Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Lovely Bones

The Story

Newsweek's Michael Isikoff will splash a story in tomorrow's Newsweek which reveals that the boss of CIA leak probe prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is likely to be replaced by a former Bush classmate at Yale.

What's more, Newsweek has found that the new boss is a fellow initiate of the Yale secret society, Skull and Bones. Details will appear on the magazine's website early Sunday and on newsstands Monday.


Now, I'm not one for conspiracy theories or secret societies. And it should be noted that both George Bush AND John Kerry are Skull and Bone-ers (heh). Still, the timing of this appointment and the man filling the position are, at the least, eye-brow raising.

I wish the new boss well. And we'd all be doing our jobs as active citizens to keep an eye on the Plame case, and ask questions whenever we feel its appropriate. No matter what anyone tells you, it is never Un-American to ask questions.

The Reality of Tough on Terror

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

President Bush might not have turned up personally in Riyadh yesterday but he certainly sent a high-powered delegation to pay his respects to the new leader of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah.

The American turnout, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, former President George H. W. Bush, and former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, was the latest signal that relations between the two countries have thawed since the strains of 9/11. But it was also an acknowledgment of a simple fact: like it or not, the United States is more dependent than ever on Saudi Arabia.


Our President and his Administration claims to be fighting the "Struggle Against Global Extremism"(tm) and yet, the evidence of our eyes and ears tell a different story. Saudi terrorists made up the large majority of the 9/11 attackers, and their country is openly critical of the U.S. Saudi families bankroll terrorist cells and suicide bombers.

And yet, Mr. Bush has allowed our dependency on Saudi Arabian oil to increase, not decrease. This, despite the growing availability of alternative fuel sources.

I am not naive. In today's world, economics dictates strange bedfellows and Saudi Arabia's position as the largest supplier of our favorite non-renewable fuel source. We as a country cannot be expected to change overnight to eliminate a fuel that is the backbone of so many industries and the lifeblood of our transportation. Still, the deference we extend to Saudi Arabia, and the way in which we have allowed ourselves to grow even more dependant upon a country that does not have our best interests at heart is more than a little worrisome.

Friday, August 05, 2005

More "Funny Business"

Because I am, at day's end, an open-minded sort of man I have returned to the wacky cartoon hijinks of "Mallard Fillmore" and "State of the Union."

Here's one of this week's HI-sterical State of the Union strips:



Get it?!
Yeah, neither do I. Moore's lack of humor and his ludicrous caricatures of non-white people harken back to an earlier age, when Lil' Black Sambo was just so adorable. Remember Lil' Black Sambo?


Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww...so cute!

At least Boyd Tinsley and his insipid strip make an effort at a punchline. It's always terrible, and never funny, but it is an attempt. Good try, Boyd!
Here's today's Fillmore:



AH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAaaaaa...

That Mallard Fillmore! He is SO right (literally and figuratively)! Who hasn't seen the clear evidence of liberal bias on PBS? Why, saying that PBS is "Liberally biased" is like saying that water is wet! Because it's so obvious!

And, in case you weren't aware of how biased the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is, well, THIS should set you straight. You dirty communist.

Go Suck A Lemon

Dominic Serino, 9, and Ryan Decker, 11, were making a $130 "killing" selling lemonade, Ryan's mother, Angela, said.

That is until a nearby vendor of sausages and lemonade complained.

Jarrod Crowley, a worker at the sausage stand, reported the boys to police Saturday, saying their stand was affecting his business. He said he didn't want the stand closed, just moved farther away.

Because the boys didn't have a $2,200 vendor's license, police were forced to shut down their operation.


http://edition.cnn.com/2005/US/08/04/lemonade.stand.ap/

The article goes on to explain that, thanks to the Mayor, the boys are now SUBCONTRACTING under the sausage man (which just sounds terribly dirty)for the rest of the summer.

Is this where we're at now, people?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Guerilla Theatre



Many residents of NYC and other major metropolitan centers have no idea that, as they go about their daily business, they are being watched.According to estimates, upward of 15,000 surveillance cameras litter the city and report information on the doings of the public.

The New York Surveillance Camera Players make it their business to find the location of these concealed and/or discreet cameras, and they use that knowledge to interesting effect.

Street Theater.

The above photo is from one of the SCP's performances, an enactment of George Orwell's 1984 - performed for a Subway surveillance camera.

I have no idea what effect this has on the deployment of surveillance cameras, but I' guess that it's minimal. Still, pretty creative, no?

Find out more (and read about walking tours of NYC's hidden cameras) at: http://www.notbored.org/the-scp.html

Enjoying Traffic

Out of vanity, I've put one of those "Site-Meters" on my page to monitor traffic. I enjoy seeing what parts of the country (and the world) tune in to my shenanigans, and I'm always surprised by who is stopping by (Big shout out to the Pentagon! Stop by whenever you'd like!).

The one aspect of Site Meter's service that I haven't figured out at all is their "Recent Referrals" page. From what I can tell, its supposed to show pages that "refer" to your site in some way.

Instead, I've gotten a continuous stream of the most random blogspots ever. To wit:
http://whoyourdaddynow.blogspot.com/ (Written entirely in Spanish, and containing pictures of animals)
http://suzzza.blogspot.com/ (Also written in Spanish, it's a blog devoted to photos of a street in Australia)
http://monkeylaurie.blogspot.com/ (A site devoted to Anthony, a little boy born with a rare liver disease, and his progress)

So, what's the deal here? Who are these people? Why are their pages showing up as referrals? And I wish you the best, young Anthony! You are freakin' ADORABLE.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

By The Numbers

Courtesy of www.dailykos.com:

49 - the number of vacations that Bush has taken since he was inaugurated in 2001
5 - the number of weeks that Bush will spend on vacation, starting yesterday. It is the longest presidential vacation in at least 36 years.
319 - August 3, 2005 was the 319th day Bush has spent on vacation since his 2001 inauguration.
20% - the fraction of Bush's presidency that he has spent on vacation

A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words


As God is my witness, this is an actual panel from an early Batman book.

Pick up this month's Wizard magazine for more choice bits of early Bat-history.

Olympic Stupidity

There's idiocy, and then there's Teddy Akin.

http://www.local6.com/news/4800651/detail.html

A man in Marion County, Fla., was arrested Tuesday for making up a story
that he killed a hitchhiker and dumped his body in the forest in hopes the
incident would help end his marriage, according to a police report.

Teddy Akin, we at the Codemorse Center for the Acknowledgement of True Stupidity (CATS) salute you. You are the Michael Jordan of nitwits.

(courtesy of www.fark.com)

Without A Clue: An Appreciation

The Empire is in danger. Someone has stolen plates used to produce England's five-pound notes in a plot to flood the country with fake currency and ruin the economy. In her hour of need, England turns to the brilliant Sherlock Holmes (Michael Caine) and his faithful manservant cum autobiographer, Doctor John Watson (Ben Kingsley).

Or, should I say, the drunken half-wit Reginald Kincaid and his brilliant but beleagured employer, Doctor John Watson.

Out of fear that the medical establishment might laugh him right out of jolly old England if he took up amateur sleuthing, Watson hires Kincaid, an out-of-work actor, to act the part of the real-life Sherlock Holmes - brilliant detective. Only, Kincaid's a glorious idiot. And Watson's fuse is shorter than Verne Troyer at a Big & Tall.

Caine's Sherlock Holmes/Kincaid is a creation of admirable simplicity. He wears sheer lunatic stupidity on his face with a gleeful commitment, and his performance alone elevates what is inarguably a feather-light comedy to a level it would not otherwise have acheived. Kingsley's Watson is a man constantly threatening to erupt in a fountain of rage at Caine's ridiculousness, and his treatment of Caine as an idiot man-child makes me chuckle every time.

The script is a rambling mystery that serves to let Caine and Kingsley roam the English countryside whilst chewing on the scenery in an orgiastic display of british hamminess. It's a blast. Parents with children take note - a comedy based on classic literature that you don't need to have read to laugh at; containing not a single curse or reference to semen. Good luck finding many of those.

Like most of the films I review, this isn't one of the greats in the traditional sense. Heck, in any sense, really. It's a little pokey and more than a little goofy. But, y'know, goofy's underrated. The Muppets are goofy. Goofy can be great. And goofy can also be warmer than most comedy. Goofy allows for heart, and for character. More goof, says I. Without A Clue is a warm cup of tea on a blustery day. It's also the sort of genteel and intelligent comedy you never see produced anymore. It's a movie you'd find playing on TBS on a rainy saturday afternoon while you're nursing a hangover and picking taco bell from your teeth. Next time you come across it, take a peek.

****************************
Sir Michael Caine has made more good movies than any three current hollywood stars combined. All of the following films are worth your time: The Statement, Secondhand Lions, The Quiet American, The Muppet Christmas Carol (worthy of an appreciation column all its own), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Hannah and Her Sisters, A Bridge Too Far, The Man Who Would Be King, Sleuth, Get Carter, and Alfie.

Sir Ben Kingsley was Gandhi. Gandhi, man. Respect. He also did a little film called Schindlers List. Additionally, he can be seen in Sneakers and Dave, two films I intend to write about in the not-to-distant future. He was also in Thunderbirds during the brief period wherein he totally and completely lost his mind.

Thimerosal

Does Thimerosal cause autism in children? Salon.com (www.salon.com) and Rolling Stone (www.rollingstone.com) joint-published a damning article, written by Robert Kennedy, Jr., claiming just that.

This article (http://www.slate.com/id/2123647/), by Arthur Allen at Slate.com, slams Kennedy's article and does so with a certain rage.

Here, Danish Scientists conduct a study to determine Thimerosal's role, if any, in creating autism in children. They found negative evidence linking the two:
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/112/3/604.pdf

I've always believed that reading only one point of view limits your vision and keeps you small. This issue is a perfect illustration of that. Certainly, Kennedy's ringing condemnation seems less justified once both sides are examined. Thimerosal should be investigated, and Kennedy's claims examined quickly, but there is an inherent danger in blaming vaccinations.

Such accusations risk frightening parents into not vaccinating their children, and also run the risk of eliminating a preservative that enables shipment and storage of larger quantities of vaccines, which are badly needed in third-world, developing nations.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Future Is Worth Fighting For


It's the little things in life that put a smile on my face. That young lady gripping that there pistol being one of 'em.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Pump Up The Volume: An Appreciation

Take a trip with me, will you?

Let's climb into the way-back machine and visit the distant vistas of the year 1990. Bush the First was President, I was getting slammed up against lockers by manic-depressive upperclassmen, and Christian Slater was coming into his own as the next "hot thing."

He was an anti-hero in Heathers, and a sullen skatepunk amateur detective in Gleaming the Cube, but no role Slater has ever assumed would, or could, eclipse his turn as Hard Harry.

The film serves an impressive dual purpose. It is a nostalgic time-capsule, harkening back to the long-ago days where kids would tape their favorite programs and songs off of the radio and trade cassettes with one another. It's amusing to see how dated the fashions are.

But what's remarkable about the film is how timeless the issues in the film are. Schools shaving children off the rolls in order to improve their overall image and test scores? Check. An overzealous FCC hellbent on stopping personal expression at the expense of free speech? Check. Adults ignoring the root causes of teenage rebellion in favor of easy targets that serve to reassure them about their own questionable parenting skills? Check.

What makes the film watchable after all these years is the lack of condescension that it has toward its subjects. Pump Up The Volume takes on teen suicide, emerging homosexuality, perfection pressure, conformity, and censorship without ever feeling too much like a pulpit pounding preaching session. When a lonely kid calls in to Slater's talk show and tells him he wants to kill himself, what we expect is for Slater to talk him down and impart wisdom that will inevitably make him stronger. What we get is something more ambiguous, realistic, and discomfiting. Slater semi-mocks the kid before finally coming around and half-heartedly telling the kid in question that maybe its ok to be alone. So what does the kid do? He blows his head off.

Yikes.

But the film's really admirable sequence comes when a young male caller tells Slater about being lured by a guy he likes "Up to the ridge," where his clothes were stolen and thrown up into the trees, and he was apparently made to perform certain acts on a group of mocking, definately confused guys. The young man implies that he was humiliated, and did "everything they told me to do."

The shots of Slater and his listeners taking the story in, and the looks on their faces, create a powerful notion of communication between peers through the anonymity of the radio (or, in this day and age, the internet).

The scene also provides the most unintentionally comical exchange in the film. Two cops are listening to the kid in question talk about his homosexual experience, and proceed to provide this priceless dialogue exchange:
Cop 1: "Sounds like kid's bullshit."
Cop 2: "I don't know - things like that happen when you're a kid.
Cop 1" Swallow it, Donnie?"
Cop 2: "I think you're forgetting what it's like when you're young."

Swallow it, Donnie? Couldn't the screenwriters have come up with another line to immediately follow a tale of young men forcibly exploring their sexuality?

All in all, Pump Up The Volume made me smile and continues my nearly-unbroken unconscious streak of writing about films with anti-heroes as main characters.

Non sequitor: What the hell happened to Samantha Mathis? She shows up in this film, and then again with Slater in Broken Arrow, only to vanish once again each time. Does she emerge once a decade to film a movie with him?

Non sequitor Part Deux: Pump of the Volume has a fantastic soundtrack, which you are both unamerican and terribly uncool not to already own. Hear Concrete Blonde perform a shimmering cover of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows," and thhe Neville Bros perform one of the best love songs I've ever heard on "Why Can't I Fall In Love?" Scream along with Henry Rollins and Bad Brains to "Kick Out the Jams," MuthaFuckas! Surf on a "Wave of Mutilation" with the Pixies. This soundtrack is a near-perfect collection of early 90's underground and alternative rock.

Those looking for a fun trip down memory lane will be pleasantly surprised by how well this movie has held up. But you'll be doubly surprised at how relevant its stayed. I don't know what that says about us as a nation, but I know that it's usually the hallmark of a solid flick.

Despite the total absence of minorities. I know Arizona's probably a pretty white place, but come ON.

Hillary Clinton: We ALL Dislike Her.

http://www.slate.com/id/2123636/nav/tap1/

Jacob Weisberg's new Slate column, "But Why Can't Hillary Win?" has a conclusion I agree with entirely (There's no way in hell that she'd win a Presidential race), and reasoning I find both laughable and sad.

That Weisberg's ultimate reason for her unelectability comes down to her "likability" makes me grit my teeth. Our country's current focus on whether a politician is "likable" comes at the cost of electing politicians that, likable or not, are the best for the job at hand. George Washington, by all accounts, was distant and hard to read. In our current climate, that's "unlikable." Our founding father would not have made it past the "likability police" were he to run today.

Hillary Clinton is unelectable because the Right despises her and her husband and her politics with a hatred that is unquenchable and undeniable. The left hates her for her weirdly hawkish views and her tendency to pander to her base, as well as special interest groups.

I despise her, personally, for her current crusade against the game "Grand Theft Auto." Apparently it is just fine to sell a game in which you can openly shoot police officers, pimp, steal cars, and generally create realistic, violent mayhem. It is NOT okay for that game to contain a hidden sexual scene that is only accessible through a secret code.

Would someone care to explain to me how massive, realistic violence is okay, and yet sex is worthy of a full-on government crusade?

Serenity

Over at In Focus they've posted a lengthy interview with Joss Whedon, the writer/director/creator/probable-caterer of "Serenity."
(http://www.infocusmag.com/05augustseptember/whedonuncut.htm)

For those of you living your existences in holes, Whedon created both "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," two long-running shows that are almost universally admired.

His third series, Firefly, was canned after the network aired 10 of 13 filmed episodes. In a nearly-unprecedented maneuver, Paramount gave Whedon the money to film a feature film version of Firefly ("Serenity") after sales of the DVD performed better than anyone imagined possible.

Serenity hits theaters in Spetember, and is my most anticipated film of the fall. With Firefly, Whedon created a believable, dramatic, and exciting hour-long drama that inventively reimagined the future as the next "Wild West." Trying to describe the show would only do it injustice. But if you enjoy character-based drama with healthy and often hilarious dollops of comedy, I recommend you rent Firefly today. Don't let the "Science-fiction" angle fool you. It's about people, not robots or aliens or spaceships (although it is very much about one particular ship). It's moving, charming, wonderful stuff. Go read and then, go get.