Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Movie Review: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Benjamin Button is born with the physiology of a man in his late 80's. As he ages, his body grows in reverse, so that by the time he's really in his late '80's, he has the body of a baby. This is the story of his adventures, his loves and his loses, his tragedies and triumphs.
- The special effects and make-up look great on a big screen.
- Brad Pitt is very good in the title role.
- in spite of it's odd conceit, this is a perfectly standard, sentimental, holiday-time feel-good movie.
- Meandering story.
- Too little humor or surprises to sustain the movie's two hours and forty-five minutes. I had plenty of time to get bored.
2.5 or 3 on a five scale. Eeeh.
Ah, man. What can you say about a movie like The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button? You know going into it that you're supposed to like it. And you know, two-thirds of the way through, that if you find yourself bored and unimpressed, people are going to condemn you as an incorrigible grouch. Generally I was bored with ...Benjamin Button, I felt like I'd seen it all before. There's nothing new here, and that's especially disappointing, considering that director David Fincher usually has something original to offer, even in his lesser films.
And, just for the record, I went into Benjamin Button totally prepared to enjoy it. My expectations were appropriately low. I'd set my phazers on stun with visual effects, and I was ready to allow myself to be pulled into the Hallmark Card sentimentality that I expected from the film. If you go into these kinds of big, showy movies, you can enjoy them. I'd remembered the lesson of Forrest Gump, a movie I'd hated because I'd expected too much out of it. I was prepared for a Titanic style experience. (I actually saw Titanic in the theater several times and I'd really enjoyed it because I'd turned off my quality filter and just enjoyed looking at the big, pretty boat and all the pretty people drowning in the cold, cold water.)
I'm not sure what went wrong along the way, but I have to fault the movie more than myself. I was enjoying the special effects, the way the movie presented a Brad Pitt who really did look both 85 years old and four feet tall. And for a while I enjoyed the cookie-cutter characters, too. Most of them were based on tried-and-true movie character templates ... but admirable templates, like the loving adoptive mother, the dancer with a heart of gold, and the friendly, mysterious foreigner who opens up the world for the young protagonist. And lets not forget the young protagonist himself. I gotta give it to Brad Pitt; there must be a special challenge in wearing tons of prosthetic devices and makeup and acting believably as a ten year old boy in an octogenarian's body. Generally speaking, Pitt pulled it off.
But after the first hour or 75 minutes or so the movie began to meander and never really got back on course. I got bored and found myself with time to draw parallels between Benjamin Button and all the movies like it that have come before. For instance, Forrest Gump had a commissioned officer in the military who later became his captain on a private commercial boat. Working backwards, appropriately, Benjamin Button had a captain on a private commercial boat who later became his commissioned naval superior.
Forrest Gump lost a beloved, secondary friend in war. So did Benjamin. Forrest kept drifting in and out of the life of his one true love. So did Benjamin. Oh, and for Titanic fans, there's even the death of close friends after a tragedy in icy ocean waters.
Once the movie began to bore me I never got interested again. The last hour of this movie dragged on and on and on like few movies I've seen before. I'd honestly have walked out if it weren't for the fact that my wife was enjoying the movie and did want to see how it ended. She did a better job than I did of suspending the critical eye of a serious movie fan. It was my loss.
When all was said and done I was thrilled to see the closing credits. Several people in the theater were wiping tears from their faces. They'd really enjoyed the movie. I was jealous of them. I was sure then, and I'm sure now, that if I'd managed to stay in the right frame of mind I'd have somehow enjoyed this movie. It was not a life-changer, this wasn't Ikiru or Schindler's List ... and it hadn't meant to be. This was the cinematic equivalent of a get-well card and a box of candy. It's what I think of as a "housewife movie," like Big Fish or The Notebook. There's nothing wrong with that. If you're in the right mood. I guess I just wasn't.
On our way into the theater, I had found myself standing in line behind an older fellow who was talking to a friend of his whom he'd met up with by chance at the theater. One friend asked the other what movie he was here to see, and the other had responded "Oh, uh ... it's The Lifestyle Of Benjamin Franklin." I had a quiet little laugh at the old guy's expense. But in the end, the laugh was on me. A movie about the supposedly outrageous habits of Ben Franklin would have surely been more entertaining than this one was. Shorter, too.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
2008: The Year At SouthCon
A look back at the year as it closes ... each of the thumbnail pictures below is clickable. Click one and it'll take you to the relevant post.
This is 2008 as I followed it at the blog. The political, the cultural, the personal and the trivial. Mostly the trivial.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Movie Review: Domino
The late Domino Harvey lead a life that might make Buckaroo Bonzai look like Walter Mitty. She was a fashion model, a bounty hunter, a drug addict and a television star. This is her story, told in a hyperactive, violent style with lots of flash, blood, color and volume.
- Christopher Walken.
- Tom Waits music in the soundtrack.
- The DVD only cost me two bucks.
- For all it's bang and sizzle, it's boring.
- The story makes no sense.
- The characters aren't interesting.
- Hardees has a decent burger I could have bought with that two bucks.
One star, maybe one and a half on a five scale. A well made piece of crap.
Director Tony Scott has turned out quite a few films that I've really enjoyed. Some of them (Man On Fire, Days of Thunder) are slightly guilty pleasures. Others (Enemy of the State, True Romance, Crimson Tide) are as good as action movies get.
Last Black Friday, Wal-Mart had a number of DVDs on sale for two bucks, and one of them was Tony Scott's Domino. I figured it was just bound to be worth two bucks. The Tony Scott brand-name alone was worth two bucks, right? Plus, the movie featured Mickey Rourke, and was one of the movies he's made since his mostly praiseworthy comeback. Christopher Walken was in there, too. He's always entertaining. I figured it was a no-brainer. I mean, geez, you can't even rent a movie for two bucks these days.
Well, I've just finished watching Domino and, yeah, I guess it was worth my two bucks ... but not a dime more than that. I don't see me ever watching it again, it's just gonna gather dust on our DVD shelf from now on. This isn't the worst movie Tony Scott has ever turned out (that would be Top Gun), but there is very little to recommend it. I'd kinda like to be able to take it back and retrieve my two bucks.
Domino is loosely based on the true story of Domino Harvey, who was a bounty hunter and may have also been a fashion model. She certainly had the looks to be, as does Keira Knightley, who portrays her in this film to the best of her limited acting abilities. If I'm honest, though, even an actress with the talents of Emma Thompson would have had a difficult time creating a memorable performance in this loud, bombastic mess of a film. Tony Scott gambled this movie's potential on a heap of jumbled edits, odd camera angles, bizarre narration, nonsensical subtitles and unhinged imagery that makes Fight Club look like Gosford Park.
Sometimes a big, kinetic, messy movie can be entertaining in it's own right. See Oliver Stone's demented morality tale U-Turn for a mostly successful example. And sometimes a director can emphasize style over substance and still manage to convey something meaningful about the human condition. For instance, I think that Danny Boyle's Trainspotting succeeds as a cautionary tale because that movie's hallucinogenic blur is an organic element of the story.
Now and then (very rarely, but occasionally), a movie can get by just on the strength of it's visuals. The Matrix, for example, and Tarsem Singh's The Cell both entertained me, and neither had much more to offer than their distinctly rich visual pallets.
And then there's Domino, a movie with nothing to offer but style and nothing new to offer even in those terms. Tony Scott is just rehashing his own body of work here, and borrowing from Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone, and others.
Domino features one of the most incoherent stories I've ever seen in a movie. It may be full of plot-holes, too. I don't know, though, because I found the story impossible to follow. None of the characters were interesting or appealing enough to make me want to follow the story. And the movie's satirical subtext, about the emptiness of so-called "reality TV" and our culture's fascination with the cult of celebrity, is a little bit tired.
But I have to admit that Rourke and Walken both got about as much as anyone could have out of their cheesy characters. And seeing Tom Waits turn up late in the film in a small, unbilled role put a smile on my face. (That's a surprise I suppose I've just ruined for you. Sorry 'bout that.) And I have to admit that I enjoyed the soundtrack, including a number of Waits songs. They gave me something fun to at least listen to while the movie as a whole was failing to entertain me.
The worst movie I've seen in years and years was Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween. Domino was nowhere near that bad. Then again, a 200 degree vodka enema wouldn't have been as bad as watching Zombie's awful movie.
Still, it doesn't speak well for Domino that the best thing I can say about it is that it wasn't the worst movie I've ever seen. the cardinal sin for loud, flashy, violent, bloody, offensive movies is if they're also boring. This movie commits that sin. I think it's safe to say that everyone involved in this film will do better work than they turned in here.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
2008: Death, Disease, Uncertanty ... The Ususal Fun Stuff
I used to write about faith at this blog fairly frequently. I haven't in a long time. A year or so, I suppose.
My religious beliefs have been in flux for a long time. For as long as I can remember, really. I was raised Southern Baptist, and my religious upbringing wasn't a positive experience for me. During my mid 20's I was a militant agnostic: "I don't know and you don't, either." By my early 30's I became nominally pro-religion; I began to think that religion did more good than bad for most people, and although I maintained that it wasn't for me, I generally saw it as a force for good.
Then I got divorced and 9/11 happened and I panicked. For whatever reason I decided that it was important that I nail down exactly where I stood on religion. I started reading the Bible and C.S. Lewis and something clicked. I've gone from content agnostic to enthusiastic Catholic convert in the last few years, and at every stage along the way I've always been very happy to force my beliefs on the people around me.
Never in a positive way, though. My approach, my foundation, has always been "You're wrong! Here's why!"
I think that maybe the only thing I've ever really believed in is the blunt force of my own opinion.
I began to realize over the past year that my religious convictions were a house of cards. 2008 has been an awful year. It began with the culmination of some serious marital problems. Just as it began to look like my marriage might survive, a good friend of mine died out of the blue. Well, what happened was, first my friend's daughter committed suicide, and then about a month later he had a heart attack and died. I was still trying to sort that out when I was diagnosed with cancer in June. I've had three tumor resections since then and I'm going to have another next month.
And, yes, I might be endulging myself with more self-pity than these circumstances really warrant.
The worst of all of this was what happened with my friend. I haven't written about it here for two reasons. One reason is that I didn't want to trivialize the loss of my friend's daughter and his subsequent death by writing about it at a blog that's primarily dedicated to YouTube videos and fart jokes. The main reason that I haven't written about it, though, is that thinking about it hurts so godamn much that I just try to avoid thinking about it at all.
My friend's daughter died and there was absolutely nothing inside of me that enabled me to offer him any comfort. Don't misread what I wrote: I didn't complain that I couldn't comfort him. I was totally incapable of even trying to comfort him. This was a guy I loved and I was totally incapable of making a gesture beyond "I'm sorry for your loss." It ate at me, it kept me up at night, but I only came up empty handed. The truth of the matter was that, deep down, I simply believed that my friend's daughter was gone. Just gone.
And then one morning he was gone, too. And I think the main thing I feel about that is anger.
All of this stuff happened and I realized that there was nothing (absolutely NOTHING) built into the foundation of my faith that prepared me to handle it. I began to think that the reason I'd been drawn to the Catholic Church was really just that I line up very well with the Church's politics. I already believe what the Church teaches with regard to abortion, the death penalty, charity, etc. It was a good match.
But as far as the "spiritual core" of my beliefs, I'm as uncertain and as lost as I've ever been. I do know, though, that I've never had a transcendent experience. Not once. And I don't even want one. I don't want cause to doubt my own sanity any more than I already do. I still have this deep need to figure out where I'm coming from, to figure out what I believe and why, but I just have no idea where to go from here.
Here's the truth of my beliefs. These are the things that I believe deep down, and I don't know how to change them, or if I should change them, or what to do about them. I believe in God. I don't know why he'd feel anything but contempt or maybe pity for humanity, but I do believe in a God of some sort. I believe in altruism and love and kindness, I believe, in fact, that those are the only things that make life worth living. I don't believe in any sort of afterlife. I think that death is the end, that death is final, and that it's always a hair's breath away. I think life is fragile and mostly futile, and that it's still a wonderful, wonderful thing. The most important thing in the entire world to me is my son ... and I believe that all of the immortality that there is going to be for me will be in whatever good I'm able to pass along to him. If I'm able to be a good enough father for him to be able to look back in fifty years and say "I guess the old man wasn't a total shithead," then I think I'll have done well. I'll have been a better father than I ever had, anyway.
Those are the things I believe deep down and I don't know why I believe them, other than those seem like natural conclusions to me. I don't know what to do with those beliefs or how to reconcile them with the Church, with Christianity, with faith or with the world in general. Oh, and get this: I still believe that the Roman Catholic church is the best thing out there. Talk about being conflicted.
I know that one or two of my Christian friends are going to read this and be tempted to send me e-mails to try to reason with me. I appreciate it, but it won't really help. Trust me, I've been trying like hell to reason with myself for the past year.
If you want something poetic or philosophical, this is the best I can offer: I can't explain why or exactly what it is about it, but there's something essential about the things I believe in the lyrics to the Black Crowes song A Thorn In My Pride. That's the best I can offer, and it's typical of me. When in doubt, I come back to rock and roll.
I'm writing all of this because Scott at Spiritual Tramp posted this video that I saw today and it moved me to tears:
Generally, I've come to realize in the past year that the best thing I can do is keep all of this to myself. I made a couple of attempts to discuss these feelings with friends at one point earlier this year and I only managed to offend them. That is the one thing I'm good at. Even when I'm not trying (and I usually am trying), I can offend people like nobody's business. It comes naturally to me, I guess.
But the things Penn Jillette had to say hit me like a wrecking ball. I felt like I had to write something. If you've read this, thank you for indulging me.
Man, I really hope 2009 is a fairly innocuous year.
Little Girl, Big Sound
As I've written before, I really enjoy bass guitar. Which is why I really enjoy this:
Her name is Tal Wilkenfeld. I think that's a good name to remember.
Artie Lang On Letterman
The guy is just flat-out funny. He's Howard Stern's sideman, but he's way funnier than Stern.
Content advisory, off-color stories, etc.
Here he is with a story about the n-word that literally had me in tears with laughter. Serious, extreme langauge warning here. Every offensive word known to man is contained in this next clip. But the content, philologically, is friggin' genius.
Friday, December 26, 2008
It Only Takes One Cop Like This...
...to stain how a lot of us think about all of them.
I realize that only maybe 5% of the cops in the world are blowhards and assholes. It just seems to me that, over the course of my life, I've had to deal with 99% of that 5%. What follows is very typical of what I've come to think of as classic cop attitude; the usual cop behavior.
This is video of Baltimore cop Salvatore Rivieri throwing his weight around, freaking out, and generally treating a bunch of kids like they're the mafia:
A message to Salvatore Rivieri: You're an asshole, dude. You're a punk with a chip on his shoulder and you're a disgrace to that badge that you're so proud of. Dude. Dude, dude, dude. Asshole. Dude.
I wonder if he's ever tried this crap with someone his size? It would almost be worth a court appearance to bust this big whining bitch in his big mouth.
And, no, this isn't an isolated incident. This kind of behavior is Sally-Boy's standard operational crap:
Turns out that the 14 year old kid in the first video, Eric Bush, is suing Officer Salvatore "Asshole Dude" Rivieri. Goooooood. I just hope this cop loses his job and has to go to work doing security at Wal-Mart where he belongs: "Hey, you come back here and let me check off your receipt! You better RESPECT this yellow highlighter!"
Hat Tip to Bob Parks, who sees this story quite differently than I do.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Let's celebrate the holiday with this video I've just found. This video is clearly the reason the internet was invented in the first place:
Now that we've all finally seen that video we can all log off and resume the lives we left behind in 1994.
Labels: You Tube
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Last Post Before The Holidays
Gonna be busy for the next few days. I'll talk to you after Christmas. Meanwhile:
- I will never, ever, ever, ever, EVER blog again after taking prescription drugs that impair my judgment.
I'm not taking anything that I'm not supposed to take ... but some of the drugs I have to take occasionally do make me goofy. Really goofy. They makes me say silly things and laugh at silly things ... and type silly things. And the next morning I look at what I barely remember posting the night before and I spend about ten seconds trying to figure out what I was talking about and then I hit the delete post button as quickly as possible.
Some writers have been lucid, creative and interesting while under the influence of controlled substances. Good for them. Chuck Palahniuk I am not.
- The Weather Channel is biased:
I do take issue with the assertion that the Weather Channel uses "smooth jazz" to distract their viewers. I've heard Phish on the Weather Channel and they're a jam band.
But, come to think of it, it did distract me.
- Some people are all to hell about Obama's choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. The political gays (homosexual and heterosexual alike) are writhing in conniption fits about it. The moonbats at The Daily Kos (in this instance, the chief moonbat) compare Warren to Fred Phelps and David Duke.
Remember, disagreeing with political gays regarding the definition of "marriage" is the same thing as hate. If you don't see things their way, you are a HATEMONGER!
Look, I'm no Rick Warren fan. I think the guy is a hack and a snake-oil salesman. but compared to some of the "ministers" that Obama has associated with in the past, this guy is a huge step in the right direction. Warren is, at least, capable of a modicum of self-control.
(Sidebar rant begins here)
And before any Warrenites take issue with my assessment of their "purpose driven" clergyman ... yes, I have read Rick Warren. I bought The Purpose Driven Life after a protestant minister told me that I should read it, that it would change my life. He was right, it did change my life. It made me fifteen bucks poorer.
So I'm entitled to my opinion that Rick Warren is a profit driven schmuck who peddles feel-good Wal-Mart "theology" to people who don't really want to think all that hard about religion.
You really want to read about Christianity? Read a Bible. The actual words of Christ are in there. And this Paul guy had some interesting ideas, too. (Heard of Paul? He wrote this letter to some Christians in Rome that's just dynamite stuff; really, really good. He wrote some other stuff, too. He was a big Jesus-booster back in the day. Check the New Testament, I think some of his stuff is in there.)
(And, by the way, you don't have to buy Rick Warren's Purpose Driven New Testament, only $18.95 this week at Target. You can pick up a King James Bible for just a buck at the Dollar Tree, and nearly all* of the whole Bible is actually in there! For a buck! Can you believe it! I know, crazy, right?!)
Other than the Bible, read St. Thomas Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and the indispensable Deitrich Bonhoffer. (Bonhoffer. Wow. Now there is a real purpose driven life. His book The Cost Of Discipleship might not "change your life," but it will humble you.)
But, look, if you just want something with the substance of a Hallmark card, then the Rick Warren / Max Lucado / Five People You Meet In Heaven crap is just fine. Read it. Mist up. Feel good.
(Sidebar rant officially over)
- Bob Parks has a great picture of the ravages of global warming: Snow falling in Las Vegas.
- Speaking of the wackos at the Daily Kos, some of 'em are pleased as punch with the idea of Caroline Kennedy as a Senator. Nothing against the woman, but Caroline Kennedy's primary qualification for political office is that she is currently breathing.
Which is not to knock those Kennedys who are no longer breathing ... or any of them who might be fish-breathing at the moment.
Caroline Kennedy is a peachy choice for the US Senate. Right. Barely a month ago these same morons were telling us that Sarah Palin wasn't qualified to be VP.
- Scott liked In Bruges. Good. In Bruges was my pick for the second best film of 2007.
- Roanoke R N'R knows exactly what she doesn't want for Christmas.
Oh, I dunno. I think Christy Lane ROCKS!
Every single time I hear her singing Shake Me I Rattle I just want to grab her by the shoulders and shake the s**t out of her.
But that's just me.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Junk Dump 13
There are a number of things I want to write and post, but I haven't really got the time to sit down and think. In the meantime, here's some stuff I saw and right-click-saved:
No, this is NOT a picture of me.
Yes, I would wear that suit if I had it.
Just your typical "kids crying on Santa's lap" picture. But it's the exasperation on Santa's face here that really cracked me up.
Yep, that's about right.
These last three are motivational poster parodies that cracked me up. And two of them involve bears!
Get it? It's a polar bear ... with a CHAIN SAW! Because an unarmed polar bear just isn't dangerous enough.
If I had a bear I could ride I would ride it everywhere. And I would wave a sword at all times. I would just ride around on my bear, waving my sword, and NOBODY would EVER screw with me. That would SO rule.
And, yes, I'd be wearing my black Spider-Man suit.
Labels: Junk Dump
Friday, December 12, 2008
Various And Sundry
Just some things that caught my eye:
- Smashing Pumpkins don't intend to release another album:
According to The Pulse of Radio, SMASHING PUMPKINS frontman Billy Corgan says the band will not release any more new albums, citing the lack of enthusiasm for their 2007 comeback effort, "Zeitgeist", as one of the reasons.Rock fans reacted to the news with shock and horror, exclaiming "Smashing Pumpkins released an album in 2007?! Why??"
- It looks like UAW greed and hubris have killed the auto company bailout for now. Good. Modern labor unions can keep their heads in the sand if they want, but they shouldn't be able to drag the tax payer down with them.
Then again, maybe it's not willful obstinance on the parts of the labor unions. I've spent enough time with union types to tell you that they really might just be that stupid.
- Speaking of the auto bailout, here's an awesome graphic that's making the rounds. I saw it at Fairly Conservative:
It's funny because it's true. Throw in the entitlement attitude of the UAW and you've got a pretty strong batch of socialist BS brewing up, there.
I'd really like to see lawmakers come up with the balls to shut this bailout down FOR GOOD. Make the big three file for bankruptcy and force the average UAW lunch-bucket member to wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe they'll ask themselves if big labor has been screwing us all for years now. Maybe? Nah, couldn't be. Those guys are watching out for the little guy, right?
Sure they are, dumbass. Keep paying your monthly dues, no need to use the brain God gave you.
- The Ol' Broad had a fairly cute Obama-inspired reworking of The Twelve Days Of Christmas. You can click here to watch the whole thing, or just watch the truncated video below if you only want to hear the twelfth and final, complete verse:
- I don't agree with Scott at Good News Film Reviews about the movie The Dark Knight. I enjoyed the movie, Scott didn't enjoy the Batman Begins sequel very much at all. And, I have to admit, he makes a really strong case against the film. I'd hate to be the guy who has to go up against Scott in a formal debate.
- Bob Parks has the details on the body of a child found near the home of Casey Anthony. It's unfortunate ... tragic, really ... but if this turns out to be the body of little Caylee Anthony, at least there'll be some closure.
And I'll just say this about that: Casey Anthony appears to be a self-centered, lying, down-right-evil bitch. It looks like her parents have enabled her and coddled her for her entire life. They never made her be accountable for her actions and they never made her stand on her own two feet. Of course, that doesn't always lead to murder, but no good ever comes of it.
- Dennis Miller says that if Obama really claims that he worked his way through the Chicago political machine without ever touching corruption, he's either "oblivious or disingenuous." It's darned hard to argue with that.
It reminds me of my own former Senator, Chuck Robb, who once went to a hotel room with the woman on the Playboy magazine cover to the right. Robb admitted that he got naked in that room with that woman, and that she gave him a massage ... but that nothing else happened.
This was Chuck Robb's way of saying "I believe that everyone within the sound of my voice is a f----ng idiot."
Either that, or he's telling the truth and he's some sort of animate vegetable-alien thing from the planet Lethargis.
And get this: Chuck Robb got re-elected. Which means that I can't say too much about the people who do the voting in Chicago.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Pro Obama Thoughts
We are going to have to live with him for at least four years, so I've been looking for things to like about Obama.
I could mope and get spiteful and bitter, but that's not going to do me any good. I walked around mad for the last six years of Bill Clinton's administration simply because I thought he was an awful president. Even worse than Dubya. I don't want to do that with this guy. I want to find things to like about him, even if only for my own positive mental health and to prevent ulcers.
I'm not going to put on any rose-colored glasses, but I am going to look for the good in the guy. Here's what I've got so far:
- "Change you can believe in" turned out to really mean "more of the same." That's not necessarily a good thing, but at least it isn't radical risk-taking.
Pete Townshend said it best: "Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss."
So hopefully all the young liberals who voted for Obama to bring about "change" will take note. Nothing substantial ever changes in Washington. The only change Obama has brought to the White House is superficial.
Some people are wondering if Obama might be a "closet conservative." It's too soon to conclude that ... but at least he's not quite as naive as I thought he was. So that's good.
Why do politicians always mean the exact opposite of what they say? George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" was actually a code phrase for "irresponsible liberalism." And it looks like "change we can believe in" actually meant "stick with the people you're sick of."
- Turns out he's not the sleaziest politician in Illinois. And the Blago scandal hasn't turned up any dirt on Obama at all. Good for the President-Elect.
You know, I like the idea that maybe the Obama team was working with the Feds on the Blagojevich bust. Maybe they squealed on the guy. If so, they did the right thing.
- I think Barack is more honest and less smarmy than Bill Clinton. Obviously he's a much better speaker and a less muddled thinker than George W. Bush, and he's far prettier than the first President Bush. So for the first time since Reagan, when I watch the President give speeches, I won't be squirming for aesthetic reasons. I will likely squirm for other reasons (policy), but not because of the presentation.
Yeah, these are mostly superficial things. My policy problems with Barack Obama still far outweigh my trivial compliments. Still, it's nice that there are a few good things apparent about the guy.
Suicide On Television
The legacy of Christine Chubbuck:
Britain's obsession with reality television reached new heights — or depths — Wednesday night with the broadcast of the assisted suicide of the 59-year-old terminally ill American at a Swiss clinic...
"There is a growing appetite from the British public for increasingly bizarre reality shows," said (an anti-euthanasia) group's director, Peter Saunders. "We'd see it as a new milestone. It glorifies assisted dying when there is a very active campaign by the pro-suicide lobby to get the issue back into Parliament."
(British Prime Minister Gordon) Brown did not venture an opinion, saying only that the government's "television watchdogs" will scrutinize the show after it is broadcast.
Next, we'll be broadcasting executions.
Watching "reality TV" is like throwing raw meat to the ugliest things hiding in the human psyche. How long until movies like this one and this one and this one are seen as prophetic rather than satirical?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The Dark Knight On DVD
I gave the movie five stars when I reviewed it this past summer. I can't rate the two-disc special edition DVD as high.
The two-disc DVD is something of a disappointment. Wendy and I went ahead and splurged on it as an early Christmas present for ourselves yesterday, and watching the extra features today left me feeling a bit let down.
Director Chris Nolan has said that he intentionally avoids including cut scenes and blooper reels on his DVDs out of respect for his actors. He feels that actors might not be as willing to take chances with their performances if they worry that their every misstep or mistake is going to end up on the DVD. I see his point.
Still, the untimely death of Heath Ledger, combined with the incredibly enthusiastic reception of his wonderful performance as the Joker, almost mandates a special look at his work on the DVD. It would have been nice to see even a fifteen-minute tribute reel. Have Nolan talk about collaborating on the character with Ledger, have the other actors talk about the experience of working with him. I've seen those kinds of things on TV, I've heard the actors talk about how much they enjoyed working with Ledger. It should have been easy to at least throw something together for the DVD.
Even the inclusion of the content generated for the movie's viral internet marketing campaign would have been an upgrade from what's actually included on the second disc.
Compared to the Batman Begins two-disc DVD set, which was loaded with extras, The Dark Knight special edition DVD is far less than it might have been.
I noticed in the product specs at Amazon that the blu-ray version has a couple of extra features that aren't on the standard DVD set. So that's how they're gonna play it, huh? I guess we're all going to have to buy blu-ray players in the next few years.
Still, the reason to buy any DVD set is for the movie itself. And The Dark Knight holds it's own on the small screen. Yeah, it's a big-budget summer blockbuster ... but it's also a character study and a dark, brooding piece of comic book film noir. The 5.1 surround sound mix sounds great and the digital transfer is beautiful to look at.
Buy The Dark Knight on DVD for the movie itself. The special features on the two-disc set are a let-down. There's better Dark Knight related non-movie footage available for free on YouTube. With that in mind, there's no need to spend an extra five bucks on the special edition. Regular DVD owners should get the single disc movie-only DVD and enjoy another psychotic joy-ride through Gotham in the comfort of their own homes.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
MCF kinda tagged me:
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
I'm no good at wrapping gifts, Wendy handles that here. If I try to wrap something I usually end up with tape in my hair, on the ceiling, etc. I don't like gift bags, though. I think they're kinda chinsy.
2. Real tree or Artificial?
I prefer real trees, I like the smell. But we've used an artificial out of convenience for several years.
3. When do you put up the tree?
We put ours up last weekend. We usually put it up in the first week of December of so. My mom and stepdad are nuts, theirs goes up before Thanksgiving.
4. When do you take the tree down?
I always want it down right away after New Year's Day. Sometimes it's later than that coming down due to busy schedules, etc. But I can't stand to still be looking at the tree more than a day or two after New Years.
5. Do you like eggnog?
Love it. I love eggnog and fruitcake.
6. Favorite gift received as a child?
I posted this picture of myself on Christmas Day when I was eight once before:
By the way, in spite of the appearance in that picture, I do have and have always had a left eye.
7. Hardest person to buy for?
My stepson, Liam. He's just not a materialistic person. He rarely wants much of anything and we have to try to come up with stuff off the top of our heads. I remember one year when he was four or so, we asked him what he wanted most of all for Christmas and he said "Soup."
8. Easiest person to buy for?
My stepdaughter, Willow. She wants everything.
9. Do you have a nativity scene?
We do, it's behind me this very second. It's a small one, you could sit the whole thing up on a chair, but it's a Nativity nonetheless.
10. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards?
We haven't done either over the last couple of years. We've been busy. I can remember one Christmas three or four years ago when we spent twenty bucks on postage for Christmas cards. I thought that was excessive.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Someone I was once married to always got me something last-minute, half-assed and uninteresting. One year I told her I'd like to have the movie Wag The dog and she instead gave me Primary Colors. Her explanation: "Same thing."
12. Favorite Christmas movie?
Every year I have to watch at least one production of A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version is my favorite, I'm a big fan of his). I also always have to see the original, animated 1966 television production of Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
You know, it never occurred to me until just now that they are essentially the same story. They're both stories about miserable old men who find redemption at Christmas time. Hmmmm. What's that say about me?
I love Boris Karloff's narration in ...Grinch. To me, that's one of the distinct sounds of Christmas.
13. When do you start shopping?
Wendy and I try to pick things up year round. We keep our eyes open, look for clearance sales, etc. Wendy is especially good at this.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Yeah. Once or twice.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Homemade Chex mix, eggnogg, fruitcake.
16. Lights on the tree?
Yes. Are there people who don't put lights on their tree?
17. Favorite Christmas song?
I love Christmas but I've never liked Christmas music. Purely for nostalgic reasons, I don't mind hearing this:
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
I've never traveled at Christmas and I don't think I ever would. I can see me holing up in my house, REFUSING to travel, and ultimately pissing off members of my family. Christmas traffic? Bah. Humbug.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
I thought they already had names. Why do I always get stuck doing someone else's work? Let Santa name his own reindeer.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
We haven't used a tree topper in years. We never could find one we liked and at some point someone said "Do we really have to use a tree topper?" The consensus, apparently, was that we don't.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
When I was a small child we always did it on Christmas morning. Then, once my sister and I were both young adults, my family switched to Christmas Eve for a long time. I don't think there was ever a decision to make that switch, it just kinda happened. Now that I have a family and kids of my own we're back to Christmas morning.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
Like I said before, I don't dig Christmas music. And cloying, manipulative songs like this one especially get under my skin.
23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
We have Marvel Comics, Simpsons and Spongebob ornaments on our tree. I really enjoy those. My favorite ornament that we have, though, is either our Charlie In The Box misfit toy ornament or our Bumble ornament or our smiling Grinch ornament.
The Island of Misfit Toys was always my favorite thing about the Rudolph Christmas special. And I'm sure that says something about me, too. It always bugged me, though, that they all wanted off the island. They all complain about having to live on the island, feeling unloved, unwanted. I always thought "Why don't you guys love each other?" You wouldn't think misfits would feel rejected by other misfits, would you? And then, at the end, Santa gathers them all up and delivers them to children. But they'd all been complaining just before that no kid could love them because they were all misfits. So what kind of cruel joke is that? Stanta takes them off their island, where at least they had each other, and delivers them to kids who can't possibly love them.
Was he trying to teach them a lesson about how they could have been happier on their island if at least they hadn't taken each other for granted?
What's up with that? Is it, like, Santa's vicious attempt at ironic punishment? Is Santa like a Christmas version of John Doe from Se7en? Sick freak.
I mean, think about it. Santa clearly hated misfits. He even wanted Rudolph banished until his nose proved to be useful to Santa's own purposes. Santa just hated anyone who didn't conform to his rigid standards. His name should have been Saddam Claus. Vicious bastard.
No wonder his wife was trying to kill him with fatty foods. "Eat, Papa, eat!"
You know, this quandary probably made an early contribution to my lifelong mistrust of authority.
24. Favorite Christmas memory?
I can't put it into words. There are sounds, smells, etc, that will cause me to remember something that is impossible to voice, but something real. It's just a remembered feeling of the childhood magic of Christmastime.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
Monday, December 08, 2008
Rosie O'Donnell's variety show was canceled after one episode. I don't know why, though ... based on this clip, I think it must have been a decent show:
And Rosie never looked prettier.
The War On ... Holiday?
I don't buy the whole "war on Christmas" thing for the most part.
But I gotta admit ... sometimes a store/agency/retailer/whatever seems to be going out of it's way to avoid the use of the word "Christmas," and sometimes it's kinda downright conspicuous.
Note to Amazon: What the heck does the phrase "12 Days Of Holiday" even friggin' mean?
I mean, ya know? Damn.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Planned Parenthood obviously targets unborn babies ... and as I mentioned the other day, they clearly target young pregnant girls, too.
Of course, they've always been a racist organization. Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, saw the eventual elimination of the black race as one of her goals. She said so, right up front. She called it "The Negro Project."
Did you know that, liberal abortion supporters? Do you care? Or is abortion, regardless of it's reality, simply worth preserving as long as it provides the theoretical option of getting rid of a baby that you've conceived but don't want?
And don't hand me that insulting, stupid shit about abortion being a women's rights issue. The people who throw that nonsense around might as well have forehead tattoos that read "I don't know anything about abortion." The reality of abortion is that both the baby and the mother are victims.
Margaret Sanger's final solution is working. Abortion is killing black people in shockingly disproportionate numbers.
Between killing them in the womb, keeping them dependent on welfare and telling them how to think, the Democratic Party is really a great friend to black Americans, isn't it?
Here's a clip I saw at Black & Right. I'm not a Limbaugh fan, but this clip is short and the information is, I would think, startling to anyone who supports Planned Parenthood but abhors racism:
So, again, abortion supporters ... keep telling yourselves what you need to believe so you can sleep at night.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
O'Reilly Vs. Kelly Re: Atheists
This got my attention:
Just a few comments:
O'Reilly is a dick. He's always been a dick, he'll always be a dick. The guy is just abrasive and unpleasant and I think he'd be about as much fun to be around as a cranky, senile, infected, knife-welding crackhead.
Megyn Kelly, as usual, is reasonable, well spoken, attractive and right. She really is my favorite talking head. As such, she now deserves her own tag here at SouthCon.
I'm offended by the atheist sign, too. But that's the point. Aren't Christians supposed to be the persecuted ones? Didn't that one guy tell Christians to expect persecution ... even to take comfort in it, for the world will hate you just as it hated him? You know, that one guy, that Jesus fellow. He's still got something to do with Christianity, right? As opposed to O'Reilly? Ya know?
Friday, December 05, 2008
For Real, Ponch?
If you're traveling in Muncie, Indiana, and a cop pulls you over, and that cop looks a lot like Ponch from CHiPS ... well, that officer just might actually be Ponch:
Former TV cop Erik Estrada has become a real-life officer after a reality TV flop gave him a new career option.
The CHipS star was among the celebrities who took part in short-lived show Armed + Dangerous, where he and LaToya Jackson, among others, trained to become police reserves in Indiana. And the experience fired up Estrada, who is now officially an officer on the Muncie Police Department.
I'm kinda at a loss to say exactly why, but I think that's extremely cool.
I think Angie Dickinson should become a cop, now, too. And that Lee Majors should be horribly mutilated in some sort of test flight gone wrong, and that his mangled limbs should be replaced by high-powered bionic limbs that make a neat "yangYANGyangYANGyang" sound when he uses them.
And I think that Lynda Carter should always dress just like this, and she should never age beyond whatever age she is in this clip:
I'd like all of these things done by the time I wake up in the morning... so, you guys need to get on it right away.
Barring that, I will settle for Erik Estrada being a real cop for now.
Oh, and a sidenote to today's twenty-somethings: My generation's tall, silly, well built brunette was WAY HOTTER than your generation's tall, silly, well built brunette. No contest, man.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
In case you haven't seen it ...
A Shell Oil remote-controlled deep-sea camera videotaped this strange squid about a mile and a half down in the Gulf of Mexico. This guy has elbows:
The squid is kinda noteworthy because it's a Magnapinna. The squid family Magnapinnidae (named because of their large fins, also visible in the video clip) only has four known species as of now. Science has only known about this family of animals for ten years or so.
Shell is one of many oil companies that collaborates with marine biologists, contributing to the scientific communities' understanding of these squid and other species of oceanic life. Because, you know, big oil doesn't care about the environment, etc.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Secret Video Shot At Planned Parenthood
You have GOT to watch this video ... shot in secret, under cover, at Planned Parenthood in Indiana. The girl seeking an abortion tells the Planned Parenthood employee that she's thirteen and that the baby's father is thirty-one.
The Planned Parenthood employee INSISTS that she doesn't want to know the age of the baby's father so she won't have to notify Child Protective Services.
She even comes up with a lie for the girl about the father being a 14 year old.
Then the Planned Parenthood employee instructs the girl about getting an abortion out of state so her parents won't have to be notified.
Parents need to face the reality of what Planned Parenthood really is: It's simply an abortion provider that preys on young girls for political purposes.
So tell me again, liberals, about how abortion on demand is a "women's rights" issue. Go ahead, try to sell me that line of insulting bullshit again. And tell yourself what you need to believe so you can sleep at night.
Tell yourself what you need to believe about this guy, too:
Babies murdered in the womb, young mothers emotionally scarred for life, and Planned Parenthood is complicit in all of it.
And their biggest supporter takes the Oval Office next month.
So, go ahead, liberals ... tell me again how this is about "freedom of choice."
Fun With Chickens
I'm a country boy, I grew up around chickens. I always thought they were stupid animals. Thanks to this video, I now realize that they're not stupid ... they're friggin' aliens, man:
Of course, I never once picked up a chicken to see what kind of neat chicken-head-tricks they could do. If I had only tried that, even once, I'd have been suspicious of chickens all along.
Note to self: Remind kids to never give me a chicken for Father's Day.
Oh, and if you liked that video, two things: One, you're weird, like me. Two, click this for the sequel, a video with 100% more cute baby participation.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Your Tax Dollars At Work
The bad news: Washington wasted over SIX HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS on a new tourist center at the Capitol. It's just opened, more than $350 million over budget and four years late.
The good news: Now Harry Reid will no longer have to be bothered by the horrible smell of the people he represents:
What an insufferable dickhead.
Monday, December 01, 2008
Half Life: Black Mesa
Most of you won't care about this. I do, though. The original Half Life (one of the most influential FPS games ever) has been rebuilt by some amazing people to run on Half Life 2 (one of my favorite games ever). If you've played either game you'll love this and you'll surely look forward to playing Black Mesa.
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