Saturday, January 24, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
Tennessee and Texas were safely in John McCain’s column on Election Day, but over two months later views of the new Democratic president and his agenda are surprisingly high in the two reliably Republican states.
In a snapshot look at attitudes in McCain country, Rasmussen Reports finds that concerns about the current economic situation appear to override traditional political considerations.
Sixty percent (60%) of Tennessee voters approve of Obama’s job performance, including 39% who Strongly Approve. Thirty-five percent (35%) disapprove, 21% of whom Strongly Disapprove.
No comment...well, I have a comment, but I think I'd better not make it on the grounds that it might incriminate me...
That's right...the bush is back!
Obama (correctly, I think) sees the press representing two things that are clear obstacles to his ambitious plans: official Washington and a trivia-obsessed media culture.
The cable maw must be fed with transient panics. Feeding frenzies and micro-scandals dominate. They fuel the chat shows, opinion columns and blogs. These faux crises and dramas, which usually pass with little consequence, can knock a presidential agenda off-stride or even destroy it.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Besides the Saw connection, there was a cast that might almost make it worth seeing by themselves: Anthony Head from Doctor Who and Buffy, Paul "father of Mira" Sorvino, Paris Hilton (!) and Sarah "Phantom" Brightman.
Well, it was released on DVD this week and I've seen it.
In fact, I've seen it three times in two days (what with the commentaries and all). How was it? Let me put it this way: There's a lyric in one of the songs where the heroine, a terminally ill girl played by Alexa Vega tells her over-protective father (Tony Head)
"I'm 17...and it's better than 40."
The Genetic Opera is an interesting failure...and it's better than being a boring success.
As a piece, it's deliberately histrionic, but that's appropriate for an opera, so that's not why it's a failure. There's crude violence throughout, but (although it's not to my taste), that's not why it's a failure either: The story legitimately does have plenty of opportunities for viscera, both emotional and physical.
Some of the music is worthwhile; many of the performers talented.
Head is the greatest thing here as a split personality, part good man trying to raise a daughter on his own...part Sweeny Todd-like "night surgeon".
Buffy fans know that Anthony Stewart Head has a background in show tunes, but Paul Sorvino's trained operatic voice may come as a surprise.
Sorvino plays the owner of "GeneCo," which sells live organs needed for transplant. But if you can't keep up the payments, well, that's where the "Repo" men come in...legal assasins...and yes, Monty Python did do this about 25 years ago.
Alexa Vega is new to me (not having seen the Spy Kids films). She is awkwardly charming here, as one might expect a dying, sheltered 17-year-old to be. If the father-daughter relationship between her and Tony Head doesn't work the whole piece won't work, fortunately, it's one of the parts that works.
Vega's singing voice seems to have been aided by recording studio technology here and there, but that's not a crime (and it's only occasionally obvious).
(Incidentally, Vega herself has a "Saw connection"--her younger sister McKenzie played the part of Cary Elwes' daughter in the first film.)
I said up there that much of this movie was appropriately over-the-top; the problem with Terrance Zdunich's performance is that he isn't over-the-top enough.
His character, the self-descriptive "Graverobber," is meant to be a kind of narrator along the lines of Ché in Evita. But such a role requires a certain amount of star quality that Zdunich, kindly, just ain't got, however, he did co-write the piece.
This brings me to Paris Hilton. If you saw the nominations for the "Razzie" awards, you know that Hilton just got one of her three nominations as "worst supporting actress" for this film.
I never thought I'd be in the position of defending Paris Hilton...but this is not fair; it seems more based on people's negative perception of Hilton herself than on her actual work in the film.
Of that, we'll never know just how much of her performance was "created" in the editing room, but I can say this: She doesn't stink up the joint. Hilton is never going to be in my "holy trinity" of actresses (all together now: Hunter, Winslet, Hathaway), but this movie doesn't ask her to be.
It asks her to play what's essentially a mafia daughter (with Sorvino as the Don) who skips around in lingerie and is addicted to plastic surgery. Anyone here who doesn't think Paris Hilton could knock that role out in her sleep?
In one sense Sarah Brightman, whose first movie this is, doesn't have to stretch too far either: She plays an opera star. But this is one who was born blind but given eyes by GeneCo.
One or two of the best songs in the picture belong to Brightman. In particular, "Chase The Morning" offers an aching glimpse of what this "sci-fi rock musical" could've been if the whole thing had worked as well.
It's a trio sung by Brightman, Vega, and a hologram-sample of the Vega character's dead mother. (The part of the mother is sung by Nancy Long, who is married to Darren Smith, who co-wrote the piece with Zdunich)
As Hilton's violently insane brother, Bill Moseley doesn't have a great singing voice, but the novelty of seeing Otis P. Chop Top belt out a song counts for a lot.
One of Sorvino's other sons in the film must've been in the minds of the Lionsgate promotions people when they designed the poster for Saw V, as the character wears human faces as masks.
Is it (why it doesn't work) the look of the film, then? Well, no--especially considering its evidently-low budget, visually it's kind of dazzling.
So what's the problem? Well, I'm afraid it's the storytelling. The movie plays as though it had been edited by placing scene numbers on a roulette wheel, spinning it, and whenever the needle stops, that scene goes in.
What we get is multiple entrances for each character, accompanied by animated comic-book sequences giving backstory. These are well-drawn (by Terrance Zdunich, who also co-stars in and co-wrote the piece) but insulting.
It's as if someone somewhere decided the audience for this film was incredibly stupid, and had to be told everything three times. So the comic book tells us something. And the characters themselves tell us something. And the other characters tell us something about the other characters...and it's all the same thing. We get it, already!
It's like a long first act followed by a perfunctory second, with very little character development in-between.
In the commentaries, Bousman mentions that he hopes to be able to do a "director's cut" someday, it would be interesting to see if this improved the "running order"
But is it worth seeing (as-is)? Abso-friggin'-lutely, with one proviso: Did you know what I was talking about when I mentioned Sweeney Todd and Evita? Put more simply, do you love (or even like) musicals? Because if not, it's unlikely this is going to reward your viewing.
But if so...
"I think it will be a lot of fun,"
A woman in Albuquerque, N.M., went to a local health clinic to have the long string of her IUD shortened. No big deal -- all it takes is a simple snip. The nurse prodded her with a speculum and then, inexplicably, began pulling on the IUD, causing her sudden, intense pain. Then the nurse said one thing you never want someone to say when they have their hand in your vagina: "Uh-oh!"
Surely, the patient must have been terrified -- but then the nurse offered an explanation: "I accidentally pulled out your IUD. I gently tugged and out it came ... I cut the string than went back and gently pulled and out it came. It must have not been in properly." That might have been somewhat reassuring -- oh well, accidents happen -- only, the nurse continued to explain that "having the IUD come out was a good thing" and then offered, "I personally do not like IUDs. I feel they are a type of abortion. I don't know how you feel about abortion, but I am against them."
Hmm. The nurse continued: "Everyone in the office always laughs and tells me I pull these out on purpose because I am against them, but it's not true, they accidentally come out when I tug." Kidding about removing patients' birth control against their will? Hilarious -- sign me up for a visit to your office! Also: It's happened enough times that you have a reputation for it?
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Among the 12 pages in a file recently released by Carlin's family are a couple of letters from outraged citizens who complained that the comedian had made fun of the FBI and its director, J. Edgar Hoover, during TV appearances in 1969 and 1970.
There's also a letter from Hoover himself thanking one of Carlin's critics for defending his honor, and an internal FBI memo that quotes the director as asking: "What do we know of Carlin?"
Carlin was arrested following a performance in Milwaukee in 1972 for saying the seven words (none of which can be reprinted here).
But can, and will, be here: SHIT, PISS, FUCK, CUNT, COCKSUCKER, MOTHERFUCKER and TITS.
That was for you, Georgie!
One, dated Feb. 12, 1969, refers to Carlin as an "alleged comedian" after he made fun of the bureau during an appearance on "The Jackie Gleason Show."
"His treatment was in very poor taste and it was obvious that he was using the prestige of the bureau and Mr. Hoover to enhance his performance," the memo says.
Turns out, as perceptive comedy fans, the FBI is really great at tapping our phones, shutting down people who copy Buffy DVDs (read the warnings, people!) and killing Marilyn Monroe.
Dirk Benedict, a star of the old Battlestar Galactica show, on why he doesn't like the new one.
Apparently (I say "Apparently," because I don't watch the new show, but I know it has many fans): It's complex, the characters are interestingly shaded, and the women are more than just decoration.
Seriously. That's his argument for why this is a bad show.
Seeger is 89 years old. He was close to half that age when I saw him at the Santa Monica Civic. This was back when they still had segregated schools in parts of the South. I wonder what his response would have been if someone had said to him then, "You'll live long enough to sing that song on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as America inaugurates a black man as President of the United States."
And as if that's not cosmic enough, George-bloody-Lucas can be seen at one point singing and bouncing along.
A bravely anonymous reader writes to query a post from yesterday. Specifically the one in which I said I didn't understand why any parent would complain about time being taken out of their children's school day to watch Obama being inaugurated.
Well did they do this when G W Bush was inaugurated?
Just one question is all I'm askin, I don't want a smart ass remark just a simple yes or no will do.
I reply: I don't know, but I don't think so. Of course, a white man had been inaugurated president like three dozen times before. But like Obama or not, yesterday was an honest-to-god historical first.
It hardly seems surprising to me that teachers would want their students to see it. That was my point. I hope that answer was simple enough for you, and that you found it refreshingly free of smart assery.
He, she or it further goes on to say:
Besides me has anyone ever read your CRAP?
A fair question. Yes. As of this moment, I average about 78 visitors a day who spend an average of two minutes and 15 seconds here. You may well ask: Why? I dunno.
In fact, that reminds me. I'm late for for my semi-annual "tell me who you are" post, which goes a little something like this...
Yo, all you homeboys and girls out there!
I'd just like to know a little bit about who you are and where you came from. Or what you like or not about the blog.
So if you wouldn't mind, tap on the comments line down there to the right and introduce yourself. Tell me anything and everything you want me to know, or you think I might like to know about you.
A few suggested questions to answer follow. Use as many or none of them as you like. BTW, this is strictly for my own curiosity, I'm not conducting a demographic survey or anything.
When and how did you find my blog?
When you're not reading this blog, what are you trying to do with your life?
And how's that going for you?
Where did you grow up, and where do you live now?
Do you miss the "female appreciation" posts, or have you just moved over to Dancing Girls?
Do you ever watch the videos I post? What makes you more likely or less likely to watch them, if anything?
Does my claiming to watch the Saw movies in order to psychoanalyze Jigsaw and his victims worry you about me?
Is there too much talk about Anne Hathaway around here? Note: If your answer to this one is yes, the door is over there, Jack.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
“I had half a dozen phone calls,” said [Principal Bob] Stevens. “(Parents saying), ‘you shouldn’t be doing this,’ about why we’re paying attention to the inaugural at all. Some took their kids out of school. Their argument was, ‘did you do this when George Bush was president?’”
The parents who complained called it a “politically-biased event,” said Stevens.
Politically biased? As some smart guy said the morning after election day:
This morning is probably the only morning I could say something like this with a straight face, but I feel like this is a time for all Americans to revel.
No matter what your color is, even no matter if you voted for Obama or did not, unless you're a racist bigot, you have to feel good that our country has finally gotten to this point.
I like their taste in movies, too: According to MSNBC, while their parents are dancing the night away, the girls and children of staff will be having a party at the White House where they'll watch movies including Bolt.
OK, and High School Musical 3--but, maybe it's good, I dunno.
( All I know about HSM3 is that it beat out a certain horror sequel at the box office...)
Boos echoed throughout the crowd as President Bush, Vice President Cheney and several GOP congressmen were introduced
On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow, I think it was, muttered something about that being "bad form." I like Maddow but I think the crowd needed this chance to tell Bush, as directly as they could, just what they think of his incompetence.
There is nothing bad form about that. If his disgrace had ever been dealt with as it should've been, maybe the rest of us wouldn't have been reduced to boos (and shoes).
2. Ok, the Roberts thing. That was beautiful. As RadicalRuss put it in Pam's House Blend:
So I asked rhetorically, "What could George W. Bush fuck up in the last thirty minutes of his presidency?"
I got the answer in the form of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, installed by George W. Bush (and a feline Senate), fucking up a simple THIRTY FIVE WORD OATH!ROBERTS: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear... that I will execute the office of President to the United States faithfully... and will to the best of my ability... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
How incredibly appropriate that the final punctuation mark on the Bush Maladministration is his chief arbiter of the Constitution verbally assaulting it, or lacking the intellectual capacity to memorize it.
3. I liked the poem by Elizabeth Alexander.
I liked it because I thought she chose words that were inevitable yet surprising, which is what poetry (if not all writing) should do.
I also thought that I'd like to see it illustrated as a children's book...
4. The closing prayer was great. Made me smile, and moved me, too.
I'd never seen Dr. Joseph Lowery speak before--the way he looks, and sounds, is just the best!
And as for what he said, well, as some others put it some years ago:
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today
Amen, brother. It was a terrific end to the morning.
5. And now, to play us out, The Neville boys:
-singing and playing a song by a great, gay, American songwriter.
The idea was this. Alternative Invocation: The blogswarm.
It's better when you do it yourself.
So I want to start with this song I love.
As most of my friends know I also love this movie (Godspell), but that's not the only reason I'm including it here.
You see, in this cast we have gay men, who Rick Warren is against. We have women. We may have gay women, too, but I'm only sure about two or three of the men.
But straight or gay, if they're capable of growing a person inside them, Rick Warren believes they should have no right to decide whether or not they want to. And that they should not be allowed to divorce their husbands, even if they are being abused.
One of these men and one of these women is black. I have no doubt Rick Warren would tell me he has nothing against black people and celebrates their civil rights. But I have even less of a doubt that the fire with which he burns is that which burned houses and crosses decades ago.
The fire that makes him tell me a woman is bad if she loves another woman or a man if he loves another man. Or that women must be treated like brood mares and if you have to take the whip to them to keep 'em in the pen, so be it.
I think about that, and I think about how, if I believe in god, it's because of people like these singing songs like this. Some of them gay. Some of them women. Some of them black. And all thanking the same lord.
Now, having invoked a movie of love, I will evoke one of derangement.
Of course, I mean Saw V.
(Now out on DVD, not that any of you are going to rush to pick it up).
I ask myself: If I could choose my judge, would I rather it were a man like Warren, or John "Jigsaw" Kramer?
Warren believes no gay person has a chance at true happiness, that women are somehow unworthy, and that his way is the right way. John Kramer believes everyone deserves a chance; the closest connections he made in life were to women.
Ok, he thought his way was the right way too--but in the end, when he saw the results, he felt remorse.
What I'm saying is Rick Warren is hate in love's clothing. John Kramer is love twisted past sanity. And I'll take wounded love, over hate that lies.
And now I move again, from the arguably sacrilegious, to the wholly holy:
Does that move you? Yes? Good.
Monday, January 19, 2009
I don't know if he rests in peace because I don't know if there is any peace to be found, after we're dead. But if I had any money, I'd be willing to bet quite a lot of it that if there is, this great man has just found a lot more.
we'd better bite down on the tinfoil--even if it's a shocking experience--'cause if we don't in 35 years or so it's all going to happen again
It's not that I don't want to see it, it's that I just don't think it's happening. I'd be pleased to be surprised, but I'm not expecting it.
With an alternative viewpoint, here's Greenwald.
(Not that some aren't still trying)
It took two wars, 9/11, Katrina, and the worst recession since the 1930s (just to name a few) for some people to realize how bad he was at his job.
A man who would become so hated that someone who throws a shoe at him becomes a hero.
A man who speaks of life with the blood of thousands on his hands; without shame
A man who should have been impeached; now one to whom we can't wait to say goodbye.
The people who impress me are the people who knew what he was early on. And who said so, loudly, when they ran the risk of being run over by the prideisbacktruck (and some of them were).
Think Progress has a list of more than two dozen people who did just that, and their names are worth remembering.
You can add your suggestions in the comments. I agree with the person who said Jessica Lynch should be among them.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
You see, the Krispy Kreme company is going to be giving away doughnuts on Inauguration Day. They sent out a little press release including this sentence:
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. is honoring American’s sense of pride and freedom of choice on Inauguration Day
It's a publicity stunt, of course, very much along the lines of The American Way; certainly nothing to which any sane American could object. Uh-huh, that's right, you caught it. I said "sane American."
As opposed to an organization called the American Life League. Which sent out their own press release...
KRISPY KREME CELEBRATES OBAMA WITH PRO-ABORTION DOUGHNUTS
Honest to god, I am not making this up. That's their headline.
"Pro-Abortion Doughnuts." They said that. In print.
You feel the grin spreading slowly across your face already, don't you?
Wait, there's more. Their logic (and I use the word loosely):
The unfortunate reality of a post Roe v. Wade America is that 'choice' is synonymous with abortion access, and celebration of 'freedom of choice' is a tacit endorsement of abortion rights on demand.
That only leaves me one thing to say.