Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Bible Summarized by a Smartass, Part Five: Leviticus

Well, the Israelites are still at the foot of that mountain, but at least there's a sanctuary tent and Moses doesn't have to climb all the way up to see God anymore. Now they can talk on a ground level as, well, God's on a throne so it's not equals. But business associates, at least.

Chapter One
God feels like it’s time for more laws and ceremonies, so he summons Moses into the tent to have him record some more stuff. This entire chapter is a lot of arcane nonsense concerning exactly what kind of animals you can sacrifice to the Lord and how nice they have to smell.

Chapter Two
More nonsense about what kind of food you can offer God.

Chapter Three
More inanity about what parts of the animal you can offer God. He has more ridiculous rules about what he can specifically see and touch than Mariah Carey’s backstage rider. You want me to pick out the green M&M’s too, God?

Chapter Four
Stupidity about how to punish high-ranking officials who sin. Apparently people did that once. I don’t see anything in here about being able to use alcohol problems as an excuse for stupid behavior…

Chapter Five
Lunacy about what animals to sacrifice to make up for lying and which ones appropriately signify guilt.

Chapter Six
Ridiculousness of blah blah blah.

Chapter Seven
Ooh, the ritual of the guilt offering! No, wait, that’s boring too…

Chapter Eight
All of this stuff about anointing priests and really fucking detailed descriptions of the offering of the bull of sin. I guess it’s interesting on a historical level, but it really breaks up the narrative flow. Tolkien would have taken less detail describing Aragorn scratching his balls.

Chapter Nine
Above, continued. God is happy with the sacrifice.

Chapter Ten
Then, out of nowhere, something exciting happens. Aaron’s four sons are also his priests, and Nadab and Abihu make the huge mistake of offering the Lord incense in the wrong way, and God totally fucking kills them in a big burst of flame! From his EYES!!!!! I’m guessing. Because shooting flame from the eyes is cool. Seriously, if this were a comic book, that’s totally how I would illustrate it. And Aaron, High Priest of Israel, just has to sit still and take it. Moses even sinks so low as to throw it in Aaron’s face that his kids screwed up. Aaron can’t even be present at the funerary preparations for his own sons, because he still has the anointing oil on him! God won’t even let him out of the fucking tent! He has to finish the ceremony! God, who is really just throwing his weight around here, doesn’t even care about Aaron’s pain—he just commences dictating rules and regulations about how you can’t drink in the sanctuary.

Chapter Eleven
God just goes on making pronouncements. The Israelites are not allowed to eat camels, the “rock badger,” hares, pigs, anything in the sea without fins and scales, eagles, vultures, ospreys, buzzards, kites, ravens, ostriches, any kind of hawk, seagulls, any kind of owl, cormorants, storks, any kind of heron, hoopoes, bats, any winged insect (except locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers), weasels, mice, lizards, or crocodiles. Seriously, anything that even touches them will be considered unclean (although I think in a time before bathrooms and hygiene products, cleanliness is relative).

Chapter Twelve
According to God, women are unclean when menstruating and after giving birth (33 days if a son is born, twice as long for a daughter).

Chapter Thirteen
God’s going to leave it up to Aaron to decide whether people are leprous or not. Since Aaron has no medical training, God gives a treatise on which skin conditions are leprosy and which are not. There’s a lot of very specific information on how dispose of their bodies and clothes.

Chapter Fourteen
More of the same nonsense.

Chapter Fifteen
Here’s a good one: when a man cums, he’s unclean. No shit, buddy. Oh, and menstruating women again. You have to bathe and sacrifice to get your cleanliness back, which is not good news for chronic masturbators. There’s no ruling about what happens to a woman who orgasms—or even acknowledgment that it can happen. But when she does, it’s a beautiful thing.

Chapter Sixteen
God fives specific instructions (replete with even more blood sacrifices) about how and when Aaron can enter the sanctuary. He also gives instructions for the Day of Atonement.

Chapter Seventeen
Sixteen verses that basically add up to: No drink blood.

Chapter Eighteen
God's got some creepy attitudes about sex. First he kills any incest fantasies that might be lingering around. Don’t seduce the following family members: your dad, your mom, your hot stepmom, your hot sister, your hot half-sister, your granddaughter, your hot aunt (on either side), the hot babe that married your uncle, your sexy daughter-in-law who always wears the tight sweaters, your hot sister-in-law who looks just like your wife only younger and firmer, or a woman and her daughter at the same time (even if they’re Lohans or Hiltons and you know they’d totally be into it after a few drinks). Which all leaves Hulk Hogan and Joe Simpson in a bind, doesn’t it? I’m trying to find a loophole here about seducing a pair of sisters at once, though… And thankfully, your friend’s hot MILF is also not off-limits. If you marry a woman and she had kids, don’t try to fuck her granddaughters. Don’t fuck any woman that’s married to a family member, even if your Cousin Ashtabul was lucky enough to marry an exotic woman from a foreign land that looks like half-Mexican/half-Cherokee goddess Charisma Carpenter and he totally doesn’t deserve her because he’s such an asshole. No sacrificing to Moloch, Tyrian God of Fire. No gay sex. Sorry, but it’s in there, Leviticus 18:22 of the New Revised Standard Version, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” I’m not saying I agree with it or, in fact, most of what’s in the Bible, but the Old Testament pretty expressly forbids boy on boy action. Oh, and no animal-fucking. Apparently God felt the same way as most religious enthusiasts do now; that boy-fucking is a slippery slope to dog-fucking. People believe this because they are crazy and the Bible justifies their craziness. And as someone who has seen women get fucked by animals…it’s kind of interesting. Y’all should see it once before you die.

Chapter Nineteen
Let’s cover some old ground here: I am God, do what I say, revere your parents, keep the Sabbath, don’t worship idols or graven images, gimme my sacrifices, give to the poor, don’t steal or cheat or lie, don’t use my name as a swear word, pay fair wages, be good to the disabled, fear me, judge fairly, don’t play favorites, don’t slander, don’t profiteer, don’t hate your family, love your neighbor as yourself, keep my laws, don’t intermix animals or plants or even cloth materials (yes, poly-blends are also forbidden by the Old Testament), don’t fuck your slaves (literally), don’t eat the fruit of a new tree for four years (?), don’t drink blood, no fortune-telling, no witchcraft, no Egyptian-style haircuts, no goatees (seriously), no tattoos or body piercing or body cutting, don’t let your daughter become a prossie, revere my sanctuary, no mediums or wizards aloud, respect the elderly, be nice to foreigners, be honest in business dealings, and FEAR ME. I notice there’s nothing in there about not killing anyone else, but otherwise you could probably cut out the entire rest of Leviticus and just keep this chapter. It boils everything down to, like, a page and a half. We get the point already.

Chapter Twenty
God wants you to kill anyone who worships Moloch, because Moloch keeps all of these crazy laws and demands your children and blood sacrifices and he's just like God but with a laid back Hugh Hefner-type attitude and, hey, relaxed just ain't what God’s about. God also wants you to kill anyone who doesn’t kill anyone who worships Moloch. Plus the following people: mediums and wizards, people who go to mediums and wizards, anyone who curses their parents, adulterous couples, motherfuckers (no, literally), guys and daughters-in-law who have affairs, homos, mother-in-law fuckers (including the poor daughter-in-law who got cheated on), animal fuckers (as well as the poor, raped animal), siblings who fuck or engage in twincest, men who fuck menstruating women, menstruating women who let themselves get fucked, guys who fuck their hot young aunt who thinks it’s funny to flirt with them, and sister-in-law fuckers. The people who I’m going to conquer for you in the Land of Milk and Honey already do that shiz, and despite the total lack of frustrations and inhibitions making it, inevitably, a more relaxed and fun place to live, I want my people to be uptight and inhibited throughout eternity. No fun perversions for anyone.

Chapter Twenty-One
Weird statutes and limitations on mourning.

Chapter Twenty-Two
Ordinances about cleanliness and how to achieve it.

Chapter Twenty-Three
God outlines all the holy days and festivals.

Chapter Twenty-Four
Stuff about how to observe the Sabbath and what to do with blasphemers (short answer: stone them).

Chapter Twenty-Five
God details regulations on land ownership.

Chapter Twenty-Six
If you promise to love God and fear him and follow his insanely specific rules and never worship any idols (bad news for those statue-loving Catholics), then he will help you and do things for you. If not, then there is a long series of tortures in store for you. Seriously, this chapter puts it all in detail. God’s certainly not afraid to look petty, cruel, childish, thuggish, brutal, selfish, jealous, emotionally needy, and seriously lacking in self-esteem. It goes like this: I will bring terror on you. I will give you consumption and fever until your eyes burn. I’ll give your crops to your enemies and let them rule you. I will make your world desolate and your days painful. I will send wild animals to kill your children and eat your livestock. And then I’ll get pissed. I’ll beat you myself, stab you, abandon you, and make it so that no matter how much you eat you’ll always be hungry. I’ll make you eat your dead children and surround you with death. And I’ll sport a big hard-on while doing it. But if you apologize, I’ll forgive you, because I love you. And I can do no wrong. Man, talk about an abusive relationship! Any judge would grant that divorce in a second!

Chapter Twenty-Seven
Weird shit about tithing, property ownership, and literally how much money a human being is worth (turns out it is all age-related).

Next week: The Book of Numbers. This is what happens when God starts getting specific.

Unmade Disney: The 1930s

Having chronicled and evaluated the history of Walt Disney Productions from its humble beginnings in 1928 to the artistic failures of 1940, I’m going to pause here and talk about some of the projects that were in development at the time and which never made it to the screen.

The Good Samaritan (1934): Pluto rescues a baby puppy that wrecks the house. Clyde Geronimi was slated to direct, and Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, and John Lounsbery animated whole scenes. $5,554.15 was spent on the cartoon before production stopped. In 1944, it was officially abandoned.

Hillbilly (1934): Pegleg Pete mistakes Mickey for a revenuer.

Mickey’s Sea Monster (1935): Mickey, Donald, and Goofy hunt a sea serpent.

The Emperor’s New Clothes (1936): Ted Sears developed this as a Silly Symphony, but the idea was deemed too thin. It was also worked as a possible cartoon for Mickey, Donald, and Goofy.

Japanese Symphony (1936): Bianca Majolie developed the story for a Silly Symphony about a firefly who romances a moth and saves her from a vampire bat among the lanterns of a Japanese garden. The idea of a Japanese Symphony stayed in Walt’s mind; it was also developed as the adventure of two Asian children or as the story of a Japanese girl chasing a butterfly. The fact that Japan joined the Axis put a stop to any further development.

Mickey’s Bakery (1936): Mickey, Donald, and Goofy try to bake a giant cake for a society party. This idea was picked up several times before finally being put down permanently in 1940.

Navy Mickey (1936): I imagine it’s pretty much what the title says it is.

Santa Claus Symphony (1936): A little boy shrinks to the size of a toy and visits Santa’s workshop in this Silly Symphony.

Snow Babies (1936): Walt Kelly designed characters for this Silly Symphony that was meant to be a follow-up to Water Babies. The idea was unceremoniously dropped in 1939 when the Silly Symphonies series came to an end. Rudy Ising directed the quasi-sequel Merbabies in 1938.

Struebel Peter (1936): A Silly Symphony based on the fairy tale about a slovenly brat. It was mainly shelved because the main character was too unlikable.

Sunken Treasure (1936): Mickey, Donald, and Goofy fight pirate skeletons and King Neptune while diving for underwater gold. Tell me that wouldn’t be awesome. The idea was an exciting one, and this was in development under several titles. In 1937, it was being put forth as a cartoon for Mickey only as Davy Jones’s Locker. Pearl Divers was another reworking of the same idea, this time for Donald and Mickey, that was reworked by Howard Swift (another title was Salvagers). This short just never panned out. Grim Natwick and Marc Davis tried to work the story as Mickey’s Treasure Hunt.

The Three Bears (1936): Homer Brightman developed this Silly Symphony as a possible vehicle for Shirley Temple. It was often thought that a collaboration between Disney and Temple would be inevitable, but it never happened. Papa Bear was designed to look like W.C. Fields, suggesting that possibility as well.

Jungle Mickey (1937): Mickey encounters Ubangi natives.

Mickey’s Follies (1937): A revue film that would have included not only Mickey Mouse characters, but also Silly Symphonies characters. Sadly, the story men seem to have been unable to work out how to make such a large idea a mere seven minutes in length. Though I think it would have made an excellent special double length cartoon, most of the ideas seem to have been transferred to the Dance of the Hours segment of Fantasia.

Minnehaha (1937): Walt Kelly also developed this Silly Symphony as a follow-up to Dave Hand’s charming 1937 short Little Hiawatha.

Donald Munchausen (1938): Carl Barks created a story where Donald tells his nephews tall tales about the time he fought dinosaurs in King Kong in Africa. Marc Davis did some sketches for this one that I’d love to see.

Mickey’s Nephew (1938): Mickey plays Santa Claus.

Mickey’s Toothache (1938): Mickey has a laughing gas-induced nightmare.

Pluto’s Robot Twin (1938): George Stallings and Roy Williams developed this idea about Mickey building a remote control dog.

Sargasso Sea (1938): Mickey visits Atlantis and capers about.

Spring Cleaning (1938): Pluto and Bobo the Elephant accidentally wreck Minnie’s house while trying to help Mickey clean. Frank Tashlin was set to direct. It also showed up under the title Pluto’s Pal Bobo, but it never worked out.

Tanglefoot (1938): Mickey and Goofy train a reluctant race horse.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1938): Mickey as Captain Nemo. This is interesting in light of Disney’s live action production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1954.

Yukon Mickey (1938): Mickey explores; it was also developed as Yukon Donald before being completely abandoned.

Abdul Abulbul Amir (1939): A Silly Symphony or special cartoon that would have featured the Carl Sandburg poem.

Jabberwocky (1939): While Alice in Wonderland struggled through development, a Silly Symphony featuring just this poem was considered.

Morgan’s Ghost (1939): Dick Creedon and Al Perkins came up with this story, alternately called Pieces of Eight and Three Buccaneers, that is a reworking of Treasure Island (the novel that would, in 1950, become Disney’s first live action feature). This would have been one of the absolute best. Yellow Beak, a pirate parrot, is on the run from Black Pete (Pegleg Pete, of course) with Henry Morgan’s treasure map. Mickey, Donald, and Goofy agree to split costs on a ship, not realizing that they’ve leased the Sea Shark from Pete himself, disguised as an old woman. At sea, Pete sets the trio adrift on a raft; they wash up on an island and discover a chest containing the ghosts of Henry Morgan and his crew. They rescue Yellow Beak, fight carnivorous plants, and have all sorts of adventures, then lose the treasure to Pete, who discovers the treasure is fake. The story was so good that Bob Karp used it for Donald Duck Comics, in a story called “Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold.” The story starred Donald and his nephews, and was drawn by Jack Hannah and Carl Barks.

Museum Keeper (1939): Donald Duck tries to guard a priceless, rare painting, to have been directed by Frank Tashlin. This was also titled Old Masters and Donald and the Old Masters before being abandoned.

Mountain Carvers (1939): Mickey, Donald, and Goofy carve a hero's face in a mountain.

Men in Uniform (1940): Mickey is a milkman pestered by a kitten.

Penelope and the 12 Months (1940): Joe Grant and Dick Huemer came up with this story about a little girl who travels through time with the help of a magical grandfather clock. Walt thought the story didn’t work, but Mary Blair did some beautiful concept paintings for the cartoon.

It was around 1943 that the long-gestating feature Tales of Hans Christian Andersen was finally dropped. The film was meant to be a co-production with Samuel Goldwyn, who also wanted to make a film about Andersen. It was decided at some point that the film would be shot in live action, with animated segments depicting some of Andersen’s tales. The animators and story men had been developing several of them throughout the 1930s, nearly all of which had been considered as separate animated shorts (possibly for the Silly Symphonies, possibly as special cartoons). These included The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Emperor’s Nightingale, Through the Picture Frame, The Little Fir Tree, The Steadfast Tin Soldier (which would eventually show up as a segment in Fantasia 2000), and especially The Little Mermaid, which Kay Nielsen drew many development sketches for. They were so good that they were finally used for the 1989 Disney film; Nielsen has a screen credit. Besides a flurry of financial issues that plagued the studio throughout the forties, Disney also had problems with the tone. All of Andersen's stories end on down notes, often in tragedy. Goldwyn continued to develop the idea, finally releasing the Danny Kaye musical Hans Christian Andersen in 1952.Disney also decided not to make a feature film out of Anatole France’s satirical novel Penguin Island, an idea which had been put forth around 1937. He still had some hope that he could make a feature out of Edmund Rostand’s Chantecler or Saint Cloude’s The Romance of Reynard, and let the development continue into the forties. Other projects still in development as of the end of 1940 included the continuing Fantasia project, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Dumbo, The Legend of Happy Valley, The Wind in the Willows, The Reluctant Dragon, Inspector Bones, The Hound of Florence, Don Quixote and, since 1937, Bambi.

In early 1940, Walt Disney was on the verge of a new phase of his career. His company was going to be publicly traded for the first time. He had built a new studio that the animators would be moving into. The box office failures of Pinocchio and Fantasia still lay ahead. Walt, hoping for a bright future, said “What I see way off there is too nebulous to describe, but it looks big and glittering. That’s what I love about this business; the certainty that there is always something bigger and more exciting just around the bend, and the uncertainty of everything else.”

1941 would prove to be a very uncertain year.

I Love This Dog So Much I Want to Cry

Friday, October 27, 2006

Throwdown 10/27

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

1. Let me start off by saying that I’m already sick of hearing about Madonna and her stolen African baby. I know an African baby is this year’s annoying yappy little dog that fits in the purse, but enough is enough. Angelina Jolie has ten or something, Madonna has one, and now, of course, Britney Spears has already said she wants one. Please, just stop with this crap. When you’re done with them, they don’t flush easily.

2. Nicole Richie is going to seek medical help for her weight problem. Funny, I thought she was swearing up and down that she didn’t have an eating disorder… She needs a doctor to tell her to eat a couple of double bacon cheeseburgers every so often? Wow, she does have an eating problem.

3. Speaking of eating disorders, skinny ass Angelina Jolie recently collapsed on the set of a movie. Why can’t you bitches eat? You’re never going to get anywhere until you stop caring about what you imagine men think, you know.

4. Harrison Ford wants you to know that he’s still fit enough to play Indiana Jones. It was a nice way to open the tenth year of preproduction on the completely unnecessary and superfluous Indiana Jones and the Search for a Plotline That Doesn’t Suck. The fact that there is anyone, anywhere, who has witnessed Steven Spielberg’s descent into a maker of bloated, pretentious “message” movies and George Lucas’s Star Wars prequel trilogy and Harrison Ford’s long slide into an actor who is so dull that you could butter bread with him and still wants to see this movie is absolutely staggering to me. I just want all of you to know, if Indiana Jones IV actually does get made (which I doubt), and you go to see it and it sucks (which you will), I don’t want to hear you complaining about your childhood memories getting raped. You knew it was going to suck already, idiots.

5. Natalie Portman wore Audrey Hepburn’s dress on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar and everyone oohed and aahed. I’m just saying it now: Audrey Hepburn is overrated.

6. So, Britney Spears’s second son is named Jayden and not Sutton. Doesn’t anyone name their kid Jim or Bill anymore?

7. I was disappointed to hear that Terry Jones, member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and one of my favorite writers, underwent cancer surgery this week. The doctors seem to have caught it early, so here’s hoping for a full recovery.

8. When I’m 45, and I’m dating a 16 year-old girl, I’m going to try not to get one of those creepy drunks that are so popular in Hollywood. This is the chick Vincent Gallo is dating. I’m sorry, isn’t this some sort of a crime? I think I read that somewhere. Why is he not being arrested and then “accidentally” beaten to death while “resisting arrest”? And look at this girl; like Lindsay Lohan and other rich teenagers, she’s already dead inside.

9. Kate Moss is going to marry Pete Doherty? Wow, so much for rehab. Why doesn’t she just marry a giant rock of crack?

10. Okay, I haven’t been paying close attention to the furor over this Borat movie because, well, I don’t care. All I know is that he parodies Kazakhstan, and everyone in Kazakhstan is pissed off about it, so Sacha Baron Cohen didn’t get to go to the White House, blahdy blah-blah. And now I see that 20th Century Fox wants to change their release pattern because they’re afraid Americans will find the movie offensive and not funny. Now, I know that Americans are really oversensitive about, like, everything, and they loved to be pissed off on the behalf of others. At the same time, I’m not sure that Fox isn’t giving a lot of Americans too much credit for knowing what Kazakhstan is. Wow, an offensive comedy. Be careful, someone might learn something, and then it would be chaos, sir, CHAOS!

11. It looks like the middle class in this country are finally fed up with the Republicans and their terrible handling of American politics in the last dozen years. Honestly, America, what does it take to piss you off? Polls are going around saying that the Democrats are going to take this next election, and all they have to do is stand around and not be Republicans, so I can’t wait to see how the Democrats are going to fuck this one up as well.

12. Let me tell you, I cannot wait until this election is over. The GOP seems pretty terrified by the obvious, so they are throwing dollar upon dollar at the problem, and the ads here in Illinois are getting pretty fucking stupid. All they can say about Melissa Bean is that she votes 80% of the time with Nancy Pelosi, but they can’t seem to tell us why that’s a bad thing. Meanwhile, the pro-Melissa Bean ads point out that David McSweeney wanted to ban books from schools. Why is it that the Republicans attack the person, not the policies? It only makes them look like horrible human beings.

13. And quit phoning my house with messages about how the Democrats are engaging in a vast anti-GOP conspiracy; you’re political opponents, not two armies fighting a war for control of the country…right? Quit telling me that I need strong Republican candidates, because they haven’t really done jack for me in the last 12 years. And since when is he being referred to as “Denny” Hastert? Oh, good ol’ Uncle Denny, you can borrow a finsky from him if you need to. I’d personally like to invite Denny to go to hell and to take Jack Abramoff with him, but that’s just me.

14. Fried Coca-Cola. You know, maybe we all deserve to die. If we're going to eat this shit, what's the point?

15. And speaking of death, Salma Hayek is going to guest star on next week’s episode of Ugly Betty, the show she executive produces. I’m mentioning this because if, by next Friday, I’m dead, this is why. Salma and America Ferrera in the same scene, nay, same frame together? My heart might give out. Sigh…

SPACED OUT by Russell Baker

I am sitting here 93 million miles from the Sun on a rounded rock which is spinning at the rate of 1000 miles an hour,

and roaring through space to nobody-knows-where,

to keep a rendezvous with nobody-knows-what,

for nobody-knows-why,

and all around me whole continents are drifting rootlessly over the surface of the planet,

India ramming into the underbelly of Asia, America skidding off toward China by way of Alaska,

Antarctica slipping away from Africa at the rate of an inch per eon,

and my head pointing down into space with nothing between me and infinity but something called gravity which I can’t even understand, and which you can’t even buy anyplace so as to have some stored away for a gravityless day,

while off to the north of me the polar ice cap may,

or may not,

be getting ready to send down oceanic mountains of ice that will bury everything from Bangor to Richmond in a ponderous white death,

and there, off to the east, the ocean is tearing away at the land and wrenching it into the sea bottom and coming back for more,

as if the ocean is determined to claim it all before the deadly swarms of killer bees,

which are moving relentlessly northward from South America,

can get here to take possession,

although it seems more likely that the protective ozone layer in the upper atmosphere may collapse first,

exposing us all, ocean, killer bees, and me, too,

to the merciless spraying of deadly cosmic rays.

I am sitting here on this spinning, speeding rock surrounded by four billion people,

eight planets,

one awesome lot of galaxies,

hydrogen bombs enough to kill me thirty times over,

and mountains of handguns and frozen food,

and I am being swept along in the whole galaxy’s insane dash toward the far wall of the universe,

across distances longer to traverse than Sunday afternoon on the New Jersey Turnpike,

so long, in fact, that when we get there I shall be at least 800,000 years old,

provided, of course, that the whole galaxy doesn’t run into another speeding galaxy at some poorly marked universal intersection and turn us all into space garbage,

or that the Sun doesn’t burn out in the meantime,

or that some highly intelligent ferns from deepest space do not land from flying fern pots and cage me up in a greenhouse for scientific study.

So, as I say, I am sitting here with the continents moving, and killer bees coming, and the ocean eating away, and the ice caps poised, and the galaxy racing across the universe,

and the thermonuclear thirty-times-over bombs stacked up around me,

and only the gravity holding me onto the rock,

which, if you saw it from Spica or Arcturus, you wouldn’t even be able to see, since it is so minute that even from these relatively close stars it would look no bigger than an ant in the Sahara Desert as viewed from the top of the Empire State Building,

and as I sit here,

93 million miles from the Sun,

I am feeling absolutely miserable,

and realize,

with self-pity and despair,

that I am

getting a cold.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Rush Limbaugh Is Against a Parkinson's Cure

By now you’ve doubtless heard about the ad Michael J. Fox did for Claire McCaskill’s run for the US Senate. In the ad, Fox asks that the people of Missouri consider electing McCaskill because her incumbent opponent Jim Talent opposes stem cell research. This research, of course, could lead to better treatment or even a cure for Parkinson’s disease, which Fox famously suffers from. Here’s the ad. Be warned, it’s a little hard to watch.

I looked at this ad and it made me sad to think that there are many people in the world like Michael J. Fox, who have to live with a disease that does this to their bodies. Rush Limbaugh looked at this ad and thought Fox was faking his symptoms or was off his medication. No shit, Rush. You may not know this, having been addicted to Oxycontin, but people actually aren’t supposed to be on medication 24/7, because it fucks up your body. If Fox was off his meds, we’re looking at how he spends most of the day. Let that sink in for a while. There are people in this country who can’t control the shaking and shuddering of their body as a horrible disease eats them alive. At least St. Vitus’s Dance was sudden and quick.

Since, unlike Limbaugh, I like facts, I decided to look up some things about Michael J. Fox and Parkinson’s. According to the National Parkinson Foundation, the disease would actually result in rigidity, and not in the shaky movements Fox exhibits in the ad. Without medication, Parkinson’s patients freeze. So why is Michael J. Fox moving in such a jerky manner?

I found the answer in his September interview with Ladies Home Journal, in which he says his medication is producing a side effect: jerking, fidgeting, and other abnormal body movements. He also said he is taking another medication to try and counter those side effects. He admits that his medication is giving him dyskinesia, which is potentially more dangerous than Parkinson’s disease. Dyskinesia impairs voluntary movement, and is usually the result of prolonged exposure to anti-psychotic drugs. Brian Wilson, for example, had dyskinesia in the 1980s that gave him uncomfortable tics and a glazed look of fake happiness. If Michael J. Fox’s movements are anything to go by, his case is far more advanced than Wilson’s ever was. If his dyskinesia is tardive, being off the meds might not even help him; even after patients stop taking whatever is doing this to their bodies, they can continue to exhibit the physical symptoms for years, in some cases for the rest of their lives. It’s actually fairly common for Parkinson’s patients to receive chronic levodopa therapy; after 5 to 10 years of this, more than half of Parkinson’s patients get these motor fluctuations. According to some, the effects of dyskinesia can eventually lead to mental breakdown.

Rush Limbaugh has no idea of the hell Michael J. Fox and hundreds of others have to deal with every day of their lives. And he doesn’t care. For the benefit of my foreign readers, in America we don’t want to help other Americans. Our lawmakers and leaders don’t believe in taking care of their fellow citizens, their fellow human beings, unless there’s any money in it for them. Otherwise they call it socialism and say it’s a bad thing, because it doesn’t allow one or two greedy fucks to get rich on the misery of others. Only capitalism is good, because only capitalism allows the richest 1% to control 90% of the wealth in this country and let them off the hook for any guilt they might have. So, in America, we counter the common good by politicizing every single facet of American life. Instead of just doing whatever we need to do to save lives, or at least make sick people more comfortable, we make it a whole political process. And in America, some of our more duplicitous leaders through the years have been successful at tying politics into morals. And their morals come straight from a millennia-old fairy tale that was thought up by more primitive people to explain why it got dark at night and what the hell thunder was all about. So instead of using stem cell research to cure the worst of our diseases, we do what Mother Theresa did and give people a place to lie down and not bother us with their complaints while they wait to die.

It staggers me that in 2006 we’re even having this debate over stem cell research. It goes like this: stem cells could possibly cure some of the diseases we get, but too many people find it icky. Sadly, it’s not much more complicated than that. The very idea of stem cell research says that the cure for our own diseases is locked somewhere inside of this amazing biological machine we call the human body. But we don’t get to actually try and pursue any of these cures because the ignorant have somehow gotten it into their heads that stem cells come from those awful aborted fetuses, and abortion is just birth control for loose women who should be punished with forced childbirth for daring to have sex with anyone. Never mind that stem cells come from embryos that were never going to be viable fetuses, anyway. No, the potential lives of the imaginary unborn are far more important than someone who is alive and suffering right now. This is typical Republican bullshit: the idea of life is much more sacred to them than the reality. Especially if the reality doesn’t believe the same things they do.

So here we are now with assholes like Rush Limbaugh telling us that Michael J. Fox is exaggerating his condition to gain sympathy. Why is it bad to have sympathy for a man with Parkinson’s disease? All in the name of protecting that wealthiest one percent, though I can’t imagine for what reason. Rush Limbaugh is not one of the wealthiest one percent, nor is he a participant in the political process (Rush didn’t even register to vote until he was 35), but he figures that if he screams loud enough and long enough to drown out the people who disagree with him, it’ll somehow make him politically relevant.

Well, he’s not. You know who else is not politically relevant? Patricia Heaton. Just like she did last year during the Terri Schaivo media circus, she’s meddling in something she knows nothing about. Why does anybody take her seriously? She’s appearing now in an anti-McCaskill ad. So is Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus once in a wildly overrated movie and now thinks that gives him the right to be some kind of religious spokesman for America.

You know what’s ironic here? Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer’s disease. If he were still alive today and he appeared on television, confused and dazed, asking Americans to vote for funding on stem cell research, Rush Limbaugh would cry so hard he’d soil his blouse. He would get on his radio show and beg his audience to vote and help ol’ Ronnie out. Because Alzheimer’s is a killer, and we need to help people. He’d never get on the mic and say: “Ronald Reagan was faking his condition on that ad, you know, he is an actor. This is part of some liberal conspiracy!” And you know the irony in that? Nancy Reagan is for stem cell research. The late President Reagan’s wife and children believe that stem cell research should not only be funded, but actually encouraged. Why isn’t Mrs. Reagan coming forward in all of this now? After all, it seems like we’ve given the Republicans Joe Lieberman and Hilary Clinton already. Don’t we moderate, rational people get something for our trouble?

You want some more irony? I think it’s funny that the same people who are against illegal drugs are also against stem cell research. Stem cells, as I said earlier, come from the human embryo. But moralists would rather that scientists find more and more dope to combat disease. I’m sure those drugs will be outlawed once it’s discovered that some asshole somewhere uses them to make speed or something. Yet another irony: the effects of dyskinesia can be lessened by methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). This drug not only lessens the effects of dyskinesia, but in fact enhances the effects of levodopa therapy. You know what MDMA is? Ecstasy. Well, I guess we can’t decrease the suffering and enhance the therapy of Parkinson’s patients. Some people might use ecstasy to get high.

Wow, America. You just don’t know how to contradict yourself some days, do you?

What I want to ask Rush Limbaugh, Patricia Heaton, and the dude who played Jesus once is this: Why are you against curing Parkinson’s disease?

Hey! Links!

RetroCRUSH has an excellent interview with one of my favorite people ever, Crispin Hellion Glover.

Rolling Stone finally starts the mainstream media backlash against the awfulness that is Dane Cook. Man vs. Clown! also has something astute to say about the unfunniness of the man who, in a better universe, would be confused with the funnier Swedish Chef. Check out the comments section, where some idiot calls me a sheep and a woman for jumping on the "Dane Cook Sucks" bandwagon. I guess he wants me to join him on the "Dane Cook Rocks" bandwagon, instead. You assholes do know that just because you're friends with Cook's MySpace page doesn't mean you're actually his friend, right?

The Last Visible Blog has some interesting and highly relevant thoughts on atheism in America here and here.

Patrick Walsh has three important words: Fuck Studio 60.

It may take her months to do it, but Becca's No Smoking in the Skullcave has a new installment of Action Figure Theater up. It's a one-off called "The Muppet Driller Killer." Go over there and laugh.

I think Allen Lulu needs your thoughts and prayers, folks.

Here's something that just might make you laugh. As a lifelong fan of the Three Stooges, I love that someone took the time to do this. Turn the volume down, though, it starts off jarring and LOUD. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

TV Report: Cancellations, Renewals, Etc.

Does anybody in the universe still watch ER? I’m just checking out the status of recently renewed and cancelled series, and I see that ER has been renewed through the 2007/2008 season. Why? Seriously, if you’re still watching ER, comment on this post and tell me why you hate life so much.

So this is one of the fun parts of the fall TV season; they’re starting to announce renewals and cancellations. They’re also starting to change the programming lineups, allowing all of us who like armchair quarterbacking to pat ourselves on the back. For example, the people who are in charge of scheduling at the CW must be the same people who did it for the WB, because they are just as bad at it. They’ve decided to move Seventh Heaven to Sunday nights, which on the face of things makes sense (it being a family show and Sunday being a stereotypically family-oriented day), but seems foolish when you realize that Seventh Heaven has been airing in that same Monday night at seven (I’m in the Central time zone) slot for the last decade or something. Sunday nights were the CW’s sitcom night, but those are now moving to Mondays, where they’ll have to contend with the inexplicable juggernaut that is CBS’s Monday night run of crappy sitcoms. The CW’s new show Runaway, the one with Donnie Wahlberg that nobody watches, was supposed to also move from Monday to Sunday, but I notice it’s not airing any time in the next two weeks…

So, cancellations or renewals, which is more exciting? Let’s start off with the cancellations we’ve already had. What they’re saying now is that Smith is the first cancellation of the new season, though officially the show is on “indeterminate hiatus” (which is, duh, code for “we’re going to stop airing the show now and maybe burn off what we already have in July”). Something called Kidnapped that I never watched has also been cancelled, for all intents and purposes. Fox has a bunch of stuff on hiatus right now because if they don’t show baseball the world comes crashing to an end, once again making me laugh at their stupidity for putting on the premieres of their shows so early, only to stop airing them for two or three weeks and kill all the audience potential. I see they’re pairing Justice, a bad show they are bending over backwards to try and save, with Prison Break, which does make sense. The mistake programmers seem to make year after year is in pairing unlike shows with unlike shows (my favorite was last season, when the WB thought that the audience for Seventh Heaven and some lawyer show with Don Johnson were the same). It’s disingenuous of Fox to say that anything’s on hiatus when, in fact, everything is during the playoffs, but word is that Happy Hour is joining the long, long list of sitcoms that couldn’t even hack it on Fox.

Some cable cancellations: ABC Family’s Gilmore rip-off Three Moons Over Milford and something called Beautiful People; Showtime cancelled Huff; HBO will not bring back Lucky Louie, and I hear Rome is cancelled but I hope that means after a second season, at least; and SCIFI cancelled Stargate SG-1 (finally, Farscape-murdering fuckers).

So, the nicest thing to hear for me was that Ugly Betty got a full-season order. How much am I loving this show? I was a little uncertain at first, but the abundance of charm possessed by America Ferrera really pulled me into what is turning out to be an interesting hybrid of genres. I’m glad it’s not just yet another lame workplace comedy; I’m still not sure the mystery aspect of the show really works for it, but it does lend it some sort of involving soap-opera edge that helps make the show’s heightened (read: over-the-top) qualities work. Making it a tired workplace comedy would just make it dull and average, and the “Betty Saves the Day” plotlines would quickly become formulaic and tiresome. Last Thursday’s episode finally cinched it for me. I find Betty’s gay nephew Justin uninteresting, but there was a great moment at the end of the episode when Marc, Vanessa Williams’s swishy gay assistant, felt for the boy and told him “Wear what you want, just learn to run really fast.” In that single moment, Marc broke out of a character that I felt was unnecessary and uninteresting. Michael Urie has a tendency to play the character as though he were the Joker, going above and beyond over-the-top into some sort of camp stratosphere. But when Marc, who is always making fun of Betty and how she chooses to wear what she likes, told almost-as-swishy Justin that he should be who he is, that was an unexpected moment of character depth. I loved it. I hope this show keeps going strong and, as it has been, gets better and better.

Last week was also the week that restored some of my faith in Lost. I hated the premiere and disliked most of the second episode (except for the flashbacks), but the third episode put me right back into everything I used to love about the show. It’s because Locke is finally back as an active character. For too much of the second season, Locke (who is my favorite character) was having some sort of crisis of faith that was dramatically uninteresting. Then they tried to replace his role as the proponent of faith with Mr. Eko, who, as a friend of mine recently pointed out to me, would be a much better character if they didn’t try so hard to make him cool. But this episode, which focused on Locke and Charlie (remember him?) trying to find an injured Eko, made a hell of a lot of headway towards bringing back the old John Locke. And with him, the old Lost. I’m not looking forward to tonight’s Jack-Kate-Sawyer episode, but at least I have faith that the episode after that will actually reward my loyal viewership.

Also this past week, I got back into Heroes. NBC made a good move by airing a marathon of the first four episodes on Sunday. Since nothing was on, I figured why the hell not and ended up watching the whole thing at once, in momentum, all four episodes. Now I don’t like just one character, I like two (I already liked Hiro, but now I also like Matt, the psychic cop who was introduced in the second episode). I got caught up in it and watched Monday’s episode as well. I still think the show is awfully pretentious and I doubt they can make the premise last for long, I’m at least interested in the direction of the show now.

Besides ER, there are a number of shows that have been renewed for next season that, frankly, I can’t understand why anyone would watch. American Dad, for example, or Family Guy. Or Mind of Mencia. Would you jerks who watch Mind of Mencia just knock it the fuck off, already? If you’re that easily amused, you don’t need a TV. Here’s a quick rundown of shows that are getting another season: American Idol, Hell’s Kitchen, The Simpsons (why, God, why?), So You Think You Can Dance, Brotherhood, The 4400, Curb Your Enthusiasm (though I don’t think they can top last season’s finale…however I say that every season), Entourage, The Dead Zone, Eureka, Hustle, Kyle XY, Monk, Psych, The Real World, South Park, Stargate: Atlantis, and Who Wants to Be a Superhero. And just so you know that Satan is, in fact, in charge of what gets programmed these days, not only has Oprah been renewed through 2011, but Dr. Phil, the fat man who tells you that you eat too much, has been renewed through 2014. Yes, folks, that’s seven more years of Dr. Phil fucking McGraw.

Here’s what we have to look forward to in mid-season 2007: According to Jim (why won’t it die, mommy?), George Lopez, Supernanny, The King of Queens (seriously?), America’s Got Talent, The Apprentice, Crossing Jordan (again, seriously?), Scrubs, Beauty and the Geek, and Reba. Yes, I like Reba. It has JoAnna Garcia on it, how could I not?

Otherwise, I’m just enjoying watching the ratings slip for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip as everyone stops kissing Aaron Sorkin’s ass and sees the show for the piece of fucking shit it really is. So that’s nice.

Film Week

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

Set in Berlin during the loose reign of the Weimar Republic, Pandora’s Box is a hard film to describe. It’s not so much a study of decadence as a study of how supposedly permissive attitudes can still throttle a woman and make her an outcast for trying to take control of the changes around her. This is one of the greatest films of the German Expressionist movement, directed by G.W. Pabst. Louise Brooks, as the tragedy-plagued Lulu, gives one of the best and most memorable performances of any era. **** stars.

As many others have reported, this potentially great film is crippled by a number of factors. Clint Eastwood has a great and important point to make about heroic icons (in this case the famous photograph of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima). But he can’t just make the point. Unfortunately, he seems to have approached this film the same way Spielberg (who produced) now seems to approach his own: by knowing deep down that he has an Important Point to make. Rather than tell the story of the men who raised the flag and point out the ordinariness of the moment (and how such images can become a symbol), Eastwood is saddled with adapting a very popular book and the bullshit mythology that has become prevalent regarding World War II in the last decade (Greatest Generation, my ass). For most of the running time, the story is easy to follow, even entertaining. But the three leads just aren’t drawn as well-rounded characters. They’re character types (or stereotypes), and as a result, they’re not very compelling. Ryan Philippe is actually alright, though Jesse Bradford sucks as much as usual. The third lead, Adam Beach (who I didn’t even know was in the fucking movie until I saw him in it, thanks a lot marketing machine for only pushing the white people), is the only one to imbue his stereotyped role (drunken Indian) with any real humanity. Beach is a wonderful actor, one I’ve been a fan of for a long time, and he’s the best reason to see this movie. He just deserves a better script and a better role to play; still, he’s too good an actor not to find depth even in such shallow writing. As expected, the battle scenes are excellent, exciting and scary. The film borrows the bleached look of Saving Private Ryan, but with better cinematography (and fuck Saving Private Ryan anyway, that overrated piece of fake militaristic awe bullshit). It’s a likable film, but not one you can love. And instead of ending when the movie actually ends (at the unveiling of the Iwo Jima Memorial), the movie goes on for about another half-hour, tying up every possible loose end with a near-total lack of vigor or style. It’s sad to see a filmmaker like Clint Eastwood, who has been producing his best work for the last 15 or so years, succumb to the same virus that’s infecting nearly every once-great American filmmaker: the need to be important. Apparently that comes with a side effect of trying to cram a 90-minute story into a bloated, overlong one that is so wrapped up in its message that it forgets to be entertaining. **1/2 stars. Adam Beach deserves an Oscar nomination that I hope he gets.

I don’t even know how to describe this movie or, frankly, why to. Maybe Paul Weitz just isn’t very good. American Pie, Down to Earth, In Good Company… these movies all suck. How did he knock About a Boy out of the park? I’m not going to run into all of the myriad plotlines and characters mixing around this thing, because that would take way too long, and you all saw the previews anyway, so you have an inkling of what this is about. Let’s just get to what the filmmakers want you to know: the president is kind of an idiot who is, in part, the puppet of greedy men; shows like American Idol are mere distraction for an audience who doesn’t care about the world situation; not all Arabs are terrorists, and some of them even like America; sometimes people who want to be famous are shallow assholes. Oh, did you already know all that? Of course you did. We all know that. But Paul Weitz presents these “revelations” as though they are new to you. This smugfest comes across as if Weitz seriously thinks Americans are stupid and will be profoundly moved by all of this. Yes, he too thinks that he is making Important Points; he sure as hell isn’t making a movie. And why so veiled? The main characters of the movie are basically George W. Bush, Simon Cowell, and Britney Spears, but unlike, say Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Weitz doesn’t have the guts (or the talent) to really take aim at them and fire. He makes offensive assumptions about their personalities (boy, someone like Simon Cowell must be filled with self-loathing, that answer makes me feel better), but his attempts at satire are all so apologetic (especially when it comes to the president). The performances are all serviceable, but not really very good. The only one who looks like he’s even remotely enjoying himself is Willem Dafoe; alone among the actors (and this is a huge waste of a largely talented cast), he seems to realize he’s acting in a comedy and adjusts himself accordingly. You just can’t diminish Dafoe’s incredible talent. I did like Mandy Moore (thing not to say to your girlfriend: “I would so leave you for Mandy Moore right now”), and I think she gets better as an actress, but she’s just one among many buried under the weight of a lot of mediocrity. And though she’s underused, it’s always wonderful to see Shohreh Aghdashloo. ** stars.

Let me say right off that I’ve found the X-Men series disappointing from the first. Too many characters, too many endings, too many compromises in entertainment just to keep the fanboys happy. I mean, they’ve been noble attempts, and some of the acting has been good, but they’ve also meandered and squandered the opportunity to tell a meaningful story about outsiders. I’ve always noticed the high number of gay readers the comic book draws, as well as AIDS patients. People who have something inside of them that makes them different and which, sadly, can be scary to other people. That’s the kind of story these movies should have been telling. But, you know, they’ve been alright. This third installment is actually the best of the three, which is surprising because it was directed by black hole of talent Brett Ratner. The reason this is the best of the three is because Ratner and his writers are willing to play fast and loose with the characters in order to tell a story, which is what should have been fucking happening all along. To wit: three major characters die and three lose their powers. And if a fanboy whines about it, you know you’ve done your job. The movie is just as unsuccessful as the other two about balancing so many characters, and they just keep adding more. Wolverine, Jean Grey, Magneto, and Storm are the major focus this time around, with a barely-visible Rogue dropping out of the picture at some point. They also add Angel (to no real effect; he’s only got about three scenes) and Beast, illogically played by Kelsey Grammer, who does surprisingly well in the action scenes but spends the first half with no idea how to play the character, as though he’s confused that he’s even in the thing. Hugh Jackman is pretty good, and Famke Janssen finally gets some big scenes to play, while Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are (as always) perfectly wonderful. Vinnie Jones is a fun addition as Juggernaut (I love Vinnie Jones), but Ellen Page is disappointing as Kitty Pryde. Blink and you’ll miss Colossus. Although she's underused, it's always wonderful to see Shohreh Aghdashloo (did I already say that?). And to my surprise Rebecca Romijn just gets better and better (she seems to actually be serious about acting). And to my even greater surprise, giving Halle Berry a lot more to do seems to be the right choice. Berry is an actress I don’t much care for, but here she finds exactly the right note to play (finally ditching that silly half-accent she had in a few scenes of the first two), and you wish they’d amped her part up from the very beginning. The special effects are great, too. But the important thing is that, by the film’s end, the characters are all different and changed. That’s something they have sometimes in movies called, oh, what’s the technical term for it… oh, yeah, storytelling. *** stars. Watch the credits all the way through for a great reveal at the end.

TOOTSIE (1982)
I actually saw this movie in high school, but after reading Jamie J. Weinman’s recent post about Bill Murray, I ended up getting caught up watching it last night on Turner Classic Movies. Sometimes you need to go back and reevaluate. And while I liked some of the more technical aspects of it now, and some of the writing, I still don’t think very highly of it. Sydney Pollack has no personality as a director, not in any movie. Dustin Hoffman’s performance is very good, if a little less personable and more technical than I would like. Teri Garr is better in a thankless role, while Bill Murray’s mostly-improvised performance is brilliant (and I found that, after seeing the movie once almost 15 years ago, I remembered it almost line for line). Charles Durning comes out well, as always, as do Dabney Coleman and an underused Geena Davis (who spends most of her time in her underwear, which is so not a complaint). I used to think that this movie wasted a lot of time making points about the differences between men and women that I thought were rather obvious, making the movie noble but very dated. I still think the same thing, but I seemed to pick up more of an air of condescension this time around. I know that Dustin Hoffman’s character learns how to be a better man by being a woman; but it seems like the women around him learn how to be better women just by having him explain it to them. I’m not sure that I feel that’s exactly a triumph. **1/2 stars.

Birthday Mix

25 October 1976/20 December 1994
1. Peter Murphy: I’ll Fall with Your Knife
2. James: Laid
3. Erasure: A Little Respect
4. Einsturzende Neubauten: The Interim Lovers
5. Concrete Blonde: I Call it Love
6. Bauhaus: All We Ever Wanted
7. Alison Moyet: Dorothy
8. Depeche Mode: Enjoy the Silence
9. Jane’s Addiction: Jane Says
10. Portishead: Sour Times
11. Morrissey & Siouxsie: Interlude
12. Sonic Youth: Superstar
13. Gitane Demone & Rozz Williams: A World Apart
14. Peter Murphy: Cuts You Up
15. Pizzicato Five: Twiggy Twiggy/Twiggy vs. James Bond
16. Smashing Pumpkins: 1979
17. Moby: God Moving Over the Face of the Waters
18. The Jesus and Mary Chain: Just Like Honey

Happy thirtieth birthday, Becca.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mother Issues

I’m not quite sure how or why, but I’ve been invited to attend a pre-release screening of a new documentary in Chicago next week. I spent a while hemming and hawing over it, but since being an actual film critic is one of the many things I’d like to do with my life, I decided it was too good to pass up. I would probably hate myself for missing this because, hey, it might be my only chance to see what that job is like. I figured out the train schedules, the cost, etc, and I was pretty pleased with myself. See, I tend to be a little agoraphobic; this is the kind of opportunity I’m always too willing to pass up in order to stay at home and be comfortable.

After talking the whole thing over with Becca, I was pretty excited about going. I called the media contact at the distributor and asked if the whole thing was a mistake; she told me she’d put my name on the list. Wow. I’ve never been on a list before. You know, that I know of. I’m sure that FBI investigation will be closing in. Still, this experience made me feel even more professional. I’ve had a pretty small life, and this kind of thing never really happens to me. I was still excited, and still needed to tell someone about it. And perhaps mistakenly, I called my mom to tell her the whole spiel.

The thing about my mom is…she means well. She just doesn’t know when to shut up and let me feel good about myself. Anything I do, it always ends up with her saying something like “now if only you could do this” or “now you just need this.” It’s never enough for her to just be proud of me; she’s always got to remind me of just how far short I am of realizing a single one of my dreams.

“Well, I’m very proud of you,” she says.

“Yeah, I think that’s great,” I say. “I’ve had people contact me through my blog before wanting to review things online, but never an invitation to a screening. It’s really far out.”

“Now if only you could get a real job doing it,” she continues. “I mean, it’s great that you’re blogging and all, I just wish you could find something to do.”

“Well, maybe this will open a door and one day a collection of my writing will be released and the introduction I can say: No thanks at all to my mother, who never believed in me and who was always there to tell me I still wasn’t good enough whenever I nearly felt a moment of pride or joy.

“You know that’s not true,” she says. “I support you, I just want you to be taken care of.”

“If you supported me you’d just be proud that I’m doing anything at all.”

“I am proud.”


“You should marry Becca so you’d at least have insurance.”

See? This is the type of go-to she just can’t fucking resist.

“Very romantic, Ma.”

“You’re too old to be messing with romance.”

“No, you’re too old,” I say. “I’m not that cynical yet.”

Believe it or not, I’m not that cynical yet. But, potential mothers, I just want to implore you: support your children’s dreams. Someone told me that life will happen for you when it’s meant to. Those are beautiful, reassuring words. Believe them. Don’t tell your son all his life that he dreams too big and should just settle for a job on Target’s loading dock because it pays seventeen dollars an hour and at least he’ll be insured. He’ll lose his soul and his hopes will die, but at least he’ll be able to live longer in his unhappiness. Don’t feel the need, when your children are riding high in a moment of happiness, to bring them crashing back down to the realities of wasted time and unfulfilled potential. If you ever think that it’s helping your kid, who at one point looked up to you as the one who would make sense of the world for them, that they aren’t doing enough to make something of themselves, just shut your snout. Because we probably know what wastes we are already. And hearing you confirm it just makes us feel it’s true.

Well, I was having a very good day...

Sandy West 1959-2006

Too little has been written about the Runaways, the all-girl metal group who briefly rocked the world in the late 1970s. Besides paving the way for the girl groups of the eighties (like the Bangles and the Go-Go’s), they helped to solidify the idea that chicks could not only rock, they could rock hard and, in fact, wanted to rock hard. The teenage girls of the seventies weren’t the stereotypes of earlier generations. They wanted to have fun while they still could. And the Runaways were there to fill their souls with rock and roll dreams.

Sandy West, the woman who started the Runaways and, through their short history, provided powerful drums, died on Saturday. She had been struggling with lung cancer for a year and sadly succumbed to that beast at a mere 47 years old.

Sandy was born and raised in Huntington Beach, California. She was an athletic girl who grew up skiing and surfing, the kinds of restless activities that would inform a lot of the specifically Californian music of the Runaways. She formed the band in 1975. She was 16 years old.

That gorgeous Tom Gold photo shows the Runaways as they began. From left to right, they are lead guitarist Lita Ford, rhythm guitarist Joan Jett, bass guitarist Jackie Fox, drummer Sandy West, and lead vocalist (sometime keyboardist) Cherie Currie. All teenagers. As produced and managed by Kim Fowley, the Runaways were generally considered a novelty act. The notion of five teenaged girls in leather and lingerie was easy to market, but came across as gimmicky. Could they rock?

Well, of course they could rock. They rocked hard.

The Runaways were actually pretty damn serious about their music. They could play their instruments (and very well, thank you) and write their own kick ass music. And in their way they changed the world of music. For a teenaged girl, hearing “Cherry Bomb” is a revelation. It’s the danger and threat of burgeoning female sexuality in just barely over two minutes.

A lot of bands owe them a debt of gratitude, from Shonen Knife and Bikini Kill to the Donnas. Without their brief time in the spotlight, who knows where chick rock would be. No, strike the chick rock. Male or female, the Runaways were one of the hardest rocking bands ever. Tell me they aren't and I'll bite your damn tongue out.

When the Runaways called it quits in 1980, Sandy West continued in her music career with the Sandy West Band. Her cult following remained strong and devoted, and still does now in this time of tragedy.

Here’s a clip of Sandy West playing live in 1983. She’s powerful and vibrant, kicking ass on those skins. (It’s also very loud, so you’ve been warned.)

Cherie Currie had something moving to say on the subject of Sandy’s passing: “Sandy West was by far, the greatest female drummer in the history of rock and roll. No one could compete or even come close to her, but the most important was her heart. Sandy West loved her fans, her friends and family almost to a fault. She would do absolutely anything for the people she loved. It will never be the same for me again to step on a stage, because Sandy West was the best and I will miss her forever.”

And Joan Jett also released a statement: “We shared the dream of girls playing rock and roll. Sandy was an exuberant and powerful drummer. So underrated, she was the caliber of John Bonham. I am overcome from the loss of my friend.”

To hear Sandy West speak for herself, see the excellent 2004 documentary Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways, directed by former bandmate Vicki Blue. It’s the definitive document about the band, and thank God we got it before Sandy was taken from us. But I think we might trade it to have Sandy back.

The Runaways, I find, are not very well remembered. For just a moment, remember Sandy West today. We’re going to miss her.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Angelina: No Longer an Actress

Angelina Jolie announced that she, too, is going to take part in this ridiculous epidemic that is actresses not taking their clothes off anymore. Now, it's not that I'm resentful or anything, but I've just always had this problem taking any actor, male or female, seriously if they take an anti-nudity stance. I'm sorry, but, if you have a problem taking your clothes off, you're not an actor to me. Because a real actor is thinking about the character. A celebrity is thinking about what her kids are going to say about it. And a celebrity is not really an actor; an actor thinks about the art...a celebrity thinks about their career. And I especially don't respect Angelina Jolie for saying that she's going to stop taking her clothes off because she doesn't want her kids to be embarrassed. Way to hide behind your kids and what society thinks. Didn't that used to be the opposite of what Angie was all about?

At least Angelina is, like, a real actress. She's given some of the greatest performances any actor has given in the last decade; she should have won an Oscar for Gia. I know it was an HBO movie and wasn't eligible, but fuck it, that was the best female performance of 1998. But when Jessica Alba says she's not going to take her clothes off, that's especially ridiculous. Why does she think she's famous? Because everyone is waiting with bated breath to see her dramatic reading of Goethe? Or because she's getting in a bikini and sticking her ass in the camera all the time? And when I hear Scarlett Johansson, who is so greatly blessed with talent, say something that stupid, I just think about how she's already stopped being conscious of her art and is only concerned with her career.

Seriously, whose career does nudity hurt? Jane Fonda didn't shy away from nudity in the sixties and seventies, and she won two Oscars. Emma Thompson, also a multiple Oscar winner, is no stranger to nudity. Ditto Oscar winner Susan Sarandon. Jennifer Connelly, who won a Supporting Actress Oscar for a lead role in 2001, has graced the screen with her natural beauty. Kate Winslet, who deserves to have won an Oscar, has never let nudity hinder her being one of the best actresses alive (and thank you so much for that, my darling Winslet). And check this action out: Jodie Foster, Holly Hunter, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hilary Swank, Halle Berry, and Charlize Theron won Oscars for movies that they were actually naked in. Helen Hunt at least wore that wet tee shirt in As Good as It Gets and Julia Roberts didn't win an Oscar until she pushed her boobs up to her chin in Erin Brockovich, which goes to show that sometimes good cleavage can supercede a lack of talent. Nicole Kidman got to Hollywood by flashing her pretty pink Christmas ornament of a heart-shaped ass in Dead Calm; now she, too, is an Oscar winner. And though no one seems to remember it, a plumper, more attractive Reese Witherspoon got her kit off in Twilight in 1998.

What I'm getting at is this: nudity doesn't hurt anyone's career. It's all about the talent. Kate Winslet could have descended into bad B movies, but she was too talented and too determined to be a great actress, so it never happened. And if you're thinking about what other people will think, you're not in the moment, and you're not acting. And don't pull that "it's gratuitous" saw on me, because that's a non-starter. Every single thing that happens in a movie is gratuitous. Nothing in a movie is necessary. Do you think all of the violence we see in movies is necessary? Think carefully about that. Because there were several glorious decades of moviemaking without graphic violence and without nudity that were still able to get the point across.

I'm just sorry that one of our best actors, Angelina Jolie, has decided to cave in to the celebrity life. But it's her choice. Just as it's my choice to not take her seriously as an actor anymore. Posted by Picasa

Me and My Pretty Hair

So, I'm out at lunch with my mother and my grandparents yesterday, and my mom suddenly starts petting my hair and says: "Your hair looks really pretty today." Huh?
What a strange compliment to afford your 30 year-old son. I didn't even know how to respond to that. I mean, you know, I think my hair looks better longish, and I guess it was very clean. But for my mom to just, like, tell me my hair looked "pretty"? It just took me surprise.
I don't know, you tell me. Does my hair look "pretty"?
Yes, that's what I look like. I know, I'm not proud of it, either.

The other thing she said was that my hands looked clean. I tend to sit with my hands folded or my hands clasped, and my mom just looked at my hands and went: "Wow, your hands look clean." Huh?
Does this mean that my own mom just assumes that my hands are always going to be ravaged by dirt and slime? I mean, to be fair, my hands did use to get dirty at work. When I worked receiving at Barnes & Noble, my hands would get so dirty that they looked green under the shitty Barnes & Noble track lighting. But to be fair to me, I did quit that job in 1997...
Man, what does my mom normally expect of me when pretty hair and clean hands are unusual compliments?

Found on the Internet

Apparently there's Star Wars Hentai now. It does make this picture weirder to think that this is Princess Leia with her mom.

Wait, did I say "weirder"? I mean "hotter." Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Song of the Week: "This Place Is Empty"

This is the best song off the most recent Rolling Stones album, A Bigger Bang. I know the performance here (live in Rio, February this year) is a little loose, but it makes me feel good because I love the song and because Keith Richards is one of my rock heroes. It seems like we nearly lost him this year. Thank God we didn't.