Friday, April 21, 2006

Throwdown 4/21

15 random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Man, first DeLay, now McClellan. Even the rats know when to abandon the sinking ship. Rove is basically demoted. So why is Bush still sucking Rumsfeld’s dick?

2. Julia Roberts debuted on Broadway and failed to impress critics. Yeah, she’s a shitty actress, I’ve been saying that for 15 years.

3. Josh Holloway, who plays Sawyer on Lost, just admitted in an interview that when he got famous he considered dumping his faithful fiancee in order to be a playboy. Dude, your wife is going to hear this, what’s she going to think? Asshole. She's got you by the balls now.

4. Meg Ryan decided to go the classy route and basically say "Sure, I cheated on my husband with Russell Crowe, and basically in public, but he cheated on me first!" Well, he didn’t do it in the tabloids, honey.

5. Supposedly, the cast of Saturday Night Live had another intervention for Lindsay Lohan after last week’s episode. Hey, some people you just can’t reach. She’ll be dead in another year, anyway. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lindsay's amoral spokespeople denied that this even happened; suspiciously, she refused to mingle with any of the cast members at the after party. Man, when even people who work into the night hopped up on stimulants say you're doing too much drugs, maybe you should listen. But, then you wouldn't be Lindsay Lohan, would you? You poor, doomed idiot.

6. Boy, this takes balls. On that fucking Primetime interview, Tom Cruise was asked about that whole idiotic South Park crybaby thing. Cruise claimed, first off: "I would never sit down with someone and question them on their beliefs." I guess because Trey and Matt or anyone at Comedy Central weren’t advocating the use of perscription drugs. Cruise, probably in a harsh, defensive tone, went on to say: "I’m really not even going to dignify this. I honestly didn’t really even know about it. I’m working, making my movie, I’ve got my family. I’m busy. I don’t spend my days going, ‘What are people saying about me?’" I love it when movie stars claim not to be interested in what people think, even though good public relations are, like, a third of their job. And, hey, it’s not like Tom Cruise is soooo interested in what people are saying about him that he’s, like, sued tabloids for saying things about him, right? Nice try, my friend. I have to think, too, that if you didn’t care what people are saying about you, you wouldn’t go on Primetime and talk about yourself, you egomaniacal dipshit.

7. Oh, right, Katie Holmes finally spawned Tom Cruise’s illegitimate bastard. They named it Suri, which is Hebrew for either princess, person from Syria, or go away; Persian for red rose; an anagram of Cruise’s birthplace Syracuse; a purposeful misspelling of L. Ron Hubbard’s Surrey birthplace; a village idiot from a Buddhist tale; Japanese for pickpocket; or Thetan for asshole with a messiah complex (you know, after her father). Creepily, Brooke Shields gave birth to her new daughter, Grier Hammond Henchy, on the same day. Which leads me to believe that the final battle is almost upon us; 20 years from now, Suri Cruise the Thetan Antichrist against Grier Henchy the Returned Christ with all of our souls in the balance. Or something. Anyway, how’s Katie Holmes doing? Hope she doesn’t have any of that postpartum depression from, say, not being allowed to talk to her kid for days because of the "church" stance on imprinting. Oh, and she had an epidural, too. So much for not using any drugs.

8. Okay, one more Tom Cruise story since we all hate him so much. Parade magazine recently had a poll about Crazy Cruise, asking online readers if they blamed the media for last year’s public relations nightmare. Right, because the media made him go on Oprah and act like a huge ass. Anyway, 84% of the 18,000-plus voters said yes, it was the media’s fault. But Parade did a little digging (there’s a sentence you don’t type every day) and discovered that more than 14,000 of those votes came from just 10 computers. One computer sent in 8400 votes alone! It appears that someone, probably associated with a fake science-worshipping "religion," may have written some bot programs to vote repeatedly and skew the results in order to protect Tom Cruise’s image. Interesting theory... I knew Parade didn’t have 18,000 readers!

9. And now Comedy Central is censoring South Park by not letting them show an image of Mohammed. See, what people are saying when they cave into this is that they think Muslims are ignorant and violent, and that they can’t be trusted not to kill people when they’re upset about something. We are still in America, right? Land of the free, regardless of peoples' superstitions.

10. Jacques Chirac caved in and gave the French teenagers everything they wanted. Hey, maybe giving kids everything they want is the problem. Take a lesson from Nepal, where King Gyanendra has rioting teenagers. He just cut off the little bastards’ cell phones. Serves ‘em right.

11. I see that Opus Dei and the Vatican are still pissed about The Da Vinci Code. Hey, so are rational people who can think for themselves, you don’t see us crying out "Disclaimer! Disclaimer!" We just shrug, shake our heads, and move on.

12. Hey, Orlando Bloom nearly killed a guy on a scooter. By way of apology, Bloom left the dude his worthless autograph (sorry, it only works on 12 year-old girls who are scared by, um, men) and fled the scene. Can’t we deport this would-be manslaughterer now?

13. I’m not 100% sure about this United 93 movie, and not just because a movie about something so serious and recent is offering wallpapers on its website. Do we really want to start mythologizing the events of 9/11 when we don’t fully understand them, and when we’re still using it as an excuse to start an arbitrary war against a country that had nothing to do with it?

14. Speaking of Flight 93, prosecutors played the entire tape from that flight (and of people dying in the World Trade Center and making panicked 911 calls) at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. Isn’t there a long-standing legal principle that you can’t introduce evidence that would emotionally inflame the jury? Jesus, what al-Qaeda did was horrible enough; do you want to dig up mangled body parts and present them as evidence, too? Guys, you already had a case against the guy. Now you’re just being embarrassing.

15. Texas finally suspended their anti-alcohol Operation Last Call. The program, started by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, has arrested 1,742 people for public intoxication since they began in August. The catch is, they sent undercover agents into bars and arrested the drunks there. What, you can’t get drunk in a bar now? Alcohol is legal, so is being drunk. Christ, you moralists are making it illegal to smoke in every building everywhere, so we can’t smoke in bars. Now we aren’t supposed to drink in them? Remove the cane from the inside of your ass and just accept that there’s some people you just can’t fix. And you know what? It’s not your job to.

Please, God, Just Love Me!

So, have you figured out Lindsay Lohan's problem yet? The poor dear just wants to be liked so goddamn much it hurts her inside! I don't know who told her that plump, bouncy, beautiful redheads weren't in style (instead of the girl equivalent of finding a really hot unicorn), but I think there's this huge part of her that wants to be a bubbly (but thin), freckle-less (but fake-oranged tanned), waifish (but big-fake-titted) blonde. Yes, because a unicorn who cuts off her horn to look like the other horses isn't too pathetic, is she? Here she is, once again, doing her signature pose, which is just ripped off from Marilyn Monroe. You poor child. I hope you find somebody to love you so you can stop being such a skank. But keep up that kiss-blowing thing and I'm going to have to punch you right in the snoot, alright? Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Couple of Random Language-Related Things

1. Bob Dylan, America's folk poet. I just noticed, for the first time, that in the great song "You Ain't Going Nowhere," Dylan sings a lyric about "Genghis Kahn and his brother Don," and to my delight he actually pronounces the name correctly: Jenghis Kahn. Cool. But I always notice that in my favorite song of his, "Lay Lady Lay," he sings "You can have your cake and eat it, too." Well, win some, lose some. It's a language peeve of mine; "you can have your cake and eat it, too" makes no sense. Of course you can. What you can't do is eat your cake and have it, too. There are a lot of dumbass, meaningless phrases in English (see also "I could care less").

2. My professor rightly excoriated me (anonymously) for writing the worst sentence of my life: "Drawing from the prison population opens up a resource of manpower that will benefit the war effort." Ouch. Where do I turn in my pen? And what the hell is a war effort? There's either a war or there isn't.

3. It's spring, and the lovely ladies on campus are wearing tight, short, low-cut clothes. Sometimes, I can hear myself evaluating them in my mind with the crudest phrases. A rather thin girl walked by me, and I thought: "No, she's icky thin." Then, a girl I had noticed twice earlier today, walked up in her jeans and black tank top. She has long, auburn, Lucy Pinder-like hair, large breasts, and though she's by no means fat, she has the most mouthwatering, sexy pot belly. Either she's pregnant, or her weight is distributed the same way post-pregnant Britney's is. And I heard in my mind: "Holy shit, that's the kind of dumpster slut daddy likes." Where the hell did those words come from?

4. So, where does someone end up eating when they're starving and have no good options available and have given up on life? Why, McDonald's, of course, where, as my dad never tires of saying, they fry the friendly flies. For the first time in my life, I decided to try a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. I don't know why; guess I'm sick of the Big & Tasty, and I was in the mood for something new (though not, apparently, too new). I'd always said that the cheese McDonald's uses is the lowest grade of goat cum that the FDA will still allow them to call cheese. And I see no reason to modify that opinion. But I was hungry as hell, so I ate the greasy fucker.

5. Hey, I won an award kind of! I came in second place for the Orville Baker Award, one of NIU's scholarships. I only won $250, but it's good for my ego to finish this well in what is essentially a contest. This was for the best paper submitted to an undergraduate English course this semester, so I've essentially written the department's second-best paper. It bears the exciting title "To See and Understand: The Purposes of Sight in Milton's Paradise Lost, Book III." I'm happy with it.


Just because I'm pissed at Disney, let's all enjoy a clip from Song of the South.

Depressing Cartoon News

Amid Amidi has posted a very interesting letter over at Cartoon Brew. This letter is written by an anonymous artist who has personal experience with Cartoon Network. He basically points out that showing live action programming is simply cheaper for the network (especially since they charge the same ad rates as they do for original programming, and especially during their Adult Swim lineup). Never thought about it, but there really is no national advertising for Cartoon Network, so they must not be making any money over there. Maybe.

Another bit of sad animation news: Disney will NOT be making Song of the South available on DVD in its Walt Disney Treasures line this year. Or ever, probably. Which means it's time to go back to buying bootleg DVD-Rs from eBay, if you still can. Bob Iger pussed out on it, saying: "Owing to the sensitivity that exists in our culture, balancing it with the desire to maybe increase our earnings a bit but never putting that in front of what we thought were our ethics and our integrity, we've made the decision not to re-release it." Of course, if Iger had integrity, he'd put it out to satisfy the animation enthusiasts and then admit that, yeah, it's pretty racist, but this is an artifact from another time and it was made by people who are pretty much all dead now. Jesus, the movie's 60 years old here. What do they think it's going to do to people? Gone with the Wind is pretty racist, I don't see anyone locking that up.

So, I guess Iger really is as spineless as Eisner was.

Fuck Earth Day

I know he means well, but Steve Bartholomew's opinion column in 18 April 2006 issue of my school's student paper, The Northern Star, was extremely irritating. The headline looks at us with big puppy-dog eyes and asks us, "Shouldn't every day be Earth Day?" To which I have no problem answering: ""

Earth Day was invented in 1970 by the Environmental Teach-In, and was so successful a gathering that it has been held every 22 April since then. Thousands of people, mostly students, celebrated the day with protests, parades, dancing about, what have you. The reason this is historically important is that Senator Gaylord Nelson was able to use this as proof that environmental legislation had broad, grassroots support, and because of this many environmental laws were enacted, like the Clean Air Act. This is a good thing. Within three years of Earth Day I, the Environmental Protection Agency was founded, and they originally had good intentions. Earth Day has mostly taken the place of Arbor Day, which was founded in 1872 and traditionally falls on the last Friday in April. Conspiracy theorists will also tell you that 22 April 1970 was the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Vladimir I. Lenin, which is true, but must be a coincidence...right? And in 2000, SUV-drivin' shot-The Beach-in-a-Thai-national-park Leonardo DiCaprio was chosen to rehabilitate his image--er, to be the spokesperson for the 30th Earth Day event.

Anyway, my own belief is that Earth Day is a bunch of useless bullshit. Senator Nelson wanted to make it a conventional public relations event, but the EPA hippies took over and turned into this idiot gathering of moony tree-huggers and environmental terrorists who will do anything, so long as it isn't personally inconvenient, to enact policy change. Mostly it's just the day where kids are taken out of elementary school classes, skip their daily grammar lesson, and plant a tree. Aw.

Give me a fucking break here, but back to Steve Bartholomew. His big gripe is litter all over campus. He points out, and rightly so, that there are trash receptacles all over campus. They're literally every few feet or less, and still some fucking assholes can't take the extra second and a half out of their afternoon to throw their goddamn garbage away. I agree with Steve on that one. On the other hand, being nearly a generation older than a lot of the kids on campus, I'm not surprised. These idiots can't figure out how not to walk out into the street when a car with a particularly unsympathetic me is bearing down on them in a suspiciously-purposeful manner. No, the fact that the same people who use MP3 players to blot out the noise of life lest they deign to converse with someone or be left alone to their own horrifying thoughts, cannot fire the synapses to transmit the message "garbage can=wadded-up paper" is not surprising to me one bit. Hey, Sturgeon's Law ("90% of everything is shit") can be applied to people, too, and generally the cliche of college student as pretentious, self-involved motherfucker is there for a reason. I'm surprised they pull their pants down before going to the bathroom.

Okay, so we have a lot of kids on campus dropping their wrappers on the ground, even though everyone was fired up about the money the school spent on beautifying the pond, which now has bread wrappers floating in it for some reason. It sucks, but like I said, these kids are assholes. So now Steve takes us on a little tour of recycling, and this is where he loses me. He asserts that if you buried a plastic water bottle in the dirt and came back 700 years later, it would still look exactly the same. Please. There are a lot of doom-sayers with no scientific training out there who love to cry that plastic never decomposes, ever, but that's just wrong. Most estimates say about 50 to 80 years, which is a long time, but it's a lot shorter than never. While continuing to fob off on the supposed benefits of recycling, Steve espouses most of the official hippie made-up numbers; recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees and enough energy to power a home for six months and 7000 pounds of water and keeps 60 pounds of pollutants out of the air.

Well, those sound nice, and numbers like that can really help otherwise disinterested people to believe that they're saving the Earth. But they aren't. They aren't even saving America. First, let's tackle the trees. I love trees, I really do. Hey, did you ever think about how trees are plant life, and plant life tends to grow pretty quickly? Have you ever seen how quickly trees grow? I mean, trees are a renewable resource; they just grow right out of the planet, almost by magic, but really by complex millennia-old processes. The Earth has been in the resource-renewal business a lot longer than suburban America has, and everything works like a Swiss-manufactured clock. I know people love to lay into the logging industry, but consider where the wood pulp for paper really comes from: tree farms. Go up to Michigan, take a tour of the many and vast tree farms where trees are grown specifically for the purpose of turning into paper. Then tell me that trees are about to go extinct. People plant these things, they grow, end of story. We are not running out of trees.

As for saving power, what rational person believes that's the truth? You're still spending power, you're just using it to recycle instead of manufacture. Are people seriously buying in to this one? Do they think that paper is recycled by magic, which costs nothing and comes from nowhere? What kind of cockamamie bullshit is that? Saving power? These hippies really don't seem to understand that it takes energy and power to recycle something, from transporting the garbage and running the enormous machinery (which spits more of that smog out into the air) to turning the lights on when people are in the building and employee use of the flush toilets. So, there's your energy savings. And don't even get me started on the scam the energy companies are running, where those sanctimonious motherfuckers use peoples' enviornmental fears to claim there's an energy shortage, and mark up the price of something that would be free if they allowed you to build your own batteries. It's not a matter of finding an alternative source of power like wind or water or something, it's a matter of us handing over the power to liars who just want our money. Face it, enviornmental suckers, recycling is a manufacturing process. Again, so you don't forget: RECYCLING IS A MANUFACTURING PROCESS.

Anyway, let's dismiss the claim about water. Water comes from a lot of places; the Earth, the sky, the plants, etc. There is no shortage of water, though there could very well be a shortage of clean water. But water, like trees, tends to be self-renewing. Soon enough, it'll rain. And for future reference, municipal water isn't as polluted as people think it is (except in my current home of DeKalb, where the water has fucking radium in it!!!!). And the claim about pollutants is, as always with these hippie creeps, maddeningly vague. What kind of pollutants does paper release? I assume he's referring to the methane that's produced by landfills. Don't you think it's cute how people really think landfills are going to explode? Makes me laugh. Oh, and their made-up landfull crisis, where we'll have no room to throw anything away, that's another good one. Makes me roll around on the floor. Anyway, about that methane. Most landfills (if not all of them) run pipes to capture the methane before it is released into the air, and then pipe it to energy companies who can use the methane from one landfill to provide energy to 60,000 homes. That's a lot more than one house for six months, isn't it? Landfills are actually more energy efficient than wasteful recycling is. And while we're at it, grass will grow over a landfill. Trust me, the Earth will take care of itself. It always has. More methane is released into the air by cows farting than by landfills erupting.

And now, let's talk about all that non-degradable plastic. My real beef with plastic is that it takes petroleum to make it, and that brings us to a whole other subject, which is our dependence on foreign oil. Let's just skip that one and instead talk about the little bottles corporations use to sell you municipal tap water (many of them do, check the labels). Plastic is pretty worthless as a recyclable; ask anybody in a municipal recycling program, and if they have any sense of honesty they will tell you that it actually costs them more money to recycle plastics than it does for companies to manufacture more of them. Ever wonder why that shitty green paper is more expensive than fresh white sheets? Because it actually introduces more cost to recycle it, unsuccessfully re-bleach it, press it, cut it back to size, put those lines on it, and repackage it. They funnel through subsidies to hide the true cost, but it's estimated that this costs taxpayers about $8 billion a year. So, how does this save money, again? Here's some more numbers the hippies don't know about: it costs the taxpayers $50 to $60 a ton to haul garbage to a landfill; it costs three times as much, $150 a ton, to go through the recycle-manufacturing process.

And Steve, by way of the Illinois Recycling Association, believes that recycling saves enough energy to provide light and heat for 400,000 homes in a year. When does the saving money part begin, exactly?

About the only place where Steve and I agree on recycling issues is on aluminum. He says that recycling one can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours. This is a bullshit, bend-over-backwards-to-speciously-reason number, of course, because as we've seen, recycling still costs energy (oh, what people will believe--he also says that recycling that can results in 95% less air pollution, which doesn't take into account the emissions from the truck that takes it to a plant, and that plant's smog output; I'd love to see the ass from which that number was pulled). But recycling aluminum cans is a good thing, because it does actually save on manpower. Aluminum may be the third most abundant element on the planet, but it does have to be refined from bauxite, which has to be mined. And anything that reduces mining is a good thing; people die down there, and refining is actually more expensive than recycling. So, recycling cans really helps.

So, why would the EPA and the power companies lie to us so openly about the state of our resources? Well, I'm not too sure, but wouldn't you guess that money comes into it? I mean, come on, what else does the EPA have to do? And as Steve correctly points out, "recycling is the easiest thing we can do to improve our environment." Don't all Americans want things to be easy? We're the land of the quick fix, the fast buck, and instant downloads. So, if you can make people feel good about useless recycling, and then explain to them that their family is in danger if they don't do it, whose going to quibble about the costs involved? Who's going to do the research and get the word out?

Earth Day is a commercial concept that is used to fool people into spending more money than they have to for something that doesn't really work. And since I've never been one to respond to commercials, I'd have to say, no. No, I don't wish every day was Earth Day. Just throw your bread wrappers in the goddamn trash, kids.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I'm Very Satisfied with This One

You Are Kermit

Hi, ho! Lovable and friendly, you get along well with everyone you know.
You're a big thinker, and sometimes you over think life's problems.
Don't worry - everyone know's it's not easy being green.
Just remember, time's fun when you're having flies!

News Complaint

I'd appreciate it if, from now on, newspapers and news programs would stop reporting on the fact that Easter and Passover are happening. The front page of my school's newspaper, the Northern Star, had an enormous picture of a stained-glass window and a headline about the holy celebrations going on last week. A promo for Fox local WFLD news stated: "See how Chicagoans celebrated the most holy day of the year." Um, let me guess... by going to church and then having a barbecue? Because that's how people in Chicago celebrate everything.

Look, I don't care if it's Easter. I don't care if it's Passover. And the news outlets sure as hell don't care if it's Mawlid al-Nabi. I'm an atheist, I just want the political news, alright? My real hatred comes from the fact that a made-up religion devoted to a made-up guy is being reported on as though this mysticism stolen from a pagan holiday is some kind of important fact. Sorry, Christ Enthusiasts, but you're like Trekkies or Fanboys to me, and I don't take your shit seriously. And I don't care that you do.

Film Week

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

SCARY MOVIE 4 (2006)
Yeah, but how much was I honestly expecting? Somehow, more than this. I've enjoyed the Scary Movie series since the beginning; I found the first two hilarious, and I adore Anna Faris and sexy, sexy Regina Hall, who are both very funny. But the reason the first two were so hilarious is because they stuck to a single focus. The first film was mainly a parody of Scream, with some nods to other slasher films. Scary Movie 2 was a spoof on haunted house movies. But once the Wayans Brothers left the series and the job was given to David Zucker, there was a noticeable downshift in quality. And the reason is this: the focus was widened far too much. There was serious talk for a while that Scary Movie 3 was going to be a parody of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Which is scary how? Instead, the settled on making it a horror parody. Then they added all that shit about Signs, which I guess was fine, since that movie scared the shit out of me when I saw it (one of the few which ever has). But The Matrix? Eight Mile? In this one, they ditch Charlie Sheen (who is surprisingly funny) for Craig Bierko doing a lame Tom Cruise impression by way of, as so many do, ripping off Bruce Campbell. And Craig Bierko is about as humorless as the real Tom Cruise, so all of the ham-fisted attempts at satire fall completely flat. They push most of the horror parody aside for two main targets: War of the Worlds and The Village. Which is a huge mistake; The Village is so bad and so ultimately plotless that there's no meat to make fun of it. It might sound like a really stupid criticism for a movie like this, but Scary Movie 4 just has no plot. The only really funny scene is the first one, with Dr. Phil doing a fairly decent job of making fun of himself. And why do they keep shoving Leslie Nielsen into these things? Is there anyone left alive, besides David Zucker, who actually thinks this guy is still funny? Maybe 26 years ago in Airplane!, but that's because he was parodying the serious characters he played in B movies. Now... And does it feel to anyone else like this serious is condescendingly pandering to the African-American audience? Wow, that's a lot of ranting. Well, at least I have my fantasies of Regina Hall to get me through the film... ** stars.

My Favorite Quote This Week

"I was a big science fiction guy until Star Wars came along and ruined everything. Before that, science fiction was 2001: A Space Odyssey and Silent Running, it was interesting; but after Star Wars, everything became just another adventure in space." -- Rob Zombie

Amen, brother. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Ah, Spring

Scarlett Johansson enjoys the beach, and I enjoy Scarlett Johansson. Pretty bikini design, too. Posted by Picasa

Programming Sucks

One thing I really hate is when a cable network starts to get a little popular, then makes a grab for the money by putting on original programming. For example, have you noticed the number of commercials on VH1 Classic lately? I mean, the interview segments are bad enough--I love Rob Zombie, but on VH1 Classic?--and they can't seem to distinguish between alternative and New Wave, but now there are commercials every couple of videos. Alright, I guess I understand that. But Game Show Network airing a reality show about Chuck "Big Plastic Head" Woolery? AMC editing their classic movies for family viewing, breaking for commercials, and showing almost no movies made before 1960? And SCI FI airing charlatan douchebag John Edwards ad nauseum while cancelling excellent SF like Farscape? Remember when Disney Channel used to actually show Disney cartoons and old Disney movies, instead of 90% tween girl programming? Fuck, what about MTV? Seen many music videos on Music Television lately?

Well, now the Cartoon Network has stepped off towards its final ruination. Remember how great Cartoon Network was when it started? Nothing but classic cartoons, with the occasional program about classic cartoons. And they did try to hold onto that, even as they started getting more and more original programming. Hey, that was cool, because America needs a good showcase for original animation; sure, they stopped showing offbeat short films in order to create more commercial shows, but they have given us the odd fun show--Teen Titans, Justice League Unlimited--and a couple of excellent cartoons--The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. I was skeptical about Adult Swim, too, and it's mostly junk for stoners or anime geeks. I know everyone likes to point out that it helped revive Family Guy, but seriously, try showing something to stoned college kids eating Taco Bell at 3 a.m. and try getting them not to laugh. Still, Adult Swim has put out some truly funny programs, too--The Venture Brothers, Robot Chicken, Moral Orel, Harvey Birdman: Attorney-at-Law. Too bad they dumped any programming about the history of cartoons, and just try seeing any Looney Tunes on TV anymore (the scarcity makes those illogically-sequences DVDs more attractive), and when the hell was the last time Cartoon Network did June Bugs, their airing of nothing but Bugs Bunny cartoons through the month of June?

But now Cartoon Network has finally gone too far. It's bad enough that they've been showing live action kids' movies on the network. But airing reruns of Saved by the Bell? If Ted Turner wants to keep showing that stupid, stupid show, he should just keep it on TBS. Or he could chop the whole thing up for banjo picks, which is what it deserves. Isn't this a Cartoon network? Give me a fucking break...

So, we need a new cartoon channel and a new science fiction channel, in case anyone's thinking of investing in entertainment.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter

I'm not into holidays, but since I have a lot of Christian friends I was thinking of stoning them, throwing them to lions, and then nailing them to planks of wood to celebrate Easter. But, in the spirit of the actual pagan fertility holiday that was stolen by the Jesus Enthusiasts in the first place, I decided I'd put up a picture of a pretty girl holding a symbol of rampant reproduction. Enjoy pretty Charlotte Ross and a bunny.

I think I'm about to have an uplifting Easter. Posted by Picasa

An American Testament: Religious Implications in Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath"

I don't know if anyone's interested or not, but I just thought I'd throw up this paper, which I feel is one of the better academic papers I've written. It got an "F" grade; my teacher accused me of plagiarising the whole thing, because I hadn't spoken up much in her terrible, badly-taught class. She decided to punish me by giving me the benefit of the doubt, but failing me for the course--maybe if the fucking bitch had made one original observation about anything but her own supposed greatness, I would've made more of an effort. Either way, I just won a literary award at my university for a similar paper, so fuck her.

The Grapes of Wrath is one of the most important American novels ever written. It documents one of the worst struggles the people of this country ever faced: the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression. But through the use of Biblical language and Biblical symbolism, Steinbeck imbued his great work with a sense of something bigger and constant, something that manages to be both hopeful and dire. Through the use of key elements from the Old Testament--an exodus, a deluge, the ark, a plague--and the New Testament--the sacrifice of a Christ figure, a baptism, a communion, a manger of sorts--Steinbeck manages to take us through the development of the Bible: namely, the overthrow of an old, rigid system for the embracement of something new. In the Bible, Jesus rejected the Great Temple of Jerusalem and its rigid adherence to the laws of Moses in favor of the communal love of society as a whole; love over judgment. In Steinbeck, the migrant people reject the American economic system to find their own way, while the Joads specifically learn that self-interest must be sacrificed to work for the good of everyone, that "strength can be achieved through a selfless unity of the entire community" (Hunter 38).

The Grapes of Wrath is, essentially, an exodus story, one which carries the structure of the Biblical Exodus: captivity, journey, Promised Land. The migrants of the American Midwest, similar to the Hebrews of the Old Testament, lose their homes and must cross the desert to reach the Promised Land. In this case, the Exodus has been forced upon the migrants because over-farming and devaluation of agricultural goods have closed the farms. In some cases the ones who enforce the will of the landowners hate what they are doing, because "all of them were caught in something larger than themselves. Some of them hated the mathematics that drove them, and some were afraid, and some worshiped the mathematics because it provided a refuge from thought and from feeling" (Steinbeck 31). A system that forces tenant farmers off their land and strips them of nearly all they own is clearly one that does not work for America, but it continues to be perpetuated. This Exodus symbolism, however, is only one of many Biblical images that collide against one another; "Steinbeck is reflecting a broader background of which the exodus story is only a part," one in which New and Old Testament symbols run together in the American experience (Hunter 40).

The Joads are forced to sell off everything they can to crooked pawn brokers who take unfair advantage of their desperation (similar to the money lenders of the Great Temple in the Bible). Buying a truck, the twelve Joads fill it with their possessions and their hopes, and head west in search of the Promised Land; in this case, California, where workers are needed to pick grapes. According to this Biblical interpretation, the truck is Noah’s Ark, carrying all that remained of humanity across the waters of God’s flood. Here we have the Dust Bowl standing in for the Flood, but the land is still uninhabitable for the people. Furthering the symbolism, there are twelve Joads where, during the Exodus, there were twelve tribes of Israel.

The Joads, however, have invited a thirteenth to join them: former preacher Jim Casy. It is in him that we have our Christ figure (check Jim Casy’s initials), and through him that the twelve Joads also stand in for the twelve disciples of Christ. Casy, formerly a preacher of hell and damnation, has rejected the Church for a gentle understanding of humanity’s innate holiness. Soon after meeting Tom Joad, Casy explains his belief that "there ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do. It’s all part of the same thing. And some of the things folks do is nice, and some ain’t nice, but that’s as far as any man got a right to say" (Steinbeck 23). He feels that the human spirit is the Holy Spirit, and that love is more important than religion. Being among the people, for Casy, is more important than the lofty moral perch of his previous office, and it is often pointed out that Jesus, too, walked among sinners in order to understand them. Through the course of the novel, Casy is doing just that.

Jim Casy brings about the realizations of the Joad family and their larger mission in a world of trials. He emphasizes the need for community and advocates the rejection of past traditions. When Ma protests that salting the meat is work for women, Casy counters by saying, "It’s all work...they’s too much of it to split it up to men’s work and women’s work" (Steinbeck 107). The old gender-based divisions of labor must be forgotten. These ideas seem to reach Ma, whose behavior changes throughout their journey. As she takes over the role of head of the family from Pa Joad, she begins to care for others, too; she feeds some of the starving children at Weedpatch, and finally sums up towards the end of the novel that it "use’ ta be the fambly was fust. It ain’t so now. It’s anybody. Worse off we get, the more we got to do" (Steinbeck 445). Casy’s ideas have taken root in her mind; she sees that people have to care for one another in the larger sense of the word.

The will of the family to survive is what drives the Joads as they face one hardship upon another. They are reduced in number as the story unfolds. Grampa Joad, who did not want to leave his home, dies soon after leaving; if there is a Biblical parallel here, it is certainly Lot’s Wife, who did not want to leave her home in Sodom and was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back on it. At Grampa’s funeral, Tom quotes Lot’s Wife straight out of the Bible: "An’ Lot said unto them, O, not so, my Lord," to which Ma replies, "Don’t mean nothin’" (Steinbeck, 143). This verse is from Genesis 19:18. Casy, eschewing the Bible, says gracefully, "This here ol’ man jus’ lived a life an’ jus’ died out of it. I don’ know whether he was good or bad, but that don’t matter much. He was alive, an’ that’s what matters" (Steinbeck 144). Later, Noah leaves the family, Granma Joad dies, and Connie runs off. Finally, Casy is killed and Tom is forced to flee. The family appears to be unraveling, but the collective will of the family is what gives the Joads individual wills to survive.

Though Steinbeck asserts that companionship is essential to survival, the pastoral affirmations of the intercalary chapters (those not focused directly on the Joads themselves) seem to be myths, an idealization of something larger that has yet to be reached. Perhaps they are the goal that Casy is working towards, of mutual protection and communal love, of a world where "in the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage" (Steinbeck 349). After all, the journey is fraught with peril, and as the Hebrews in the Exodus, the Joads run into more and more people who refuse to help them: the gas station attendant who thinks they are begging, the people who keep them in the Hooverville camp where Casy is arrested, and the general anger of Californians they meet. Tom Joad observes that what they find in California "ain’t no lan’ of milk an’ honey like the preachers say. They’s a mean thing here. The folks here is scared of us people comin’ west; an’ so they got cops out tryin’ to scare us back" (Steinbeck 251). The migrants are unwelcome in the Promised Land, and those who fear having to give up what they have to help others try to drive them away with guns and terrorize them. The intercalary chapters are not meant to be real, but are instead meant to be directions on which direction the migrants should be working in, showing Steinbeck as "less a realist who portrays what is and more of a poet-philosopher who depicts what might be and what ought to be," as Jim Casy has done for the family (Heavilin 63, emphasis hers).

There are two important events in the novel that bring all of these Biblical feelings to a head. The first of these is the sacrifice of Jim Casy for the Joad family and, through them, for all of the migrants. Casy is taken away by authorities, as both Jesus and John the Baptist were, after taking the rap for hitting the guard in Hooverville. As they drive him off, "on his lips there was a faint smile and on his face a curious look of conquest" (Steinbeck 267). He knows his sacrifice will mean something for Tom and his family. This sacrifice gets Tom thinking about all of the things Casy has said about the collective good, and changes him from a man who could not be bothered to think about the future to a man who begins to ponder where his people, not only his family, are going. Previously, Jim Casy had been the Christ figure; like Christ, "he embarks upon a mission after a long period of meditation in the wilderness; he corrects the old ideas of religion and justice; he selflessly sacrifices himself for his cause, and when he dies he tells his persecutors, ‘You don’ know what you’re a’doin’" (Hunter 41). When strikebreakers kill Casy in the river, Tom avenges his murder and takes his place. The river is an important setting; just as John baptized Jesus in the waters of the Jordan, so Tom is now baptized through Casy’s death. Tom takes on his ideals and becomes the new Christ figure, both a messiah for the migrants and a prophet of the former preacher. Tom is baptized into Casy’s way of caring for others and decides he must affect change on a greater scale for the good of all.

Tom may have become a Christ figure by the end of his journey, but there are elements of Moses in his character as well. Like the Hebrew prophet, "he has killed a man and has been away for a time before rejoining his people and becoming their leader" (Hunter 40). And although this Moses did get to see the Promised Land, he is forced to leave it fairly soon afterwards. When Tom explains to Ma that he is leaving, he says that, "maybe like Casy says, a fella ain’t got a soul of his own, but on’y a piece of a big one," and asserts that if he is successful, "I’ll be around in the dark. I’ll be ever’where – wherever you look" (Steinbeck 419). Tom has finally realized his calling: to put himself in the service of the collective good. Casy sacrificed himself for this ideal, and Tom has picked up the same challenge, walking off into the night with only his beliefs to protect him.

The second important event of the novel’s final chapters is the sudden rainstorm. This is a Biblical-scale deluge that cleanses the land of corruption, paving the way for spring when "tiny points of grass came through the earth, and in a few days the hills were pale green with the beginning of the year" (Steinbeck 435). But rather than leave us with such a cliched image of renewal, Steinbeck puts us in the midst of tragedy. Rose of Sharon, who has been pregnant this whole time, gives birth to a stillborn baby. It cannot be buried in the rain, so Uncle John puts the child in a box and sends him, Moses-like, down the rushing waters, saying "Go down an’ tell ‘em. Go down in the street an’ rot an’ tell ‘em that way. That’s the way you can talk...go on down now, an’ lay in the street. Maybe they’ll know then" (Steinbeck 448). In other words, go down, Moses. Like the prophet of the Bible, this dead child is sent to testify for the people killed and ruined by their rulers.

Steinbeck leaves us with a different image of renewal, one that is entirely breathtaking: Rose of Sharon suckling a starving man. With a quiet smile, she faces us like the Virgin Mary of the classical Pieta image. Like Mary, her child has been sacrificed for something larger, a message of man’s inhumanity, and she now represents the hope of humankind. And that this comes through Rose of Sharon, who has previously been the most selfish member of the family, dreaming about leaving them behind so that she can find a better life for herself and her now-absent husband Connie, makes this moment all the more stunning; the Joads have reached "the nadir [ . . . ] of their California experience [but] they have also reached a pinnacle of human awareness" which "gives their story mythic import" (Heavilin 64). The Joads have provided for us both maternal succor (first through Ma, now through Rose of Sharon) and a new testament of community (first through Jim Casy, now through Tom). It is important to note that Rose of Sharon seems to be staring at us, the reader, placing "the remainder of the story squarely in the hands of the reader. It also leaves a powerful closing image of human compassion – giving what little one has to save another" (Heavilin 59). This act also comes through Ma, whose silent communication with Rose of Sharon is instantly understood; Jim Casy’s teachings have grown in Ma, who no longer abides by traditional gender-based divisions of labor, and "Rose of Sharon’s sacrificial act represents the final breakdown of old attitudes" (Hunter 46).

This final moment in the novel is also the moment when all of the religious symbolism runs together, and "as the Joads hover in the one dry place in their world – a barn – the Bible’s three major symbols of a purified order are suggested: the Old Testament deluge, the New Testament stable, and the continuing ritual of communion." And though we know from the previous chapter that the rains will stop and spring will come, here "life is offered in a massive symbol of regeneration," and it is this image that gives us hope that the migrants have finally found their way (Hunter 47).

The use of religious imagery and tone in The Grapes of Wrath transports the novel "beyond realism to a mythic depiction of the human experience--particularly of the American identity in relationship to a land considered to be a new Eden" (Heavilin 63). There are elements from the Old Testament--the Exodus of the migrants, the Deluge, Tom Joad as Moses, the family truck standing in for the Ark, the Plague of the Dust Bowl--and elements from the New Testament--Jim Casy and Tom Joad as Christ figures, the Baptism of Tom, the Communion of Rose of Sharon--all running together in the American experience. Steinbeck, through this new American testament, fuses all of these symbols that, at first, "seem patternless, for they refer to widely separated sections of Biblical history. However, the frequency of allusion suggests the basic similarity between the plight of the Joads and that of the Hebrew people" (Hunter 40). But it goes deeper than that in the way that "the context shifts from a basically Old Testament one to a New Testament one;" in other words, the old ways of Moses and his law have been struck down in favor of the hopeful words of Jesus (Hunter 41). But the Biblical allusions are never forced here, and through the use of several narrative tones – sometimes Biblical, sometimes conversational, sometimes naturalistic – Steinbeck’s "background ideology becomes secularized and transcendentalized, but the direction of thought is still recognizable: a widening of concern" (Hunter 42). In the Bible, the Jews following the laws of Moses placed the afterlife highest in importance; Jesus wanted people to care more for the here and now, to make life better.

Works Cited:
Davis, Robert Con, ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of the Grapes of Wrath. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982.
Heavilin, Barbara A. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath: A Reference Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002.
Hunter, J. Paul. "Steinbeck’s Wine of Affirmation." Twentieth Century Interpretations of the Grapes of Wrath. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982.
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Penguin, 1939.

Additional Works Consulted:
Asimov, Isaac. Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: Volume One, The Old Testament. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1968.
Asimov, Isaac. Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: Volume Two, The New Testament. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969.
The One Year Bible: New International Version. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1986.
Steinbeck, John. Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath, 1938-1941. New York: Viking, 1989.
Walker, Barbara G. The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1983.