Friday, September 16, 2005

It Runs in the Family

How many members of George Bush's immediate family have had run-ins with the law because of drug and alcohol-related crimes? A lot. Probably more than in your immediate family, unless your home state happens to border the Ozark Mountains. Obviously, there's George himself, who did so much cocaine during his younger years, he still has post-nasal drip.

Then there's daughters Jenna and Barbara, who have been known to drink underage, and then laugh about it on national television during a political convention, before turning to their more reliable and classier "grandmother sex jokes" material.

And now, we can add George's nephew John Ellis Bush, son of Florida governor Jeb, who at the tender age of 21 was taken into custody for resisting arrest and being punk in drublic. I mean, drunk in public.

John Ellis Bush, 21, was arrested by agents of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission at 2:30 a.m. on a corner of Austin's Sixth Street bar district, said commission spokesman Roger Wade.

The nephew of President Bush was released on $2,500 bond for the resisting arrest charge, and on a personal recognizance bond for the public intoxication charge, officials said.

Wade said he had no further details about the charges.

The Bushes as a family seem to have a pretty substantial problem with drug and alcohol addiction. Maybe we should stop electing them to run major swatches of our country...

Gov. Bush and his wife Columba appeared Friday evening at a museum reception in Miami.
"My son's doing fine. It's a private matter. We will support him. We're sad for him. But I'm not going to discuss it on the public square with 30 cameras," the governor told reporters.

No, no, of course not. Because we all know that private, family matters should be kept within a family, and not made into a public spectacle. Like, say, if a member of Jeb Bush's family were dying, and he wanted the right to end their suffering, but a lot of blowhards thought she should be kept artificially alive for all eternity, despite her being braindead, reporters should just keep their nose out of it and let Jeb handle his personal business...

Oh, wait...

And, really, this story is like two addicted Bushes for the price of one, because I don't even remember hearing about this juicy tidbit!

Noelle Bush, the governor's daughter, was arrested in January 2002 and accused of trying to pass a fraudulent prescription at a pharmacy to obtain the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. She completed a drug rehabilitation program in August 2003 and a judge dismissed the drug charges against her.

Isn't it amazing and wonderful how things always seem to work out for the Bushes? They do the drugs and commit the crimes, but then they agree to do better next time and the road just opens up ahead of them.

They're all like Dorothy in the Land of Oz - they ignore storm warnings, wreck the fuck out of their trailer and kill some poor old lady, and then just prance away down a golden road wearing ruby slippers, meeting stupid and cowardly new friends and collapsing in fields full of hallucinogenic, morphine-like poppy flowers.

Crushed by Inertia Lite

Blogging will be light and infrequent for the next few days, I'm afraid. Once next week starts, though, I promise to have tons of exciting new content. Some contests, a new movie list...all kinds of good stuff. Plus, Velvet Revolver will be stopping by, and we'll have a visit from Joan Embree from the San Diego Zoo.

I'm working all day today, for starters, which definitely cuts into CBI time. Especially because my boss reads the blog, so he can tell if I've been secretly composing articles from the stock room at the store. (Not that I do that...)

Then, after work, I'll be attending the bachelor party of my friend and co-worker, Ray. This will be the second bachelor party I'm attending in 2005. It's kind of depressing, seeing all these peers of mine get married, considering that the longest relationship I've ever had is my long-time subscription to PREMIERE Magazine.

And then, as if that weren't enough excitement for one single 24 hour period, on Saturday I'll be attending KROQ's Inland Invasion concert, all the way in Devore! That's on the 15, near San Bernadino (or San Berdoo, for you locals)! Read: far.

And considering that Bloc Party, one of the bands playing that I desperately want to see, starts their set at the ungodly, primitive hour of 12:50 p.m., my roommate and I will be leaving Los Angeles earlier than we would typically go to sleep. Drag.

The line-up for the show, however, is awesome. In addition to Bloc Party, we'll be seeing Madness, Weezer, Beck, The Arcade Fire, Cake and some other bands I like considerably less. Here's the full set-list:

Main Stage

Travis Barker & DJ AM
1:10 pm
The Bravery
1:40 pm
Arcade Fire
2:25 pm
3:10 pm
4:00 pm
4:50 pm
5:35 pm
6:25 pm
7:25 pm
8:25 pm
9:30 pm
10:30 pm

Family Guy Stage Two

11:00 am
11:55 am
Bloc Party
12:50 pm

"Family Guy" Stage Two? That's what you get for attending a KROQ show, I suppose...blatant, in-your-face commercialism and rampant over-marketing. Yippie! Maybe I'll be able to buy some colorful wristbands signifying oversimplified, generic socio-political movements which I support!

Anyway, the line-up itself is kind of weird...I mean, Cake is closing the entire show? Oasis after Beck and Weezer? (Particularly odd considering that Weezer isn't playing any Los Angeles shows on their own...Only a set here and a set at Coachella. And they're FROM Los Angeles!) I figured Weezer and Mr. Hansen would close the show, but I was wrong...

Oddly, I've already seen a bunch of these bands, during my high-school days, at other shows. Live, in particular, played at the very first concert for which I lined up to buy tickets...It was PJ Harvey and Veruca Salt opening for Live at Irvine Meadows (Now delightfully renamed as the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater!) I'm coming out early in my vocal support for mid-90's nostalgia rock!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

U-C-L-A Fight Fight Fight

As many of you know, I studied as an undergrad at UCLA. It's a major athletics school, which was unfortunate for me, because in addition to failing miserably whenever I attempt to play sports, I'm also not interested in watching them or talking about them incessantly with everyone you meet on a daily basis.

All the same, I'm going to go ahead and implore you to vote for Joe Bruin here in ESPN/Capital One's All-American Mascot Competition. You see, they're going to declare the #1 Mascot in the nation based on voting in a series of head-to-head match-ups.

This week, UCLA's own Joe Bruin goes up against the University of Nebraska's Herbie Husker.

Cause, you know...they're the Cornhuskers.

I have to say, I've never been the biggest fan of Joe Bruin as a mascot.

Mainly because it reminds me of the sad legacy of UCLA's entire "Bruin" team name. You see, when UCLA was first constructed, way back in the 20's, it was a satellite campus of Berkeley, a "branch" if you will. And because Berkeley is the Golden Bears, UCLA became "The Bruins," or baby bears.

Now, obviously, UCLA has surpassed Berkeley in just about every category, save possibly "nude hippies per capita." Granted, Berkeley sits in a far far far cooler city. No one's denying it's more fun going to school where you can get old punk LP's and quality hashish on every street corner, rather than in the middle of Westwood, where the only potential thrill is that you'll get lucky and spot Corey Haim coming out of Fatburger.

I just mean in terms of the school itself, school spirit, all that noise. UCLA isn't really Berkeley's kid brother any more, so why should our mascot be a baby-fied version of their mascot. I say, fine, you want to keep the bear theme, that's okay. But make us the Grizzlies. Or the Kodiaks. Or, I don't know, the Massive Thorn-Covered Ursine Members. But not the Baby Bears. It just isn't manly.

I also don't like the way Joe Bruin looks.

Okay, see, he looks like he's on his way to the Teddy Bear's Picnic, not a football game. I don't care what you say - it's wrong to put a proud wildlife creature in little tight running shorts like that. Give Joe Bruin some dignity.

You see what I mean? He even looks like a little kid. There's a school out there that's called the Demon Deacons! That's their mascot - a religious leader possessed by the Devil! And we're coming with this plush doll in a jersey! No wonder UCLA gets creamed all the time!

Um, but anyway, you should still totally go vote for Joe Bruin at that ESPN poll thing. I'll even give you the link again. Cause, you know, I'd personally really appreciate it, to add some meaning to my otherwise dreary life. And my friend Brad, who sent me the link, regards it as a categorical imperative.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

RIP Robert Wise

I'm currently writing a list of my Top 100 Favorite Directors of All-Time. It's a lot of work, compounded by the fact that I lost 1-50 already in a freak Blogger accident. Seriously. One day, all 100 names are saved there...the next, 1-50 have vanished entirely, leaving me with half of a Top 100 list and a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. It sucked.

But anyway, one of the names I wrestled with when initially deciding on 100 directors was Robert Wise. In a career that stretched for over 50 years (!), he made some great films that I love, and some not so great films that I don't love. One of the challenges with the list was differentiating between directors who haven't really made many films, but who have only made great films (like David Gordon Green or Wes Anderson) and directors who have made dozens of films, only some of which are great (like Robert Wise or William Friedkin).

Anyway, Wise died today at the age of 91. The movies mentioned first in his biography on Yahoo, West Side Story and The Sound of Music, are SO not his best films. Yes, they'll probably be the ones he's best remembered for, but I will say that I've never been a fan of a certain Oscar-winning epic-lengthed musical about rival street gangs battling it out over Natalie Wood's honor. That's just me.

The first thing there is to say about Robert Wise is that he edited Citizen Kane and Magnificent Ambersons, thus cementing his legacy in Hollywood. The fact that he went on to produce a number of great movies...well, that's just gravy.

In 1947, he directed Born to Kill with Lawrence Tierney, a really fun, mean-spirited little noir which I reviewed here. The 40's also brought the Western Blood on the Moon and The Set-Up, by the way.

I won't go into the whole filmography, because you can check IMDB for that, but I will highlight one more fantastic movie in Wise's catalog - the 1959 caper film Odds Against Tomorrow starring Robert Ryan, Ed Begley and Harry Belafonte. This is just a really fun, really dark, socially conscious caper film...A terrific movie.

Soylent Green Eyeshadow Is People!

A Chinese cosmetics company, currently touting its wares in Europe, apparently makes its make-up using the skin of dead Chinese prisoners. Awesome.

Aside from the inherent irony of smearing corpse-juice all over yourself in order to look better, what's amazing to me is that the company is actually telling people this.

Agents for the firm, which could not be named for legal reasons, have told would-be customers that skin taken from prisoners after they have been shot is being used to develop collagen for lip and wrinkle treatments, the Guardian newspaper said following an undercover investigation.

"The agents say some of the company's products have been exported to the UK, and that the use of skin from condemned convicts is 'traditional' and nothing to 'make such a big fuss about'," the daily alleged.


What the hell kind of fucked up place in China, anyhow? We've been making fun of them for so the wrong things - eating dogs and being dirty reds - but this is seriously gross.

It's traditional? Was this also the ancient, secret ingredient in Calgon?

Even more disgusting, UK scientists and doctors are worried that corpse-based make-ups could lead to...wince...infection.

It quoted that agent as saying: "A lot of the research is still carried out in the traditional manner using skin from the executed prisoner and aborted foetus." This material, he said, was being bought from "bio tech" companies based in the northern province of Heilongjiang, and was being developed elsewhere in China.

Well, just look at it this way...No one would have loved that aborted fetus if it had grown up into a baby, so at least this way, it gets to be smeared across some woman's lips to make them appear lusher and more full of life. So it ain't all bad!

The weirdest thing about all this? It may be that the whole thing isn't even true.

The newspaper said that when formally approached the agent denied the company was using skin harvested from executed prisoners.

At the same time, it said the same person had already admitted this to an undercover researcher.

It quoted that agent as saying: "A lot of the research is still carried out in the traditional manner using skin from the executed prisoner and aborted foetus." This material, he said, was being bought from "bio tech" companies based in the northern province of Heilongjiang, and was being developed elsewhere in China.

So, see, that would just mean that, in the research stage, some human tissue samples might have been used. That's way different than saying the make-up actually includes skin or biological matter.

But why would you want to spread a humor that your product includes dead people? Who, exactly, is the target market for this advertising campaign? That lucrative serial killer-and-cannibal demographic?

"Wear a dead man! It's the next best thing to killing them yourself or eating them!"

Potty Emergency

Here's a real photo from Reuters that I promise I haven't retouched in any way:

Yes, that's the hand of Dubya, scripting a letter to Condi Rice asking her permission to go use the can during a Security Council meeting at the UN. As Atrios notes, I wasn't previously aware that was in the job description for "Secretary of State."

- Escort the president to the restroom, and help him to get his pants unbuttoned if he can't figure it out, so he doesn't get wee wee on them."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Rumble Fish

We're going to get a lot of complaints about this title at the store, I can just feel it. Not because it's a bad movie. Quite the contrary - it's an excellent movie, a highly underrated addition to Francis Ford Coppola's already stellar filmography. But because the movie itself is in black and white, yet all the stills from the film on the box are colorized. Even the cover of the box is colorized!

Why on Earth would they do this? One of the most prominent, memorable features of Rumble Fish is the stark black and white cinematography by Stephen Burum (best known for his collaborations with Brian De Palma, like Body Double and The Untouchables). Coppola and Burum employ some low-key special effects - like time lapse photography and even some splashes of color with metaphorical significance - but it's the bleak, stark visual sense of the film that sticks with you after it's over. It's a movie filled with people, noise and chatter that's extremely empty, a movie filled with plot and conflict that's somehow eerily still.

Like the heroes of all great coming-of-age films, it's kind of hard to pinpoint exactly what's wrong with Rusty James (Matt Dillon), the wannabe gang leader at the heart of Rumble Fish. He's affected with a strong sense of ennui, of nostalgia for a time he never knew, when vicious bands of young people ruled the streets with an iron fist. But even in his delusions of grandeur, when he imagines himself and his tough-talking friends as experts in organized crime, can he match up to his idol and older brother, The Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke).

The very first image in the film is some graffitti that alerts us, "The Motorcycle Boy Reigns," and he, in fact, does. He's the legendary street kid who grew up and left town, essentially chased out by law enforcement and a judgemental society. As inhabited by Rourke in one of his best performances, The Boy regrets a lifetime wasted on violence and criminality, but can't find any other life for himself.

Though the dialogue, as lean and uncompromising as Burum's imagery, never gives us adequate background, we gather Motorcycle Boy committed some particularly nasty crime and fled, hopefully to make something of himself somewhere far away. His return, with nothing but his bike and stories of time spent with his estranged mother in California, signifies something of a defeat - he left, but only so he could come back. He's a drifter without the stamina or will to continue drifting.

We follow Rusty and Motorcycle Boy as they navigate a feud with a rival gang, and Rusty and he navigates a troubled relationship with a neighborhood girl, Patty (Diane Lane). Rusty is strangely unable to commit either to a life of rumbles with other gang members or to a peaceful quiet relationship with Patty; Motorcycle Boy, on the other hand, seems unable to commit to the idea of living itself.

Coppola explores this sense of meaninglessness and despair gracefully. Though its two main characters exist in a nihilistic universe, one where their true natures foil them at every turn, the movie never turns heavy-handed or overbearing. In the hands of a guy like Lars von Trier, bleak stories about people whose depressing lives just get worse and worse seem to punish the audience, whereas Coppola finds odd beauty in even the most dire of circumstances.

In a scene where Rusty's best friend Smokey (a young Nicholas Cage) reveals his master plan to steal Patty away, a reflection in the window behind them shows clouds drifting by in time lapse photography. Though the foreground situation - the cruelty of one close friend to another - is ugly and painful, just the reflection seems to add a note of optimism. Things may be difficult right now, but the universe moves at a fantastic rate, and nothing is the same for very long.

It's a lesson these characters could stand to learn. Everyone in Rumble Fish lives inside some sort of desperate routine. In the diner operated by Benny (Tom Waits), the camera pauses continually at a clock on the wall, watching the moments tick off. Rusty lives his life like that camera - staring at the clock, aware that time is passing him by, but stunted and unready to move forward, afraid that there is nothing but a void beyond the ticking of that clock.

The only world he knows is one of gang rumbles, and if a truce holds and the rumbles stop, will there be any more need for a gang at all? And if there's no need for a gang, is there a need for a gang leader?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Blacking Out

Yesterday, I was watching something on Fox (I don't even remember what...but most likely a reality show) when a commercial came on for the local news. They were advertising some tape that had been sent to the ABC-TV network from some terrorist group, in which a goofy-looking white guy in glasses and a turban issues threatened terrorist action against the West.

“Yesterday, London and Madrid. Tomorrow, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Allah willing,” the masked man says on the tape that ABC said it received Saturday. The man — believed to be an American — speaks in unaccented English.

“And this time, don’t count on us demonstrating restraint and compassion,” he says on the tape, aired Sunday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The only weird part about it was that the Fox local news ad didn't show the full quote. They just had an excerpt with the guy saying "...tomorrow, Los Angeles and Melbourne..." Nothing to make it clear the guy was speaking metaphorically. No "Allah willing" at the end, indicating that it is an expressed desire for a terrorist action rather than a specific warning.

They wanted the viewer to think that terrorists were going to hit LA, so they would watch the local news that night. What a bunch of bastards.

I didn't fall for the ad, of course, and naturally didn't watch the Fox local news, or any local newscast for that matter.

But today, when all the lights in LA went out for a few moments, I'll admit to a second or two where I reconsidered the evidence. "Well," I thought, "how odd that, just yesterday, a man on television threatened terrorism against LA, and here I sit, in LA, with absolutely no power anywhere. I might be screwed, since I know the federal government won't be coming in to help us any time soon, and the Governor of this state appears to know as much about governance as he does about recreating carefully-observed human behavior through body language and emotive dialogue."

Then, the power came back. After about 30 seconds. Elsewhere, in some parts of the Valley and Koreatown, it took a few hours. But it had nothing to do with terr'ists. We now know that this afternoon's LA blackout was caused electrician who cut the wrong wire.


Man, I've messed up at work before, but that's brutal. Can you imagine the taunting this guy is going to get from the other dudes at the Department of Water and Power? He shut off power to 700,000 customers!

Anyway, the police chief and others are saying that the "threat tape" is just more propaganda, and I believe them. I don't really think these guys have anything major planned, because if they did they wouldn't make tapes tipping us off. I think they just like appearing on TV every now and again, even if they have nothing new to say. You know, like David Spade.

It's always the same with these terrorists...Decadent Western culture, check. Striking back at the infidels, check. Merciless, blood-thirsty vengeance, gotcha. I'd like to hear something more, I don't know, thoughtful. I mean, these guys sit around hating us all day, right? They haven't come up with some more creative, original stuff to dislike about us? There's tons!

"Vile American supermarkets, where the infidel pigs stock up on fattening, nutritionless foods that make them paunchy and unappealing physically, always have really long lines that take forever. Usually, it's because of stupid old Jew ladies arguing about using a 20 cent coupon for soup after the expiration date, or those idiots buying lottery tickets. You're never going to win the lottery, Pedro! Why not spend that money on something you can use, like an extra tall boy of Bud Light?"

Remember, that's a terrorist talking, not me. I would never accuse Mexican people of holding up lines at supermarkets and convenience stores by buying excessive amounts of lottery tickets and scratchers...that would be culturally insensitive.

Anyway, it's nice to know that everything is still normal; no terrorists have hit LA, supermarket checkout lines are mercifully free of terrorists and the Fox's entire news division is full of deceptive jerkoffs who cavalierly toss out misleading terror dispatches in order to frighten up some viewership...all is right with the world.

Ben Stein Hates You

I was once a contestant on "Win Ben Stein's Money." It was a lot of fun, even though I didn't get to tape the show on the original day they had me show up, so I wound up sitting through 6 hours of taping only to show up again to compete the next day. Ugh.

Even though I already knew, politically, we weren't on the same page, I went away from the experience thinking Ben Stein was a genuinely nice man. We had spoken a bit on the set during the commercial breaks and whatnot, and he was very personable and funny. I didn't even hold it against him and his staff that I lost in the second round to a female private detective on a question about pectin, a common protein found in apple skin.

But, it turns out, I was fooled. I allowed his jocular taste for self-effacing humor and iconic role in a John Hughes teen comedy to distract my mind from the truth - Ben Stein is a hateful, horrible man. I kind of wish I could go on the show again, if it even still existed, to spit in the man's ugly face.

I'm not joking. This article Ben has written for the American Spectator is one of the most sick, disturbing things I have read in the entire Katrina aftermath. Here is a man who is so blinded by his idolatry of this president, by his sycophantic devotion to a cavalier madman, he has sacrificed his personal integrity and reputation.

His column is 100% entirely racist, and even worse, Stein has the temerity to accuse others of racism in the midst of his own racist screed!

A few truths, for those who have ears and eyes and care to know the truth:

Right away, from the first moment, he lost me. What a pompous asshole. He's making the case from moment one that those accusing this president of negligence in the Katrina affair aren't after the "truth." Of course, only those who defend every single action the president takes, from reading "My Pet Goat" while the World Trade Center burns and on, are really interested in truth. Everyone else is just making personal attacks, right? Personal attacks without any motivation at all...

1.) The hurricane that hit New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama was an astonishing tragedy. The suffering and loss of life and peace of mind of the residents of those areas is acutely horrifying.

A classic rhetorical tool - make obvious concessions before going on a rant in order to seem even-handed. This would be like me saying "There are never circumstances in which it is okay to rape a baby" before going into a persuasive argument about sex crime legislation. Of course Hurricane Katrina is a tragedy, Stein...get on with it...

2.) George Bush did not cause the hurricane. Hurricanes have been happening for eons. George Bush did not create them or unleash this one.

Ho droll...Ha ha...It is to laugh...

We'll call this Straw Man #1. No one is saying that George Bush created a Hurricane. We're saying this the government which he runs did nothing for five days while thousands died. It's not that hard to understand.

3.) George Bush did not make this one worse than others. There have been far worse hurricanes than this before George Bush was born.

Straw Man #2. No one is saying that George Bush made Hurricane Katrina stronger than other hurricanes. We're saying his response was slower and less efficient. One has nothing to do with the other.

I want to pause here...Ben Stein is many things. Sinister, obnoxious, rich, insensitive, pompous...But he's not stupid. His whole career is built on not being stupid. He knows that these arguments make no sense. So why make them?

Why sacrifice your reputation and integrity just to protect George Bush? Stein, of course, is a lifelong conservative. He worked for Richard Nixon, the biggest lying paranoid anti-Semetic scumbag around. So his credentials as a toady of the right are rock-solid.

But even so...Why does he feel the need to come out with such a blatantly misleading, stupid, wrong-headed article defending this president? Many on the right have asked where this intense hatred of George Bush comes from (and, if they would only listen, I would be more than happy to explain it to them)...But is anyone on the Left asking where this intense unreasonable love of George Bush comes from?

I understand it amongst the hateful and super-religious...They love him because he's the first president to speak in their brand of intolerant slack-jawed idiocy. They love him because he hates the gays and loves the Jesus and bombs the browns. But why Stein? Bush is no fiscal conservative, he hardly pays lip service to the grand legacy of old-fashioned small-goverment to which Stein adheres...

4.) There is no overwhelming evidence that global warming exists as a man-made phenomenon. There is no clear-cut evidence that global warming even exists. There is no clear evidence that if it does exist it makes hurricanes more powerful or makes them aim at cities with large numbers of poor people. If global warming is a real phenomenon, which it may well be, it started long before George Bush was inaugurated, and would not have been affected at all by the Kyoto treaty, considering that Kyoto does not cover the world's worst polluters -- China, India, and Brazil. In a word, George Bush had zero to do with causing this hurricane. To speculate otherwise is belief in sorcery.

Straw Man #3. Noticing a pattern? Stein expressly refuses to deal with the actual issues. Probably because he has no valid response as to why Bush, FEMA and The Department of Homeland Security dropped the ball.

Say it with me now...No one is saying George Bush caused global warming, and no one is saying that if he had signed the Kyoto Treaty, it would have gone away anyway.

Some are saying that global warming has caused larger and more dangerous tropical storms to begin forming. We just don't know enough about climatology at this point to say for sure. But I have seen some information that is certainly suggestive that there may be a causal connection between global warming and large storms like Katrina.

Stein dismisses it without offering a shred of evidence, or even citing a source. He just knows, okay? Because George Bush can do no wrong.

Here's a thoughtful little piece from TIME Magazine that considers both sides of the argument:

So is global warming making the problem worse? Superficially, the numbers say yes—or at least they seem to if you live in the U.S. From 1995 to 1999, a record 33 hurricanes struck the Atlantic basin, and that doesn’t include 1992’s horrific Hurricane Andrew, which clawed its way across south Florida in 1992, causing $27 billion dollars worth of damage. More-frequent hurricanes are part of most global warming models, and as mean temperatures rise worldwide, it’s hard not to make a connection between the two.

See? It's by no means definitive, but I wouldn't exactly dismiss the article as quickly and rashly as Stein. No, global warming has nothing to do with hurricanes. George Bush can't make a hurricane. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

One especially sobering study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that hurricane wind speeds have increased about 50% in the past 50 years. And since warm oceans are such a critical ingredient in hurricane formation, anything that gets the water warming more could get the storms growing worse. Global warming, in theory at least, would be more than sufficient to do that.

But, no! Ben Stein said there was no connection at all! If you can't trust a TV game show host, who can you trust?

5.) George Bush had nothing to do with the hurricane contingency plans for New Orleans. Those are drawn up by New Orleans and Louisiana. In any event, the plans were perfectly good: mandatory evacuation. It is in no way at all George Bush's fault that about 20 percent of New Orleans neglected to follow the plan. It is not his fault that many persons in New Orleans were too confused to realize how dangerous the hurricane would be. They were certainly warned. It's not George Bush's fault that there were sick people and old people and people without cars in New Orleans. His job description does not include making sure every adult in America has a car, is in good health, has good sense, and is mobile.

Ben Stein, you are a lying sack of shit. STOP LYING FOR THIS PRESIDENT!

The President himself declared a State of Emergency in Louisiana on August 26th, several days before the storm hit.

Folks, this is all from the fucking White House website:

The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the parishes of Allen, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Caldwell, Claiborne, Catahoula, Concordia, De Soto, East Baton Rouge, East Carroll, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Franklin, Grant, Jackson, LaSalle, Lincoln, Livingston, Madison, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Pointe Coupee, Ouachita, Rapides, Red River, Richland, Sabine, St. Helena, St. Landry, Tensas, Union, Vernon, Webster, West Carroll, West Feliciana, and Winn.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding.

Representing FEMA, Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Department of Homeland Security, named William Lokey as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.

Sounds like the Feds promised to come in and help out, huh? Not to mention that, under the rules Bush himself established when he created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Feds were supposed to come in and help the local goverments to coordinate the recovery efforts.

From PBS' NewsHour website:

As Katrina threatened the Gulf Coast, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco issued a state of emergency on Aug. 26 and on Aug. 28 sent a letter to President Bush requesting a disaster declaration for the state in order to release federal assistance.

"I have determined that this incident will be of such severity and magnitude that effective response will be beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments and that supplementary federal assistance will be necessary," Blanco wrote in her letter.

The letter had to travel through points in FEMA before the federal government could respond. FEMA deployed regional responders before Katrina made landfall, but a major federal response wasn't evident until days later. The hurricane crippled many state and local emergency agencies in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama leaving them unable to respond without federal help.

August 28th, folks. Still before the storm. Where was the federal government? And why are private citizens like Ben Stein willing to put their credibility on the line for this administration? Greed? A childish desire to suck up to the powerful? Homosexual desire for the President? I have no idea...

More from PBS:

On Sept. 9, 2005, Chertoff pulled Brown from the role of managing Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

Blanco's office blamed bureaucracy and layers of red tape for blocking an effective emergency effort.

"We wanted helicopters, food and water. They wanted to negotiate an organizational chart," Blanco's press secretary Denise Bottcher told the New York Times.

But that's only the first half of what Stein said in that above paragraph. The really reprehensible stuff is in that second half.

It is not his fault that many persons in New Orleans were too confused to realize how dangerous the hurricane would be. They were certainly warned. It's not George Bush's fault that there were sick people and old people and people without cars in New Orleans. His job description does not include making sure every adult in America has a car, is in good health, has good sense, and is mobile.

Too confused? How about too fucking impoverished, you sick evil fuck? Stein is gloating right now about how all the smart (read: white) people were able to get out, insisting that those left behind were simply too stupid to get out on their own.

It's beyond callous. Has Ben Stein ever lived paycheck-to-paycheck? Has he ever struggled to feed, clothe and house a family? Why should we listen to a millionaire game show host tell us what the poor in New Orleans should have done.

"It's not George Bush's fault that there were sick people..." It's his fault that they were left behind to die. It's not his fault they don't have cars, but it is his fault that no buses were provided to get them the hell out of the kill zone.

I hope Ben Stein dies. Seriously. I hope he fucking dies, and I hope there's a genuine chance to save him, but that no one cares enough to lift a finger and help him, and he dies knowing that he's been totally abandoned by everyone who promised that they cared about him.

6.) George Bush did not cause gangsters to shoot at rescue helicopters taking people from rooftops, did not make gang bangers rape young girls in the Superdome, did not make looters steal hundreds of weapons, in short make New Orleans into a living hell.

I haven't really read a lot of evidence for this stuff...I know there were reports by cops that snipers were shooting at planes, and I suppose a little lawlessness can always be expected when there's, you know, a hellish natural disaster going on and no one in a position of authority is doing anything to help anyone. And, if your city had turned into a dystopian, post-apocalyptic anarchist nightmare, you might think of trying to snag a revolver as well...

It doesn't even occur to Ben that New Orleans might have been a living hell because there was no food, water, power, facilities or means to escape. That sitting around waiting to die of thirst in a puddle of your own human waste and surrounded by the corpses of your friends and family might be a living hell.

I think he's really ready to believe that there was rape and mayhem going on all around because, you know, all those people There were early reports on right-wing websites of cannibalism in the Superdome. Because some white people will believe any kind of ridiculous savage rumors about blacks. It's called racism.

7.) George Bush is the least racist President in mind and soul there has ever been and this is shown in his appointments over and over. To say otherwise is scandalously untrue.

Uh-huh....sure....I guess I believe you, Ben Stein, because you almost kind of used to be a celebrity!

Actions, buddy. They speak louder than words. Bush has abandoned the black population of America, literally and figuratively. His economic policies have left them in the dust, he refuses to even meet with some of their largest and most respected organizations (like the NAACP), and when an area in which they make up near 90% of the population needs him during a massive natural disaster, he's too busy hanging out with country singers and holding press conferences to do anything.

8.) George Bush is rushing every bit of help he can to New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama as soon as he can. He is not a magician. It takes time to organize huge convoys of food and now they are starting to arrive. That they get in at all considering the lawlessness of the city is a miracle of bravery and organization.

Yeah, he's rushing in now two weeks later when we're all paying attention. Before he realized there was gonna be a lot of publicity, he was happy enough riding his bike and clearing brush.

No one's denying the efforts now that there are juicy Halliburton contracts to be had. This is just another Straw Man. Why won't Stein deal with the real issues? The fact that the initial government response was so weak?

9.) There is not the slightest evidence at all that the war in Iraq has diminished the response of the government to the emergency. To say otherwise is pure slander.

Lies! Lies! All lies!

From Salon:

On Aug. 1, a spokesman for the Louisiana National Guard lamented to a local reporter that the state might be stretched for security personnel in the event of a big hurricane. Dozens of high-water vehicles, generators and Humvees were employed in Iraq, along with 3,000 Louisiana National Guard troops.

"The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission," the Louisiana National Guard's Lt. Col. Pete Schneider told a reporter from WGNO, the ABC affiliate in New Orleans. Schneider said that in the event of a hurricane, Louisiana would need help from neighboring states.

Amid the Gulf Coast rubble and looting, it appears Schneider may have been right. "Missing personnel is the big thing in this particular event -- we need our people," Lt. Andy Thaggard, a Mississippi National Guard spokesman told the Washington Post Wednesday. Mississippi has 4,000 National Guard troops in Iraq.

And from the Washington Post:

Mississippi has requested troops and aircraft from about eight other states -- including military police and engineers from Alabama, helicopters and crews from Arkansas and Georgia, and aircraft-maintenance experts from Connecticut, who are filling in for a Mississippi maintenance unit that is heading to the Middle East.

"This is the biggest disaster we've ever had, so we're going to need more aircraft than we've got," said Col. Bradly S. MacNealy, the Mississippi Army National Guard's aviation officer. Mississippi has had to borrow from Arkansas UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters fitted with hoists, using them together with the Coast Guard to pluck to safety several dozen people stranded by floodwaters, he said.

Chinook helicopters from Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi are flying the equivalent of 18 large truckloads of critical supplies -- including ice, water, food and chain saws for road-clearing crews -- to Mississippi's coast, he said.

In Alabama, all the major Guard units activated for the disaster have already served in Iraq, and some still have contingents there, said Alabama Guard spokesman Norman Arnold.
Capt. Richard Locke of the Guard's 1st Battalion 167th Infantry headed toward Mobile yesterday with a force of 400 soldiers cobbled together from four units because the rest of the battalion is in Iraq.

Carrying M-16 rifles and 9mm pistols, the soldiers are assigned to control traffic at unlighted intersections, and patrol in Humvees and on foot to prevent looting.

Recruiting and retention problems are worsening the strain on Guard forces in hurricane-ravaged states. Alabama's Army National Guard has a strength of 11,000 troops -- or 78 percent of the authorized number. "We're just losing too many out the back door," Arnold said.

Folks, you don't even need to cite sources to counter this stupid argument. Right now, the affected states have over 6,000 National Guard troops stationed in Iraq. Considering one of the primary tasks of the National Guard is to help out in case of a natural disaster, it's common sense that these men would now be stationed in the Gulf Coast, helping out with Katrina relief. Therefore, the fact they are in Iraq has weakened their response to the disaster.

Also, let's not forget that money that was diverted from levee repair in 2003 to go to...yes, the Iraq War.

So, Ben Stein's column is just a pack of stupid lies that can obviously be debunked with about 10 minutes of Googling. I take it all back...maybe he is stupid.

10.) If the energy the news media puts into blaming Bush for an Act of God worsened by stupendous incompetence by the New Orleans city authorities and the malevolence of the criminals of the city were directed to helping the morale of the nation, we would all be a lot better off.

Here, "helping the morale of the nation" is code for "praising any fool thing the president does." I don't know why we all have to be so cautious not to offend the President. Is he so juvenile that he needs constant praise and can't handle any criticism at all?

11.) New Orleans is a great city with many great people. It will recover and be greater than ever. Sticking pins into an effigy of George Bush that does not resemble him in the slightest will not speed the process by one day.
Again, this condescending claptrap, designed to make you think he's not a rabid senseless ideologue, when he clearly is. Of course Ben thinks New Orleans will be better than ever...there will be 10,000 or so less black people!

12.) The entire episode is a dramatic lesson in the breathtaking callousness of government officials at the ground level. Imagine if Hillary Clinton had gotten her way and they were in charge of your health care.

Ben really took that "blame the locals" meme to heart. And he manages to get in a dig at Hillary Clinton as well! See, this isn't the fault of the federal government at all, because Bush is in charge, but if Hillary Clinton was in charge and the governemnt failed its citizens reprehensibly, it would be all because of her stupid policies!

God bless all of those dear people who are suffering so much, and God bless those helping them, starting with George Bush.

Oh, man, I am now officially nauseated. I think Ben Stein seriously has a man-crush on the president. G-ross.

That was the original article in its entirety. Unfortunately, Stein decided to add an "update" with more of his essential thoughts on the subject. They are just as, if not more, stupid. Most are too stupid and offensive to even reprint here. But here's a highlight.

What special abilities does the media have for deciding how much blame goes to the federal government as opposed to the city government of New Orleans for the aftereffects of Katrina?

He seems to insist that any offering of opinion from anyone in the media on this issue is unwarranted and ill-advised. What "special abilities" does the media have? The fact that they're the fucking media, you jackass! How about "the ability to communicate information to millions of people at a time," for starters?

Where did the idea come from that salvation comes from hatred and criticism and mockery instead of love and co-operation?

What? Did Ben forget to take his pills? No one is saying that salvation comes from hatred. SALVATION DOESN'T COME. These people were dying in the streets and no one did a thing, and now that some people are starting to ask "why," Ben tells them to stop all the hatin' and start loving one another! Hey, man, that's swell...All the refugees should just stand up proudly, wipe some of the feces and vomit off of themselves, shake their elderly relatives to make sure they're still breathing, join hands and start singing Beatles songs. That will make everything better!

Plus, it would make George Bush feel better about himself. And isn't that what our national discourse is really all about?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Directors Series: Volume 2

I was debating whether or not to review this new set from Palm Pictures, a retrospective of videos, commercials, short films and documentaries by leading music video directors. It's hard to review a collection of music videos, first of all, mainly because they're hugely dependent on what sort of music you like.

For example, I can recognize that Chris Cunningham is an innovative and stylish director, but I didn't enjoy his DVD from Volume 1 of this series very much because I don't like most of the musicians whom he features. At least, I don't like them as much as the videos on the Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry discs that came in that first box.

The new box features 4 directors instead of three. They are Jonathan Glazer (who also directed the feature films Sexy Beast and Birth), Mark Romanek (who did the feature One Hour Photo), Anton Corbijn (a Dutch photographer best known for his photo of U2 that provided the cover for the "Joshua Tree" album) and Stéphane Sednaoui (a French clothing designer whose DVD I actually haven't gotten to yet).


Glazer's disc has the least amount of music videos, but they are all pretty phenomenal. He works with a ton of great Brit-rock artists, like Radiohead, Richard Ashcroft and Blur.

That's the Radiohead "Street Spirit" video, which is full of really nifty camera tricks where part of the frame is in super-slo-mo while the rest of the screen moves at normal speed.

The best video on the disc, and really, one of the most memorable music videos ever made, is for UNKLE's "Rabbit In Your Headlights," a trippy, hypnotic bit of electronica featuring willowy vocals from Thom Yorke. In the video, French actor Denis Levant walks down the middle of a busy road in a tunnel, mumbling to himself. He is continually hit by passing cars and sent flying several feet in the air, but he's always okay.

Tremendous special effects, really slick cinematography, a cool song, a genuinely weird's an incredibly music video; more a short film, really...

He also did that VMA-winning "Virtual Insanity" video for Jamiroquai (the one where the floor and furniture keeps moving around) and that awesome Nick Cave song "Into My Arms," which I first heard on the fantastic Zero Effect soundtrack.

Here's the complete rundown of Glazer's set:

Music Videos

Radiohead - Street Spirit
Jamiroquai - Virtual Insanity
Richard Ashcroft - A Song for the Lovers
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Into My Arms
UNKLE - Rabbit in Your Headlights
Blur - The Universal
Radiohead - Karma Police
Massive Attack - Karmacoma


Wrangler - Ride
Guinness - Surfer (extended)
Guinness - Swim Black
Guinness - Dreamer
Volkswagen - Protection
Stella Artois - Last Orders
Stella Artois - Whip Round
Levis - Kung Fu
Levis - Odyssey
Barclays - Bull (with Samuel L. Jackson)
Barclays - Chicken (with Samuel L. Jackson)

Interviews and Commentaries

Nick Cave, Richard Ashcroft, Jamiroquai, Denis Lavant, 3D, Blur and James Lavelle.


Sexy Beast (excerpt) - You're the Problem
Interviews with Ray Winstone and Sir Ben Kingsley

Birth (excerpt) - Central Park
Interviews with Nicole Kidman, Danny Huston, Harris Savides, Milo Addica and Jean Claude Carriere.


This guy directed a lot of videos. A whole lot. Way more than anyone else on any of these discs. Many of them are forgettable, which is a bit change from a guy like Grazer, who manages to come up with some slick imagery and a solid concept every time out of the gate.

But there's no doubt Corbijn put out some classic videos, some of which are far more memorable and iconic than anything on the Grazer set. For example, there aren't many people around my age who can't identify this video just from the following image:


Yes, of course, it's Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box," one of the most surreal, grotesque music videos ever to play in constant rotation on MTV. Fat women with their insides hanging out, young girls dressed like Klansmen, fetuses (fetii?) hanging from trees...Corbijn really went for broke on this one. It's one of the most visionary, creepiest and best videos on any of these box sets.

Also, this disc has the Rollins Band "Liar" video, in which Henry calmly promises sincerity before leaping around, painted entirely red, and assuring us that is, in fact, a liar. "Liar" is barely even a song, but as a bizarre nostalgia/humor piece, it's fairly brilliant.

A lot of Corbijn's videos are for seminal 80's bands, like Depeche Mode and Echo and the Bunnymen. These are some great songs, but the videos are unfortunately quite similar, featuring grainy black-and-white cinematography and riffs on familiar silent films. My friend Stefan and I counted at least 4 videos featuring couples walking slowly on a beach (including one where the couple is Joni Mitchell and Peter Gabriel...weird...)

Here's Corbijn's complete rundown...

Music Videos

Propaganda - Dr. Mabuse
David Sylvian - Red Guitar
Echo and The Bunnymen - Seven Seas (this song rocks!)
Golden Earring - Quiet Eyes
Echo and The Bunnymen - The Game
Depeche Mode - Behind the Wheel
Joy Division - Atmosphere
Joni Mitchell with Peter Gabriel - My Secret Place
Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence
U2 - One (director's cut)
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Straight to You
Depeche Mode - Walking in My Shoes
Nirvana - Heart-Shaped Box
Henry Rollins - Liar
Metallica - Hero of the Day
Metallica - Mama Said
Depeche Mode - Barrel of a Gun
Depeche Mode - It's No Good
Herberg Grönemeyer - Bleibt Alles Anders
Mercury Rev - Opus 40
Mercury Rev - Goddess on a Hiway
Joseph Arthur - In the Sun
Herberg Grönemeyer - Mensch
U2 - Electrical Storm
Travis - Re-Offender
The Killers - All the Things That I've Done


Beck and Dave Grohl - MTV Promos
U2 - The making of 'Electrical Storm'
Some YoYo Stuff - Excerpt from a film about Don van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart
Travis - Love Will Come Through (A home made video with Fran Healy)
Depeche Mode - 'It's No Good' tour projections
Palais Schaumberg - Hockey (Anton's first music video)
Front 242 - Front by Front
NotNa - A documentary about Anton

Interviews and Commentaries

U2, Depeche Mode, Travis, Samantha Morton, Metallica, Nick Cave, Echo and The Bunnymen, Mercury Rev, New Order, Joseph Arthur, Kurt Cobain, Herbert Grönemeyer


This guy's most famous for the "Give It Away" video from the Red Hot Chili Peppers gargantuan hit album "Blood Sugar Sex Magic."

As I said, I didn't watch this disc, so I'll just give you the rundown:

Music Videos

Mirwais - I Can't Wait
Tricky - For Real
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Scar Tissue
Mirwais - Disco Science
R.E.M. - Lotus
Björk - Possibly Maybe
Alanis Morissette - Ironic (don't you think?)
Tricky - Pumpkin
Garbage - Queer
Tricky - Hell is Around the Corner
Massive Attack - Sly
Youssou N'Dour & Neneh Cherry - Seven Seconds
Björk - Big Time Sensuality
Björk - Big Time Sensuality (new night version)
Black Crowes - Sometimes Salvation (an odd video I've seen before which features Sofia Coppola)
U2 - Mysterious Ways (this is the one, I think, where Bono is singing the song while spinning down the side of a building...)
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Give It Away
NTM - Le Monde De Demain
U2 - Discotheque (new director's cut)


Walk On The Wild Side - Short film inspired by Lou Reed's song
Army of Me - Animation inspired by Björk's song
Acqua Natasa - Short film featuring Natasa Vojnovic
Reve Reche - Stéphane's first short film attempt

Interviews and Commentaries

Björk, Bono, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Michael Stipe, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Shirley Manson, Tricky

Stéphane's presentation at New York University Film School


Of the three discs I watched, I liked the videos on this one the best (largely because it has a lot of singers and bands I like). I have to say, some of the extras kind of suck, though. Like this one, Romanekian, where Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and Robin Williams watch the videos and comment on them. It's kind of funny sporadically, but way too long, and everything out of Robin Williams mouth is painfully unfunny.

I don't want to hate on the guy, who is apparently a comedy legend, but I just don't think he's very funny. It's always the same schtick - he does a goofy voice, he makes a silly face, he goes off on a weird spazzy tangent involving a goofy voice and a silly face...Enough already...

That's Fiona Apple's "Criminal" video, somewhat controversial in its time because of its obvious visual similarities to homemade pornography. It's just one of the suggestive, envelope-pushing clips on this disc, which also includes Jay Z's awesome banned-from-TRL "99 Problems" in an uncensored version (featuring male full frontal nudity! and senseless violence!), Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" video (the very strange, sexual, bondage-obsessed one), and Linkin Park's "Faint." Okay, that last one is just controversial with me because Linkin Park sucks so badly.

The 'Park and a few other exceptions aside, there's a bunch of great music on this disc. Beck, Weezer, Johnny Cash, The Eels, Sonic Youth...the list goes on and on.

Here's the full rundown on Romanek's collection:

Music Videos

Jay Z - 99 Problems (director's cut)
Linkin Park - Faint
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Can't Stop
Johnny Cash - Hurt
Audioslave - Cochise (director's cut)
No Doubt - Hella Good (director's cut)
Mick Jagger - God Gave Me Everything
Janet Jackson featuring Joni Mitchell and Q-Tip - Got Til It's Gone
Fiona Apple - Criminal
Nine Inch Nails - Perfect Drug
Beck - Devil's Haircut
Weezer - El Scorcho (director's cut)
Eels - Novocaine for the Soul
Sonic Youth - Little Trouble Girl
Michael & Janet Jackson - Scream (director's cut)
Madonna - Bedtime Story
R.E.M. - Strange Currencies
G. Love & Special Sauce - Cold Beverage
Nine Inch Nails - Closer (director's cut)
David Bowie - Jump, They Say
Madonna - Rain
Lenny Kravitz - Are You Gonna Go My Way
Keith Richards - Wicked as it Seems (director's cut)
En Vogue - Free Your Mind
kd lang - Constant Craving

Special Features

A brand new documentary featuring Beck, Jay-Z, Rick Rubin, Michael Stipe, Janet Jackson, Trent Reznor, Anthony Keidis, Gwen Stefani, Keith Richards and others.

Romanekian: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and Robin Williams discuss Mark's work.

Making of "99 Problems"

Interviews and Commentaries

Individual artist and director commentaries for all the music videos

Waiting for Someone to Come Out of Somewhere...

Previously, in this post, I discussed seeing a homeless woman near the store where I work this morning, who told me, and I quote:

"There's a mannequin on a TV without a head."

That was the whole point of that post, really...That a homeless person had said something odd to me. I wrote it whilst in the back room at Laser Blazer, so I didn't take a lot of time to really analyze the quote or anything. I just thought it would be kind of a funny thing to throw out there.

But then, on my way out of the store tonight, I passed by the same homeless woman in the same spot. This time, she didn't say anything to me, or even my eye contact. I figured she's probably a schizophrenic, unable to work or maintain a normal life because of her unstable, delusional condition but also occasionally capable of acting sane. Or maybe she's just an addict who blurts out non-sequiteurs to strangers when high.

I have no way of knowing. I guess if I were a tremendously generous, public-spirited citizen, I would just sit by her and start asking her these things, to determine if there was any way I could help her, say, by buying her some soup or insisting to her that there are, despite her protestations, no headless mannequins on the TV, and even if there were, it wouldn't really be a big deal.

After all, they're just mannequins. The heads come off easily and are replacable.

Unfortuantely for this homeless lady, I am not a generous, public-spirited citizen but, instead, a misanthropic crank. Plus, my apartment is already so crammed tight with roommates, visitors and friends crashing on various couches, I'm afraid there's simply no room for any more slovenly transients. We're all full up here.

I think the thing that got to me about this woman today was the fact that she was sitting in the same spot for my full 8.5 hour shift. She was there when I arrived, there when I took my half-hour lunch break, and there again as I returned to my car to go home. During the day today, I was bored several times, and I had a ton of stuff to keep me occupied!

I can't imagine sitting (mostly) quietly on an uncomfortable plastic chair on the sidewalk for 8.5 hours. If she wasn't insane when she got there, she surely will be once she leaves.

Then, once I got to the parking lot, I saw the shirtless guy who lives in his red van back there. He was barbecuing.

I'll say that again, because it's so ludicrous. There's a guy who hangs out all day in his van, where he lives, fat and frequently shirtless, in a parking lot. (He even has a little TV with little rabbit ears set up in the van). Today, he was outside of his van with a hibachi, barbecuing chicken.

So here's another guy who's just hanging out in a commercial area all day on the street. Yes, he has a van to sleep in and get around town (though he's almost always there) and a little TV to watch, but the stillness and boredom and isolation must get horribly intense.

I'm not quite sure what point I had when I started this rambling post. I think I wanted to say something about how, no matter how drab your life feels, someone is even more hopelessly lost and frustrated. Or maybe something about how everyone's path through life is so unpredictable and different, and how frightening it is to think about how far it's possible to fade away without disappearing altogether. Whatever it is, it was going to be extremely enlightening.

Overheard in Los Angeles

While walking from my car to the video store this morning, a homeless woman said the following thing to me:

"There's a mannequin on a TV without a head."

Nothing to say about that, really. I just thought it was really weird.