Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hot Fuzz

The first feature collaboration between Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, Shaun of the Dead, was a huge hit among cult movie fans in this country, but I didn't really understand the appeal. It wasn't a bad film. I actually thought some of the horror elements worked pretty well, though the climax went on a bit and could have used some tightening up. But I didn't really find it all that funny and got kind of bored with its relentlessly arch, one-note take on the zombie genre.

Hot Fuzz is a considerable improvement. It's also about 10 minutes too long, a touch predictable and kind of overly-pleased with its own zany hijinks. But that's okay because it's hilarious, a pitch-perfect, very loving send-up of cop films.

Seriously. I think the last time I laughed this hard in a theater was early last year at that Borat screening.

The opening hour or so is very dry, very witty character-based comedy. Ass-kicking London cop Nick Angel (Pegg) is transferred to a remote outpost in the countryside because he's making the rest of his unit look bad.

As soon as he arrives in the sleepy village of Sandford, he can tell something's not right. Everyone's just generally creepy, from the overly-familiar chief (Jim Broadbent) to the reptilian grocery store owner (an amazing Timothy Dalton). When gruesome accidents befall several townspeople in quick succession, Angel and his dim-bulb new partner (Nick Frost, Pegg's co-star from Shaun) slowly begin to uncover a massive conspiracy.

Pegg and Wright's consistantly sharp dialogue and a bevy of terrific comic actors allow the film to kind of stretch out for a while, to really develop the town of Sandford and its citizenry. Perhaps it comes from their background in television (they co-produced a show called "Spaced," which I have not seen but which has a tremendous reputation), but they rather expertly develop an entire community within about 45 minutes of exposition-free entertainment. In fact, Hot Fuzz could easily serve as a pilot for a terrific Brit-com set in the Sandford police force.

Wright's also getting better as a director. He's seamlessly incorporated the films he's mocking into his own filmmaking style. Even during laid-back, fish-out-of-water comedy sequences, Wright lifts liberally from the Bay-Bruckheimer playbook. (Lots of quick cuts, loud showy scene transitions, outsized sound effects, extreme close ups, etc.)

The film comes in at a full 2 hours long, so perhaps Wright could have trimmed some of these silly early moments, but I wouldn't want to actually pick one to lose. The whole thing's pretty likable. And once it kicks into full-on action mode, all of these early establishing sequences pay off big-time.

The last 30 minutes or so of Hot Fuzz is an ideal combination of relentless action and winning comedy. (As opposed to, say, McBain in front of a brick wall for an hour and a half). I have no doubt that the genesis of this entire film was the simple concept of a Michael Bay movie set in a small English village and populated by children, the elderly and dim-witted grocery store stockboys. It's pretty brilliant, and executed near-perfectly. There's enough great stuff in the finale alone to justify the cost of a ticket.

As a movie nerd, I also have to note the impressive breadth of inside film references throughout Hot Fuzz. From the obvious nods to films like Lethal Weapon, Point Break and Michael Bay's Bad Boys films, there are little allusions to all sorts of '70s, '80s and '90s classics, from Straw Dogs to Chinatown to John Woo's Hong Kong films with Chow Yun-Fat. It's always fun to play "Spot the Reference," of course, but it also enhances the film's warm, affectionate attitude towards the genre. Wright doesn't come off like he's mocking American action films. He's saluting them and trying to infuse their bombast with a bit of English personality.

This is probably one of my favorite films of the year thus far. Like Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, it turns a creaky, aging genre on its ear and makes it somehow fresh again. Great stuff.

Fallujah Follies

The Fallujah city council chairman, a critic of al-Qaida who took the job after his three predecessors were assassinated, was killed on Saturday, the latest blow in a violent internal Sunni struggle for control of an insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad.

In the capital, U.S. and Iraqi officials defended plans to build a barrier around a Sunni enclave to protect its inhabitants from surrounding Shiite areas, while residents expressed concern it would isolate the community.

Basically, the U.S. Military decided to build a "protective" wall around a Sunni neighborhood that none of the residents want.

Some residents and local officials in the neighborhood complained that they had not been consulted in advance about the barrier.

"This will make the whole district a prison. This is collective punishment on the residents of Azamiyah," said Ahmed al-Dulaimi, a 41-year-old engineer who lives in the area. "They are going to punish all of us because of a few terrorists here and there."

The U.S. insists, however, that the wall is designed for the Sunnis own protection.

The military insisted its aim was only to protect the area and this was one of many measures being undertaken as part of a U.S.-Iraqi security plan to pacify the capital, which began on Feb. 14.

"The intent is not to divide the city along sectarian lines," said Brig. Gen. John F. Campbell, the deputy commander of American forces in Baghdad.

"The intent is to provide a more secured neighborhood for people who live in selected neighborhoods. Some of the people who I've talked to have had favorable comments about it, and they want us to build some of them faster."

Who to believe? Is the wall a punishment, or is the motivation purely about the local's security and protection?

As I see it, there are only three possibilities.

(1) The US military is lying. The wall is a futile attempt to contain an enemy that continually alludes them, like when Sylvester the Cat slams down an upside-down glass on top of Tweety bird, only to lift the glass and discover that his prey has magically escaped. In fact, if the military wants a cool name for this stage of the Surge, I'd eagerly recommend "Operation: Sufferin' Succotash!" The Iraqis are protesting the wall because they know it won't work and resent being penned like criminals.

(2) These Iraqis are so terrified of the American military, they oppose even attempts to secure their neighborhoods if Americans are involved. In other words, the Sunnis prefer the threat of insurgents and their explosives over our soldiers. NOT GOOD!

(3) This reporter is lying and the US military is telling the truth. Most Sunnis in the area support the wall but the liberal reporter focused on the one or two bad apple locals who automatically oppose anything that Americans suggest, without regard to their own personal safety, on principle.

Honestly, I can't decide between #1 and #2. They're both possible. I could definitely see how locals think this is just a stupid idea. I think it's kind of a stupid idea, though I admit I don't fully understand the specifics of the situation in a random neighborhood in Fallujah. However, I am also ready to believe that Iraqis fear an endless American occupation. They have every reason to! And walling off a certain segment of the population is never going to make you seem like a friendly, benevolent occupying empire. It reeks of "pogrom."

Again, I'm not saying that's definitely what the military is up to. Perhaps they're simply woefully incompetant!

Granted, #3 is a remote possibility. Normally, I would say that kind of comment is just knee-jerk right-wing partisanship, an insistence that Bush must be correct in all cases, even if it means the entire rest of the world is full of shit.

But this occured to me while I was reading the article, and I'm not exactly a pro-war reactionary. How many locals did the reporter speak with? He's basically presented us with two 180 opposite arguments. An Iraqi says, "We weren't consulted about this wall, and if we had been, we would have opposed it." An American says, "The Iraqis want the wall. I have spoken with them and they have expressed their support."

I still don't think the third possibility is very likely. But it's the obvious right-wing spin on this kind of story, and there's not enough concrete information in the article to thoroughly refute this line of reasoning.

It would seem to me that the article's not finished until the reporter resolves this discrepancy. Otherwise, I'm left having to theorize about the actual answers, which isn't really productive. No?

Look Out, Here Comes the Spider-Man

A Spider-Man Broadway musical? This is the worst idea since...well, okay, since every other Broadway musical.

Broadway musical based on the web-slinging superhero is in the works, Marvel Studios said Friday. It will be directed by Tony winner Julie Taymor with new music and lyrics by U2 frontman Bono and guitarist The Edge.

Wow...Just....just wow...

"We are certain this project will delight fans of Spider-Man and new audiences alike," said David Maisel, chairman of Marvel Studios, in a statement.

Yes, this is just the sort of news the fanboys have been waiting for. A Spider-Man musical on Broadway. Yippee. I'm sure the dateless 17 year old community will be overjoyed that, in a city far away, wealthy old people are going to fall asleep while a guy in skin-tight red and blue spandex swings around on a wire and sings overblown ballads to Mary Jane Watson full of bad arachnid puns. Their collective spider senses are, clearly, tingling.

And the thing is, it's not at all hard to delight fanboys, and they're still failing miserably. Release Sam Raimi from this franchise and let him get back to making Evil Dead movies. There. Done. Dork community overjoyed. I just saved Julie Taymor several years of difficult work.

"Marvel continues to look to every entertainment medium to support the enduring popularity of our Super Heroes, and we are thrilled with the talent on board," Maisel said. "The all-star creative team led by Julie Taymor, Bono and The Edge is second to none."

Yes, but no matter how significant the talent, you're talking about a Spider-Man MUSICAL. It could be the first collaboration between Sondheim and Beethoven, and it would most likely still suck balls.

Would it even be possible to come up with a less appealing venue for a Marvel comic hero than a splashy Broadway show with songs by Bono?

A Nick Jr. children's puppet show starring The Punisher?

CODOK-O's, the cereal that's designed only for killing?

Namor's zesty Sub-Marinade for chicken or fish?

Any other suggestions?

The Killer

Interesting article by Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post today about some of the violent films that may have influenced the Virginia Tech killer. Hunter mentions Oldboy based on the photos of Cho Seung-Hui brandishing a hammer, and the films of John Woo based on the two-gun thing, as major cultural references behind the massacre. Curiously, he doesn't mention Scorsese's Taxi Driver, despite the photos of Cho in classic Travis Bickle poses.

(I had a really Travis Bickle-y photo picked out that I was going to post here...but we don't really need to celebrate this guy...You all know what the pictures look like, and if you don't, it's spectacularly easy to find them via Google.)

The bleak Taxi Driver and its grim conclusion occured to me immediately upon seeing that photo, though I suppose it's possible 23 year-old Cho had never seen the 30+ year old film.

It's a well-written and provocative read, though I'm not 100% positive I concur with all of Hunter's analysis. He brings up Oldboy because of that one photo of Cho with the hammer, but doesn't really know what to make of the connection. I'm a bit perplexed as well. Really, there wouldn't be much for a psychopath, even one who had cast himself as a vigilante, to latch on to in Oldboy. All of Park Chan-Wook's films make violence look unappealing and ill-conceived. They do not celebrate murder, but lament its presence in our otherwise-sane lives.

John Woo's films essentially invented modern action style, making them the go-to reference points when discussing film violence.

The first gunfight in Woo's most famous movie, "The Killer," is an almost eerie anticipation of the Cho attack. Chow's professional assassin moves stealthily down a corridor, approaches a door, knocks. Once it is opened, he dispatches the opener, then steps in to confront seated human figures. He darts among them, a gun in each hand, blazing away as they rise and flee. They're playing cards, not sitting in a classroom, and the setting is a nightclub backroom, not a school. But the kinetics of the remarkable encounter are strikingly similar to what must have happened Monday.

That's really perceptive, I think. This connection hadn't even occured ot me, even though I've seen The Killer at least four or five times. (And even pretty recently!) So, agreed, Cho very well might have been playing the part of Jeffrey Chow in his mind (or any other action hero or the dude from "Grand Theft Auto" or any number of gun-toting pop culture protagonists).

See, I find that observation interesting, but that's pretty much where the discussion ends for me. "Hey, you know what's weird? That Virginia Tech asshole might have been a big movie fan who was imitating The Killer and Oldboy." That's about it.

Hunter grasps for relevance at the end of the piece, but it's a fairly futile effort.

These similarities between fact and fiction, of course, raise striking issues that all creative artists -- but especially those who deal in stories that offer visceral violence as part of their pleasure principle -- must deal with. Woo built engines of excitement and stimulation that pleased millions and made him a wealthy, internationally known man. Yet now, all these years later, a young man might have used them as the vessel of his rage and alienation, taken the icon of the movie gun and moved from the intimacy of the DVD player and the arena of his imagination to the public arena, and there reenacted the ritual. This time the carnage is for real.

Hmm...I'm not sure what Hunter means by "deal with." How should John Woo "deal with" the unpleasant but plausible possibility that some kill-crazy maniac will find some measure of inspiration in his violent cop thrillers? Stop making action thrillers? Make all murderous characters villains? Donate a portion of his proceeds to charity?

I'm not trying to make fun. There was a time when I would have rejected such an argument outright. Watching a violent movie or playing a violent video game cannot make a person act violently. I still believe, essentially, that this is true. Millions of people around the world regularly enjoy some extremely violent entertainment, and only a small tiny fraction of them ever imitate any of the gruesome acts depicted on screen. Hostel had a huge opening weekend, and you don't often hear about power drill attacks on bound teens.

But lately...I am dismayed with Americans. I am ready to believe some fairly negative things about my countrymen these days, including that their wits may have been dulled by decades of brain-melting corporate propaganda and dreary, soul-sucking routine. But Hunter doesn't bother to actually build a case for or against violent entertainment. He just kind of insinuates that John Woo bears some responsibility in this whole affair and then rushes out the side exit.

I guess I'm just tired of reading hand-wringing articles about violence in media that don't bother to actually suggest any course of action or even lay out a coherent, arguable position. If Hunter thinks we should genuinely change the way we approach entertainment, he should say so, and not dance around the issue with phrasing like "raise striking issues that all creative artists must deal with."

The same cannot be said of Mark Ames on AlterNet, who very clearly lays out his case that the Virginia Tech shooting, along with the Columbine shooting and the majority of office killing sprees was really a rebellion against oppressive systems of control.

It isn't the schoolyard shooters who need to be profiled -- they can't be. It is the schools that need to be profiled.

A list should be drawn up of the characteristics and warning signs of a school ripe for massacre:
complaints about bullying go unpunished by an administration that supports the cruel social structure; antiseptic corridors and overhead fluorescent lights reminiscent of mid-sized city airport; rampant moral hypocrisy that promotes the most two-faced, mean, and shallow students to the top of the pecking order; and maximally stressed parents who push their kids to achieve higher and higher scores.

Ames, too, draws cinematic connections, but it's not the operatic violence of Park or Woo. Instead, he references the sardonic hijinks of Office Space and the ironic nihilism of Fight Club. Was Cho Seung-Hui really driven over the edge by a culture obsessed with superficiality and consumerism? Was his bloody rampage really a piece of shocking, depraved performance art, pointing out the uncomfortable truths about our worthless, shallow civilization that we were all just afraid to notice before?

If you pull back and rethink how you view these rampage massacres -- if you can accept that the schools and offices are what provoke these massacres, just as poverty and racism create their own violent crimes, or slavery created slave violence and rebellions, then you have to accept that on some level the school and office shootings are logical outcomes and perhaps even justified responses to an intolerable condition that we can't yet put our fingers on.

Now, I wasn't crazy about high school either, but to call the Virginia Tech tragedy a justified response to a university is going pretty goddamn far. I mean, you can certainly make the case that public high schools are conformity factories that deserve to be rebelled against. But Cho was a senior in college. No one was forcing him to stay at school if it was such an intolerable condition. I'm an overweight nerd who went to UCLA, which is a pretty shameful jockocracy in its own right, but I wasn't exactly filled with the overwhelming urge to kill.

Just as some were too quick to appropriate this horrific event into some partisan "narrative" about gun control or Muslim fundamentalism or whatever, Ames is a bit too quick to overtly take Cho's side. "Hey, working really sucks. Sometimes the only answer is to shoot up the place."

But I definitely appreciate his candor. Here's a guy with an opinion who's not afraid to sling it around and draw some criticism. Admirable. Stephen Hunter's essay, though thought-provoking, comes off timid and wishy-washy in comparison.

"Meet the Press for Idiots"

I missed this Conan O'Brien bit on TV and just caught it on YouTube just now. Holy shit, this is brilliant.

Watch the whole thing. Initially, it seems like it's only going to be mildly amusing, but the punchline RULES.

And while we're at's the greatest Conan channel-surfing bit of all time.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Great Moments in Conservative Humor

We're back for Issue #2 of our ongoing series, Great Moments in Conservative Humor.

This time, we've got a deliciously humiliating "editorial" by conservative "comedian" Julia Gorin. If Gorin's name is familiar, you're either a careful reader of this blog or an idiot with a terrible sense of humor. I'm hoping for the former. She was mentioned by Doug Giles in the previous Great Moments in Conservative Humor column as one of the rare, shining lights on the Right-Wing Comedy scene.


Gorin's Wall Street Journal editorial is entiteld "Fetal Attraction." Quadruple yikes.

I've been married seven years, and people often ask me, "Why don't you have kids? Don't you like kids?"

I'll be honest. I don't particularly like kids.

Hey, I feel the same way! Maybe this article won't be so bad after all...

But I do have a thing for fetuses--and embryos.

Oh, no, wait, never mind. Worst article ever. Got it.

Friends are puzzled as to why, considering my indifference to children, I get all stirred up about abortion.

Are these friends the same people who always ask her why she doesn't have any children? She's got some fucking obnoxious, nosy friends.

After all, they say, fetuses and embryos aren't "children" or even "babies."

Bingo. The thing is, whatever these creatures are, they've got kids beat by a mile.

See, Gorin runs into trouble early because the entire comic premise of her article makes no fucking sense. I read through it twice and I still don't really get what she's saying.

She starts off doing this sassy, nonplussed "I'm a woman but I hate kids" thing, but then starts talking about the magic of being pregnant and how only a lazy worthless bitch would rather get an abortion than carry an unwanted fetus for nine months. It's really confusing and not at all funny. Grim, really. And strange. And creepy. Oh, and not funny.

A fetus or embryo has to go to the parties I want to go to and see the movies I want to see. If I were to take my fetus to a midnight showing of a horror movie, no one would look at me as if I'm a lunatic the way people do at parents who bring their infants and toddlers. (Is it their fault they couldn't find a sitter?)

That's another amazing thing about embryos: no babysitting required. You can party and travel for weeks on end. In fact, these days if you don't have time for an embryo, you can just freeze it. Try that with a kid--you'll go to prison.

W the fucking F? Seriously...Are these jokes? The amazing thing about embryos is that you can party and travel for weeks on end? What does that mean? Was this editorial ghostwritten by the late Wesley Willis? Check out this paragraph:

Not to mention that with these embryo and fetus critters, you don't have to worry about what they're watching on TV, or whom they're meeting on the Internet and how protective a parent you should be. Not only are fetuses and embryos a lot cheaper than kids, but you don't have to deal with strapping on any of those baby sacks to carry them around, since they're already attached--and you don't have to fuss with a child safety seat before driving anywhere.

I may be wrong, but didn't she steal this routine from Milton Berle? It has the lived-in feel of an old classic.

I don't know much about professional comedy, but I do know this - if you find yourself using the phrase "embryo and fetus critters," you should consider leaving show business for a career that better suits your talents, such as pest control or some kind of position in professional awards-show seat-filling. Start at the bottom - the Cable ACE Awards, I'd presume - and work your way up.

A fetus has to eat what you want to eat, and can't whine about being at Le Cirque instead of Chuck E. Cheese's. You can eat as much as you want, and the embryo isn't going to say, "Mommy, you're fat," the way a kid will as soon as it can talk (despite being the culprit behind your changing body). That alone makes an embryo or fetus at least as worthy of protection as a child.

"Any signs of an actual joke and/or coherent sentence?"

"Nothing yet, sir."

"As you were."

There's another reason I have a soft spot for the preborn: Children who have been born have plenty of defenders, advocates, protective laws and folks who love kids; they're universally recognized as human beings and get all the attendant protections, including a mother's self-restraint even at the most trying times. Their right to life isn't in dispute.

Wow...She really does hate children. I mean, I make a lot of jokes around here about my hatred of children, and it's 100% true that I have trouble relating to them and don't enjoy being around them a great deal. But...and this is a HUGE BUT - I don't actively hope for harm to come to any children. In fact, in the abstract, I tend to have a tolerant, even affectionate attitude towards children, so long as they're not around me. I think giving children access to the best medical care and education, for example, is a good idea.

Julia actually seems to loathe children. The very idea of professional child advocates makes her upset. It's such bullshit that there are all these protective laws for children. Back into the mines with the lot of 'em, I say.

The converse of this would be that Julia is just joking, that she doesn't really dislike children but thought (hoped, really) it will make for a funny column. I'm not sure which possibility is more pathetic...

But these other, utterly defenseless critters...

There's that fucking word again. Jules, this ain't fucking "Petticoat Junction." What's with the critters thing? To me, it speaks volumes about your lack of comfort in your own position. You know it's stupid to call an embryo a "baby" or a "child" so you fall back on this "critter" invention as some kind of middle ground. A human, but not really, but a person.

But these other, utterly defenseless critters are under daily threat of slaughter. The way I see it, the "mass of cells" has a human soul in there. (Of course, once it's out, then I don't know what it is aside from a pain in the butt that you'd better keep out of my way.)

Again, Julia's probably trying to make with the funny here, but she winds up summarizing the position of most pro-lifers succinctly. When it's a hypothetical pre-born baby, it's a beautiful magical gift from God that must be protected even if it means pumping a live, human doctor full of lead or tormenting young girls who aren't ready to be mothers.

But once it's born, get that stupid fuck out of the way. Ship it off to war or to prison. Deport it. Deprive it health care and adequate social services. Who cares? It's just a stupid human now, not a beautiful magical Fetal pre-born miracle baby. It's a drain on the taxpayers and a burden.

That's not funny because it's too fucking sick. It just hurts my brain to consider things from that perspective. Be like chuckling at Richard McBeef.

Feminists heralded the proliferation of abortion as a tool by which to "empower" women and give them control over their lives and destinies. But power is being pregnant. Because it gives you control over other people's lives. Embryos and fetuses get you treated like royalty. Not only do people cede the right of way to you; not only do people in line at the ladies' room let you get in front of them; but if the man who impregnated you sticks around for just a few more months, you get to lie on the couch all day and just point to things, and they magically come to you. You just have to say, "Honey, I think I'm craving a ---," and the chocolate-banana-peanut-butter milkshake appears in your hand. What can be more powerful?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Psycho Killer, Qu'est Que C'est

Why would anyone attempt to score cheap political points off of a senseless mass killing?

This sicko, Cho Seung-Hui, he did something that is by its very nature inexplicable. If we could thoroughly comprehend the random killing of 32 strangers, if this guy's nonsensical ramblings and bloodlust were perfectly understandable to us sane people, then we would be a very different species. And we probably wouldn't have survived together for more than a couple of weeks. Instead of building a civilization together, our ancestors would have been locked in an endless carnage loop, like a Robert Rodriguez movie starring an all Cro-Magnon cast.

Some of us, very few when you get right down to it, are just deeply fucked up. Sideways. Empty. And there's no way to know whether you have a garden-variety harmless lunatic or a real raving psycho on your hands until they start discharging handguns on campus. This is a scary truth, and though it's the only rational conclusion you can make when these sorts of things (or Columbine...or that Amish school thing...) happen, for some, it's all too much uncertainty to handle. They have to retreat into comfortable frameworks and easy answers.

Dr. Phil, for example, wants to blame video games. (Thanks to Oliver Willis for this link.)

“The problem is we are programming these people as a society. You cannot tell me - common sense tells you - that if these people are playing video games where they’re on a mass killing spree in a video game, it’s glamorized on the big screen, it’s become part of the fiber of our society. You take that and mix it with a psychopath, a sociopath, or someone suffering from mental illness, add in a dose of rage, the suggestability is just too high. And we’re going to have to start dealing with that. We’re going to have to start addressing those issues and recognizing that the mass murderers of tomorrow are the children of today that are being programmed with this massive violence overdose.”

Curse you, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. First, I can't manage to unlock the playable Silver Surfer or Nick Fury characters, and now it turns out that you caused The Virginia Tech Massacre! I am totally sending Joe Quesada an angry e-mail.

Anyway, you see my point. We don't even know if Cho Seung-Hui even liked video games. Maybe he preferred Magic: The Gathering. Or ripping the heads off small animals, like another well-known sociopath. Dr. Phil just has a prior agenda, selling bullshit to suburban moms by playing to their prejudices against video games, rap music and Hollywood movies, and he's now trying to incorporate 32 deaths into his overall message.

Think about that...He's using the Virginia Tech shooting as branding. For him, it's a marketing strategy. What a charming, folksy guy he is!

But that's not the dumbest thing I've read today on the blogosphere. Not by a long-shot.

It's a three-way run-off for Stupidest Reaction to the Virginia Tech Massacre story and McGraw ain't even in the running.

Just a quick proviso before we get to the loopiness...All three of the individuals to whom I'm about to link are certifiably insane. Again, I'd stress that we're talking about degrees of insanity here. Pam Oshrey of Atlas Shrugs is crazy, but crazy in a "make nonsensical rants on your video blog" kind of way. She's hurting our national discourse, but probably not actual human beings (I hope.) Anyway, I'm just saying...I know these people are crazy and not worth engaging. I'm just shocked at how low our national dialogue sinks on occasion and felt that I'd share.

On to the Nutsanity!

In a series of URGENT BREAKING NEWS-style posts at her blog, Pam alerts us that Cho Seung-Hui had the phrase "Ismail Ax" written on his arm in red ink when his body was found.

What could this cryptic phrase mean?

THE KILLER'S NOTE WAS SIGNED ISMAIL AX (FOX news). It would certainly explain the delay in releasing is name. In the note he was railing against "debauchery" and "rich kids."

The Father of the Prophets

He said to the statues, joking; then with his ax he destroyed all the statues except one, ... Ibrahim and Ismail kept on calling people to worship Allah.

Notice how Pam immediately jumps to the conclusion that Ismail Ax must have something to do with Allah, even though this guy was Korean and there is no previous indication that he had any Muslim ties or sympathies? That's called "having a bullshit agenda and hoping that news of some horrible tragedy will fit in with your previously-formed beliefs." This makes you an "opportunist" or, in slightly more blunt terms, "a scumbag."

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, this is precisely the charge Pam and her fellow shrill Right-wing weirdos are always lobbing at us anti-war types. We secretly hate the troops and desperately hope for the United States to fail so that we can gloat about how right we are.

Of course, when tragedies befall American troops in the field or Iraqi civilians, there is rarely if ever actual gloating and excited enthusiasm on the homefront. But when a random asshole kills a bunch of people in a big, public place? HEY, WAIT, MAYBE IT'S A MOOSLIM AND OUR ANXIETY AND WARMONGERING WILL FINALLY BE REDEEMED! And then, even when it doesn't pan out, they still cling to the ever-diminishing hope that maybe...just maybe...the bad guy will turn out to be a Muslim terrorist after all.

But if you think Pam's reaction was gross and uncalled-for, you obviously haven't met Debbie Schlussel, or as the Sadly No crew have taken to calling her, the CostCo Coulter. (Totally awesome, guys...Totally awesome.) This lady is straight-up depraved.

Here's her reaction to the Pam "Ismail Ax" revelation:

Hmmm . . . Ismail--the Arabic name for Ishmael--considered the father of all Arabs and a very important figure in Islam.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence, right? Doesn't mean anything. Right.

Maybe "Ismail Ax" is the name of a friend of his. Or maybe he wanted to remind himself to buy an Ax for his friend Ismail for next Ramadan. Or I'm sure we'll hear some other similarly absurd "explanation." We'll see.

You've got to love complete, ignorant conjecture followed by absolute certainty. "Hey, Ismail...Kind of sounds like Ishmael...Wonder if they're related. Oh, and anyone who says they're not must be, by definition, full of donkey shit!"

In this post, she compares a heroic Jew who gave his life at VTU protecting his students with a Palestinian student who videotaped the tragedy. What do they have in common? Well, the Jew was clearly behaving with bravery and the Palestinian was more of a bystander. Therefore, Jews are better than Palestinians, obviously!

Debbie's actually cleared up some posts she made early on, after reports had surfaced that only an "Asian male" was responsible for the killings. At the time, Debbie went on and on about how he was probably a "Paki," and therefore a Muslim, and therefore the killings were a form of jihad, and therefore all the dumb shit she's said for the past five years that's totally wrong would magically be changed to totally correct. But, of course, the guy was South Korean, so she's taken out some of the more obviously racist implications. There's still enough there to provide her with potentially years of embarassment.

(By the by, I've always understood actually going back and deleting old inaccuracies as a big-time blogger no-no. Aren't we supposed to, in the interest of intellectual honesty, strike through corrected mistakes, or at least print clear Updates that explain the changes and why they were needed? Not sure how long this will last, but you can still see both versions of her post thanks to the magic of Printer-Friendly Versions. Here's the offensive original headline and the modified second draft.)

In this post, she takes offense to the Washington Post's photo depicting female mourners in headscarves. Because it humanizes possible Muslims, I guess...

Anyway, I would say that Debbie's incredibly crass hate-speech is the easy winner...were it not for a staggering, jaw-dropping bit of buffoonery from John Derbyshire at the National Review Online. I know I say this all the time...but this is one of the most asinine things I have read on the Internet...EVER! Here's The Derb's post in its entirety:

As NRO's designated chickenhawk, let me be the one to ask: Where was the spirit of self-defense here? Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn't anyone rush the guy? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake—one of them reportedly a .22.

At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands. Better yet, just jump him. Handguns aren't very accurate, even at close range. I shoot mine all the time at the range, and I still can't hit squat. I doubt this guy was any better than I am. And even if hit, a .22 needs to find something important to do real damage—your chances aren't bad.

Yes, yes, I know it's easy to say these things: but didn't the heroes of Flight 93 teach us anything? As the cliche goes—and like most cliches. It's true—none of us knows what he'd do in a dire situation like that. I hope, however, that if I thought I was going to die anyway, I'd at least take a run at the guy.

Take a run at the guy? The kill-crazy maniac who's running around campus shooting people? First of all, on what basis in Derbyshire guessing the killer's aim matches his own? The guy had to have at least reasonable aim...He killed 32 people with two handguns.

But beyond that, is it even remotely reasonable to expect people, in the midst of that kind of chaotic horror, to morph into John fucking McClane and take the guy out? That's how movies work, not life. Maybe Derbyshire thinks himself capable of making those kind of split-second grim calculations.

"Let's see. There's a 67% chance that I'll die if I do nothing, but only a 74% chance that I'll die if I lunge for the gun, but that would give me a 13% chance of earning the key to the city from the Mayor...So if I leap into a strong head-wind going at a 35-degree angle coming from the Southeast, I should be able to..."

I mean, it's happening fast and you don't know exactly what's going on and there's a guy shooting and people yelling and blood...You just want to get the hell out of there. No one's getting ready to go all Chuck Norris on the guy. If fucking Chuck Norris had been lecturing at Virginia Tech that day ("Greasy Ignorant Fuckstains 214B: Case Studies and Field Work"), he would have hid behind a shrub and wet his pants. Movie violence is fun, but real world violence is scary.

Maybe I'd take Derbyshire's protestations of bravery under fire if he didn't look like such a weenie.

It's like if Brian Posehn were a Holocaust survivor or something. Gross...

Anyway, indulging in a masturbatory, self-aggrandizing comic book vigilante fantasy is clearly the dumbest possible reaction to the Virginia Tech shooting case. So I guess John Derbyshire wins the prize...

THE 2007 BRAFFY AWARD! You bastards thought I'd forgotten, didn't you! Ha ha ha!