God instantly appoints Judah the new judge of Israel, and the invasion of Canaan continues uninterrupted. In this book, God’s suddenly not so all-powerful anymore; there are a lot of other people who are allowed to live in Israel, even though God just spent the last several books telling everyone who would listen that it was forbidden to let anyone live who worshiped other gods. Are you telling me that God can’t smite a bunch of iron chariots? Just a few books back he was instantly murdering anyone who pissed him off with his plague ray. And even though God was also saying not to oppress anyone, Israel gets right to oppressing everyone whom they can’t kill.
The Middle Eastern land is unconquered, the oppressed people who were already living there are unhappy and plotting revenge, and the Israelites are torn in their loyalties. So what does God do? Two words: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Peace in the Middle East! And then the Israelites immediately start doing what they do best: ignoring God and doing whatever anyone else says they should do. Just as God predicted, the Israelites immediately start worshiping Baal and Astarte and Asherah, who are way less uptight. God gets hella angry, and the judges get pissed, but the Israelites ignore them. Gee, suddenly God’s not able to follow through on his threats? I thought he got super powers from Earth’s yellow sun, or something. He does know that the Israelites won’t straighten up without someone to constantly supervise them, so he gives up on them.
Israel is conquered by King Cushan-rishathaim of somewhere or other, but the Israelites beg God for help. He helps Othniel, Caleb’s son-in-law/nephew, to kick out the oppressors, and Othniel rules over Israel. Now settle in, because this pattern will repeat itself. Othniel dies, and the Israelites go bad again. They’re conquered by the Moabites, so they whine to God and he sends Ehud to save them. And everything’s fine. And then Shangar saves them.
This abusive cycle continues for (literally) hundreds of years. Doesn’t God realize that this is not how he’s going to gain the love he really wants? This time around, King Jabin of Canaan conquers Israel, but Deborah the prophetess and Barak build an Israelite army. Jabin’s general, Sisera, loses the battle and is then treacherously murdered by the wife of a tribe allied with Canaan. She takes a hammer and shoves a peg through his brain while he’s asleep. King Jabin is destroyed, too.
Deborah and Barak write a song celebrating the bloody betrayal and brutal murder of Sisera.
So, the Israelites start worshiping Baal again. The Midianites conquer Israel. God lets them stew for a while to think about what they’ve done, then sends an angel down to tell Gideon he’s a prophet. God’s choice of sign is rather cruel—he lets Gideon go to all the trouble of making him a meal for an offering and then destroys it in front of him. Yeah, destroy the hard-earned food of poor people, God, they always find that impressive. Jerk. Gideon is sufficiently scared enough to build an altar to God and tear down his father’s altar to Baal. Giddy still doesn’t buy it, though, and keeps making God perform magic tricks to prove himself.
Giddy raises the troops, but God decides he doesn’t want to share all the credit with Israel, so he makes 22,000 of them go home. Giddy still has an army 10,000-strong, but God still thinks that’s not enough glory directly for him, so he whittles it down to just 300 warriors to fight the horde of the Midianites and their allies. At night, every soldier blows a trumpet, scaring their enemies. The slaughter begins seconds later.
The Ephraimites get pissed at Giddy for not letting them come to war in a brief and rather pointless episode. Midian is conquered and peace returns. Giddy has seventy sons and then one illegitimate one, Abimelech. Then he dies. Five seconds later, the Israelites are all having orgies and worshiping Baal. Face it, Baal’s just a more relaxed dude.
Our next champion, Abimelech, begins this chapter by heroically murdering sixty-nine of his brothers at once so that he doesn’t have any rivals to power. His youngest brother, Jotham, survives long enough to curse the people of Shacham for supporting Abimelech. Abi becomes ruler of Israel, but his reign is troubled because God turns his back on him for his treachery. Abi goes crazy and murders a thousand of his own people by setting a building on fire, so a woman drops a millstone on his head and crushes him. Not wanting to suffer the indignity of being killed by a woman, Abi has a young man stab him to finish him off.
More of the cycle; Israel goes through two more judges (Tola and Jair) before going back to Baal and being conquered by the Ammonites.
Jephthath, son of a prostitute, is driven away by his half-brothers, so he becomes the leader of an outlaw band (the brigand kind, not a country music thing). After the Ammonite conquest, the Israelites are begging Jephthath to lead their army. Jeph throws it in their faces a little bit, but he’s basically a decent guy, so he agrees to help out. The king of the Ammonites makes a smart and historically accurate case for the Israelites being the actual conquerors, but Jeph ignores it. He makes a promise to God that, if he’s successful, he’ll sacrifice the first person to greet him in victory. If Jeph had read more Classical mythology, he’d know that it was going to end up being his beloved only daughter. He still does it, though.
The Ephraimites gets pissed at Jeph the same way they got pissed of at Gideon way back. This causes Jeph’s people, the Gileadites, to murder 42,000 men from Ephraim. Jeph dies and is succeeded by Ibzan, then Elon, then Abdon. And then no one. And then they’re conquered by the Philistines.
No one’s looking, so the Israelites head back into Baal’s yard for a party. An angel comes to Manoah and his barren wife and tells them they will conceive a son consecrated to the Lord. Manoah makes an offering, and Samson is born and blessed.
Samson, now a strapping young lad, falls in love with a Philistine woman, mostly because God is looking for a pretext to start some shit (the Bible does use the word pretext, implying that this is a manufactured war). Samson and the woman marry. He makes a wager with her family over a riddle, but when they can’t answer it they get the wife to cajole it out of him. Samson finds out about the cheat, so he gives his wife to his best friend and God murders a bunch of Philistines.
Samson, like a lot of ex-husbands, still thinks he should be able to fuck his ex whenever he wants, and when her father refuses he burns the Philistine fields, crops, vineyards, stores, and groves. The Philistines blame the wife and father and burn them alive, but that just pisses Samson off more and he murders a bunch of other people out of revenge. The Philistines start to raid Judah looking for Samson, and the Israelites surrender Samson with blinding speed, tying his hands behind his back. Samson agrees to give himself up, but when he sees the Philistine army he goes into ‘roid rage mode, snaps his bonds, picks up a donkey’s jawbone and murders a thousand Philistine men with it. God is impressed with Samson, and why not? He’s big, pushy, crazed, and violent, loves to have power over others, seems to enjoy hurting people, is quick to anger, and thinks nothing of slaughtering a thousand people just to make a point. He’s the godliest character we’ve seen yet! God’s so awed that he opens the earth and makes a new spring just so Samson can quench his thirst after an afternoon of killing. The Israelites, always quick to bend whichever way the wind is blowing, make Samson the new judge.
Samson tears down the walls of Gaza before falling in love with another Philistine: Delilah. She agrees to be a spy for the Philistines, and asks Samson the secret of his superhuman strength. After several days of nagging and whining, plus three attempts to lie to her just to shut her up, Samson stupidly tells her the truth: his power is in his hair, which has never been shorn because he’s consecrated. Delilah cuts his hair, and Philistines jump on him and gouge his eyes out. Instead of killing him, they stupidly throw him in prison, where his hair grows back. Superhuman again, Samson knocks over a building, murdering 3000 Philistines (including the king) and himself. What a stupid, stupid story. Seriously, that all could have been avoided if Samson just hadn’t let Delilah nag him into giving up his secrets. “If you loved me, you’d tell me,” she keeps saying. Guys, if she loved you, she wouldn’t ask.
Micah takes some silver and makes an idol; apparently God’s okay with Micah breaking a commandment as long as it’s in his honor. He makes some passing Levite his priest. Apparently it’s unimportant this late into the book to give any names. Lazy writing…
With no ruler in Israel since Samson died, the Danites begin spying around for a place to live. The Levite priest helps them rob the idol from Micah and agrees to be their priest instead. They found the town of Dan in Laish.
An Ephraimite with a concubine from Bethlehem stops for the night in Gibeah, a Benjaminite town. An older man, also an Ephraimite, is the only man to offer him a place for the night. While they’re eating dinner, a bunch of Benjaminites come to the door and make a demand for something we haven’t seen since Genesis: anal rape. Yes, they want the stranger outside right fucking now for the purposes of butt sex. The old man gallantly offers the concubine and his own virgin daughter instead, but as always in the Bible, the mob will only be satisfied with foreigner ass. The stranger throws the concubine outside to save himself, and she’s gang raped all night long; in the morning the crowd is gone and the concubine is dead on the doorstep. The stranger cuts her into twelve pieces and sends a piece to each of the twelve tribal leaders.
The tribal elders demand the Benjaminite rapists be brought to justice, but the Benjaminites say no. The rest of Israel attacks them, slaughtering 25,000 Benjaminites, then killing their families, burning their towns, and destroying their farms. 600 men flee into the hills, and that’s all that’s left of Benjamin’s tribe.
Israel agrees to shun Benjamin, but they don’t want the tribe to disappear from the world. They become suspicious of the people in the town of Jabesh-gilead, who did not send any soldiers to war against Benjamin, so the army goes there and kills everyone except for 400 virgin females. They are to serve as wives for the remaining Benjaminites. The other 200 unmarried men find a loophole they can use to steal Israelite wives from Shiloh, and the other Israelites accept it. There is still no judge in Israel.
Next week: The Book of Ruth, a book that is merciful. Mercifully short, that is. It's a nice little break before we get into the really, really heavy stuff. Yeah, it's going to get much more involved...
Saturday, November 25, 2006
I'm sure this is going nowhere, but I've been reading now that New Line (or somebody) is talking about offering Sam Raimi the keys to The Hobbit. It's a really obvious negotiating ploy, but I'm not sure this is genuine. But since I've been hearing a lot of people say that no other director in the world could do justice to Middle-earth, I found it interesting. If anyone could do it, I'm willing to believe that Sam Raimi could. He's a very similar director to Peter Jackson; he started off in low-budget horror and comedy (The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, the unfortunate Crimewave), got into the mainstream with a critically-acclaimed but little-seen drama (the excellent A Simple Plan), and then went on to create a believable world out of a popular fictional universe (the Spider-Man movies). So, maybe there is someone out there who could do The Hobbit after all. At least they're not offering it to Bryan Singer, who sucks.
Someone had a quip that went something like "How will Raimi work Bruce Campbell into The Hobbit?" Well, obviously he should play Bard. See, I can be a fanboy, too.
Anyway, I see that the Ringers have really mobilized online. It's a little depressing to my cynical nature that people think getting MGM and New Line to install Peter Jackson as a director is so much more important than actual social causes, but whatever. I think that internet petitions are pretty useless, to be honest. I do appreciate, however, that MGM has made it clear that they don't want to go ahead without Peter Jackson, so maybe there's hope for the people who want to see him do it. I still want Jackson to move on and have a long and varied career, but that seems to be increasingly just me who feels that way.
You know who else could direct it? Guillermo del Toro.
Peter Lynn has up this post about Tyne Daly. He points out this picture:
Wow, as Peter says, Tyne Daly used to be hot. Real fucking hot. Peter goes on to wonder why she stopped being so hot. And my first thought was, gee, that's kind of cruel. But then I thought to myself if he really wanted to be cruel, he could point out the staggering resemblance between her and character actor Bruce McGill.
But that would just be needlessly mean.
Friday, November 24, 2006
We’re something like nine episodes into the basic fall season now, which means that most of the shows that started in September have about 13 or so episodes left (which they’ll stretch out over the next 24 weeks…yay), so I thought I’d take a look around and mention what I’ve seen, what I’m watching, and what I think about it all.
Heroes: When I first watched Heroes, I got bored and impatient. It was nothing I hadn’t seen in the pages of pretty much every comic book I’d read over the last twenty years, frankly. I abandoned the show after the first episode. Then I caught the marathon of the first four episodes, and somehow I just got hooked. When the show began, I thought everyone was too mopey and whiny; Hiro was the only character I liked, because he was the only character who was having fun with his powers. Everyone else was just being pissy. I began to envision a show called Super Hiro that would just follow the one character. But the other characters started pulling their weight in the drama department, and now I’m hooked on this show, even despite some of the shitty actors (especially Adrian Pasdar and Milo “Don’t you think I look like Tom Cruise?” Ventimiglia). I guess one of the things I most like about this show is that, unlike some other serialized dramas I could name, this one actually feels like it’s going somewhere. I’ll still be surprised if they can sustain it for very long, but I’m really into it now. They just need to cut out the pretentious, pointless narration. And maybe Mohinder Suresh, that character’s so boring I can barely watch his scenes.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: I finally gave up on this one several weeks ago. I don’t have this weird need to worship at the altar of Aaron Sorkin that some people do, and the tone got old pretty quickly. I could go on and on about this show, but why bother? I just couldn’t watch the damn thing.
Wire in the Blood: I got into this British crime series on DVD, and thanks to the wonders of Netflix, it took me forever to see all eleven episodes of the first three series. Thank God for TiVo; how the hell did I get by without this thing? I TiVoed the fourth series, all four 90-minute episodes of which aired on BBC America, and got to watch them all at once. You really need to check this show out; it’s amazing how they avoid the pitfalls of most American procedurals. Robson Green is a brilliant actor. I’m not sure that it was a great idea to go ahead without Hermione Norris, though. She balanced it out, and the new girl is nowhere near as interesting.
The Class: Well, I tried to watch it. And I couldn’t make it past the opening credits of the first episode. Lizzy Caplan is way better than this piece of shit.
Smith: This was a stylish show to look at, but the hateful characters were so damn boring that it turned me off. Too bad, because I’d like to see Ray Liotta with a TV series; Virginia Madsen, too. And any excuse to see Shohreh Aghdashloo is a good one. I only watched the first two episodes; I tried to watch the third, but I got bored and decided to drop the series. And then CBS did, too. So there you are.
Doctor Who: How do you know I’m a geek? Because it does bother me that they’re referring to this as the first series of Doctor Who, and not the twenty-seventh. It also bothers me that Christopher Eccleston only played the Doctor once, and now there’s a new one, and how many regenerations does he have left, and are they even counting anymore? This is probably not the show to call continuity on, really. Anyway, this aired on the SCI FI Channel already, but I missed it. I have it on my Netflix queue, but since they decided to air it on BBC America, I’m just watching it there. Or, more accurately, TiVoing it, I haven’t actually watched it yet.
Bones: Bones was always I show that I felt had definite potential, if only they’d stop trying to force a whole Sam-and-Diane thing with the main characters and do something interesting. I watched it intermittently last season, and I stuck with the new season for a couple of weeks, but ultimately it was pretty lame. This show’s just never going to pick up. I don’t even think about watching it anymore.
Twenty Good Years: Another sitcom I couldn’t make it five minutes into. I just wanted to mention once again how disappointed I am in NBC for completely wasting Jeffrey Tambour. Yeah, good thing Fox cancelled Arrested Development there…
Lost: For now, I’m just waiting to see what happens when it comes back. The main problem I have with this show is, of course, that it feels like it’s not going anywhere at all. Every time I say that I get a number of people who tell me that I just need to be patient and stick with it and eventually it will, but those people are starting to sound more and more harried, as if they’re trying to convince themselves. We’re six episodes into the season now, and the explanation for the incredibly frustrating cruelty of the Others has been revealed, and it is not a satisfactory answer. I know, I know, there’s something else going on, but seriously: what? Their manipulations are so ridiculous and pointless, and they don’t lead anywhere! All that crap with the watch and the pacemaker just so that they can show Sawyer he’s on another island? What the fuck was the point of that? You can be as cosmic and Zen about Lost slowly unfolding whatever answers you think it has all you want, the fact is that this show is going nowhere. It still hasn’t lost me—I just want to find out what the hell is going on—but it’s a frustrating journey. And why kill all the Tailies? And why keep dragging things out? It feels like one of those stories you tell at campfires, where someone talks for five minutes, and then the next person has to continue the story, and the next. They have no idea where this thing is going, and they’re making it up as they go along. Please, no comments this time around about how they have a plan and et cetera and ditto ditto. I am unconvinced. I’m not so mundane as to need explanations for everything, but any good drama would reveal a little at a time instead of just creating more fake problems to drag the damn thing out. Remember that four-toed statue? The way Lost handles things, I’d be surprised if they even mention it again.
South Park: Unlike, say, every other long-running animated series on television, this one’s actually managed to remain funny. See what happens when you’re only making a few episodes a year instead of just trying to sell tee shirts? The recent two-parter about evolution and the Nintendo Wii was fucking brilliant.
My Name Is Earl: I haven’t liked this show this season as much as I did last season. I think the barrage of guest stars is distracting (though I thought Roseanne Barr was funny), and the writing’s just not as sharp this season. Was there a change in the writing staff, or something? There’s just so much wrong with it. For example, I feel like they’re making fun of the characters a lot more this year than they were last year. It used to be a sort of good-natured satire, but a lot of time now it feels like they’re laughing at Randy and not trying to understand him. And the sentiment is out of control. I used to like how surprisingly sweet-natured the show could be, but now it’s always telegraphed twenty minutes in advance and transforms into an orgy of sap. They seem more concerned about what increasingly random song from the seventies is going to play over Earl’s magical revelation this week. About the only thing they’ve done right this year is given Joy and Darnell much more screen time. But let’s get back to the core of what made this show great, instead of meandering around or trying too hard to be weird. Oh, and drop Nadine Velasquez, she’s a particularly unfunny dead weight. Unless the first season was a fluke, which, given that the guy who created it created Yes, Dear, one of the worst shows in the history of time, is certainly possible.
The Office: I’m surprised at how well the show has assimilated these new characters into its third season. I was kind of worried that, after last season’s finale, they would have just gotten Jim and Pam together and this season was going to be boring. Somehow, the creation of a sort of love triangle feels organically real instead of contrived to stretch out the life of the show. I can’t wait to see how it goes on from here.
30 Rock: I thought it was a little disingenuous of the show to do an episode making fun of the network for asking the writers to write GE and Universal products into the show when the first episode of 30 Rock was basically an oven commercial (and, for that matter, when the episode of The Office that preceded it was basically a commercial for a Staples shredder). I’m still with the show, I think Tina Fey is funny and sexy (she seems determined to show as much cleavage as possible, the sexy bitch) and Jane Krakowski is sexy and funny. I think they’ve made the right choice in putting Tracy Morgan more in the background, and I think Alec Baldwin is hilarious. Now the show just needs to be funny. It’s witty, but it’s still in its awkward phase.
Ugly Betty: This might actually be my favorite show on TV right now. It’s enough that America Ferrera is so damn cute and funny and endearing as Betty. But the show around her is easily as funny and endearing as she is. How does this show work? It seems like it should be silly and stupid, but it’s so genuine and honest that it all really works. And I really hope that Salma Hayek stays on this show for a long time; she’s wonderful. I still feel like the whole mystery aspect of the show doesn’t quite work, but I can put up with it. Everything else here is gold.
Shark: I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying this show, too. I don’t really like shows about lawyers, but I do like James Woods. It’s not a great show, but it’s an enjoyable one.
The Dick Cavett Show: Turner Classic Movies ran several classic episodes (and one new interview with Mel Brooks) this season, and I wish they’d just start at the beginning and run the whole damn thing. Dick Cavett’s celebrity interviews are the best in the history of television. He just knew when to listen and what kinds of questions to ask. Talk shows bore the shit out of me now; someone tells one cute story and pushes their movie for five minutes, then moves on. Boring! I don’t need to watch a commercial, I want to see a damn interview.
The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Well, I’m probably never going to stop being a Disney Channel slave. Those Sprouse kids on this show are extremely fucking irritating, and no matter how long they try, they’re just not going to improve enough to be able to handle the comedy. They have no delivery, and they’re boring as shit. Brenda Song, however, is brilliant as airhead heiress London Tipton. What could have been a one-dimensional Paris Hilton parody has evolved into well-rounded, very sympathetic character who is a pleasure to watch. And then there’s my sweet Ashley Tisdale...
Hannah Montana: Yeah, it’s pretty dumb, but some of the comedy is funny; Emily Osment actually cracks me up. I’m still miffed that they cancelled Phil of the Future for it, but I think it’s cute. Besides, Becca has this sudden, gigantic lust for Billy Ray Cyrus, anyway.
That’s So Raven: This show is so on its last legs it’s almost sad. But I still love my Anneliese Van Der Pol. And Raven, of course, I really do like her. But if this show went away, I don’t think I’d miss it. I still miss Lizzie McGuire, though, which Disney doesn’t even rerun anymore.
Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends: This is the best animated show on TV that isn’t South Park. It’s imaginative, it’s funny, and it’s from the creator of The Powerpuff Girls; what else do you need?
Real Time with Bill Maher: I wish this were on every week. Instead of on hiatus like it is now, damn it.
Legion of Super Heroes: This isn’t necessarily a worthy successor to the greatness of Batman and Superman, or the pretty darn goodness of Justice League Unlimited, but it’s a fun show. It tries a little too hard to hit between the well-roundedness of Superman and the breezy fun of Teen Titans. I’m not ready to quit watching the DC cartoons yet, and I’m sure as hell not going to watch The Batman.
Meet the Press: Of course.
Reba: I started watching this show in 2001 because Becca worked and there was nothing else to watch on Fridays. I like Reba McEntire, always have, so I figured I’d give it a shot. And I have to admit, I really enjoy this show. It’s just a really nice show. And I do love JoAnna Garcia, and I’d hate not to see her on TV every week. I know this is a limited run that’s going to expire after it fills its contract, but I like it and it’s actually the only CW show I watch.
The Simpsons: The Halloween episode was funny. I haven’t seen it since.
Squirrel Boy: This is a pretty funny Cartoon Network series that feels a little bit like the late Invader ZIM (it helps that ZIM and Rodney J. Squirrel share the same voice, Richard Steven Horvitz). And it’s from the producer of Duckman, so you know it’s funny. It’s more kid-oriented, but it has the kind of bizarre humor I love.
Gordon Ramsay’s F Word: I’m not into cooking shows, but I love Gordon Ramsay. I loved Hell’s Kitchen and I loved Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, and I think his new show is the best of the lot (well, new to BBC America, since this series actually ran last year in England). It’s a cooking show, but Ramsay loads it up with a series on getting women to cook again (it’s not as sexist as it sounds, he just helps out women who want to cook but think they’re too busy to), insights into what goes in sausage or gyros, celebrity guests (including yummy Martine McCutcheon), and Ramsay’s own attempts to raise turkeys for Christmas dinner. It’s a lot to pack in, but it keeps the show from ever getting bogged down. And the food looks fucking brilliant. It makes me want to be a better chef.
The Venture Bros.: Sadly the second series has ended, but this is one of the funniest shows on TV. If I have to explain why, you’re not going to like it. Let’s just say it’s like all of the cool bits of pop culture rolled into one. The best moment on the series so far was when David Bowie fought with a supervillain called Phantom Limb, defeated him, then turned into a hawk and flew away. (Hank Venture: “That guy from Labyrinth just turned into a hawk and flew off.” Fucking brilliant.)
Robot Chicken: Still a sick, funny show, although the second season used scatological humor and homophobic jokes far too often as a go to. Maybe they’re running out of ideas.
Otherwise, I find myself watching reruns of Still Standing. I’m not sure why, really. I guess, being from Chicago, I recognize a lot of the humor and the characters. Plus, you know, Jami Gertz is hot. And we tend to hit The King of Queens every night; Kevin James grates on me after a while, but I’ve loved Leah Remini since she was on Saved by the Bell (does anyone remember that?), and my lust for her is only outpaced by Becca’s. Trust me, Becca lusts after Leah Remini big-time. And we’re halfway through the boxed set of The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., which I thought would never hold up, but really does. Surprisingly well, in fact. Although having watched Lost, it’s very interesting to see how Carlton Cuse was interested in faith and mystery even then; some episodes seem to presage Lost pretty closely. It’s a great show that failed only as a result of timing (it was just after the failure of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and just before Xena: Warrior Princess became successful enough to spawn a legion of imitators--including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I said it) and the lack of promotion by Fox, who was pushing The X-Files instead. Thanks again, Fox. And I have missed every episode of the new Masters of Horror, but they're On Demand and I am planning it. I loved the first series (what I've seen so far on DVD), so I really want to sit and watch this one, too.
Midseason is almost here, so hopefully I’ll have some new shows that I can actually watch. We’ll see.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
If I may direct your attention, I urge you to read this. It's an editorial written for the Wall Street Journal by Senator-elect Jim Webb, and unlike a lot of politicians, he really has something to say. And it's something you need to hear.
It's something we've all been thinking about, but which no one has done anything about. It's about how the rich in America now live in their own insular world, a world which really believes that our job as the lower classes is to support them. A world that does not care what you think or what you want. A world which has, make no mistake, eradicated the middle class. Remember the middle class? I remember being a part of it. Now the middle class is too busy working several jobs just to stay afloat. Now they're the lower class. We all are.
This needs to change. And this will only change if young people vote. The youth of America absolutely has to start taking some social responsibility for themselves and for America's role in world politics. They have to make an effort to understand, or we're all lost. Things are so bad in this country right now--this country which is losing all of its credibility with the rest of the world--that more people between 18 and 30 are willing to disrupt their lives for a week to stand in line for the Playstation 3 or the Nintendo Wii than they are to disrupt their lives for an hour to vote and try to fix this problem we have with America. Enjoy it while you can, kids. Because when you hit 30 and realize you have no skills and can't afford to buy your distractions anymore, it's going to be really hard on you.
And George W. Bush just does not get it. I thought he did, I really thought he did. When America voted to give control of Congress and the Senate to the Democratic Party, and he essentially fired Rumsfeld, I thought he finally understood the message: America doesn't want to be imperialists. And then he says a couple of empty phrases like "stay the course" and we're still stuck in the quagmire. Bush is so erect at the thought of a possible war with Iran and bringing Iraq to heel that he's listening to no one. He is ruining your name and mine, the name of our formerly great country, by rolling over the Arab world and doing to them the sort of thing America is supposed to stop other countries from doing. If Russia was doing what we're doing now, would it still be okay?
Is there no one else who cares about this?
I'd like to mention something. 70% of the population of Iran is aged 30 and under. 70%. And they don't buy into the "Death to America" rhetoric. You kids need to make an effort to understand other countries, and you need to do it now. Don't listen to people who tell you that Iran hates you for your freedom; that's a lie used by the elite, the out of touch, to justify wars that they use to keep themselves in power and everyone else out. Iranian teenagers are just like you are; they want stuff. They want things. They understand the Non-Proliferation Treaty; they don't want nuclear war, no matter what the people in charge say. They want nuclear energy so they can modernize. And they look at Mr. Bush, and they think that all Americans feel the same way he does: that Iran should continue to be a Third World nation.
I think that's bullshit. I think that's the policy of fear and misunderstanding. Anyone who tells you that there is still a debate on globalization is an idiot; globalization is already here. The last time I was on Ebay, I bought a CD from a guy in Singapore. Paypal calculates international money so you can buy with convenience online. I look at my Site Meter; today alone I've had visitors from not only all over the US and Canada, but from all across Europe (from London to Dublin to several German, Swedish, Finnish, and Dutch cities to Bratislava and the Russian Federation), from New Zealand and Australia, from Brazil to Mumbai to Istanbul to a couple of places in the Middle East. We communicate constantly with the entire world online. The internet has already made globalization a reality; and more than business transactions, it's made it possible to relate to people around the world as people. The people in charge can debate tarriffs and trade all they want; unless you're stupid, you already live at least a partially global life.
There are more and more young people, already more tech-savvy and sophisticated than I will ever be. And you're going to inherit this mess that no one seems willing to just shut up and fix. You need to stop believing what your parents tell you. Stop growing up with their prejudices and habits. You have the potential for such power, but you're too easily distracted to notice. You're all worried about what games are compatible with Playstation 3 or whether or not Jack and Kate will still end up together. And there's a place for that. But you need to stop and look around and consider what you're helping to perpetuate, both in America and the rest of the world.
Otherwise, you'll always be slaves to this system we have now. Is that what you want?
A review of the films I've seen this past week.
UMBERTO D (1952)
It is interesting to me that both this film and Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru should come out in the same year; they are both powerful, moving, even wrenching films about the powerlessness felt by older people on the new, post-World War II stage. This film follows a poor old man, Umberto, whose only real family is his little dog Flike. 80 years old, he can’t afford to pay his rent; when he is forced to beg for money on the street, he can’t bring himself to. There is no one to care for him, and one of the cruel realities portrayed in the movie is that no one would want to. Society considers him a useless drain, and that manifests itself in many ways. The director, the great Vittorio de Sica, manages to keep the emotions overwhelming without drowning you in sappiness or obviousness or any other (let’s say) Spielbergian qualities. Umberto is not always pleasant; he’s not just a sad old man. His unbending pride becomes a fault, but one which is easily forgivable. He’s a human reaching out for human contact, and he finds it most readily in his best friend, Flike, a dog. A powerful, **** star plea for connection and understanding.
A funny French movie about an opera fan, mixed up tapes, and organized crime. To describe the story would probably be to give too much away, but suffice it to say that this is a fun, rewarding movie with a deserved cult following. **** stars.
AMY’S ORGASM (2001)
Meh. It’s sad how often people who make these ridiculous movies about getting laid seem to think they’re doing something original. It feels like I see six of these a year. Boring. * star.
As much as it hurt me to miss a Pixar movie, I avoided seeing this in the theater. Pixar seemed to be caving in to the whole NASCAR crowd, and casting Larry the Cable Guy in a movie about small town values and Americana was an indication that I was right. Sure, I do feel that reverence for an older America and the glory of Route 66, but talking cars? Race cars? Larry the GODDAMN Cable Guy? So I waited for it to hit the small screen instead. I trust Pixar to deliver a special kind of movie, and to my surprise (and relief), Cars mostly succeeds. But there’s a problem here (a much worse problem than having to sit through Owen Wilson’s lack of acting ability yet fucking again), and that’s the way CGI movies have quickly become over-familiar. Thanks to DreamWorks and their insistence that a bunch of fast-dating contemporary pop culture references is a perfectly acceptable substitute for a screenplay, I tend to bristle when I see plays on culture in CGI. I thought the use of “Lightyear” as a brand of tire was cute as a reference to Toy Story (part of the fun of Pixar movies is catching an occasional reference to another one), but I think I’ve seen/heard that whore Bob Costas playing himself in movies and on TV shows more often than I’ve heard myself talk. And Jay Leno cameoing as Jay Limo? These kinds of things were cute 15 years ago, but now they’re so normal they’re no longer interesting. But what about the story itself? Well, it’s nothing I’ve never seen before, it just has cars in it instead of people. It’s at least engaging, for the most part, although there are a number of lulls that leave time for me to imagine really stupid things: for example, why a world of cars? Does it take place in some far-off future when cars have gained sentience and risen up to slay their human masters? I mean, show me a shot of a baby car, and all I can do is wonder how they mate. If I have time to think about that, the movie isn’t exactly working its spell. And another bad point: the voice casting is about 95% really, really obvious. George Carlin as a hippie? Gee, what’s next, Cheech Marin as a Mexican? Oh, wait, there he is. It’s just not cute anymore. I ended up enjoying the movie for the most part, but out of seven Pixar movies, I’d call it number six in quality (with A Bug’s Life coming in dead last). Which is too bad, because the animation and design of the film is incredible. I feel like I say this so much it’s lost all meaning, but every Pixar movie is a major step in animation over the last. Where this one falters is in telling a story that’s special and emotional, rather than just intermittently charming and familiar. And I also have to admit, to my surprise, that Larry the Cable Guy turns out to be the second best actor in the whole movie (after Paul Newman, of course). Maybe it’s because I can’t see him mugging. *** stars.
A witty, charming documentary about crossword puzzles, Wordplay centers mostly on Will Shortz, editor of the New York Times crossword. It’s an interesting look at the people who fill out these puzzles, which is a wide cross-section of American life. The best part of the movie is watching Merl Reagle create a puzzle on camera and explaining the logic behind it, and then getting to watch a crossword puzzle championship. At times it almost threatens to make fun of its very subject, but it backs off before getting too close. It’s not a revelation, but it is fun. ***1/2 stars.
THE LOVES OF A BLONDE (1965)
One of Milos Forman’s early Czech films. This is about a young factory girl in the country who falls in love with a band member from Prague who really only wants to sleep with her. The plot is no more complex than that; what Forman and his actors excel at, however, is the complexity of emotion involved in what is a spare but richly detailed story. **** stars.
HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT (1980)
I really like James Caan, but this movie about the Witness Protection Program (which Caan also directed) has zero momentum. Too bad. ** stars.
THE ALLNIGHTER (1987)
Susanna Hoffs in another one of those shallow movies about people trying to get laid in college. As great as she looks in her bikini (and her underwear), this is a boring movie that cripples itself with a PG-13 rating. Garbage. * star.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I'm not convinced that making a film version of Get Smart is a good idea. Even though the thought of Steve Carrell almost, almost makes me think it could be funny, I kind of figured that Steve Carrell would end up in that whole Eddie Murphy category of actors who used to be funny but now make family movies and lame garbage, anyway. Hell, Dan Aykroyd used to be really funny, too.
But I did enjoy this news...Anne Hathaway will most likely be playing Agent 99.
Oh, man! Anne Hathaway, whom I love, playing Agent 99, yet another milestone in the history of my sexual development? This is easily as big as Jessica Simpson playing Daisy Duke! If you told me that Charisma Carpenter were going to play Wonder Woman, Anneliese Van Der Pol were going to play Batgirl, and Jessica were going to play Sheena, I'd have to up my blood pressure meds. As it is...Annie as 99? Wow.
Can I just make one suggestion?
Please get her into this outfit.
Okay, well, Peter Lynn linked to this first.
Alright, let me set this up. I promise this will not disappoint you. It may disgust you or excite you or have some sort of profound revelation about the human condition for you, but it will not disappoint. It will live up to the hype.
Okay, so. You know how Japanese porn is always so fucking strange, right? Perhaps owing to the fact that they live in a rigid society; when people are conservative in public, they tend to be beyond the pale of liberal when blowing off steam. Unless you think all of that is a stereotype about how Americans view the Japanese, which I'm sure is at the very least partially true. But you have to admit that Japanese porn is fucking strange.
Now, I have a link to present to you with perhaps the strangest Japanese porn I've yet witnessed. If you choose to view the video on the other side, this statement will tell you a lot about me. Perhaps you've seen more Japanese porn than I have, and this sort of thing is old hat for you. But here you go.
It's a Japanese girl.
Laying on her back.
And shooting fish out of her ass.
Let that sink in first.
Another girl takes a funnel, puts what appear to be eels up the girl's ass, and then watches and giggles with glee as this young lady pushes eels out of her ass. And they don't just wriggle out. They come flying out of this girl's puckered asshole.
This is the sort of thing that you almost need to watch once in your life to expand your mind to just what it is that people are doing out there in the world. And yes, some of them are shooting fish out of their asses. Why, you ask? Believe me, I wish I knew. Perhaps that's part of the mystery that we're supposed to contemplate. Is it for sexual pleasure? Is it for amusement purposes? Is it just to see if this sort of thing can be done? And if it can be done, how it feels or if anyone sitting at home will actually watch someone else doing it? The possibilities are almost cosmic in their consideration. It's either a key moment in my life to have seen this, or it's just a girl shooting fish out of her asshole. Or maybe it's both. It may change some of you. Be warned: when you watch it, there is no way to unwatch it.
Needless to say, this is NSFW. In fact, it's the NSFW-est thing I've ever seen in my life. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Are you ready? Here it is.
Did you watch it? And if so, what did you think? I have to admit, I've watched this about seventeen times today. The first time I saw it, I was only a little put off. The second time, I was impressed and a little amused. The third time, I started to intellectualize it. And the fourth time, I am man enough to admit, I felt a little stirring in my pants. Now I'm getting high trying to figure this thing out. This will haunt me for some time.
I've honestly been looking at recent news that MGM wanted to produce The Hobbit with Peter Jackson directing with sort of a jaded eye. I honestly didn't expect that Jackson would just want to jump back into Middle-earth again. Well, apparently he's not.
The Fanboy Network is abuzz right now with disappointment and anger at the news that Peter Jackson is not going to direct the movie version of The Hobbit, the novel that served as a precursor to The Lord of the Rings. (Quick aside: stop calling The Hobbit a prequel, you fucking dumbasses; a prequel is a sequel that takes place at an earlier time; if English is your first language, I really suggest you become intimate with it so you don't look like a dumbshit.) Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh have officially made it clear that there is no chance of their making The Hobbit due to problems with New Line and MGM's recent decision to press on without him and his company, Wingnut Films.
The fact is, Wingnut Films is currently involved in a lawsuit with New Line over profits from The Fellowship of the Rings. After performing an audit on the company, Peter Jackson alleges that Wingnut has not received their full and legal share of the income. In his statement, Jackson says he won't discuss The Hobbit until the situation is resolved: "This is simple common sense - you cannot be in a relationship with a film studio, making a complex, expensive movie and dealing with all the pressures and responsibilities that come with the job, while an unresolved lawsuit exists."
Makes sense, of course. However, it seems like New Line was trying to dangle The Hobbit in front of Jackson in order to get him to drop the lawsuit. And that's unethical at best. They've even been trying to do it publicly, because a couple of months ago it was all over the news that MGM was going ahead with The Hobbit.
All this time, Jackson and Wingnut have been making the film adaptation of The Lovely Bones, but were always planning to get back to The Hobbit. According to Jackson, there was a meeting planned with MGM to talk about scheduling for The Hobbit and possibly another Middle-earth film. But now Jackson says he was told last week that "New Line would no longer be requiring our services on The Hobbit and the LOTR 'prequel'. This was a courtesy call to let us know that the studio was now actively looking to hire another filmmaker for both projects."
Well, there it is. And I have to say, I'm fine with this news.
See, I love Peter Jackson. The man is one of my favorite filmmakers. This all started in 1996 when I went to see The Frighteners for my 20th birthday. The movie was getting uniformly negative reviews, but it was produced by Robert Zemeckis and had Michael J. Fox in it, and the commercials made a big point of selling it as a comedy in the Back to the Future vein made by this acclaimed director of Heavenly Creatures. Because I read the British film magazines rather than the American ones, I had heard of Peter Jackson. I knew he had started making independent horror movies that hadn't come over here to any wide audience, and that American critics only knew him from Creatures, which was a critical darling in 1995. I had seen Heavenly Creatures and thought it was wonderful, and was trying to seek out Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles, and Braindead (aka Dead Alive), which were much harder to find a decade ago than they are now. I was excited by The Frighteners, which was a huge budget for Jackson.
Well, I went to see The Frighteners, and I hated it. I was so disappointed by it. It wasn't funny. I didn't understand it. I liked some of how bizarre it was, but I just didn't understand why I didn't like the movie more. It almost got away from me.
But then, in the interim, I saw Jackson's other films. And I loved them. They were brilliant films, full of style and energy and witty, disgusting special effects. I could see the progression in Jackson's work, and Heavenly Creatures made so much more sense in that context. The American critics had excoriated Jackson for making this sensitive, lyrical film and then "selling out" with The Frighteners, which led Jackson to say in the British horror magazine Shivers: "There's a saying that you should never overestimate the intelligence of the American audience, and I'm afraid it's true." Americans weren't familiar with his work and didn't seem to know that The Frighteners was not his second movie, but his fifth.
I wanted to give the movie another chance, and it happened to hit the second-run theaters in October, just before Halloween when you're really in the mood to see bizarre horror movies. And it was brilliant. I was floored by the movie. How could I not have noticed what a perfect horror movie it was before? How well it all worked? It's been one of my favorite horror movies ever since, and the recently-released director's cut is even better, fleshing out the characters a little more so the whole thing flows evenly. I don't say this much, especially about horror movies, but the movie is perfect.
Since then, I've been a huge fan of Peter Jackson. I sought out the underrated (and largely unknown) Forgotten Silver, which he made in 1997. I was extremely disappointed in 1998 when I read a bootlegged copy of his King Kong screenplay and discovered that Universal had decided not to make the film (which is funny, because it reads a lot like The Mummy, which is what Universal threw themselves behind instead). And when it was announced that Peter Jackson was going to make The Lord of the Rings, I finally read the damn books and fell in love with them, hard. And even though it took years of no new movies, I waited patiently for each LOTR film, sneaking off to see each one the day it opened, even as I lied to family and said I would wait to see them on Christmas day. Yes, I've been having an affair with Peter Jackson's work.
And I loved every minute of The Lord of the Rings, despite my inner fanboy telling me some details were wrong or that The Two Towers was unfocused. I bought and watched the extended versions several times. And when it was over, I truly felt like I'd seen something that equalled the way I felt about Star Wars when I was a kid. And when King Kong came out, I was there too, falling in love with it and, a year later, about to buy the extended edition of it. I am all about Peter Jackson.
But Peter Jackson directing The Hobbit? I was never completely into that. The entire development and creation and putting to bed of The Lord of the Rings stretched from 1995 to 2004, when the extended version of The Return of the King hit store shelves. It is, collectively, one of the greatest achievements in the history of film.
So, isn't it about time for Peter Jackson to do something new?
He doesn't have to prove himself anymore, does he? King Kong was absolutely excellent. I can't wait to see The Lovely Bones. I want to see Peter Jackson branch out and do different kinds of movies now. The Lord of the Rings is over, and we can revisit it any time we want. I've revisited a few times. And it's never going to get old or less exciting for me. Why ask him to go back and try to do it again? Revisiting Star Wars was obviously a bad idea. Why Lord of the Rings? Every fantasy movie is ripping it off, anyway.
I think this is ultimately a good thing. Fanboys need to stop focusing on what Peter Jackson isn't doing and look forward to what he is.
Okay, seriously now: who wanted Lindsay Lohan's kid sister to record a Christmas album? I'm asking, because other than Dina Lohan, who is losing control of her precious meal ticket Lindsay and who seriously seems to believe that each and every member of her family should be famous just because she really really wants it, I have no idea who thought this could possibly be a good idea. Seriously, I stared at this thing for ten or so minutes when I saw it at Wal-Mart, asking myself if what I was holding was real or if marijuana really does stay in your system for that long. Ali Lohan has a Christmas album? Who the fuck is Ali Lohan? Who the fuck is Lindsay Lohan and why do I fucking care? And why does this album feature a "dramatic reading" by Dina Lohan? Seriously, who the hell do these people think they are? This is the clearest example of a dead-rat solution I've ever seen: just as your cat offers you a dead rat and can't understand why everyone wouldn't be thrilled with a dead rat on their doorstep, so too has the Lohan family launched something on an unsuspecting public that doesn't know or care about this album. Because, you know, Dina Lohan can't imagine a world where everybody doesn't just love her children.
Monday, November 20, 2006
"Recently, I was staying at a hotel when I got a letter from Jessica Simpson, who was in the penthouse across the hall. It was super complimentary. She said my voice and my artistry were pushing her. I was touched, because that's so rare in this business, which stirs competitive nature and cattiness in women. Hats off to Jessica--that was a cool move. It's a beautiful quality to be a woman in support of other women. The world needs more of that." -- Christina Aguilera
I'm glad the Queen of My Heart is one of the nice girls. We need more of them, helping each other out and rooting for each other so they have more time to strive for excellence instead of cattily trying to ruin and outdo one another. It makes me happy that Jessica's not one of the Paris Hiltons or Lindsay Lohans. Good on you, Jess.
I actually meant to do one of these a month until I was finished, but I see that the last one of these I did was in July. The time, she flies! Anyway, here's my sixth little tribute to the women who turned me on to just what life was all about when I was a young'un.
Posted by SamuraiFrog at 10:30 AM