story continues believing that anything southern... specifically anything involved with the word "confederacy"... is as racist as hell. Sigh.


    Sunday, January 08, 2006

     

    Southern = Racist. Right?



    Well, of course it does. Just ask Jeanette Boswell of Stockton, California:

    STOCKTON - An 11-year-old boy and his foster mother are mad about unwittingly buying a comic book they consider racist.

    Joey Boswell received three comic books, Hershey's kisses, candy canes and M&M's in his stocking on Christmas Day. One of those comics, titled "Captain Confederacy," is set in a world in which the South won the Civil War and the Confederacy is a world power.

    "I saw the first couple pages, and I was mad," Joey said. "I was wondering, why is (my mom) getting something like this?"

    Captain Confederacy's superheroes are a blond-haired, blue-eyed muscle man wearing a red shirt with the crisscrossed logo of the Confederate flag and a Black female fighter, among others. The text contains derogatory references to Blacks.

    "Just stocking stuffers. Or so I thought," said Jeanette Boswell, Joey's foster mother...

    The comic book was written by Will Shetterly and originally published by SteelDragon Press in 1986. Epic - a label owned by Marvel - published a handful of issues in 1991...

    "I'd actually like to see whoever is writing this to stop putting out this offensive material," Boswell, 55, said. "The way they're doing this, it can really warp some young minds."


    Now, before you recoil in horror, thinking that some nutcase klansman has managed to get racist propaganda published in a kids' comic book, read on. This isn't as cut and dry as you might think:

    First of all, according to Blair Whipple, Captain Confederacy is not a racist comic book:

    This book operates on an alternate reality. What if the South had won the American Civil War? In this series, they did. Slavery was abolished sometime after their victory and before present-day. The United States and the Confederacy were two separate countries. In the 1980s, the South had its own government-appointed superhero in Captain Confederacy... It was a play on Marvel's popular Captain America character... This book has absolutely nothing to do with racial discrimination or anything like that, just so you don't get the wrong idea. It simply follows an interesting premise. Definitely interesting, plus he's got a cool costume! Give it a look!


    The emphasis above (and below) was added by me.

    W. Scott Poole explains a little more about the premise of the comic book:

    Captain Confederacy is set in alternative universe in which the South won the Civil War and North America has continued to splinter since the 19th century into political entities like Deseret, Pacifica, and the Peoples Republic of California (ha!). The Confederate States of America (CSA) has become a world power...


    What about the roles of women and blacks in this alternate Southern universe?

    Meanwhile, the nations of this alternate world each have their own super soldier, a la Captain America. Captain Confederacy, super soldier of the Confederate states, happens to be, in the modern era, an African American woman named Kate Williams. Dealing with the outcome, even an imaginary outcome, to the American civil war, forced comics writers to deal with issue of race and the place of African Americans in a world where the armies of Robert E. Lee had triumphed.


    But, wait, wait, wait! According to the Boswells, the text of the comic book contained derogatory references to blacks! Right? Well, turns out, there's more to that aspect, too:

    Not only does an African American female superhero (pregnant at the beginning of the series) represent the CSA, the southern republic also has a female President ... Meanwhile, a few diehard southerners are shown resenting the changes that have come to the CSA. These "White Knights" as they are called, are totally marginal in the modern CSA. Small groups of them are often seen protesting pathetically at airports and other public places.


    So in the imaginary south of Captain Confederacy, racists are presented as a pathetic, marginalized group... laughed at or simply ignored by those who know better. Hmmmmmm....

    Kinda sounds like the real south in 2006.

    Not that anyone in Stockton, California would believe that. Heck, they even presuppose a kind of powerful white racism in the imaginary south of comic books. I'd love to know what ideas they have about the real south.

    On second thought, I really don't want to know.


    Saturday, January 07, 2006

     

    Four Things: A Meme



    While I was away, I was tagged by Kristine with the Four Things Meme:

    Four jobs you've had in your life:

    Starting with most recent:

  • Production worker in a paper mill (menial, boring, physical labor)


  • All-around radio guy (DJing, copy writing, producing, programming, news, etc)


  • Part-time newspaper photographer (for a small-town local paper)


  • Fill-in assistant at day-care center for autistic children (because I was trying to score with a girl who worked there)

  • Four movies you could watch over and over:

  • Unforgiven


  • Goodfellas


  • Blazing Saddles


  • This Is Spinal Tap


  • Four places you've lived:

  • Alleghany County, Virginia


  • Lynchburg, Virginia


  • Beckley, West Virginia


  • Narnia


  • Four TV shows you love to watch:

  • The Simpsons


  • House


  • Arrested Development ... (Shame on Fox for killing a quality show)


  • The Kids In The Hall


  • Four places you've been on vacation:

  • Busch Gardens, Williamsburg


  • King's Dominion


  • Various places on Long Island (more of a family visit than a vacation)


  • We never go anywhere! We're homebodies.


  • Four websites you visit daily:

  • IMDB


  • Google News


  • MTV News (I'm not proud)


  • Various blogs (see my blogroll)


  • Four of your favorite foods:

    Warning! Clicking the next four links may cause uncontrolable salivation!

  • Rare steak (the bloodier, the better)


  • Chinese buffet food


  • Ice cream (my favorite is Moose Tracks)


  • Fresh, hot bread


  • Four places you'd rather be:

    I haven't been anywhere, so there's nowhere I'd rather be!

    Four albums you can't live without:

    Geez, I have to narrow it down to four? Off the top of my head, I'll say:

  • Pearl Jam's Ten (My favorite Album)


  • U2's The Joshua Tree


  • Glen Phillips' Abulum


  • Metallica's Master of Puppets



  • You have no idea how much it hurts to narrow my favorite albums down to a desert-island top-four. I have so many favorites.


     

    McFat Five

    McFat Five, the latest from MCF:

    1) I’m not on DVD, and I may never be on DVD as much as you wish I was. What am I?

    Dude, if you'd asked me this question a year or so ago, I could have answered it repeatedly. For ages I refused to buy Goodfellas or Unforgiven (my favorite film) because the DVD versions were paltry. Finally, decent and fully-loaded versions came out, and I own them both. The best answer to the question, however, would have been Mike Leigh's outstanding film Naked, which wasn't out on DVD for this region AT ALL. Then, a really nice two-disc set was released on September 20th of last year. Finally! This is a great movie, but it's very heavy. Like a kick to the gut. Watch it with caution.

    Last minute update:

    I just remembered an extremely funny britcom that used to run on the BBC: People Like Us. That show used to make me laugh until I was in physical pain. I wish it were on DVD, but it isn't. And, on top of that, I haven't even been able to find it in reruns on TV in ages. If you've ever seen the show, you know it's one of the funniest britcoms ever, and that it's absence on DVD is a tragic. The episode about the photographer made me laugh until tears were literally streaming down my face.

    2) It’s going to be cold and gray for some months to come. There are no good movies playing. You don’t want to venture far or spend a lot of money, but sometimes the four walls of your home conspire to drive you mad and you just need to go SOMEWHERE. What do you do?

    Used CD stores are like a home-away-from-home for me.

    3) If you had to give up one of your senses, which would it be?

    I guess my sense of smell. I wouldn't want to lose my sight or hearing for all the obvious reasons... and I imagine that just getting around would be impossible without my sense of touch. I love to eat, so I have to keep my sense of taste. I can't think of a single smell that I love so much that I can't imagine living without it... so I guess smell can go.

    Do I have the option of giving up my sense of common decency?

    4) This sitcom will NEVER be made into a major motion picture, not in a million years. Then again, it wouldn’t be that unprecedented. What’s the WORST case scenario, from sitcom choice to casting, that you could imagine?


    5) Now you’re a supervillain. Why? What has motivated you to use your powers for evil, what are your powers, and what are your methods and goals?

    The best supervillains aren't really intentionally using their powers for evil. The best ones see themselves as the good guys. Think Venom. Think Magneto. Maybe even the Punisher... although I guess we're crossing over into anti-hero turf with him. Anyway, the ones with a chip on their shoulder... the ones who see themselves as doing right...those are the ones I like. The supervillains who want to take over the world bore me. The ones who see themselves as stuck in a "me-against-the-world" predicament are the ones I really enjoy. I guess if I were a supervillain, it would be because I was trying to bring down corruption but going about it badly. Maybe I'd be LaborMan, a supervillain who traps and illegally imprisons corrupt union bosses because I don't think that the system will ever actually bring them to justice.

    6) Name one artist, in any discipline, who has affected your life in some way.

    I literally thank God for the artistic mastery of guitarist Tony Rice every time I hear him play.


     

    2005: Last Gasp




























































































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