Saturday, March 04, 2006

Go Away, Dixieland

I see we have another case of people getting upset over the "right" to display the Confederate flag. Three students (or, more accurately, their pissed-off parents) are suing the William Blount High School in Knoxville, TN, who were made to cover up tee shirts glorifying the insurrectionist Southern flag. As always, the Southern Legal Resource Center, hellbent on preserving a mythical Antebellum past of slavery and elitism, have supported the lawsuit and started whining about free speech and "pride in southern heritage." Black students, of course, tend to feel differently about that southern heritage.

In this day and age, it's hard to see the Confederate flag without seeing it as an endorsement of the slave system. The education system here in the north has taught us that slavery was the major factor in the Civil War, while ignoring other key political reasons. Still, I don't think we can detach slavery from the Confederate Rebellion; it was a major part of the "Southern way of life" that they were fighting to protect. And when Southerners today go around wearing the flag or making it a legal issue... well, why have they built a symbol of racism and intolerance into something they take immense pride in?

I really do need someone to explain this "Southern heritage" thing to me. But I do feel that the rebel flag has no business being displayed in a government building (such as a school) or on government property. Not for racial reasons, but because the Confederacy, despite what Southerners get pissy about, was not a real country. It was an insurrection within the United States of America. The South attempted to secede, but one crucial political factor came up short: recognition. The "Confederate States of America" was only recognized by Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, a loose collection of two minor German states, which was short-lived. You can call your little nation a country all you want, but if the land is, in fact, stolen from another nation, and it goes unrecognized by other major nations, it ain't really a country. England and France ultimately refused to recognize and legitimize the Southern gathering because they felt it would be an endorsement of slavery. Which was illegal in England and France.

"But we had our own government!" I hear. "Our own currency! Our own flag and constitution!" Yeah, well, so do a lot of clubs. And, really, that's about the only nation-status I'm willing to see offered to the "Confederate States of America." A club. With a lodge in Richmond.

Yeah, so, we shouldn't allow the symbol of an anti-US insurrection to be displayed in a government building. It's like asking to wear a swastika armband at the Knesset.

My Sexual Icons, Part 1

I've known I loved women since I was four years old. How? The Dukes of Hazzard. Yeah, the car was great, but Daisy Duke... Wow. So, since I'm in a nostalgic/horny mood, here are 12 of the women whose presences helped me in those early, formative years. My sexual icons. Or, as I could have gone with, my jack-off classics.
















Thursday, March 02, 2006

Some Random TV News

These days, the networks are shuffling shows around faster than a blackjack dealer on meth. Which seems to belie the logic that in order for shows to be hits, people must first be able to see them a couple of times, but what do I know? Other than the networks are greedy little shit demons for airing Lost during 8:00 to 9:03 Central Time. Or remember the episode "The Other 48 Days," which was "so important" that it needed to be aired from 8:00 to 9:12? Do they honestly think that we believe we're getting more content instead of more advertising? It's the same 42 minutes or so we always get, only with a longer break for ads.

But enough of that; the way networks screw up their attempts to gain audiences is a subject for another time. For now, I just thought I'd mention a couple of interesting developments.

First off, NBC is wisely reversing its decision about The Office. Rather than take the show down in March to air Teachers, they're keeping it where it is. The ratings on The Office are, thankfully, going up, and for once NBC is not messing with a good thing. Teachers will air on Tuesdays, as will Joey, which returns from exile soon (and the cancellation announcement is expected soon after that).

On to the future network, the CW. What will survive the merging of the WB and UPN? No one knows for sure yet, but The i-Ball on Media points out that NBC will be airing the WWE on 18 March as Saturday Night Main Event. Since the WWE is a ratings hit for UPN, many assumend that Smackdown! would be sticking around on the CW, but i-Ball wonders if this could be the return of Main Event to NBC (it's not like NBC is really using Saturday night before SNL, anyway). Meanwhile, UPN is returning Veronica Mars to the air on 15 March; once considered an obvious candidate for the CW, it was a surprise to many when the cult show was removed from the air for February sweeps (but its lead-in, South Beach, which has given UPN some of its worst-ever ratings, was not). With America's Next Top Model returning to the air on 8 March, we can see that just about everythig on either network is up for grabs.

The WB looks set to do some housecleaning, too. I know I'm the only one who cares, but it looks like What I Like About You and Living with Fran are both being pulled on 31 March, and neither show is probably going to come back. They're being replaced by a new reality series, Survival of the Richest, which sounds pretty much exactly like Joe Simpson's Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive, which aired on E! last year.

I think the most interesting thing about the CW is going to be how it balances out the two very different audiences each network has. UPN markets to a primarily black audience, while WB seems to have gone from standing for "We're Black" to "White Broads." Gee, which audience do you think is going to get ignored by corporate America?

Fox, which is drawing out American Idol this year to the point where even the most fervent viewers could care less (is it me, or do the unnecessary two nights of singing make the men seem even more boring on Wednesdays?), will finally settle down into the Tuesday night singing/Wednesday night results of competitions past. Bones, a show I only saw once but actually enjoyed, will be moving to Wednesday at 7pm Central on 22 March. Which means I can actually watch it, and then switch to Lost; which also means that I can skip the usual bloated, Seacrest-heavy AI results show and just find out who got kicked off on the internet like everyone else. Oh, and if you're interested (and I confess, I am), Hell's Kitchen will return to Fox on 12 June.

Well, the good news was that the BBC's new Doctor Who will be released on DVD eventually. The bad news is, it would have already been out by now if the SCI FI Channel hadn't insisted it be allowed to air the episodes first. So, starting on 17 March, SCI FI will be airing Who for the next however many weeks. The DVDs should be out in June or so. I think I'll wait, personally.

And finally, what's with the constant string of reruns on Lost? It's not supposed to be on again until the 22nd, and after that, who knows? Shit finally starts to happen, and now they pull this on us? Dirty, dirty fuckers...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

This excellent film completely slipped past me when it came out, and I rented it on a whim, but I’m so glad I did. The film stars Paul Bettany, making up for Wimbledon, as a priest in 1380 who is a fugitive after committing a crime. He joins up with a group of traveling players led by Willem Dafoe, and they end up in a town where a boy has just been murdered by a mute woman. Since no one’s coming to see the religious plays anymore, Dafoe gets the idea to put on a show based on the murder; and, of course, that’s when all kinds of hidden truths come to light. This is a gripping, deliberately-paced movie featuring some great performances (including the always-welcome Brian Cox and a small role by James Cosmo). This is one of those movies that’s all in the character and the dialogue, but is endlessly rewarding. The two central performances (especially Dafoe, who is always great) command the attention. I can’t talk to deeply about it without giving the plot away, but the political message–which puts the entire system of feudalism on trial–is surprisingly timely. **** stars.

This movie starred Nicole Sheridan, who played the title role in Genie in a String Bikini and is my new favorite porn star of the moment. She’s not classically beautiful, but she has a wicked smile and throws herself into things with such gusto! I love this girl. Anyway, this was soft core on HBO, and it starred the amazing Chelsea Blue as a woman pulling a blackmail scam on a couple of suburban guys. This is one of the few porns I’ve seen that really puts across how awesomely dirty and wrong sex can feel. Loved it. *** stars.

BECCA: "Do you hate me for making you watch this?"
ME: "I hate you for even renting it."

And so begins the viewing of Jackass, a "movie" based on a TV show I can’t stand to watch. But, Becca’s in love with Johnny Knoxville, so watch it we did. The biggest surprise is probably that, after watching Jackass, she’s still in love with Johnny Knoxville. Of course, there’s so much worse to compare him to: Steve-O and Bam are basically highly functioning retards. Here’s a couple of things that struck me. First, Jackass is like Britain’s Trigger Happy TV, but much less technically competent. Monkeys might as well be holding the cameras. Second, it’s nice to see the mentally handicapped and the functioning illiterates be given jobs to do; it makes them feel like people. And third, I never realized that Jackass is gay porn. This is probably the gayest movie I’ve ever seen. I mean, come on, Party Boy? If Bam had gotten on his knees and fellated Party Boy, not only would it not have surprised me, but it wouldn’t have made this movie any more gay! Most of the stunts involve somebody put into a homoerotic situation (bottle rocket in the ass, baby alligator as nipple clamp) just to see how long they can stand it. Why do you think Bam keeps punching everyone? If our society didn’t attach a fatal stigma to humping boys, there would be no Jackass–these guys could just fuck each other. This is their clumsy way of fucking each other without having to slip it in and say "I love you." Either way, it’s only worth about * star, and only because one or two of the segments were funny. Did you ever notice how 78% of what Johnny does is standing around and watching? Smart guy; get the ‘tards to be the cannon fodder.

If this documentary is ineptly made, the importance of the subject matter forgives it. This is a series of interviews with Traudl Junge, Hitler’s secretary from 1943 to the end of his life (the film Downfall was based on the book she wrote). Junge simply recollects some of the things she saw and knew, and in the end admonishes herself for not being more aware of what was going on. She doesn’t apologize for Nazism. Instead, she tries to make the viewer understand the dynamism of Hitler, and how he could polarize the entire world. That sounds like a little, but it’s enough. Thank God her story was told; she died the day the film premiered at Cannes. **** stars.

It’s a truism that when a horror remake comes out, you should see the original instead. There have been so many bad action movies pretending to be horror movies these days, most of them remakes of something or other. I don’t plan on ever, ever seeing the remake of this movie (the director of The General’s Daughter? Pass!), but based on this one... Well, this just wasn’t very good at all. The first 23 minutes are flawless. Carol Kane, looking beautiful, plays the babysitter in a retelling of the familiar urban legend. Much of this section depends on Kane’s presence, and she’s more than up to it; she has beautiful, expressive eyes and knows how to use her face. It’s marvelous. And then the film keeps going and going and going... Seven years later, the killer escapes, and they spend a lot of time humanizing him and having Charles Durning chase after him, and then finally, around the eighty-minute mark or so, Carol Kane is leaving her own kids with a babysitter, and there’s terror and an ending familiar from 99.999% of the horror movies ever made. You know, they could have dropped the middle hour or so, gone straight to the grown-up Carol Kane, and ended it with the shocker in the restaurant, and had an excellent 35 minute short film. You probably could have stretched it to 70 and still made it watchable. As this one goes, however, it’s a ** movie and a damn shame.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Third Co-Workers

More of the staff of Barnes & Noble during my purgatory there.

SPENCE was one of the coolest guys I've ever worked with. He was older, but we had the exact same interests in comics, SF, fantasy, and bad movies. He was married, but cheating on his wife. The thing that most disturbed me was the way he made constant reference to his wonderful collection of things as being in box after box in his own basement. I vowed never, ever to become like this; my collection, I thought, will never be consigned to storage. I just hated the notion of never knowing where my books, comics, and DVDs were. I've lived in my apartment for five years now, and I still haven't gotten it all unpacked. God damn it. Anyway, Spence and I went to the movies a number of times during a particularly good wave of B-movies: Dragonheart, Star Trek: First Contact, and several others. He lent me The War Lord and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension. I loved him. Unfortunately, Linda K. loved him, too, so when he was magazine supervisor and later receiving manager, she always had him out on the floor and away from his work. He ended up becoming an assistant manager and then, of course, a total dick.

DEANA was the woman Spence was having an affair with. Hey, I almost had an affair with her too, even though she was spacey and on some kind of crazy-person's medication. She flirted with me a lot, right down to groping. I liked her, what can I say? Until she finally got really, really headache-inducing, that is.

PHYLLIS was a cool chick who came off really tough. I was intimidated by her at first, but melted her insides with my relentless flirting. I used to make her blush, which only emboldened me to flirt more. She had a real thing for Mark, and everyone wanted them to get together, but he was too lame to see it. He was engaged to the shrew, and by the time she cast him off, Phyllis was long gone. Boy, I loved Phyllis and I was in a foul mood when she quit. She was supervisor of the kids' section, but she hated it; who wouldn't? All those damn books from Klutz with harmonicas and magnets and toys and shit? It's a nightmare section to clean up after, let alone be stuck in! She was moved to fiction, much to the anger of Peter.

PETER was the biggest literary snob I've ever met; the kind of guy whose only real delight is in making other people look less intelligent than he felt he was. If he was so smart, why was he magazine supervisor at Barnes & Noble? Well, that argument never swayed him; he was still a prick. He respected you if you could argue back, which I always did. But he could hold a grudge, too. When Phyllis was given fiction over him, he stopped speaking to her. Even when she came back to visit, after which time HE had been given fiction. He was also a former film critic, which made it hard for me to discuss film with him.

GIGI was a wonderful woman, incredibly sexy and vivacious, whose husband ran a tavern in Chicago. She was a suburban housewife, but way too hot for it. I will always love Gigi, because she helped me out when I was bad off. I lived in an apartment with my co-worker, Ray, and when I moved in, I was receiving manager. Then I was demoted in the winter, and suddenly I couldn't afford to eat anymore. Because of the crappy heating, I got sick with a sinus infection, and I wasn't eating right. Gigi would give me sweaters she was throwing away. She would give me granola bars and soup that she claimed her children didn't like. And she never once made me feel like it was charity, even though it obviously was. Georgette, wherever you are, I will always be grateful to your for helping me out when I was too poor to eat and too proud to beg my parents for help. Even though you loved Metallica, which was just bizarre. She always laughed at me when I would look at her over my glasses (she called it my "Grandpa look").

Once, after I had quit Barnes & Noble, I ran into Gigi at Unicorn Comics, the best independent comic book store in Illinois. We chatted for a while, and I helped her pick out some comics for her kids. Then I went to B&N to visit Becca, and Spence, now in manager-dick mode, complained about Gigi having quit and told me to call her a name next time I saw her. I was shocked; not only did I have respect for Spence until that moment, but I don't know how anyone who ever met Gigi couldn't be a little in love with her for the rest of his life. So I told him off for it. Dick.

Props also to JEN G., whom I barely worked with (she worked mostly nights). She lent me a space heater for my crappy apartment that I didn't share with Ray. Jen helped to keep me alive, too. She was a nice, Nordic looking girl who resembled the main character in Leave It to Chance!, the excellent comic book. Becca had a thing for her, I remember.

ELIZABETH D. is a name I know Carl will cringe to remember. She was a flighty, crazy old woman who worked in community relations and was a total bitch. One of those New Age/old hippie types, which I can handle, but constantly on about how hard her job is and how much respect she deserves just for being old/a woman/whatever. She used to use cutesy language, cursing "Oh, lions and tigers and bears!" or "Ribbons!" instead of just swearing like a person. Carl hated her violently; I think he really wanted to strangle her and feel her life empty out of her. He used to go to great lengths to avoid even having to walk near her. Not that I blame him, really. She was a mean fucking witch. She was eventually fired for working at home too often. We were all pretty happy about it, because she used to work in back with us, and the complaints were insane.

Questions To Amuse/Piss Off Star Wars Fans

1. Are the Jedi a religion or a genetically superior race of supermen? I just ask because I want to know what kind of rage I should be expressing over Executive Order 66. Is it a hate crime against religion or race? Genocide or religious extermination? I need to know what kind of moral quandary I'm in, dammit!

2. How many innocent families of government officers do you suppose were killed when rebel insurgent terrorists flew their space planes into the Death Star?

3. Do you ever wonder if Luke Skywalker masturbated to fantasies of Leia Organa before he figured out if she was his sister? Or after? Do you think he used his robot hand to make it feel more foreign and arousing? And what does it say about Luke that he had sex fantasies about his twin? Hello, Narcissus.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Mea Culpa: The Double-Edged Sword of DSL

If you're a regular reader of this site, you may have noticed that my updating has been very haphazard for the last couple of days; no Throwdown, the Sunday Hottie a day late. Well, we got DSL in the Frog's Den last Thursday, so I hooked it up and... my God, it's full of stars.

There are so many great points of this thing. Faster, better, stronger. Everything comes up within seconds. But if there are bad points, well... let me think... ah, yes, I have even less of a life than I already did! See, without the lag time, I try to do everything at once. Sites I only checked once or twice a week because of the dial-up time can now be checked daily. I can now search for more pictures, wav files, mash-up mp3's, or whatever, because it only takes SECONDS to open a page. And I thought I was a computer zombie before.

However, since I can't remember what life was really like before this, I guess I'll keep it.