Saturday, March 19, 2005

Crushed by Dementia

That's what Rosie O'Donnell should have named her blog. We'd be like blogging twins!

But, no, she had to go and call it formerlyROSIE. The address is Seriously.

Now, if you think my doing a blog post making fun of an overweight middle-aged lesbian single mom who used to be on VH1 sounds offensive or mean-spirited, please feel free to read another post. That one will probably also be offensive and mean-spirited, but it probably won't include middle-aged lesbians. Notice, I said probably.

Okay, for those of you who stayed, congrats. We have the same sense of humor.

I found Rosie's blog via this excellent Salon article about celebrity blogging. It also includes links to good celebrity blogs, like Wil Wheaton's and Jeff Bridges'. But Rosie takes the cake as the most loopy, dim-witted, cheesy celebrity blogger of them all. (Bear in mind, she's competing with Melanie Griffith, so this wasn't an easy competition.)

One thing you should probably understand...Rosie writes in free-verse half-assed poetry. Seriously. All her blog posts sound like ee cummings wrote them under heavy sedation, possibly while having brain surgery. Take this bizarre grouping of words she posted on March 16th:

I don't wanna quit, but shit,
I feel like this is it
For me to have this much appeal
like this is sick
This is not a game, this fame,
in real life this is sick

I love my fans
But no one ever puts a grasp
on the fact
i've sacrificed
everything I have

It goes on like this, people. For pages and pages.

What's she talking about? She doesn't want to be famous any more? Fine by me...but why have your own blog? I'd say a good way to keep people from talking about you all the time would be to stop posting your every fool thought on the Internet for the world to read. But maybe I'm wrong...

Entertainment is changin', intertwinin' with gangsta's
In the land of the killers, a sinner's mind is a sanctum
Holy or unholy, only have one homie
Only this one, lonely cause don't anyone know me

Oh, now I get it...She's waiting for Mos Def to invite her on "Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam."

This is one long post, folks. I'm quoting less than 10% of Rosie's epic verse here for your benefit.

But the end is where this turns from bad celebrity poetry into sweet, glorious music. Check this out:

his name is marshall mathers
he is an artist/ poet

buy his cd's - read along with the songs
be still

and when you are ready
study tupac

When you're ready, study Tupac. This is Rosie O'Donnell, people. From daytime TV. With the koosh balls. And she's writing a blog telling people to study the albums of Tupac Shakur. There's really nothing I can write here that's more hilarious than this. I shouldn't even bother trying. I can't top Rosie raving about hip-hop...

So let's just move on to a post from that very same day. (Rosie blogs almost as much as I do.)

heres the best thing about blogs
dont read it if you hate me
do not click in find someone better
there are millions
read their blog

Well, she sure put me in my place. But can you imagine the audacity. She wants to post a blog on the World Wide Web and then restrict it to only people who like her. No negativity! Not on my blog! Bullshit, I say. If it's online, it's there for anyone who wants to read it, whether or not we care for Ms. O'Donnell's unique brand of schtick.

Personally, I don't hate Rosie O'Donnell. I've never really found her amusing, and thought her talk show was obnoxious. But there are plenty of celebrities who outdo her on the Lons' Hate-O-Meter. Let's take a look at a brief sampling, shall we?

Zach Braff

Paris Hilton

Bill O'Reilly

Jay Leno

Cedric the Entertainer

Kathie Lee Gifford (this was an obvious one)

Diane Warren (she writes all those horrible Celine Dion songs, and that Aerosmith one from Armageddon...If I saw her on the street, I might genuinely consider killing her with my bare hands)

Ryan Seacrest

And that's not even mentioning any of the bands I hate, like Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Evanescence, Sum 41, Simple Plan and Good Charlotte. I could go on like this for days.

But I don't have to. My point is clear...Rosie O'Donnell is far from the worst celebrity. But she has no right to restrict those who hate her from her blog. If you can't take the heat, get yo' ass out the blogosphere.

It's So Stupendous, Living With This Tube

It may seem like I'm staunchly on the liberal side of the political spectrum to frequent Inertia readers. Though I think all politicians are essentially scumbags, I do think of Republicans as as bags filled with somewhat more scum than Democrats. But there's a strong libertarian streak to my views as well. For example, I think all drugs should be legalized. All of them. Every single one, from opiates to marijuana to antibiotics to the morning-after pill to Vicodin to black tar heroin with crack smooshed down inside it. You know, for when you need that extra kick.

Also, I think prostitution should be legalized. In fact, I don't understand how prostitution can possibly be against the law. Porn movies are legal, right? And actresses get paid to appear in them, correct? So, women are getting paid, legally, to have sex as long as it's on camera and distributed for the viewing pleasure of others. And that's okay, but just the sex without the videotaping is illegal? What?

This would be a great idea for a legal brothel. Before you choose your girl and go off for your "session," you just sign a form agreeing to allow the brothel to tape you having intercourse. Then, when it's over, part of the fee you pay is that you have to buy the tape of yourself engaged in a sex act. Now, you can destroy it or keep it as a momento, it's up to you, but the mere fact that you've then paid for the videotape ought to legalize the sex you just had. Right? Maybe? If I'm wrong, someone please explain why in the comments below.

But I don't think I'm wrong.

Anyway, my libertarian side has become significantly angry lately over this Terry Schiavo case. If you don't follow the news, Terry Schiavo is a braindead woman whose husband has been fighting in court for over a decade now to unhook her from machines and allow her to die naturally. See, Terry's parents want to keep her "alive" as long as possible, even though there's absolutely no chance she'll ever recover, regain consciousness and live what any one of us would consider to be "a life."

Believe it or not, members of Congress will actually get to decide whether this woman lives or dies. Cause, you know, when you need a really important decision made, there's no better group of people to go to than Congress.

After Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was removed on Friday, members of Congress worked out a deal to pass legislation to allow federal courts to decide the 41-year-old woman's fate and — in the hopes of supporters of the woman's parents — restore the tube that was keeping her alive.

You know, our leaders have always been crooked. They've always been liars. They've always attempted to act in secret. But this is the first time in my recollection that you could really consider the politicains in Washington to be ghoulish. I'm genuinely freaked out by this...that these old guys in the Capitol Building really think the fate of individual Americans should rest in their hands.

Who the hell are they? Why should they get to decide over the woman's own husband. If you're married, think about that...who would you rather make the decision as to whether you live the rest of your life braindead, ingesting protein through a feeding tube? Your spouse, or George W. Bush. Bear in mind, George W. Bush is the guy who decided we had to invade Iraq, cause of all dem nuke-u-lar weapons.

The House and Senate hoped to act on the legislation Sunday, so Bush decided he needed to be in Washington so he could immediately sign the bill, McClellan said.

"The president intends to sign legislation as quickly as possible once it is passed," McClellan said.

During previous travels, Bush has had legislation flown to him overnight by military plane for his signature. But in this case, McClellan said that the fact that a woman's life is at stake made it necessary for him to travel to the bill.

"Terri Schiavo's feeding tube has been removed and we stand with ... all those who are working to defend her life," he said.

Again, you have to pay attention to the language. McClellan stands with those who are working to "defend her life." By his definition, you're alive if your heart is beating. You're alive if a machine verifies that you're not quite dead. But if Terry Schiavo didn't have stuff sticking out of all of her orifices, if she wasn't hooked up constantly to a variety of machines that do everything for her, from breathing to eating to regulating her body's various functions and systems, she'd die. That's what's happening right now - the machines have been removed and she's dying. They want the right to artificially prolong her life, not save it.

If someone's in a burning house and you run in to save them, you've saved a life. If someone's kidney fails and you put another kidney in their body, you've saved a life. But if someone's brain no longer works, if they can't breathe or eat or open their eyes on their own, and you devise a contraption that does those things for them, you're not saving their life, you're extending their lack of life.

We're just so stupidly afraid of death in America. Does anyone really think that to live in Terry Schiavo's condition is better than passing away peacefully, without technological interference?

And how odd is it that we get this behavior from the Kingdom of Heaven crowd? Doesn't G. W. believe that, if Terry Schiavo lived a good life, we're just keeping her away from the Pearly Gates? She could be by God's side right now instead of inert in a Florida hospital bed.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Spy? Where?

Two days ago, my computer became infected by the most virulent, obnoxious strain of spyware I have ever seen. I couldn't even think about loading Internet Explorer without being deluged by pop-up ads and redirected constantly to surprisingly inexpensive penis enlargement offers. And even if I was just typing something in Word or working in another program, there would be constant interruptions, problems, blue screens of death and other assorted headaches.

And no matter what I tried, it kept coming back. I've had my share of adware and malware problems on my computer previously. (Must be all that dwarf and amputee porn I'm always downloading). But usually, you run Spybot or some other program, you edit your Registry to remove whatever crap has been installed there, and you're good to go.

Not this time. I edited my Registry feverishly, I ran just about every adware program I could think of, and this thing kept coming back. Attempting to delete it only made it angry.

I think now I have finally dealt with the problem. I cleaned out my Registry one final time, ran a newly-updated version of Ad Aware and restarted again in Safe Mode just to be sure nothing had reappeared. So it seems I'll be alright.

This article was really helpful. If you ever have Spyware problems, I suggest reading it. The guy offers a bunch of sane advice on how to deal with the problem, and basically explains what can go wrong in plain English for non-1337 h4x0rs.

But then something occured to me. What would be the point of designing a spyware program that's this powerful? It was so comprehensive, I couldn't really even use my computer. But the whole point of these programs is to (1) advertise to me, (2) obtain my personal information or (3) use my computer to infect other computers. Right? Have I missed something?

So if the program's so overwhelming to my computer's operating system, it prevents me from doing anything. I can't read the advertisements, so the marketing itself is no good. I can't visit any websites and enter any information into them, so it can't obtain any of my perosnal data, and I can't e-mail anyone, so it can't send itself to other people.

And then I developed a theory. What if the companies that sell anti-spyware software are creating these bugs in the first place? You know, it's like Lenin look at the people who will benefit...

Seriously, it's a brilliant scheme. You send out all of these bots and malware programs all over the Internet with the sole purpose of screwing up people's computers. Then, when they can't even use their system any more, they pay you money to uninstall all of this crap you've just placed there. And since your company designed the malware, you're the only ones that know the perfect way to get rid of it.

The only companies I'm not prepared to indict at this point are Ad Aware and SpyBot. They provide their software for free through the always-useful So they don't stand to make any money off of this problem. Oh, and whoever made the program CW Shredder. That things works great and is provided gratis.

Other companies, like SpyHunter, that offered to clean out my computer for the low low price of $ guys are my prime suspects.

So I did a little research, and it turns out, some spyware-elimination companies have already been investigated by the FTC. According to Digital Silence, the makers of the program Spyware Assassin made it appear to consumers that their hard drives were in worse shape than they really were in order to sell more units of their software.

But nothing on the Web really seemed to confirm or disconfirm my theory. So it will officially remain a theory. Dang.

Insert Generic "Fox News is Dumb" Headline Here

Fox News is dumb. It's not even news. It's opinion. And not just opinion, loudly shouted opinion. But Fox Loudly Shouted Opinion doesn't have the same ring, so they went with News, which sounds better but is, of course, misleading.

Want some proof? Here's a column by Fox News Anchor John Gibson. The headline?

The Basic Idea of Marriage Is to Raise Kids

Great headline! It includes the word "is," which headlines aren't supposed to do. Oh, yeah, and one other minor makes no sense.

The idea of marriage is to raise kids? Say what? Since when did this become a boldly stated fact? I know quite a number of married couples without kids. My friend and frequent Inertia commentor Jason, for example, is happily married to a lovely woman named Stacy and they don't have any kids. Honestly, they don't even seem to like kids very much. And it's pretty weird for John Gibson to just assume that these people's lives have no validity.

But, of course, his point isn't to pick on couples like Jason and Stacy, who live a lifestyle that would be considered healthy and normal by 99.99999% of the US population. No, he just wants an excuse to bag on gays.

As you might have heard, a judge in San Francisco has ruled that it is unconstitutional for the state of California to ban gay marriage. That means all those same sex couples who were married by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom can go back to thinking they are married.

See what I mean?

"Can go back to thinking they are married." What as ass. What an offensive, obnoxious thing to say, as if John Gibson gets to decide who's married and who isn't. They had a ceremony, they got a certificate from City Hall, they said "till death to us part" and "I do." Guess what, turd? They're married! You can go back to thinking they aren't married, just like you can go on thinking that you're not a complete douchebag, but as Nice Guy Eddie would say, that don't make it fucking so.

Why is it just men and women? Because since history has been recorded, chipped in stone, inked onto papyrus, scribed into great books or printed on your ink jet, the basic idea behind marriage has been to set up a system for the raising of kids.

In addition to not being a newsman, John's also not much of a historian. Go on, ask a historian what the traditional purpose of marriage has always been throughout recorded history. They'll look at you like you don't know what you're talking about. Because it's a silly question. Because people have used the concept of "marriage" for thousands of different reasons throughout recorded history.

In European history, marriage most often relates back to economic matters. Dowries, exchanges of land, centralizations of ownership and power, that's what drives historical marriage in places like France, England and Spain.

And then, of course, there's that whole love thing.

Check out a Shakespeare play. How do all the Comedies end? If you answered "with people getting married," congrats, you're a lot smarter than John Gibson. And here's a follow-up they all end in people having babies? Um, nope! Just marriage. Gee, kind of seems like the concept of marriage related to something other than procreation, huh, John? And it's not like that's an obscure historical example. I know they might not have included all of Shakespeare's Comedies in the Classics Illustrated series, J.G., but you could have picked up some Cliff's Notes.

Gays can't have kids — other than going to the abandoned kids store and getting one or two, or borrowing sperm from someone with more sperm than brains — so by definition they're out of the marriage game.

Gays can too raise children. They can even have children, just not with one another. Many of them do. In fact, there's a good number of gay couples raising the biological child of one of the partners, just like there's a good number of straight couples raising children that aren't biologically related to either partner. As a society, we attempt to restrict the number of gay people who can raise children by making it more difficult for them to marry and/or adopt, but that doesn't mean they are somehow incapable.

And "the abandoned kids store"? Does he think that's funny? The truth is, there are a great number of abandoned children in the United States, and they are no less worthy of the love of a parent or two than anyone else...Goofing on them like this, assuming that it's a nice little joke to make an aside about our horrific foster care and adoption system in our country, just demonstrates this man's immense distaste for hsi fellow human. What a dick.

Also, as Wonkette noted in her piece on this same article, all guys have more sperm than brains. We only have one brain, but we have millions of sperm.

In theory, so would couples who get married in their eighties.

That's not a sentence. But I think he means, "Just as gays can't have children, neither can couples who get married in their eighties."

Chances are good that no kids come out of that holy union. But it is at least theoretically possible. Not so with gays.

Oh, John, John, John...It's not theoretically possible for an 80 year old woman to have a baby. Didn't anyone ever discuss with you how this works? You're a grown man!

So, we have established thus far that Gibson isn't qualified to discuss journalism, history or anatomy. Care to go for four?

Now, gay couples should have certain rights of marriage — inheritance, insurance, visitation — all that lawyerly stuff.

But they should take the advice of a friend of mine who said he'd defend gays against any form of discrimination, but they had to pick a new word — marriage is taken.

Constitutional Law! That makes four!

You see, there's this Supreme Court decision, it's kind of important. It says that we're not allowed to have a system that's "separate but equal." It means you can't have marriage for straights and marriage for gays and say that they're the same, but actually include separate rights. You remember when we told all the black people they had to use the "special" bathrooms and drinking fountains? This ruling is why we're not allowed to do that any more. And it applies to all sorts of things, including marriage.

So, the whole "we should let them be together but not call it marriage" thing was already outlawed...almost forty years ago, jackass!

Honestly, there's a bit more to this article, but I can't even go on right now...It's too much ignorance. I can't take it. I'm going to have to read a chapter of "People's History of the United States" or something just to balance this out.


This movie was showing in the theater right next to Mel Gibson's newly recut and therefore no longer offensive Passion of the Christ. The two films have more in common than you may think. Both are based on Christian mythology, Gibson's film borrowing the hallucinations of a semi-crazed nun and Francis Lawrence's comic adaptation liberally pulling ideas from the writing of John Milton. Both attempt to understand the divine as that which balances out cruelty and darkness. And both of them go on about 15 minutes too long.

But I've got to say, I prefer Francis Lawrence's version of the whole Heaven/Hell, salvation/damnation game. Sure, it's a little labored considering the rather simplistic, familiar story it has to tell, but damned if it doesn't look good. And I prefer a nice, skeletal CG demon to a bald lady in a dark hood.

Keanu plays John Constantine, a man with the Haley Joel Osment-esque ability to see the undead walking around among us. Well, okay, they're not really undead. They're half-breeds, part-demons (or angels) and part-humans who travel around the Earth influencing human behavior. Constantine attempted suicide as a teenager, which according to those wacky Catholics, damns your soul to Hell for all eternity. And since John has the ability to travel to Hell whenever he wants, and it's kind of a depressing spot, he's decided to try and make it up to the Big Man Upstairs by exorcizing as many demons on Earth as possible.

With me so far? Good, cause it only gets more complicated from there. By the film's halfway point, we've seen the Spear of Destiny, psychic twins played by the always-fetching but never-quite-convincing Rachael Weisz, monsters made entirely of bugs, the Devil's Bible containing extra passages that don't appear in the traditional text, Djimon Hounsou as a witchdoctor who refuses to take sides between Heaven and Hell, the Son of Satan invading the body of some poor Mexican guy and the Angel Gabriel appearing on Earth in the form of Tilda Swinton.

Like I said, this movie is busy. It barely stops for a moment. And once you've waded through nearly an hour of heated, metaphysical conversations, you realize it all comes down to the Devil's kid wanting to appear on Earth and needing a host body and a relic in order to do so. Because, you know, that's only been the plot of 500 movies, and they figured we were due for one more.

But I don't mean to bash Constantine. It's not a bad movie at all. In fact, it's pretty damned entertaining. And for a film that's content to tell such a familiar story, it's got a tremendous amount of imagination. Some of the writing can be intensely labored (for example, Shia Lebouf's entirely obnoxious pseudo-comic sidekick), but when it works, it's actually pretty wry and clever.

An effort's been made to make Constantine something of an anti-hero, and Reeves pulls the role off swimmingly. It doesn't hurt that he's given a whole lot of nifty gadgets, and gets to dress like a Reservoir Dog the entire time, but this is still a pretty solid performance from an actor who has always taken an undeserved amount of shit from audiences and critics alike. A subplot about Constantine's ongoing battle with lung cancer, resulting from his chain smoking, comes off particularly well. In another movie, this could have seemed really preachy (after all, how many men Keanu's age come down with lung cancer, no matter how much they smoke), but there's enough gallows humor to make it feel appropriate.

But the real star here are the special effects. An early scene, in which a demon becomes trapped in a mirror after being exorcized, clues you in right away that the Computer Generated effects will be of the highest caliber. The monsters have real presence here, moving sinews and gnashing teeth, that brings their menace to life in a way few CG creations can manage.

As well, the visual conception is downright stunning. One of the script's best touches is its notion of parallel universes - rather than exist in the clouds or beneath the ground, Heaven and Hell in Constantine overlap our own world. They are all around us all the time, on another plane of existance. So, when you go to Hell from Los Angeles, you're in the LA section of Hell. It looks something like the post-apocalyptic world of the Terminator films, all wrecked cars, flaming debris and blown-out buildings.

This is a neat visual trick, but it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. It would seem to indicate that both Heaven and Hell are modeled structurally after the Earth. So, when something physical on the Earth changes (like, say, the construction of the city of Los Angeles), then it actually affects the architecture of Heaven. Which doesn't make a lot of sense. After all, Heaven was here first, shouldn't Earth then conform to look like Heaven instead of the other way around?

I, for one, hope that if there is a Heaven, it's nothing like Los Angeles. Even a cloudy, bright Los Angeles with no traffic. Although I guess in LA Heaven, you'd at least be able to get halfway decent pizza.

But I digress. My point was (I believe) that there is much to enjoy about Constantine. It's fairly smart, full of explosive effects and nifty visuals and features one of the better recent performances by the Man Who Would Be Neo. But I'd be lying if I said it didn't have some problems. At 2 hours, it's overstuffed, and a lot of the later twists and turns felt superfluous.

Movies like this always come down to the same basic concepts. The bad guys are always succeptible to simple things like holy water, crosses and brief Latin incantations. Just once, I'd like to see a supernatural religious thriller in which the hero says some "dominae espiritus" Latin chant and the demon just laughs at him without recoiling in horror. I mean, these guys can invade people's bodies, they can rip out your soul, they can survive in flaming hot sulfur for all of eternity, but they can't stand hearing a couple Our Fathers? There's so much creativity and imagination flowing through Constantine, it's amazing to me that it once more boils down to the same familiar ideas.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Erin Go Braugh

So, it's St. Patrick's Day. This is a weird holiday. First off, St. Patrick. He's the saint that's credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland, but really he was a Roman emissary there trying to spread the Vatican's influence in the British Isles. So, the symbolism of him "driving the snakes from Ireland" is actually pretty offensive. See, the snakes are the dirty heathens that lived in Ireland, also known as Irish people.

And yet we celebrate the holiday as sort of Irish Pride Day. Now, I'd be fine with Irish Pride Day, and I know most Irish people are Catholics (it worked!), but the whole thing is still a little creepy. Ditto that whole St. Valentine thing. (How strange is it, by the way, that the day of the year we set aside to spend a romantic evening with our significant others is actually a religious holiday?)

I was actually kind of surprised today how many people came into the store actually dressed in green. I stopped even thinking about that after I was 12 years old. But some people still go for it. (Mercifully, no one showed up wearing an adorable button saying "Kiss Me I'm Irish" or anything). I used to do the wearing green thing as a kid, but not because I actually cared about Ireland. Only because I feared pinching. I still do, really. I just know better than to go anywhere that pinching remains a possibility.

Sometimes being a kid really sucks. Like on holidays where some behavior is mandatory. Also, for some reason, high school and collegiate-aged males have a bizarre ritual where someone is supposed to punch you in the arm repeatedly on your birthday. Seriously! It's to symbolize...well, nothing, really. It's to work out some bizarre male aggression. I choose to bottle this same aggression up and then unleash it in strange little blog rants about holidays, but other guys save up all that energy for birthday-themed punch sessions. I don't get it, really.

Just like I don't get St. Patrick's Day. See how I brought that first part back around, tying together this entire post thematically? That's how you know you're reading one of them real, professional-type blogs, and not some amateurish rambling piece of claptrap.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Scent of a Galilean

Ever wonder what Jesus smelled like?

No, me neither.

It's a stupid question. He probably smelled like everyone else in Biblical times...sweaty unwashed ass. Imagine an entire Middle East filled with people wandering around the desert in heavy robes, never showering, with no access to soap and no sewers around to dispose of their waste. Why, it would be just like it still is today in that backwards ass part of the world.

So that's why it's odd that a South Dakota couple has begun selling candles that smell like Jesus.

No, really.

"We see it as a ministry, " says Bob Tosterud, who together with his wife came up with the idea for the candle.

Light up the candle called "His Essence" and its makers say you'll experience the fragrance of Christ.

It's all right there in the Bible, folks. Your wine becomes Jesus' blood, your crackers become his skin and your scented Crabtree & Evelyn giftpack takes on his distinctive musky odor. Duh.

No, actually, the Tosterud's base their recipie on a description of Jesus' smell from Psalm 45.

"It's a Messianic Psalm referring to when Christ returns and his garments will have the scent of myrrh, aloe and cassia," says Karen Tosterud.

Wondering what that must smell like, Karen Tosterud ordered those oils, a combination that produces sort of a flowery, cinnamon aroma. Then she called on a friend who just happened to be a candle-maker.

Man, the New Testament can't get enough of this myrrh stuff. Maybe that one Wise Man gave him way too much to celebrate his illustrious birth, and he spent the rest of his life trying to use it up. As long as he didn't walk around smelling like frankincense.

By the by, did you know that The Bible doesn't say anything about there being only three wise men? It's true! It says wise men came to see Jesus from Jerusalem, and it says they brought three gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh, of course), but it doesn't say there were only three of them. That's just lazy Christian holiday shorthand!

But honestly, if it's a nice smelling cinnamon candle, that's fine. Go with it. But claiming that it actually captures a smell that could be ascribed to the Savior isn't just really dumb, it's close to blasphemous. Right? I mean, the whole idea is that you have to believe in Jesus even though he's not tangible, yes? Once you start recreating him all around you, so that you can get a better sense of who he was as a man, you've kind of lost the battle already. (Mel Gibson, I'm looking in your direction). It's either got it or you don't.

"You can't see him and you can't touch him," says Bob Tosterud. "This is a situation where you may be able to sense him by smelling. And it provides a really new dimension to one's experience with Jesus."

Plus, it kind of makes you hungry for sweet rolls. Which, you might not know, were a favorite of Jesus', so eating them kind of gives you this whole new perspective on what his actual breakfasts might have been like.

Feebler Elves

This is real. I swear. I know I post fake satirical websites, like that Bacon Whores thing, but this one is real. It's the ELFEN Project, and they...well, I have to let them tell it:

The ELFEN Project is a sincere and serious survey and field study that is principally directed toward individuals who have personally encountered one or more entities that might be described as elementals, nature spirits, little people, gnomes, fauns, good people, wood nymphs, sprites, elves, fairies, apiscinisak, or any other related forms.

Sincere! Serious! About wood nymphs!

ELFEN believes that this subject matter is a relevant and noteworthy ethno-cultural and sociological phenomenon which is manifested in fairy stores, fairy collectibles, advertisement, and folklore revivalism. It is also a symbolic and material manifestation of the search in our time for harmony, spirituality, and a re-connection to nature and the environment.

So, they know it's crap. They just want to hear you tell them your stories about meeting fairies so that they can share your idiocy with the rest of the world?

I still don't get it. Do these people know there's no such thing as fairies? They seem to insist that they do, but then they turn around and say things that no reasonable person would think to say.

There are a great many shape-shifting nature spirits that intermingle human and animal forms from wolves, deer, eagles, bear, moose and caribou to insects, frogs and toads. To confuse things further, shape shifting seems to be the rule in the elemental world, and sizes, in particular, seem to be a somewhat plastic feature with “little people” who can appear from three inches high to full size and in costume with gender and features that seem at times to be most appropriate for the observer’s expectations for elves or gnomes.

Hey, I thought you people were scientists. Shape-shifting gnomes? Not even Robert Jordan books have shape-shifting gnomes, and those things are ludicrous!

The site even has a Field Guide to North America's Nature Spirits. Oh, perfect. So now, when I'm walking around in the woods, not seeing fictional pixies, I'll know what kind of fictional pixie I'm not seeing.

Here are the different categories. Because, admit it, you care.

1. American Elves are the most frequently observed in encounters of earth elementals. The ELFEN Project files from direct encounters suggest the common form of the American Elf is medium size as elves go, 18-24 inches high, with normal human features and proportions including typical rounded ears, not usually pointed.

Get it straight, people. Elves don't have pointy ears. That's just ridiculous. Obviously, if it has pointed ears, it's a Vulcan.

Trade with humans has been reported in a few locations as a long and persistent tradition, when elementals were more visible and shared stories, experiences and trade articles very openly and freely in certain places.

You may be wondering what sort of trade an elf could conduct with a human. After all, elves are 18 inches high, and they live in the woods, and they don't really have pointed ears or make delicious what do they have that we want?

I guess if you need to hop on over to Neverland, and you already have a happy thought ready, you might could barter for a little bit of fairy dust. But now here's a major headscratcher for you...what do you have to trade to an elf?

2. Canadian Gnomes are often bearded, with high boots or even soft leather footwear (sewn up the center), and are 2 1/2 to 3 feet in height in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and British Columbia ranges, while 24” is more common on the west coast.

Hear that, folks? The gnomes have high boots! They tried to go with those Ugg boots for a while, but even the Canadian bearded gnomes agreed that those look stupid.

3. American Goblins are similar in size to the Canadian Gnome, but they have primitive, rugged, unpleasant faces and frighten people.

They are ruled by the gentle yet stern hand of David Bowie.

4. Trolls This classic Scandinavian form, while a cultural symbol in Vulcan, Alberta and the star of the Troll Forest in Scandinavian exhibits, is not widely reported in the North America landscape.

No, the Vulcans have pointed ears! Or, wait, was that the elves? Now this is getting confusing.

5. Little Hairy Men This is a non-human.

Is it me, or did this article just turn anti-Semetic? But, seriously, folks, maybe there is something to all this. I see little hairy men in the video store every day, and some of them might very well not be human.

6. Fairies Fairies are attracted to the energies of children, springs, flowing water, old trees and flowering gardens. Some report specific spots in their garden where fairies are very predictable.

Did you ever think you'd read the sentence "Fairies are attracted to the energies of children" on a blog post that wasn't about Michael Jackson?

Okay, I'm sorry about that last one. But I haven't been making any Michael Jackson jokes...I'm overdue.

So, I guess the site hosts don't actually believe the people they interview are encountering fairies. But isn't this a bit condescending? I mean, there's studying folklore and then there's asking delusional people to write you letters. By implying that there's some kind of scientific relevance to these first-person accounts with the hallucinatory, aren't they encouraging people to break with reality? Aren't they insisting that the belief in fairies is somehow reasonable, and therefore doing these poor deluded souls a great disservice?

Wouldn't it be like asking people for alternate answers to trivia questions? Like, "We asked 100 Americans what play Lincoln was watching at Ford's Theater on the night he was shot, and according to our research, it was Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats!"

That's not research. That's just, well, stupid. The answer is obviously Starlight Express.

And there's no such thing as fairies, pixies, gnomes, trolls, unicorns, sprites, goblins, leprechauns, minotaurs, gremlins, chupacabras, Bigfoots, Yetis, pegasuses (pegusi?), halflings, paladins, hobbits, UFOs, angels, imps, C.H.U.D., sandworms, nymphs, genies, wookies, hobgoblins, mole men, vampires, werewolves, talking dogs, tortillas with Jesus' face on them or tattoos you won't regret having in 10 years. Sorry, don't mean to spoil the fun or imply that life isn't a big fucking magical celebration of wonderment. I'm just trying to be realistic here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Oldboy ranks among the rarest of movies - it's that unique film that gives you a genuine rush. Watching Chan Wook Park's near-miraculous command of cinema language actually gave me a jolt of energy. As Quentin Tarantino said after viewing the film at Cannes, you won't get any sleep the night after watching Oldboy. You'll be too busy reliving it, either in conversation or just by replaying its highlights in your mind. This is one of the absolute best films to come out this decade, along with Mulholland Drive and City of God. If you live in Los Angeles or New York, the movie opens in selected theaters on Friday. Don't miss it.

Oldboy is so good, in fact, I refuse to blow it for you by telling you too much about it. Here's the short, short version:

A man named Dae-su (Min-sik Choi) is kidnapped off the street and imprisoned in a cheap hotel room. He's told nothing about why he's been taken or when he will be released, and receives no information about the outside world except what comes in on his television set. After 15 years have passed, he's set free, leaving him bitter about his experience, newly-strong from years of working out in isolation and obsessed with the idea of revenge against his captors.

Okay, you already know too much. That's all I'm gonna give you.

So, the movie's a revenge drama, which makes it unsurprising to find Quentin Tarantino among its ardent fans. He recently directed a two-part revenger of his own you may have heard a thing or two about. But this film is no cartoon pastiche of chop-socky cinema. It's an overload of tension and suspense, a remarkably interesting, deftly shot and edited saga of vengeance piling upon vengeance, hatred exacerbating hatred, until all the character's are utterly spent and unable to hate any longer.

Min-sik Choi is a marvel here, projecting both a wounded innocence and fierce determination in every scene. During the course of the film, he's called upon to commit all manner of violent atrocities, from...well, to give name to these atrocities would spoil the fun. Suffice it to say, his character really gets run through the ringer. 15 years of isolated imprisonment is only the beginning of his torments, not to mention the torment he visits upon others.

And yet the film works because Dae-su refuses to succumb to his ferocious anger. Throughout it all, he remains a likable, charming man. When we first meet him, he's been detained in a police station for drunken, disorderly behavior, and the affable, if somewhat cavalier, side of his personality remains intact despite the world of hurt that's brought down upon him.

And make no mistake: Oldboy is a relentlessly tough film. It's hard, brutally violent and eventually disturbing. It's not that there's an overabundance of gore (particularly considering that this is Asian cinema we're talking about here, which frequently delves into more violent hardcore imagery than American directors would dream of filming). In fact, the movie's almost demure at points about on-screen violence, choosing to keep a good deal of the really sadistic actions off-screen.

It's the strength of Park's filmmaking that makes the film such a rewarding, if occasionally punishing, experience. He and editor Sang-Beom Kim have given the film a fast-paced, buzzy, thoroughly appropriate style. Many will be reminded of David Fincher's Fight Club, another film that capitalized on clever edits, gloomy urban landscapes and underlit office buildings. Park also borrows Fincher's unique CG zooming effects. Just as we pass through 10 stories of a skyscraper to inspect the bomb-filled vans in the basement during the opening scene of Fight Club, we skip in between Dae-su's chopsticks just as he takes a bite of fried dumpling.

We experience Dae-su's breathless excitement at being released, his harrowing sadness at discovering the fate of his family, and his mad rage when faced with his enemy because of not only the power of Choi's performance but the keen eye of Park and his cinematographer, Jeong-hun Jeong. I really can't say enough about the exemplary work that was done on crafting the look and tone of Oldboy. And not just because it keeps me from having to reveal any more about the story. But because this is a film in which all the little pieces, all the technical details, come together to create something much larger and much more impressive.

One final note on Oldboy. It's not so much a perfectly-told revenge story, but a re-creation of the genre. Park screws everything around. He gives us a revenge story that's more about the why than the who. Murder is the last thing on Dae-su's mind as he relentlessly pursues the truth about his abduction. He doesn't want to kill his captors, he wants to interrogate them. He wants to know why he's been taken away from everything he cares about, as if any answer could possibly satisfy him or fill his sense of loss. And when we finally get through the film, we realize that each character has been motivated by that which harms others, rather than benefits themselves. Revenge here works as an endless cycle, a loop of violence and despair borne of the emptiness inside of us, rather than the despicable acts of others.

There was a segment in the first Kill Bill movie in which The Bride (Uma Thurman) kills Vivica A. Fox in front of her child. The Bride tells the child to look her up one day if she desires revenge for the death of her mother. Oldboy tells both of their stories, as well as Bill's story, a mystery and two tragic family dramas. It's a triumph.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Sick, Sad World

This is the second post in two days about weird spam e-mails I've received but...what can I say, this is the second day in a row I've received a wieird spam e-mail.

I got a note in my inbox offering to show me "hot naked photos of the girl Baretta killed."

Genuine class.

Sunday, March 13, 2005


There's no easy way to start a conversation of Laura, Otto Preminger's brilliant yet absurd 1944 noir. It's a murder mystery in which neither the murder nor any of the character's subsequent behavior makes a lick of sense, a character study in which people act in ways that seem contrary to their basic nature and a romance in which love gets thrown around with a cavalier attitude that veers close to utter contempt.

And yet the film is entirely successful. It's one of those noirs that begins with the tawdriest of B-movie material and somehow elevates it into great art, that adds up to much more than the sum of its parts. It comes to DVD this Tuesday, and those of us determined to flaunt impressive film collections may have no choice but to shell out the $15.

As the film opens, we hear Waldo Lydecker speaking to us in voice-over. He's a newspaper and radio columnist in Manhattan, a man-about-town played with let's say great verve and enthusiasm by Clifton Webb in his first starring film role. He's also, how shall I put this, what they might have referred to in 1944 as a swish. Or, at least, he seems to be. When we first see him, he's typing nude in the bathtub while speaking to a detective (Dana Andrews). Then he stands up - the camera thoughtfully pans to the right, giving us the detective's reaction shot, but he's presumably getting a clear view of Waldo's unmentionables.

Did I mention this is a film in which the foppish, dainty 56 year old Waldo romances a beautiful young society girl, ending up in a torrid competition for her affections with the tall and statuesque Shelby (Vincent Price)?

So, the object of Waldo's apparent affection is Laura (Gene Tierney), a gorgeous ad executive. He molded her, helping her with her career and culturing her, after a mean-spirited initial encounter at the Algonquin Room. She had become involved with Vincent Price's Shelby, a charming but indigent country boy from Kentucky, in the months before her death, by shotgun blast, in the foyer of her well-appointed apartment.

For the majority of the film, we follow Detective MacPherson around as he interrogates and re-interrogates a variety of suspects. There's Waldo, of course, suspected because of his jealousy over Laura's affairs with Shelby and other men. Then there's Shelby, suspected because, well, because he's played by Vincent Price, mostly. And we also consider the case of Laura's aunt, Ann (Judith Anderson, chewing up the scenery right along with Price and Webb), who not-so-secretly was in love with Shelby herself.

Things get even more complicated when Detective MacPherson falls in love with Laura as well during the course of his investigation. Even this surprise pales in comparison with the ridiculous twists yet to come. This movie doesn't just require suspension of disbelief - disbelief must be expelled and refused readmission the next year. You just have to accept that this is MovieWorld, and people can fall in love with faceless corpses. Likewise, week-long cases of mistaken identity occur quite easily, detectives routinely allow suspects to tag along on murder investigations and gay men can have hot-white passionate crushes on women.

While Preminger's motives behind telling such a bizarre, convoluted story have been debated since the film's initial release, what's beyond argumentation is the brilliant method employed to tell the story. His film takes the noir style and explodes it, enhances it, creating something altogether new out of it. Instead of simple tracking shots, we get elongated takes that move us through walls. Rather than exaggerated lighting casting half a room in shadow, we get enshrouded apartments where the only thing visible is a haunting portrait over the mantle.

That's a portrait of Laura, by the way, hanging over the fireplace in her own apartment. It's terrific from a mise-en-scene standpoint - she's in effect watching over her own murder investigation from above, observing everyone involved in her life speaking about her now that it's over. But again, it doesn't make much practical sense - would a single girl, and a demure signle girl at that, really hang a portrait of herself above her fireplace? Wouldn't that have seemed ostentatious when she was alive?

My own theory about Preminger's odd tale was that he was disinterested in Laura as a love story. The characters fall in and out of love, and none of their relationships really have any passion. Instead, it's about the images we have of ourselves and one another, how we carefully craft them and how we react angrily when those fanciful notions are violated.

Laura is only too happy to accept Waldo's career and financial assistance, but when it came to his affection, she refused any part of it. Likewise, Waldo needed the idea of Laura to keep him going. More than the girl herself, he wanted to feel that he had created something special, that she was his commodity. So when she becomes independent and makes her own decisions, the realization of his utter lack of power sends him into a rage.

Webb's performance here is masterful and yet completely inauthentic. He and Price are often referred to as theatrical, or "stagey," actors and Preminger puts this to use to great affect here. Webb's giving what has become known as a "coded" performance - he's playing a gay character, but of course, you couldn't actually say or even directly imply that someone was homosexual in a 1944 Hollywood film. So, there were little tricks, hints to the audience, about the character's true identity.

Consider, for example, Waldo's cane. He's always carrying it around, caressing it, even using it as a tool in some sequences. Or the fact that he, and no other man in the film, constantly wears a flower on his lapel. Add this to Webb's overall dainty demeanor, and you get a character that clearly isn't interested in Laura as a sexual object. But he is interested in her as an object.

There's an indication that Shelby may be after her for her money, and one can only guess at the motives of the detective that becomes attracted to her post-mortem, but the important thing here to my mind is that Laura herself remains such a blank. Tierney's lackadaisical performance enhances this effect - she was quite a capable actress (see her in Leave Her to Heaven for an example) - but in Laura appears devoid of any inner life at all. She's the blank page into which these men can read whatever it is they want. And this is why she must eventually be destroyed.

Putting the Dense in Confidence

In David Mamet's terrific film House of Games, a con man played by Joe Mantegna explains to a psychiatrist the secret of his trade. See, it's called a confidence scheme not because the victim (or mark) puts his confidence in the perpretrator. It's because the con man pretends to put his confidence in the mark.

In other words, you get fooled because you think you're getting away with something. You're not paying attention to all the angles because you're so focused on beating the system.

This point is illustrated perfectly in this ridiculous scam e-mail I have just received. It's from quite possibly the worst man on the planet. This guy plies his trade with all the subtlety and grace of Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.

The e-mail purports to come from a bank auditor in London, a man named George Carter. Mr. Cah-ter assures me that he has come across a floating account containing $30 million, the estate of a man who died along with his entire family in an airplane crash.

Remember that the total amount involved is Thirty million United States Dollars only [$30,000.000.00] and I wish to transfer this money immediately into a safe foreigners account abroad. But I don't know any foreigner; I am only contacting you as a foreigner because this money cannot be approved to a local person here, but to a foreigner who has information about the account, which I shall give to you upon your positive response. I am revealing this to you with believe in God that you will never let me down in this project, you are the first and the only person that am contacting for this project, so please I urge you reply me urgently so that I will inform you the next step to take Immediately.

If this sound at all reasonable to you, I'd like to once again remind you that subscription to Crushed by Inertia costs only $30 a month. I accept PayPal, Mastercard or hot, wet, steamy cash.

But did you catch the "confidence" part of the plot? He's pretending to watch out for me, as if he's concerned I'm going to steal the money from him. And he repeats this concept later on.


Again, he's feigning concern about how I will respond, when really he's just hoping I'm dumb enough to fall for this and turn over my bank account information. At one point in the e-mail, he even states that an empty bank account would suffice (but have you ever heard of a bank letting you open a savings account with nothing in neither...)

So, anyway, just as a helpful proviso, don't ever ever ever trust random e-mails from strangers about anything. Whether it's dumb urban legends, misquoted stand-up routines or various renditions of the famed Nigerian money scam (of which this is a rather generic variation), they're never useful, informative or worth your valuable time.

Be Vewwy Vewwy Quiet...

There's a bunch of dumb ideas for Internet companies that people have already tried. I discussed only yesterday, a company that genuinely thought it could make thousands of dollars off of lazy people ordering muffins off of the Internet. Then there was, assuming people had no way of obtaining kibble without special ordering it from two states over.

But must be the dumbest idea of all. Live-Shot offers a service wherein you can fire a remotely placed gun from your computer, in order to kill wild animals without even leaving the comfort of your own house.

I shit you not. They call it a "real-time shooting and hunting experience."

From their website:

LIVE-SHOT is similar to a trip to the rifle range with one very notable exception. Everything is done through a computer and the internet. A paid membership will allow for access to the range viewing camera(s) at any time. Members can then schedule a reserved session time which allows exclusive control of the shooting system to fire at a choice of various reactive targets.

Hmmm...reactive targets...what does that mean?

Why, Barbary Sheep, Antelope, and wild hogs, of course!

Other antlered species like axis, fallow, and red stag will be available on a limited basis. If you are interested in one of these or possibly another species not listed, contact us and we’ll be glad to assist you in providing the chance at the trophy of you dreams. Meat processing and taxidermy work are available from independent providers and shipping is available worldwide.

Well, I have to say, that is really stupid. I thought those video games that simulate shooting a deer were kind of dumb, but the very idea that someone would pay a significant amount of money to sit in their underwear by their computer and take potshots at defenseless creatures for the voyeuristic thrill of watching something die really makes me wonder...Wonder about whether we have a future as a species. I'm gonna go ahead and say, probably not.

According to AFP, a few weeks ago Howard Giles became the first man ever to kill a wild hog with a computer. Way to go, Howard! You're a role model for bloodthirsty nerds everywhere!

As you'd probably expect, there's a good deal of outcry and anger about this idea. The Humane Society frowns upon Internet hunting, and surprisingly, actual hunters have also voiced outrage at the idea of people killing animals through the miracle of technology.

A Republican representative in the Texas Legislature, Todd Smith, himself an occasional hunter, has offered a bill to ban the practice.

"I don't think we should be able to kill God's creatures with the click of a mouse," Smith said. "I think hunters are offended by the concept, much less non-hunters."

I have to tell you, I think the whole concept of shooting a gun through the Internet is mind-bogglingly dumb, but I don't think it's necessarily more immoral than killing an animal live and in person. I mean, the animal doesn't give a shit if you're in the forest with it or 50 miles away. It's still dead. And as long as the practice of firing a gun is safe through a webcam, I can't see it being, from an entirely practical standpoint, any different. And you don't have to wear those silly hats with the flaps on it, that's got to stand for something.

You may be wondering, how much would I have to pay for the distinct pleasure of destroying a life while simultaneously playing Minesweeper?

More than 350 people from as far away as France and Australia are paying 15 dollars a month and six dollars each time they fire off 10 rounds from a .22 caliber rifle.

Hunters also have to pay 300 dollars for a two-hour session, and obtain a Texas hunting permit. That, too, can be gotten over the Internet.

That's actually pretty reasonable when you get right down to it. I'd have thought rich assholes would shell out way more than $300 to be able to kill something via webcam. What's the point of being rich if you can't overpay for the privilege of firing a rifle at Bambi?

I mean, if you wanted to take a family of four to Disneyland, it would probably run you over $315, and you wouldn't even have the pleasure of knowing that a living creature suffered in a forest glen miles away. Plus, the Magic Kingdom? They don't offer taxidermy work.

Still, I think I'll hold out on for now. I'm still waiting for the opportunity to drown kittens online. There's an IPO just waiting to happen.