Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Franklin E-Mails

Most Americans don't know that, around the same time Benjamin Franklin invented the bifocals, he also invented e-mail. It was a simpler Internet than we have now - what Franklin dubbed the "Intar-Web" - but it still allowed him to send brief missives to his colleagues and friends while living out his old age in Philadelphia.

Next year, a book will be published collecting all of Franklin's notable early communiques. Today, I'd like to present you all with some brief excerpts:

From: B. Franklin //
To: Gen. Washington //
Subject: Hello!
Date: Tue, 21 Jun 1784 20:40:37

Salutations, my old friend.

Have just invented this fabulous new Device. Now we can Speake with relative Ease across great distance, without need of Messenger, Quill or Parchment. Have no idea what I plan to Read messages on, as Computation Machines will not be invented for several centuries. But the idea itself Promises to rank among my most useful innovations, unlike that ill-fated kite-flying experiment that turned all my hair Whyte and has left me with ugly, chipped and Discoloured fingernails.

But before we can message Freely, I have devised a new Argot to make Intar-Web commentaries more Expedient. When one of my roguish commentaries encourages you to react in peals of joyous laughter, abstain from writing out "Your comment has provided me with Ample Merriment," and rather simply notate the abbreviation LOL, which I will take for Verificiation that you have, indeed, found some amount of Pleasure from my words.

Now I shall take my leave of you, as I must go and found the nation's first Zoological Garden, Postal Annex and museum named for Myself.

B. F.

From: B. Franklin //
To: Marquis de Lafayette //
Subject: Bonjour!
Date: Fri, 19 Dec 1784 11:44:06

Thank you for the lovely invitation to once more visit your wonderous native land, so Generous to our Revolutionary Cause of a few years back.

Regrettably, my Healthe has been on the Decline, and I feare I shan't be Able to Travel the great distance by charter.

One day, I predict, travel across great oceans will be quite symple and Affordable for all. In that time, probably about 10 score years from now (or thereabouts), the citizens of the Americas will Freely move back and forth between Europe and the New World all the time, and a greater understanding will be Fostered between our Continents.

The French, in particular, will always be remembered as our Great Allies and Friends, and we will never make fun of them or Change the name of some of their great cuisine just because of some Disagreement in policy.

Until that time, I remain, your friend...

B. F.

From: B. Franklin //
To: Samuel Adams //
Subject: AOL? WTF?
Date: Wed, 4 Feb 1788 07:55:08

Once more, my goode friend, I must urge you to drop this silly idea of putting all of America, as you call it, "On the Lines." This A.O.L. notion of yours will never come to Fruition, I feare, as the common American remains an Illiterate and Unsophisticated sort, more comfortable in an Agrarian setting than behind a complex Typing Machine. Now, if the Intar-Web offered, perhaps, Lithographs of a Burlesque nature, the commoner would find himself moure Intrigued by its varied potentialities.

I have been meaning to Speake with you, as I've had some general concerns about the Constitution we all wrote up a decade hence. Did you consider that, should Americans all begin to receive their news from a Single Source, say a popular daily periodical, they may all be Inclined to think in the same way? Such that, should a Wealthy man of Considerable Influence and Stature find his way into the Controlling Position of such a periodical, he could Sway the American public quite easily to Votes of benefit to his own Pecuniary Circumstances?

Even Worse, a man considering a run for President could use this single-sourced Media to Eliminate Dissent, thus Eradicating the Free and Democratic process we have spent these many years Perfecting.

These worries are potentially the work of an Overactive Mind grown Uneasy with advanced age. After all, the Public would hopefully reject any attempt by a Wealthy Man without Character or Substance to claim the highest office of power in the Land.

Your friend and colleague,
B. F.

From: B. Franklin //
To: Gen. Washington //
Subject: Message from Beyonde the Grave
Date: Wed, 9 Aug 1798 04:55:22

George -

You may wonder how I could Compose a message to you via Intar-Web now that I have been deade for 8 years. You see, I was attempting to construct a Computation Device in order to reade responses to my various communications (what I have dubbed electronical typographic correspondances) when I somehow became trapped inside the machine, in a world known to me now as TRON.

I have been driving around in this odd "Blue Car" for several years now. It has long since grown tiresome, but I must performe the will of the so-called Master Control Program.

But this is not the Purpose of my Contact. I Wanted to know why you signed up with Adams' Ridiculous A.O.L. Programme? Surely you Realize that you could be simply logging on to the Intar-Web without paying Adams an additional fee for the Same Contente? I know he insists it is somehow more User-Kindly, but this is just Wise Marketing, and at a farthing plus a half-penny a month, you are getting totally hosed.

Way to go Stomping that Whiskey Rebellion, by the way. You still got it.

Your friend in time,
B. F.

It's Friday Night, I'm Intoxicated and Blogging...Deal With It...

There's an old saying. Don't drink and blog. Well, okay, so it's not that old, because the word blog has only existed for, like, three weeks. I'm paraphrasing. Sue me.

Anyway, maybe I've been inspired by the frequently hung-over brilliance of Immoderation. Or maybe I'm just too drunk to think about writing my screenplay, and I want to write something. Whatever the reason, I've decided to post inane late-night ramblings. Why should you be denied my brilliance just because I've had between 8 and 12 beers? No reason!

I'm only back here in my room in the first place because I have once again been eliminated from our friendly poker game. My friend Matt is in town from Chicago, and so we all decided that, rather than spend time discussing the various twists and turns of our lives over the past 6 months to a year, thus growing closer as friends, we'd instead try to win $10 off of one another at cards while slamming imported beer.

As usual, I had rotten luck and lost almost immediately. My complete lack of luck at cards almost makes me believe in some sort of higher power. I mean, think about it...if God wanted to punish you, how would he do it? He can't just cause you to spontaneously combust or something. He's got to be subtle. He doesn't want to give the whole game away.

So, maybe he just gives the atheists and immoral bastards rotten luck. He could do it - he has control over all of space and time. Something to think about...

Anyway, I lost right away, and now find myself in my room, drunk, alone, listening to Frank Black's masterful "Teenager of the Year" album and typing to you fine people.

Poker, in fact, is part of the script I'm working on right now. It's not really about poker, so much as it's a thriller that involves some characters who all play poker. But I'm always debating with myself about how much actual poker to include in the movie.

Alert readers familiar with my reviews of poker movies like High Roller and Cincinatti Kid will note that I often find poker movies lacking in actual poker. As if poker itself isn't interesting enough to sustain a movie, and bullshit extra plot devices and fancy camera tricks must be inserted to manufacture audience attention. I personally kind of find poker inherently dramatic, so I wouldn't mind seeing more of the actual game.

But when you're writing a script, you're trying to move everything along as fast as possible. My impulse is always to dilly-dally, focus on dialogue and play the scenes loose, but that's why I always end upf with 160 pages scripts that need to be trimmed down. The best movies aren't really the ones that dither around aimlessly - they're tight, you know?

I mean, this story I'm writing is a thriller. Think of a movie like Parallax View. Have you guys all seen Parallax View? Oh, man, it's fucking great. I'll have to review it some time on here. Warren Beatty, 70's conspiracy thriller. Anyway, it's this incredibly twisty, confusing movie about a reporter who's researching a strange corporation that's recruiting assassins. But the thing is just expertly paced. So tight, so well-structured, so dense and yet so easy to watch and follow. Amazing. That's the sort of thing I want to emulate.

But instead, my stuff always seems to come out Kevin Smith-style. I mean, I like Clerks, and I know that's my style of writing...but still. I sometimes envy the guys that can come out with those 100 page action scripts - just really specific, crisp writing.

Oh well.

I suddenly feel that this post will be really dull. Will anyone but my mother and grandmother have bothered to scan past the screenwriting diatribe? To be honest, my grandmother is probably mortified by now, becuase I mentioned the fact that I've been drinking, and my family seems to suddenly view this rather mild vice as deeply shameful. Seriously. I wrote what I thought was a rather innocent post a few months ago about alcohol, and they were so embarrassed, I feared they would commit seppuku.

Is that an obscure reference? Seppuku is the Japanese ritual practice of suicide, often associated with samurai, where they disembowel themselves with swords. It's done when the samurai have been shamed...much like my parents have been shamed by my drinking posts here on the blog.

But now I feel so stupid and condescending. Of course you knew that. It's a well known thing. These are the thoughts that cloud my mind every time I make a post on here, by the way, not just right now. I just usually keep them to myself. But not tonight!

Okay, I don't really have anything more to say. Oh, I know. Here are some articles I was looking at today but didn't actually have enough to say about to link them on the blog. I'll just list them for your convenience.

Luther Vandross: Dead

Had almost nothing to say about this.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

The music blogs are abuzz this month with talk of this Brooklyn-based indie rock band, and their adulation is once again well placed. It seems like every few months, some new band comes out and gets all the attention from places like Pitchfork, Salon and Tiny Mix Tapes, and then I always wind up really liking the band. Does that mean I'm just a witless trendster, pikcing up on whatever music happens to be popular at that moment? Because I like to think of myself as a free-thinker who's not swayed so easily by marketing.

So, whatever the reason, my enjoyment of this album ranges anywhere from Strong to Quite Strong. It's got a real Talking Heads vibe, which is an aspect is shares with Arcade Fire, making the Talking Heads officially the hipster band to sound like of the moment, narrowly edging out The Cars and Depeche Mode. So, you know, keep a mental note of that somewhere.

My only problem with the album is that one song sounds exactly like Blur's "End of a Century," off of the "Parklife" LP, which is a really great song.


If you have testicles, best not to check out this video. Thanks to Gorilla Mask for this excruciating link.

Oh, and I'm compiling a list of profane, inappropriate or dirty movie quotes. If you have suggestions, leave them in the comments below.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Guest Film Reviewer: Sean Hannity

[Lons here...The Braffies are right around the corner. There's only one nominee left to be revealed, and trust me, it's a good one. A great one, as a matter of fact. This guy might get my vote! As for voting, I'll post an open call for votes. Any visitor of the blog is welcome to vote in the comments section. One man, one vote.

So, since the new host will be Sean Hannity, I wanted him to write a little something for the blog. He agreed, but only if he could, um, revise some of my previously published reviews. Fair enough.

I wanted to post a photo of Mr. Hannity, and I had this whole funny bit prepared where I was going to post a photo of Hitler and pretend I got them confused, but BloggerBot, the program that allows me to post photos, is down at the moment. So the blog will be text-only for a while. And, regrettably, all that text will still be written by me.

Except this post, which is by Sean Hannity, I swear.]

Greetings and salutations. Now, since you're a regular reader of this blog, I'll assume you're a liberal scumbag who hates America. I will not hold this against you, and will instead hope that the clarity and wisdom of my perspective will be all that's needed to fully convert you to the forward-thinking conservative agenda, that doesn't at all seek to undermine each and every one of your basic freedoms.

But before we get to my film reviews, I wanted to comment on this article by Max Blumenthal that Lons mentioned on the blog a few weeks ago. It provides pretty substantial evidence that I am a racist, and that I associate with many other known racists, including a man named Hal Turner who has called for the murder of illegal aliens and "savage negroes."

Well, did you happen to know this fascinating tidbit? Max Blumenthal is a Jew. And Lons, the author of this blog, is also a Jew. Now, I'll let you interpret that information for yourself. But really, is that just a coincidence, or is it something else entirely?

Also, I'd urge you all to not go visit this terrific blog post that exposes me as a habitual, quite possibly pathological, liar and a total fraud. I keep trying to have it removed from the Internet, but these stupid liberal computer geeks keep insisting to me that "that's not possible." Oh, and ignore these 124 individual articles on Media Matters discussing the various falsehoods and misleading arguments offered on my show. Whatever. They hate America.

On to the movie reviews:

Forrest Gump

Okay, so Lons, in this article, claimed that Forrest Gump is mindless political propaganda, encouraging Americans to behave like sheep, living lives of cheap consumerism and ignorance. This is totally wrong.

Forrest Gump is an inspiring tale about how one brave American from the South can make a difference. Forrest isn't the smartest guy, he doesn't have a fancy-pants education, but he knows what he needs to do. He goes to war, he plays ping-pong, he starts his own business. These are the ideas embraced by America's heartland. Violence, free enterprise and table tennis.

As for the argument that Jenny represents Liberal America, and their perceived moral decadence, well, most liberal women don't look as good as Robin Wright. Am I right? Who's with me? Yowza! She's more like an Ann Coulter than a Jeneane Garofalo, you knwo what I'm saying?

In fact, the life of Forrest Gump may remind you of the life of another notable American. He, too, grew up in the South, loving his momma, struggling through school. When the nation went to Vietnam, he also bravely joined the Armed Forces, though he nobly chose to defend the homeland rather than actually go "in country." Then, he kind of farted around until he was 40. But then, some lucky coincidences came together, and he found himself in the White House!

I think you all know who I mean...

Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

While I agree with Lons that this is an exciting and captivating adventure film, we disagree on our actual interpretations of the film. He seems to think it's a tragic story about Anakin Skywalker's fall from grace.

But really, it's a taut political saga, about one man's heroic struggle to free his Galaxy from the oppression of the do-nothing Galactic Republic.

Palpatine saw a universe run by a wasteful, bleeding-heart, dangerously secular beurocracy. This is a governing body that gave Jar Jar Binks the rank of Senator. He's a fish. What do they know? Nothing! Plus, they turn over all military decisions to a suspiciously UN-like council of alien monks. Is that who you would like making the tough choices about the safety of your family? They even let a black guy on the Council! I mean, come on!

And then people like to blame Palpatine for luring Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side, and his subsequent dismemberment by Obi-Wan. But, hey, the Emperor can't be blamed for every casualty on the field of battle. Grand Moff Tarkin assured him he had enough Storm Toopers in the field. The mission was urgent for galactic security, the Emperor had a grand coalition of Clone Troopers ready to go in and fight with him. And despite his injuries...Anakin did liberate Mustaffar. Those weird lava people are free now, and will probably be holding open democratic elections soon.

So, yeah, what's tragic about this movie again? For me, it was the feel-good hit of the summer!

Fresh Bait

This movie is French. Seriously. Lons actually wrote a whole review for a French movie. It's even in French. And he liked it. Lons, why do you hate America?

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Don't Hate, Carbonate

I'm not the only one struggling with my soda addiction. There are others, many many others.

Now when I say addiction, I'm using the term knowing that my personal addiction to sugary carbonated beverages is not quite on the level of, say, the average speed freak. I know. Maybe it's even offensive to use the term in reference to Coca-Cola. I'm not sure. But I'm doing it anyway.

I'm not actually, officially addicted, perhaps. I can and do regularly go several days without having a soda, and I don't have withdrawls or DT's or anything like that. But I do really like soda, and drink it far more than I should. I am aware that it has made me overweight and has caused my teeth significant problems over the past few years. In fact, the last time I went to the dentist for a cleaning, I swear to you the dental hygienist looked like he wanted to punch me in the face.

And yet I still continue to drink lots of sodas. Bear in mind, I have two roommates, who are similarly hooked on the stuff. We've probably spent enough on 12-packs since I've been living here to pay off all Dr. Pepper's medical school loans. And when you're trying to give up soda, and it's 500 degrees in your bedroom at night, and there's a frosty 12-pack of Cokes sitting just in the next room...well, let me just say, I'm not a strong-willed man.

Anyway, I have found an article by this guy in Roanoke named Neil Harvey, who is going through the very same thing as me! Only he had the foresight to publish his 30-day soda withdrawl period on the Internet, thus actually turning this silly life experiment into cold hard cash. I'm just publishing it on my blog for free, because I'm a sucker.

Here are just a few reasons he offers for giving up the Pop.

Other offerings are thought-provoking but not as easy to verify. I'm told my soda ban will cut 91,000 calories from my diet and cause me to lose 30 pounds in a year. Others have written that cola is used as both an industrial engine cleaner and a pesticide in some countries; that cola syrup, when transported, is designated a hazardous material; that cola works as a handy stain remover; and that cola, when baked with a moist, foil-wrapped ham, transforms into sumptuous brown gravy.

Wouldn't any weight loss/caloric intake change depend on how many sodas you already drink? I mean, I rarely have more than 2 a day, sometimes 3 or more if it's particularly hot or I'm particularly stoned or I'm eating something really spicy. And since I have a empty can of Coke right here at my desk, I can tell you that it includes 140 calories.

So, an average of let's say 3 sodas a day, at 140 calories a pop is 420 calories a day (420!Woooooo!) Times 365 days in a year and you get...153,300 total calories cut in a year. This is probably not a very good way of figuring how much actual weight you're likely to lose, as those calories are spread over a whole year, but you get the idea.

Now, I suppose this means that, if Neil's figures are correct, that he's drinking 2 or fewer sodas a day, which wouldn't really classify him as a true "addict," I shouldn't think. More of a "dabbler." When you consider, as well, that he's enjoying lemonade, apple juice and Kool-Aid in place of soda, it's extra-clear that this won't neccessarily ensure massive weight loss.

It's still a good idea. I'm flirting right now with the notion of giving up sodas cold turkey for a while, just to see how long I last. (I fear, not very long). It would be super super difficult in this apartment, unfortunately, but so is cleaning the bathroom and I've done that. (Seriously! I totally did!)

Nutritious they might be but satisfying they are not, not when what I crave is something toxic, something with phospates, something with bite, something that makes a noise when you break its seal, something with fizz, something that chews into ice cubes with a hearty crackle, something that tickles the nostrils when inhaled.

I love that "tickle the nostril" thing...Man, I think I might have a real problem...Someone call TV's hottest new reality show, "Intervention"!

War of the Worlds

An interesting observation to open this review of War of the Worlds, the latest film by Steven Spielberg and his third concerned thematically with alien visitors. Over the course of his three alien movies, starting with Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977 and continuing with E.T. in 1982, the role of the aliens themselves has done a complete 180. Most obviously, they have changed from friendly, or at least non-threatening, to insane with bloodlust.

But their essential nature has changed along with their moral outlook. In Close Encounters, the aliens are cold, distant figures. We never see them clearly on screen. They possess technology far beyond our own, and communicate with us only through a simple pattern of notes and colors. We can comprehend them, their civilization and their ways in the same way that an ant can understand the notion of The Renaissance. That is, not much at all.

By the time you get to E.T., the aliens have a lot more in common with Earthlings. E.T. himself comes to represent childlike innocence and anxiety, as he is beset by government agents and stranded away from his family. There's still an odd, uncanny element to alien-human relationships (that strange bond between Elliott and E.T., for example, is never meant to be fully understood in practical terms). But E.T. makes an emotional connection between humans and extra-terrestrials, implied that despite our differences, we are all self-aware, conscious beings with feelings and knowledge to share.

War of the Worlds presents us with aliens that look different and possess far superior technology, but are essentially human in every other way. They are curious, they are emotional, they are mean-tempered and self-involved. And man, are they ever bloodthirsty. In other words, they're like a sleeker, more tentacled version of us, which makes the story of Earth's invasion all the more chilling. We know they will be thorough, methodical and calculating, because that's how we behave when we're planning to invade somewhere.

With this film, Spielberg crowns himself the King of the Action Set Piece. There is not a filmmaker alive right now who sets down intense, exciting, thrilling spectacles with more regularity and apparent ease than Steve. Many people disagreed with me that Minority Report ranks among his finest work, but the success of its nimble action sequences (particularly one in which robot spiders scan for Tom Cruise, who's blinded in an ice-filled bathtub) is undeniable.

War of the Worlds takes this same intensity and craftsmanship and applies it to sequences of a massively huge scale. The entire film is told from hero Ray Ferrier's (Cruise) perspective, so we don't get to see the worldwide consequences of alien attacks, but the entire movie is essentially a relentless 2 hour chase. And what is shown here is absolutely incredible, immaculate special effects work teamed with Spielberg's assured, veteran's eye for detail, pacing and composition.

An early scene finds Ferrier outrunning an alien "tripod," a large killing machine that burrows up from beneath the ground, firing a death ray that vaporizes people (and buildings and cars and anything else it touches) on contact. Ferrier darts in between people as they vaporize, and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski's camera swerves and veers around the destruction, giving the entire scene a "you are there" kind of immediacy. (In some ways, it's similar to the effect he and Spielberg brought to the battle sequences in Saving Private Ryan.)

In perhaps the movie's best overall segment, Ferrier and his precocious daughter Rachel (Dakota Fanning, in a performance that mainly avoids the shrillness of most precocious child performances) hide out in the basement lair of screwy survivalist Marvin Ogilvy (Tim Robbins). Spielberg takes his time in establishing Ogilby's decrepit bunker before bringing the hammer down. When the actual aliens start snooping around, within inches of Ray and Rachel's hiding spot, it's a really wonderful moment that matches the terrific Jurassic Park "raptors in the kitchen" scene.

If I were to complain about War of the Worlds, and I think I will, albeit briefly, I would say it's almost too episodic in nature. What the movie really needs is central idea, a core concept to push the action ahead. As it stands, we basically jump from segment to segment. Ray, Rachel and his disaffected teenage son Robbie (Justin Chatwin, in what I suspect will be his breakthrough performance) race from New York to Boston, one step ahead of an alien invasion, to get the kids back to their worried mother (Miranda Otto, of Lord of the Rings fame).

It's pretty familiar material, and considering that the mother's death seems almost assured from 20 minutes into the movie, I found it hard to maintain interest in that side of the narrative at all. I mean, New York is nearly liquified - it's only through tremendous luck that Ray and his kids get out alive. What are the chances his wife and everything else in Boston is A-OK? And what does it matter if the kids see their mom alive again anyway, when it appears the whole world will be destroyed?

Worse yet, Spielberg and writers David Koepp and Josh Friedman plug in a perfunctory sub-plot about Ray's emotional distance from his kids. Moriarty in his less favorable but still worthwhile review over at Aint It Cool News has called this the "Bad Dad" plot, and that's fairly accurate. Basically, Ray and his wife are divorced, the kids prefer their new stepdad to Ray, he's never around for them, and he's not a part of their life.

At first, the kids resent Ray and even reject his help in escaping the aliens but over teh course of the film...blah blah blah. You get it. It never amounts to much, and it doesn't really enhance anything or make the movie more entertaining or deep. In a film that's otherwise pretty tight, it's sloppy and uninteresting.

But thankfully, it's a minor distraction, and as I said, the whole "Bad Dad" business is basically jettisoned as the film really kicks into high gear. I won't say too much more about the specific action stuff, but this is the most disturbing, violent and dark science-fiction Spielberg has ever filmed by far. The movie is quite scary, and surprisingly bleak for a guy that tends to come off like an eternal optimist.

If it's not quite as thrilling from a storytelling aspect as the finest Spielberg films (I mean, marvelously entertaining as War of the Worlds is, it ain't Jaws), I didn't really care while actually watching the film.

I've heard it argued in a few places that the movie offers some sort of post-9/11 analysis from Spielberg, and it is clearly a film of its time that's aware of the cultural mood in America right now. There is, for starters, an acknowledgement that the alien attack resembles in some small ways a terrorist action. (Rachel asks early on whether the attacks are the work of terrorists, which got a knowing laugh from the boisterous Culver City audience.)

But the deeper issue is the dual approaches to invasion offered in the film. Ray runs into conflict, first with his son, later with Ogil,vy and finally with the US Military, on how to deal with the alien menace. Ray's instinct is to run, just keep running, keep his children safe as long as he can until someone else can figure out some way to beat the invaders. Not everyone shares this point of view.

Robbie wants to stop running, to join the military and fight. Ogilvy wants to hide out in his bunker, waiting for the right time, before unleashing an ambush on the aliens, killing as many as possible. Other people offer their own plans, some sensible and some outrageous. But Ray refuses to plan; his only concern is to keep his children safe.

Interestingly, Spielberg doesn't seem to actually take a side in this debate. (It may be that he's actually conflicted in real life on this issue. He's an outspoken lefty, but also a staunch supporter of Israel). He sympathizes clearly with Ferrier's drive to protect his kids, and hatred of having to commit violence, but he also respects the bravery of Robbie in refusing to simply run away from the invaders.

Spielberg wants us to confront this issue when watching War of the Worlds. Much of the film's visual imagery mirrors WWII movies, from the bombed-out buildings in Ray's old neighborhood to the lifless corpses floating down a lazy stream to the parade of refugees desperately fleeing the attack zone (who look remarkably like the parade of Holocaust survivors that ends Schindler's List). Though the conclusion of the alien invasion may strike an overly-simplistic note, this is not a light and breezy summer fantasy film by any stretch of the imagination.

I think, if I'm being honest, I was kind of expecting and looking forward to that fun, light and breezy summer fantasy. I didn't get it. What I got was something much more sinister, much more bleak, but also more resonant, and probably more intense. This may not be the whiz-bang eye candy summer movie (that's Revenge of the Sith), and it may not be the sweeping epic fantasy summer movie (that's Batman Begins). But it's the best science-fiction film we're likely to see for a while, and surely one of the most technically impressive pieces of work of 2005.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Pooping Tom

For some reason, port-a-potty articles always seem to circulate quickly around the Web.

Oh, that's right, I do know the reason. It's that port-a-potty stories are hilarious.

This may, in fact, be the freakiest outhouse-gone-wrong article I have ever come across. And fans of this blog will know that I have come across a few.

ALBANY, N.H. -- A man is facing charges after police said they pulled him from a tank under a women's toilet that was filled with human waste.

Police said that Gary Moody, 45, was under a log cabin outhouse off the Kancamagas Highway in Albany.

"You can draw your own conclusions as to the conditions we encountered," said Capt. John Hebert, of the Carroll County Sheriff's Department.

Oh Gary, Gary, Gary. Now, we all have urges. Every mature person on this planet has had, at some time in their life, some bizarre, outrageous, primitive or inappropriate sexual urge. But when your brain is telling you, "we need to get under this portable toilet right now," that's when it's time to step back, take stock of the situation, and to get some help immediately.

Or, failing that, to just pitch yourself off the nearest cliffside. Cause you're in what we in the blogging industry like to call "a downward spiral."

Or you could take Tom Cruise's advice, and start exercizing and taking vitamins. But something, other than actually climbing beneath a port-a-john to spy on females or (worse yet) interact with their, ugh, leavings.

Police said that they got a call from the parents of a teenage girl who said that when she went to use the facilities, she saw Moody's face staring back at her from the hole.

I don't think any monster movie ever made could match the sheer horror of that situation.

Just imagine it...You walk into an isolated, outdoor port-a-potty. It's dark, it's kind of odd and claustrophobic in those vestibules anyway. Plus, of course, there's the dank and the smell. And just as you're pulling your undergarments down and preparing to position your backside on the actual seat, you look down and notice...some creepy guy staring at you from within the toilet.

Those people you sometimes see walking around with streaks of white in their otherwise-colored hair? That's what happened to most of them.

Seriously, guy who directed The Grudge. Keep that in mind for the sequel.

Moody was hosed off before police cuffed him.

"It's a very filthy environment, and before we put anybody in contact with him, we had to decontaminate him," Hebert said. "We treated him as if he were hazardous material."

Only hosing him down? If I were a cop, I wouldn't go near this guy unless there was ammonia in that hose. Ammonia, bleach, formaldehyde, a condensed container of potpourri spray and that pink powder they use for soap in high school bathrooms. Then, maybe, maybe, I'd be willing to stand in the same room with the guy.

Police said they don't know how long Moody was in the tank, but they said the door to it was locked, which means he must have gone in through the toilet. They said they don't know why he was there.

I don't know why, but the fact that he got in through the toilet actually kind of makes this more disgusting. It shouldn't. There's already nothing more disgusting than a guy hanging out in the underbelly of an outhouse, amidst all the human waste. And yet the idea of him crawling, Renton-style, through the toilet apparatus itself kind of makes it worse.

Also, I like that the police threw in the part about not knowing why he was there. It's almost like they feel guilty just by association, as if their part in uncovering this caper reflects poorly on them in some way. (Which, I suppose, it kind of does...I mean, here I am, goofing on them...)

"I mean, yeah, I found the guy in the outhouse, but I don't know why he was there. It ain't like I hang out down there looking for guys. Well, except for that one time..."

"I started this business in 1980, and I have never in my career encountered anybody in this type of situation," Hebert said.

I would hope not! Hebert actually seems surprised it took him 25 years to unlock a port-a-potty and find some smelly dude. I'm, at this point, pretty much counting on never having to experience that living nightmare for the rest of my life. If it ever happens, I will not provide a quote about how odd it is that previously, in my experience, hanging out beneath bathrooms was not a reasonable-sounding activity.

My quote will be more along the lines with, "Now I will need many years of therapy, as a way of getting past my discovery of a man hiding underneath a toilet."

Police charged Moody with criminal trespass, and they said he could face more charges. He is out on bail and due back in court next month.

Hey, politicians, want to make a moral stand on a subject every American is virtually guaranteed to agree on? May I humbly suggest a law against loitering underneath an outhouse, punishable by a $1 million fine or 500 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Something like that. Severe. I can't imagine anyone coming up with a serviceable counter-argument to this sort of legislation, and it's a quick way to weed out the
Gary Moody's of the world before they start popping up in a toilet bowl near your favorite hiking spot.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Is George Bush DUMBER Than Tom Cruise?

Tonight, I will attempt to figure out who is nuttier - the President of the United States, the Admiral of Atrocity, George W. Bush, or Scientology expert and cock-respecter extraordinaire, Tom Cruise-Holmes.

First, let's consider Tom Cruise's recent behavior. Dancing around like a nutjob on Oprah, reacting angrily after being squirted in the face with water, advancing highly illogical arguments on "The Today Show," looking like he may, at any moment, pounce on Matt Lauer like a frightened puma. Check. Definitely nutty.

But NOW let's take a look at the President's speech tonight from Fort Bragg. I think his brand of delusional religious fanaticism tops Tom's any day. After all, how many massive technologically-advanced militaries does Tom Cruise control? Not many!

My greatest responsibility as president is to protect the American people, and that is your calling as well. I thank you for your service, your courage and your sacrifice. I thank your families, who support you in your vital work. The soldiers and families of Fort Bragg have contributed mightily to our efforts to secure our country and promote peace. America is grateful and so is your commander in chief.

George likes to do this...he refers to himself in the third person, but gets away with it by using his official title - "Commander in Chief" - rather than just saying George Bush. Or, you know, "me." It sounds less egomaniacal. For example, I saw him give an interview (to Bill O'Reilly, that veteran newsman) where he defended that embarrassing "Mission Accomplished" aircraft carrier landing..."The troops like to see their Commander in Chief," Bush explained, probably because he's sound super-ridiculous saying "The troops wanted to see me!" like he's their favorite uncle or something.

"Oh, gee whiz, General, isn't Uncle Traveling George coming to visit this Thanksgiving."

"I don't know, Private...He gets awful busy around the White House this time of year...Maybe if you're really really good and he's desperately in need of a photo op..."

The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror. The war reached our shores on September 11, 2001. The terrorists who attacked us and the terrorists we face murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance and despises all dissent. Their aim is to remake the Middle East in their own grim image of tyranny and oppression by toppling governments, driving us out of the region and by exporting terror.

Way to hit them talking points, Chimpy! I haven't heard these same facile arguments from you a thousand times before. Blah blah blah freedom is on the march blah blah blah tyranny and oppression. I get it. We all get it. Now shut the fuck up.

To achieve these aims, they have continued to kill in Madrid, Istanbul, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Bali and elsewhere. The terrorists believe that free societies are essentially corrupt and decadent, and with a few hard blows they can force us to retreat. They are mistaken. After September 11, I made a commitment to the American people: This nation will not wait to be attacked again. We will defend our freedom. We will take the fight to the enemy.

The enemy, of course, being random Iraqis, chosen seemingly at will. That wasn't really the commitment he made to the American people. You may recall that commitment, as it's a speech the Republicans dredged up again and again and again and again during Campaign 2004. The President, in the rubble of the World Trade Center, promised the workers and citizenry gathered there that the people responsible for that tragedy would "hear you."

Well, the people actually responsible for that tragedy have heard about it, all right, but they don't seem to really give a shit. We haven't caught Osama, we haven't really seen any dramatic improvement in public safety here in America or in a decrease in world terrorism.

So, yeah, the President made a commitment. And then gave up on it and went after Saddam Hussein.

Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York, in Washington and Pennsylvania. There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home. The commander in charge of coalition operations in Iraq, who is also senior commander at this base, General John Vines, put it well the other day. He said, "We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us."

I told you he was tricksy. I told you he was false.

This is pretty deceiving, I have to say. Karl Rove, you are good. See, the only reason Iraq is the "latest battlefield in this war" is because we went and randomly invaded it. There was no battlefield in this war, which is what makes it a difficult war to fight. But randomly inventing a battlefield doesn't really work out so well, as the citizens of Baghdad would probably tell you at this point.

See, the President has this weird notion about a finite number of terrorists. This plan only makes sense if the terrorists have a set number of guys, and we can wear them down over the course of a few months and destroy them all.

If that were the case, it would make sense to lure them out into the open and then take them down.

But of course, that's not the case. The case is, the more brutal, unfair, random and heinous American policy turns towards the Middle East, the easier it will be for terrorists to recruit, and thus the more terrorists there will be. So it's not like we went to Iraq and lured out a few thousand terrorists, and are right now merrily gunning them all down in the streets, like in that old Nintendo game "Duck Hunt." It's more like we created a horrific gauntlet of chaos in what used to be a country, like in that old Ninetendo game "Contra." And chaos breeds further chaos, just as violence breeds further violence. We're digging a hole deeper and deeper, not burrowing our way out of one.

Our mission in Iraq is clear. We are hunting down the terrorists. We are helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror. We are advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability and laying the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren.

I think we can all agree on most of this stuff as our "mission." Like the President says, I'd like to see an Iraq where terrorists were being hunted down, Iraqi civilians were founding a legally sound sovereign nation out of the ashes of the old despotic system and that whole part of the world were much less violent. OF COURSE that's what we want to see don't need a press conference to say that.

But we're not doing any of these things. We're hunting down terrorists, fine, but we wind up imprisoning mostly innocent people, and our tactics for rounding up evildoers has caused more problems than it has solved. Iraqis aren't anywhere close to being able to build a free nation, defend themselves or even provide basic requirements for civilization like power and water. We're not advancing freedom in the broader Middle East, we're propping up other dictatorships because we need allies. (Pakistan? Saudi fucking Arabia? These are nations dedicated to freedom?) And we're not removing a source of violence or instability, we are a source of violence and instability.

The work in Iraq is difficult and it is dangerous. Like most Americans, I see the images of violence and bloodshed. Every picture is horrifying and the suffering is real. Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country. And tonight I will explain the reasons why.

But this is a lie too. Bush may very well see the images of violence and bloodshed, but Americans don't because our corporate-controlled media won't beam us the images. You can find them online (mainly as published in the Middle Eastern or European press) if you really search for them, but the American government only wants you to see their version of the war, and it's for the most part bloodless. Occasionally, some young American dies and they can't totally ignore it, and we get a fleeting photo on the news or a small article buried in the paper.

But Bush isn't attending these funerals, we're not seeing any caskets on TV, and some right-wing media companies won't even run an episode of Nightline in which Ted Koppel reads the names of the American casualties of the Iraq War. So, no, Mr. President, you're keeping us from seeing those pictures you call "horrifying" depicting the "suffering" your war has caused. But we should see them. (Also, how dare this man, who has had every priviledge provided to him for his entire life, even talk about the sacrifice of military families and how their sacrifice is "worth" his extended socio-political goals?)

Some of the violence you see in Iraq is being carried out by ruthless killers who are converging on Iraq to fight the advance of peace and freedom. Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and others. They are making common cause with criminal elements, Iraqi insurgents and remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime who want to restore the old order. They fight because they know that the survival of their hateful ideology is at stake. They know that as freedom takes root in Iraq, it will inspire millions across the Middle East to claim their liberty as well. And when the Middle East grows in democracy, in prosperity and hope, the terrorists will lose their sponsors, lose their recruits and lose their hopes for turning that region into a base for attacks on America and our allies around the world.

Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate. Hear the words of Osama Bin Laden: "This Third World War is raging" in Iraq. "The whole world is watching this war." He says it will end in "victory and glory or misery and humiliation."

Okay, he's doing the same thing again. He's pretending that the terrorists chose Iraq as the battlefront in the War on Terror, when they clearly did no such thing. He's saying, "Look, all these terrorists are fighting us there! That's why we need to be in Iraq!" But they're only there because of us. We started the fight, and now he wants to use the fact that they are fighting back as proof the fight was important in the first place. It's totally nonsensical.

It would be like taking a dump in your neighbors yard, and then going back the next day and installing an outhouse. "Hey, if people are going to shit here, you might as well have a bathroom!"

I also like that Osama quote at the end there. It's maybe the first time I've ever heard the President openly declare that we might lose the War on Terror. He doesn't say "the terrorists know they must win this battle, but of course, they can't beat us! We're America." He just says, "they need to win."

The terrorists know that the outcome will leave them emboldened or defeated. So they are waging a campaign of murder and destruction. And there is no limit to the innocent lives they are willing to take.

See? The "outcome" used to be certain for GW. Is he conceding the point that the future is unknown? But hasn't God already assured him that we're totally gonna kick ass?

Also note that sentence..."There is no limit to the innocent lives they are willing to take." Isn't that true of us, as well? What if the Senate had a proposal in front of it to litter the Middle East with bombs? We'd kill all the terrorists, but a lot of innocents as well, hundreds of thousands maybe. But we wouldn't have to fight the War on Terror any more. It would be over, we won, the world is safe from suicide bombings. How do you think most Americans would vote? I'm not sure...but I'm tempted to say a surprising amount of them would go for the deal.

And the attitude of George in the War on Terror all along has been "we will fight these guys at any cost," "this is a war we must win," all that stuff.

We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who exploded car bombs along a busy shopping street in Baghdad, including one outside a mosque. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who sent a suicide bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul. And we see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who behead civilian hostages and broadcast their atrocities for the world to see.

All these things are true. I won't deny that fanatical Islam is a worthwhile opponent, something we should be working against. But I do wish he would be more selective about his choice of language. The President constantly talking in terms of "enemies" is so creepy, so backward. Can't we for once focus on positive, forward-thinking proposals, and stop fear-mongering for one little speech? Is it so much to ask?

These are savage acts of violence but they have not brought the terrorists any closer to achieving their strategic objectives.


Osama bin Laden has achieved all of his strategic objectives from 9/11 and then some. I dare say, the entire enterprise probably worked beyond his wildest expectations.

(1) He has united most of the world against America

Even people that aren't Muslim and hate terrorists are united in their present opposition to American foreign policy. Hell, I'm united in my hatred for American foreign policy and I fucking live here. Remember, you don't have to like terrorists to hate the way America has behaved in the last several years.

Plus, that Abu Gharib-Gitmo stuff? That is like a 2 hour sloppy wet blowjob for Osama bin Laden. That is like every birthday present he ever got times 1000, and he grew up fabulously wealthy so you know the guy got some cool birthday presents.

(2) Terrorist recruitment is through the roof

All these young kids whose parents and siblings and friends we're arresting and torturing and murdering en masse? They're the future of al-Qaeda. The more we decimate their homeland, the more anxious they'll be to decimate ours.

(3) We're involved in a protracted land war in the Middle East, for which we have no exit strategy

That's what they want! Obviously, al-Qaeda doesn't have an Air Force. We're not going to fight them on the High Seas like in fucking Master and Commander. If they're going to kill infidels and beat us down, they have to do it on their own turf, guerilla style.

Seeing as our nation was founded by guerilla warriors, you'd think we would catch on to this, but we keep marching into these kind of situations over and over and over again, like Napoleon if he had that amensia disease from Memento. It's retarded.

(4) Everybody is still fucking talking about al-Qaeda

Pre-9/11: Osama bin Laden is some bearded buttmunch whom Americans can't tell apart from any of those wacky Muslim sheiks. Or Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia for that matter.

Post-9/11: Osama bin Laden can release a video tape and beat out Lindsay Lohan for the front page. Think about that...He's not more important than Lindsay Lohan.

You can't buy that kind of publicity. You can only earn it by crashing planes into large skyscrapers when a trained ape happens to be president.

(5) Americans are losing faith in their government, their economy and their military

Isn't that really what terrorism is all about? Fear? Panic? Isn't that how you'd describe the American mood post-9/11? I wish some brave politician would come out and admit the truth - we as a society have played right into Osama bin Laden's hands, and it's time to look at our own behavior and how it affects the world instead of trying to arrest every brown, bearded guy.

So, yeah, George, explain again how Osama bin Laden didn't achieve any objectives? You were saying?

The terrorists, both foreign and Iraqi, failed to stop the transfer of sovereignty. They failed to break our coalition and force a mass withdrawal by our allies. They failed to incite an Iraqi civil war. They failed to prevent free elections. They failed to stop the formation of a democratic Iraqi government that represents all of Iraq's diverse population. And they failed to stop Iraqis from signing up in large numbers with the police forces and the army to defend their new democracy.

Do I even need to point out how pathetic this is as an explanation? Okay, I'll do it quick, because it's immensely feeble.

This is really the meat of this speech. This is his defense of our position in Iraq. This is why he thinks we are winning the war. And it's a fucking joke.

First of all, he uses the same incident - there was an election - over and over again, as if it were different successes we'd won in Iraq. Yes, there was an election. That means there was a transfer of sovereignty, a government has formed and there is a new democracy.

He doesn't discuss how this is a democracy in name only. How the people in charge are not permanent, how large sectors of the country didn't vote, and how many of the government's key officials are US puppets. Also, how there's no real organization for the government yet, and it hasn't even been decided, most importantly, how long the US will have a presence in the country, and how the constitution will be drafted.

Big important decisions, those. My point is, it's a little early to talk about a democratic government that represents all the people. Stop-gap, semi-official elections held during a time of chaotic violence and warfare in the streets is hardly something to crow about from the rooftops.

The lesson of this experience is clear: The terrorists can kill the innocent but they cannot stop the advance of freedom. The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September 11, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like bin Laden. For the sake of our nation's security, this will not happen on my watch.

There it is for you, clear as day. George Bush wants your friends and family to willingly die for an abstract. An abstract that happens to be really important to him, but also extremely vague. I'm not saying it's always wrong to die for an abstract. Millions of people throughout human history have, and I can't deny that often times, it's noble. But that's a decision each man and woman must make for themselves. Is this idea worth dying for?

I think most Americans would say that they concept of a democratically-elected Iraqi government is not really, to them, worth the lives of their children, parents or friends. Now, maybe, if you said, "I'll kill you, but your death will immediately cause Iraq to be free, and controlled by a benevolent, fairly elected governing body," a lot of American swould go for it.

But that's not dying for an ideal. Dying for an ideal is..."your death will mean something toward the cause of worldwide freedom." Umm...okay...I guess...but couldn't I live a while longer?

Bush goes on and on and on (this is so far only Page 1 of 3 in the speech transcript), and frankly, there's no need to continue fisking the speech like this. You see where the guy is going. It's just more mindless horseshit, signifying nothing at all.

America has done difficult work before. From our desperate fight for independence, to the darkest days of a Civil War, to the hard-fought battles against tyranny in the 20th century, there were many chances to lose our heart, our nerve or our way. But Americans have always held firm, because we have always believed in certain truths. We know that if evil is not confronted, it gains in strength and audacity and returns to strike us again. We know that when the work is hard, the proper response is not retreat, it is courage. And we know that this great ideal of human freedom entrusted to us in a special way and that the ideal of liberty is worth defending.

Ugh...What balls...He's equating a war he started with the war against the British Crown, the Confederacy, Nazis. Hey, FDR didn't lie about Hitler, pretending he wanted to invade other countries and kill Jews, when really he had two panzers and a couple of underground bunkers. Der Fuhrer had already invaded a couple countries when we joined the war effort.

And, yes, Iraq invaded Kuwait in the early 90's, and we stepped in and got them out, and then left. In 2003, all they did was fail to let in Hans Blix for a few days, before finally letting him in anyway.

Not quite the same thing.

Using this kind of rhetoric, he could excuse any war. Any war. Think about it. "The ideal of liberty." How exactly is this a fight for the ideal of liberty? It's not. It's a fight over who's going to run this faraway country, and whether or not we're going to set up shop there permanently. It has nothing to fucking do with liberty.

Next week, our nation has an opportunity to make sure that support is felt by every soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guardsman and Marine at every outpost across the world. This Fourth of July, I ask you to find a way to thank the men and women defending our freedom by flying the flag, sending letters to our troops in the field or helping the military family down the street.

This is his grand design? This is the big plan at the end of his speech to give us hope for teh future? Fly the fucking flag?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?! Is he fucking serious?

I can't even go on. That's it for me.

So, who's dumber, Cruise or Bush? All I have to say is, if our President is a measure of sanity, then I'll take Xenu and the exploding "Dianetics" volcanoes any day of the week.

Worst. Religion. Ever.

I had lunch with my brother, mother and grandmother today. Got into a disagreement with my sibling, Jon, over whether Scientology is dumber than Christianity.

My brother thinks they are equally dumb. Christ didn't rise from the dead just as Xenu didn't sacrifice thousands of people to a radioactive volcano, so both religions encourage you to repeat stories that are clearly false. And both are based on a moral system that at times seems arbitrary. Is the Christian prohibition against meat on Fridays any more or less sensible than the Scientologist's ban on psychiatry?

I say, basically, that it's a little bit less stupid to be a Christian than to be a Scientologist. I mean, yes, the mythology behind neither religion is true, but Christianity at least builds off of several thousands years of tradition. It has been a significant communal and cultural force that has dramatically shaped Western civilization, so by practicing it, a person joins a long and storied tradition.

Not neccessarily a proud tradition, unless you're a fan of Inquisitions, but a tradition nonetheless. It's a faith that has been forged by not just one guy, but a large community throughout the ages, and therefore it has value, even if it isn't spiritual value.

Scientology on the other hand is based around the book "Dianetics," a self-help tract written by a loopy sci-fi writer with a history of personal and psychological problems that used to be advertised on daytime television. Zoroastrianism it ain't.

If you'd like to read more about why Scientology is really strange, I'd recommend Laura Miller's excellent "review" of "Dianetics" from today's Salon. She delves into a lot of valuable information about L. Ron Hubbard's personal idiosyncracies and how they influenced his "religion."

Monday, June 27, 2005

Hey, Hey, BTK, How Many Families Did You Kill Today?

I know it has been a few weeks since our last Braffy nomination. For that, I sincerely apologize. But there's been some volatile action behind the scenes here...I'm afraid I have a rather sad announcement...Cedric the Entertainer will be unable to host the Braffy awards ceremony, now tentatively set for mid-July.

It seems, like Dave Chappelle, Cedric is burned out on celebrity life, and needs to take a long South African vacation. He told me he will be hanging out with his Muslim spiritual advisor, and is considering a full-on conversion to Islam. His new name, by the way, will be Mohammad Mohammad Saddiq the Non-Entertainer, Because Entertainment Is An Affront to Allah, which is kind of a cool name, I guess, even if it probably won't easily fit on a marquee.

So I was faced with a massive replacement host problem. Who to get? Who could possibly represent what the Braffies were all about as succinctly as Cedric the Entertainer? More important, who was so queer for fame, they would accept an invitation to host an awards ceremony for a low-on-readership satirical blog whose author mainly wanted to insult him?

The answer was obvious...Sean Hannity. He'll be guest-blogging in the next few days, as a way to introduce himself to all of you, my blessed, special readers. So look out for that. And look out for this next Braffy nomination, our first genuine, verified mass murderer!

That dazzling young man is none other than Dennis Rader, the charming fellow who has admitted to an ongoing killing spree that has shocked and appalled the town of Wichita, Kansas since the 1970's. Rader has admitted to 10 different killings, which he refers to as "projects". Sorry, ladies, but he's already taken...married for 35 years with TWO GROWN CHILDREN!

Rader, 60, of Park City, entered the guilty pleas as his trial was to begin.

Referring to his victims as "projects," Rader laid out for the court how he would "troll" for victims on his off-time, then stalk them and kill them.

BTK, by the way, is a name Rader chose for himself in one of his many communications over the years taunting the police. It stands for "Bind, Torture, Kill," which was my third guess. After "Bleu Cheese, Tartar Sauce, Ketchup" and "Byron, Tennyson, Kipling."

Yeah, he was one of those cinematic serial killers who would send the police clues about his crimes and identities. In fact, it was one of these stupid clues that wound up getting him caught.

After years of silence, the killer resurfaced last year with a letter to The Wichita Eagle that included photos of the 1986 strangulation of Vicki Wegerle and a photocopy of her missing driver's license. Her case had not been linked to BTK until then.

That letter was followed by several other cryptic messages and packages. The break in the case came after a computer diskette the killer had sent was traced to Rader's church.

His church! He was taunting the police using discs stolen from his church!

Now, I've been thinking this for a long time, but I can't keep quiet any longer. It is clear to me that lots of adults who attend church are also guilty of violent crimes. Like the Washington DC sniper. Surely we can't deny any longer that church is clearly to blame. People hear these violent sermons and they want to go out and copycat that violence. These are adults with impressionable little minds. It's high time we banned church, so that people will stop being violent towards one another.

Oh, and we'll have to get rid of The Matrix, too, obviously.

All sarcasm aside, I really don't get the "taunt the police with evidence" concept. I mean, yeah, maybe you're so brilliant, you've thought out all the scenarios and there's no way to be's still an unneccessary risk. And isn't getting away with murdering an entire family enough of a "fuck you" to the cops? Do you really have to rub their noses in it after the fact as well? What did they ever do to you?

And, I mean, imagine getting caught because you stupidly sent a disc to the cops that they then traced! This guy will be in jail for the rest of his life because of that one little dumb mistake. Oh, he must want to kill himself, considering the state won't do it for him. (They don't have the death penalty in Kansas, or at least, they didn't at the time Rader was committing his misdeeds).

When questioned by the judge about the motivation for the Otero slayings, Rader said: "That was part of what you call my fantasy."

Pressed further, Rader said, "Sexual fantasy, sir."

Rader has not been accused of sexually assaulting his victims, but he admitted masturbating over some of them.

If anyone out there feels any sort of compulsion to whack it over a freshly-killed corpse, I have an alternate suggestion for you. First, go hire a prostitute. I'd suggest the cheapest prostitute possible, because what do you care if she's attractive or not? You're just going to masturbate over her pretend "corpse" to begin with. Her being ugly will probably enhance the effect.

Then, apply some make-up to look like she's been beaten or had her throat slit or whatever sick crap you're into. Then, have her lie motionless on the floor in front of you.

Okay, so then, go about your dirty, sinful business. When you're done, pay the girl and get the hell out of there. Done, done and done. And, if you really really can't help it, fine, go ahead and actually kill her. Hey, it's better than killing a whole family. Just do the right thing, and give her pimp an extra couple bucks afterwards. That's just good manners.

Yes, you're out maybe $100 (unless you didn't take my advice and went for a more expensive escort, but that's just wasteful), but there's very little chance you'll do any serious jail time. And the wife and kids probably will never find out. That's much better than having them find out you've been spending your time laying waste to whole families, then masturbating on them, then taking pictures of them and sending them to the cops from church.

Now here's, to me, the single most troubling aspect of this entire situation:

He described to the court how he chose his victims.

"If you've read much about serial killers, they go through what they call different phases. In the trolling stage, basically, you're looking for a victim at that time. You can be trolling for months or years, but once you lock in on a certain person, you become a stalker. That might be several of them but you really hone in on one person. They basically become the ... that's the victim. Or at least that's what you want it to be."

Doesn't this guy sound rational? I mean, he's describing the behavior of serial killers like he read a bunch of books about them, not like he's one of them. I always thought of these guys as utterly disconnected from reality - psychos acting purely on crazed, homicidal instinct. I thought a guy like BTK killed because of some deep, poorly understood compulsion that science has yet to figure out.

But this guy seems fully aware of what he was doing. He knew purposefully that he was following a pattern established by other serial killers. It's almost as if he refined his abilites intentionally, as a knowing part of a larger sub-culture. I mean, "they go through what they call different phases"? Do serial killers actually refer to their "work" in those terms?

Well, I guess I'm entering my stalking stage now, as I've located a proper victim and will now begin following her...

Is that how serial killers think? I always imagined something more like..."The voices in my head command me to kill this girl and feast upon her duodenum! I'm covered in ants! STOP LOOKING AT ME!!"

It's way more scary if these guys are fully self-aware. Like, they're walking around, thinking about being a serial killer, observing their own behavior with emotional distance, recording their actions like data. Chilling...

Even his confession that he kills becuase of "sexual fantasies" is kind of peculiar. If he knows that these are just aberrant sexually deviant feelings, it seems like it would be easier to control them. I mean, if you were fully rational, and it got into your head that you couldn't find any inner piece without murdering a whole bunch of people someday, what would you do? Calmly decide to become a serial killer, or seek immediate professional help?

Silly Love Kongs

Good sweet lord. The first trailer for King Kong is online right now, and words are kind of failing me, which kind of defeats the entire purpose of having a blog. This thing looks really tremendous. Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Naomi Watts and an island filled with dinosaurs and giant apes? And that's not even mentioning the period-perfect recreated Manhattan.

You've got to watch this thing immediately. It's going to play before War of the Worlds in a few days, I believe. Audiences are going to collectively shit a brick when they get a look at this stuff.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Welcome to Crazytown, Population: Cruise

I know it hasn't been in the news a lot lately, but Tom Cruise has a new movie out. Oh, yeah, and he also wishes to make it known that he's totally batshit insane.

Of course, first it was that whole "I'm suddenly in love with Katie Holmes!" flipping out on Oprah thing. Whatever. Seemed a little odd to me, but hey, who am I to judge? If I suddenly found myself with a girlfriend who looked like Katie Holmes, I'd probably jump around like a crazed simian myself. It's just unlikely I'd be a guest on Oprah at the time (unless the topic that day was "Overweight Bloggers With Surprisingly Attractive Girlfriends".)

Then, he started going off on Scientology all the time, promoting it publicly and fervently in a way that was fairly unprecedented for the formerly shy and reserved star. I mean, anyone remember the old Tom Cruise? The guy who was married to Nicole Kidman? He used to be really private about his personal life. He used to speak about religion and love and stuff like that only when prompted. These days, he's making more public confessionals than the entire cast of the "Real World."

What happened? Did Team Dianetics finally get pissed at investing all this time into his case without benefit? Maybe they're telling him to start publicizing their particular brand of nutjob semi-spiritual hooey or else.

I don't know. But on Friday, things finally got completely out of hand. I think we can now move from the "Something Weird is Happening With Tom Cruise" phase into the "Tom Cruise has lost his mind" phase. The Cruise Alert Meter has gone from Orange to Yellow. You may officially start to panic.

That's a photo from Friday morning, of your boy TC berating Matt Lauer on the "Today Show" about psychiatry. It's weird. Matt asks a fairly innocent question of Tom about some comments he made a few months ago, about Brooke Shields taking anti-depressants for her severe post-partum depression.

CRUISE: i've never agreed with psychiatry, ever. Before I was a Scientologist I never agreed with psychiatry. and when i started studying the history of psychiatry, i understood more and more why i didn't believe in psychology.//And as far as the Brooke Shields thing is, look. You gotta understand, I really care about Brooke Shields. I-- I think here's a-- a-- a wonderful and talented woman. And-- I wanna see her do well. And I know that-- psychiatry is-- is a pseudo science.

I'm reminded of an interview I read a few years ago with Tom's fellow Scientologist, Fat Actress Kirstie Alley. I love that you can now refer to Kirstie Alley as Fat Actress Kirstie Alley without being deemed cruel or offensive. Anyway, she said that she would not agree to appear on the "Cheers" spin-off "Frasier" because it made a hero out of a psychiatrist.

The interviewer then asked the obvious question...wouldn't it then be wrong to appear with the Frasier character in "Cheers," as he was still a good guy, just not the show's star? She shrugged this off, saying that he was being mocked on "Cheers" but was the hero of "Frasier."

Anyway, I always thought that was stupid.

TOM CRUISE: Matt, you have to understand this. Here we are today where I talk out against drugs and psychiatric abuses of electric shocking people (PH), okay, against their will, of drugging children with them not knowing the effects of these drugs. Do you know what Aderol (PH) is? Do you know Ritalin? Do you know now that Ritalin is a street drug? Do you understand that?

So, already, Tom's kind of sounding strange and paranoid. Connecting a woman taking some relatively mild drugs to treat a genuine diagnosed mental disorder to the one of the most divisive and severe treatments in the history of psychiatry is kind of a stretch. No one suggested electocuting Brooke's uterus. Well, except me.

She's just popping some Zoloft or something.

MATT LAUER: I understand there's abuse of all of these things.

TOM CRUISE: No, you see. Here's the problem. You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do.//

Here's where Cruise starts going totally off the rails. I hate when people use this kind of argument, first of all. The "you'd agree with me if only you knew more about this" thing. Ugh, so obnoxious. It' susually a sign that someone is losing an argument, when they feel the need to fall back on credentials.

And where exactly did Tom learn all this stuff about psychiatry? From Scientologists? Because then, it's clearly biased information, and any educated person knows not to accept information solely from a single, obviously biased source.

So I'd trust Matt Lauer's more limited but reasoned knowledge of psychiatry to Cruise's half-assed expertise.

TOM CRUISE: But what happens, the antidepressant, all it does is mask the problem. There's ways of vitamins and through exercise and various things. I'm not saying that that isn't real. That's not what I'm saying. That's an alteration of what-- what I'm saying. I'm saying that drugs aren't the answer, these drugs are very dangerous. They're mind-altering, anti-psychotic drugs. And there are ways of doing it without that so that we don't end up in a brave new world. // the thing that I'm saying about Brooke is that there's misinformation, okay. And she doesn't understand the history of psychiatry. She-- she doesn't understand in the same way that you don't understand it, Matt.

Were I Matt Lauer, and the biggest superstar in the world had just tossed this kind of insane rant my way, I genuinely don't know how I would react. I'd probably try to steer the conversation back to more comfortable ground.

"So, yeah, psychiatry's weird, how about that. Tell me, did you an Anthony Edwards really pal around on the set of Top Gun, or is it all just an act? Because you two look, like, totally natural together."

I mean, first off, he refers to all anti-depressents as "anti-psychotic" drugs, which isn't exactly true. Or true at all. Most of them are anti-anxiety drugs, and I guess that's a family that includes anti-psychotic drugs, but it's inaccurate to refer to them as the same thing. Also, he's using the term "anti-psychotic" because it's weighted - it sounds really serious, because if you're psychotic, you're a mad dog killer. But really, it's just a name, like any other scientific name, for a family of medication.

Also, can you imagine going to a doctor for severe depression and him prescribing "vitamins or something"? You'd probably punch him through the wall. If you could gather the strength, that is.

I also like that Tom argues psychiatry is filled with misinformation. Almost as if a guy just made it up about less than 100 years ago. Like some Southern California science fiction writer just dreamt up this thing called "psychiatry" and started writing books about it and encouraging famous and wealtyh people to join him.

Oh, wait...I got mixed up...

MATT LAUER: Well, if antidepressants work for Brooke Shields, why isn't that okay?

TOM CRUISE: I-- I disagree with it. And I think that there's a higher and better quality of life. And I think that promoting for me personally, see, you're saying what, I can't discuss what I wanna discuss?

Now at this part, Tom starts to feel kind of backed into a corner, I guess, so he starts using two different, equally classic George W. Bush tactics. Check it out.

(1) When asked why someone else should be banned from engaging in an activity to which he objects, he doesn't offer an actual argument, but repeats his initial objection.

Why can't Brooke Shields take antidepressants? "I disagree with it." Why can't gay people get married? "I disagree with it." Why can't we do research on stem cells? "I disagree with it." Well, tough shit, Tom.

(2) Rather than defending his point of view as valid, he insists on his right to express a point of view regardless of its validity.

He doesn't say "Psychiatry is wrong and this study/essay/theory proves it!" He says "I'm allowed to criticize psychiatry." Well, of course you're allowed, but that doesn't mean you actually have anything salient to say.

TOM CRUISE: Matt. Matt, Matt, you don't even-- you're glib. You don't even know what Ritalin is.// //if you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, okay. That's what I've done. Then you go and you say where's-- where's the medical test? Where's the blood test that says how much Ritalin you're supposed to get?

MATT LAUER: You're-- you're-- it's very impressive to listen to you. Because clearly, you've done the homework. And-- and you know the subject.

I've included this part both because it makes Tom Cruise sound like a lunatic, and because it shows the depth of Matt Lauer's ass-kissery. Seriously. The man in front of his is spouting garbled nonsense about Ritalin. It's supposed to be an interview about War of the Worlds, but it's starting to sound more like a retarded guy reading aloud from Battlefield Earth.

And Matt somehow finds the strength deep within himself to praise the guy. Imagine if your job was like that. All the time, morons would come in and yell some bullshit at you about whatever crap was on their minds, and when it was over, you had to compliment them. "Hey, that was some interesting bullshit. You're a thoughtful guy."

It must get old fast.

MATT LAUER: You-- you're so passionate about it. And I'm--

TOM CRUISE: I'm passionate about learning. I'm passionate about life, Matt.

So, there you have it. Hard-hitting news man Matt Lauer once again gets all the facts. Tom Cruise: passionate about his loony, fictional religion.