Friday, August 18, 2006


This afternoon, I was discussing Maggie Gyllenhaal with a friend. I explained that, though she's got an interesting look and I think she's very talented, I just don't find her that attractive. I don't think she's ugly by any stretch, but she just has kind of a weird chipmunk face that doesn't do it for me. In fact, I'm fairly surprised that she manages to get as much work as she does, considering the myriad, more traditionally beautiful actresses with whom she competes for plum roles.

My friend shot back at me the standard response issued whenever men discuss celebrity female's attractivity. "If Maggie Gyllenhaal liked you, you'd be into her, man."

This is blindingly obvious. Of course I'd sex up Maggie Gyllenhaal if she was into me. I don't get to have sex with all that many different girls. So anyone without an oozing skin condition or severe halitosis who is under the age of 65 earns at the very least my consideration. If they appear to have bathed that day, the deal is pretty much sealed.

It's not a fair standard, whether I would have sex with a given celebrity. We're talking about an emotionless comparison. I don't think Maggie Gylenhaal, speaking strictly on the issue of physical appearance, is as good-looking as the majority of Hollywood starlets.

I should say that no standard is 100% fair when discussing things like human attraction. It's purposefully a mystery to us why we're attracted to certain people and not others. For example, I'm similarly not interested in looking at naked Paris Hilton, although most other males in the universe appear fascinated by the subject. To me, she resembles one of those insectst that disguises itself as a tree branch - all brown spindly legs and nothing more. Plus, I already mentioned that rule I have about bathing.

I'm always amused by people who try to "understand" why they are attracted to certain individuals, who try to turn dating and love into some sort of an alternative job search. Which brings me to my actual intended topic, this very very sad, lonely blog post by a libertarian named Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey. I'm pretty sure that's one too many names. Was her mother Ms. Mackie-Paisley and her father Mr. Passey? Or is her middle name Mackie Paisley? Because that's a horrible middle name to give a child.

Over the past month (since I left Terrence) I’ve received several offers of dates and relationships from various men who read this blog. I’m not looking for a new boyfriend right now but it seems I should clarify what it is I look for in a man when I am, which will hopefully stem the flow of offers from guys who really don’t have it.

Yes, she's publishing a list of reasons why her readers aren't good enough to date her. How lovely.

To my mind, this is one of those essential gender differences - most even remotely attractive women have to get used to being hit on all the time, whereas only the most attractive men will have to deal with this problem regularly. A lot of women, I have observed, kind of develop an ego after a few years of receiving random compliments and come-ons from men. They forget that almost all women - even some bag ladies - get this kind of male attention. Men are extremely horny, and most of them are not particularly discriminating. I do not excuse myself from these generalizations.

But that doesn't mean you are the hottest woman on the planet, or that you hold some special super-secret power over all of mankind or (and this one is key) that you have any unique wisdom to impart to mankind. It just means some guys find you kind of hot and want to get in your pants, and you have to either accept their advances or repel them using any creative means at your disposal. That's it.

I am a very high-quality woman. I know that sounds arrogant, but let’s consider the facts:

Yes, let's...

I’m slim (whereas 62% of American women age 20 to 74 are overweight)


I’m attractive (my new picture has been rated more attractive than 86% of the women on Hot or Not -- and the women who upload their pictures are a self-selected sample that is probably already biased towards being more attractive than the general female population)

It's interesting that she boldly states "I'm attractive" and then offers a website survey based on a single, small photo as "evidence" of this fact. Is attraction something that can be proved with hard data? Isn't it still up to me if I find her attractive? (I do, kind of, based on the picture, and I'd definitely have sex with her. It would probably be angry sex, but that's often the best kind.)

I’m relatively young (whereas 82% of American adult women are over 30 years old)

Hey, enjoy that for a few more years.

I’m intelligent (IQ tested at 145 when I was a child, which is 3 standard deviations above the mean -- higher than 99.85% of the population. Even if I’ve gotten dumber as I’ve aged I’m probably still at least a 130, which is higher than 97.5% of the population.)

See, here's where Jacqueline's whole system starts to break down. Does anyone here think childhood IQ correlates in any meaningful way to eligibility for dating in one's late 20's? But beyond that point, can you imagine sitting down a writing a blog post in which you list all the great qualities you have that would make people want to date you? And even if you can imagine that, can you imagine starting with your weight, then your Hot or Not score, then your childhood IQ?

To me, that says that Jackie knows she doesn't have a lot of actually attractive qualities, so she has to fall back on the old standbys - good lookin' and smart! Trying to "prove it" through "evidence" just indicates a paritcularly unattractive quality - insecurity.

I’m educated (whereas 77% of American women do not have bachelor’s degrees)

I tend to be attracted to smart women. I once broke up with a girl whom I found physically attractive because her taste in music and film was pedestrian and she wasn't well-read. (I can't deal with someone who doesn't get any of my references. At least 30% is pretty much mandatory.) But I'm not attracted to their degrees. Most of the time, I don't even know if they have a degree when I first become attracted to someone. It's their actual intelligence. You know, the kind you discern from talking with them?

I have my financial shit together (no debt, perfect credit history, 6+ months living expenses saved, adequate insurance, self employed)

Adequate insurance...What an incurable romantic!

I have a strong libido and love having sex (my lover *never* has to beg, unless it’s for me to let him get some sleep!)

I can't really argue with this one. What's the point of going out with a girl who's making you beg for sex? I can enjoy not having sex alone at any time, and it's a lot cheaper, less time consuming and not at all stressful.

Most of my interests tend to be more popular with men than women: science fiction, libertarianism, blogging, politics, economics, guns, gambling, etc.

I think I'm starting to get a feel for Jacqueline's personality a bit better...She's one of these women who always wants to "hang around with the guys." She doesn't have a lot of friends who are girls, because "girls are all catty bitches" and she doesn't get along with them. Thus this particularly macho, aggressive, male "I'm going to stick it to all these pathetic dudes who won't get off my jock" article. I suspect all this arrogance and attitude really covers the fact that Jacqueline feels insecure about her relationships with men, particularly in the wake of this most recent breakup.

Don't believe me? Consider this...That's the end of her list! Those are the qualities Jackie thinks make her attractive to men. Let's review. She's thin. She looks good according to the random, anonymous weirdos at Hot or Not. She had a high IQ the last time she was tested, as a kid. She has a bachelor's degree. She's not in debt. She likes to fuck. She's a nerd who likes card games.

Anyone else getting seriously turned on?

Given that self-improvement is an ongoing project of mine this list will continue to grow (I’m currently working on adding bilingual, very physically fit, well-traveled, higher income, and fantastic cook to the list). So even when “relatively young” (an important criteria for most men) drops off that list, I should have added enough other things that my overall dating market value should remain the same or even improve.

Oh, man, I am so right about this...I totally have this girl's number. Just read it as if it's her inner monologue. "In a few years, I'll be more physically fit and better traveled and super-rich and then all the guys will really want me! If other people can't handle it, well, they're just jealous of my awesomeness! Back away, fans in my readership! You're totally not good enough for the goddess. Okay, now back to blogging..."

The above list explains why I typically receive 50-100 (sometimes more) responses whenever I post personal ads. This is in addition to getting hit on almost every time I go out alone (and all that those men know about me is that they like the way I look, they don’t even know about all the other qualities I have that make me more appealing than most other women).

Can you imagine? These guys are hitting on her merely because of the way she looks. They don't even know she's all about libertarianism!

See what I mean about this being sad? Jackie writes a post about breaking up with her boyfriend. A couple of nerdy weirdos who read her blog start to send her creepy e-mails asking her out. Her response? Just ignore the nerdy weirdos? Play it classy and let them down easy, never mentioning it to the wider audience for fear of embarrassing someone?

Of course not! Obviously, you should write a long post about why they're not good enough for you because you're so thin and how you get 100 offers every time you post a personal ad!

A desperate need for acceptance unintentionally revealed like this just hits a chord with me. This woman actually feels like her post - this rambling tribute to her fragile ego - is doing others a genuine service, letting them know that she is out of their league.

So, I have a *lot* of choices of men who want to date me. Given that, of course I choose to date only the highest quality men -- men who are also fit, attractive, intelligent, educated, financially successful, etc. I’m attracted to men from any race and a wide age range (21 to 50 or so) so the pool of men who meet those requirements is quite large, which allows me to add all sorts of additional restrictions if I want -- must be atheist, must be libertarian, must not want (more) children, must be financially independent or self-employed and available for frequent world travel, etc.

Do you think she's ever just met someone and enjoyed their company? Ever? In her life? Or will a superficial outlook just never allow for such a chance encounter? I'm thinking she applies this mathematical guideline every time she meets someone of the opposite sex. "Hey, this individual meets 8 or my 9 proscribed guidelines! Perhaps we should have a blood test done, exchange 401k documentation and then move this relationship into Phase 2.3!"

Also, considering that only 3% of Americans actually self-identify as "atheists," I'd say that's really cutting down the eligible field. Why not limit yourself to only the ambidexterous or albinos while you're at it?

Some people scoffed at the long list of requirements in my personal ad last year. Yet in less than two weeks I found five men who met my listed requirements and wanted a relationship with me. If I were to put more time and effort into looking I could probably find hundreds of high-quality men who both met my standards and were interested in dating me too. I can be picky.

Now, I'm not trying to say that people shouldn't be picky. I'm picky and I have next to no romantic prospects whatsoever! If anything, I think people in general are not picky enough. Most people strike me as so desperate to be involved in a relationship, they will cling to almost anyone they meet who is willing and looks good, no matter how incompatible they might be together.

What I object to is not so much the message of Jacqueline's post. Some women do begin to select potential mates based on elements beyond pure attractiveness and personality after a while, because they want to find someone to marry in order to start a family. (Notice I say "some." While this obviously includes Jacqueline, it doesn't include all women, despite popular misconceptions. I know several women circling 30 with little to no outspoken desire to settle down and make babies. Not a majority. But several.)

No, it's her tone that's all wrong, that betrays her at every turn. It's the use of the phrase "high-quality men" to indicate those individuals she finds attractive. It's offensive and rude and indicates a larger distaste for men in general. (Only if they rise above typical maleness in these ways are they "high-quality." All others are simply the sobriquet "men.") As I am not particularly attracted to Jacqueline as a mate (I said I would sleep with her, not date her), does that make her a less-than-high-quality female?

So, although I am not looking for a new boyfriend right now -- I am waiting until October, after I’ve decided where I want to live -- those are the factors that I (and many other women) keep in mind when assessing potential romantic relationships. Just having some interests in common is *far* from enough.

Thank God all women don't think this way, despite what Jacqueline may imply, or I might have to take that sheepherding job up on Brokeback Mountain after all. "Okay, so, I'll decide where I want to live then find some male to keep around of sufficiently lean body mass with at least a Master's Degree...Then I think I'll go buy some drapes!"

I realize that some of you will find this post depressing because you’ll realize that you don’t qualify as a high quality man and thus won’t be able to get a high quality woman. You have a few options:

Actually, Jack, that's not at all why I find this post depressing. I adjusted mentally to the fact that I'm not terrifically desirable some time ago. It no longer has the power to unsettle me. I think most people over the age of 21 or so are this way. Imagine the ego to think that a rejection from her will have such tremendous power to devastate young men.

But, please, JMPP, enlighten me with your wisdom:

Lower your standards and stop pursuing women who are out of your league. There are lots of fat single mothers out there who can’t find dates either.

Disgusting. What a wretched human being.

Notice this is primarily addressed to men who have written her recently asking for a date. The cruelty she bestows! The hatred she has for people who have done nothing but express fondness and respect. She's "out of their league." They'd be better off with (ugh) "fat single mothers."

Man, you nerds can have this one...This is a women only the Marquis de Sade and Alfred Hitchcock could love. Her body's 70% ice water.

Look in the developing world. If you’re literate with a home computer and an internet connection you are very wealthy compared to the rest of the world. Citizenship or legal permanent residency in a rich country makes you more attractive to women in poorer countries. Your value on the dating market is thus much higher there.

Is that supposed to be funny? We can deduce from this paragraph that she finds the mail-order bride market and international sex slave trade either viable or hilarious.

Self-improvement! I used to be a fat unattractive college dropout who couldn’t get her life together. Now I’m thin, attractive, and successfully self-employed after graduating. You can make yourself over into a higher-quality man capable of winning a higher-quality woman too.

It is so fucking hard to be right all the time. What did I say? "This aggression seems to be masking some sort of insecurity..." What does Jackie come up with? "I used to be a fat unattractive college dropout."

Dingdingdingdingdingdingding! We have a winner!

Jackie, guess what? Inside, you're still that fat unattractive college dropout. A couple of degrees and some cardiovascular exercize has done nothing to heal your psychic wounds! That's why you need to go online and tell strangers about how great you are and brag about how men fawn all over you!

Thanks to everyone who e-mailed or commented their offers, it's nice to feel wanted.

You have a funny way of showing it.

Although I'm not looking for a new relationship right now (don't worry, I'll blog about it when I am), hopefully this post gave those of you who are interested a better idea of your chances in the future.

It sure has!

Chances of my visiting Jacqueline's blog again in the future: 0%

Silent Hill

Where do these video game adaptations keep going wrong? It seems like moving from an action-oriented video game into an action film should be an easy transition - fill in some of the narrative and logical gaps, make the characters a bit more compelling and you're ready to go. Frequently, the video games are already based on old movies to begin with, making the change-over even more intuitive. How could Jan de Bont possibly fuck up Tomb Raider, in other words, when the original game was just a rip-off of Indiana Jones?

As with theatrical adaptations, movies inspired by video games retain too much of the imprint of their former medium to work successfully as films. Whether it's out of respect to the fans of the source material or just a lack of imagination I'm not sure, but filmmakers tend to simply replicate the events of the game in movie form. How is remaking a video game but removing the defining aspect of gameplay - interactivity - supposed to enhance the experience?

Eventually, I'm quite certain someone will come along and direct the hell out of a video game adaptation, producing a movie that's satisfying completely on its own merits. For about the first ten minutes of Silent Hill, it feels like Christophe Gans might be the first director to cross the invisible barrier between redoing games as movies and genuine filmmaking. But then, just like the titular town, everything goes straight to hell.

Gans introduces the viewer to the eerie ghost town of Silent Hill in a beautifully rendered, nearly silent sequence. For maybe the first time, a game environment is rendered on the screen cinematically, in this case an ashen gray dystopia that appears to have once been a small, quiet town. Better yet, Gans focuses on these early, haunting sequences solely on developing an unsettling, otherworldly atmosphere. There are no big scare moments, no sudden revelations and no pointless, expository introductions. Just a desperate woman wandering around some lonely ruins looking for a girl who has suddenly vanished.

Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell) has come to abandoned, hidden Silent Hill to cure her adopted daughter of night terrors. Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) screams in her sleep about the place, clearly the site of some horrifying past tragedy. Unfortunately, moments after arriving in Silent Hill, Rose loses Sharon in the murky fog. The, the demons appear.

Once it transforms from a creepy psychological thriller into a monster movie, Silent Hill can't help but lose some of its air of trippy mystery. After all, an abandoned town where peculiar, inexplicable things happen is always going to be more scary than an abandoned town filled with standard movie monsters. But as if the transition into a more conventional type of storytelling weren't painful enough, Gans and screenwriter Roger Avary essentially give up on even trying to make the story of Silent Hill work as a movie. We get monsters, Rose starts to run away, she meets up with a few other characters, and the rest of the film alternates side-scrolling action sequences with scenes directly lifted from the video game's interstitial exposition.

It comes to feel very much like watching your friend play the game "Silent Hill," but not playing yourself because you only have one controller.

How pointless and lazy is the bulk of Silent Hill? There are several scenes featuring characters looking at maps, laying out their planned routes, which are then superimposed on the screen as in a player's guide. More than one sequence finds Rose jumping between platforms while other characters yell directions at her. "Up! Right! Okay now go forward! Stop! Left right left right a b a b start!"

I have never played the game, so I'm not 100% sure what ws changed and what was kept, but I will say that the actual storyline behind the game isn't really that interesting. As a setting, the town works terrifically on screen. Cinematographer Dan Laustsen (who previously shot Gans' great-looking-but-lame Brotherhood of the Wolf) bathes the town in glassy milk-white during the "daytime" scenes and a sickly yellow-black during the dark times, when the demons appear.

But as a narrative, there's just not enough going on to make Rose's journey compelling. We find out some secrets about Sharon's background and about the Wicker Man-esque cult that operates out of the town's crumbling church, but Avary brings none of the innovative and disturbing style than Gans gives the visuals to his screenplay. Even Sean Bean, playing Sharon's adopted father, can't manage to inject any life into this turgid mess. (If the movies follow the story of the games, his character will dominate the potential sequel, but he's given almost othing to do this time around.)

Essentially, filmmakers adapting video games are given a choice. Either film the actions of the game's playable characters in as straightforward a manner as possible or change the game fundamentally to work as a movie while keeping the defining essentials intact. Hollywood seems to be working from the assumption than video game fans want the former - they don't want to go see a movie that's loosely based on a game they have played, but a film that's recognizably a direct port of the game, allowing them to relive the play experience without moving or concentrating.

Perhaps this really is what fans want to see. I know a lot of people claim to enjoy Doom, which I found absolutely unbearable and pointless as a movie. (Also as a game, but that's an argument for a different post). I think fans like these movies because they are already fans, because it's a property in which they have developed a keen interest and no one is giving them the option of seeing the worlds of these games really exploded on to the big screen properly. Just once, it would be nice to get a real filmmaker to tackle one of these games and see if it can't work as something more than a non-interactive gaming simulation.

Synchronized Treadmilling

First off, you should all watch this music video by OK Go. It's an alright song, but the video's the best I've seen in a while. It must have taken forever to get exactly right. (Hat tip: Rising Hegemon)

One more item that deserves your attention. Wikiality, the new version of Wikipedia inspired by "The Colbert Report," is now online. Because any site that has a longer entry on "truthiness" than on "Lutherans" has its priorities straight.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

13 (Tzameti)

Georgian director Géla Babluani makes his feature debut with 13 (Tzameti), a powerful, lean thriller about poverty, fear and exploitation. This French-Georgian co-production from 2005 is one of those movies that will be difficult to describe without giving anything away. It develops slowly, with relatively assured confidence for a first-time director, holding off for as long as possible in revealing the grim secret at its core. A movie that's as much about the element of surprise as anything else, 13 (Tzameti) should really be experienced cold, so I'll try to dance around the big twists as much as possible.

A young man struggling to earn any money he can be taking on odd jobs, Sébastien (George Babluani) finds himself in the employ of a heroin-addled old man. While he's fixing the guy's roof, he overhears some strange conversations. There's an envelope coming in the mail. It will include a ticket. The old man is to take a train to Paris and await further instructions. Whatever this strange assignment is, it will pay handsomely.

When the junkie dies suddenly (as junkies occasionally do), Sébastien takes his place, hoping for a big payday to help support his needy family. What he finds at the other end of that ticket is a degrading experience of horror and subjugation in which his misery will provide entertainment for a cabal of old rich men. I don't want to reveal any of the gruesome secrets Babluani has in store, but comparisons to Eli Roth's Hostel are not totally unwarranted.

Babluani makes some key choices that ratchet up the film's suspense factor considerably. The stark black and white cinematography, heavy on elongated intimate takes and close-ups, always pulls away at the last second before things get really gory. But it constantly threatens not to, as if Babluani's teasing the viewer. Will I remember to look away this time, or force you to bear witness to the grisly aftermath of this violent act. (Repeated inserts of a light bulb going on and off become almost unbearable by the film's end).

Likewise, the decision to go almost entirely without a score adds considerably to the final impact. Sequences of extreme emotional intensity, which generally would be accompanied by a swelling crescendo on the soundtrack, pass by in eerie silence. Gun shots, in particular, reverberate with greater emphasis because of the film's still, quiet atmosphere.

The concise directness of Babluani's film eventually works in his favor. This is not a complex story. Sébastien goes on a mysterious quest and things go extremely awry. He finds himself accidentally plunged into a very real nightmare from which there seems to be no hope of escape. From that point, things pretty much unfold as expected, albeit with some highly effective sequecnes of suspense along the way.

I suppose it's not really a complaint, as I kind of admired the single-mindedness with which Babluani approaches the thriller genre, but still...there's a strong classist/Marxist bent to the material that I would have liked to see explored a bit more. Like Eli Roth's Hostel, Tzameti eventually finds its way around to an allegorical critique of capitalism. (I hope I'm not giving too much away.)

Money is thrown at Sébastien and he becomes little more than a pawn, assigned a number and enlisted into the forcible service of a rich, powerful and unconcerned older man. The kind of financial desperation he faces at the film's opening is the ideal set-up for exploitation - he can be bought, and cheaply, because the only other option is homelessness and starvation. (A brief scene in which he's informed he won't be paid for the work he has already done on the roof captures the despair of the bankrupt with remarkable efficiency.)

As in Roth's film, the notion of human beings as chattle comes up repeatedly in Tzameti. These people are paid to do a job and essentially cease to be human begins. They transform into property, to be traded and bartered over, to be bought and sold. Babluani seems to see this metamorphasis as an essential facet of the modern world, intrinsic within human nature. By the end of his film, the exploited themselves have even adopted this ideology. They bring these attitudes along with them even after their service comes to an end. Second-class citizenry, then, is not just about being subjugated, but also indoctrinated, convinced that your station in life is permanent and self-defining.

Babluani extends the capitalist metaphor in some interesting ways. Sébastien's captors, who compel him into service through the threat of violence, seem indignant that he is not more thankful for their generosity. One even expects to be tipped afterwards for his efforts. Also notable is that other participants besides Sébastien has consented to take part in the project, desiring the chance at a fortune above their own safety. Babluani favors striking portraits shot in tight close-ups, studying the weary contours of the unfotunate' faces in harsh lighting and extreme angles reminiscent of the silent films of Dreyer.

Tzameti could develop some of these ideas a bit more. It takes too long to get going, spending a lot of time on the roofing job and the residents of the junkie's house for no good reason. Likewise, a 15 minute or so coda leads to an unfortunately predictable and unsatisfying conclusion. (There's only a few ways the film could possibly end). Roth, through his use of brothel/torture chamber metaphors, managed to fill Hostel with some interesting ideas about the nature of prostitution and exploitation in addition to the blood and guts. Tzameti, likewise, seems to have insights beyond its clever, twisting narrative. They just tend to get lost along the way as the focus remains squarely on ratching up the intensity and suspense. Still, this is bound to be one of the year's best and most promising debut films.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Is Joe Scarborough an Idiot?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer:

It has taken Joe Scarborough six years to finally come to grips with the fact that his President is functionally retarded. Six long (long!) years. I'm glad he's finally come around. It's just too bad for Joe that, even on the rare occasion when he's on the correct side of an issue, he still has to come off as such a clueless asshole blowhard fuckwit.

Let's take a look together (shall we?) at Joe's latest missive, a brief post at Arianna Huffington's place. It's charmingly titled Is Bush an Idiot? So far, I got no complaints.

Once he actually begins writing, however...

The greatest political gift a politician can receive from enemies is the gift of being underestimated.

That and a lavish golf vacation, sure. And a free limo ride "with benefits." And lucrative pharmaceutical contracts for one's significant other. But, yeah, after all those things, the greatest political gift a politician can receive is the gift of being underestimated.

Eisenhower was supposedly a dope who frittered away his time on golf courses.

Was Eisenhower considered a dope? Wasn't he a highly regarded general when he took office? I've heard the "Eisenhower wasted a lot of time playing golf" line, but not the dope line. That doesn't mean it's not true. I wasn't alive back then. How the hell would I know?

Chevy Chase portrayed Gerald Ford as a bumbling, accident-prone commander-in-chief in countless SNL skits.

Gerald Ford fell over a lot. True. That is a true fact. Don't believe me?

He ain't down there searching for explosive liquids!

Obviously when a major public figure has an obvious flaw, like klutziness, comedians are going to mock them for it. Of course Chevy Chase exaggerated Ford's stumbly awkwardness. It's a comedy sketch!

Most egregiously, Joe makes it sound like Chevy Chase made that up out of nowhere. "Hmm...What would be a good way to secretly communicate my radical far-left agenda to the masses? I know, I'll pretend I'm the president and tumble over, then identify for the audience the time, my location and the day of the week!"

I think Joe's trying to demonstrate that Republican presidents have been historically mocked. I don't know what this is supposed to prove. I'd grant that every Republican president ever has been cruelly mocked in the popular culture. Every Democratic president, also. Every public figure, pretty much. So the hell what?

Ronald Reagan was branded a lightweight for years and described as a confused old fool in Tip O’Neill’s autobiography.

I believe it was that great social philosopher Stephen Colbert who said "we all know that facts have a strong liberal bias." Joe's unfortunatley running into that truism repeatedly during his introduction. (Or is it a trutheism?) Ronald Reagan was branded a lightweight because he was (1) a movie star who entered politics based largely on name recognition and personal charisma and (2) suffering from the beginning stages of Alzheimer's Disease during much of his tenure as president.

Though the language is unfortunate, during the majority of that second term, he really was a confused old fool. If Joe's point is that popular conceptions about presidents were largely accurate, he's doing quite well. Actually, maybe that is his point...

For the past six years George W. Bush has been the target of ridicule from liberal circles. But now, instead of laughing at Democrats’ ill-directed arrogance, Republicans are quietly joining the left in questioning the President’s intellectual prowess.

As I often like to do when reading right-wing blather, let me draw your attention to the subtle nuances in Joe's language. Liberals have "targeted" GWB for "ridicule," causing Republicans to "laugh" at their "arrogance." Conservatives, on the other hand, have begun to "quietly" join in the act of "questioning" the president's "intellectual prowess." As always, anything conservatives do is carefully considered and rational, whereas everyone on the left is a raving looney incapable of processing even a straightforward question like "is the President really really dumb?"

Man, Joe Scarborough is a huge asshole. Huge.

The biggest knock on Bush’s brain is his lack of intellectual curiosity. Former administration officials still close to the White House will tell you Mr. Bush detests dissent, embraces a narrow world view and is intellectually incurious.

Worse for this White House is the fact that George W. Bush has daily smackdowns with the English language and the English language usually wins.

All of that is true. But some of us have been saying it for six years! It took Joe six years to actually begin listening to what the president said and considering it from a perspective other than "sycophantic toady." You sense that if GWB were just a little bit smarter - still stupid enough to nearly choke to death on a pretzel, but not quite stupid enough to give the German Chancellor a neck massage during a diplomatic summit - Joe would be fine with it. He can tolerate following in lockstep behind a tyrant of below-average intelligence. But when mere stupidity morphs into drooling witless idiocy, well, that's where he draws the line.

Friends and foes alike agree that George W. Bush is one political figure who gets worse with age. Look back at his performance as Texas governor and you will see a funny, self-assured public figure who inspires confidence. But these days, the mere opening of Mr. Bush’s mouth makes many GOP loyalists shake in their tasseled loafers.

This, likewise, is true. I don't neccessarily think he was a lot smarter back then, but he was certainly more composed, self-assured and poised. For an idea of what Joe's talking about, check out this brief video showing the dramatic change in Bush's demeanor and speaking style over the past 10 years.

The makers of the video feel that the change is due to early-onset senility. I'm not certain that they prove this is any meaningful way. But it's certainly fascinating to see how the guy has come apart over the last six years. I suppose in some ways it's a kind of karmic justice - he wasted the early part of his life, spent his few capable adult years running America into the ground and will have a long, slow, painful descent into elderly batshit insanitude. Not quite as satisfying as seeing him tried in the Hague, but it's probably the best we're going to get.

So does it matter in the end whether our president is articulate and intelligent?

Joe misses the real message by a country mile. This isn't just about being articulate. The guy is stupid. That means, someone is making decisions for him. Who? Don't people have a right to know? People have jokingly called this The Cheney Administration for years. But I sense there's a lot of truth behind that joke. Even though all of his policies have failed, he's clearly incapable of devising any kind of policy whatsoever. You can tell because he can never explain himself with any kind of clarity.

"Mr. President, why did we invade Iraq?"

"Well, you see, I was out decideriderading one day...I mean to say, everyone loves freedom...Mothers want to raise their children...And you gotta be free...And freedom isn't free...So we got to...We're spreading freedom...And that's why they hate us...I looked into my heart...We're building schools...You gotta...Freedom's on the march."

"Mr. President, why do you oppose the use of stem cells in research when they're just going to be destroyed anyway?"

"Well, you see...God's gift of life...They got these snowflake babies...Morals and ethics and little baby Jesus...You gotta protect...There's the sanctity of...Look at little Jenny here...Would you want to, uh, I mean to say, you wouldn't stab her repeatedly in the eye...Really, it's the same issue."

"Mr. President, what did you have for breakfast this morning?"

"Well, you see...I like waffles but I didn't...Didn't have time for...It's hard work to be President...I had to go for a bike ride and...Don't really like scones even though Tony Blair told me they was good...Just wanted a muffin...You know what? I'm not too sure on this one. Let me check with my staff and get back to ya."

That doesn't just mean he's bad at expressing himself. It means the man who's supposed to be in charge doesn't really know what's going on and isn't curious enough to find out. That has to matter to you, Joe. Right?

You bet your life, it does.

Oh, good.

I’m not saying we need to elect a dork like Michael Dukakis, who famously spent vacations at the beach reading books on Swedish land use or was so overwhelmed with the details of the old SALT treaties that he would sulk off to bed depressed.

Shit, Joe. We were all in agreement there for a second, and it was real nice, and then you just had to go and fucking ruin it with this same old anti-intellectual garbage.

What is so wrong with a guy who wants to be president reading fucking books? We're taking about the president here. A little bit of nerdy bookishness can good for someone who's going to have an important and complex job. Cause, interesting thing about people who read a lot of books. They tend to learn about things and get smarter. It's amazing, I know, but somehow it actually works.

Michael Dukakis was actually kind of a dork. I don't really object to the use of that phrase (although it is kind of demeaning, and not the sort of thing Joe would ever say about a Republican dork, like the President's father). It's just this implication that the President must be Joe Cool. Fonzie wouldn't be a good choice for president because he spends all his time worrying about looking cool and thus doesn't have the chance to consider important international and domestic affairs. Joe's a grown man, but he's really still focused on electing Class Presidents and Prom Kings, not actual leadership.

But when America is fighting a global war on terror where the battle is for hearts and minds instead of beachheads and landing strips, we need a leader who can explain to friend and foe alike why America is in Iraq, why we keep sending arms to Israel and why liberal democracy really is preferable to Islamic fascism.

Right now, George W. Bush is not that leader.

Dude, no one is that leader. I mean, I'm glad you're soured on this moron in the White House (finally!), but to think that someone more charismatic is going to be able to sell Iraqis on inter-sect subjugation compounded by American dominance is to live in a fantasy world of make-believe. Joe might as well recommend that we appoint Willy Wonka and Peter Pan as impartial negotiators and hold a peace summit 20,000 leagues under the sea.

This is the sort of stuff that makes me despair for the future of our nation. And our world. These guys are never going to get it. They will just keep recycling the same tired rhetoric for 1,000 years if no one steps up to stop them. It's always 6 more months and one more election. We're always turning a corner and preparing for victory. Our only real concerns are the traitorous American media and hippie peaceniks. It's always time to get tough, let those guys know we really mean business and stop catering to the weak pacifists among us.

Our leader does not need to explain to the Iraqi people why they are being kidnapped, tortured and murdered by Americans more effectively. He needs to stop the war. Right fucking now. Joe, you fucking asshole. It's amazing. Even when he's completely right, he's still completely wrong.

TV on the Radio in the Distance

Take a look at TV on the Radio's fall tour dates, courtesy of my absolute #1 favorite music blog, I Guess I'm Floating. They totally suck:

9/14 Republic, New Orleans, LA
9/15 Gypsy Tea Room & Ballroom, Dallas, TX
9/16 Zilker Park, Austin, TX
9/17 Emo's, Austin, TX
9/19 Fox Theatre, Boulder, CO
9/24 Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA
9/25 Soma, San Diego, CA
9/26 Glass House, Pomona, CA
9/27 Soho Restaurant & Music Club, Santa Barbara, CA
9/29 The Library, Sacramento, CA
9/30 Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA
10/02 Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR
10/03 Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, BC Canada
10/04 Showbox, Seattle, WA
10/07 Playmakers, Fargo, ND
10/08 First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN
10/09 Metro, Chicago, IL
10/10 St. Andrews Hall, Detroit, MI
10/12 Opera House, Toronto, ON Canada
10/13 Le National, Montreal, Canada
10/14 Paradise, Boston, MA
10/17 Irving Plaza, New York, NY
10/18 Irving Plaza, New York, NY
10/20 Sonar Lounge, Baltimore, MD
10/21 Starlight Lounge, Philadelphia, PA

The goddamn Hollywood Bowl? I had no idea so many people were into TVoTR at this point. A few years ago, right before the first LP Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes came out, I caught the band in a completely epic, awesome and highly intimate show at the Echo. (I'll be there again September 30th for the Silversun Pickups).

That's a tiny ass space, not more than an empty room with a bar and a few tables and a slightly-raised stage. A capacity of a few hundred at the most.

Their only album since then, the incredible Return to Cookie Mountain, is probably my favorite of the year so far. These guys are a really terrific band with a completely different sound from anyone else out tehre. It's moody, atmospheric, strange music that falls somewhere between indie rock, industrial and hip-hop. I liked the first full album a lot, but it was really (I had assumed) their first EP, Young Liars, that had won over the majority of their fans. Apparently, a lot of people have discovered these guys this year.

Which is great. I mean, good for them. I'm glad their songs are finding listeners, and they're about 100,000 times more talented than the other "buzzy" bands this year. (Attention Wolfmother: You guys blow. Your lead singer's white guy afro looks ridiculous. Get your furry mother off me.)

But I don't want to see TV on the Radio at the Hollywood Bowl. It's bad enough I have to go there for Belle and Sebastian and Radiohead. Can't these bands just stop attracting capacity crowds? I despise the Hollywood Bowl. Not just the experience of seeing shows there. I hate the entire institution, the building and grounds themselves. A small part of me wishes one of these lazy Los Angeles terrorist cells that hasn't gotten of its jihadist ass for 10 minutes to blow something up in five years would just decimate the Hollywood goddamn Bowl already so I could see shows in venues where you can actually get a decent view of the stage for less than the price of an NFL franchise. But only a small part.

The Bowl just has so many downsides. There's nowhere to park. Even if you overpay for lot parking (we're talking $20), it's only located way down Highland, so you still have to walk forever DIRECTLY UP A LARGE HILL to get to the venue. When I lived in Hollywood, I could take a train from near my apartment to somewhat near the Bowl and just walk the rest of the way, which is what I did for Radiohead in 2003. Now, I just have to drive to Hollywood and Highland and then bend over.

Then, once you've hired your trained Sherpas and navigated up the street to the actual front gate, there's the matter of fighting the teeming, impatient masses packed into an exceedingly small area to get inside and then find your seat. If you've hauled in provisions for the intense journey, the Bowl allows you to bring them inside, but if you plan on buying any food or beverages in the venue...well, I hope you've sold a yacht recently or something. That or you consider Robert De Niro's gangster roll from Goodfellas to be "walking around money."

Plus, there are very few quality seats at the Hollywood Bowl. It's enormous, and most of the seats are flat, uncomfortable benches located several miles from the actual stage. I couldn't see Radiohead at all when I went to that show. We weren't in the back exactly, but we were fairly far away. Occasionally, I would make out a jittery, spastic blot in the middle distance and assume that was Thom Yorke doing his trademark mid-song twitching. A few years later, seeing AIR and Stereolab backed by a section of the LA Philharmonic, I had significantly better seats...but still couldn't see particularly well.

And it's not just line of sight that's nice at a big concert for which you are spending $60 or more. It's live music. The whole point is to feel like you're in the same space as the musicians. That they are playing for your benefit. Being at the Hollywood Bowl is only slightly more intimate than watching a performance on television. In fact, watching a live performance on one of the High Definition channels on our TV is actually mroe intimate than being in the back of the Hollywood Bowl.

It turns out, they're opening for Massive Attack, hence the need for the large venue. I know I've missed a tour or two of theirs recently, as I've been going to less concerts. But I'll have to catch them next time they breeze through town on their own, because it will probably be the last time I can see them while remaining Staples Center-free.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

R.I.P. Bruno Kirby

Bruno Kirby has one hilarious scene in my favorite comedy of all time, This is Spinal Tap, as an enthusiastic limo driver and Rat Pack fan. Remember? "Have any of you ever read Yes I Can by Sammy Davis Jr.? It should have been called Yes I Can, if Frank Sinatra Says It's Okay. Frank called the shots for all those guys."

There's a long and gloried history of limo drivers in the movies - from Argyle in Die Hard all the way to Dom Irrera in Big Lebowski - and even if he had achieved nothing else, this would be sufficient.

Among other memorable roles, Kirby will always be remembered as young Clamenza in Godfather 2, so this is a man with a secure legacy. He died of leukemia yesterday at the tender age of 57.

Bruno Kirby was one of those character actors with a famous face whose name a lot of people didn't know. Almost everyone has seen him - he's been in some big hit movies - but would your average Joe on the street be able to come up with the name "Bruno Kirby" if pressed?

Sometimes, I think this might be the worst possible kind of celebrity. You're getting approached and recognized all the time by assholes in public, so you get the whole downside of fame, but you don't really command the big salaries or the high-profile projects that an A-list star would expect. I always think of Alvy Singer in Annie Hall; Kirby had that "how do I know you?" kind of fame.

It wasn't for a lack of parts. The guy worked an awful lot, right up until his death as it turns out. (He had appeared recently on "Entourage.") Early in his career, in 1973, he appeared in Disney's Superdad, featuring soon-to-be-tragically-and-freakishly-murdered "Hogans Heroes" vet Bob Crane. You can find out more about this fascinating, grisly chapter in television history by watching Paul Schrader's hilarious ode to sexual addiction Auto Focus.

Tbogg helpfully points out that Kirby played "Man Greasing Up his Fist In Club" in William Friedkin's bizarre gay slasher Al Pacino vehicle Cruising. Kirby is shockingly actually credited for the film, despite his central role. I mean, can you imagine that movie without the man greasing up his fist in that club? The whole second half falls apart!

Kirby also made some movies where his character earned a name, not just a description of his favorite method of lubricant application. He's terrific as Albert Brooks' best friend in Modern Romance, a welcome respite from 90 minutes of Albert Brooks sitting alone in his apartment feeling sorry for himself. He plays a key role in Bill Murray's overlooked Hunter Thompson adaptation, Where the Buffalo Roam. He fits in snugly with the ensemble casts of hit comedies like When Harry Met Sally, The Freshman, Tin Men and City Slickers.

Kirby's specialty was playing tough guys who were actually really sensitive and vulnerable behind their macho facades. He primarily made comedies, but even in dramatic films, the goofy good-natured guy within would pop out on occasion. In one of the best moments in the overall brilliant Donnie Brasco, Michael Madsen's Mafia boss smacks him in the mouth when a joke about stealing parking meters hits too close to home. Sure, Kirby's believable as a gangster, but he's still the sweet, likable gangster.

I suspect his two roles that everyone will remember are Clemenza in Godfather 2 (pictured above) and 2nd. Lieutenant Hauk in Good Morning Vietnam. Levinson's Vietnam dramedy is not the greatest movie. You all know my feelings on Robin Williams in general by now. But Kirby has the best role in the whole movie and really makes the most out of it. His flummoxed hardass is infinitely more funny than Williams' endless jabbering, to my mind. It's rare that the villain in a film will also serve as the comic relief, but Kirby pulled it off.

Anyway, not much more to say. It's sad to see the guy go so young.


The Gettys have an older couple to their house for dinner at the opening of Lemming, Dominik Moll's strange thriller from last year. Inventor and designer Alain (Laurent Lucas) and his fetching wife Bénédicte (Charlotte Gainsbourg) appear content, affectionate towards one another and hopeful for the future, having just moved to a spacious new home in the South of France. Their dinner guests, Alain's boss Richard Pollack (André Dussollier) and his wife Alice (Charlotte Rampling), are the exact opposite - angry, shrill and unable to sit peacefully next to one another through a single salad course.

Gradually, through machinations both everyday and supernatural, the older couple's marriage will unravel the younger couple's. Somewhere in between the blissful happiness of the Gettys and the venomous hostility of the Pollacks, Moll seems to suggest, the truth lies.

Moll's films revolve around irrational behavior and unpredictability. Interpersonal dramas that slowly develop into psychological horror, including the masterful Hitchcockian thriller With a Friend Like Harry, Moll's movies confront us with an almost elemental fear. What if the people around you quite simply ceased to make sense? What if their personal motives became inscrutible? When we all rely on colleagues, friends, family members and neighbors to conduct the business of our lives, we come to depend on certain unspoken understandings, certain social contracts that, when violated, can make us feel betrayed, alienated and frightened.

In With a Friend Like Harry, Moll presents a platonic friend as nemesis. Kind of a dramatic twist on What About Bob?, a seemingly-normal acquaintance begins to develop an unhealthy obsession with the protagonist's family, inserting himself forcibly into the "sacred" world of the man's home. Now, in Lemming, Moll tackles the even more complex morass of marriage, dissecting it as an institution with a critical lens that's bitter but, eventually, finds room for optimisim. This is one of the most fascinating, ingenious and difficult films that I have seen all year.

Two peculiar things happen after that initial dinner party that change the Gettys lives forever. First, the very unhappy and highly eccentric Alice Pollack becomes fixated on the young marrieds, showing up at the house unexpectedly to interrogate Bénédicte and at the office to try and seduce Alain. Second, the titular rodent, a Scandanavian species making a rare appearance in France, is found clogging up the plumbing below the kitchen sink.

Surely the two events are related somehow, and Moll spends a good deal of the film extending and enhancing this central metaphor. Certainly, Alice is very very unhappy, quite possibly willing to take her own life, and lemmings are famous for traveling great distances in order to drown themselves. Nicholas Chevalier (Jacques Bonnaffé), a small mammal expert, informs Bénédicte that lemmings are not really suicidal, despite what the legends say, but in actuality drown because they lack the strength to cross large bodies of water during migration. They're not bent on self-destruction; they merely die from fatigue.

Similarly, the Pollacks marriage has crumbled into an enterprise defined mainly through exertion. At the dinner party that opens the film, Alice informs her hosts that her husband regularly cheats on her with whores. She later confesses to Alain that Richard attempted to kill her many years before. She only stays with him, she protests, because she wants to see him die. Perhaps her descent into rage and madness resembles the incomplete voyage of the lemmings. She has not set out to bring her life to an end, but merely expires from the labor of pretending to love a man she despises.

Though it's overall a far more promising relationship, the Gettys union is not without cracks and fissures. Alain, whose work involves the development of a remote-controlled flying webcam allowing homeowners to look in on their dwellings via computer, seems to have an unhealthy taste for voyeurism. (Later, he'll use the camera to spy on a couple in flagrante through their front windows).

The Gettys marriage, in many ways, is defined by perpetual scrutiny. (In this way, Lemming occasionally resembles Michel Hanecke's thriller from last year, Cache.) After the lemming incident, a video camera is sent in to inspect their pipes, with Moll's camera gliding gently above the viscous brown sewage towards a grim, uncertain destination. Additionally, the Gettys are carefully observed by the Pollacks during and after the first dinner party - Alice mocks them as a "model" couple and declares Bénédicte "pathetic" while Richard openly admits to sizing up Alain's wife. Eventually, the Gettys willingness to reveal themselves will be taken advantage of when a supernatural force invades the serenity of their home and even their minds.

Borrowing a conceit from Ingmar Bergman's Persona, Moll eventually gives the movie over completely to allegorical fantasy. Beyond simply mirroring some of her atittude and circumstances, Bénédicte actually seems to transform into Alice at a certain point (apparently after spending the night in a guest room where Alice had been). The ambiguity of the first 90 minutes or so, in which Moll suggests some surreal goings-on but keeps the action potentially grounded in reality, gives way to Lynchian dream logic that removes the story from the realm of the possible and thus blunts some of the final impact. It's enough, I would think, to subtley infer the "possession" storyline, making the film more singular, broadly applied and unsettling.

Like Lynch in his best work, Moll relies heavily on changes in color to highlight a scene's emotional subtext or to alter the tone and mood. The early stages, in which the Gettys merrily live and play in good cheer, are bright and warm, brilliant sunny days set in earth tones. Once the lemming comes out of the sink, a rat-like creature that at first appears dead but soon jerks back to life, Moll vascillates between light sequences and long scenes shot in cold, steely blues.

Jean-Marc Fabre's cinematography reaches its pinnacle in a beautiful, eerie scene at a lake house. Alain awakes to find himself alone, his wife having left in the car for an unknown destination. Everything is drenched in a deep blue, as if he's awoken already at the bottom of the sea with the expired lemmings, unable to remain afloat from the intense strain of it all. It's a haunting image, a rich blue sun setting over a cartoonishly-saturated ocean, alien and almost frightening.

And I do mean frightening. Much like the aforementioned Mr. Lynch's films, Lemming veers quickly between the thought-provoking and the scary. Though Moll doesn't stoop to actual "scare shots," he does make use of the kind of musical crescendos and all-concealing shadows that permeate horror filmmaking. The only difference is that, rather than monsters or serial murderers skulking around every corner, the characters are pursued by familiar faces, faces that once represented love and acceptance and have only recently curled up into angry snarls.

When Alice shows up at the Gettys house to confront Bénédicte (about what it's not quite clear), she asks the younger woman if she fears the future, when her relationship with her husband will inevitably sour. With his surprisingly optimistic ending, Moll seems to disagree with Alice's hardened outlook, suggesting that some couples can avoid the pratfalls that turned the Pollack's marriage into a soul-sucking prison of despair. The Gettys, then, are those rare lemmings with the strength to push across the rushing waters that claim so many of their bretheren. Is it worth even posing the most obvious question? Why they bother to try and cross the uncrossable river in the first place?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Well, Camus Can Do...But Sartre is Smart-ra

Two "Simpsons" references in one day. Neeeeeeeeeeeeerd!

(Three "Simpsons" references in one day...)

Anyway, our President went and read hisself a book during his vacation, it seems. I guess, after finally finishing that one about the goat, he was ready to move on to something more meaty, because he chose Albert Camus' The Stranger.

I'm kind of divided on this. On the one hand, the President read something. That's terrific. Reading comprehension is one of the most important skills a president can have. I mean, if Bush had been a more avid reader in the months before 9/11, maybe he would have read one of those memos that kept whizzing by his desk with ominous titles referencing known terrorists. I think it was something like...Bin Laden determined to attack inside U.S.?

And he didn't just read a book, he read a difficult one. And one that's not even gooey or religious or a bestseller. I would have expected, if Bush was going to let everyone know he read a book, it would be from the Left Behind series. Or The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. Or that financial bestseller...what was it called?...Rich Dad, Egregiously Super-Rich Dad?

Still, I have reservations. Mainly, I don't believe that Bush actually read a book, which I think in all honesty is a task beyond his mental capabilities. He can't string together a complete, rational sentence. If you met someone on the street who spoke in the halting, awkward manner of our president, you'd give him a quarter on the condition that he please not spend it on malt liquor.

All we know is that Bush had quoted Camus in a speech and then Tony Snow claimed Bush read The Stranger while on vacation.

US President George W. Bush quoted French existential writer Albert Camus to European leaders a year and a half ago, and now he's read one of his most famous works: "The Stranger."

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Friday that Bush, here on his Texas ranch enjoying a 10-day vacation from Washington, had made quick work of the Algerian-born writer's 1946 novel -- in English.

The US president, often spoofed as an intellectual lightweight, quoted Camus in a February 21, 2005 speech in Brussels praising the US-Europe alliance and urging other nations to help Washington spread democracy in the world.

"We know there are many obstacles, and we know the road is long. Albert Camus said that 'freedom is a long-distance race.' We're in that race for the duration," Bush said in those remarks.

Let me just say how proud I am to live in a nation where it's international news when the president reads a book they make kids read in high school. "This just in! U.S. President not illiterate! Capable of processing main ideas behind important 20th Century works of fiction! News Flash! 80% of adult Americans report ability to dress themselves! Incidents involving ndividuals urinating on themselves are way down, incidents of simultaneous gum chewing and walking are way up!"

Should we be concerned that the President is reading the works of the French Existentialists? I know that Sartre said he was never depressed a day in his life, but I wouldn't mind our President having a somewhat less bleak worldview. We're talking about a book in which the protagonist learns that the world is cold and indifferent to humankind, and thus our individual actions only matter to ourselves and how we perceive them.

Creepy for a guy with his finger on the button, no? I mean, if Bush were an intelligent guy capable of nuanced thought, I wouldn't have any problem with this at all. Camus' ideas have validity and it's a great book. But Bush is easily influenced and superficial. Would he understand the subtextual philosophies of the novel or just think it's okay to kill Arabs as long as you feel bad afterwards?

I haven't seen anyone mention yet that the plot of this particular novel concerns a white man shooting an Arab man several times in cold blood. I believe The Cure summed it up best in their song named for the novel:

I'm alive/
I'm dead/
I'm a stranger/
Killing an Arab

He's sentenced to die for shooting an Algerian after a fight on the beach and learns prior to his execution to accept the hopelessness of his struggle and to truly come to terms with his own mortality. I want the war president reading something much, much happier than this.

Don't they have any John Grishams in the White House library? Actually, those are all about brilliant young attorneys making good in the world by using their pluck and intellect...So maybe something more relatable. Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiassen? They both write about inept criminals, which sounds about right in terms of relatability...

I just don't think it's true, is all. I don't believe the whole story. I think they want to make it seem like he's not a doofus so they're doing something obvious and lying about his reading habits. I mean, Tony Snow saying something is pretty much evidence that it's bullshit. I'm thinking that might even hold up in court.

"Your honor, Tony Snow said my client's guilty. And then Thomas Friedman indicated that he might agree, but it would take 6 months to be sure."

"Not guilty!"