Saturday, March 11, 2006

Get to know your bloggers

John of AmericaBlog and Redd of firedoglake, two blogs frequently quoted here, at a gathering in San Francisco.

Are you going to Scarborough fair?

Ah, Joe Scarborough. He's a good little Republican in the bottom of his black little heart, but for a couple of years now he's been on the short (and getting shorter every day) list of right-wing louts I could learn to like.

Here he is joining in the dogpile on the president.

A couple of funny, funny cartoons

Paging Dr. Freud...paging Dr. Sigmund Freud

So it seems the Today Show found another person willing to defend the ports deal. It was George Bush's 19-year-old nephew. Now, putting aside for the moment the question of, as Joe put it in AmericaBlog:

I don't know what is more pathetic...that the Today Show thought this was news...or that the only person they could find to defend Bush on the port deal was the 19 year old nephew of the Prez.

Putting that aside for a moment. Dig the name one of the president's brothers actually inflicted on his kid:

"Pierce Bush."


Friday, March 10, 2006

Obviously this quiz doesn't know how I feel about anime

Your beauty hides in your intellingence.

Nothing wrong with being a little smarter and quick

witted than the others around you. Let's

face it, smart and pretty aren't common in

the same catagory these days, so that makes

you hard to find. You are a very rare person

indeed and that is what makes you beautiful.

You know the world more than most and with

that you can tell them or even show them what

it is like. Keep up the good work!

Where is Your Beauty Hidden? (Beautiful Pictures, Icons & Detailed Results)
brought to you by Quizilla

Makes me want to listen to Rauhofer’s radio edit of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” followed by Depeche Mode's "World In My Eyes."

For your consideration

The greatest lead paragraph to a movie review ever, or, "Roger Ebert makes me laugh with joy," number 325 in a series.

During the course of "Failure to Launch," characters are bitten by a chipmunk, a dolphin, a lizard and a mockingbird. I am thinking my hardest why this is considered funny, and I confess defeat. Would the movie be twice as funny if the characters had also been bitten by a Chihuahua, a naked mole rat and a donkey? I was bitten by a donkey once. It was during a visit to Stanley Kubrick's farm, outside London. I was the guest of the gracious Christiane Kubrick, who took me on a stroll and showed me the field where she cares for playground donkeys after their retirement. I rested my hand on the fence, and a donkey bit me. "Stop that!" I said, and the donkey did. If I had lost a finger, it would have been a great consolation to explain that it had been bitten off by one of Mrs. Stanley Kubrick's retired donkeys.

ETA: Also at Ebert's site, editor Jim Emerson has a few theories about why "Crash" won over "Brokeback Mountain" for the Best Picture Academy Award. I haven't seen either yet, so I have no opinion, but it seems to be something of a cause celebre in the film and gay communities.

Which, as Emerson points out, are not the same thing as much as some might think.
all the inane gab about how homosexuality is "no big deal" in Hollywood is just ludicrous. (Not Ludacris, ludicrous.) It may be generally true on an inter-personal level, but it were true about the business, why are so many major performers still closeted to the moviegoing public?

Because they're afraid it will hurt them in the industry, that it will cost them work and big bucks. That's why. The concern is not so much that fans will not accept them, but that the decision-makers who have hiring approval will consider the performer's sexuality as yet another "risk factor" for a given a production.

yes, West Hollywood is indeed a gay mecca. But that has nothing to do with the business end of Hollywood -- which is still a small, snoopy company town where half of the incessant gossip that keeps people awake nights (whether spreading it or fretting over it) is about who's really gay and who's really bi.

This reminds me of a few things. One is a recent interview with Amber Benson, the talented and lovely actress who played Willow's girlfriend on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", in which she talks about "having doors closed in my face because of it."

Another is to kind of reassure me once again that yeah, maybe the book is the way to go-because what are the odds I'm going to find actresses who look like/can play/and are willing to play Keitha & Annabel?

Also, it makes me finally understand why the regular cast of "The L Word" contains exactly one (1) openly gay actress. Some are known to be straight, some are kind of coy, but they all want to have a career that goes beyond "Lesbos Place."*

*Which is my new name for the series that I think I coined. It's meant to be a comment on the fact that I realized it's just "Melrose Place" with more lesbians and softcore sex, you see. This is the kind of wit that once led a friend of mine to dub me "An American Oscar Wilde, only heterosexual."


On "The Daily Show" last night the guest was a man named Bruce Bartlett, the author of "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy." Bartlett is a conservative man who is evidently listened to in many conservative circles, and he's the latest among many such to realize that oh...Bush just isn't very good at his job.

I thought he came off rather well, actually, the kind of conservative you could see sitting down and talking to, with a decent sense of humor about himself. Jon Stewart was a gracious host, as he always is, and when he got off one line somewhat at Bartlett's expense-

Bartlett: Conservatives like to believe they make the trains run on time.

Stewart: So you're saying their model is Mussolini?

-Bartlett had the grace to see the humor in his ill-chosen remark.

(Quotes are approximate)

I was impressed enough to consider ordering his book from the library. Then this afternoon I find, via TGW, reminders of things you'd think I wouldn't have forgotten.

Paul Krugman:

Bruce Bartlett, the author of "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy," is an angry man. At a recent book forum at the Cato Institute, he declared that the Bush administration is "unconscionable," "irresponsible," "vindictive" and "inept."

It's no wonder, then, that one commentator wrote of Mr. Bartlett that "if he were a cartoon character, he would probably look like Donald Duck during one of his famous tirades, with steam pouring out of his ears."

Oh, wait. That's not what somebody wrote about Mr. Bartlett. It's what Mr. Bartlett wrote about me in September 2003, when I was saying pretty much what he's saying now.

I forgot, man. I forgot. That's how insidious they are...and that's why they're going to win again. Of course, if the Democrats had listened to "the grassroots base" back then, they'd be in a lot better position than they are now.

But they didn't then, because they thought it was more important to suck up to someone that virtually the entire country now knows to be an incompetent. And they won't now, because they think it makes their balls look smaller (and I'm including Hillary) to say "You were right, and I was wrong."

Does anybody else sometimes feel like the whole world is going to hell and we're just standing by with marshmallows on our sticks?

Something to read

There's a fella named Joseph DuRocher. He
was for 20 years the elected Public Defender of Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit, covering Orange and Osceola counties. Since retirement, he’s been writing and teaching law at the University of Central Florida and the Barry University School of Law. He was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy in the 1960s, serving as a Naval Aviator in the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

Last Monday, Mr. DuRocher returned his Lieutenant’s shoulder bars and Navy wings along with an excellent letter explaining why to President Bush. You should read it; it's strong stuff, and very well written.

Here's a little taste of it; the first paragraph:
As a young man I was honored to serve our nation as a commissioned officer and helicopter pilot in the U. S. Navy. Before me in WWII, my father defended the country spending two years in the Pacific aboard the U.S.S. Hornet (CV-14). We were patriots sworn “to protect and defend”. Today I conclude that you have dishonored our service and the Constitution and principles of our oath. My dad was buried with full military honors so I cannot act for him. But for myself, I return enclosed the symbols of my years of service: the shoulder boards of my rank and my Naval Aviator’s wings.

The ugliest design for cartoon characters you've ever seen in your life

That's what I thought when I saw this picture yesterday, anyway. I thought about posting here to that effect but, in a moment of weakness, decided to let it slide. For what it's worth, Cartoon Brew's Amid-a greater student of the art of animation than I am; I'm just a relatively informed fan-would seem to agree with me.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

What does a yellow light mean?

NPR's Fresh Air has an interesting interview with James Burrows, "the dean of sitcom directing." Burrows has directed hundreds of episodes of sitcoms including Taxi, Cheers (which he also co-created), Night Court, Frasier, Friends and Will and Grace. For many of them he directed the pilot and helped to set the tone of an entire series.

Audio clips from a few of them are included in the show, including what is, for my money, one of the funniest scenes ever done on television. It's the Taxi scene referenced in my headline above and if you know it, you're smiling already.

How good is his sense of what's going to work? This story isn't in the interview, but I remember reading that when Friends was just staring up, Burrows took the cast on a trip to Vegas and told them to enjoy the last time they were going to be unrecognizable for a long, long time.

There's one story that is in the interview and that I hadn't heard. Burrows has directed most if not all of the episodes of Will & Grace. And in early episodes, he cleverly used misdirection to suggest to viewers who were resistant to Will's homosexuality that he might after all be "cured."

And by the time they realized that was never going to happen, they were already hooked on the show because it was so funny (ah, the glory years of those first couple of seasons). Clever, clever, Mr. Burrows.

Of course, I have to love his repeated insistence that the success or failure of any of his episodes starts on the page and his respect for radio as a smart, funny medium. He comes by it honestly; Burrows' father Abe was a radio writer and playwright who wrote the books for Guys & Dolls and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.

Actually, forget what I was saying about Uma Thurman being a "poor dear"

The woman who really deserves our sympathy is former Reagan speechwriter (and recurrent fawner over his legacy) Peggy Noonan. You see, it seems that the dainty Miss Noonan's dignity was violated recently by an experinece being searched at an airport.

I'll let Miss Noonan's words, and what seems to me their undoubted subtext, speak for themselves.
It was like a 1950s women's prison movie. I got to be the girl from the streets who made a big mistake; she was the guard doing intake. "Name's Veronica, but they call me Ron. Want a smoke?" Beeps and bops, her pointer and middle fingers patting for explosives under the back of my brassiere; the wand on and over my body, more beeps, more pats. The she walked wordlessly away. I looked around, slowly put down my arms, rearranged my body. For a moment I thought I might plaintively call out, "No kiss goodbye? No, 'I'll call'?" But they might not have been amused. And actually I wasn't either.

Amused? No. But you couldn't wait to get to your hotel room to see if they had Showtime, so you could watch The L Word in private, could you, Peggy?

Being (publically) a lady of dignity, Miss Noonan can only react with Molly Ringwald-style slack-jawed mortification to such things that offend her sense of propriety. (At least without the presence of her big strong Mr. President Man to shield her.) Things like...
I experience it when I see blaring television ads for birth-control devices, feminine-hygiene products, erectile-dysfunction medicines. I experience it when I'm almost strip-searched at airports. I experience it when I listen to popular music, if that's what we call it. I experience it when political figures are asked the most intimate questions about their families and pressed for personal views on sexual questions that someone somewhere decided have to be Topic A on the national agenda in America right now.

I declare, these Cotillions are so drainin'. Because you know, those things just aren't talked about in polite society (do try not to spill your tea, dear). And yes, Peggy, if music is popular, we in the reality-based community do indeed call it popular music, whether we like it or not. I don't like Madonna's latest stuff (that I have heard) very much, but it's selling.

And as The Revealer (from which blog I learnt about Noonan's near-mute, defenseless suffering because she is merely a woman after all) reminds us,
disregard the seeming contradiction of a conservative columnist's newfound modesty over the very same sex issues that propelled her favored candidates to office.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Dress

I've just seen one of the creepier films of my life. It's called The Dress and it was made in the Netherlands about 10 years ago. The director is reportedly "a cult favorite in Europe," and the premise sounds like something a cult favorite, or a wannabe of same, would cook up:

To follow along the "life" of a dress as it goes from cotton being harvested, is passed from owner to owner, and is eventually destroyed. Not a bad concept for a film, perhaps. But the decision was apparently made to make the dress cursed, and each woman who wears it is humiliated or worse.

It comes billed as a "dark comedy;" it's dark to be sure. But how comedic you think it is may depend on how funny you find the concept of multiple women nearly being raped, one mutiple times, by multiple people.

Of course, in her case, they make it a little bit hard to have too much sympathy for the woman in question. I put it to you, ladies. If--

  • A man you didn't know broke into your home
  • Took off nearly all his clothes
  • Got into bed with you while you were sleeping naked
  • Tricked you into believing he was your boyfriend for a moment, so you'd touch him
  • And kissed you

--how likely would you be to make a date to meet him another day? No matter how beautiful he said you were or how much he told you he loved you? Well, that's exactly what one woman with the misfortune to wear The Dress does. When she finally decides that hey, this guy might be a nutjob (y'think?), she escapes from him by running for a deserted bus...the driver of which promptly tries to rape her.

Are you feeling the comedy yet?

After escaping from this would-be rapist, she gives The Dress to a charity store, where it is altered and sold to our next unfortunate victim. This is a young girl who has the bad luck to wear it on the same train where our hero, the first would-be rapist, works as a ticket agent. He follows her home, ascertains that her parents are going away for the weekend, breaks in, and forces her to strip naked and allow him to sleep in the same bed with her.

She escapes the next morning, locking him into the bedroom, and we think Ah! She's going to phone the authorities! But she just gets back on the train, seeing him escape out the window as she rides past.

Like the first woman, she's seemingly little the worse for wear. I submit that most people (male or female) would not shrug off such a thing.

Of course, there are one or two women in the movie who never wear the accursed Dress, but don't worry, the film makes sure they're humiliated too. Like the one we see thrown out of a house in only a white bra (no panties) and shot at, because, we are informed by dialogue, she balked at having sex with a pig.

When I say "a pig" I don't mean "A man whom she found physically and/or sexually disgusting," I mean a big, snorting pig. Did I mention that this film was made in the Netherlands? It's all wrapped up with an ending that just cries out for a voiceover that says "Those wacky rapists."

I would just like to take this moment to apologize to any and all members of "the fairer sex" who may be looking in. I'm sorry for having inadverdently supported, in any way, this movie (if only through the rental charge) and indeed, for having watched it.

I was misled by inexplicably favorable reviews and deceptive DVD packaging, but I accept that these are not excuses. How many "chick flicks" do I have to watch to do penance?

Uma Thurman just can't keep a man

The poor dear.

Letters, oh we get letters

Bob Black recommends an article at which he says basically argues
(1) That the South Dakota law is just the latest in the back-and-forth abortion see-saw this country has seen for the last 30 years, and (2) we're well on the way to having medical/technological advances render the abortion question moot in a lot of circumstances, to the point where Roe may become irrelevant, or at least less relevant.

I find the prose style of the article's author, Will Saletan, to be all-but impossible to hack through, but that does, indeed, appear to be what he's saying.

Andrew Sullivan thinks it's a good piece, too. During the last election I went through a phase where I thought Sullivan was one of the good guys. I got over it, but you gotta feel for the guy. Sullivan is a hawkish, (neo) conservative, man. The amount of contortions he has to put his conscience through in order to clutch to the belief that his beloved President Bush thinks he and people like him are actual human beings is terrible.

Meanwhile, Jill at Feniniste brings up a good point about Saletan's article, and provides several good links on reproductive rights as well:
Guess what, Billy: You didn’t invent the idea that contraception prevents unintended pregnancies, and hence lowers the abortion rate. That’s exactly what the pro-choice side has always said, so cut the shit about “changing the pro-choice rhetoric.” You just used our rhetoric and claimed it as yours.

The Mahablog argues that "there is no correlation whatsoever between abortion rate and abortion law," and joins me in complaining incredulously about this notion that everything would be better if everyone just played nice.

I know I keep using that phrase; it's because I resent being asked to display a nobility clearly possessed by nobody on the other side.

Like, say, this fella-I'm guessing, but it does seem to be mostly the fellas who feel this way. He/she/it commented anonymously (but interestingly enough seems to hail from Wasington, D.C.), with some questions about my below post regarding abortion.

What is the difference between killing an unborn baby and killing a 1 year old?

A one year old is a human being. A fertilized egg is not.

It is easy to say outlawing abortion is denying a woman control over her body but it is female babies in China and India that are aborted at a vastly greater rate than male babies, what women are speaking up for them?

Well I certainly hope women (or men) in China and India are, if that's true. I live in the United States, and has so recently been demonstrated, we can't impose freedom at gunpoint.

What about long term studies of the psychological affecs of aborting your baby?

What about them? I don't think anyone has ever seriously suggested that the choice to abort a fetus was not a terrible decision to have to make.

Outside of the fantasies of the pro-life lobby, that is. They seem to have this image of women blithely skipping through life as if they're on a permanent spring break, fucking and fucking and fucking indiscriminately. Only stopping occasionally to have pesky fetuses sucked out of them as they would wipe mud from their shoes.

I've known enough women who have chosen to have abortions over the years (and read about others) to believe that is never, or at least rarely, the case. I rarely if ever knew a woman who felt she had to do so who took the issue anything but seriously.

It's a terrible decision to have to make-so terrible, that no one should make it except (in a perfect world), a combination of the mother, the father, and an ethical, competent Doctor. In the case of a tie, the mother has the veto.

I am not allowed to use illegal drugs, is that a violation of my right to control my own body?

Many would argue, in fact, that it is. I've never used any illegal drug in my life but I've yet to see a coherent argument for why tobacco and alcohol are okay because they're legal and pot or 'shrooms aren't because they're not.

Please don't hesitate to write if you have any further questions.

Well duh

Spring break, apparently, not that good for women.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Consquences, Smonsequences

I don't want to single anybody out, but I get the idea there are one or two of you who think Roberts', and then Alito's, confirmation to the Supreme Court wasn't really that big a deal. Or worth paying as much attention to as did some blogs (including this one).

I wonder how you feel about the recent bills in South Dakota and Mississippi banning most abortions with the only exception being if the mother's life is in danger, but not in the case of rape or incest?

Here's how Digby feels about it (via firedoglake)
I just realized that those nuts in South Dakota might be having an unanticipated effect. I am working today and this guy said to me over lunch, "I can't believe that these people are really serious." He's a bit of a putz and he admitted that he'd believed women were exaggerating the threat. I said "I hope you're ready to be daddies, boys. Last time abortion was illegal they didn't have DNA testing" and they all looked stunned.

Those of you who thought it got a little shrill in the confirmation battle: Sleep tight, knowing that everything would be better if everyone just played nice.

Ladies: Enjoy control over your uterus while you can.

And any Democratic elected officals who may be looking in: Thanks for fighting the hard fight.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Little more on the Oscars and Jon Stewart

Reviews of Stewart's performance seem to be truly mixed from what I've seen. Tom Shales apparently actively disliked him (but Tom uncritically loves every single season of Saturday Night Live, so whatareyougonnado?). editor Jim Emerson thought Jon killed. I remain somewhere in the middle.

Sometimes you just need something that only wants to make the world smile

Via firedoglake.

A few things to say after the fact

Working from notes hastily typed during commercial breaks...

Jon Stewart's opening monologue. Good, not great. Hurt by the awkward staging-I understand not wanting to sit him behind a desk as on The Daily Show, but better he should have just worked a microphone stand as he would as a comic, locking him behind a podium was the worst of both worlds.

George Clooney, as always, showed great perspective on it all-and actually might not make a bad host himself...

My first completely biased choice for the best-dressed women at the Oscars: Naomi Watts.

Someone needs to break a baton over the head of whoever it was who decided to start the music playing immediately the winner got up there. It's disrespectful enough to someone like Clooney-but he's got a very public microphone any time he chooses. For the people whose one chance at recognition this may be, it's disgraceful. Could we give people more than 30-45 seconds to speak before playing them off? Either that, or if time is such a goddamn premium, it's time to eliminate from the commercial broadcast the categories that virtually no home viewer cares about. And yes, I say that knowing writers fall into that category.

I enjoyed Nick Park's speech almost as much as his bow tie.

John Canemaker winning an Oscar was the first of a few pleasant surprises this evening for me. I haven't seen the winning animated short, but like most fans and students of the art I know his name from his many articles and books on the subject. I hadn't known he was gay, however.

My second completely biased choice for the best-dressed women at the Oscars: Jennifer Aniston. Her necklace was a little too showy for my tastes, but that dress was really working for her. It was working for me, too...

Bulimia award: Rachel McAdams. I shouted in surprise, because McAdams was number four in ohnotheydidnt's recent 100 hottest women list, and though I haven't seen mean Girls or any of the other movies that have brought her such acclaim in the past few years, I have seen enough of her in clips, interviews and photographs to understand why. Now I just want to understand; What happened?

Runner-up: Reese Witherspoon, whose face looked absolutely triangular (and not in a good way) when she was a presenter. I will say that she looked much better when accepting her award, though, so maybe it was just an unflattering camera angle.

Rhetorical question: How cool is Morgan Freeman?

Rachel Weisz made a point of thanking the author of the book her film was based upon. I always knew I liked that girl.

Second pleasant surprise of the night-the winner of Documentary (short subject): "A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin." Corwin is one of the most influential and greatest writers of his time; I have the book of the same name upon which this documentary was presumably based but if I even knew it existed (let alone had been nominated) I had forgotten. Now I'm most eager to see it.

Third: Stephen Colbert's v/o for the faux Oscar commercials.

And now, I want to tell you ladies something. Making your head look like a peanut is not a good look. It never has been. It never will be. Anyone who tells you different is not your friend. If you doubt me, I refer you to this picture of Jennifer Lopez.

Fourth pleasant surprise: The performer and co-writer of the nominated song for Crash, Kathleen "Bird" York, is better known to me as the lovely and talented actress who played Toby's ex-wife and the mother of his children on West Wing.

But what fool staged the number? Less is more, people!

Although Stewart's opening monologue was, as I've said, not great (early reviews seem to agree with me), where he really made me thank god for him was in doing what he does best: Puncturing the pomposity to which the Academy is so given. Following the montage of "issue" or "problem" pictures, he was there to say "And you know what's great? After each of those films, none of these issues was ever a problem again."

Unfortunately, he was then followed by the tool from the Academy, whose speech got the kind of "Shut up, shut up, shut up!"'s from me it usually takes two or three entire seasons of The L Word to generate. If I ever hear that "Language of film is universal" crap again for the rest of my life, or any more mouthed pieties about storytelling, I am gonna vomit.

Speaking of which, here is a tip for any of you who may wish to follow in the footsteps of the Motion Picture Acadamey. If you ever want to make yourselves look like real twits...make a big stink about how you can't see "epic" films on television and then make your showing a bunch of scenes from epics on television.

And thankfully, there was Jon again to point the seeming incessant, and pointless, montages this year.

Oh, quick prediction: Now that Munich is well past any chance of winning any Oscars, we will never hear Steven Spielberg say another word on any of the politically charged issues to which he was paying lip service when it came to beating the drums for his movie. Call it a hunch.

And now, back to the good part.

My third completely biased choice for the best-dressed women at the Oscars: Jessica Alba.

Meryl Streep and Lilly Tomlin made a surprisingly good comedy team, I thought-good enough to make me wish somebody would write a female "buddy comedy" for them.

I liked Altman's sand castle metaphor.

God bless the children ("pre-infant," and infant, respectively) of Rachel Weisz and Jennifer Garner.

Philip Seymour Hoffman didn't bark, the coward.

Besides looking better than she had as a presenter, Reese Witherspoon made a nice speech, too.

You may not know this about me-my tolerance for self-congrantrulatory bullshit is remarkably low (and you say you want to work in show business, Ben?). But as I heard person after person pontificate about the meaning of art (Is it a reflection? Is it a hammer?), I couldn't help but think about what I want my role as an artist to be. And, you probably did know this about me, I found it in the out-of-context words of Aaron Sorkin. What do I want to be as an artist?

I want to be a comfort to my friends in tragedy.
And I want to be able to celebrate with them in triumph.
And for all the times in between, I just want to be able to look them in the eye...
I want to be with my friends, my family, and these women.

--The West Wing, "the Crackpots and These Women," Aaron Sorkin

No points for guessing who I think of when I think of "these women."

Now, backing away from that moment of self-revelation, and finally, my fourth completely biased choice for the best-dressed women at the Oscars: Uma Thurman.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Just when you thought no woman in her late 40s could embarass herself more than Sharon Stone or Madonna

...along comes Vanna White.

And now for a brief word from our guest commentator, Chandler Bing

Lawmakers (R) Seek to Outlaw Dildos

The Dire Problem of Dildos in Tennessee

Apparently, lawmakers in this impoverished red state can't find enough serious problems to address, so they've turned their minds to sex, specifically sex toys.

For unknown reasons, State Senator Charlotte Burks (DINO) and State Rep. Eric Swafford (R) have been thinking a lot about the activities going on your bedroom. They have come to the conclusion that Tennessee will be a better place to live if the state regulates your bedroom by outlawing dildos.

Courtesy of the TGW.

And now...Chandler?