Saturday, September 09, 2006

What Are You Guys Doing for Patriot Day?

George Bush doesn't call himself "The Deciderer" just because he's certifiably insane! No, no! Sometimes, he actually makes important decisions. For example, he has decided to declare September 11th to be...PATRIOT DAY! Hell yeah. Don't wear purple pants after Patriot Day, that will be the new fashion credo.

Let me just be the first to say, thank you very much, Mr. President. Here I've been, trying to think of something to call that day five years ago when our nation was attacked...And I can't come up with anything. I'm really racking my brain here. Allah-ween? D-Day Part II: The Revenge? Osamadan?

If only there were some sort of accepted designation, some common reference, perhaps indicating the date of those tragic events, that we could all come together and use to refer to it publicly. Maybe something that also, coincidentally, played on popular lingo for an emergency.

Okay, I think that's just about enough sarcasm there...Well, maybe one more sentence...Okay, now it's ready.

Patriot Day, 2006
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

Proclaim it, George! Testify! Can the President get a witness?

On the fifth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, we recall the fire and horror at the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field. America will always remember the thousands of innocent lives taken by the enemies of freedom that morning.

"And have you seen the movie version? It totally kicks ass! I've watched the DVD like four times already."

I don't get why this is "Patriot Day". Who's the titular patriot? Veterans Day honors veterans, Arbor Day honors trees, St. Lucifer's Day honors the Devil...Are we saying those that died in the September 11th attacks are "patriots"? They're victims, sure. I'm willing to go so far as to say "innocent victims." But patriots? Some of them weren't even Americans!

There is nothing inherently patriotic about being killed as part of a terrorist action. I'm not trying to say anything negative about the victims of the attack on the WTC or Flight 93 or anyone else who died that day. Horrible, tragic stuff. Slaughter. But if we're going to set aside a day to honor those we lost on 9/11, shouldn't that be clear in the name? Like by calling know...9/11?

In the face of these unspeakable attacks, we were reminded that the great strength of America is found in the hearts and souls of our citizens. We witnessed firefighters, police officers, other public safety officials, and ordinary Americans demonstrate extraordinary courage, risking their lives to save innocent victims. We saw our country united in compassion as Americans came together to provide relief and bring hope to others.

It's rare that I'll read a paragraph nominally credited to our President and think, "yeah, I agree with that."

Today, America is fighting a war that is testing our Nation's resolve. We are once again answering history's call with confidence, and we know that freedom will prevail. Our brave men and women in uniform have stepped forward to fight our enemies abroad so that we do not have to face them here at home, and we are grateful for the courageous individuals bringing terrorists to justice around the world.

Man, V for Vendetta was spot-on. Have you guys all seen that yet? Want to have some fun? Replace the words "America" and "freedom" with "England" and you can make your own version of the insane propagandist from the film. It's like Christopher Hitchens Mad Libs!

We are also confronting the extremists in the great ideological struggle of the 21st century.

It's totally premature to start declaring any conflict "the great ideological struggle of the 21st Century." We're only a few years into the century. Maybe the greatest ideological struggle of this century will be between people who think sex robots are great and people who want to get rid of all the sex robots. Or between artificially-intelligent sex robots bent on world conquest that want exterminate the human race and artificially-intelligent sex robots bent on world conquest that want to keep humans alive as slaves, pets and potential hunting trophies.

Aside from the semantic argument, this quote does let you know essentially where George Bush's head is at in terms of the "War on Terrorism." He expects this thing to last the better part of the next 100 years. It's the great struggle of the next century! I mean, wow. That's quite a struggle. That's, like, the first stirrings of Communism to the fall of the Soviet Union kind of time there. And I, for one, salute our President's desire to drag us into an endless clash of civilizations.

Cause, you know, when Europe had that 100 Years' War, it worked out really well for all of them. And that was just the English and the French. They were already right next to each other! (Actually, that war lasted a bit longer than 100 years, which is exactly the kind of wiggle room George continually requests in his speeches. "We really turned a corner after that Battle of Azincourt. Trust me on this one.")

No, sir, no real end in sight for the War on Terra. And, you know, as long as we're at war, you know, Supreme Executive Power and all that...

September the 11th made clear that, in the long run, the only way to secure our Nation is to advance liberty and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism. By working together with our friends and allies, we are helping spread the blessings of freedom and laying the foundations of peace for generations to come.

Okay, this one's a bit harder to translate than that other paragraph, where all you had to do was replace a few works. This time, use this handy Bushian->English guide:

"secure our Nation" = "kick serious raghead ass"
"advance liberty" = "drop lots of bombs"
"democracy" = "ignore Israel while they drop lots of bombs"
"working together with our friends and allies" = "insulting the French"
"spread the blessings" = "torture"
"of freedom" = "potentially innocent guys"
"laying the foundations" = "preventing"
"of peace" = "any kind of progress"

It's a little tricky to pick up some of the idioms, but you can get the hang of Bush->English translation quickly if you pay attention. For example, if the President were to say,

"Isn't it a lovely afternoon? Would you join me for a glass of iced tea?"

...what he'd really be saying is...

"God told me to kill."

Actually, if you're ever in doubt as to what Bush is really trying to say, you should probably just assume it's some variation on "God told me to kill."

By a joint resolution approved December 18, 2001 (Public Law 107-89), the Congress has designated September 11 of each year as "Patriot Day."

But, wait...September 11th is already Moby's Birthday! It can't be two days! We'll just have to agree to make Patriot Day on September the 12th or something.

Well, if nothing else, at least now we'll get another three day weekend each year.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 11, 2006, as Patriot Day. I call upon the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, as well as appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half staff on Patriot Day. I also call upon the people of the United States to observe Patriot Day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and remembrance services, to display the flag at half staff from their homes on that day, and to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. eastern daylight time to honor the innocent Americans and people from around the world who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Wait, what? No long weekend? We just fly flags at half staff? That's it? That's your new holiday? I never thought I'd say this, but George Bush isn't thinking big enough. I mean, they fly flags at half staff at the schools when the janitor dies. This is almost 3,000 people here. I think, at the very least, we should have a half-day and an annual parade.

Or, failing that, some kind of fun new tradition. Like bobbing for apples, only something not already associated with Halloween. Oh, what about three legged racing! That's always fun. Each Patriot Day, families take a half day from work or school, go out on picnics and have traditional three-legged races to commemorate the Patriots who bravely crashed planes into buildings on September 11th.

No! Reverse that! To commemorate the Patriots who got crashed into by planes on September 11th. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Finally, I'd like to point out that it was very rude of the terrorists to attack America when it was still so early on the West Coast. How am I supposed to schedule a moment of silence before 6 a.m.? I mean, I'll be sleeping, so that's fairly silent (though I'm told I kind of snore.) But waking up to then just sit silently seems counter-productive. Would the victims of September 11th really want me to wake up and then sit silently in my bed, just to roll over a minute later and fall back to sleep? I'd like to think they'd just as soon have me sleep, so long as I promise to dream about blowing up Arabs.

Lucky Number Slevin

This is the second film star Josh Hartnett and director Paul McGuigan have made together. McGuigan, who broke on to the scene in Britain with the stylish dark comedy Gangster #1, made his American debut with a Chicago-set thriller named Wicker Park that no one, myself included, bothered to see. Lucky Number Slevin hopefully marks the end of the Hartnett-McGuigan collaborative efforts, not only because it is a bad film but because star and director seem perplexed, at times making totally different movies.

McGuigan's trying to turn in a mix between David Mamet, Tony Scott and Guy Ritchie, a sexy violent comedy-drama playing around with gangster movie cliches. Hartnett's performance just doesn't make any sense at all in this context. At first, his behavior just seems out of character. After a while, though, he actually begins to violate the entire concept behind the movie. He forgets he's playing the patsy in a "mistaken identity" thriller and starts to act like he's the heavy in a mean-spirited revenge film. Like a lot of story elements throughout Lucky Number Slevin, it makes no sense.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Hartnett's confused and confusing performance is a big problem, but not really the film's biggest problem. Really, I think two things just kill any chance Lucky Number Sleven would have as a viable piece of entertainment within the first 10 minutes:

(1) The script by Jason Smilovic is not particularly clever yet seems to find itself intensely clever.

We open with the mysterious Mr. Goodkat (a barely-there Bruce Willis) telling a story about a con known as the "Kansas City Shuffle." Now, all the "Kansas City Shuffle" really refers to is misdirection. Make a guy look one way, you look the other way.

Now, that is not exciting or insightful. Okay, any movie about any kind of con is going to, in some way, include misdirection. In fact, any kind of movie involving even a magic trick will involve misdirection. That's how you fool people, by making them look away at the crucial moment. Duh.

The movie, however, seems to treat Willis' insight as if it's the Holy Grail of all Criminal Insights. Smilovic's narrative is well-structured enough. He knows where the cool little flourishes and snappy bits of dialogue ought to go. He just can't actually come up with any. The dialogue reminded me of "Dawson's Creek." People talk fast and they seem to be "quipping" or doing some kind of repartee, but if you actually listen to their comments, nothing is particularly funny or droll. The best Smilovic can come up with in terms of clever little noir-isms is when Hartnett refers to a policeman on the beat as a "pigtail." Get it? A pig who's tailing him! Har!

Beyond just the quality of the writing, all of the details Smilovic has clearly included to make the movie memorable and fun just fall totally flat. The whole movie has an out-of-step, tone deaf feel to it, as if writer and director and actors just couldn't get together on what story they wanted to tell. Because the films various "bits" are not funny, and therefore don't work as jokes, they only serve to remove any sort of intensity or believability from the film's central narrative. Rather than an anarchic, zany good time, he's authored a grim, mean-spirited pseudo-noir that's burdened by a reliance on ludicrous cartoon logic. Which brings me to...

(2) The film hopes to get by on creativity while ignoring common sense.

Again, if the movie were funny, I'd be willing to overlook the fact that it's stupid and, eventually, completely pointless. But it's not funny. Strange, yes. Hard to believe, sure. But not funny.

Slevin (Hartnett) arrives at Nick's New York apartment to find his old friend inexplicably missing. Next door neighbor Lindsey (Lucy Liu) hasn't seen him in a few days. As it turns out, Nick's being pursued by not one but two different yet equally powerful underworld figures. The Boss (Morgan Freeman) and The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley) once were partners, but have since become enemies. Now, they occupy two identical buildings located on opposite sides of the same street, afraid to leave their penthouse enclaves for fear of what the other will do to them.

See what I mean about cartoon logic? In a hilarious satire of crime films, perhaps an audience could buy this scenario, with two crime lords facing one another across a street, terrified to move beyond the safety of their bullet-proof windows. But it's hard to take that situation seriously at face value. These two guys don't come off as imposing. They come off as wimps. A real tough guy crime boss would just send his goons across the street to take everyone out.

Anyway, both The Boss and The Rabbi think Slevin is Nick, and because Nick owes them money, therefore Slevin owes them money. He becomes an unwilling pawn in this somewhat deadly game of cat and mouse, all the while trying to solve the mystery of Nick's disappearance with the help of the chatty, ditzy Lindsey.

It's not funny, but I think it was supposed to be. Lots of scenes feature "banter," dialogue that exists for no other reason than to entertain but which generally doesn't make a lot of sense. For example, Freeman has a long monologue in his first scene about an old comic strip character named The Shmoo. Here's part of his actual speech, taken from an old description of the Shmoo from a Lil Abner comic:

The Shmoo first appeared in the strip in August 1948. According to Shmoo legend, the lovable creature laid eggs, gave milk and died of sheer esctasy when looked at with hunger. The Shmoo loved to be eaten and tasted like any food desired. Anything that delighted people delighted a Shmoo. Fry a Shmoo and it came out chicken. Broil it and it came out steak. Shmoo eyes made terrific suspender buttons. The hide of the Shmoo if cut thin made fine leather and if cut thick made the best lumber. Shmoo whiskers made splendid toothpicks. The Shmoo satisfied all the world's wants. You could never run out of Shmoon (plural of Shmoo) because they multiplied at such an incredible rate.

I'm guessing this is Smilovic's attempt to imitate Quentin Tarantino. A tough guy makes an abstract analogy to an old comic strip. That kind of mashing together of nerdy underground culture and gritty revenge film theatrics obviously recalls movies like Pulp Fiction or True Romance. Tarantino will sometimes throw in a cultural reference just for kicks (as in his added scene in Crimson Tide where Denzel discusses Silver Surfer comics with his men), but if he's writing an entire speech about some old character, there's probably a reason. Some kind of connection to what's really going on.

Now, I have thought about this for probably longer than I should, and I can't tell why the hell The Boss would be talking about The Shmoo. It makes no goddamn sense at all. If it were really funny, I would give it a pass. But it's not funny at all. Mainly, he's just quoting the original text description of The Shmoo from the comic book itself. Later on, Slevin will bring up the topic again, recalling the reference as if it now has significance in the story. But what significance does it have? How did this make it into the movie?

There's lots of incidental information like this, details that are thrown out but have no relevance to the main story and are entirely inscrutible. Early discussions about a horse race from 20 years before so clearly telescope the film's climax that I genuinely can't believe a veteran of several previous films like McGuigan didn't realize this during editing. Veteran actors like Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley and Stanley Tucci are shockingly wasted in dull, drab parts that are entirely beneath them. In fact, Lucy Liu's character is here only to provide a last-second twist switcheroo that might work as a cheap surprise if it were not so completely impossible.

SPOILER ALERT: I'm pretty much done the non-spoiler section of this review. Don't bother seeing this movie, it's lame. However, if you have already seen the movie, you may continue reading the part where I talk about what happens at the end.

In fact, the entire final 20 minutes of the movie makes no sense. It's not overly complicated, just in violation of all that we have seen in the opening hour of the film. We see Josh Hartnett's girlfriend cheating on him. We see him get on a plane to New York. We see him call his friend Nick and announce his intentions to stay with him for a while.

But then at the end of the film, it appears that the entire adventure has been a set-up, planned by Hartnett, from the very beginning. So he planned to find his girlfriend cheating on him? How did he do that? And why would he "call" his friend Nick? He doesn't really have a friend Nick! That's the whole idea at the end. So, I guess that scene didn't really happen? McGuigan's just showing us BS that's not real to keep us guessing? That's not actually a good way to build up any suspense. It's just a formula for making people feel cheated.

As for the Lucy Liu stuff, that's even more ridiculous. Even if you got her in a bulletproof vest on the right day that she was going to get shot, how could you be sure the killer wouldn't shoot her in the head? And how did they manage to achieve realistic blood spray? She had squibs set up with fake blood, ready to go, and just walked around like that the whole day? I mean, why even include this scene if you can't come up with a way to make it work?


Anyway, this one's pretty much a disaster from beginning to end. One of those movies that obviously just didn't click, but because everyone had already cashed those advance checks, the project just developed its own momentum. Better luck next time, McGuigan. Only, maybe forget about the Hartnett collaborations next time. He's just not up to it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Best. Article. Ever.

Oh, God, I'm going to be late for work now because I have to post something about this article. I found it thanks to Attaturk at Rising Hegemon.

Here's the headline. It's unfortunate:

'Idol' singer Clay Aiken may serve Bush

Tee hee...

Clay Aiken is in line to be named to the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, the White House said Wednesday.

Wait, does he have...Is he...I always thought he was just kind of slow.

Oh, wait, he's going to be on the Committee. He'll be helping out others with the intellectual and the disabilities. I must have misunderstood. Anyway, I can't think of anyone more qualified for an important position with the government than the King of bad dinner theater musicals, that Gay Guy who came in Second on "American Idol." Behind the Velvet Teddy Bear.

Aiken, a Raleigh native who gained fame as a runner-up on "American Idol," once worked as a YMCA counselor.

Hang on...That's not even fair...It's like the article's doing the jokes for me. Screw you, Associated Press, this is my bit...

The committee's Web site said it advises the president on issues pertaining to people with intellectual disabilities. The committee was established in 1961 by President John Kennedy as the President's Panel on Mental Retardation.
Can you imagine a meeting between Clay Aiken and President George W. Bush. Just think about it for a second. "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken...Illiterate cowboy doofus George W. Bush...Okay, now, do you want your brain to explode? Are you sure? Okay, so, imagine that there's a meeting between Clay Aiken and President George W. Bush and they're discussing...what to do about Mental Retardation!

Okay, okay...calm down...Is your mind still alright? No popped blood vessels. That's a near-fatal dose of irony you've just been administered. You may feel a little weak for a while, but you're going to be alright.

A White House press release said President Bush intends to make the appointment. Officials did not say when.

Hmm...When might this notable press-saturated event go down? I wonder...

The singer's new album, "A Thousand Different Ways," is due out later this month.

Oh. Probably then.

Anyway, I'd say this is definitely a President who has his priorities straight. Awarding meaningless ceremonial positions involving those with mental disabilities to pop singers as a way of promoting their new album/conferring upon you some measure of likability by proxy. Karl Rove, you is a genius!

If the Prez is looking to give some of Aiken's chart-toppers a listen before the big meeting (I'm sure he's super-duper-excited), might I recommend a little track called "If I Was Invisible." Mr. President, there's a secret message in this song...just for you...Can you guess what it is?

As for His Clayness, I mean, what can I say...Bravo, man...I wouldn't have thought it possible to be any more of a tool to the Establishment than being a runner-up on American Idol. But, congrats, man. You found a way...

Unintelligent Designs

I actually really honestly believe with the Krazy Kristians for once. Really. I can't believe it either.

Americans who question evolution are testing a new tactic in Ohio, arguing that schools should be required to discuss all controversial issues from creation to stem cell research and global warming.

In what critics on Wednesday called a new attempt to bring religion into the classroom, the Ohio State Board of Education will consider a proposal next week that would oblige schools to teach critical thinking in all subjects.

I noticed this article on Digby's blog, where blogger Poputonian referred to it witheringly as "lovely." I have to say, though it's obvious that these idiotic theocrats want to inject their silly, decidedly unscientific interpretation of Da Bible into our nation's classrooms, I dont' think the idea itself is so horrible.

I've been arguing on this blog for years about teaching "media literacy" to kids in school. All I really mean is "critical thinking" skills, the ability to look at information in context as a way to interpret it or judge its merit. We're all inundated by information constantly, particularly corporate media. I recently got into a conversation/argument with an old college friend on this very issue. I argued that everything we do in America today, every action we take, interfaces in some way with a corporation or corporate product. I think I'm right.

He offered having a bowel movement as something he does, on his own, independantly of corporate interference. While it's a bit gross, I went ahead with the thought experiment - the food he's, erm, "passing" was more than likely mass produced. My friend's not a vegan who only eats organic pesticide-free vegetables or anything. He'd been drinking domestic beer and eating, like, hot dogs and burgers all day.

You see my point. But people get lazy about paying attention to this stuff on a day-to-day level. We assume we hear things through the grapevine because they are true or because they represent what other random people without agendas think. I get customers in the store all the time asking me what movies to trent. Sometimes, they'll ask me what I personally liked, but just as often, they will say: "What's supposed to be good?" It's this whole notion of buzz...But where does that buzz come from? Movie magazines! Studio advertising! Websites paid for exclusively via movie advertisements!

I think we'd have a much calmer, saner populace that made more informed, measured decisions if only people understood how 21st Century communication technology functions and how information can be disseminated to the masses. And why anyone would have reason to do so. All of these ridiculous memes are just floating around out there - from "there's no such thing as global warming" to "socialized medicine doesn't work" to "unions are all corrupt and evil" to Iran poses an immediate threat to our national security" to "racial profiling works" - and they have no relation to reality. People just hear them and think, yeah, that must be right!

So, anyway, back to this article. The Krazy Kristians want to teach critical thinking skills, which works out really really poorly for them in the long run. It would, if taught correctly, encourage kids to consider the sources of information. So, let's take, just as an example, the evolution "debate." Entire world scientific community on the one hand, Krazy Kristians on the other. Guess what, guys? You lose that argument!

I don't think they really want kids to learn critical thinking skills at school. Let's face it, they want them to believe in Noah's Ark and dinosaurs living alongside human beings. Critical thinking skills are the last thing you want to foster. More like "continual drinking" skills. That would be helpful.

John West, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, which promotes the teaching of intelligent design, said the proposed new policy was "good pedagogy and good for students" because it would teach them how to sift and analyze evidence."

Students don't like to be told that there are some questions they don't have the right to raise."

Is this guy insane? Unless every teacher promises to teach this "class" with a strong pro-Bible bias, how will these kids come up with the conclusion that there's no evolution? Kids are kind of dumb, but they're not that dumb.

I get it, I get it, I really do. This will in an underhanded way force teachers to mention Creationism. Because how can you bring up this point, that you should analyze where the message comes from, without mentioning that there is this entirely alternative message that comes from a different source. That's just...say it with me now...strong cirtical thinking skills and media literacy.

But I still think it's the wrong approach if you want to teach kids that evolution is wrong. You don't want to encourage them to actually weigh evidence, you want to teach them to ignore evidence when it suits them. That's why I think it would be better to force kids to write essays about topics they know are wrong. See if they can contruct arguments for obvious crap by leaving out all the contradictory sources.

Kind of like a reverse book report. Like, "Johnny, I want you to discuss how Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird argues strongly for harsher punishments on black men convicted of touching white women. Be sure to include examples from the book that reflect Atticus Finch's deep-seated racism and justify the community's prejudce towards Boo Radley. Try to bring in other, like-minded examples, like Uncle Tom's Cabin and the works of Richard Wright."

"In 1984, George Orwell subverts expectations by telling the story entirely from the perspective of the heroic Big Brother, nobly sniffing out opposition and quashing it so as not to disrupt the peaceful serenity of day-to-day urban life. Support this contention using examples and quotations from the text."

"Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States introduced a new kind of American historiography. Finally, the perspective of rich white men was taken into account, with their particular struggles highlighted for the first time. Describe Zinn's depiction of hapless, put-upon whites, paying particular attention to the role of reverse-racism in keeping the Cracker Man down."

Write a couple of those papers, then you're ready to defend Creationism against all comers!


Growing up as a child in the '80s, I had an extremely vague awareness of politics and current events. There was a show called "the news" and my parents would watch it from time to time, and typically very serious men were discussing something called "Iran Contra." I had no idea what this meant. I knew "contra" meant "against," so I figured Iran must be against something? But what? Us?

And if it just meant that Iran was against us, well, wasn't that kind of expected? I knew Libya was against us (from Back to the Future). I knew Russia was against us. And Iran was run by that insane-looking guy in the turban. Why not them, too?

Anyway, the point is, kids develop a kind of hazy understanding of what's going on in the world around them, but it's really up to parents or teachers or siblings or other adults to guide this understanding and form it into a worldview. I knew, for example, that Iran Contra was important, because it somehow meant that the President was a "bad guy," which is what my family clearly believed. Not a lot of big Gipper fans in my house growing up.

I found Reagan to be kind of a ridiculous character as a kid. This little old guy always going off about Star Wars and some Wall somewhere and claiming not to remember things. And when he was younger, he had co-starred in black and white movies with a chimp. But by the time his Vice President took over and I had started to think for myself, it was interesting to go back and take another look at those half-understood events of my childhood.

This is a roundabout way of getting to this fascinating conversation I had while tutoring yesterday. My student and I were going over SAT Essay prompts. These are always extremely vague because the emphasis is less about making strong arguments and more about having a well-written, organized impromptu essay. In fact, if a student can't come up with a really good example to back up his argument within the essay, we usually recommend that they just make stuff up.

Jonah Goldberg would do very well on the SAT essay section for this very reason. As lon gas you sound like you might know what you're talking about, you can get away with making any fool argument, regardless of the facts.

Anyway, this one prompt we went over asked the students (essentailly) this question:

Considering that others may model their own behavior on yours, is it important to always act in a proper manner?

So, anyway, the student then just has to determine whether or not they agree with the sentence, what a good thesis might be, and then a few examples that would really back up their thesis well. My student said he thought it was very important for adults to act as role models for the sake of children.

Okay...Sounds good so far. I asked him for an example.

"Well, President Clinton."


"He's supposed to be a leader and he's a role model for children, and he's showing everyone that adultery doesn't matter." (I'm paraphrasing here but that was the gist of it.)

Dear readers, this shocked me. I was shocked.

This guy is maybe 17 years old. He was a young child when the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal went down. So, clearly, someone has been filling his head with this stuff ever since then. His parents or teachers or someone has been railing about dirty old perverted Bill Clinton and the message has stuck.

Honestly, though, I can't believe that, out of all the people he could have chosen who poison the minds of our youth, he'd come up with Bill Clinton. Now, folks, I am not and was not a huge fan of Bill Clinton. He he seems like an intelligent, rational individual, so I think he was a better choice than Chimpface McRapture. But he was far too willing to sell out the people who supported him by moving to the right. I mean, NAFTA? Decimating the social safety net? Hillary's ridiculous heath care fiasco? Don't ask, don't tell? These are the acts of a Democratic liberal president?

But, I mean...the Oval Office blowjob? 10 years later, that's what still comes to this guy's mind when we talk about public disgraces and offensive behavior? And I don't want to get into this guy's life or anything, but his family is not wealthy. He goes to an LA public school, lives in a neighborhood of this city often associated with poverty and gang violence. He does not strike me as someone who hashad a lot of opportunities presented to him or has had a lot of help from anyone except his family. Yet this guy is smart. He's going to go to college. He's going to succeed.

It's amazing to me that he would be horrified and ashamed of the President getting some oral. I mean, if you want to hold a grudge against Bill Clinton (hey, maybe they're Republicans...), do it for the right reasons. "Bill Clinton was a bad role model for our youth because he pretended to care about the poor and then screwed them over when it was politically convenient." There you go. That's an essay I'd be proud to help out with.

But "Bill Clinton is a bad role model because he cheated on Hillary"? If every man who ever cheated on his wife ceased to be a good role model...well, there wouldn't very many good role models. There was a whole generation of kids that grew up worshipping John F. Kennedy...So, they're screwed.

It's like, Bill made some mistakes, he was weak, and now there's this massive American dogpile on top of him. Like that one sin revealed him as an inherently flawed character and now we can project all of our national shame and guilt on to this one figure.

Like that Disney-ABC 9/11 TV movie that's theoretically still coming on this weekend. Classic projection. "Bill Clinton let Osama bin Laden go!" Well, now, come on. There's only one President who really let Osama bin Laden go, and it wasn't Bill Clinton. Could his administration been smarter about finding terror cells? Possibly. But it wasn't Clinton's administration that ignored the "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the U.S." Presidential Daily Briefing. It wasn't Clinton who was already on the guy's trail in Afghanistan before turning around and blowing up Baghdad instead.

At least there's a specific political reason for this ABC docudrama. It's a big wet sloppy kiss to the party in power, in the hopes for more tax breaks and corporate handouts and deregulation strategies to come.

I can't understand why our citizenry continues to fret about a man cheating on his wife. I mean, it's unfortunate, but it happens. I can't believe it still makes Billy the least likable and respected man in America. I would have thought one name would spring to the mind of every American when asked..."should you watch how you behave in public"? Mel...Freakin'...Gibson...COME ON!

[UPDATE: It occurs to me that some of you may not know all the details about ABC's planned "Path to 9/11" movie, slated to run over two nights - September 10th and 11th. Part I deals with the Clinton Administration and its anti-terrorist activities (or lack thereof). Part II focuses on the Bush Administration.

I have not seen the film. But the word is that it distorts the truth about Clinton's pursuit of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, shifting the lion's share of the blame to his administration as opposed to Bush's. You can read more about it at any of the following excellent and CBI-approved links:

Think Progress: FBI Agent Who Consulted On Path to 9/11 Quit Halfway Through Because ‘They Were Making Things Up’

Editor & Publisher: Controversy Over 9/11 Film Hits Press

Here's the key quote from their story -

Mr. [Richard] Clarke, an on-air consultant to ABC News, said he was particularly shocked by a scene in which it seemed Clinton officials simply hung up the phone on an agent awaiting orders in the field. 'It's 180 degrees from what happened,' he said. 'So, yeah, I think you would have to describe that as deeply flawed.'"

ABC responded Tuesday with a statement saying that the miniseries was 'a dramatization, not a documentary, drawn from a variety of sources, including the 9/11 commission report, other published materials and from personal interviews.'"

Just like Godfrey Jones' popular show "Rock Bottom," ABC's miniseries should carry, as a public service, a brief spoken message: "Dramatization! May Not Have Happened!" ABC Docudrama Sparks 9/11 Spat

That complaint came to the fore at a National Press Club screening of the show late last month, when Richard Ben-Veniste — one of the 10 members of the independent Sept. 11 commission, whose final report producer Marc Platt credits with supplying much of the mini-series’ detail and narrative structure — rose to denounce the veracity of a key scene involving Clinton national security adviser Samuel R. Berger.

Berger, portrayed as a pasty-faced time-server by Kevin Dunn (Col. Hicks in “Godzilla”) freezes in dithering apprehension when a manly and virtuous CIA agent played by Donnie Wahlberg radios in from the wilds of Afghanistan to say that he and his noble band of local tribesmen have Osama bin Laden within sight and begs for the green light to terminate him with extreme prejudice. In the film, the line goes dead before Berger offers any reply.

The moment is clearly intended to encapsulate the notion of American inattentiveness to the terror threat in the 1990s — a point driven home when the camera pans back to show Berger surrounded by a supporting cast of fellow Clinton administration nervous Nellies, including Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

So when the post-screening question-and-answer session began, Ben-Veniste stood to say that the Berger-bashing scene didn’t square with the research he and the other commissioners conducted. “There was no incident like that in the film that we came across. I am disturbed by that aspect of it,” Ben-Veniste, a loyal Democrat, told the panel, which included both the producer and the commission’s GOP chairman, former Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey.

Also, please bear in mind that Scholastic is printing up study guides to be sent to high schools for free, encouraging teachers to use this "dramatization" as an educational tool.

You can tell this is one of those situations that Disney's PR Department didn't really anticipate. They're unprepared for this shitstorm and that's why it's going over so poorly. (Might there still be time to edit out the offensive scenes?) Some crisis management team is working around the clock trying to placate everybody, but this has just been a sloppy roll-out since day one. I mean, they sent copies to Rush Limbaugh for his examination, but not Bill Clinton and Madeline Albright? It's about them! Besides, Limbaugh only watches movies if they have "spank," "cumstain" or "Scary Movie" in the title...]

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

R.I.P. Crocodile Hunter

I have to say, I wasn't crazy about that name. "The Crocodile Hunter." He didn't "hunt" crocodiles. He followed them. There's a huge difference. In order to hunt, one must neccessarily follow an animal first. But it doesn't work the other way around. Just because you're following a crocodile with a video camera, possibly pointing out some of its significant features for educational purposes, that doesn't make you a hunter. But "The Crocodile Follower" isn't a particularly cool name. And "Crocodile Dundee" was already taken.

But anyway, a man is dead. A gregarious Australian man named Steve Irwin, whose wacky animal-harrassing antics delighted children and simpletons the world over.

I waited a few days to write a post about the passing of Croc King because I figured I would probably make some jokes at his expense. And one or two days just seemed a bit soon. (In fact, the Best Week Ever blog has a post up on this very topic...Are we allowed to laugh about the Crocodile Hunter yet? If not, when will be an appropriate time?)

I'm torn on this subject. On the one hand, this guy is dead and he had a family and I'm sure they're just crushed by this tragedy. Just because he made a living doing animal stunts and messing around with wildlife doesn't mean he deserved to die young.

However, I also understand that the best jokes are usually the ones we aren't supposed to make. Not much is surprising any more. We've crossed just about every boundary inumerable times at this point. Stand-up comics have covered every taboo. If you don't believe me, rent The Aristocrats. There's nothing so vulgar, disgusting or inappropriate as to be beneath Bob Saget. That guy's not just scraping the bottom of the barrell. He's tunnelled straight through barrell and deep within the Earth's molten core.

So what's left to shock people? Only a few things...The Holocaust. Still not really okay to laugh at that. Although Roberto Benigni figured out that if you just alternate between laughing at the Holocaust and being really maudlin about it, they'll give you a pity Oscar. Also, raping children. A few filmmakers have crossed this boundary, including Todd Solondz on multiple occasions, but it's usually more for satirical/social commentary purposes than out-and-out hilarity. I'd say this is next, though. Look for Will Ferrell to start making kiddie rape jokes any day now.

Finally, you get victims of recent tragedies. I think Ann Coulter made it official that we're allowed to make fun of 9/11 victims at this point. And it has been five years...That's only fair...Tsunami victims are probably the next group on the horizon as targets for comedy. I'd say that's any week now. Katrina...ooohhh, that's a bit soon.

And of course, this extends to tragic celebrity deaths. If a celebrity just dies of old age or something, fuck 'em, it's okay to start goofing ont hem immediately. But if it's tragic, like the Crocodile Hunter being viciously attacked by a massive, poisonous stingray, the conventional wisdom states that it's just not funny. (Also, the fact that he had a wife and two children makes it totally not funny.)

I mean, my joking about this subject on my little blog isn't going to make things any better or worse for the Irwin Family. Steve's dead, he can't really have his feelings hurt. I mean, life is harsh, people die every day, right? Why should this guy be so special just because he was on television and starred in a really, really, really, really bad movie? I mean, there's being sensitive, and then there's just being a buzzkill, keeping people from expressing themselves just because it's "not appropriate" or "insensitive."

I don't know. I probably should have waited to have a little fun with Steve Irwin for a few months at least. Instead, I waited a few days and then tried to get away with it by writing a meta-post about the act of making fun of dead celebrities. The only question is...did I just get away with it?

Your Potter Sucks Cocks in Hell!

With all the problems and crises in the world facing modern Catholics, it's nice to know their leadership in the Vatican has its priorities in order...

Pope Benedict XVI's chief exorcist, Rev. Gabriele Amorth, has called fictional wizard-in-training Harry Potter the "king of darkness, the devil."

I love that this guy is the Pope's chief exorcist. What, he oversees a staff of exorcists? Exactly how many demon-fighting priests does Joey Ratz have on the payroll? How many exorcists are working underneath him? And really, the bigger do you get to become a professional exorcist, and is it totally the most popular discipline for young priests just entering the service of the Lord?

I mean, is it like Medical School, where you choose a specialty before you graduate and then intern in that field? So the graduating class from Seminary selects from Helping the Poor, Bashing the Gheys, Anointing (that's a tricky can probably only clinch it if you did well in your Pre-Anointing classes back in school), Laundering the Various Robes and Habits, Molesting the Altar Boys...You know, all the possible different jobs for a priest. Doesn't everyone want Exorcism? Those guys are, like, the Rolling Stones of priests. The bad boys of the cloth.

This would be a phenomenal hour-long drama for, oh I don't know...let's say ABC television. Because that's clearly a network with its head on straight. "Casting Out," it could be called. Or "101 Vatican Place." Or even "Law and Order: Motion to Possess." They'd probably be all over that last one at the network. Nothing says demonic to me like branding!

I don't mean to pick on the Catholics in particular. All religions require a steadfast and sincerely held belief in stupid crap. That's what makes them religions. If they only discussed things that were true, someone in the Bush Administration would have forced them all to shut up by now.

I just have fun with the exorcism thing because (1) it's actually condoned and practiced by the actual Catholic Church and (2) it's mind-bogglingly stupid.

Just consider all of the things in which you have to believe in order to arrive at the conclusion that there's such a thing as Exorcism.

- There's a God. And not just some intangible "force" or "power" that may or may not exist and provide some kind of template for future life on Earth. But a personified being called God who has specific powers and abilities and who is willing to intervene in human affairs if we ask Him in the proper way.

- There's a Devil. Again, not some ethereal metaphorical or symbolic concept responsible in some way for human sin. But an actual being called The Devil who actually causes or foments evil in the world, and who may or may not carry a pitchfork and excel at playing the fiddle.

- This Devil is able to actually invade the bodies of human beings, or get one of his minions to do so if He is unavailable. (Say, if he has tickets to see Evanesence in concert that night). I can't figure out why he'd want to take over a person in the first place. I mean, He's the Devil. He has unlimited powers to cause evil already. Why pack himself into one of our weak, ineffecient primate bodies? Apparently just to mess with our heads. What an sick bastard!

- Objects like wooden crosses or water, if properly blessed, can actually obtain holy or otherwise spiritual properties.

- Priests have magical abilities, granted by God, allowing them to trigger the evacuation of a demon from a host body. Bear in mind, this would seem to violate everything Christians are supposed to believe about God and Man, but particularly Jesus, the theoretical lone combination of God and Man in a single entity.

I mean, there's spirituality and then there's just believing a lot of made-up shit because you once saw it in a movie. Granted, a really cool movie. But a movie all the same.

"Magic is always a turn to the devil," said the Roman Catholic priest, according to Britain's Daily Mail newspaper.

Amorth, who is also the president of the International Association of Exorcists, said the series contains many positive references to "the satanic art" of magic and makes no distinction between black and white magic.

Anyone else notice what I notice? That this guy is speaking about "magic" like it's real? How can "magic" represent a turn to the devil if no one in recorded history has ever actually done anything magical? Okay, fine, except David Blaine.

Maybe it's just a mistranslation. Maybe he said "Reading about magic is always a turn to the devil." Because that's what we're talking about here. A series of books about a boy who can do magic. Not actual magic. I mean...Does the Catholic Church now officially believe in magic? Does this mean David Copperfield will one day be recognized as a saint? For his final trick, he'll be appearing in a tortilla in Juarez.

I have not read all the Potter books (I stopped after #4, "The Gobbler of Firecrotch"), so maybe I'm just out of the loop...but I don't recall any references to Satan at all. Let alone the "satanic arts." Actually, J.K. Rowling pretty much leaves God out of the picture. The main characters aren't religious, but I see no reason to believe that no magic people have religion in the Potter universe. Perhaps they are divided just like Muggles on this issue.

Anyway, the view of magic takes its tradition more from classic secular British children's literature than the Bible. This magic isn't an affront to God, but a special connectedness to the secret, hidden world of enchantment that lies just behind the humdrum everyday reality of modern English life. More Tolkein, less Lewis.

I also can't help but think that these guys just aren't very well read. Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy is both better than the Harry Potter books and way more blasphemous. (They boil down on some levels to a metaphor/plea for atheism, or at the very least passionate humanism.)

Then again, I suppose reading voraciously and believing in mystical ceremonies that yank Captain Howdy out of little vomiting girls aren't really complimentary lifestyles. You go with one or the other. Amorth's picked his side. Unfortunately, he's not alone...

Amorth's criticisms of Potter weren't the first to emerge from the Catholic Church, which has never been a fan of the series.

Benedict voiced his disapproval of the character and series before he became Pope in April 2005.

Then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, he wrote a supportive letter in 2005 to the author of a book Harry Potter - Good or Evil? In it, sociologist Gabriele Kuby had argued that Harry Potter series distorts young people's ideas about the battle of good versus evil.

"It is good that you enlighten people about Harry Potter because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly," Ratzinger told Kuby in his letter.

Can you believe there's an entire book written by a grown man debating whether or not fucking Harry fucking Potter is "good" or "evil"? And then The Pope decided, "Hey, I'm a busy man, but that's a book I simply have to read." It's a fucking children's book, you idiots! Maybe next they'll give us their considered opinions about Barbie's reign over Fairytopia. Is she a benevolent despot or authoritarian imperialist?

Or what about Babar? Is it right for him to just be crowned King of the Elephants when he didn't even grow up as a member of the tribe? And let's not forget that Man in the Yellow Hat! Surely there must be some laws about simply bringing a wild, and particularly curious, animal into the big city and then allowing him to wander around the streets unsupervised. I know President Bush has been deeply concerned these past five years about the suspicious and possibly subversive activities of a certain "pet goat." Perhaps these guys should all get together in Dick Cheney's spare bunker and draw up some long-term proposals to really get these fictional characters under control. Remember, if we don't fight them in the Barnes & Noble kiddie section, we'll just end up fighting them in the self-improvement aisle.

In closing, let me just say this...For the sake of all you Catholics, I hope Der Popenfuhrer will finally agree to the recommendation of the Vatican II Council and declare a religious holiday on every recognized saint's un-birthday. We all have 364 un-birthdays a year! Think of the vacation time!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Glenbushy Glen Ross

Sir, can I have a moment of your time? My name is George W. Bush and I'd love to talk with you, very briefly, about our exciting new War on Iran. You know, no country is really complete without a War on Iran.

Thanks. This will just take up just a moment. I can see you're a busy man. Oh, hey, is that a fishing rod. I've done a bit of fishing myself. Crawford, Texas. I once caught a huge fish out there. Probably the greatest day of my presidency.

But anyway...Oh, store-bought coffee cake. Delicious. Thanks so much.

So here's my situation. I'm sitting in the Oval Office, Dick Cheney comes in, he tells me all about a War in Iran. Now, they want to take out some advertising, spread the word about a War in Iran, find potential voters, even get a Declaration of War from the Congress.

So, I say, hey...You want to start a War on Iran. You don't take out advertising. You don't bother finding any actual allies or gaining the support and confidence of the American people. You find a way to pass those savings right on to the voter.

"Well," Dick says, "how do you do that? How do you go about finding voters to support a War in Iran with magazines, without radio?" And I said, "With a deal this good, you go to a man, has voted for wars before, you pass the savings right along to him." You know what I mean? Rebate!

No, hey, I don't want to sell you on a War in Iran. Alright? I leave that to the pundits. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity. No, I'm coming here to make you an offer, alright? Think of what a War in Iran can do for your home, okay? Just think about it. More years of Republican authoritarian abuses of power...A guarantee of thousands upon thousands of casualties on both sides...The opportunity for massive corporations to do some more war profiteering. What do you say? Shall I draw up the paperwork right now?

Oh, I see, you 've got to go pick up the wife. We can take my car. Can't wait to meet the little lady...

Oh, you're going to your relatives afterwards? I'll tell you what. I'll go down to my computer, we'll pull up the files. We can get a war for each of them to vote for, the whole family. Syria, Jordan, North Korea, Venezuela, Canada...Look at me, I am in the act of giving a gift away.

Your name's not "Patel," is it?