Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Bible Summarized by a Smartass, Part Eighteen: Nehemiah

Nehemiah basically retells the story of Ezra from the perspective of the governor instead of the scribe, and since it's a retelling, I think it should be retold like this…

An empty stage. Enter Nehemiah (played by Hugh Jackman). Music begins to play.

A little intro, and,
Singing:

I’m Nehemiah, hear my song,
We’ll start right now in Chapter One,
Praying up to God above,
To bring my sweet Jerus’lem love—and
Moving on to Chapter Two,
I’m cupbearer beholden to
Artaxerxes, Persian King,
And to him I dare to sing:

“Let me go back to the holy Promised Land,
Israel, and make it so the buildings stand,
Let me go back, Judah to rebuild by hand,
Let me go back to God’s holy land!”

(Enter the dancing Jewesses!)

So, Artaxerxes let me, starting in Chapter Three,
Rebuilding the city in specific detail,
Continuing the same score, heading to Chapter Four,
Our enemies tried to sink our sail—but
Our faith in God was stronger, Chapter Five was longer,
But the Jews kept whining that they wanted food and
So I said down with interest, hiding out in Part Six,
They wanted me dead, which is no good.

Of course you’d want to be in heaven
Before starting Chapter Sev’n,
It’s another group of lists,
Of exiles, sons, you get the gist—and
National confession’s fine
To take up Chapters Eight and Nine!

(Big finish; Nehemiah rips off his jacket to reveal a patterned shirt!)

Part Ten, we can choose officials, priests to give us rituals,
Population increases and fights ensue—but
In Chapters Twelve and Eleven, we rejoice to heaven,
Israel is back and Judah too!—so
We can consecrate the new wall, joy and peace is for all,
Provided that you are a Jew and we say so—but
When you come back to Isr’el, things aren’t so abysmal,
God just loves us so!

(Big dance finale!)

Nehemiah!

Spoken as an afterthought:
Oh, and in Chapter Thirteen I condemned mixed marriages on religious grounds so that no one would allow women to lure men into worshiping Baal again, so I had all of the foreign wives and their half-breed children kicked out of the city. I’m not sure what happened to them, but I’m gonna say… eaten by lions.

Next week: A romantic interlude with another pious Biblical lady in The Book of Esther, or Ruth II: The Ruthening.

The History of the Middle East

Part 13 in a series.

Chosroes II

Chosroes I died in 579 and was succeeded by his son, Ormizd IV. He tolerated Christianity as Chosroes had, but the Zoroastrian priests did not fear him as they had his father. They joined with Bahram Chobin, a general who had been dismissed by Ormizd and now wanted revenge. Chobin assassinated the king in 589 so the conspirators could crown the prince, Chosroes II. But less than a year went by before Chobin decided he would rather be king himself.

Chosroes fled to Constantinople, ready to offer peace. Emperor Maurice was ready to welcome it; Rome was fighting off new nomads, the Avars, in the Balkans, and peace with Persia would allow him to move troops there. Maurice sent a Roman army east and ran Chobin off. Chosroes regained the throne and, in gratitude, kept his word and made peace. Chobin fled to the Turks. As a Persian general, he had won many victories against the Turks and slaughtered many of them; the Turks didn’t waste any time returning the favor.

In 602, things changed. A Roman army on the Danube under the brutal, uneducated Phocas became tired of fighting the Avars and rebelled. The soldiers declared Phocas Emperor, marched on Constantinople, and murdered Maurice and his sons. Chosroes, incensed and indebted to Maurice, prepared to avenge the Emperor.

Chosroes started by destroying Hira in order to protect his rear. Then he moved west and, with almost no difficulty, took all of northwestern Mesopotamia, the first Sassanid to do so. By the time he was driving through Asia Minor, it had become clear that Phocas’s brutality and ignorance led to incompetent leadership. With the Persians and the Avars closing in from each side, Constantinople revolted and killed Phocas, declaring General Heraclius his successor.

Chosroes, upon hearing the news, let his easy victories go to his head, and he threw revenge aside in favor of conquest. Though he had destroyed the Nestorian Christians at Hira, the Persians were more or less tolerant of the Christian heresies. For that reason, there was no difficulty in taking Antioch, Damascus, and Jerusalem—the last of which firmly incensed Constantinople. Not only was the supposed birthplace of Jesus occupied by pagans, but Chosroes II carried off the “True Cross,” which Christians believed to be the one Christ was crucified on.

That was in 615. The same year, Chosroes entered Egypt and spent the year turning it into a Persian province. Soon, all of Asia Minor was Persia’s, and Chosroes’s army was standing at Chalcedon, just one mile across the water from Constantinople. In just a few years, Chosroes II—now called Chosroes Parviz (“the Victorious”)—had nearly restored the realm of Darius. And to make matters worse, the Avars were nearly at the walls of Constantinople.

Emperor Heraclius did not give in; he kept fighting. He had the superior Roman navy at his disposal, and was willing to take a chance to end the war. He abandoned the city and sailed to Armenia, striking at Persia until Chosroes was forced to reluctantly abandon his siege and meet Heraclius in battle. In 627, they met at storied Nineveh. Heraclius nearly destroyed the Persian army, the remnants of which fled under cover of night. Heraclius then cut through Mesopotamia all the way to the walls of Ctesiphon.

Chosroes had regained and lost Darius’s empire. Persia was utterly disillusioned; the Persian aristocrats gave Chosroes a chance to make peace, but even with Ctesiphon under siege, he still wanted to fight. In 628, the aristocrats chose to accept the peace Heraclius offered by imprisoning and executing heir king. The peace was on Roman terms, giving up all of the conquered lands and returning the “True Cross,” which was restored to Jerusalem personally by the emperor. Yazdegird III became King of Persia.

Islam

At the height of his success, Chosroes II was ordered by letter to abandon his religion and accept and Arab as the prophet of the one true god. The letter was sent by the prophet himself: Mohammed. The prophet was uniting the Arab tribes with his new religion, Islam (“submission”). These people, the Muslims (“ones who surrender” to God’s will) had embraced a fervent belief that brought with it a sense of ultimate rightness and an instant reward in Paradise. With a common religion binding them, Arabia was growing strong. Persia, torn by war, was growing weak.

Mohammed died just after uniting Arabia, and was succeeded as leader of Islam by his father-in-law, Abu Bekr. His title was Khalifah (“successor”), or Caliph. He invited Yazdegird III and Heraclius to join Islam; when the invitations were disregarded, Abu Bekr went on the attack, striking at Rome and Persia simultaneously. The Romans and the Persians had just gone through decades of war; most recently, Rome had regained Judea, Syria, and Egypt from Persia. By 640, the Arabs held all three territories, which included Jerusalem. Rome would never take it back. Heraclius, weary and burned out by war, could not find the strength to fight the Arabs. He died in 641. His successors held Asia Minor and parts of Europe, but the Roman Empire was no more. After the western, European half had fallen, it only survived in the East; now it only survived in Greece and some of Eastern Europe at Constantinople; historians refer to this realm as the Byzantine Empire (the Greek name for Constantinople is Byzantium).

The Arabs quickly retook Hira, but met defeat at the Battle of the Bridge in 634 just as Yazdegird III was being crowned. A larger army was sent to Persia, and in 637 the armies fought at Kadisiya, fifty miles south of the ruins of Babylon. The battle raged for three days until a sandstorm blinded the Persian army. The Arabs quickly took Ctesiphon and went on to soundly defeat the Persians at Nehavend, near old Ecbatana, in 642. Yazdegird III fled and begged through the East for help, even from the Emperor of China. He was killed in 651. The entirety of his nineteen-year reign had been spent in battle.

It had been 25 years since Chosroes II had stood only a mile from Constantinople on the edge of a mighty and renewed Persian Empire. Now, that Empire was gone forever.

For now, the question of religion remained. The Muslims tolerated Zoroastrians and Christians, but forced hem to pay heavy taxes for not being Islamic (the Zoroastrians had done the same). This brought a wave of conversion to Islam; it was cheaper to be a Muslim in Persia (and in Syria and Egypt). The remaining Zoroastrians concentrated in Hormuz and eventually migrated to India. Their descendents today are the Parsees of India. The Jews of Mesopotamia also found themselves tolerated and taxed, and left in relative peace for the first time in nearly a thousand years.

But peace would not last in Islam. Like most religions, a crack was about to form.

To be continued.

Why Do I Keep Doing This to Myself?

I don't even remember at what point or for what reason I started reviewing bad modern pop music, but here I am again, listening to Ashley Tisdale's debut album Headstrong and trying to justify it because I'm a fan of her on a Disney Channel show. And once again, I'm just not thrilled with the results. Seriously, when Hilary Duff is a high point in a musical genre, something's not going right. Here's my (hopefully) brief track-by-track on Tisdale's first musical effort.

INTRO
Right away, this seven or so second musical intro does not bode well. It's like the album is telling you "I'm going to suck."

SO MUCH FOR YOU
This Matrix production is basically a rip-off of what worked for Britney Spears, complete with a ton of overdubs. Tisdale has some personality, but not enough to overcome the total averagness of the song. Frankly, I'm not sure even Britney would record it as this point.

HE SAID SHE SAID
I see this is the single they're going with. It sounds the same as "So Much for You," but slightly more fun. But still very lame. Are they really letting her rap on this track? It walks an uncomfortable ground, trying to sexualize her without making her too grown up; she's 21, but she plays a teenager on the Disney Channel and 99% of her fans are young kids. Silly, but not awful; 1987 all over again.

BE GOOD TO ME
I knew we wouldn't be able to get through a modern pop album without finding Kara DioGuardi's fingerprints on it; and her voice, since every song she records features her own backing vocals. You can always pick out DioGuardi's music, it's so lyrically pathetic and silly. This one uses her old trick of dire orchestral bits to make it sound "dark." She was fine on Ashlee Simpson's good album, Autobiography, and Lindsay Lohan's surprisingly strong Speak, but she just hasn't developed at all, living out her dreams of being a pop singer vicariously through Hilary Duff and a thousand others including, now, Ashley Tisdale. Kara DioGuardi (and her occasional producing partner, John Shanks) is what's wrong with modern music. Whomever it is that raps on this track isn't credited; weird.

NOT LIKE THAT
Here's another thing wrong with pop music; it's just girls singing about how they don't care what people think of them, without giving us any clue into their own thoughts or feelings because, apparently, they don't think or feel anything. Except for worrying every second about what their boyfriends are doing. Quit talking about how great you are and feel something!

UNLOVE YOU
When did the concept of "unloving" someone become a musical theme? I've heard it a lot lately, and it's pretty fucking insincere. This is a ballad, but it still manages to be overblown and overproduced. There's a lot of reverb, but at least we get a few snippets of Tisdale's voice without the overdubs. She sings clearly, but she still needs to work on her voice. You can tell from this song alone that what she's really made for is musical comedy, and not pop music. Why do they need to make everyone a singer when they put out the same pathetic album for each and every one of them?

POSITIVITY
This is just awful. Here's another constant trope of pop music: girls always singing about how positive they are, how they won't let negativity get them down, and such vagaries. They never tell us what they have to be so positive or negative about. Generic in every way. Seriously, all of these albums are blending together into one stream of disposability.

LOVE ME FOR ME
And we finally get to the requisite Diane Warren song; Hilary Duff had one, Jessica Simpson, they all do sooner or later. And it's another one of those stupid songs in which we're told that the girl isn't what we think she is from seeing her as a celebrity (?), but she's something else entirely. Of course, they never tell us what that is. At least Tisdale sings it convincingly.

GOIN' CRAZY
Well, back to the fake party atmosphere. Ho-hum. Sounds the same as everything ese, and it's a load. I'm sick of this crap.

OVER IT
The requisite song about how she's "so over" the guy who cheated on her. Is this really all teenage girls have to worry about? They need to get actual jobs, if that's the case. Um, musically, I guess, this song totally rips off Britney's "I'm a Slave 4 U."

DON'T TOUCH (THE ZOOM SONG)
The title says it all, folks. This is another song that prefigures the incredible fame of the barely-known singer, with generic lyrics about how we don't really know her, but she doesn't tell us who she really is. It's a little sexy, mostly because she plays teenagers on TV and the production sounds like a Samantha Fox single.

WE'LL BE TOGETHER
Another generic ballad with overdubs. She has a potentially nice voice, but not a strong, pop music voice, and it's just buried in overproduction and worthless songs, anyway.

HEADSTRONG
Another Matrix production. The opening sounds like a Howard Jones song; the rest is pretty average. It almost has a good hook, but the producers quash that before it gets there. Another one of those deficient songs with no purpose--what do you have to be so defiant about? Does anyone really have any assumptions about who she is for her to take a stand on?

SUDDENLY
And the requisite soft, confessional closer about self-doubt and other recycled feelings. It's awfully pretentious, and the violin doesn't help. With better lyrics, this might have been the only good song on the album. Well, by default it is, but it might have actually been a good song on its own.

So, there it is. Another by-the-numbers album with no surprises that you could practically set your watch to. Nothing interesting or compelling, no reason for me to ever play it again. Everyone's made this album; Lindsay Lohan made it, Hilary Duff made it, Mandy Moore made it, Willa Ford made it, Paris Hilton made it. Kelly Clarkson made it but got better; same with Christina Aguilera. It's the only album Britney Spears ever makes. And Jessica Simpson, who was almost beyond it, fell right back into making it. The only revelation here is that Ashley Tisdale would be good in musical comedy; this is the wrong project for her. And that, yet again, I'm glad I get promo copies and don't have to pay for them.

In the liner notes, the first "person" she thanks is God. Believe me, he doesn't want the blame for this forgettable album.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Throwdown 2/9

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

1. Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi want to have a baby. As someone who has always been attracted to both of them, I’d like to personally offer my services to impregnate one or both of them. Seriously, give me a call, Britney Spears can vouch for me.

2. Elle Macpherson says: “I just don't get men hitting on me. It's crazy, but apart from a brief romantic intermission last summer, I have been single and celibate for two years. How boring is that? I'm a hopeless flirt. I'll go up to a guy and say, ‘I think you are so beautiful,’ but it doesn't work.” I would also like to volunteer my considerable services to sexually satisfy Elle Macpherson, the star of Sirens, a movie which opened my eyes in high school to what I wanted my life to be. I think I owe her for that.

3. Okay, I know people love to make fun of Tori Spelling, but it doesn’t really seem very cool to make fun of a pregnant woman for not looking her best. Just my opinion.

4. Also not cool: Eddie Murphy’s new movie Norbit. So, the whole point of this movie is that fat women are loud and evil? Yeah, thanks for that, Eddie, you prick. Seriously, sometimes I like the guy, but they’re talking about how the obnoxious ads for the movie have destroyed his chances of winning the Oscar. Did the star of Life and Beverly Hills Cop 3 really need one? Seriously, what were his actual chances? Didn’t he play this role 20 years ago when he was Velvet Jones?


5. Ah, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was put on a possibly-permanent hiatus. Good, let’s finally get rid of the fucking thing and get the astoundingly untalented Sarah Paulsen off of my TV screen. Oh, man. Fuck! But 30 Rock got shelved, too? Just two months after getting a full season order? But this show is actually, like, good.

6. Um…Barbara Bush is still alive, right? Then why is George on a date with Teri Hatcher? And can’t he do any better?

7. Seriously, Mena Suvari has got to stop with this hairstyle. The bangs start in the middle of her head. She looks simultaneously like she has Down’s Syndrome and is going bald.


8. Wow, did Rosie O’Donnell pick the wrong day to make fun of Anna Nicole or what? I just want her to shut the fuck up now and stop saying so many disgusting things about other people and then flying off the handle when someone calls her a fat dyke. Rosie, you’re a fat dyke. Why does that bother you? Why do you think you can judge everyone else without being judged back? Shut up. And Trump, you shut up too. Everyone just shut the fuck up and eat some fruit or something.

9. Who the fuck is Kim Kardashian and why are you people letting her become famous for fucking some rapper I never heard of on tape? You can find a dozen hot chicks that’ll take a shot in the ass for way less money and won’t force you to make her a star and take her seriously because she’s too dumb to turn the camera off.

10. Well, some chick sacrificed what little dignity she had and married this: Bam Margera. I don’t want to hear in a year about how horrible it was; she knows what she’s getting into, and has none of my sympathy.

11. GLAAD wants Paris Hilton to apologize for using the words fag and nigger on one of those stolen tapes that are supposed to be illegal or something. President Neil G. Giuliano, who apparently has time to waste not fighting for legal recognition of gay marriage in America, says: “These are not frivolous words, and to use them as if they are gives tacit sanctions to the racism and homophobia they engender.” Funny, I think what gives “tacit sanctions” here is taking Paris seriously, and treating those words like they’re important. Are nigger and fag hurtful words? Yes, they can be. But, you know, if they were ignored more often, there might be less of a problem. I know, because people call me names every day in my comments section, but I don’t let it bother me. I don’t need to call the Thought Police on these people who call me names. Why should their ignorance hurt me?

12. I really don’t get the appeal of Ben Stiller. I know you kids like the comedians who are aggressive but unfunny these days, I just don’t know why. Anyway, Ben Stiller, ever on his quest to prove that everything’s gay to make himself feel better for looking at all of those websites, has now decided to prove that, just like Starsky & Hutch, The Hardy Boys are homoerotic. It’s such an easy joke that everyone with a pirated copy of Photoshop has already joined in on it, but hey, that’s why they pay Ben Stiller big money—to constantly stand on the street and shout that everything is obviously gay and therefore stupid. His take on it, The Hardy Men, will star himself and also-incredibly-not-gay Tom Cruise as grown-up versions of the boy detectives. I see a much better South Park episode revolving around this one (and they’ve also made the Hardy Boys-are-queer joke already, too—will Hollywood stop mining this show for movie ideas?). Does this mean Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson broke up? And was it over Vince Vaughn? But it’s fitting; I mean, Stiller and Cruise are hardly men.

13. There’s all sorts of non-stories about Britney Spears still going around. Once again, they’re talking about the rumors that Brit Brat loved to have threesomes with other women and lesbian orgies. Now, except that she hung out with alleged dyke Paris Hilton, I haven’t seen any evidence of lesbian behavior. Then again, it explains a lot of the appeal of Kevin Federline if she’s not attracted to men, anyway. But I suspect this story, which Fed-Ex himself had been repeating, is made up. Because what woman would have a threesome with him? And why would it be a problem if you were married to Britney Spears and she wanted to make it with you and a chick? Of course, Britney’s denying it, because she wants to kill the only interesting thing she had left. Well, one less thing to pay attention to.

14. Looks like Jessica Biel is going to be the first to benefit from Lindsay Lohan’s recent big talk about getting her life in order. Since Lindsay vacated A Woman of No Importance, starring Annette Bening and Sean Bean, Biel is filling the gap. I don’t know if Biel’s a good fit for Oscar Wilde or not, but I think it’ll be at least a marginally better movie; she's nicer to look at, anyway. Interesting how Lindsay’s “decision” to leave the movie follows the revelation that Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman have refused ever to work with her. Wow, when even Freeman can’t find love for you… Wow.

15. Indiana Jones and the Daily Rest Home Nap is set to be released on 22 May 2008. Yay, there’s a release date for this misguided, unnecessary movie! Now all they need is a complete script, a cast, and to actually shoot the entire thing! And since George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are involved, I’m sure this won’t suck as much as A.I. and Episode II combined!

Linkjob

I think Aqua Teen Hunger Force is about the dumbest cartoon on television right now that's not on Nickelodeon. Or Fox. So, it's absolutely hilarious to me that Boston came to a complete standstill over an ad campaign for it. Deus Ex Malcontent and Zaius Nation both have something to say about it.

Yay! Nathaniel has completed the only movie awards I care about this year, the Film Bitch Awards.

Cracked takes on the five worst Super Bowl ads. I think my favorite was this one.

Peter Lynn at Man vs. Clown! links us to his Trailer Trash columns and gives some thoughts on Knocked Up, which looks hilarious. And for the trifecta, he hits us with some thoughts on Cuba Gooding Jr. that are as funny as Cuba is pathetic. Meanwhile, Cracked shows us the true tragedy behind the movies' funniest scenes.

Tom the Dog takes the Studio 60 test and...passes? Fails? Either way, we all win now that the show's been shelved.

My New Plaid Pants has yet more of The Golden Compass for us to look at. Honestly, I was ambivalent about this movie, but JA has been making me really excited about it with his picture updates.

TechBlog lists 15 geek movies you should see before you die. Since I'm a geek, I'm pleased with myself because I've seen all of them, except for Serenity, which I'm not going to see because, well, Firefly sucked. Get over it. And what the hell, here's another geek list: Maxim lists the ten best movie weapons we don't have (yet).

It's not even Wonder Woman Week anymore, but more stuff keeps coming up. The Absorbascon is as pleased as I am that Joss Whedon isn't doing the Wonder Woman movie anymore, and so are Postmodern Barney and (to an extent) Loren Javier. Pretty, Fizzy Paradise has some very nice thoughts on the purpose of Wonder Woman, too. Latino Review has a very exciting review of the new spec script Joel Silver picked up, set in World War II. They theorize (and I hope they're right) that this is really the movie Silver wants to make. The Gilded Moose has some fun with WW as well.

The Last Visible Blog has some interesting thoughts (and links) on superheroes. Also in comics links, One Diverse Comic Book Nation takes on the silliness of DC Comics's supposed diversity, and Living Between Wednesdays examines what is either Superman's dumbest, hottest, or most disturbing adventure. Perhaps...it's all three.

You want to see something stupid? No? Then why are you here? Go to FanTent to see some horrible Turkish versions of American movies.

Movieweb has an exclusive clip from the 25th anniversary DVD of one of my favorite movies, The Last Unicorn. Finally, they've cleaned up the damn thing so it looks and sounds fantastic! Speaking of animation, here's the YouTube page where you can watch the adventures of a new Aardman pair, The Purple and the Brown. They're addictive.

Here Comes Johnny Yen Again with some thoughts on Captain Nowak, the unfortunate astronaut who flew into a jealous rage. Zaius Nation chimes in on the ridiculous media coverage.

Anna Nicole Smith's death will be put into perspective by Monday, but for now it's just tragic. She's eulogized lovingly at A Result of Destiny and No Smoking in the Skull Cave. Culture Kills effectively sums up the reaction. Faded Youth has some of the facts here, but I don't want to dwell on them too much. She hadn't really hit rock bottom, but she burned herself out. How ironic that she died on James Dean's birthday, huh? And she was born the same year Jayne Mansfield was killed, which is interesting just because Anna Nicole always reminded me of Jayne.

In political news, Daddy Dialectic has some stunning statistics on fatherhood throughout the industrial world. Rolling Stone wants Al Gore to run as badly as I do. Zaius Nation pokes holes in Bush's new budget proposal (I warn you, the picture is truly disturbing). The Rude Pundit calls an entire state morons (hey, they needed it). The Last Visible Blog stomps on America's lack of common sense in picking candidates (and he's not wrong, look at who's president).

Oh, so that's how we're going to win the war! With soccer balls! It's so simple, I never thought of it! Salon tells us just how little we understand what's important.

The Smug Baldy shows us Sylvia Browne's success rate for 2006 predictions. The results are not pretty...and neither is she.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ewoks: A Hunter's Guide

I love nature. I've lived around woodlands all of my life, and I want to help preserve the nature that makes this planet wonderful. But sometimes, because of the continued population growth of the human race, it becomes necessary to lessen the population of other species. For example, the deer population; when it gets too big, people need to cut it back by hunting. Otherwise, they grow too numerous and many of them can't survive because of increased competition for food.

We've been experiencing the same problem with the ewok for some time now. Their population exploded in 1983 due to the popularity of Return of the Jedi; but when people started giving them as pets to loved ones and the fad faded, many of those ewoks were left out on their own to populate parkland and riverbed across the country. I took it upon myself to do something about this problem and remove the ewok from places in society that would destroy it. And as you will soon see, ewoks can be more dangerous than many other animals. Except the apes. Crafty buggers.

Here is a list of ewoks I have hunted and successfully exterminated.

Chirpa
This ewok had been a pet as a wokling, but was set free into, of all place, Yosemite National Park. He was bothering the tourists, begging for food, and had scared a lot of children, who mistook his enthusiasm for hostility. He soon turned feral and began cornering tourists, eating their dogs and stealing their wallets. I tracked him through the mountains and finally cornered him on a cliff face. His hide made a terrific blanket that I still use in ewok traps.

Logray
This ewok shaman was leading a band of the creatures down by a California riverbank. They had made several incursions into a nearby town and were knocking things over, rooting around in the garbage, and causing nocturnal traffic accidents. I took out this one myself. Cute little bugger; looks good on my wall.

Chukha-Trok
This mighty woodcutter was cutting down trees in the California Redwood Forest. We tried to relocate him, but when we approached he came after us with his primitive axe, and we were forced to put him down when I mistakenly shot him with my rifle, and not my tranquilizer gun.

Teebo (aka The Terror of Winooski River)
This ewok hunter was forced out onto the streets of suburban Montpelier when his home was deforested by overzealous developers. A sharp tracker with surprisingly sharp teeth, he killed 17 people before I was able to track him down. I had to cover myself in feces to evade his amazing sense of smell, but it was worth it to protect the people of Vermont from this terrible killer.

Lumat
This old ewok was partial to hanging out around schoolyards and exposing himself to young girls. Then he would cry and beg them to find him a Colt Malt Liquor. Killing him was an act of mercy. Easy, too.

Wicket Wystri Warrick (aka Buckskin Jack, aca Chupacabra)
He may look cute, but don't let the looks deceive you. Too many have. He played an integral role in the death of Cindel Towani, a little girl who lost her family in the woods and was taken in by Wicket and his family of human-eating sickos. Inspired by the Ed Gein murders, the Warrick family liked to make clothing from the skin of their victims. Wicket was the first of many ewoks I've been forced to slay in the name of safety and in conjunction with the US Parks Department.

Paploo (aka The Bright Beast, aka The Red Wrath)
This little guy was Wicket's lover and the High Priest of the human-eating cult. Sacrificing with glee to his dark god Jahjee, Paploo oversaw the murders of at least 174 people...that we know of.

Widdle Warrick (aka Willy Warrick, aka Little Taquito)
Wicket's older brother, he took the longest for me to track down. Unfortunately for him, he got a little too comfortable one night and tried to carve up a camp full of Girl Scouts. Luckily, I got there in time to save the last one.

Farnzo Warrick (aka Red Rocket 7, aka Butterfingers McGoo, aka Diamond Steve McQueen)
Though not a part of his family's sick cannibal crimes, he was notorious for boosting cars outside of Toshi Station. As luck would have it, he picked my own car for jacking, and met with a rifle in the face. No ewok scum was going to put his grubby paws on my Dae-Woo.

Kaink (aka The Swamp-Witch of Miami Beach)
Kaink was a witch who used a mystical jewel to slay a law-abiding cave giant. She was finally caught and scheduled to be put down for her role in the plotting of 9/11, but she got away. I finally caught up to her on a beach in Florida, where she was using a homemade device to signal al-Qaeda troops to rescue her. Only one of us could walk away from that beach alive. I chose me.

Farok and Elvin (aka The Modern Petiots, aka The Shark's Teeth)
These two look harmless enough. No one would suspect that they lured Jews into the woods and murdered them for their valuables. When we finally tracked them back to their lair, we found countless jewels, each more priceless than the last.

Romba
This ewok hunter was an activist for ewok rights and fought to get the courts to recognize ewok sentience. He finally won his battle, taking the name Romba Jack Holloway, before I accidentally ran him down in front of the courthouse. That fur was surprisingly hard to clean out of the grill.

Willow Ufgood
This little ewok came up to me in the woods about 15 or so years ago and gave me some crazy story about a hidden princess and a sorceress or some such bunk. I figured he was crazed and had fallen victim to Popanoida Syndrome (sometimes called Sucal's Disease), which is characterized by delusions of grandeur, complete psychotic breakdown, the loss of one's neck, and an unbreakable attraction to denim. I'm not sure how he came to speak my language, but it's too late to ask him now.

Nippett
Here's something about woklings you may not know: they taste exquisite when they've been boiled in milk.

Clarkson Ford (aka Grabbyhands Johnny, aka Mr. Slippy, aka Leather Bill, aka Liquid Silk)
As you can see, this sick fuck liked to take lesser creatures like mogwai and hoojibs and oompa-loompas and turn them into his unwilling sex slaves. I found him by staking out a well-known sex club in the Munchkin Forest and following him home. The mogwai was dead when I got there, but at least I could make sure that Mr. Slippy never hurt anyone again. It's sad, considering his distinguished career in intertribal legal representation.

Teek
This little guy was looking around my campsite, desperately trying to find something to eat. I was going to take pity on him, but look at him. He's so fucking irritating. I just couldn't resist punching him in the face repeatedly, over and over again, until the haze cleared and I realized I had killed him. I sold the body to a local diner; the hide was too ugly to keep.

Bloop
This ewok tried to infiltrate the upper echelons of US power by getting elected as the Grand Poobah of specialist hate group the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes. I helped to orchestrate a massive undercover operation that uncovered his plans for worldwide domination through an intricate series of voter fraud schemes. He chewed his cyanide capsule to evade capture, but I still count it as a kill.

Dipsy
Just because those ewoks try to change their physical appearance, that doesn't mean that I'm going to be fooled by it.

Punky Brewster
She claimed she wasn't an ewok, but she was so spunky and round-faced, I could tell she was lying to me.

Bilbo Baggins (aka Dildo Buggins)
Star Wars fans being what they are, a small private group hired me to kill Bilbo Baggins, believing that hobbits are a result of author JRR Tolkien's traveling forward in time to rip off Star Wars for his own novels. Bilbo's debauchery was already legendary in several circles, and it didn't take much money for me to hunt him down.

Leonard Nimoy
Well, he sang that song "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" about how great hobbit/man love is, so he had to go too.

Noodles MacIntosh
You know, looking back on it now, I don't think he was an ewok at all... Huh, that's too bad. He sure knew how to detail a '57 Chevy.

Mickey Rooney
He's just little and annoying.

Anna Nicole Smith 1967-2007

It's strange to think that, all of a sudden, after a collapse in a hotel in Hollywood, Florida, Anna Nicole Smith is dead. She was one of the biggest sex symbols of my youth, becoming Playmate of the Year in 1993 when I was 17. Just as I was becoming an adult, there she was: the Guess Girl. The girl stole my heart and became one of the great sex symbols of my life.

Anna Nicole lived an embattled life. Born in Texas as Vickie Lynn Hogan, she was a topless dancer and Marilyn Monroe lookalike who became a star after Playboy, only to marry an 89 year-old oil tycoon worth $400 million. He died a year later; she would spend the rest of her life battling in court for her share of the estate. Her legal rival, her former stepson, died last year at age 67.

Anna Nicole spent the last years of her short life as a laughingstock and, sometimes, an embarrassment. Her weight problems were much discussed, and her reality series/terrible idea The Anna Nicole Show highlighted her bizarre personal life. It only served to make her a bigger joke. Then, tragically, just days after giving birth to a daughter, Dannielynn, her 20 year-old son died Daniel died. The paternity of her daughter is still in dispute.

Anna Nicole Smith, now dead at the age of 39. It still sounds weird to say. Let her serve as a cautionary tale to the increasing number of young girls who want to get by on their looks. And let the above picture of her (my favorite of hers), and all of her pictures, serve as a tribute to the beautiful creature she once was.

And They Say No One Listens in History Class

A friend sent me the following anecdote from a meeting he had at work:

When the meeting ends, a bunch of people left, but I'm talking to two high school juniors, a recent college grad (she's 22) and a co-worker (who's 26, by the way. This will be important in a minute).

The co-worker and her roommates are holding a party on Saturday, and I'm not sure if I'm going to go. She says that it's going to be "family friendly" until ten, and then she can't guarantee what her roommates will be like. So I say:

"So on a scale of one to ten, with one being Mother Theresa and ten being Caligula, what's the level of debauchery we're talking here?" A fairly clever line. Not too bad--I was somewhat proud of myself.

Blank stares.

None of them knew who Caligula was.

I'm still not sure how to feel about that.

How to Irritate the Guy Sitting Next to You

My mom sent me this, and I just thought it was hilarious.

If you are sitting next to someone who irritates you on a plane or train follow these instructions: (and maybe say goodbye!)

1. Quietly and calmly open up your laptop case.
2. Remove your laptop.
3. Start up.
4. Make sure the guy who is annoying you can see the screen.
5. Close your eyes and tilt your head up to the sky.
6. Then hit this link.

2008 Election: The Early Republican Contenders

Rudolph Giuliani
Platform: Looking on his campaign website, all I can see is constant reminders that Giuliani was "America's Mayor" during the 9/11 aftermath and that, according to polls, people really like him.
Reality Check: Happening to be mayor during 9/11 does not make someone a great politician. Giuliani did superficially clean up New York City, but his "Broken Windows" campaign always seemed racially motivated to me. Closing down strip bars and cleaning up some glass does not create an infrastructure. His welfare reform system made the poor work harder to be poorer. If it hadn't been for 9/11, all Ghoul-iani would be remembered for is his exceedingly inappropriate public battles with his wife and his girlfriend. He's as offended by the free exercise of civil liberties as George W. Bush is, and, like almost everyone who's made the big wrong decisions in the current administration, is a former Reagan official. He also didn't seem to have a problem with a rash of police brutality in New York during his time as mayor. In fact, a police state would seem to suit him just fine.
My Opinion in One Sentence: This guy would actually be a worse president than George W. Bush, which means he'll probably get elected.

John McCain
Platform: It basically seems to be that, although Bush's administration has failed in every way, we should keep doing what Bush wants us to do no matter what.
Reality Check: He likes to paint himself as some sort of bulldog maverick, but every time he opens his mouth its just to repeat what the president has said as though it were some grand scheme that will save the world. Another Reagan bootlicker. He might as well be wearing a leash and sitting at the president's heels; he honestly thinks Bush respects him, even though his function in the White House is the same function as the token smart girl with self-esteem problems in the mean girl clique in high school; she does the homework in exchange for the honor of being part of the group and occasionally having the leader put out cigarettes on her shoulder and telling her it's a sign of affection. You can just see Bush laughing at this guy when his back is turned.
My Opinion in One Sentence: Bush and his masters will run the country through President McCain, and McCain will let them because Bush could shit on McCain's plate and McCain, upon eating it, would declare it the best steak he'd ever eaten.

Mitt Romney
Platform: Smaller government, lower taxes.
Reality Check: I'm not even going into how lowering taxes even further screws up the economy even more and leads to more government services being closed off. Romney is a Mormon, and he supports the Federal Marriage Act and is against homosexual marriage, which means he's probably a closeted queer. And I don't respect men in closets, because it makes them crazy around the pages. And how does he plan to lower taxes while creating new jobs AND making healthcare more affordable? It seems like healthcare would only be more affordable if it were partially subsidized by the government, which should mean higher taxes. And someone should really ask him if creating new jobs means firing his illegal immigrant gardener.
My Opinion in One Sentence: Like the US is going to elect a Mormon. They might as well be scientologists.

Sam Brownback
Platform: Unlike a lot of candidates, he states his position right on his front page: partisan reconciliation, reduction of poverty, no gay marriage, more responsible government spending, income tax reform, flat tax, social security reform, more affordable healthcare, and self reliance in energy within 15 years. Basically what every Republican will be crowing in the next two years.
Reality Check: Doesn't mention the war specifically, which is something he'll need to address. Flat tax only benefits the rich; being against gay marriage only benefits bigots. I don't want a president who caters only to rich bigots as his political base; we already have one, and it's not working out too well. How can someone who seeks to deny freedom to a segment of the population have the best interests of everyone at heart? He loves to compare himself to Abraham Lincoln, which is distasteful. He's got no scandals yet, except that he likes to quote without crediting his sources, and when your source is Alexandre de Tocqueville, people tend to notice that sort of thing.
My Opinion in One Sentence: Who the hell is Sam Brownback?

Mike Huckabee
Platform: Basically the same as Brownback's, only with more "I'm just a big ol' dork" affectation thrown in.
Reality Check: He's even more anti-gay than Brownback and Romney are; he was the one who declared a "state of marital emergency" in America. He forces the comparison between Clinton and himself by constantly pointing out he's from Hope, Arkansas. What has he ever even done besides lose weight and write a book about it? Stop Digging Your Own Grave with a Knife and Fork. That's as far as he's going. There's nothing else there. Except that, thanks to David O. Russell and Naomi Watts, I can't stop hearing "Fuckabee" when I see his name.
My Opinion in One Sentence: It's going to be like when Gomer Pyle was in the Marines, only a lot less funny.

Chuck Hagel
Platform: He's the rebel conservative who's now against the war, even though he's voted, like, 95% for Bush's policies for the past six years.
Reality Check: Basically, he's trying to set himself up to be the new McCain. A former talk show host, there are a lot of good allegations that Hagel's landslide victory in Nebraska (twice) resulted from voter fraud, the most compelling evidence being that he's part owner of the company that builds the voting machines.
My Opinion in One Sentence: There's something about him that is just off, like you expect his face to fall away and reveal the reptilian alien beneath.

People I'm Not Yet Taking Seriously: Newt Gingrich (does he think we've forgotten?), George Pataki, Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, Jim Gilmore, Tommy Thompson, Ron Paul.