Sunday, August 31, 2008
Christians Riot, Vow Revenge Over Sculpture Of Crucified Frog
The Christian street has responded with outrage to a sculpture of a crucified frog on display at a museum in Italy.
Demonstrators gathered in cities with heavily Christian populations over the weekend, burning Italian flags and waving signs that read All Who Mock Christ Will Be Beheaded and A Crusade On Italy!
Christian leaders Billy Graham and Pope Benedict called for "unending holy war" against the perpetrators of "this decadent insult to Christianity." A top Catholic official, appearing on Vatican-TV, said "The Christian world will not rest until the streets run red with the blood of these godless infidel art boosters. The voices of those who will not bow before Christ must be silenced."
No, no, no, wait. It's not Christians who respond with unhinged violence against those who mock and deride their faith. I must be confusing Christians with people who practice the "Religion Of Peace."
Palin's Acceptance Speech
I finally sat down today and watched this this morning and ... wow. She's really good. I'm impressed. If you're looking to get informed on Sarah Palin this is 26 minutes well spent:
Kinda makes Joe Biden look like an old wet sock, doesn't she? Hell, she's even got more charm than Obama. And I liked most of what she had to say.
So now we have to decided between two tickets featuring young'uns who'll need on the job training. One of them wants to get his OJT in the Oval Office. The other will have four years ... maybe eight ... to get her training done in the VP's mansion. No brainer, man.
Movie Review: Blue Velvet
A college student returns to his hometown to attend to his ill father. One day he makes a grisly discovery in an abandoned lot and soon finds himself neck deep in the town's hidden underworld of violence, drugs, perversion and corruption.
- It's a trendsetter. You may have never seen Blue Velvet, but you've probably seen movies made by people who love this film.
- Dennis Hopper is one of the best when it comes to playing psychos. This movie might be his personal apex in that regard.
- If you like weird you'll find plenty to like here.
- If you don't like weird this movie will annoy and/or upset you.
- The closing scenes are weak and feel contrived. I think director David Lynch may have been forced into an ending that just doesn't fit the film.
- You might feel the need to take a hot shower and scrub yourself with Ajax after watching Blue Velvet.
3.5 on a five scale. David Lynch fans often call this his masterpiece. If oddball cinema is your thing, this one is a must-see ... genre fans will, I'm sure, rate this movie far higher than I do.
I first saw Blue Velvet twenty years ago and I saw it again tonight. I liked it both times, but for different reasons. The first time I saw it I was just amazed by the balls-to-the-wall weirdness of the story and characters. This time I found myself entertained on kind of an academic level. I got a big kick out of the way director David Lynch and his cast seem to gleefully break all the rules of "good cinema."
There's symbolism in the movie, but it's overt and ham-fisted. Symbolic imagery is usually done with some subtlety. Symbols work best on a subconscious level. But in Blue Velvet, Lynch wanted everything in your face. So he cue's the audience that Blue Velvet is set in an idyllic little town with close-ups of flower-beds, white picket fences, and smiling fire-men, waving from the back of parade-ready fire-trucks.
Under the surface of Small Town USA there's an unseen criminal element that's just teeming with destruction and evil. Lynch lets us in on that early on in the film with yet another obvious symbol as his camera takes the viewers literally underground to see worms and bugs engaged in a chaotic death match.
Disjointed shots of a candle being blown out, relative to absolutely nothing in the story, sporadically signal the audience that some dark stuff is about to go down.
Kyle McLachlan's performance is, I think, deliberately wooden. He isn't playing a character here so much as satirizing an archetype. His character is Jeffery (not Jeff) who's so button-down and straight laced that he comes across like a mannequin, only not as hyperactive. As his reliable, respectable girl, Laura Dern is only missing the poodle skirt and bobby socks.
Kyle and Laura find themselves drawn into their town's dark side when they set out, Nancy Drew style, to solve a really neato mystery. But the underground in this town isn't an Eddie Haskel kind of scene. These bad guys are rapists, murderers, corrupt cops, perverts and drug pushers. Blue Velvet's bad guys aren't just bad ... they're evil.
As the damsel in distress ... a damsel who seems to relish her particular form of distress ... Isabella Rossellini is occasionally heartbreaking and often horrifying. If there's any subtlety in the movie, it's to be found in Rossellini's eyes. One important, late scene concerns Rossellini interacting with a child. She hugs the boy maternally, but her eyes briefly widen with a kind of numb horror ... and then the look is gone. Rossellini makes her character haunted and haunting, even in an ending that's far too upbeat for a movie filled with so much doom.
And then there's Dennis Hopper as a villain, Frank, with the strangest fetishes, addictions, habits, hobbies and motives of any movie bad guy in the last 50 years of cinema. This character is the psychotic leader of a psychotic gang, but maybe psychotic isn't the word. Maybe "psychotic" would be a step toward sanity for Frank. This guy physically attacks, verbally bludgeons, torments, tortures and kills. But that's not enough for Lynch. He wants to make sure that you know without a doubt that the Hopper character is waaaayyyy worse than anyone else in the movie. So Hopper's character is the only one in the entire movie that swears, and he slips the f-word into just about every one of his utterances. And then to put the icing on the cake, Frank seems to be playing it all for laughs. This is the creepiest of all of Hopper's creepy performances.
If this were another movie from another time, Blue Velvet's "evil under the rug of small town America" theme might play like a political statement. But there's just nothing political here. Lynch isn't interested in grand statements. In spite of all the bluster and bombast ... or maybe because of it ... Blue Velvet is really a movie about the quietest feelings, the ones we keep to ourselves. Paranoia. Dread. Grief. Loneliness.
Blue Velvet works as both a satire of and a tribute to a small town lifestyle that probably only ever existed in the movies and TV shows of the fifties and sixties. And it works, too, as a suspense film and a horror movie. It works in the same way that the best comic books work ... with a sort of earnest superficiality that's both compelling and cartoonish. The movie is obvious, outlandish and outrageous. It's also deeply sincere and sometimes very moving. You'll probably either hate it by the end of the first half hour or love it by the time the credits roll.
My personal favorite David Lynch film is The Straight Story, a low-key anomaly among his usually bizarre films. Some of his work has left me shaking my head, sometimes in confusion, sometimes with contempt. Blue Velvet is a weird film, to be sure. But when it comes to getting his weird on, Lynch never did it better than he did here.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Bring Me The Head Of Ray Ozzie
I don't mind that Microsoft owns half the world. Really, I don't. I just don't care.
But in exchange for owning half the world, I think that Microsoft should at least
PROVIDE IT'S CUSTOMERS WITH
PRODUCTS THAT WORK.
I hate Vista. I hate it with a raging purple passion that radiates from my shriveled little black heart and rains down vitriol on everything within a twenty mile radius. I am the Chernobyl of Vista hatred.
Now Microsoft has debuted Internet Explorer 8.0 and, like the abject twit that I am, I downloaded and installed the beta.
I might as well have taken a hammer to this damn computer.
I won't go into details because I'm afraid that thinking to much about it will make my head literally explode. You seen Scanners? Just. Like. That.
Crashes. Crashes and crashes and crashes and hangs and hangs and "Windows is searching for a solution to the problem" and yeah, right, tell me another one.
Avoid IE 8.0 like the plague. Avoid Vista like the plague. Somebody shoot me.
Friday, August 29, 2008
The Last Johnny Cash Performance
Watching this is like being punched. Hard. So don't say I didn't warn you.
I didn't know that this footage existed. It's raw, obviously shot by a fan from the crowd. Maybe on a cellphone, hell, I don't know.
This is from Johnny Cash's last concert. It took place barely a month after the death of June Carter, Johnny's beloved wife of 40 years. ("Beloved" isn't really the word, but there isn't any one word.) The date was 6/21/2003. That's two days before what would have been June's 74th birthday.
This is hard to watch. Cash was in terrible health and was probably dealing with as much heartache as a man can feel and still keep breathing.
As a matter of fact, Cash only lived a few more months. He passed on September 12, 2003.
Anyway, here's the clip. Cash talks here about having lost June and dedicates the classic Angel Band to her. If you can make it through this without your eyes leaking you're a stronger man than I am.
There are more clips from the performance at YouTube. Click here to see them.
I'll update this post as I try to educate myself on Sarah Palin rather than put up a ton of three-sentence posts.
It looks to me like a "hail Mary pass." A desperate ploy to grab the Hillary supporters and the undecideds. It might just work.
I don't know a thing about this woman. I just saw a picture of her for the first time a few minutes ago and I think she looks like Tina Fey, but a bit prettier. But I ain't gonna vote for "pretty." If "pretty" was enough, I'd vote for Obama.
My gut reaction is negative. I have a lot to learn about this woman. I wanted Romney for the VP pick. If this woman isn't every bit as conservative as Romney (and I mean to the RIGHT of McCain on most issues) then I just won't vote this November.
It's that simple. I won't vote. I won't choose between Gimmick A and Gimmick B.
UPDATE: 3:17 PM
“Governor Palin's story is one that all Americans will find inspiring. She's a Washington outsider with a commitment to the conservative principles that will make our nation stronger. I look forward to campaigning for Senator McCain, Governor Palin and Republicans all across the country.”
Sounds good. I'm still skeptical.
UPDATE: 3:24 PM
Holy crap. Half the websites I rely on for informed opinion and news won't load. I'd imagine some of these sites are getting slammed with traffic. Sarah Palin's official website as Governor of Alaska won't load. Other sites are loading for me, so I don't think the problem is on this end. Maybe I'll try to load the Daily Kos and see what the moonbats are saying.
UPDATE: 3:35 PM
At a blog called The Volokh Conspiracy I found some quotes from a Hillary forum to indicate that at least some of HC's supporters might get on board with this.
My question is this: Why, as a conservative, should I be excited that Hillary Clinton supporters might want to vote for the GOP ticket? Ya know? I mean, damn.
UPDATE: 3:49 PM
There's a decent profile on Palin at the Wall Street Journal. Apparently, this is the one and only bit of scandal that anyone can dig up on her:
Gov. Palin hasn't been completely free of controversy as governor. A flap blew up after she fired Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan on July 11.
He said afterwards that Gov. Palin and her husband had pressured him to remove a state trooper who was a former brother-in-law she and her family had feuded with. Gov. Palin denies that, saying she removed the commissioner she appointed 18 months ago because she wants "a new direction," and offered him a job as liquor board director which he turned down.
The case stemmed from a messy divorce between the trooper, Mike Wooten, and his wife, Molly, who is Gov. Palin's younger sister. In 2005, Gov. Palin alleged the trooper had threatened to harm her father and sister and that he had engaged in numerous instances of official misconduct, including using a Taser on his 10-year-old stepson and shooting a moose without a proper permit, according to state documents. In one instance, she told state investigators, she overheard him on the telephone threatening her sister: "I'm gonna f—shoot your dad. He's gonna get a lead bullet."
Mr. Wooten told investigators he tested a Taser on the boy at his request...
And if a ten year old asked you if he could jump off the roof, would you go for that, too? Idiot.
My reaction to this is a little emotional. Someone in my family used to be married to a real piece of shit cop (sorry, it's the only phrase that fits the guy) and I saw some parallels.
Objectively, I'd imagine this is a non-issue. The scumballs at the Daily Kos are referencing it as a Palin negative. If that's the best mud they can find on her they must feel pretty desperate.
UPDATE: 3:56 PM
Human Events says she's reliably, adamantly opposed to abortion on demand. That's good. I guess, then, that I'll have to vote for McCain/Palin because, if for no other reason, a McCain victory will keep the baby-hater out of the White House.
Palin is apparently also in favor of having creationism taught in the schools. That's bad. I don't know if I'd mentioned it before, but I oppose that idea. Simply put, my experience as a parent has been that most modern teachers are ill equipped to teach history or math, for Pete's sake. You think I want those same airheads influencing my kids with regard to religion? No thank you. I'll choose the religious education available to the kids. Let the teachers cover the basics of evolution (which I believe in) and hopefully they won't screw that up.
UPDATE: 4:02 PM
Here are two enthusiastic, Pro-Palin blogs: Beldar Blog and the bluntly named Draft Sarah Palin For Vice President. I'll see what I can glean from them. I hope they cite their sources.
UPDATE: 4:18 PM
The more I think about it, I think this might be a brilliant choice. The Obama team won't be able to hit her on her lack of experience because their own nominee has practically no experience. Practically speaking, Barack Obama only has half a Senate term's experience more than I do, after all. And professionally, before politics, he was a ... what's the phrase again? Civic Booster? Community Philosopher? Something like that. Academic Navel-Gazer is the best way to say it.
And the Obama campaign won't be able to hit the GOP with the "only picked her because she's a woman" card. Come on, you kiddin' me? After Geraldine Ferraro said what we all know to be true, I'm sure the Obama campaign doesn't want to revisit that flap.
UPDATE: 4:34 PM
Found some video:
I like that she's comfortable using a phrase like "It's cool." That's the kind of phrase real people use. Every time Obama approaches the "parlance of our times" he just sounds affected.
The NY Times is hitting her on the “What is it exactly that the vice president does every day?” quote. Of course they're taking it out of context. Watch the video, it's obvious she was being facetious. The entire quote in context:
"What is it exactly that the VP does every day? I'm used to being very productive and working real hard in administration. We want to be sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position; especially for Alaskans and and for the things that we're trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the US, before I can even start addressing that question."
In context it seems like she was implying that she'd not want to be the vice president unless she felt that holding the office would help advance the causes she believes in. I think she's saying she'd rather remain a productive governor than become a doorstop on the federal level.
In other words, I think what she said was a bit of a jab. Frankly, that clip made me like her a little bit.
UPDATE: 4:52 PM
OK, gotta run. Gotta go pick up my son. I feel, though, that the past couple of hours spent trying to learn about Sarah Palin has been productive. I like her. I'm still not convinced that she's a solid VP choice, but I like her.
Hey, if nothing else, she's much more ornamental than Joe Biden. Look at that picture at the top of this post, man! Looks like it came right out of Maxim magazine ... and in the next shot she'll be peering over her glasses with her top three buttons undone.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Does This Question Make Me A Racist?
I'm gonna ask a hypothetical question in this post, and I'm almost certain that there will be people who'll think that even asking this question makes me a racist.
But first, some back story:
I returned to work Monday after having spent two months off the job, dealing with cancer. Turns out, I haven't mellowed any.
Today at work I got into an argument with a racist moron. This guy happens to be a black racist moron. He's one of those guys who thinks that anyone who a) disagrees with him, and b) isn't black, must be a racist. Normally my tolerance of this particular guy is pretty high. He can be fun to be around. But today he was on a soap-box, marking today's anniversary by telling everyone that none of us know near as much about Martin Luther King and the famous I Have A Dream speech as he does.
It seemed that he thought that, merely by virtue of being a black guy, he was somehow better tuned in to Dr. King than anyone else. OK, whatever.
After several hours (literally several hours) of him boasting and berating everyone around him, I had had enough. I asked him if he really felt that he knew more about Dr. King and that speech than anyone else in the room.
He said that he did, and I asked him a few easy questions. Where was the speech given, what was the occasion, etc. Of course he didn't know and ended up looking like a fool.
This made him even more obnoxious than ever and he came over and started shoving a newspaper in my face and ranting about this and that. I told him a couple of times to get out of my face and he just wouldn't let it go.
Unfortunately, I sank to his level. I told him that he was probably the stupidest and most obnoxious person who worked at our facility (it's true, but there was no need to say it), and the back and forth between both of us involved some cursing and name-calling.
Finally he left the room.
A number of people told me that I'd said what they were thinking, etc. By then I was starting to feel a little ashamed.
It doesn't bug me that much, but I am disappointed with myself that I jumped in feet first with him when it came to cursing and name-calling. This guy really is very limited intellectually. I should have been able to make my point and left it at that.
Anyway, I started thinking about the upcoming election and a question crossed my mind. I'm sure there are people who'd call me racist for even considering this question, but I don't care. It did cross my mind and I think it's a legit question considering some of our relatively recent history.
So here's the question: Do you guys think there might be unrest, maybe even rioting, in the "urban areas" if Obama doesn't win the election?
The question crossed my mind because of the pushiness and cockiness of some of Obama's supporters. If asking the question makes me a "racist," then fine. Call me what you want. But it did cross my mind.
It looks like it's been a weird week in Denver, too. That picture of the stuffed Obama dolls to the upper right is posted at LGF. Those dolls don't look like Obama. They look like Nipsey Russell.
I liked Nipsey Russell. I'd vote for him over Obama any day.
There's been some violence and ugliness at the convention. Unseen posted video of some douchebag named Alex Jones screaming like a madman at all five feet of Michelle Malkin:
At Geekologie I saw this video:
Hey, not for nothing, but if a cop tells you to back up it's probably a better idea to actually back up than to scream "F----ng do it again!" in his face. I'm not saying that the woman in that video deserved to get knocked to the ground. But I am saying that she got what she seemed to want.
What's McCain doing tonight? Thanks to Hot Air I know that he's wasting some of his campaign money with this video:
What's he thinking, recording a gracious, friendly ad? The scumbags at Daily Kos, etc, are just going to question his motives and mock him. Does he think they're gonna give him an even break?
Total change of topic, but I also saw this at Geekologie:
That's right, it's a Christian rock version of Guitar Hero.
Look, I'm a Christian and I absolutely love rock music and this is a family that regularly enjoys the Guitar Hero game. And I can tell you this: 90% of "Christian rock" is just creepy, bland trash. It's neither Christian, nor is it rock. It's just bland elevator music that vaguely references religion.
Is there anything creepier than those commercials for "Christian pop" compilations, with those zombies in the crowd, waving their arms with their eyes closed? Man, I'm getting the willies just thinking about it.
Sure, there are some Christians out there who also happen to be good musicians, and their beliefs are often apparent in their lyrics. But the bands that market themselves that way? As Christian rock? That garbage makes my skin crawl.
I'm all for praising in song, but give me the classics in church. And give me real rock everywhere else.
That reminds me: Someday I'm gonna have to write a post about the time I let someone talk me into attending a "Promise Keepers" rally. It was, without a doubt, the creepiest, strangest, most unpleasant fifteen minutes (I bolted for the car) of my life.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Do Not Eff With Axl
A blogger who somehow obtained and posted nine tracks from the upcoming Guns N' Roses album has been thrown in the pokey:
FBI agents arrested 27-year-old Kevin Cogill on Wednesday morning on suspicion of violating federal copyright laws. Cogill appeared in court in the afternoon in a T-shirt.
Federal authorities say Cogill posted nine unreleased Guns N' Roses songs on his Web site in June. The songs were later removed.
Wow. Chinese Democracy actually exists?
Cogill's bail was ten thousand bucks and he'll be back in court on September 17th.
Now, of course, I'm far to upstanding a citizen to listen to nine illegally posted new Guns' N Roses songs.
But if I had heard them (which I haven't), I might say that a few of them are actually pretty good, that Axl's voice isn't any worse for wear after all these years, and that the absence of Slash is a real chink in the armor. I might also say that one of the songs is an overlong piano ballad in the "November Rain" tradition, and that it's the only song of the nine that I flat out dislike.
And I might say that two of the songs are really very good.
Of course, all of this is theoretical. These are things I might say if I'd actually heard the songs, which I haven't. And I'm not looking forward to putting the two songs I really theoretically liked on my MP3 player. Because I haven't heard them.
And that's all I'm going to say about that.
Oh, THAT'S Obama
I feel stupid. All this time I thought some whole other guy was Obama.
And, hey, if he can bring people together to get things done AND bang out that kind of awesome coffee-table beat, I guess I gotta vote for him.
Stephen Colbert And Medical Marijuana
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Notes Toward A Better Dystopia
A review of Soylent Green at Good News Film Reviews started me thinking about films set in a dystopian reality. There have been quite a few, and the ones I've seen have ranged from brilliant to absolute crap.
Merriam-Webster defines a dystopia as "an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives." Dystopian stories are often set in an imagined future of our own world. The story-teller often wants to send a message about the type of future we might be headed for if we don't change our ways.
Is there a firm set of rules for how to make a great dystopian movie? Probably not. But I'll offer a few suggestions, anyway. For what it's worth...
- Make sure your story makes at least some sense...
Terry Gilliam got so caught up in his futuristic vision while making his early film, Brazil, that he forgot to write a story. Brazil is a mess, full of bold visuals that don't have much impact because they're practically devoid of context. The film does hint at the talent Gilliam would display later (and futher down this list), but it was ultimately a meaningless, frustrating mess.
- ... but, then again, pure eye-candy can work, too.
The Matrix doesn't have much to offer philosophically. It's nominal at best in terms of story. The plot has something to do with a world where machines use humans as batteries. The reality we experience every day is an illusion created by those machines. Whatever. The reason The Matrix works is because the special effects are amazing. The Wachowski's sent a clear signal about the film the minute they cast Keanu Reeves. This isn't a movie about story, character or acting. It's just a big cinematic theme-park with enough on the screen to hold any viewer's attention. In later sequels the Wachowski's made the mistake of trying to convey actual ideas. Turned out that they didn't have any.
- Don't stray too far from your acclaimed source material.
In 1992, P.D. James published a wonderful science fiction novel entitled Children Of Men. The novel is both immensely entertaining and deeply thoughtful; full of interesting riffs on science, theology and the human condition. Unfortunately, Alfonso Cuarón's 2006 film adaptation scrapped the novel almost completely, disregarding all the major themes and even 75% of the story. Not surprisingly, the movie was a flop.
By contrast, Zack Snyder's upcoming movie version of the popular Watchmen comic books is generating a tremendous buzz because it is said to stick to the source material in both style and substance.
Both Watchmen and Children Of Men are distopian stories that hinge on an alternate version of our own recent past. And both books were successful because they were very well crafted. So why would a studio "option" one of these books and then almost entirely disregard it? How does it make sense to abandon nearly every element of the very material that drew the attention of the film-makers to begin with? It doesn't make sense. The movie makers behind Watchmen apparently knew that. Too bad about Children Of Men
- Cast Charlton Heston as the lead.
OK, so maybe that's not practical. But movies set in a dystopian future were a specialty of Heston's. Some of the dystopian tales that featured Heston were very good. Well, at least one of them was; the first Planet of the Apes is as smart and fun now as it ever was. Soylent Green (mentioned above) retains a certain worthwhile quality in spite of the fact that, in retrospect, a lot of it is just cheesy. And then there's Omega Man, which really wasn't any good but did inspire a successful big-budget remake. So working with Heston, at the very least, did lead to reinterpretation.
- Character first.
What's the point in telling a story about society gone bad if the story isn't relative to it's audience? Terry Gilliam recovered from Brazil with 12 Monkeys, a dystopian story that kept it's focus on it's characters. If you really sit down and examine this story about time travel, deadly viruses and underground revolutionaries, it falls apart. The reason 12 Monkeys doesn't fall apart ... the reason it is, in fact, very good ... is because the story is primarily concerned about the relationship between Bruce Willis as a man who says he's from the future and Madeleine Stowe as his psychiatrist (and eventual lover). Willis manages to give one of his best performances here, in fact. The movie's conclusion is highly improbable, but also highly emotional. Only well after the closing credits do you have time to reflect that the story didn't really make sense. But it doesn't matter then: You've already enjoyed the movie.
- When in doubt, animate.
For years there's been speculation about a possible live-action remake of Katsuhiro Otomo's animated masterpiece, Akira. Sony, in fact, is said to have scrapped a planned live action version of the film only after the budget topped $300 million.
Personally, I don't see any reason to make a live action version of Akira. In fact, I think it's a bad idea. Part of the reason that Akira is such a good film is because of it's brilliantly surreal imagery. A good film-maker can put all kinds of strange images in an animated film and convey exactly what he has in mind. Over the course of Akira's two-hour running time there are giant, menacing teddy bears, mysterious, floating telepathic children, and a character who's mutating arm seems to be on the verge of actually absorbing the whole universe. It's compelling stuff in Otomo's animated world. But those same images in a "real world" setting would probably seem perverse ... or random ... or, worst of all, silly.
- Bring the funny.
Dystopian tales don't have to be all gloom and doom. The idea of a reality that darkly parallels our own can make for great satire. Mike Judge knows that, and his 2006 film Idiocracy is a smart, brazen laugh riot. Idiocracy imagines a future of diminishing returns, where the stupid people have simply outbred the smart ones, and everyone on earth is an absolute moron. It seems implausible, but Judge's points are sharp and resonant. After all, it isn't that big a leap to go from "Thank you for shopping, have a nice day" to "Welcome to Costco, I love you." And is it that hard to believe that a society that could put a living action figure in California's Governor's mansion might eventually put an American Gladiator in the White House? Not at all. Idiocracy laughs in the face our our unavoidable, stupid doom.
- The Lucas Factor.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, George Lucas made a series of films about wars, rebellions and republics. The films are set in a world that is comparable to our own in many ways. There are six movies in the series. Only one of them is worth watching at all. That one was directed by someone other than Lucas.
You don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
More New Metallica!
Click here now!
This one reminds me of Through The Never and a bit of Whiplash.
I do kinda wish they hadn't posted this particular song. This one is the album-closer, according to the track listing at Wikipedia. I feel like I've heard it out of context.
I'm going nuts over these new songs. I've looked everywhere for a leaked copy of the album with no luck. Don't worry, Lars is going to get his money, I'm gonna buy the album on September 12. I'd just like to be able to actually listen to the damn thing now.
I've seen all kinds of sources for .zip and .rar files that are said to contain Death Magnetic, but they're all frauds.
PS - A note to 22 year old self-proclaimed "metal experts." I was literally listening to Metallica when you were still pooping in your pampers. You can't teach me a damn thing about what is or is not authentic Metallica. So shut up.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Some of the shots in this movie are really beautiful:
I think my favorite shots are the ones of the night sky. Those shots really provide a sense of the Earth in motion. I get a sense of wonder from those shots that I feel like I've been missing for a long time.
You can click here to read the credits for the video and to see the most annoying personal avatar (upper left of that page) that I've ever seen.
And I'm aware that this isn't YouTube, but I refuse to create a new tag for every "brand" of embedded video, so...
Labels: You Tube
Sunday, August 24, 2008
"Shawn Number Six Clown Of Slipknot!"
First of all, full disclosure: I think that Slipknot's album The Volume 3, The Subliminal Verses is a darn good metal album. Really, one of the best metal albums of the last ten years. I'm not proud of the fact that I really enjoy a Slipknot album, but there it is.
There's just something embarrassing about admitting that you like anything connected to a band that wears those painfully inane masks.
I also like Marilyn Manson a whole lot. The lyrics to "This Is The New $#!T", a seething indictment of pop culture, might be my favorite rock song lyrics of all time.
I'm just glad to get this out in the open. Ya know? So while I'm purging, I'll also admit that I once bought a Drivin' And Cryin' album on cassette. But I didn't like it and I don't know where it is now. So Fly Me. Courageous.
Whew. That really wasn't so bad. And you do feel better once you get it out in the open.
Anyway, below you'll find a video clip of a guy who who seems to be Waldo personified interviewing a couple of the members of Slipknot. The interviewer seems to be doing a character, kind of an idiot man-child thing. And the members of Slipknot seem to be responding earnestly, and yet the members of Slipknot actually come off stupider than the man-boy Waldo character. Maybe it's impossible to not come off like idiots while wearing those masks.
I got several laughs out of this four minute clip. And just to be clear, I was laughing AT Slipknot, a band which did an album that I like a lot, although it pains me to admit that I enjoy one of their albums.
My favorite part is "You hear all that metal? It's ON!"
Honestly, it's pretty bad when Flava Flav seems smarter and more savvy than you are. The Waldo guy interviews a number of celebrities at his YouTube page. Apparently he did (does?) his interviews for Much Music, which was like Canadian MTV back in the '80's and '90's. I don't think it's around anymore. Anyway, there are interview subjects going back twenty-odd years, including James Brown, Pierre Trudeau and Henry Rollins. The Waldo dude really does his research and manages to ask questions about some deeply obscure stuff, making some of these celebs viscerally uncomfortable.
(Now please click the comments link and read the obligatory "YOU SUXX!!! SLIPKNOT ARE BESST BAND IN METAL!!!!!!! YOU ARE ASSFACE STUPID MORRON!!!!" comments that this post will undoubtedly gather over time.)
Saturday, August 23, 2008
A Very Useful Political Site
Glassbooth.org is a very useful website with regard to the 2008 election. It seems to be totally neutral, it contains (and links to) a wealth of information, and it's just plain fun.
We've all seen those internet quizzes designed to assess your political leanings in twenty questions or less. Most of them, in my opinion, are unreliable. The thing that sets Glassbooth.org apart is that it assesses your political priorities and then compares them to the articulated positions of the political candidates, complete with quotes, congressional vote information and links to outside sources.
Here's how Glassbooth compares me to McCain, Obama and Nader on the issues:
If you click that graphic you'll see the detailed analysis of my positions vis a vis the presidential candidates.
At Glassbooth you can also see how you compare to the candidates who've dropped out of the race. I wasn't surprised to see that I line up with Fred Thompson on more issues than I do with any other candidate. He was the guy I initially supported.
I wasn't surprised to see that I compare least favorably with John Edwards. I've considered him the most liberal Presidential candidate in the last two Presidential elections.
I wish that Maryland's former Lieutenant Governor Mike Steele was on the list of politicians you can compare/contrast yourself with at Glassbooth. I've been saying for some time now that I'd like to see him run for President. From what I can tell, he and I agree on literally every issue. I'd enjoy seeing if Glasshouse supports my hypothesis.
And I was surprised to see that I apparently somewhat agree with Obama on more issues than I realized.
The real shock, though, was learning that Ron Paul and I aren't that different. For a while now I've considered Paul and his supporters to be very flaky. Maybe I should have learned more about him before I disregarded his candidacy.
Of course, each of us, no matter what we consider ourselves, is a hodgepodge of political opinion. I call myself a conservative, but if you were to meet me and if you and I were to only discuss the death penalty, immigration and marijuana legalization, you'd think me to be a left winger.
Fun. Interesting and informative, too. And I may have even learned a little bit about myself. I'm actually more liberal than Ralph Nader in at least one area!
If you use Glassbooth for a personal assessment, please share your opinion with me ... in the comments here, or in your own blog if you keep one.
"They say you shouldn't say anything about the dead unless you say something good. Well, he's dead. Good."
I couldn't help but think about that old Moms Mabley joke when I read this real obituary, written by a daughter about her mother:
... born in 1929 in New Mexico, left us on August 7, 2008...
...had no hobbies, made no contribution to society, and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life. I speak for the majority of her family when I say her presence will not be missed by many, very few tears will be shed and there will be no lamenting over her passing... I hope she's finally at peace with herself.
I've omitted the name of the deceased, but you can read all the details at Snopes. Either this woman was the queen battleaxe of all time, or her daughter is.
Friday, August 22, 2008
GAH. TOE. MIGHTY.
The first single from Death Magnetic, called The Day That Never Comes, is AWESOME!!
This clip is not a proper "video," just the single's cover art and the song. And that's all you need.
The first three, three-and-a-half minutes is just build-up. Once the song really gets going it kicks ass ... and everything between the five-minute mark and the end of the song is just pure Metallica in the best sense of the word. Man, it's good to hear Kurt shredding again.
Update: I've listened to the song four or five times now and I friggin' LOVE it. I can't get over how much it lives up to my hopes. It reminds me of One, what with it's mellow, ballady beginning and it's insane riffing at the end. If this is any indication of what the album is going to be like, I can't wait to pony up my twelve bucks to buy it next month. Lars, James, Robert, Kirk ... looks like you guys finally did right by your fans. Now, why didn't you do this in '91 to begin with and save us seventeen years of heartache? But enough bitchin'. Metallica is back. Long may they reign.
Update 2: Click here to hear short clips of several songs from the album. I'm downright giddy about this. I can't remember the last time I was this excited about an upcoming album.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
New Old Games
I'm the worst kind of gamer. I'm not sure what kind of nickname the hardcore gamers have for guys like me, but it's probably something like "lame old fart."
For starters, I prefer to play games on consoles, not PCs. I do play a few PC games, but I'm a product of the Atari generation and I believe deep down that if I'm not holding a controller in my hand, I'm not playing a game. Keyboards and Mouses (Mice? Mices?) are for work. Hand-held controllers are for gaming.
Probably my biggest sin as a pseudo gamer is that I'm stingy. I can't justify buying games for fifty and sixty bucks. It just seems like an outrageous price to me. So I wait for the prices to go down and by the time I get games, they're old.
And what's worse, by the time I spend five or eight bucks on an old game I typically put it in the console once for ten minutes and then take it out and never play it again.
And I'm really only loyal to a couple of franchises. I love the Halo games and I love the Splinter Cell games. But I love both of them for their stellar single-player games, not for the popular online multiplayer. See, I'm too cheap to spend the fifty bucks to get Xbox360 Live. So I've only ever played Halo 2 on line once and I've never played my favorite franchise, Splinter Cell, on line at all.
Splinter Cell, by the way, is the greatest video game series of all time.
But, yeah, I do see used copies of well-reviewed games for a couple of bucks on clearance now and then. And I've bought a couple of them. And this summer, thanks to two immobile months spent recovering from bladder cancer, I did have time to play a few of those untouched "classic" games that had been gathering dust on a shelf here. Thankfully, they were backward-compatible and would run on our 360 ... and, thankfully, the were still as good as their long-ago raving reviews indicated.
XIII (pronounced "Thirteen") is a first person shooter that's based on a comic book and it actually incorporates comic book style story-boarding and graphics into it's action and story. It's a first-person shooter with a little more than the basic "run and gun" repetition that makes games like Doom get old quickly. Some of the challenges are the usual kind, shoot the bad guys, protect the innocent, keep alive til the end of the game. But other elements of the game reminded me of Half Life in that you sometimes had to solve puzzles and gather information before you could advance.
The story of XIII is good enough that it kept me genuinely interested in which pieces of the puzzle would be revealed and what new twists would take place in each new level. The conceit is that you're a Jason Bourne type secret agent. You have amnesia, but pieces of your memory come back to you with each level you complete. So the story's forward motion and the character's backstory develop at the same time. And the game boasts some surprising big names in the voice-over rolls. Actors like David Duchovny, Adam West and rapper/actress Eve.
The games visuals are very steeped in comic book tradition, and if you don't like comics, you might find the game annoying. Panels pop up to show action, words are conveyed in speech balloons, and there are even visual representations of sound effects: THWK! Wham! TAP TAP Tap tap... I enjoyed XII. As of now I'm at about the half-way point and will probably go back to see the story through.
One complaint is that when I play XIII on our 360, I can't load my saved games from the saved games menu. Every time I try it takes me back to the beginning of the level. It's a pain in the butt, especially if in your saved game you'd made a lot of progress. I think this is a 360 glitch with this specific game, but I haven't found anything on the Interworld Wide Web-nets.
By the way, XIII has been turned into a TV miniseries with Stephen Dorff and Val Kilmer, and it'll hit the tube some time next year.
Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time provides a next-gen update of the original Prince Of Persia from the late '80's. This is a third person game that requires that you control the main character with some stealth, ingenuity and creativity. As a Splinter Cell fan, there was a lot here to appeal to me.
Basically, in Prince of Persia you spend half of your time fighting off hordes of badguys (sand monsters) and the other half of your time solving puzzles wherein you figure out how to navigate a room full of traps, perils and blind corners. The puzzle solving part of the game was what really hooked me. The battles, on the other hand, eventually began to feel repetitive. If it weren't for the fact that succeeding in battle is one way to level up, I'd have seen the battles as as an annoyance.
Another complaint I had with ...Sands Of Time is that the camera control is buggy. If you've played Splinter Cell, you probably know that a Splinter Cell addict like me is used to having total control of the game camera. I twirl the right thumbstick to where I want it and I see what I want to see and the view never changes on it's own, no matter what I do with the character. That's not the case in ...Sands of Time. Sometimes the camera movies to certain preset positions whether you want it to or not. This can really screw up your ability to execute the intricate button/joystick combos that are necessary to make certain moves and reach certain areas.
But then again, this is 2003 game with at least two sequels ... and I bet that camera control is better in the later titles. Just like XIII, it turns out that Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time is being adapted for the screen. It features Ben Kingsley and Donnie Darko and should hit theaters in May of 2010.
Armed And Dangerous is one of those games that tries to combine run and gun gameplay with humorous dialogue, madcap characters and silly situations. That's usually a bad idea. Games like that usually get old quick, the jokes wear out through repetition and the game play is usually bland enough to indicate that game design took a backseat to the writing of the jokes.
I'm happy to say, though, that Armed And Dangerous gets it right. The gameplay is engrossing and challenging, with enough variety and creativity to keep you wondering what the next level will hold. And the silly characters and funny story are, for the most part, actually funny.
Most of the humor comes across in cut-scenes, and if you're like me, most of the time you're only willing to sit through so much of a cut-scene before you're jabbing the A button, ready to move on. Nonetheless, I found the cut-scenes in Armed And Dangerous to be funny and interesting enough to actually watch. There's a heavy Monty Python influence on the creative team behind the story, and it shows. Some of their Pythonesque gags are actually fairly fresh and funny.
And some of the gameplay is funny, too. Weapons like the Shark Bazooka add a great twist to combat. What could be more fun than launching a shark into the earth, watching it's dorsal fin break the surface as it makes a b-line for the bad guy, finally to launch up Jaws-style and devour your nemesis?? Forgetaboutit. It's a riot.
Unlike XIII and Prince of Persia, Armed and Dangerous is not currently being adapted for the screen. And it's just as well. Any such adaptation would live forever in the shadow of John Candy's masterpiece.
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, long have you ruled. I've never played a better game. So with the next chapter in the Splinter Cell franchise pushed back until the second quarter of 2009 at the soonest, I decided to replay the game that I've enjoyed more than any other.
It might have been a mistake. I didn't enjoy Chaos Theory near as much the second time through as I did when I first played it a few years ago. Part of the problem was that I kept surprising myself with how much I remembered. I'd find myself thinking "Oh, yeah, that door is gonna burst open and five bad guys are gonna fly out ... let me get back here in the shadows and roll a grenade that way." On one hand it's kinda cool to have one up on the badguys that way, but on the other hand it totally lacks the surprise and excitement from the first runthrough.
I remember thinking the first time I played Chaos Theory that the Seoul level was extremely hard. This time it was just pure fun and I went through it twice on the harder settings. And I remember thinking after my first Chaos Theory trip that the final level had been far easier than I'd expected. This time, beating the last barrage of badguys was like shooting fish in a barrel. One smoke-grenade and it's a whole new world.
By the way there is still the prospect of a Splinter Cell movie, but it's in development hell and will probably never happen.
And that's just as well. What's the point in turning good video games into bad movies? Some "art" should be left in the medium it was created in. Reinterpretation in another medium is just unnecessary.
Still, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory remains my favorite game. Only time will tell if the next iteration in the Splinter Cell series will claim the crown. And, unfortunately, that length of time just seems to keep getting longer.
The Song Of The Moment
"I have spent most of my life (like most people) avoiding transcendence at all costs, mainly because the shit hurts. Merely defining transcendence can sometimes be painful. I once heard that 'Transcendence is the act of going through something'. Ouch. I see plate glass windows and divorces.
Someone else told me that it was 'rising above whatever one encountered in one's path' but at this point in my life that smacks of avoidance as well as elitism of some sort. I am compelled to look back on years of going through, above, as well as around my life looking for loopholes to redefine everything including any and all of the ideas that I have held close to my heart along the way - Art - Freedom - Justice - Revolution - Love (a big one) - Growth - Passion - Parenting (a really big one) - and I find that for me, for now, transcendence is about being still enough long enough to know when it's time to move on."
Steve Earle -- Transcendental Blues:
In the darkest hour of the longest night
If it was in my power I'd step into the light.
Candles on the altar, penny in my shoe,
Walk upon the water.
Happy ever after 'til the day you die,
Careful what you ask for, you don't know 'til you try.
Your hands are in your pockets, staring at your shoes
And wishing you could stop it.
If I had it my way, everything would change.
But out here on this highway the rules are still the same.
Back roads never carry you where you want them to.
They leave you standing there with the
Movie Review: Tropic Thunder
This satirical look at big-studio Hollywood tells the story of the disastrous production of a Vietnam war movie. In an attempt to get the actors to work together, the director inadvertently draws the attention of a Southeast Asian drug ring. The actors and crew must then go to war for real to save their lives.
- Robert Downey, Jr.'s performance is great fun.
- There are a hand full of laughs at Hollywood's expense along the way.
- Director Ben Stiller can't decide if this is a parody of big-budget action movies ... or if it is just another big-budget action movie.
- Jack Black is as tedious here as he's been in everything he's done since High Fidelity.
- Ultimately, this movie just reminded me of how disappointed I was in Chris Guest's For Your Consideration.
Two, maybe two-and-a-half on a five scale. There are three or four decent jokes, and Downey is awesome, but that's not enough to save the picture from it's director.
I had reasonably high hopes for Tropic Thunder. I am, after all, smack-dab in the middle of the movie's target audience. Movies about the movie industry itself (From The Player to Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back) are usually aimed at devoted movie geeks, like me. If you write about movies at your blog ... or if you visit Ain't It Cool news daily for movie news ... or, if you no longer visit Aint It Cool because now you read a newer, hipper, more underground film site, then Dreamworks made Tropic Thunder for you.
And the whole time I was watching Tropic Tunder I was thinking about For Your Consideration, Chris Guest's awful attempt to essentially cover the same ground. Christopher Guest and his reliable cast of improvisational actors do this kind of satire better than anyone else. But their take on their own industry was an unwatchable mess. So I shouldn't have been surprised that the relatively insubstantial Ben Stiller can't really walk this line, either.
There's an unfortunate quality of restraint about these movies. Maybe the film industry itself is just too close to the heart for Hollywood types to really skewer it. Maybe it's like making fun of your own mother; you might kid and joke with your mom from time to time, but in the end you're going to pull your punches. Of course you are, it's your mom.
So instead of really going for the throat, Stiller has handed in a by-the-numbers light action movie with a few decent "insider" jokes.
Tropic Thunder has come under fire for scenes that may or may not be insulting to mentally handicapped people. My take on the controversy was that the protesters had missed the point. Based on the previews, the movie seemed to lampoon the vacuous Hollywood types who really do exploit the mentally handicapped with heavy-handed movies like I Am Sam and The Other Sister. How is it not insulting when Sean Penn plays a mentally handicapped person and gets an Oscar nomination because he just seemed so retarded? I thought that Tropic Thunder probably aimed to mock that kind of Hollywood hubris.
Now that I've seen the movie I'm fairly surprised to realize that the only minority this movie really does make fun of is Asians. The Asian characters here are straight out of a 1940's Merrie Melodies cartoon. I have to wonder why Asian Americans haven't been protesting the film. Maybe it's because the majority of Asian Americans realize that a mediocre Ben Stiller movie isn't worth protesting.
Still, Tropic Thunder isn't a total washout. There are a few good jokes along the way. Best of all, Robert Downey Jr.'s performance as a "high art" white Australian actor who has "pigmentation surgery" in order to play a black American is absolutely dead-on. This character is one of those "method actors" who refused to come out of character until it was time to record the DVD commentary track. What Downey is doing here is really remarkable. He's satirizing high-concept, "total immersion" acting ... but he's handing in a high concept, "total immersion" performance himself. His character is so full of BS that it's practically seeping out his ears. He thinks he's somehow channeling his "inner blackness," and he can't figure out why the one real black person on the set can't stand him. This is the kind of straight-faced, irony-free performance that makes for good satire. It's very funny, because Downey really is a great actor, but also because the material written for Downey is the best material in the script. Stiller and his co-writers were on target with this character, and Downey plays it right down the middle with remarkable comic success. It's a shame that it's really the only element of the film that works.
There's also a performance by Tom Cruise as a creepy, manic studio head. Ultimately, though, that performance is just a reminder that in real life, Tom Cruise really is kinda creepy and manic. Stiller's performance is very Stilleresque, which is another way of saying that it's totally forgettable. And Matthew McConaughey as an actor's agent is stuck with the role that Owen Wilson was probably supposed to play. Apparently McConaughey and Wilson are interchangeably bland.
And then there's Jack Black. Why does this overrated pantload keep getting staring roles?
Tropic Thunder is a frustrating movie, especially if you're the kind of movie geek that would want to see it in the first place. There was potential here for a very funny, smart, topical film. It just doesn't seem like anyone here really wanted to make that film. Instead, we're left with an uneven action comedy. Been there, done that, lost interest a long time ago.
Obama's Chickens Are Coming Home To Vote
If I lived in Mandeville, Louisiana, I'd be buying my insurance from the no-nonsense State Farm agent Bud Gregg:
I gotta like a guy who risks offending a few folks and maybe losing a customer or two in the interest of conveying a message he really believes in.
The fact that I happen to agree with Mr. Gregg's message might influence my opinion, of course.
Snopes verifies that the signs were real, although Bud has taken them down at the behest of State Farm.
It's doubtful that Obama actually said the quote attributed to him about changing the greatest nation in the world. At least, it's doubtful that he said it in so many words. But it does seem to sum up the tenor of his whole campaign.
Obama's lead in the polls is slipping away and he's panicking about it.
Part of the problem is that he knows he won't win unless he convinces some pro-lifers to vote for him. He's made some efforts in that direction, but he really crapped in his hat when he tried to pass off a soundbyte as a serious answer when Rick Warren asked him about abortion:
Obama ... told Pastor Rick Warren during a nationally televised forum that deciding when the rights of personhood should be extended to the unborn was "above my pay grade." Even Doug Kmiec, a conservative Pepperdine University lawyer who has become one of Mr. Obama's most prominent pro-life backers, was unsettled. He called the candidate's answer "much too glib for something this serious."
Well, that's the thing, though. Abortion is "something this serious" to those of us who see it for what it is. To people like Obama it's just a political token to be played with hopefully the best possible results.
Oh, but it gets deeper:
Mr. Obama compounded his problems after the forum when in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, he accused pro-life groups of "lying" about his record in the Illinois State Senate on legislation that would have protected viable babies born after botched abortions. Mr. Obama acknowledged voting against the bill but said he would have voted "yes" if the bill had contained language similar to a federal bill's language making clear that the intention wasn't to diminish overall abortion rights. But, as recently revealed, the Illinois bill had indeed included such language and Mr. Obama still voted against it...
...Mr. Obama is now in the difficult position of trying to explain why he voted against a bill that the legislative record shows addressed infanticide rather than abortion.
Emphasis above is mine.
Obama voted against the bill, knowing full well that it contained essentially the same wording as the federal bill, because he did not believe that protecting living, born infants is as important as shoring up Roe v. Wade. This is how Obama explained his vote in Illinois at the time:
"Number one, whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a — a child, a nine-month-old — child that was delivered to term. That determination, then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it — it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an antiabortion statute."
This is all easy to explain: Barack Obama is lying to try to win votes. He is lying to pro-lifers because he believes that we're stupid people. He knows that the majority of pro-lifers have a mindset steeped in religious tradition, and we all know what he thinks of religious conservatives. He's been clear. He looks down on us as bitter, scared little people who cling to religion and guns. His words, not mine.
He thinks we're small minded, bitter, silly. He thinks we're too dumb to know when we're being lied to and that we can't or won't do the research and find out the truth. The rest of the world seems vulnerable to the slick charm and good looks of "The Chosen One." He thinks that he can get that crucial slice of the pro-life vote by turning on the charm and looking in our eyes and lying to us.
He's wrong about that.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
It's The End Of The World As We Know It
Lots of big, scary news today.
Man, I'll be glad when I go back to work (this coming Monday, God willing) for a number of reasons. One of them, the reason that's on my mind right now, is that when I go back to work I won't be sitting here all day and night watching the cable-news talking heads and clicking every link at Google News and getting the living crud scared out of me.
Today there's all kinds of bad news. I think we can all agree that the world will probably come to an end by about 6:00 PM this evening. I just hope there's time to finish dinner first.
Here's some of the news stories that I'm freaking out about:
- Russia is acting a fool
This is no joke, man. This is real, this is scary crap.
A roll of explosions at a Russian-occupied military base this week sent a clear Kremlin message to Georgia about the frailty of its infant military and its prospects for NATO membership.
The Russian army destroyed a hoard of Georgian arms and ammunition captured in a brief war that saw Georgian forces scattered, their bases seized and equipment carried off.
I really thought the days of Russia just rolling over little neighboring countries was over. Maybe the whole world thought those days were over and that's why nobody seems willing or able to respond. And I don't blame 'em; I'd hate to be the guy in charge who had to make the decision to attack the Russian army, even if they are on another country's soil.
And then there's the Poland thing:
Russia issued a harsh response on Wednesday to the announcement of a deal between Poland and the United States to base part of a U.S. missile defense system on Polish soil.
"Russia in this case will have to react and not only through diplomatic protests," Russia's Foreign Ministry said...
(Russia) scorned the decision to base a battery of U.S. Patriot missiles in Poland, saying it would provide no protection against any "imaginary Iranian danger".
Holy friggin' crap. "Imaginary Iranian danger?" NATO is on board with this missile defense system, this isn't some kind of shady deal between the US and Poland. Man! It doesn't seem very long ago that the common enemy of Islamic terrorism was going to strengthen the relationship between the US and Russia.
Thankfully, the memory of oppression by the USSR seems to be pretty strong in Poland:
In a clear swipe at Russia, Poland's President Lech Kaczynski on Tuesday said his country would not give in to threats over its deal with Washington to deploy US missile silos on Polish soil.
"No-one can dictate to Poland what it should do. That's in the past," Kaczynski said...
"No-one should be afraid of this (missile plan), if they have good intentions towards us or the rest of the West," Kaczynski said.
It's good to see that Poland is willing to poke back a little bit.
This is bound to be part of the reason that McCain is actually polling ahead of Obama. Americans know McCain and know that he's had Putin and Russia figured out all along:
- But McCain shouldn't get too comfortable
There's increasing noise about McCain picking Joe Lieberman as his running mate.
Look, I like Joe Lieberman. I really do. He's a "hawkish" liberal, one of the last of his kind. It's nice to see that there are still a few realistic liberals out there. Heck, to tell the truth, I toyed with the idea of supporting Lieberman's presidential bid in 2004. But when push comes to shove, there's still one issue that rules the day: Joe Lieberman supports abortion on demand and I won't vote for a pro-abortion-on-demand ticket. Even a partially pro-abortion ticket.
If McCain picks Lieberman, I'll stay home in November. I won't vote at all. I hope that other pro-life conservatives will sit this one out, too. If the GOP softens on abortion, we will need to send a strong message. Betray the pro-life contingent and you lose our vote. And you can't win without us.
I'd rather skip the election and feel like I'm letting Obama win then vote against my deepest beliefs. Abortion-on-demand is the moral scandal of our time. There can't be any compromise on this issue.
- The Watchmen debacle
There's some sort of power-struggle going on between 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers about who actually owns the rights to make a movie based on Watchmen.
What this means, in a nutshell, is that Zack Snyder's potentially worthwhile film adaptation of "the greatest comic book of all time" might be delayed from release:
Twentieth Century Fox’s war with Warner Bros. over rights to Watchmen has sparked fan outrage across the Web following a published report that Fox is seeking to prevent Zack Snyder’s $100 million-plus comic book adaptation from ever being released...
Of course, this isn't going to cause Snyder's movie to be shelved forever. There's too much money to be made from it. The studios will figure out a way to fix things so that all the invested parties get a slice of the pie. Even the article I linked to acknowledged that.
But you know how things go when the Lawyers get involved. The Watchmen movie might not be released in March, as originally planned. We might have a year to wait, maybe even longer.
Hey, it's small potatoes compared to Russia, Georgia and Poland. But it still sucks.
- DMB sax player LeRoi Moore dies
I enjoy the Dave Matthews Band's music, and LeRoi Moore has done some sax solos that were, in my opinion, the best thing about some of their songs. I didn't even know that the guy had been severely injured in June in an ATV accident. And now he's died:
The band went ahead with a scheduled concert in Los Angeles on Tuesday evening and dedicated the performance to Moore...
Hours after Moore's death, Dave Matthews told the audience at Tuesday's concert that his bandmate "gave up his ghost today," adding: "and we will miss him forever," according to the Orange County Register newspaper.
That just sucks. And that's all I can think of to say about it.
- Big, scary tower
This photo of the giant skyscraper they're building in Dubai probably isn't scary to most people ... but in my current frame of mind I can't look at it without seeing the Eye of Sauron on top of it:
Found this at Geekologie.
- The Mojave marketing trickery
Microsoft has launched a big campaign to try to ease consumer fears about Vista and get people to buy their latest floundering OS.
Don't believe a word of it. Vista sucks. Sure, you could take a bunch of people who've never seen Vista and let them spend twenty minutes pointing and clicking on a Vista-installed notebook and convince them that the OS is top notch. But that's not proof of anything and it's not intellectual honesty. It's salesmanship. It's the same thing that enables used car salesmen to get people to drive lemons off the lot.
I'm writing this from a Dell PC that runs Vista. I've been an unhappy Vista user for months now. Vista crashes all the time. Programs lock up, fail to load, and don't run properly in Vista every day. I have constant networking problems with Vista; it's pure hell keeping my LAN and Internet connections working from this computer. Vista has lots of bells and whistles, and it comes with a really cool looking Mahjong game. But other than that It's a total lemon compared to the previous, vastly superior Microsoft XP operating system.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
MCF Is Double-X Rated
It's time for MCFAT XX:
1) Are you offended when a film or television show lampoons something close to you, be it nationality, faith, gender, etc.? If so, how do you respond?
I don't like it when southerners are portrayed as universally inbred, stupid, closed-minded, racist, etc. Bet you didn't see that coming.
I'm reminded, though, of Chris Rock's explanation of why it's OK for black people to use the N-word but it isn't cool for whites to use that word. He explained it this way: It's OK for me to get frustrated with my kids and call them "dumb kids," but it's not OK for you to call my kids dumb. I can say it and know that there's a love there that conditions and qualifies what I've said. But when someone else says it, that love isn't a given.
So with that in mind, I don't mind it when the awesome Richmond, Virginia metal band Lamb of God puts rednecks on notice with a song called ... well, Redneck (language warning). But when movies, TV shows, etc, present a biased, uneven and heavy-handed view of southerners, it tends to get on my war nerve.
And, for the record, I call myself a redneck all the time in self-deferential jest. And I don't mind when my friends call me a redneck. I know they're doing it in fun and without malice.
And, besides, I am a redneck.
(See? It's a real inner-conflict kind of thing.)
2) If you were granted with superhuman intelligence and or abilities that had the unfortunate side effect of ending your life in a few days, how would you spend your final hours?
Geez, I don't know. I guess I'd try to find Osama? Or see how many tacos I could eat. Or both. (See? Redneck to the bone.)
3) If someone you knew repeatedly demonstrated poor hygiene, would you ever broach the subject and tell the person?
What are you trying to say? What do you mean "poor hygiene?" What do you mean "you southern people?" Huh? Hold on while I go get my pool queue.
4) Who are some of your favorite television characters that originated one one series before being spun off into another?
Has The Simpsons spawned a spin-off? No, I guess not. Futurama has a connection to The Simpsons through Matt Groening, and King of the Hill has a connection through Greg Daniels, but neither of those are spin-offs.
South Park hasn't spawned a spin-off, either.
I think House and The Office (US) are both decent shows, but they're both fairly new and neither has produced a spin-off. Does The Office (US) qualify as a spin-off from The Office (UK)? Does Fawlty Towers count as a spin-off from Monty Python's Flying Circus?
Ah, crap. I'm saying Joanie Loves Chachi. And my favorite character is the bitter, misogynistic 45 year old guy.
SPECIAL BONUS QUESTION: What was the name of my first pet, and what was it?
MCF's first pet was a woodlouse named Pillbug.
A Song Worth Remembering
Stupid radio. What in the name of all that's good and righteous gets into the heads of some program directors? What causes them to continue airing songs like Let Me Clear My Throat and What's Up? and Cotton-Eyed Joe in 2008?? Haven't we, as a species, come further than that by now?
I mean, damn!
But now and then a random radio station will miraculously broadcast a great older song that you've long forgotten. Like this one:
It's under my skin but out of my hands.
I'll tear it apart, but I won't understand.
I will not accept the greatness of man.
That's one of my all time favorite passages from the annals of pop lyrics. It honestly gives me chills. At the risk of coming off like a total Nancy-boy, that's the truth. It gives me chills.
This is kinda neat, and it gives me an opportunity to borrow a page from Rhodester:
The movie Sommersby was neither a commercial blockbuster, nor a big critical success. It was a post-civil war story about a returning soldier who might not have been who he claimed to be. It stared Jodie Foster and Richard Gere, but apparently star-power alone isn't enough to turn a movie into a masterpiece.
I kinda like the film, but I'm biased. It was filmed in and around the part of Virginia where I live, and the summer of it's production brought a lot of excitement to the area.
A number of local people got to be extras in the movie. That's kinda cool. It's a bit of a distraction, though, when you're watching a movie set around the Civil War and find yourself saying things like "Hey, that's the guy who works the window at McDonnalds!"
After the filming I visited Warwickton, the period mansion where much of the movie was shot, and took a few pictures.
I took these pictures with an extremely cheap 35mm camera. And I scanned them with the first scanner I ever owned, which was about the size of a VW bus. I don't know why I saved such small scans, but these are the only ones I have. I came across them tonight while looking through some old media and deciding what to throw away and what to keep.
Above is the mansion itself, looking exactly like it does in the movie.
The slave quarters weren't authentic. In fact, if I remember what I was told correctly, the actual original owners of Warwickton weren't slave-owners. But some of the people in the story of Sommersby were slave-owners, so period-authentic slave quarters were built and they're still there.
I took this picture from the porch of Warwickton, looking toward the slave quarters.
During the filming of the movie Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford supposedly came into town and saw Sister Act at our local tiny little theater. That's far out, man.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Sir Nils Olav, Penguin Of The Guard
Well, if they're gonna knight Mick Jagger and Elton John, they might as well knight penguins, too:
As far as I'm concerned, that penguin won't really be a knight until I see it slay a dragon.
MCF posted a link to a manga avatar maker, and we had fun putting together manga versions of our family:
I'd like to apologize for last night's (this morning's) post to anyone who might have seen it before I saw it myself and took it down this morning. Typically, my writing serves as a warning about the importance of remembering to take your prescription medication. Last night's post, however, might be a warning to stay away from your PC if your prescription medication is powerful enough to impair your judgment.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Who won last night's somewhat odd, informal Presidential debate at Saddleback Church? That's easy enough to answer.
The clear winner was Rick Warren. Last night's proceedings kept Warren in the spotlight at all times and will certainly help move even more copies of his books off the shelves at your local Wal-Mart.
People simply don't want to read real theology anymore. Real theology is challenging. It's demanding. It usually robs the reader of his or her sense of comfort. People don't want that. They want simple, feel-good Hallmark Card messages. They don't want to be challenged. They want to be comforted with neat little button-down books. Today's "Christian reader" wants Rick Warren, Max Lucado, Rob Bell and Joel Olsteen. Those guys grind out books that are safe, easy to digest and nonthreatening to the modern lifestyle. Today's "Christian reader" has probably never even heard of Thomas a Kempis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine of Hippo ... and if they know anything at all about C.S. Lewis, it's only that he wrote a few children's stories.
So I'm sure that last night's televised festivities will help Rick Warren move a few more copies of The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Cook Book and The Purpose Driven Do It Yourself Home Repair Guide and whatever else he has jam-packed into those free-standing cardboard displays at your local Wal-Mart.
Congratulations, Pastor Rick Warren, on your big marketing victory last night.
Oh, and, by the way, both of the men who are running for President were there, too.
Nobody should be surprised by this, but John McCain answered Warren's questions with short, clear, direct answers. Whereas Barack "The Chosen One" Obama relied on his usual ability to talk himself around a question, say a lot of things that sound really cute but don't mean anything, and generally hem and haw.
For instance, here's John McCain on abortion:
And here's Obama on abortion:
So if you want a President who believes that abortion on demand is wrong and is willing to say so, you can plan to vote for John McCain. In fact, the National Review believes that McCain carried the night.
Or, if you want a President who doesn't really say anything important at all, doesn't risk offending anyone, but instead just kinda paints with words, ending up with an abstract that doesn't really tell you anything but sure makes you feel good, you can vote for Obama. Or, I suppose, you could vote for Rick Warren.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
News, News, News
- Updated: Possumfoot stalks the forests of Georgia ...
That so-called Bigfoot corpse I mentioned earlier this week, the one supposedly found by two hikers in Georgia? I know this will be a big shock, but it's all a hoax:
This was no hoax, (the two hikers) insisted, despite the fake video interview they did with Whitton's brother - or as they pretended on YouTube, taxonomist Dr. Paul Van Buren...
In an interview with Scientific American, Jeffrey Meldrum, a Bigfoot researcher and Idaho State University professor, dismissed the photos. "It just looks like a costume with some fake guts thrown on top for effect," he said...
As for the DNA evidence, the men presented an e-mail from the University of Minnesota reporting that of the three distinct DNA sequences that showed up, one was inconclusive, one was human and the third was from a possum.
- This is what happens when an unstoppable idiot meets and immovable moron:
Ah, yes, the unfathomable value of a formal education. The screaming harpy in the clip above is Shanara R. Reid-Brinkley and the flailing douchebag is Bill Shanahan ... and both of them are college debate coaches. Really. And this is how they demonstrate for their students the proper way for grown-ups to engage in civil discourse.
- She's here to stay.
Actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (you might have seen her in House of Sand and Fog or The Exorcism of Emily Rose) has decided to stay in America and never return to her native Iran:
Aghdashloo insists she and her family have no plans to return after having embraced American culture - because she says Iranians resent her success in Hollywood.
She says, "Their repressed Muslim government hates the fact that I am an actress. But they still all see my movies, even though my films are not allowed to be shown there."
Welcome home, Miss Aghdashloo.
- Tropical boycott:
Ben Stiller's latest film is stirring up controversy because of references in the film to mentally handicapped people:
Paramount and its DreamWorks unit showed the film to advocates for the disabled, many of whom had expressed outrage at marketing materials that showed Ben Stiller, the movie’s star and director, portraying a weak-minded character named Simple Jack.
“I saw the film this morning,” said Andrew J. Imparato, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities, one group calling for the boycott. “It was even worse than the hateful stuff they used in promoting it.”
Well, I've always said that boycotts are for retards.
OK, OK, I apologize. I couldn't resist. But I do think that boycotts are usually nothing more than a pitiful attempt to attract attention ... and that goes for groups I'm peripherally part of, such as when some Christians called for a boycott of The Last Temptation of Christ.
By the way, I recommend skipping The Last Temptation ... it's the only genuinely crappy film that Martin Scorsese has ever made.
Anyway, back to Tropic Thunder. Here's a clip of the offending subject matter:
Oh, I don't know. I think the movie really aims to mock the way that Hollywood types are superficial, full of themselves and stupid. I don't think that people with mental disabilities are really the target at all. The point here is to show us that, for all their Oscar-speech pontifications and cause celeb rantings, movie stars are really vacuous and dumb.
But that's just my take. You can read more about it at Good News Film Reviews, where I found the clip I embedded above.
- Tim Fluffer...
Virginia's thoroughly indistinguishable Governor, Tim Kaine, wants to be Vice President so bad that he's appointed himself Barak Obama's fluffer:
Read that quote so you can really consider it:
"It was a bad crisis for the world. It required tough words but also a smart approach to call on the international community to step in. And I’m very, very happy that the Senator’s request for a ceasefire has been complied with by President Medvedev."
That's right, Obama waved his hand and parted the sea of discontentment in Georgia.
Hat tip for that to Unseen, who mentioned Kaine's understanding of what's happening in Georgia in a comment here.
It's really going to be funny around this time next year when President Obama has shown his supporters that, SURPRISE! He really CAN'T make things all better. They'll be turning on him like rabid rats and I'll just sit here and laaaaaaaugh.....
Friday, August 15, 2008
It was nice while it lasted.
But our pretend romance with Russia is over and it's right back to Cold War business as usual:
A top Russian general said Friday that Poland's agreement to accept a U.S. missile interceptor base exposes the ex-communist nation to attack, possibly by nuclear weapons, the Interfax news agency reported...
"Poland, by deploying (the system) is exposing itself to a strike — 100 percent," (General Anatoly) Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of staff, was quoted as saying.
He added, in clear reference to the agreement, that Russia's military doctrine sanctions the use of nuclear weapons "against the allies of countries having nuclear weapons if they in some way help them." Nogovitsyn that would include elements of strategic deterrence systems, he said, according to Interfax.
(A hat tip for that particular news item to The Governor ... who still hasn't started a blog, so I can't link to him.)
This latest spate comes just as Russia begins grabbing up the old "block nations" and nobody does anything about it beyond a good, stern finger wagging.
We don't need to worry too much about it, though ... because in November the Chosen One, Barack Obama, will be anointed President of the Citizenry Of The World. Then the US and the European Union and Russia and all the Muslims and Communists will come together with an acoustic guitar and a nickel-bag and we'll all sit around the fire singing John Lennon's Imagine in beautiful three-part harmony.
(Please come back, Ronald Reagan. We are soooooo completely screwed without you.)
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Dumpin' My Junk: Bigfoot, Chupacabra, Monkeys and More
This edition of the Junk Dump comes with YouTube videos.
First there was the Montauk Monster:
Now "evidence" of two other cryptids has turned up.
Some guys in Georgia claim to have found the corpse of a Sasquatch:
I'll wear a lime-green tutu and dance at Obama's inauguration if that thing turns out to be a real Bigfoot. And I'll post that on YouTube.
Even people who really do believe in the Sasquatch are calling the Georgia Bigfoot a hoax.
Then there's this, video tape shot by a cop of "El Chupacabra" in the flesh:
OK, this one strikes me as somewhat credible. Here's what I mean by that: I don't think that this is evidence of a cryptid. It's not some new animal that has been heretofore unknown to science. But I think it is possible that this is video tape of a rarely seen hideous crossbreed of coyotes and feral dogs. And I think it's possible that this thing is so ugly that if you found one devouring your chickens at night you might think it was a monster. You might even think you'd seen "El Chupacabra." So, no, I don't think the infamous goat-sucker has finally been proven real. But I do think that the mystery of "El Chupacabra" may have been solved.
And for what it's worth, I think that this YouTube clip offers evidence of a far scarier and harder to explain version of "El Chupacabra" itself:
Anyway, on with the ceremonial dumping of the junk:
I've found that you can't go wrong if you include pictures of monkeys in any blog post.
Go ahead, Mythbusters, prove it won't work. If you can.
If you build it, they will be really cool.
Indeed, old sport, you certainly put that hooligan in his punk-ass place.
You'll have to click the one above to open the full-size graphic. I think it's pretty funny.
It meant them no harm. It was sent here to find and protect a cardboard cutout of John Connor.
Don't these two jpg's go well together?
Somebody posted video of a Pentecostal church service and put techno music behind it. I don't mean to mock my charismatic Evangelical brothers, but I gotta admit, I've always thought that this kind of behavior had more to do with mass hysteria than anything spiritual. And this clip makes me laugh like crazy.
Movie Review: Wanted
Wesley Gibson is an unhappy cubical worker who hates basically every element of his life. One day he's kidnapped by a beautiful, dangerous woman who tells him that he is the son of one of the world's greatest assassins, and that he possesses his father's amazing killing abilities. Wesley learns about his father and the fraternity of assassins he worked for while fending off attacks from a rogue agent.
- Great looking special effects.
- Plenty of gallows humor (if you're into that sort of thing).
- Bloody fun escapism for adults ... and adults only.
- Ultra violence ... a "con" for many people.
- The movie feels fifteen minutes too long. Or thereabouts.
I guess I'll say three on a five scale. This is an extremely violent movie, but not irredeemably so, and not without it's charms.
It's been a good summer for comic book fans. Batman, the Hulk and Iron Man were all brought to the screen in big blockbuster movies, and there wasn't a dud in the bunch. Wanted is an adaptation of a limited run comic book series by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones. The movie apparently takes more liberties with the source material than the other movies I mentioned, but maintains the title's "adults only" core. It's probably the weakest comic book based movie of the summer, but it's still a decent movie of a kind. Just don't assume that the "R" rating is a fluke. Wanted is a "hard R" film. This is stylized comic-book fun for grown-ups only.
If you want to make a movie like Wanted, I can give you a "can't miss" recipe:
- A generous helping of the gleeful, gory violence of 300
- A handful of the remorseless anti-hero character types from Sin City
- A dollop of the cinematography, "bullet time" effects and impossible physics of The Matrix
- The dangerous, underground "secret society" themes from Fight Club ... and while you're at it, get a pinch of that film's oedipus complex motif, too. And borow Fight Club's anti-materialism themes. In fact, the more Fight Club you throw in, the better.
Throw those ingredients together and season with two or three big-name Hollywood stars (Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, a few other faces you might recognize). The recipe feeds a theater full of people, as long as they have strong stomachs and don't mind a little acid reflux.
There's nothing terribly original here. But if you're in the right mood, it's amusing fluff. Just go in expecting to be entertained entirely (and only) by the movie's special effects and slick black humor. There's not much here in the way of story, subtext, or ideas. There's no real character development, just the same tired old Walter Mitty act that the big studios have recycled for years. The plot is fairly predictable and the ending is a cliche. Oh, it's one of the better cliches, one of my favorites, but a cliche nonetheless.
Instead of originality or ideas, Wanted offers up a stream of words and images that seem designed to offend. But the movie is just barely smart enough for me to call it satire instead of garbage. Over the course of Wanted's running time you'll see people slaughtered by the dozens. That might have offended me, actually, if the movie had seemed to take itself seriously at all. But it doesn't. The is the cinematic equivalent of a bunch of kids with toy guns running around yelling "Bang! Bang! You're dead!" Silly, sure. Pointless? You bet. Fun? Yep.
What else does Wanted offer? Well, there are car chases that make Transporter 2 look plausible. There are exploding rats, specially designed to please the PETA crowd. Oh, and you get to hear Morgan Freeman drop the MF bomb. His character in Wanted ain't about to drive Miss Daisy anywhere.
Now that Wanted is playing in second-run theaters it's probably a reasonable bargain. You could do worse than to spend a couple of bucks on this movie. Or you might want to just wait and rent it on DVD in a couple of months. The film got me to laugh a a few times and a few of the special effects really did look damn cool. This ain't Schindler's List ... this ain't even The Dark Knight. But it doesn't aim to be. Wanted is designed to be a cool looking, outrageous mess with nothing serious to say at all. And it is.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Obama Watch: The Infanticide Candidate
OK, here's a hypothetical:
Let's say a premature baby is born, that the baby is alive and is struggling to hold on to life. Let's say the baby has a serious handicap; for instance, Down Syndrome. And lets say that, because of the handicap, the parents don't want the baby. Should the hospital try to save the baby's life, as they would with any other birth, or should they allow the baby to die because the parents don't want it?
I'd say that 99% of the people in the world are capable of the humanity and the compassion to say that the baby's life should be saved. Most, I'd guess, would agree with me that for the hospital to do anything other than try to save the baby's life would be the equivalent of infanticide.
But, see, here's the thing: That hypothetical I described above is not a hypothetical. That case really happened, just as I described it, in Illinois some years ago.
And Barack Obama has worked very hard to make sure that hospitals in that situation not only can kill the baby, but that they're actually required to kill him or her.
David Freddoso writes about the actual case I described above at the National Review:
(Jill) Stanek is the nurse who found herself cradling this baby in her hands for all of his 45-minute lifetime. He was close to ten inches long and weighed perhaps half a pound. It’s just a guess — no one had weighed or measured him at birth. No happy family had been there to welcome him into the world...
That family had wanted a baby, but when they learned that theirs would be born with Down syndrome, they wanted an abortion. For that, they went to Christ Hospital in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago, which is affiliated with the United Church of Christ.
In “induced labor” or “prostaglandin” abortion — a common procedure at the hospital — the doctor administers drugs that dilate the mother’s cervix and induce contractions, forcing a small baby out of the mother’s uterus. Most of the time, the baby dies in utero, killed by the force of the violent contractions. But it does not always work. Such abortions sometimes result in a premature baby being born alive. Sometimes the survivors live for just a few minutes, but sometimes for several hours. No one tried to save or treat them — it is hard to save someone you just mauled trying to kill. But something had to be done with them for the minutes and hours during which they struggled for air.
Stanek says her friend had been told to take this baby and leave him in a soiled utility closet.
After that experience, Jill Stanek became involved in an effort to have a law passed in Illinois that would recognize all human beings who'd been born alive as human beings. Sounds simple enough, right? Even most abortion-on-demand advocates recognize that a person is a person after they've been born. Right?
Not if you're Barack Obama:
On March 30, 2001, Obama was the only senator to speak in opposition to a bill that would have banned the practice of leaving premature abortion survivors to die. The bill, SB 1095, was carefully limited, its language unambiguous. It applied only to premature babies, already born alive. It stated simply that under Illinois law, “the words ‘person,’ ‘human being,’ ‘child,’ and ‘individual’ include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.”
Obama defended his stance with a diatrab of rambling leagalese that would make Bill Clinton blush. He had this to say at the time:
There was some suggestion that we might be able to craft something that might meet constitutional muster with respect to caring for fetuses or children who were delivered in this fashion. Unfortunately, this bill goes a little bit further, and so … this is probably not going to survive constitutional scrutiny. Number one, whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a — a child, a nine-month-old — child that was delivered to term. That determination, then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it — it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an antiabortion statute.
In a nutshell, Obama is so dedicated to protecting abortion on demand that he'd rather have babies who've been born killed than pass a law to protect them if it might result in a challenge to legalized abortion.
Remember that this November. Barack Obama isn't "pro choice." He's an avid proponent of abortion at any cost.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Movie Review: Before Night Falls
The true story of novelist and poet Reinaldo Arenas who came of age in his native Cuba as Castro's dictatorship took control of the island. A homosexual, Arenas is persecuted by Castro's Communist regime and eventually finds his way to America.
- Javier Bardem is excellent (mostly) in the main role.
- The movie doesn't flinch with it's honest portrayal of Castro's government.
- The story is hard to follow and sometimes seems disjointed.
- Cameos from Sean Penn and Johnny Depp provide absolutely nothing other than distractions from the film itself.
- The movie is too long, and yet it spends too little time with the most fascinating elements of it's story.
Two and a half, maybe three, on a five scale. The potential for a five-star movie is here ... but it seems to have slipped between the cracks.
Julian Schnabel's 2000 film Before Night Falls is a frustrating movie. The film is sometimes brilliant but it's often condescending. It's too long in cinematic terms, and yet it feels short on story. The whole is less than the sum of it's scenes and performances. I can't imagine any audience or any film fan who'll see it without registering at least a few major complaints ... and yet there are elements here that are profound and beautiful enough to touch the heart of the most jaded moviegoer.
Javier Bardem turned in my favorite performance in my favorite movie from 2007, No Country For Old Men, and I've been intent on seeing his earlier work ever since. If for no other reason than to get an idea of Bardem's range, No Country... fans might want to check out Before Night Falls. As Reinaldo Arenas, the deeply troubled but talented focus of this movie, Bardem is the polar opposite of No Country's brutal assassin. Here, Bardem plays a gay poet, and at times his performance is way over the top. He stops shy of RuPaul-type shenanigans ... but he gets close enough to justify the mention of RuPaul's name in this review.
Then again, that seems to be the kind of performance the movie wants from him. At least in the first half. For the first hour or so, Before Night Falls is an extremely flamboyant movie. I can't help but wonder, when I see movies like this, what gay people must think of what's on the screen. Some of the performances here drift into what must be crude stereotype. At times, it seems that Before Night Falls wants to send the message that homosexual men are defined by their homosexuality ... and that they're all flirtatious, promiscuous, and overt. Let me be clear; for the first hour, Before Night Falls makes Brokeback Mountain seem like The Searchers.
But at about the half-way point the movie changes direction radically and becomes a story about a man who's made a political prisoner in a country ruled by a brutal communist dictator. I'm a political conservative, so it was at this point that I became more comfortable with the movie. As you'd expect. But it was also at this point that the main character became far more interesting.
In the second half of the movie, Arenas is falsely accused of molesting a pair of teenagers and spends some time on the run, trying to evade capture by Castro's thugs. When he finally is captured and thrown in jail he finds, much to his surprise, that his talent as a writer is cherished by his fellow prisoners. Arenas writes letters home for his cell mates, crafting minor masterpieces that they'd never be able to write on their own. And he spends some time doing his own writing and daydreaming; escaping the prison's walls and into worlds constructed within his mind. Some of these sequences are the movie's strongest, and I wish that the film had allowed us more time with Arenas during his incarceration. It was then that the character was most sympathetic, most likable, and most interesting.
Eventually Arenas is released with relative ease, and I found myself scratching my head over the circumstances of his new found freedom. And this wasn't the only time the movie confused me. There were sequences that seemed to intermingle Arenas's fanciful poetry with his biography, and I was fine with that. I can recognize poetic license when I see it on the screen, and I enjoy it when it's done well. Some of those scenes were done very well and I did enjoy them.
But I didn't enjoy the way the movie would sometimes pick up and/or lose seemingly major characters without explanation. Sometimes a character would have worked his or her way into major elements of the story ... and I'd still not be sure who he or she was supposed to be. And I was especially perplexed by Schnabel's decision to cast Johnny Depp and Sean Penn in roles that amounted to nothing more than glorified cameos. The presence of these two Caucasians, putting on bad fake Spanish accents and chewing on the scenery, totally brought me "out of the movie," so to speak. Depp was especially distracting; he played not one but two minor roles here, and one of them was in a scene that should have been a major showcase for Bardem. Honestly, I couldn't have been more distracted and puzzled if Bugs Bunny had been put on the screen.
SPOILERS FOLLOW: The movie drags on, too, with an oddly violent ending that seemed tacked on as an afterthought. I found that especially irritating, given that shortly before that strange coda there had been a beautiful monologue by Bardem about the joy and wonder of writing. That passage, that dialogue, seemed very final. Closing credits should have appeared with Bardem's last words in that passage. Instead the movie lumbers into a long sequence that suggests that the very ill Arenas's death was at the hands of a friend. That isn't true, the real Arenas died of suicide by overdose. In his suicide letter, Arenas went out of his way to make sure that no other person was blamed for his death. Knowing that makes the end of Before Night Falls seem very strange.
I can sorta recommend Before Night Falls, but with a number of qualifiers: It's strictly for fans of Javier Bardem, that's one qualifier. For another, I'd suggest it as a good movie for film students who want a film to pick apart, discuss, dissect and debate. I won't recommend it, though, for anyone simply looking for two enjoyable hours of cinema. Before Night Falls is a mixed bag ... a few diamonds and a big helping of junk.
Hey, look. It turns out that Tom Green is still alive. I wonder why.
If that embed code isn't working, you could click here to get to the video I was trying to embed. Or, you could do something more meaningful instead. Really, practically anything would qualify. Got any floss?
The first song that most of us have been able to hear in it's entirety from the new Metallica album:
It didn't grab me the first time I listened to it last night. It just kinda went in one ear and out the other.
But I listened again today, and maybe the key was that I listened rather than watched. I minimized the browser window and didn't look at the YouTube clip, I just listened to the song. The second time through I enjoyed it more. I wouldn't say I "loved" it, but I did enjoy it, and it might grow on me. I'm still super excited to hear the whole album.
Monday, August 11, 2008
This is awesome:
Spanish Shopkeeper Finds Homer Simpson Euro
MADRID (Reuters) - A one euro coin has turned up in Spain bearing the face of cartoon couch potato Homer Simpson instead of that of the country's king, a sweetshop owner told Reuters on Friday.
Now we need to focus on getting Homer's face on American money:
I mentioned on July 23 that there was something about my round with bladder cancer that I didn't think I should blog about yet. I said I was considering a law suit. Well, here are the details, though it's all pretty anticlimactic, and I feel pretty dumb about it.
In 1995 I developed bladder problems that were very much the same as the ones I developed this spring. I saw a urologist in '95 and had two cystoscopies and two biopsies, and the diagnosis at the time was Interstitial Cystitis. This was weird at the time because I don't fit the demographic for that ailment at all, but I took the urologist at his word. So since '95 I've believed that I had IC and I've tried to monitor (somewhat) what I eat and drink in order to avoid flair-ups.
OK, so fast forward thirteen years to last July. I had bladder surgery twice this summer, the second time at UVA Hospital, and the urologist presented my slides to the pathology department at UVA because something about my cancer cells seemed a bit odd. Well, guess what ... the pathologist at UVA remembered my name. He remembered me because he had seen my biopsy slides in '95 and had diagnosed my condition as cancer way back then. The local urologist had sent my slides to UVA all those years ago and the pathology department at UVA had called it cancer and no one had told me.
Well, I didn't remember anyone telling me.
So it's conceivable that I've been walking around with cancer for 13 years. Granted, I have a particularly non-aggressive, superficial, slow-growing cancer ... but as far back as '95 it was recognized as cancer by the good people at UVA.
I was pretty angry when I found out late last month that the pathologist at UVA had diagnosed me as a cancer patient all the way back in '95. I felt that if I'd known that UVA thought I had cancer all those years ago I'd have certainly done something other than go about my business and allow the cancer to grow. So I considered filing a malpractice suit against the local urologist, now retired, who I'd seen in '95.
But as I got my paper-trail together I was surprised to realize that I still had a number of letters and forms from '95. I'd kept track of them all these years. And at least one of them makes reference to a diagnosis of "transitional cell carcinoma" from a pathologist at UVA. Granted, this particular letter, from a local pathologist, disagrees with the UVA diagnosis. But, nonetheless, I was informed (at least informally) in '95 that a pathologist at UVA thought I had cancer. I have the letter to prove it.
How did I forget that? How did that go in one ear and out the other? I don't know, but obviously it did. I guess I was so happy to embrace a diagnosis of something other than cancer that I just dismissed the UVA diagnosis completely.
So the moral of the story, I guess, is that even if a doctor who thinks you have cancer is in the minority, make sure you follow up on it. The Pathologist at UVA recognized my condition as cancer thirteen years ago, and if I'd followed up on that it would have been caught long before it took over half of my bladder.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
I Laughed Until...
...I nearly peed myself.
Now, granted, I am still recovering from two recent bladder surgeries; so at this point a laugh or a sneeze or even an enthusiastically arched eyebrow can bring the threat of pants-wetting.
Still, this is really, really, really, really funny ... and it did necessitate a dash for the bathroom here. Check it out:
I have no problem with Christian Bale's vocal performance, by the way. I get what he's doing. But still, but still .... this is just so damn funny.
Update - OK, I'm a very, very simple man. If something amuses me, I can watch it over and over again. I've watched this thing, like, five times now ... and every time I am in trembling, braying, crying, pants-peeing hysterics. This officially replaces Yellow Ledbetter as my all time favorite YouTube video.
The Joker's Message
"It's not about the money. It's about sending a message."
So says the Joker in the latest Batman movie. But what exactly is his message, and to whom is he sending it?
If you've seen The Dark Knight you might agree with me that the movie is complex and smart enough to work on a number of levels. Sure, it's good fun as a comic-book action movie ... but director Chris Nolan and his cast have crafted a film with a serious philosophical subtext. Especially with regard to the Joker. The film's villain, brilliantly portrayed by the late Heath Ledger (and yes, I've come to enjoy the taste of crow) is just as thought-provoking and challenging as you might want him to be. There's a lot to think about. And there's a lot to discuss, if you're of a mind to do so.
A number of bloggers and writers are up to the task:
- RC at Strange Culture draws parallels between The Joker and the Anthrax killer, Bruce Ivins:
There is a significant amount of circumstantial evidence of Ivins' craziness, including his obsession with a sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and his poem version of I'm a Little Teapot.I think that correlation is unavoidable. I mean, that twisted nursery rhyme sounds exactly like the kind of thing the Joker might gleefully sing while carrying out one of his crimes.
This mentally unstable poetry to the tune of I'm a Little Teapot with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde nature sounds like it could totally come out of a Super Villain movie:
"I'm a little dream-self, short and stout.
I'm the other half of Bruce-when he lets me out.
When I get all steamed up, I don't pout.
I push Bruce aside, then I'm free to run about!"
And I find myself drawing this correlation, and wonder if anyone else does?
- Jason Lee Steorts, writing for the National Review, looks at the Joker through the prism of Frederick Nietzsche:
...the Joker doesn’t do just anything. What he does is destroy. He is not chance, for chance might treat you well. He is, rather, a vandal. Why he wants to vandalize is not clear. Beyond question is that he thinks there is no such thing as right or wrong...
...“moral relativism” is the regnant doctrine among the most important shapers of popular opinion: Hollywood, the music industry, the media, and the otherwise übercool...
...In these parts, people like to kick (Nietzsche). Some kick him because he wrote in metaphors, a few of which sound anti-Semitic or bellicose when taken literally. A whole lot of us kick him for three little words he wrote about God. But we rarely bother to look at the pictures that went with those words. We get so carried away in the kicking that we ignore the answer he gave to the problem of God’s death (and it was, for him, a problem). That answer was roughly: “Yes, all is permitted; now go make something beautiful.”
Read the whole article, it's very good.
- Mark D. White and Robert Arp think about the Joker in terms of terrorists and torture at Boston.com:
...if we say that Batman should kill the Joker, doesn't that imply that we should torture terror suspects if there's a chance of getting information that could save innocent lives? Of course, terror is all too present in the real world, and Batman only exists in the comics and movies. So maybe we're just too detached from the Dark Knight and the problems of Gotham City, so we can say "go ahead, kill him." But, if anything, that detachment implies that there's more at stake in the real world - so why aren't we tougher on actual terrorists than we are on the make-believe Joker?
- There are a number of people you might compare the Joker to ... but Ghandi? Well, before you dismiss the idea, consider what the blogger at A Layman's Philosophy has to say. For all his violence and insanity, the Joker does believe, deep down in his broken mind, that he's making the world a better place:
To the Joker, his scars are important because they remind him of his ideals. He is an anarchist. He doesn’t believe in the conventions of the world, only the conventions that will distract people from the illusions of the world. The joker, despite his trickery, at least makes an attempt to change the world for the better...I'm not going to lie to you, I don't share this perspective about the Joker at all. But I was happy to stumble across this blog and find an utterly unexpected idea about the movie.
If the Joker could find a different way to make the changes he desired in the world, perhaps he would have been likened to Gandhi instead of an insane criminal with issues. The Joker sees the illusion of polarity in the world, he simply tries too hard to help others and not himself. The outcome is violence, torture, pain, and suffering.
- I enjoyed what Father Raymond J. De Souza had to say about the Joker and his ideas about good and evil:
“I choose chaos,” the Joker confesses. There is no order built into human nature, no moral law written on the heart. There are rules of common agreement. But they are only manufactured rules, entirely arbitrary, without enduring value. They do not correspond to any truth — and they cannot, for there is no order or design at the heart of reality. There is only chaos, and the Joker embraces it...
Richard Dawkins, call your agent: As a sworn enemy of Godly design, you should be getting royalties...
The only problem with that is that Richard Dawkins is utterly humorless. Whereas the Joker enjoys a good chuckle. Come on, Richie ... let's put a smile on that face!
Personally, I see The Dark Knight's Joker as sort of a Jim Jones figure. The Joker and Jones both used a certain dark charisma to captivate both their followers and those who oppose them. Both of them are nihilists. Both Jim Jones and the Joker are flashy attention-hounds. Both of them pervert innocent symbols to convey their own warped world view: The Joker dresses up as a clown to mock his victims, Jim Jones employed a demented version of Christianity to control his followers. Both of them prey on the weak and emotionally unstable. And both of them are egomaniacs.
Oh, and both of them have high-pitched, odd-sounding voices.
The Dark Knight is an outstanding film; much better, I think, than any of us expected it to be. And how cool is it that a movie this big and loud and gaudy and flat-out entertaining also has interesting, considerable ideas at it's core? Each of us who enjoyed it ought to make an effort to see it in the theater again. Movies like this, with this much to offer, come along maybe once every twenty years.
Saturday, August 09, 2008
I don't do celebrity news, it's not my thing. I just don't care. But I did think that Morgan Freeman's accident was startling enough to warrant a mention earlier this week. The latest on Freeman is that he's out of the hospital and recovering, and I'm glad to hear it.
As to the other news about Freeman that came out this week, I won't comment other than to say that I don't think it's anyone's business.
I was sorry to hear that Bernie Mac passed away this morning. To be honest I wasn't a Bernie Mac fan. Not that I had anything against him, I just never watched his show and he never made an impression on me one way or the other in the movies. Still, I feel bad that he died ... especially considering that even very shortly before his death he seemed to be getting better. The guy was only 50. That's too young to die from pneumonia. It really sucks.
The third celebrity story that caught my eye today was this one, and it caught my eye because it's the creepiest thing I've seen in ages. I mean really creepy. Michael Jackson level creepy. Mick Jagger in bed with David Bowie level creepy. Creepy beyond belief. I'm talking about Clay Aiken...
... and the baby he conceived through artificial insemination with his platonic baby-making partner.
Is it just me, or does Clay Aiken look like a lesbian? I'm not trying to mock lesbians ... heck, I don't even mean to mock Aiken himself ... but the guy looks like a lesbian. He has a real k.d. lang quality going on:
And for what it's worth, k.d. lang (who spells her name without capital letters, in case you didn't know) has a few songs I like. I'm not trying to knock her. I'm not trying to mock Aiken for looking like her. I'm just sayin', you know?
But this whole platonic artificial insemination baby making partnership thing ... man, it's just creepy.
You Da Man, John Edwards!
Man, I just LOVE political sanctimony. And the kind we get from Democrats here in the US borders on acrobatics. I don't particularly care that John Edwards had an affair and fathered a child out of wedlock ... but I get a huge kick out this clip of him going out of his way to explain that (counter to what we might believe) his family is not to blame for his affair:
Boy, I'm glad he cleared THAT up. Because ever since I heard that Edwards had a mistress I've been blaming his family, specifically his eight-year-old son Jack. Rotten kid. He DROVE his father into that affair!
Gosh golly gee wiz, it's sooooo brave and selfless for Edwards to take the blame for his own extramarital affair. I mean, who would have expected accountability from a trial lawyer?
I hope you'll excuse me for a moment; I have a giant wad of phlegm-like SARCASM stuck in my throat. HHHMMMMGGGHHHGGGHH! There, all better.
Edwards is downright Clintonian in that clip. He comes off like a cross between Bill Clinton on a denial binge and Tom Cruise on a Scientology rant. Johnny Lover-Boy is so full of himself it's almost artistic. Like an expressive dance or some kind of performance art. Man, the air must be pretty thin up there on Planet Edwards.
The following is from Mary McNamara, LA Times blogger:
(Edwards) got a little slippery when asked about the photo the Enquirer had printed, which they claim is Edwards holding Hunter's baby daughter. The picture is blurry and Edwards says he has no idea who it is. Fair enough, but when Woodruff asked him if he remembered holding Hunter's baby, his answer was just plain squirrelly.
"You asked me about that photograph. I don't know anything about that photograph," he said, as if taking his cues from the Watergate hearings. "I don't know who that baby is.... I was not at this meeting holding a child for my photograph to be taken, I can tell you that."
That's awesome. That's just AWESOME! I wish I could have found a clip of that part of the interview. Can you imagine him saying that? With a straight face? That had to be hilarious.
Friday, August 08, 2008
Poll Type Thing
Someone from the Annenberg Public Policy Center called tonight with a list of survey questions regarding the 2008 National Election. I wasn't sure if I was up to the survey and asked the lady how long she thought it would take. "That depends on how long your answers are," she said.
So an hour later I got off the phone. What can I say; she started asking me for my opinion. She was a nice lady, though. She remained as objective as a survey taker can be, but the question-and-answer session was still a friendly one. And she was patient and tolerant while I ranted and raved.
I went to the Annenberg website after I got off the phone and looked around a bit. This caught my attention:
18- to 29-year-olds more likely to be liberal and less likely to follow presidential campaign very closely, Annenberg survey shows
Young adults 18 to 29 years of age are more likely to describe themselves as liberal in comparison to other age groups, according to recent data collected by the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s National Annenberg Election Survey. Thirty-four percent of 18- to 29-year-olds called themselves “liberal” or “very liberal,” while only 27 percent of 30- to 44-year-olds, 25 percent of 45- to 64-year-olds, and 18 percent of those 65 years and older described themselves the same way.
The youngest cohort of potential voters is also less likely to describe itself as following the 2008 presidential campaign “very closely” in comparison to older cohorts. While 24 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said that they are following the campaign very closely, 33 percent of 30- to 44-year-olds, 44 percent of 45- to 64-year-olds, and 48 percent of those 65 years and older stated that they are following the campaign very closely.
There is a correlation, of course. The more closely you actually pay attention to what's going on around you, the harder it is to remain a liberal.
But that's just my opinion, of course.
I'm Not The Only One!
As usual, The Onion is brilliant:
Local Idiot To Post Comment On Internet
HAZEL PARK, MI—In a statement made to reporters earlier this afternoon, local idiot Brandon Mylenek, 26, announced that at approximately 2:30 a.m. tonight, he plans to post an idiotic comment beneath a video on an Internet website...
"Later this evening, I intend to watch the video in question, click the 'reply' link above the box reserved for user comments, and draft a response, being careful to put as little thought into it as possible, while making sure to use all capital letters and incorrect punctuation," Mylenek said...
Mylenek, who rarely in his life has been capable of formulating an idea or opinion worth the amount of oxygen required to express it, went on to guarantee that the text of his comment would be misspelled to the point of incomprehension, that it would defy the laws of both logic and grammar, and that it would allege that several elements of the video are homosexual in nature.
Read the whole thing. Soooo, soooo funny.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
I went back to UVA Hospital again today. The catheter was taken out. Time to test my bladder again and see if it will do anything remotely similar to what a bladder is supposed to do.
And how much does it suck to have spent the past few months dealing with this mess? It sucks THIS much: Gov't Mule was back in Virginia last weekend and I didn't even know about it. And if I had known about it, with my medical bills I couldn't have afforded to go. And if I could have afforded to go, I would have had a tough time getting through the concert.
That sucks a LOT.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
The Ten Best "Conservative" Movies Of The Past Ten Years
I'm still losing sleep, but hopefully actually healing post-surgery. So when I lay awake at night letting my thoughts race and compete with each other, I end up mulling over some odd things.
If you've read this blog before, you know that two of the topics that I tend to obsess over are, a) politics and b) movies. So it's natural, I guess, that the two would eventually merge into one in my brain.
So thanks to a long, sleepless night and the general machinations of my soul, I'm proud to present:
The Official SouthCon List Of The Top Ten
Conservative Movies of the Past Ten Years*
Helen: I can't believe you don't want to go to your own son's graduation.
Bob: It's not a graduation. He is moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.
Helen: It's a ceremony!
Bob: It's psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity!
I really enjoyed The Incredibles, especially it's Harrison-Bergeron-like elements. In the future conceived by the story, those with above average abilities will be forced to hold back, to reign themselves in, so that nobody will be made to feel unexceptional. But if everyone is exceptional, then nobody is. The resolution: Give it 100%, do the best you can do, and don't hold back. The other guy's inability isn't your problem.
When you get past the vulgarity (and there's a lot of it), when you get past the swearing and the sex jokes (by the tons), two things about Knocked Up are inescapable. It's really, really, really funny ... and it's a story about doing the right thing. Ben and Alison don't love each other when they conceive a baby together. They hardly know each other, in fact. But they decide to try to get together for the sake of the child they've conceived.
The question of abortion is presented as a horrible alternative when Alison's mother tells her that she should abort her child, focus on here career, and later on have a "real baby, when the time is right." Meanwhile, Ben and Alison, who seem to have no common ground to build a relationship on, end up becoming a loving couple and devoted parents. Turns out, whatta ya know, the most important common ground of all is that they share the same priorities when it comes to family and pregnancy. Ben leaves his slacker lifestyle behind and Alison puts her career on the back burner. Knocked Up made me laugh like crazy, and made me happy with it's message.
08:...World Trade Center
I'd call it a minor miracle. Oliver Stone, a left-wing director known for his obsessions with conspiracy theories, somehow managed to turn out a movie about all that's good about America.
I was worried when I heard that Stone was directing World Trade Center. I anticipated a "truther" movie; some ridiculous fable about George W. Bush, Haliburton and Isreal plotting together to destroy the Twin Towers and start a rich man's war. Wonderfully, that wasn't the case. World Trade Center is really the true story of two Port Authority policemen who're trapped in the rubble of one of the fallen towers on 9/11, and it's about the efforts of their rescuers to save their lives. The movie celebrates the selflessness, strength and love of the principle characters ... and of Americans in general. Whether you consider yourself a Ronald Reagan conservative (hand up, here) or a Howard Dean liberal, or anything in between, World Trade Center is poignant, beautiful reminder of what it means to be an American.
07:...The Exorcism Of Emily Rose
In the worst case scenario, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose could have been a movie that exploited religious faith or simply mocked it. Thankfully, ...Emily Rose turned out to be a best case scenario; a movie that that seriously, carefully compared and contrasted the religious perspective and the scientific perspective of a young woman's controversial death. The scientific perspective is treated here with cold logic. Thankfully, the religious point of view is handled with sensitivity and profound thoughtfulness.
...Emily Rose was loosely based on the true story of a young woman who believed she was under attack by demons. When medical treatment didn't provide her relief, her family brought her home, where she eventually died. The central question of the movie was this: was her devout Catholic family responsible through negligence for their Emily's death, or had they really done all they could do? There are no easy answers, and thankfully, the movie doesn't settle for an easy ending. It's up to you, the viewer, to reach your own conclusions. What a wonderful rarity; a movie primarily focused on Christian faith that expects it's audience to think for themselves.
By the way, the German feature Requiem is a subtler, quieter film that's based even more directly on the true story of Anneliese Michel. The two films (...Emily Rose and Requiem) compliment each other nicely, showing two different approaches to the story, one done at a higher level of suspenseful drama and the other done as a quiet character study. I'd say that both movies succeed on their own terms and I'd recommend Requiem to fans of ...Emily Rose. You can see the trailer for Requiem by clicking here. If you're stout of heart and would like to hear and see real images and sounds from the real exorcisms of Anneliese Michael, you can click here for part 1 and for part 2. Further episodes are available on YouTube. But I'll warn you, some of this is somewhat upsetting.
06:...Saving Private Ryan
Stephen Spielberg is an amazing film maker, but he's not known as a particularly conservative one. When he produced a movie about World War II, he could have turned out a revisionist mess. He didn't. Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan is a wide-eyed, reverent, profoundly grateful tribute to those who've sacrificed all in service to their country. And it begins and ends with solemn, beautiful shots of Old Glory, giving the flag appropriate weight and meaning. Saving Private Ryan is often difficult to watch, but it's a film that every American should see.
What an anomaly; a major motion picture, with big-name stars, from a major director and a major studio, that celebrates and glorifies the power of religious faith.
As of now, Signs was the last genuinely good movie that M. Night Shyamalan has turned out. And it's one of his best. This science fiction account of an alien invasion of the Earth is scary, bordering on terrifying at times, and just on the surface it succeeds simply as a thriller.
But there's more to Signs than what's on the surface. This is the story of a clergyman who, due to tragedy, has lost his religious faith. Then, events take place that seem to be counter to everything we know about our existence, and everyone involved is forced to examine themselves at the core and find the source of their resolve. Mel Gibson, as the lapsed pastor, finds that the core of his being is rooted in a faith that he can't really cast aside. The movie's final scene, involving a roman collar and a crucifix, is one of the most unapologeticly pro-Christian moments in recent cinema. It might make you a little verklempt. It certainly got to me, anyway.
04:...Team America: World Police
Nobody in today's world of entertainment does a better job of mocking liberalism and all of it's silly conceits than South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. So it's no surprise that Team America: World Police, the duo's obscene puppet show, skewers liberalism with gleeful abandon.
Team America doesn't hold back, naming Hollywood's worst liberal elites by name. I laughed so much at this movie, allowing it's running jokes to brand themselves on my psyche, and to this day I can't see Matt Damon without saying "MATT DAMON!" in my deepest, dumbest voice. The movie ends with a speech about the necessity of (occasional) war that rings true and is yet the most vulgar, politically incorrect monologue you'll ever hear. (" If you don't let us ____ this _______, we're going to have our _____ and _______ all covered in ____!") And best of all, Team America even lampoons all that's bad about our country, taking a "warts and all" approach to patriotism. America! Eff Yeah!
Language Warning For This Clip
03:...The Dark Knight
In my full review of The Dark Knight, I referred to Batman as "the ultimate Republican." And I can't think of a better way to describe the caped crusader. After all, he's an unapologetic millionaire and successful businessman. Plus, he's a self-appointed citizen soldier who goes after corruption and crime with unrestrained zeal. Batman is willing to do what it takes to stop the bad guys, even creating his own "patriot act" style surveillance system, allowing him to monitor every cell-phone in Gotham city.
Unethical? Maybe. Batman doesn't attempt to argue with his invaluable friend and supporter Lucius Fox, who promises to leave if the machine isn't destroyed. And in the end, the machine does appear to self destruct. But Batman has no qualms about using it for what he sees as the common good when he's stuck between a makeup wearing terrorist (The Joker) and a rigid, crusading politician (Harvey "Two Face" Dent). Batman does what he must to stop the bad guys. Let the chips fall where they may.
02:...The Passion Of The Christ
Mel Gibson may be the only person in Hollywood with both the interest in making a major motion picture about the crucifixion of Christ and the power to get the movie made and distributed. And Christians around the world responded with a record turnout for The Passion Of The Christ.
Now, movies about Christ have been made in the past. But they usually focus on revisionism, such as the utterly unwatchable Da Vinci Code ... or muddled, perverse symbolism, like The Last Temptation Of Christ ... or satire, like Monty Python's Life Of Brian. The Passion is one of a kind: An unflinching, visceral look at the crucifixion of Christ that draws from the Bible and 2000 years of Christian Tradition as it's source and inspiration. Wow. What are chances of Hollywood turning out that kind of movie?
01:...The Lives Of Others
You can't swing a hammer and sickle in Hollywood without hitting a pro-communism movie. At least two movies praising the murdering thug Che Guevara have been recently produced, for instance. Michael Moore's latest pile of refuse (I won't link to it, sorry) glorified Cuba. It's no surprise that if you want to see a movie that shows communism for what it is, you have to look outside of the American movie industry.
In fact, you have to look to movie makers who actually lived under Communism and can show it for what it is.
The Lives Of Others greatly effected me when I saw it, and I've thought about it occasionally ever since. And make no mistake, for all the twisted connections that some critics would like to make to the Patriot Act, The Lives Of Others is about, very specifically, life in Communist East Germany in the 80's. It's a dark, honest, evocative film, and one everyone should see.
The movie features a remarkable performance from Ulrich Muhe as an East German secret agent who becomes more humane and less Soviet as his surveillance of a young couple begins to touch his heart and soul. The progression of his character, along with the relationship between the man and woman under his surveillance, make for gripping, compelling story-telling. And the movie ends with a post-script that's touching and beautiful. Don't miss The Lives Of Others. It tells a story about life, love, and the evil of repressive government that you'll never forget.
*Could anyone build a good argument that only some or maybe none of these movies really qualify as "conservative?" Could someone, in fact, build a case for the "liberalism" of any or all of these films? Well, of course. So don't take this too seriously. This list really tells you more about me, and about my perspective, than it does about the movies themselves.
Monday, August 04, 2008
I'm not just a Morgan Freeman fan, I'm a Morgan Freeman admirer. I hope you get the distinction I'm trying to make: I don't just enjoy his work as an actor, I think of him as the kind of guy I'd like to emulate. So I'm upset and worried to hear that he's been seriously injured in a car accident.
I hope I'm not coming off like some kind of creepy stalker type guy, here. I'm not ready to sit in the bushes across from the Freeman home with a pair of binoculars. But I will say a prayer tonight for his full recovery, and I hope you will, too.
And by the way, I'm fully aware that Morgan Freeman supports Obama. For the record, I don't have to agree with a person on every subject in order to admire them a great deal.
One more thing I'm gonna say and then I'm gonna shut up before I get accused of having a "crush" on Morgan Freeman. I haven't seen Bruce Almighty; I did see Evan Almighty and I didn't much like it. Having said that, how cool is it that they cast Morgan Freeman to play God in those movies? I'd call it inspired casting, but it's not really "inspired," it's just obvious. Morgan freeman exudes wisdom, kindness, authority and morality. If somehow in the next life I get an audience with The Lord God and he decides to put on a familiar facade to make me more comfortable, I'd specifically request the Morgan Freeman look.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Blinded By The Light
Now and then, I suppose, each of us needs to spend a little time in quiet contemplation, trying to puzzle out the lyrics to Blinded By The Light.
There's a lot of information about the song floating around on the internet, but very little of it seems to be a matter of consensus. Everybody agrees that the song was written and originally recorded by Bruce Springsteen. Everybody agrees that the version recorded by Manfred Mann's Earth Band was the bigger hit single. After that it's all chaos.
This MSNBC page has a number of handy links, including the official Springsteen lyrics and the lyrics as recorded by Manfred Mann. But knowing the words that are actually being sung doesn't make it any easier to figure out what the song is about.
Of course everyone thinks that Manfred Mann's version has a line about being "Revved up like a douche," which makes no sense. The Manfred Mann lyrics page clarifies the lyric as "revved up like a deuce," and the original Springsteen version goes "cut loose like a deuce."
And that doesn't make any sense, either. A deuce? Huh?
Wikipedia says that a deuce is slang for a DUI in California. So does the song glorify driving while intoxicated in California? Probably not. Springsteen is famously from New Jersey, not California.
Princeton says that one definition of a deuce is "a devil." OK. Revved up like a devil? Cut loose like a devil? Of course, a deuce is also a tied game in tennis. But that doesn't make any sense, either. And the two-cards in a deck of cards are also called deuces. But that definition doesn't really help decode the song.
This page says that a Deuce is a 1932 Ford. That kinda makes sense. You can rev up and/or cut loose a car. So that works. And this page at the Song Facts website agrees that the "deuce" in question is a "1932 Ford Hotrod."
Not that I really trust the Song Facts website. After all, it also contains the following tidbits:
...he was coaching his son's little league at the time, and wrapped up like a duece refers to a double play,with runners in the night...
Oh, OK, it's a baseball song. So the "Indians in the summer" referenced in the first line must be the Cleveland Indians. And late in the Springsteen version when Bruce sings "Well I jumped up, turned around, spit in the air, fell on the ground," he must be talking about signaling to the pitcher. You know; "throw your slider, Meat."
Oh, no, wait: Tommy in New York says that
"indians in the summer" refers to bruce's childhood baseball team, the indians
Ah. OK. Screw Cleveland.
The Cyberpope in Richmond, Canada offers the following:
I thought it was "break ope' like a douche. . ." & just imagined it was referring to a horrible, horrible grossness
Thank you very much for that vaguely disgusting image. You're not really the Cyberpope, are you? I don't think the real Cyberpope would post anything like that. I think the real Cyberpope would have come up with an interpretation like the one submitted by Andrew in Apex, NC:
This song is about Paul's conversion, as told in the Acts of the Apostles. The verses retell the story as a present-day singer trying to get a gig. It uses several metaphores in a stream-of-conscienceness style.
Well, of course. The lyrics are clearly VERY biblical now that I know that. All they need is a slight change and they're straight out of the New Testament:
"And, lo, little Early Pearly hath come by in his curly wurly. Verily, thus he spake: 'Needeth thou a ride?'"
No, that won't hold water, either.
Gene in Sterling Heights, MI says
Regarding Graham's comment on meaningless lyrics, "Go-Kart Mozart was checkin' out the weather charts, etc." is somewhat cryptic but translates thus. "checkin' out the weather charts" refers to the song "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." Go-Kart Mozart is the writer of the song, who raced go-karts at that time. The lyric refers to Gordon Lightfoot.
Over at the MSNBC page, JB takes issue with that interpretation:
So "Blinded By the Light", released in 1973, references a 1976 song about a 1975 shipwreck? I guess that's why Brucie is the megastar he is. What foresight!
OK, scratch the Lightfoot interpretation.
Margret in Chicago says:
The line "In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into is hat." pretty strongly hints at masturbation.
Yes, it does. It also strongly hints at a ruined hat. His HAT, for Pete's sake? Why his HAT? I mean, SURELY there was a better option.
Man, to heck with trying to figure this song out. I can't even decide on a definitive version of the song. Springsteen wrote it, so you'd think his version would be definitive by default ... but Manfred Mann rearranged the song so dramatically, and the Manfred Mann version is by far the better known of the two. So it's hard to pick.
Here's the Springsteen version:
Here's Manfred Mann's Earth Band:
Both awesome in their own ways. But I think I have to give my vote for the definitive version to these talented performance artists who express the song's complex and profound themes through interpretive dance:
Saturday, August 02, 2008
I don't do an extreme amount of bitching here at the blog, but I do get a good whine on from time to time.
This is one of those posts, so you should stop reading it now.
Really, you'll wish you had. So stop reading it now. You have better things to do.
I am SICK TO DEATH of having tubes coming out of my body. Latex, plastic, etc, etc. Catheters, IV lines, etc, etc, etc. Ever since the first surgery for bladder cancer last month I've been hooked up to one device or another. And I'm sick of it.
I'm trying to stay positive, trying to focus on the fact that this isn't lung cancer or prostate cancer or pancreatic cancer ... one of the really ugly ones ... but it's hard to stay positive 24/7. I'm not really positive right now and haven't been for a few days. I'm sure I'll regret posting this shortly after I post it, but f%&@! it. This is what I feel like writing right now. And it won't be the first time I posted something I later regretted ... this blog is riddled with four years worth of regrettable writing.
I want a cigarette SO DAMN BAD that I think I'd KILL for one. I haven't had a cigarette since July 9, but it was a 25 or 26 year addiction, and it's going to take a while to get over it. Going back to work is going to be the real challenge. I don't smoke around the kids (as far as I know, they didn't know I smoked) and I don't smoke in the house ... but at work I have always smoked constantly. So going back to work and not lighting up is going to take a lot of focus.
Chantix, by the way, sucks. It's no better than the patches, the gums, etc. The only way to quit smoking is to just quit. I think it's like that with any addiction.
Hopefully, from now on, every time I see a cigarette I'll think about bladder cancer, and that'll be enough to keep me from smoking.
I'm sick of missing work, too. Not that my job is anybody's idea of a dream job. My job pretty much sucks. But I do miss the paycheck. (Boy, do I EVER miss the paycheck.) And I miss the regular routine. And I miss the friends I have at work.
What else to bitch about while I'm on a roll? OK, there's this: I'm sick of Barack Obama acting like he's the Second Coming of Christ and I'm sick to my stomach of his supporters swooning over him. This McCain ad says it all:
Also, I'm sick of Ubisoft CONTINUING to push back the release date for the new Splinter Cell game. Splinter Cell is the one video game series that I enjoy. I can live without the TV otherwise. I really don't like TV, I don't watch any specific shows, I don't buy or play other video games, I generally don't think any game is worth the price. Except for the Splinter Cell games. Boy, I love those games. And God only knows when the new one will actually come out.
What else? Let's see, I'm sick to death of seeing this crazy skank pop up on every news source imaginable. I think it's pretty obvious that Casey Anthony has caused the death of her daughter, either through neglect or abuse, and she's just leading everyone on a wild goose chase, trying to hold out another day before there's something solid to pin on her. Man, I hope they find something soon. It'd be great if the little girl turned up alive, but I don't see that happening, and I'm sick of every news outlet in the world passing on the lunatic mother's latest outrageous lie.
And I guess that's all I'm going to bitch about now. And that's by far enough.
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