Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Bible Summarized by a Smartass, Part Three: Exodus 1-19

Chapter One
So, after recapping the names of Jacob/Israel’s 12 sons, we’re told that he had a total of 70 children. Apparently, somewhere in the margins of Genesis, Jacob managed to not only sire the founders of the 12 tribes of Israel, but also 58 more children. A generation later, the Israelites (all descendents of one family that goes from Adam downward, although the Bible for some reason only counts from Abraham) are strong and powerful in Egypt. The new Pharaoh is afraid that the Israelites will rise up and destroy them, so decides that the smart answer is to increase the tension by enslaving them. Great plan. Pharaoh has all the newborn males thrown into the Nile.

Chapter Two
A Levite couple has a baby, and she puts it in a basket and floats it down the river (the typical origin for a religious legend; see Sargon, Perseus, Horus, Bindumati, Cyrus, Romulus). One of Pharaoh’s daughters sees the basket while bathing and decides to adopt the baby, improbably giving him the Hebrew name Mosheh (Greek, Moses) “because I drew him out of the water.” As if Pharaoh’s daughter bothered to learn a servants’ language. Probably she named him Mose because, in Egyptian, it means son. Anyway, the future savior of the Israelites grows up in secret, away from his people (see Oedipus, Jason, King Arthur, Brahma, Luke Skywalker). As an adult, he savagely murders an Egyptian in a fit of compassion for the Hebrew he was beating. The Pharaoh sentences Moses to death, so Moses flees to Midian, defends some priest’s daughters from some local rowdies, and is given one of them to marry, Zipporah. Moses and Zipporah have two sons, Gershom and Eliezar. Meanwhile, God suddenly notices after a couple of generations that the Israelites are suffering and decides enough is enough. Maybe he was too busy clearing brush to notice the danger.

Chapter Three
Even though Moses’s father-in-law was named Reuel in the last chapter, it’s suddenly Jethro. No explanation. Seriously, people think this book is a basis for moral law? It can’t even keep continuity over the space of nine verses! Anyway, Moses is shepherding on Mount Horeb (which will later be called Sinai, so there’s that continuity), and God appears as a burning bush and introduces himself. Knowing that Moses is going to finally fulfill that old promise about the nation, the descendents, etc—or quite possibly having forgotten about it, he seems to imply that he’s had a backlog of work and is just now finally getting back to Israel—God promises that the Israelites will be led into a Land of Milk and Honey. He assigns Moses to spearhead Operation: Israelite Freedom. Moses is skeptical, but God reveals himself to Moses with the name “I AM WHO I AM” (or YHWH, or haya, the Hebrew verb “to be”). Even though calling God by name causes him to lose his powers, everyone throws it around in Exodus (though the author refers to God as the LORD in those instances, thus protecting us or something; maybe it’s an honorarium). God tells Moses his plan to go into Egypt, commit acts of terror, and plunder the country. And yes, the Bible does use the word plunder.

Chapter Four
God proves his powers to Moses by turning himself into a Vegas showman. He turns Moses’s staff into a snake and turns Moses’s hand all leprous, which are probably things David Copperfield or Penn & Teller could do, but those people haven’t been born yet and Moses is impressed. As a last ditch effort to get out of this, Moses pleads a speech defect, but God tells him to go and find his brother Aaron, who will speak for him. Out of excuses, Moses packs up the family and heads to Egypt. Then, for no good reason, God, gets in one of his patented dark “kill everyone” kind of moods and tries to murder Moses one night. Zipporah saves his life by mutilating her son through circumcision, then rubbing the blood all over Moses’s feet, binding the family together by blood. As always, blood and violence make God all happy and sleepy, and he goes off to sleep. Maybe Santeria has it right after all… Anyway, Moses and Aaron meet up to prepare for Operation: Israelite Freedom. Because you need a man who knows the locals.

Chapter Five
Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh: “Let my people go.”

Pharaoh: “Get stuffed.”

Moses and Aaron: “God says.”

Pharaoh: “I don’t know this god of yours.”

Moses and Aaron: “Let my people go…or else.”

Pharaoh: “Get to work! And make it a double shift!”

Israelites: “Aw, c’mon…”

Pharaoh: “Lazy, shiftless bastards, do as Pharaoh commands!”

Israelites: “Thanks for nothing, Mose.”

Moses: “Hey, this was God’s idea, not mine!”

Chapter Six
God gives Moses a pep talk and gets down to plotting. Then, for no reason, here’s some genealogy. The Bible is worse than Tolkien with these things; at least Tolkien would’ve put them in the index instead of here, where it breaks up the flow of the badly-written, badly-paced story. Mostly it just goes from Jacob to Levi to Kolaeth to Amram, who married his aunt (seriously) Jochebed, had Moses and Aaron, and lived to be 137. So, all you really need to know here is that Moses and Aaron are the great-great grandsons of Jacob.

Chapter Seven
As he tends to throughout Exodus, God spends a lot of time talking about how mighty and powerful and royally fucking pissed he is. Okay, God. We get it. Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and do the whole staff-into-snake trick, but the court magicians do it too and Pharaoh remains unimpressed. Moses and Aaron turn the water of the Nile into blood; so do the magicians. Pharaoh yawns.

Chapter Eight
A week later, the plagues begin. First up: plague of frogs. Pharaoh begs Moses to stop the frogs, saying he’ll let the Israelites go. Moses agrees, stops the plague, and watches as the stinky frog carcasses bake in the hot sun. Now that he’s got what he wants, Pharaoh reneges on the freedom issue. So God sends a plague of gnats. The court magicians, scared, tell Pharaoh “this is the finger of God!” No points for guessing which finger, I imagine. Pharaoh ignores this plague; he’s busy reading to schoolchildren or something. A plague of flies follows, and this time God remembers to show his power by actually protecting the Israelites from the plague. Pharaoh offers religious tolerance, but Moses will only accept freedom. Pharaoh agrees, Moses stops the plagues, and Pharaoh again reneges on his deal. Man, Moses is a sucker.

Chapter Nine
Pharaoh won’t cave in to terrorist actions undertaken by a few religious fundamentalist fanatics, so God decides to ratchet up the pressure by killing all of Egypt’s livestock. Still, Pharaoh refuses to cave. God tries black dust and boils, but still Pharaoh stays the course. Hail and thunder shake him up a bit, so he again agrees to give in to the demands of the Israelites if Moses will stop the hail. Do you see what he’s doing there? He’s blaming Moses for everything so that the Israelites will be suspicious of Moses. Moses, who seems to have a head defect as well as a speech defect, agrees and, you guessed it, Pharaoh reneges again. He’s got a charge to keep.

Chapter Ten
Moses and Aaron go back to Pharaoh and give him a chance to surrender before the plague of locusts arrives. Now even Pharaoh’s advisors are telling him to give up before he ruins the country with his insane need to not be the weakest leader in his country’s history and be proven right. But Pharaoh’s wife and pet dog still believe in him, and he doesn’t care what people think anyways, so he tells Moses and Aaron where to go. The locusts arrive, and Pharaoh begs Moses to stop, telling him that, really, for reals this time, he’s going to let the Israelites go. Moses falls for it again, I’m sure to Pharaoh’s giggling delight. The plague of darkness settles in, with the same duck season/rabbit season results. Pharaoh promises to kill Moses if he sees him again.

Chapter Eleven
About this point, it’s been stunningly obvious that God is enjoying himself here. Not only is he building up the reputation of the Israelites, he’s also flexing his supernatural muscles and showing the Israelites what he can do. God keeps “hardening the heart of the Pharaoh” against Moses—which I believe is an interference in free will—so that this conflict is perpetuated for some time. Following the money, as it were, what does God gain here? Well, the Hebrews have never really been ones to follow his orders (except for our pious main characters through the generations), so if he can show off his powers, they’re going to be fucking scared and do whatever he tells them to do, no matter how insane or incomprehensible. Plus, I think he just really likes slaughter and destruction. Blood seems to have the same effect on him as sugar and caffeine do on me: a glorious high, a sharp crash, and lots of nap time after. Moses tells Pharaoh that God wants to murder the firstborn sons of Egypt.

Chapter Twelve
God orders a massive sacrifice of lambs with very specific instructions. God himself is going to enter Egypt and murder all the firstborn; putting lamb’s blood on the lintel and door posts will be a signal for God not to enter the home of an Israelite. Yes, apparently God gets so crazed in his bloodlust that he can’t actually tell the difference between animal or man, Israelite or Egyptian. God needs blood from every home, so if the Israelites put it on the door, he won’t have to come inside. Sate God’s bloodlust! And what’s more, God commands that his people celebrate this wholesale slaughter and Manson-type murder spree with a feast every year called Passover (for the time God passed over their homes on the way to murder other innocent people, including children). So, Passover is actually based on the magical fear that God might murder you? Weird. Anyway, God murders at least one person in every Egyptian household, so Pharaoh tells Moses to just get the hell out with all of his people. As God wanted, the Israelites plunder the home and possessions of Egypt, and then the 600,000 of them walk out of Egypt for the first time in 430 years in an episode that is recorded in no actual historical text. Egypt manages to get by without slaves for another thousand years or so.

Chapter Thirteen
God immediately starts making rules and demanding worship. The Israelites have escaped the specific, complex, and binding servitude of their Egyptian rulers, and are now free…to submit themselves to the specific, complex, and binding servitude of their ruling God. The first rule: always remember that I could have killed you all without a thought on Passover. Moses leads the Israelites to the Sea of Reeds; they carry the bones of Joseph with them.

Chapter Fourteen
God just can’t resist one final “fuck you” to the Pharaoh, so he picks a fight and then lets Pharaoh and 600 soldiers bear down on the Israelites. Among other complaints, the Israelites say (no kidding): “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” Moses parts the sea, the Israelites run to safety on the other side, and God actually says he’s doing this to give the Israelites one final reminder of how powerful he is. So much for pride. God makes sure that everyone watches as he drowns the Pharaoh’s army, cementing his relationship with his people as one based on total fear. Which doesn’t seem like the basis for a healthy, loving friendship, but what do I know?

Chapter Fifteen
Moses and the Israelites break for a musical number and celebration, then head for that Land of Milk and Honey. Instead hey find Shur, where there’s no milk and honey. In fact, there’s not even water. And the water in Marah is bitter. God sweetens the water after listening to the Israelites complain, then promises them he will not visit the Plagues of Egypt upon them as long as they do whatever he tells them to. Then, to prove what a magnanimous guy he is, he leads them to Elim, where they have freshwater springs.

Chapter Sixteen
After two months of walking, the Israelites find Sin (the land, not the fun stuff). The Israelites complain that they have no food, so God decides it’s time for a test. Apparently he’s never heard that testing a loved one only sets them up to fail, but I haven’t seen much love so far, anyway. More of an “If anyone’s going to torture my people it’s going to be me” kind of ‘tude. At this point, Moses starts reminding people again that this was all God’s idea and not his. See, God decides to leave some bread lying around (the manna from Heaven), but no one’s allowed to eat it. Gather it, he says, but don’t eat it until the Sabbath, when you’ll get twice as much as you already have. Some people eat it right away, but it’s all wormy and gross. But on the Sabbath, the faithful are rewarded with a double order of breadsticks. This is going to go on for the entire forty years the Israelites will be homeless and wandering.

Chapter Seventeen
The Israelites are attacked by Amalek, but repelled by one of Moses’s lieutenants, Joshua. God promises to wipe Amalek from history. So, well done then.

Chapter Eighteen
Moses is exhausted from being the sole judge and deity go-between for 600,000 people, so with the help of Jethro, he sets up a governmental system of judges working under him, interpreting God’s law.

Chapter Nineteen
From the Desk of YHWH
To: Moses
Re: Manager Visit

Hope you’re enjoying Mount Sinai (or Horeb or whatever you crazy kids are calling it these days). I’ve been meaning to reinforce what I said earlier about killing everyone who disobeys my laws. Think you and I should get together for a brainstorming session, set some laws in stone, as it were. It’ll make it so much easier for you to govern as my regional manager on earth. Listen, I know I’ve been interfering a lot lately, but I don’t come down to the ground every day, so there are some preparations I’d like you to make. Tell everyone to clean up, wash their clothes, groom themselves. And no fucking while I’m visiting, I can’t stand all of that biological stuff. I plan on arriving with some pomp and magnificence, you know, entertain/terrify the rabble with some kind of a light show, some thunder, something really cool like that. Don’t be afraid, but just so you know, don’t let anyone come near the mountain while I’m on it, because then I’ll be forced to kill them. And everyone around them. And after all the trouble I just went to saving your asses, I’d rather not have to deal with the cleanup. I’m still not sure where to put these things when they shut down! You and Aaron are to come to the top of the mountain for a meeting, but no one else. I’m serious, do not test me on this.

Looking forward to the sit-down and catching up on things. Bring a lunch, this could take a while.

Coming up next week: Exodus II: A Whole Lotta Laws.


When I went to the film and saw all the black-and-white feelings that nobody felt,
And heard the audience sighing and sobbing with all the emotions they none of them felt,
And saw them cuddling with rising passions they none of them for a moment felt,
And caught them moaning from close-up kisses, black-and-white kisses that could not be felt,
It was like being in heaven, which I am sure has a white atmosphere
Upon which shadows of people, pure personalities
Are cast in black and white, and move
In flat ecstasy, supremely unfelt
And heavenly.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Throwdown 10/13

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

1. I don’t necessarily care that Paris and Nicole are friends again, but I do care that this is being presented as real news. This is soft news. Don’t put it on the word crawl at the bottom of CNN. That's for scaring the shit out of me about North Korea.

2. Fucking Justin Hawkins fucking quits the fucking Darkness. Thanks a lot, you asshole. The Darkness fucking rocked. I fucking loved them. And now they’re only going to have just the two fucking albums? Fucker.

3. I was disappointed to learn that DreamWorks Animation is dropping their deal with Aardman Studios. Apparently they felt the stop-motion animated Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (which is wonderful and easily fifty times better than Shrek or Shrek 2 or Shark Tale That Is Exactly Shrek or Madagascar Which Is Also Shrek for All Intents and Purposes or Generic Pop Culture Referencing Storyless Bland Animal Adventure with Celebrities Impersonating Themselves in Lieu of Characters or whatever they’re putting out next) was a box office flop. Since DreamWorks made the decision to go all-CGI, they forced Aardman to computer-animate Flushed Away, only to do most of the animation themselves and then get pissed off about Aardman’s resistance to collaboration. Never mind that they originally told Aardman they weren’t going to interfere. Once again, an animation studio makes a really stupid decision because they’ve had a couple of hits and think it’s going to last forever as long as they never ever change formulas. Okay. Worked for Disney, right?

4. Beautiful Mercedes McNab posed for the most recent issue of Playboy. Charisma Carpenter also posed for Playboy a couple of years ago. Will somebody please get Amy Acker or preferably Julie Benz to pose for Playboy so I can have my trifecta of ladies from Angel? Oh, and thank you Miss McNab, you look wonderful.

5. I guess Ashlee Simpson was all pissed because she had to spend her 22nd birthday in London where she’s playing Roxie Hart in Chicago. According to her, if she was in L.A. there would’ve been “real” celebrities at her party. Yeah, because Brandon Davis and Paris Hilton are real celebrities. Anyway, she got totally upstaged by Charlotte Church, who had the attention of a lot of the boys there, and why not? She’s fucking gorgeous, you don’t really read about her getting drunk and yelling at some poor chick working the night shift at McDonald’s, she has a better vocal range, she’s not all grotty skinny, she’s doesn’t make a routine out of getting pieces of her face planed off in some desperate and misguided attempt at self-fulfillment, and she just frankly seems like more fun. Charlotte even sang “Happy Birthday” to a pissed, bratty little Ashlee. Good for her.

6. This is the world’s smallest legal bikini. No comment, just…wow. That is really, really small.

7. Calling Lindsay Lohan an actress anymore is a bit of a stretch, but when her mom says that Lindsay should be playing action hero roles, I almost shit myself laughing. Lindsay Lohan? An action hero? What’s going to stop her first, the asthma or the apparent fact that her bones are made out of powdered milk, because she shatters into a million pieces every time she falls. Side note: Lindsay’s trying to lose a quick five pounds because she thinks she’s getting fat. Seriously.

8. Well, it’s official. Rose McGowan is no longer sexy. I don’t know how that happened, or why she looks like a 55 year-old harridan, but it did, and she does.

9. Hilary Duff has a stalker, and I just wanted to mention, it’s not me. It’s some 19 year-old Russian dude and his roommate, a 50 year-old celebrity photographer. Apparently the kid is talking about buying a gun so he can remove any obstacles to their love. Like her boyfriend, Joel Madden. Dude, that’s fucking scary, and even though I’m not exactly Duffster’s biggest fan anymore, I wouldn’t wish that scariness on anyone.

10. Oh, hey, did you see my cameo on South Park last week? Uncanny. Seriously, it wasn’t the depiction of losers like this that made me never want to play World of Warcraft. It’s the fact that the real Warcraft losers have gone to the trouble of creating a Wikipedia entry about all of the stuff that episode of South Park got wrong. I wish I had nothing but free time. Oh, wait. I do. And I’m still not playing World of Warcraft. Hmm…

11. Sienna Miller had to apologize to Pittsburgh for talking down about it in a recent interview (calling it, among other things, “Shitsburgh”). Apologize? Hey, maybe she thinks Pittsburgh sucks. Maybe Pittsburgh has the problem and should just fucking get over itself. Sienna Miller has a right to her opinion, whoever the hell she is.

12. I’m just saying: HOLY FUCKING SHIT, WOW. And, thank you.

13. I thought it was bad enough that we got a tiny bit of snow here in Illinois yesterday morning. Now I read that in New York overnight they got two feet. I know I say this every year, but I am so not ready for winter weather yet. Ain’t global warming fun?

14. Well, surprise, surprise, the studio’s not releasing Terry Gilliam’s Tideland. MOTHERFUCKERS! JUST RELEASE THE FUCKING MOVIE, YOU PRICKS! Can’t you assholes in Hollywood treat this beleaguered genius, just once, with some fucking respect?

15. And the best news I’ve heard today: Roger Ebert is back!

Scarlett Johansson

According to Esquire, Scarlett Johansson is the Sexiest Woman Alive. And while I'm leaning towards Michelle Marsh as number one on this year's Hot 50, I have to agree that ScarJo is utter perfection.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The War on Freedom

As if going to the pharmacy isn’t hard enough, now we have to give our names, addresses, birthdates, and driver’s license numbers to purchase Sudafed in limited quantities. No matter how sick we get (and I do get sick at least once every winter seasons), we’re no longer allowed to simply purchase however much pseudoephedrine we need to get through it. Now we have to submit to what stops just shy of a background check. We have to enter our names on a list.

And why? Because Sudafed can be used to make methamphetamine.

Excuse me? You mean to tell me that the simple fact that some criminals can use an over-the-counter cold and flu medication to make illegal drugs had led to tighter restrictions? Funny how that argument never works with handguns, but I guess we don’t have an Amendment dealing with over-the-counter cold and flu medications. I suppose next we can force people to submit to blood tests and a rectal probing before they fill up their cars because, you know, gasoline is often used in acts of arson.

Does anyone else find this ridiculous? No, scratch that, it would be ridiculous if it weren’t so chilling.

As always, the little fascists who write the student editorials for NIU’s Northern Star are jumping up and down and champing at the bit to defend authoritarianism. In her 10 October column, Liz Stoever holds up the fact that an NIU student was recently arrested for running a meth lab in a storage unit. (Probably to offset the incredible cost of a half-assed diversity-centered NIU brainwashing, but that’s a whole other post.) Stoever also holds up the fact that 1189 meth labs were seized in Illinois last year. This last according to the website of the Illinois State Police ( And it’s not like I don’t believe that illegal drugs are a problem, but there was also a lot of teenage date rape in Illinois last year, and no one’s advocating that teenagers simply not be allowed to date. Or that your date has to be registered and witnessed because of the possibility that something might occur. So why play it this way? Why say that, simply because it’s possible that someone could use Sudafed to make meth, all people should have their access limited? Will we limit coffee filters next? Those are used in meth labs too.

Stoever, good little authoritarian shill that she is, extols all of the virtues of the limitations on pseudoephedrine that you expect. “DeKalb needs restrictions [. . .] to control the production of methamphetamine.” “How many drug dealers are willing to record their name and address in a logbook?” All that jazz. And my personal favorite, “These laws may be an inconvenience, but undoubtedly make the production of methamphetamine more difficult.”

When you write, you need to steer clear of absolutes like undoubtedly, because there’s always some more-informed douchebag naysayer like me who’s going to come along and say nay. And nay I say. What you are in fact doing is forcing meth lab technicians to come up with different ways to make meth. No self-respecting drug dealer is going to go to Wal-Mart, be denied Sudafed, and decide that his career is over. He’s going to by NyQuil instead. Or Robitussin, which has dextromethorphan and guaifenesin in it. So, you know, you can be high and loosen your phlegm at the same time. And, worst case scenario, it’s going to increase the number of small pharmacy owners getting robbed. Well done, Congress; once again you’ve introduced ineffective legislation that doesn’t stop criminals but actually creates the possibility of more crime. Brava.

Maybe we should stop treating people who make and sell drugs the way we treat violent criminals. Of course, people argue that drugs kill, so there is violence going on, but it’s interesting how Congress can’t come to believe the same things of people who make cigarettes or alcohol, which, once again, kill more people per year than illegal drugs. But yes, somebody holed up in a fortress with rifles firing at the FBI agents sent in to arrest them: those are violent criminals. An NIU student making meth in a storage space or some kid growing a marijuana plant in his closet are not. And right now, our law enforcement treats them the same. SWAT team goes in, dead bodies come out. I hope you’re keeping track of the fact that the Supreme Court recently ruled in Hudson v. Michigan that evidence seized in an illegal police raid can be used in court. And the police don’t even have to knock and identify themselves any more. Which means one thing for certain: a rise in accidental deaths. SWAT teams are used in America to serve warrants (mostly for drugs) an average of 40,000 times a year (or 110 times a day). Research has turned up over three dozen cases in which innocent people have been killed by the police due to mistaken intent because, imagine that, when gunmen charge into your home your first instinct it to defend yourself. There are also hundreds of cases where SWAT teams have simply read the address wrong and charged into the wrong house. How are these not considered acts of terror?

This so-called “War on Drugs” is ineffective and needs to be rethought. In England, members of the Conservative Party are urging the legalization and licensing of opium crops in Afghanistan. Why? Because they spent a billion dollars last year to eradicate opium in Afghanistan, and it didn’t work. In fact, opium exportation reached record levels in 2005. As America is doing in South and Central America, all Britain did was deprive poor farmers of their only source of income and make more criminals. In 1970, the legalization and licensing program the UN stated in Turkey actually eliminated the illegal heroin trade there (at the time the world’s largest heroin trade) by directing opium to pharmaceutical companies to make medical painkillers. And guess what? The World Health Organization recently reported a global shortage of legal opiates. And America wants to make them harder to get? Even antihistamines?

So America, not content with simply murdering innocent people or creating more terrorists and criminals in the name of stopping Junior and Muffy from getting buzzed, has decided that the solution to this problem is to record the names, addresses, birthdates, and driver’s license numbers of people who have the flu. In the name of national safety, our lawmakers have told us that they have to monitor what we do online, what books we check out from the library, who we talk to on the phone, and now, when we come down with a bad cold and need to buy some medicine. And yet, somehow, we’re not safer. Somehow, we’re more vulnerable than ever before. Funny how none of this happened when Bill Clinton, who supposedly didn’t do enough to keep 9/11 from happening, was president. Funny how America didn’t go to hell until George W. Bush got into the driver’s seat, told us proudly that he didn’t read newspapers, never took a single meeting on terrorism in his first hundred days, and then went on the longest vacation in presidential history so he could pretend he was a cowboy. Yes, putting our names on a list of people with post-nasal drip and scratchy throats will keep us all that much safer.

Liz Stoever ends her column with the typical wide-eyed willingness to believe everything she’s told is good for her: “As long as people who need medicine with pseudoephedrine for allergy reasons are following the correct procedures, obtaining the medicine will be less trouble. Regardless, with the dangers of methamphetamine, this restriction will benefit DeKalb more than it will inconvenience its residents.”

What’s that the witchfinders said? Those who are innocent have nothing to fear? Or was it die unschuldig sind, haben nichts sich zu f├╝rchten?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day, and while I'm not sure if I have any gay or lesbian readers, I figure at almost 105,000 visitors in the past 19 months, there should be at least a few of you. So, Happy National Coming Out Day! Closets are for hangers, not hang-ups, so don't be afraid to come out and do a happy dance. I'll even dance with you, even though I have not the svelte body nor smooth moves for such a celebration. When I dance it looks like some kind of Norse god is wreaking angry vengeance on me. Not that that's your problem, I'm just saying. Thanks for stopping by and have a good one.

Anyway, y'all should check out The Film Experience Blog, where Nathaniel R. has a list of some gay celebrities who are openly out (a few of whom I didn't even realize), and check out this review at Pajiba, which says everything about the dilemma men face in society today when it comes to revealing their real feelings.

The Secretly Sapphic Life of Maddie and London

Maddie Fitzpatrick and London Tipton, isn’t it about time for you to come out? Today, 11 October, is National Coming Out Day, and from what I’ve been seeing on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, it’s not a moment too soon. Where do I start? I mean, in the first season the closest you two came to premarital bliss was simply sharing a bedroom together (separate beds, of course). But as you two have become closer and closer friends, the signals are unmistakable. You’re attending Catholic school together. You’re both on the school’s volleyball team, an athletic and socially acceptable way to touch one another.

Ladies, we can see what’s going on. We saw through it when you started dating twins. What a couple of beards, right? And the caring way you two came together to help that homeless family, proving that you both have nurturing, caring sides that need to be set free. You ran a boutique together. You did a parenting project for school where you both had to be the parents of the same toy baby. Which is cool of you for standing up on the alternative parenting issue, I have to say. And how about that episode where London couldn’t sleep and she needed her Maddie to help her out? Jesus, you got trapped in a closet together once! You’re not fooling anyone, ladies. Coming out's not just for boys.

And what about that practical joke that ended with London spraying Maddie down with a fire hose? Girls, are you trying to tell us something? Or are you just hinting at something that the Disney Channel can’t say? You know, getting the kids to accept certain behaviors and attitudes without having to go into some kind of uncomfortable discussion?

How I love you, Maddie and London, you mad geniuses.

Film Week

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

After seeing some unnecessarily long and boring movies, it’s nice that there’s been a sudden resurgence of 90-minute movies that are actually entertaining and interesting (think The Matador for example). This film is a masterful satire about a politically incorrect tobacco lobbyist, and there are a couple of things about it that got my attention. First, the lobbyist, Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart’s best performance to date), does not change at all throughout the film. He stays who he is. There’s no phony last-minute conversion to conform to a PC agenda so the audience can feel better about their moral superiority. He is who he is, unapologetically. The other thing that struck me is that, in an age when people want to turn the mere act of characters smoking in movies into an automatic R-rating, Thank You for Smoking manages to make its point without once showing a character lighting up. No one, as far as I could see, actually smokes in this movie. Which I found fascinating. It’s not noticeable; the filmmakers don’t shove that fact in your face. But it’s there. This is a film you just have to see if you enjoy satire; I might describe it as a Coen Brothers movie without all of that self-conscious arch quality that they use when they’re shying away from, say, genuine humor or real people. Nick Naylor is a character with no real principles; he’s just a cynic who believes that every opportunity can be used and that the person with the better argument is always right. It’s one hell of a film. One small thing, though: don’t tell me a character has fantastic boobs and then have her turn out to be Katie Holmes, alright? Lots of good actors in this thing, but Katie Holmes needs to stop doing her fake cynic shtick, because it’s really tiresome. **** stars.

Hitchcock’s last film for David O. Selznick is not among his best films. It tells the story of a barrister (Gregory Peck) who falls in love with the mysterious woman (Alida Valli) he is defending on a murder charge. He’s also married (to Ann Todd), and his wife quickly realizes what this case means for her marriage: if the woman hangs, his love will forever be unrequited, but if he either frees her or comes to believe the charges against her, his love will fade. This plays out in almost unbearably misogynistic terms; the court case is little more than a showcase for the male characters and the British legal system they represent to punish womanhood. On one level, it’s fascinating to see it played out in an almost epic manner. But on the other, it’s very cruel. Charles Laughton is note-perfect as always, playing an extremely misogynist judge who argues with his wife (Ethel Barrymore) over the place of women in society. Hard to get through, but still a riveting *** stars.

After all of the so-so reviews, I was expecting to be disappointed. But how much did I love this movie? I adored this movie, that’s how much. It’s a very straightforward biopic about someone who has become a pop culture icon in retrospect. It’s easy to see why, too: her smile is so radiant and so innocent that you never forget the first time you saw it (I was sixteen and looking through the ads of a film magazine at my friend Carl’s house, 1992). I was nervous about the tack this movie would take: would it try too hard to make her a normal person, or would it mythologize her as the feminist symbol she never saw herself as? To my surprise and delight, this is neither Mundane Bettie nor Bettie Christ: Superstar. This is a simple, straightforward storytelling about a woman who unashamedly posed for nude pictures and then stopped. She doesn’t reclaim her sexuality, she’s not doing it to make a point, she’s not a martyr for the feminist movement; she’s a girl doing a job that, for her, is nothing but acting. Bettie’s innocent, but not completely guileless. She knows that men like to see women naked, and she doesn’t mind; she says, a couple of times, that “Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden.” But still, it’s not about sexuality at all; it’s about the feeling she gets while she’s having her picture taken. Bettie wants to act, and to her photography is acting, and for her, acting has replaced the feeling of “lifting up” that she used to get from religion. Somehow, Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner have managed to write a subtle script that tells Bettie’s story as a personal journey, and not as something symbolic. There are things going on around Bettie, of course: subtle points being made about how men treat women like possessions and how they both use and punish women for being women because of guilt and fear over sex. Gretchen Mol, an actress I’ve always respected but never loved, is a surprisingly perfect choice to play Bettie; kudos to the filmmakers for managing to find a woman who is so completely comfortable with her nudity that she almost seems not to notice it. The other actors are all fine, though I particularly liked Jared Harris (channeling his father like mad). **** stars for this sweet, wonderful, straightforward movie.

I know this is the kind of movie that a lot of people find offensive and unacceptable or something unreasonable, but I thought it was cute. I thought the first one was cute, too. I’m a Disney kid, I guess I’m receptive to movies about cartoon characters. *** stars.

What's in a Name?

I took this from Merna.

YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet and current street name) Bourbon Lincoln

YOUR "FLY Guy/Girl" NAME: (first initial of first name, first three letters of your middle name) A-Rob

YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal) Purple Elephant

YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born) Robert Des Moines

YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first name, first 2 letters of father's middle name) Davaale

Gee, I thought that George Lucas came up with names by throwing Scrabble tiles on the floor and picking out what seemed remotely pronounceable.

SUPERHERO NAME: ("The", your favorite color, favorite drink) The Purple Rum and Coke

NASCAR NAME: (the first name of both your grandfathers) Keith John Shorty

FUTURISTIC NAME: (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne and the name of your favorite kind of shoe) Old Spice Boots

WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother & father's middle name) Lewis Carol. HA!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Do We Still Have Free Speech in This Country?

There’s an awful comic that runs in the DeKalb Northern Star called What Will He Think of Next? (Short answer: nothing funny.) But anyway, here’s the installment that ran on 12 September.On 14 September, this letter appeared in the opinions section:

I was appalled when I saw the recent "What Will He Think of Next?" comic by Tony Rab. I am complaining about the comic where the Easter Bunny and Santa are asking Jesus when he is going to tell them - meaning humanity - the truth. To me, this implied that Jesus does not exist.

I was amazed the Northern Star would print something that would stomp on so many people's beliefs. In the past, I have not minded the comics about the Plan B birth control pill or the other comics printed, but this one crossed a line. I wanted to know if anyone looks at these comics before they are printed, of if Tony can just do whatever he wants with that space.

Here, in full, is the response I might have gone with:

Jesus does not exist. Sorry, but I think it’s time you find out. If you persist in believing in fairy tales as a grown man, that’s your problem. But not everyone believes the way you do, and it is the right of people in this country to express their opinions, even if you don’t agree with them. Get over it. It’s called life. Buy a helmet if you must.

Fuck, every day I have to read one more bullshit story about some jerk whose sensibilities are offended by someone else’s sensibilities. I always have to read some bullshit about how somebody is being forced to apologize for cracking a joke, stating a negative opinion, or seeming to endorse the anti-Islam words of an anti-Islam Byzantine Emperor who died hundreds of years ago.

I’m sorry, was I out to lunch when we voted to repeal the First Amendment? The one that say people have a right to express their opinions and that it is illegal to stop them from doing so? I mean, shit, I don’t like to hear Ann Coulter’s latest maniac ravings on Why Bill Clinton Is the Devil and Liberals Are Insane Godless Motherfuckers, but it’s her own stupid opinion. And if she wants to shout with a complete lack of authority, credibility or brains, that’s her business. And if I want to call her a dumb fucking idiot for saying them, I can. That’s freedom, baby. Taste it.

God, people get more and more politically correct, even as we all pretend to make fun of it and we think it’s stupid. And it’s all bullshit to me. Freedom of speech is freedom of speech. There is no correct and proper use of it. And get this through your heads, friends: you do not have the right to never be offended. It’s life. You will be offended sometimes. It’ll happen. But the way to deal with that is not to try and enforce censorship. You’re not the one who decides that you are right and everyone else is wrong. Get used to it.

My Doubtless Unpopular Opinion on Mark Foley

I just can’t work up all that righteous indignation over this Mark Foley thing. I find all of this overdramatic talk about “chicken hawks” and “sexual predators” and, perhaps most hyperbolic, “sickening cognitive breakdown” nothing more than tiresome. I’m not jumping up to defend Foley. I’m not even saying that what he did wasn’t very, very stupid. Especially for the co-chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus. But I only find this thing unfortunate rather than sickening and awful.

There are three things that bother me most about this story. The first is the way the media and the public immediately jump to the equation that gay=child molester. Foley was gay therefore he must be a child molester, right? Um, no, of course not. If you really believe that, do me a favor and step into the plate and take one for the team. Because we don’t need you poisoning the social well with your total lack of ideas. And even Foley’s jumping in on the whole gay=molester thing, claiming that he only did it because he has an alcohol problem, and he was molested by a priest, and blah blah blah. Look, whether that’s even remotely true or not (and I’m just saying it is an easy go-to), it’s cowardly to even bring it up. Does it bother anyone at all how quickly our politicians pass the buck to someone else? Can’t one person just admit blame and suck it up like a real adult is supposed to?

The second thing that bothers me is the way the media immediately jumped on the whole child molestation angle. Sixteen year-old boys is child molesting? Child molesting? Sixteen year-olds are young men. They are not, most of them, wholly innocent and guileless little children skipping along the garden path of life with nary a thought to the realities of life. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I was sixteen I was too busy losing my virginity and watching friends succumb to alcohol poisoning to even find that garden path. Can we just get over this? He wasn’t telling 10 year-olds about the dirty joys of masturbation. He was hitting on young men, only two years away from having to register with selective service. Young men who are old enough to get married in some states. Young men who, less than a hundred years ago, might already be married with a child and working the farm somewhere. The sad, simple fact is that the idea of a man rogering other men still sickens our supposedly enlightened society so much that they had to throw in an extra bit of salaciousness to justify it. Anyone who thinks their 16 year-old young man is an innocent little saint isn’t responsible enough to be a parent.

And the third thing that sticks in my craw about this mess? Well, how about the fact that we seemed about to enter a serious debate on campaign finance reforms, and the supposedly free media has managed to fuck us over on that yet again. Forget the pages, it’s America that’s taking it up the ass with this shit. Don’t you people ever get offended by the not-even-a-little-veiled way that you can be distracted from important things by the fate of your country? Or are you really that hung up on gay stuff? Get over it.

I think the biggest untold story is that Mark Foley was actually a Republican with a good voting record for societal issues, but that’s just me…

Monday, October 09, 2006

THE PARROT by Phillip A. Ellis

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, drunk and bleary,
Over many a Swedish specialist magazine of Sapphic lore,
While I jerked off, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone loudly rapping, rapping at the dunny door.
"'Tis some idiot," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door;
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,
And my nose was as red as embers rolling round upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrow
From my porn surcease of sorrow, sorrow for the lost Seymour,
For the rare and ravishing redneck whom the honkies name Seymour,
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain whiskies as of Richard Burton
Thrilled me---filled me with the taste of liquors never drunk before;
So that now, to still the beating of my head, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some idiot entreating entrance at my chamber door,
Some fool idiot entreating entrance at my chamber door.
This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or sheila, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is, I was wanking, and so loudly you came clanking,
And so loudly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That my head was sore to hear you." Here I opened wide the door;
---Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep within the darkness seeing, long I stood there, wondering, peeing
Stood there soiling pants no mortals ever dared to soil before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, Seymour?,
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word,"Seymour!"
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber reeling, like a lout with lots of feeling,
Soon again I heard that tapping, somewhat louder than before,
"Surely," said I, "surely, that is pounding at my window lattice.
Let me see, then, what there at is, and this mystery explore.
Let the room be still a moment, and this mystery explore.
'Tis some bastard, nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flit and flutter,
In there stepped a gaudy parrot, of the pirate days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But with mien of buxom lady, perched above my chamber door.
Perched upon a silver dildo, hung above my chamber door,
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this brilliant bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the many hued decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn like abbot thou," I said, "art sure no mascot,
Ghastly, gaudy feathered parrot, wandering from the nightly shore.
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore."
Quoth the parrot, "Pieces of eight!"

Much I marvelled this urbanely spoken fowl could speak so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning, little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door,
Bird or beast upon the sculptured dong above his chamber door,
With such name as "Pieces of eight!"

But the parrot, sitting lonely on that shiny cock, spoke only
That one phrase, as if his soul in that one phrase he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered;
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Other friends have flown before;
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Polly want a cracker!"

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so quickly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from of a stupid master, whom a warranted disaster
Followed fast and followed faster, whilst his words these cliches bore,
---Till the birdy of its cage that repertoire of phrases bore
Like "Polly want a cracker!"

But the parrot still beguiling all my drunk soul into smiling,
Straight I placed a pillowed seat in front of bird, and prick and door;
Then, unleashing farts all stinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this many-hued bird of yore
--What this multicoloured, ghastly, cracker ravening bird of yore
Meant in squawking "Polly want a cracker!"

Thus I sat engaged in guessing, with no belch of mine expressing
To the bird, whose cheeky eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the pillow's velvet lining that the lamp light gloated o'er,
On whose velvet violet lining with the lamp light gloating o'er
He shall bite, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought I'd eat a curry, whilst I smoked a reeking dhurry
Rolled by psychopaths whose urine tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee -- by these madmen he hath
Sent thee respite---respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Seymour!
Quaff, O quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Seymour!"
Quoth the parrot, "Who's a pretty boy?"

"Prophet!" said I, "foe of cracker!--prophet still, I ought to whack ya!
Whether Mormon sent, or whether fate had lobbed thee here ashore,
Desolate, yet all undaunted, on this shining knob I've flaunted--
On this cock by buttocks haunted--tell me truly, I implore:
Is there--is there balm in Gilead?--tell me--tell me I implore!"
Quoth the parrot, "Hello, what's your name?"

"Bird!" I said, "by all that's holy--prophet still, thou pretty polly!
By that heaven that bends above us--by that God we both adore--
Tell this soul with sorrowed fancy, if, within the distant Jhansi,
It shall clasp a sainted pansy, whom the angels name Seymour---
Clasp a queen that's surely a pansy, whom the angels name Seymour?
Quoth the parrot, "Give us a kiss."

"Be those words our sign of parting, devil fowl!" I shrieked, upstarting--
"Bugger off into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no green plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! -- quit the prick above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and shift thy arse from off my door!"
Quoth the parrot, "Who's a pretty boy, then?"

And the parrot, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the shiny silver dildo just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a moron's that is dreaming.
And the crackers that I feed him fall as crumbs upon the floor;
And my soul from out the remnants that lie piling on the floor
Shall be lifted---nevermore!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Song of the Week: "I Don't Wanna Grow Up"

I find that there are a lot of times in life when only Tom Waits can really sum up how you're feeling. Well, now that I'm 30, this is the way I feel a good deal of the time. Enjoy.