Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Bible Summarized by a Smartass, Part Twenty-Four: The 12 Minor Prophets

The 12 books of the Minor Prophets really only comprise, collectively, the last 58 pages of the Old Testament. The prophets all say the same basic things: that Israel is damned, that God hates everyone there because of all the sinning, and that the enemies of Israel will destroy it. Then a Messiah will come and cleanse the land with the love of God, and the Jews will return to their homeland and everyone will skip about holding hands with their enemies and sliding down rainbows and stuff. And God will judge everyone, and only the righteous will be allowed to play. And that’s about it. For 58 pages. Here are all 58 pages boiled down to twelve sentences.

HOSEA: “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind”

JOEL: “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.”

AMOS: “Let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

OBADIAH: “As you have done, it will all be done to you.”

JONAH: “When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord.”

MICAH: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

NAHUM: “I will prepare your grave.”

HABAKKUK: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

ZEPHANIAH: “Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.”

HAGGAI: “Now says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways.”

ZECHARIAH: “I will remove the sin on this land in a single day.”

MALACHI: “All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble."

Next week: The Gospel According to Matthew, as the New Testament begins! Be here in seven days for Enter the Christ!

Meme Me Out

1. A month before it happens you're told you're going to lose your memory. How do you prepare for it and do you attempt to regain what you've lost?
What a horrific question! I don't know, just write down the stuff I think is the most important, I guess--who I love, what they're about, books to read again, things like that. God, what a bad opening question, that just depresses me...

2. How do you describe your outlook on life?
Skeptical, but generally hopeful. Walk into every situation hoping it'll work out. And when it doesn't, there's always vengeance.

3. You fall in love with your soulmate, decide to get married, and then find out that person is going to die soon. Do you marry them anyway?
Of course. Even a brief time is better than none. What kind of monster says no? A week of happiness is more than some people get.

4. What are three of your favorite ice cream toppings?
Chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and cherries. All at once.

5. Is there one article of clothing you love to wear no matter how out of style it is?
I'm strictly a jeans and tee shirt man, though I do like to wear hats sometimes.

6. Is there one color you wish would go away in fashion?
Not especially. Should there be one? I do wish women at events would stop it with all of the beige.

7. What's the first department you head to when you go shopping in a department store?
Toys, then CDs and DVDs. Get the fun stuff out of the way first.

8. How far away do you live from your parents?
It takes me a little less than an hour to get to my mom's, about two hours to get to my dad's.

9. Growing up, who was your favorite cartoon character?
I don't think I could pick just one, I watched too many cartoons as a kid. Orko from He-Man. Grimlock from Transformers. Shipwreck and Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe. I guess my favorite cartoon character has been and always will be Donald Duck.

10. You plan a romantic evening and everything goes wrong, including the fancy dinner you burned. What do you do?
Dear, would you like to go out to eat tonight?

11. What's the last thing you bought at the store?
The last thing I was personally able to pay for was... I can't remember. Damn unemployment.

12. Have you ever walked out in the middle of a movie?
No, although I wanted to walk out of Tomb Raider. I have turned off lots of movies on DVD and cable, though.

13. What celebrity do most people say you look like?
No one ever says I look like a celebrity, which is fine by me. A bank teller once told me I looked like Andy Richter, and I wanted to punch her in the mouth. I wish I looked like Christian Bale, but if wishes were horses...

14. Is there any piece of jewelry you always wear?
No. Unless you count my watch, which I won't leave the house without.

15. Have you ever tried to pick someone up?
Yes. And it's almost worked a couple of times, but never really panned out.

16. What's the one thing you always manage to lose on your way out the door?
I don't really have that problem.

17. Out of these creatures which one are you most afraid of: A.) Snakes B.) Spiders C.) Rodents
Spiders, I guess. I'm not afraid of them, but they're just so gross and creepy to me sometimes. I rather like looking at snakes, and I think rodents are cute. Of course, if any of these things are in my house, they're going to die faster than Aaron Sorkin attempting comedy.

18. What's the last gift you bought for a friend?
I don't recall. I'm a bad friend.

19. Do you ever buy people things for no reason?
If I had money, I would. I burn CDs for people (yes, I'm one of those, but not to an obnoxious degree).

20. What's your favorite way to spend a lazy summer afternoon?
Listening to music, drinking a Coca-Cola, and feeling the warm breeze.

Friday, March 30, 2007

One More Week Until My Lust Is Satisfied

"I'm Cherry."
"You sure are."
To borrow a phrase from my dear Angie, Grindhouse looks like a delicious candy bar with big tits. So I was pleased to read the review at Ain't It Cool News, which makes this thing sound like exactly what I was hoping for. Some choice excerpts follow:

* Remember, when George W. Bush was elected, and he said that thing about how, by 2008, we’d have “movies that would explode in our balls like a shotgun filled with handjobs”?

Well, that promise came true two days ago when I saw GRINDHOUSE in Hollywood. Except not only was it a shotgun full of handjobs exploding in my balls, but also my balls suddenly knew how to make fire using karate. All from seeing GRINDHOUSE, a movie that’s made of screaming car crash zombie boobs.

* Rose McGowan with a machine gun for a leg. I’ve never seen a woman I wanted so bad to rub one out to, but also kind of killed my boner in a way that gave me a bigger boner. Oh yeah, she almost-nude dances for the first three minutes of the movie and even though she doesn’t get totally naked I need to go buy three extra PAUSE buttons for my remote by the time the DVD comes out. !!!WARNING, MAJOR SPOILER!!! Rose McGowan will make you cluster-spooge in your pants.

* PLANET TERROR is directed by Robert Rodriquez, which is all I need to say. In fact, instead of his name on poster saying, “Directed By”, he can legally change his name to a picture of a naked Viking woman on a snowmobile with flamethrowers out the back and the flamethrowers are killing a Yeti. That’s the level of guaranteed quality his name brings to stuff.

* Maybe the government will put some “don’t be a pussy” drug in the water supply, and everyone will go see this instead of PILLOW FIGHT AND SCENTED CANDLES AND BOREDOM, or whatever Sandra Bullock movie’s coming out, and they’ll make more of these.

* Then the second movie started. It’s called DEATH PROOF. You know what it isn’t-PROOF? Boner-inducing proof.

* [Quentin Tarantino] KICKS ALL SPECTRUM OF ASS. He kicks ass that isn’t even in the ass area. Like, his director skills are so stripper-with-chainsaw good they make you grow asses on other parts of your body that he then kicks. I hope he directs more movies. I would see them, burn down the theater, and then call the fire department so I could tell all the fireman about what a kick-ass movie it was. When they started to attack me with axes, I’d fly away because Quentin’s movie would have given me ninja flight.

* DEATH PROOF is about this dude, Driver Mike, and he’s played by Kurt Plissken, and goddamn but that dude just gets more bad-ass as he gets older [...] Kurt Plissken looks like a dumpster full of drop kicks. He could fuck a bulldozer into eight Mini Coopers.

* [...] Let’s just say the audience I saw it with almost gave the ending a standing ovation. But their boners would have knocked over popcorn and sodas, so they just happy-screamed instead.

* First 300 and now this? I think the summer of 2007 just went, “Hey, let me take you to a free taquito buffet” and you eat all these taquitos and then the summer goes, “Here comes a foot to your stomach”, but you go, “It’s full of taquitos” but it’s too late – there’s a boot in your stomach only the boot is really a motorcycle and you puke up a bikini girl who blows you and then kills your boss with a hammer. That’s what GRINDHOUSE is. It’s a taquito buffet that you puke up after getting hit with a motorcycle, and it turns into a bikini chick that blows you and kills your boss with a hammer.

Fuck, even allowing for the typical Ain't It Cool News overstatement, I hope it's even one-tenth that good, because I'm already masturbating to it.
I am so fucking hard for this movie!

Throwdown 3/30

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

1. Bono is a knight. Yes, they knighted him. The British knighthood didn’t have much credibility, but Bono? Why validate him? This is a man who tells you all to donate what little you have to African children or you’re a horrible person, then spends hundreds of dollars so his hat can have its own first class seat. Fuck you, Bono.

2. Ah, yes, that must be the answer. It’s just like 1954 all over again. To compete with home entertainment so great you don’t even need to leave your couch to be amused, Hollywood is once again digging up the specter of 3D. Apparently they haven’t heard that 3D absolutely sucks ass. It just really fucking sucks. But it’s not a gimmick this time! At least, not according to Fox Filmed Entertainment. Whatever. All I know is, if a movie is in 3D, that’s just another reason to wait the three months for it to hit DVD. Indiana Jones and the Totally Unnecessary Fourth Adventure of Oldness and Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones are apparently heading for the premium 3D format. Yeah, they charge more, and then claim they make three times as much money per screen as they do otherwise (it’s not extra profit, it’s because you charge three times as much, you morons). Hopefully, the films won’t only be available in this format, but if they are, this will be the first time in over a decade that I won’t have seen a Peter Jackson movie on its opening night.

3. Speaking of movies, the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie is going to have its grand premiere on Adult Swim this weekend. Why? Well, the ads say that it’s because Adult Swim is “nuts.” I would argue, however, that Adult Swim and Warner Brothers know that the movie would make about eight bucks in theaters (which is, admittedly, four times what it cost to produce).

4. And this is the man who’s hoarding the rights to Wonder Woman. Okay… It’s not really his wardrobe I have a problem with so much as his total lack of understanding for the character, but I can point and laugh with the best of them.

5. Drew Barrymore may have had sex with Jane Whatsername from Jane magazine. Everyone’s all over it, but this wouldn’t be the first time someone was calling Drew a bisexual, so it’s not really shocking or exciting to me. I just assumed she was. Still, any excuse to post a picture of my lady love…

6. Spanish-language music store chain Ritmo Latino has banned Jennifer Lopez’s albums from their stores. They asked her to make an in-store promotional appearance for her new Spanish-language album Como Ama una Mujer, but were told that she was only visiting Anglo outlets. Ouch. How quickly they forget. Think she’ll be visiting the Bronx any time soon?

7. Seriously, I just can’t get over how cute Hilary Duff is again. They finally took those things off of her teeth.

8. Okay, so, Courtney Love says she’s been doing yoga and suddenly dropped 40 pounds. Other people say it’s badly-done liposuction. Either way, I’ve never wanted her to put her clothes back on as much as I do right now.

9. Rod Stewart’s son Sean says of having Rachel Hunter for a stepmother: “I used to stare at (her) when she was down by the pool sunbathing naked. I was like 15 or 16 and I was sitting in my pool with a bottle of lotion.” What an adolescence that would’ve been…

10. Now that we’ve all got the taste of Antonella out of our mouths, we can move on to the real problem with this season of American Idol: Mangina Disastakar and the myriad ways in which the producers are trying to distract us from the fact that this kid can’t sing a single note. After planting a crying girl in the audience last week, this week they gave us his awful fake mohawk that made me want to vomit. Gwen Stefani, apparently, really didn’t want Sanjaya to sing her song “Bathwater,” because she didn’t think he could pull it off. In rehearsals, she supposedly went right to the producers and told them she didn’t want the child singing any one of her songs whatsoever, but by then it was too late. She caused a bit of a scene, though. Ha, fuck you, Sanjaya, you got dissed by one of the best pop stars recording today. Go back to your high school musicals.

11. Warner Brothers is talking about doing a new Supergirl movie, and they’re actually openly admitting that they want to aim the movie at young men. Which means a tighter costume. And 33 year-old Tricia Helfer possibly in the lead. Fuck, what a waste. Seriously, make Supergirl 13 and aim the movie at girls, and make it actually good. You can reach an audience besides masturbating teenage boys. But that would take work, wouldn’t it? Continue to disintegrate into nothing, DC Comics.

12. Halle Berry says she tried to kill herself. Did she actually see Catwoman?

13. Here in DeKalb there was a big to-do about closing down the Cavel International horse-slaughtering facility because horses are so noble and pretty and all of that stuff. Well, now DeKalb has 200 horses that are just leftover and no one wants them. Guess where they’re going? Slaughterhouses in Canada. Another victory for the animal rights terrorists, I guess.

14. Why did we let these people move to Hollywood, again? Seriously, they are actually a more useless couple than Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Maybe they should hurry up and become scientologists so that some spaceship can come and take them away. And what is that on his head?And seriously, is she trying to kill someone with those things? Holy shit! (Fun side note: US Weekly has asked Posh Spice to put on a bra because they’re tired of seeing her nipples all the time. While I don’t think I could ever tire of seeing nipples—even hers—it did make me laugh.)

15. Quentin Tarantino apparently believes he was Shakespeare in a past life. Which is kind of believable, because Shakespeare also ripped off plots, repeated himself endlessly, and couldn’t spell. So on that level, I guess it works.

Rocky Links

There's not much going on this week, so let's just lay it out in brief.

American Idolatry: Not Feeling Hella Good and Au Revoir, Chris Sligh (ModFab)

Lesbian Argues Ga. Gays Can't Adopt Kids (New York Times)

Singing, Dancing Army Reserves (Ken Levine)

Landscapes Are Texts to Be Savored (The Last Visible Blog)

Jesus Convention (Zaius Nation)

She's a Bitch Reborn (The Film Experience Blog)

Steampunk Star Wars: Sir Obi-Wan Kenobi (Eric Poulton)

1927 Blog-a-Thon (Goatdog)

60 Bitchy Things Elton John Has Said (The Sun)

Fake or Real (TMZ)

The Craigslist Personal Ad Translator (Cracked)

2027: Cavel Closure Leads to Dark Future (Northern Star)

An Open Letter to the Music Industry (Kurt's Krap)

And in case you wondered what my action figure collection looked like, here are all mine and Becca's toys. (No Smoking in the Skullcave)

Lando of the Lost

I loved this week's episode of Lost. A lot. I know that there are other people who didn't care for it, but this for me was a great example of what I've been griping about for months. Yeah, the story didn't advance anywhere, but at least it was good. Entertaining. Fun to watch. With a great, sick Twilight Zone twist at the end. I enjoyed the hell out of it. Will Nikki and Paolo be coming back? I don't know, but I do remember what Locke told Paolo: "Things on this island don't stay buried."

Anyway, for me the best part of the episode was an appearance by perhaps the coolest guy alive:Yes, that is Billy Dee Williams appearing (as himself, by Spock's beard!) on Lost. Is there anyway they can bring him back another dozen or so times? I love that man. An ongoing role for Lando Calrissian would be just the thing this show needs. Maybe, when they inevitably find Patrick McGoohan as a deranged and elderly Number 6 roaming the woods, they can go deep into the center of the island and find out that William December Williams was in charge the whole time. That would be some great fucking television.

Seven Deadly Sins

Your Pride Quotient: 53%

You have your proud moments, but you're also likely to be a little ashamed of them.
Don't be too hard on yourself. It's normal to want to make a stellar impression.

Your Envy Quotient: 43%

You are an envious person, but only at times.
Perhaps certain situations trigger your envy. Or maybe you're especially jealous when you're feeling insecure.
Instead of letting that green monster out, work on making your own life better.
And then maybe people will be envious of you.

Your Lust Quotient: 78%

You are a very lustful person - and it sometimes gets the better of you!
You know how to hold back, but you hardly ever do.

Your Wrath Quotient: 67%

Everyone around you pretty much fears your wrath... which is probably what you want.
But just remember, there's a very thin line between fear and hate!

Your Sloth Quotient: 68%

You're a pretty lazy person, and you relish in your own sloth.
While being lazy does feel good, you're missing out on the really good parts of life that take a little work.

Your Greed Quotient: 54%

You are somewhat greedy, but your greed is probably a healthy motivator.
Wanting nice things is normal, as long as it doesn't take over your life.

Your Gluttony Quotient: 53%

You definitely have your gluttonous moments. For you, eating is a true hobby.
And while you do spend a lot on food, you can always make it back winning eating contests.

Scarlett Johansson Is in Vogue

And I hope she always is. But I'd still love her even if she wasn't.







Thursday, March 29, 2007

This Is the Reason I Peruse Used Book Stores

The best places to find used books are small rural towns. You can always find at least one or two treasures, old DAW science fiction novels (maybe an Elric if you're lucky), Robert E. Howard books that have been barely used, one of those Ballantine Tarzan books with the Frazetta covers, things like that. But every once in a while you stumble into a treasure the likes of which you've never even dreamed possible. And this weekend, I found this:At first, I could hardly believe what I was seeing. I had to say the title out loud to make sure I'd gotten it right: God is for Real, Man. What in the name of hell could this possibly be? Well, look at the cover. "Kids from city streets reveal startling insights into Bible passages [dramatic pause for maximum affect] as they translate them into their own language!" Oh my stars, could such a thing exist? Obviously, if the cover of the book is to be believed, this is the most marvelous thing ever! A street version of the Bible? Who'd have thought! An attempt to reach out directly to the kids? Oh, you'd better believe I had to squirrel this thing away and bring it home with me. I don't know how I was lucky enough to find it there, waiting for me, but you'd better believe I paid the buck for it and ran.

First I just had to check this thing out on the internet. News about Carl F. Burke on the web is scarce, and all I could discover about him is that, at some point, he was chaplain of the Eerie County Jail in Buffalo, New York. This book is from 1966, and in the introduction it purports to be the work of Burke's talks with kids in jail who don't know much about the Bible. It's his attempt to reach out to the children in their own language. And it is hysterical.

I don't even know where to start with this thing. One clue can come from the titles of the various sections, which include such howlers as "The Story of the Cool Cat Called Noah," "How Come You So Strong, Samson?," "The Lord Is Like My Probation Officer," "A Cool Square Comes to the Rescue" (about the Good Samaritan), "How Come This World Got Here?," and my personal favorite for laughter, "When Jesus Busted Out of the Grave," which conjures up images of perhaps the greatest blaxploitation zombie movie never made. Obviously, Burke thinks he's made quite a study of the street lexicon of the mid-sixties, when juvenile delinquency hysteria was at its highest.

The problem is, Burke using street language is like the old saying about listening to women swear: he knows the words, but not the music. For example, throughout the book, he elects to prove how alienated he is (and just who he's really writing for), but putting most of the slang in quotation marks. Here are some hilarious examples:

Or what about a boy whose parents are "winos" or "junkies," or a combination of both?

How do you talk about the love of a father to a boy whose concept of a father is that of a "drunken bum" who often wakes lying in his own vomit and who fails to provide for his children?

Well, he would "rev it up, man" to see if it's OK.

And it just gets better and better from there. Burke writes in such a lead-footed manner that I honestly believe he just tried to listen to how kids talked, and then made up everything and attributed it to a bunch of kids for a better story. Here's a take on some of the ten commandments:

1. You shall have no other gods before me...Means God's the leader -- nobody, but nobody, man, gets in the way.This is the top. He is Mr. Big, real big.

2. You shall not make for yourself a graven image...This means no making things that look like God in the craftshop at the settlement house. No worship things like rabbits' foots and lucky dice and, damn it, dolls.

3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain...It means knock off the swearing, or you better watch out.

Oh, no, watch out? You'd better not cry? You'd better not pout... wait, that's a different made-up character.

And it gets far, far worse. There's some modern lingo representations of things like the story of Job that are basically the worst one-act plays ever written. Seriously, at the end of the Job play, the Devil describes his anger at being proven wrong by saying: "Double damn and I'll be a son of a pup." At that point, I'm thinking that Burke doesn't even exist and, as an aside to his excellent books on juvenile deliquency from the 1960s, Harlan Ellison wrote this book as a joke. Because that makes this version of the Lord's Prayer genius:

The Lord is like my Probation Officer,
He will help me,
He tries to help me make it every day.
He makes me play it cool
And feel good inside me.

And it goes on like that. It's one of many poems in the book. Apparently, Burke wrote other books in this same vein called (help me) Treat Me Cool, Lord and God Is Beautiful, Man and Don't Turn Me Off, Lord. Wow, this was a cottage industry. According to the back cover, Sammy Davis Jr. himself declared of God is for Real, Man "I love this book"--and on The Mike Douglas Show, no less.

But my favorite moment, the one thing that makes this book a true gem in the realm of kitsch and comedy, is this, from the introduction:

Words mean different things to different groups, and their meanings change from time to time. If a word of phrase does not seem to make sense, the reader may consult the glossary at the end of the book. The more generally familiar slang terms, however, such as "fairy," "hideout," "hootenanny," are not included in the list.

Wow, do I feel bad for any JD who says hootenanny.

Words that are apparently not self-evident and appear in the glossary include beatnick ("nonconformist"), creep ("independent person"), junkie ("narcotics user"), deb ("girl member of a gang, usually there for sexual purposes"), handle ("name"), rumble ("gang fight") and my personal favorite, retard, which apparently means--wait for it--"retarded person."

I don't know, is it bad to make fun of something so inauthentic and lame? I mean, the guy was trying to make his religion more relavent to kids, and if he didn't realize it was in an incredibly pathetic and laughable way, is it his fault? Is it worthy of such derision?

The work speaks for itself. It's so much funny at once that I had to buy both copies the store had on sale. It's just too good not to hoard.

My Sexual Icons

My series devoted to the women I loved when I was a kid, that helped me to discover sex in the first place.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sweet 16

Happy 16th birthday, Amy Bruckner.

Amy played Pim Diffy on the Disney Channel's Phil of the Future, a show I happened to think was quite funny until Disney cancelled it last year. The show was about a family from the 22nd century on a time vacation who got stuck in our time. Pim was the scheming younger sister, always looking for a money angle and screwing people over to get there. She wasn't remorseless, but I found her evilness adorable.

Part of the reason I got hooked on Pim was that she reminded me of my sister Ellen. Amy and Ellen are only a year apart. And when Ellen got sick, watching Phil of the Future always kind of made me feel better; there was someone like Ellen who was happy and normal, and that was always a nice thing. It was good for me, when I got too upset, to be able to laugh. And when Ellen died, watching Phil of the Future helped, because the connection between Ellen and Pim made it easier for me to remember Ellen when she was healthy and happy, and not just all of the sickness and all of the heartache.

I will never forget Ellen, and I'll always be grateful to Amy Bruckner for keeping my spirits up during that period of my life. So happy birthday, Amy. I hope you get everything you want and more.

Film Week

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

THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1945)
I tried to like this one, but ultimately it just seemed a bit dated to me. It’s an interesting thriller about a deaf-mute servant girl who may or may not be the target of a killer who’s been murdering women with afflictions. It’s effective in parts, and Dorothy McGuire is very good as the girl, but this one just got away from me. Not a terrible movie, but one I couldn’t really get into. **1/2 stars.

DOUBLE TEAMED (2002)
Not how it sounds. This is a Disney Channel movie about the Burge sisters and how they became star basketball players in high school before they joined the WNBA. This is the kind of movie the Disney Channel really should be making; it’s well-acted, it’s well-written, it’s not too golly gee, and it tells girls that they can be more than just fabulous. This is probably the best movie I’ve seen on the Disney Channel. *** stars.

GRANDMA’S BOY (2006)
I did not watch this movie on purpose. I was at a used record store on Sunday and they were watching this piece of shit. The only thing keeping me from calling this the worst movie ever made is that only someone who hasn’t made the leap to solid foods would call this a movie. No stars, obviously. I think a became a little retarded just being near it.

DONNIE DARKO (2001)
I’ll admit I’ve avoided this movie for a couple of years now. When I hear, over and over again, how great a movie like this is it usually turns out to be complete bullshit. But that wasn’t the case here. I thought this was a clever, imaginative, engrossing movie. I loved it. Great stuff. Even Maggie Gyllenhaal didn’t bug me (it was too early for her Drew Barrymore imitation, and Drew herself was in the movie, so it worked out fine). **** stars. Great soundtrack, too.

THE WOODSMAN (2004)
This is an odd movie, but mostly in a good way. Kevin Bacon plays a man who’s just gotten out of prison after being put away for molesting two children. He moves into an apartment across the street from a school. He’s still struggling with his attraction to children; his sister won’t even see him or let him see his niece. The cops assume he’s going to do it again. He has something with a fellow worker (Kyra Sedgewick) that you can’t really call a romance, but they form a bond; she has an abusive past. It’s slow-moving, but never boring. It’s never an apologia for pedophilia, but acknowledges it as a real problem that’s more prevalent in society (and societal attitudes) than we’re usually willing to admit. And it’s unusually sensitive to that. It’s a compelling film. ***1/2 stars.

PRETTY PERSUASION (2005)
This is another of those examinations of young women and how they’re treated by adults in the school environment. And I was really with this film for some time…but eventually… I don’t know, towards the end, it started to feel like the whole point of this film was to damn young women as being too sexy, too manipulative, a calculating source of evil who are set out to prove men’s opinions of them as slutty materialists. And there are some women out there like that (Paris Hilton), but this movie… I don’t know. It seemed self-serving. It felt like the director and writer were really using this film to justify a very sexist and hysterical view of sex as dangerous, sexiness (even unconscious sexiness) as a come-on, and older male lust as harmless. I’m sure they claim there’s a satire in there, but it’s really kind of mean-spirited. Evan Rachel Wood is very good in the movie, too, and Jane Krakowski has a fun supporting role (I like her), but those performances can’t save a movie with an agenda that I find utterly repugnant. And that ending, with Wood realizing just how evil she’s been? Total bullshit. * star.

LE JOUR SE LEVE (1939)
The films of prewar France are sometimes fascinating because you can just feel the mounting pressure in the air. With the inevitability of war setting in, a lot of pessimistic films (like this masterwork by Marcel Carne) were predicting the breakdown of society. Carne’s use of deep shadows and atmosphere create a moody and expressive film about a man (Jean Gabin) whose actions lead to murder because, in the end, he doesn’t see any hope of fairness in a society that’s lost its credibility. Excellent. **** stars.

For Who Fans

The new series of Doctor Who starts on Saturday, so naturally as an American viewer I will be scouring the web for someone illegally posting the video on Sunday morning. Sorry, but it's one of the show I really love and I'd rather see it than wait a year for the SCIFI Channel to air it (and fuck SCIFI anyway, the Farscape-cancelling bastards).

Anyway, here's the preview for the new series (a little cutesy, but I see a Dalek in there):


And here's a funny bit from the most recent Comic Relief, starring Catherine Tate and David Tennant. Lots of Who jokes, naturally.

I LOVE Michelle Marsh in the May UK Maxim







Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Health Report: Week 15

I don't know what I ate or didn't eat or whatever, but I've had a migraine nearly all day long. I spit a little bit of blood this morning and coughed all last night. A little while ago, I tripped over my exercise bike and bruised me thigh on the way down. So I'm pretty fucking miserable.

That's pretty much my whole week in health. Now I just want to sleep for a year. Fuck, I hurt.

The Dead Hand of Religion Strikes Again

For one reason or another, I still find myself on campus. I graduated six months ago, but there's a branch of my bank there that's conveniently close, or I have to pick something up, plus I'm applying for a job there. And sometimes, I have occasion to walk through the big square between the library and the student center (where the bank is), the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commons. And the newly warm weather has brought out the usual group of protesters, activists, and the religious. And it's the religious ones that really bother me.

It's not just the fact that they're religious (although I don't have much appreciation for that fact myself). It's that they're determined to walk up to everyone, get in their faces, shove handouts at them, and when ignored say things like "More room in heaven for me, then" and "Enjoy it in hell."

Now, I know we live in a society that, ostensibly, has freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. And that's fine with me. I would never tell anyone they couldn't do that. But you can sit at your table and wait for people to come to you. Don't plant your ass in front of me and stop me from going about my business just because you want to tell me how neat you think God is. Because I've heard it before and, believe you me, I don't care. You're not doing me any favors by imposing your morality on me. You have the freedom to express your opinions. Doesn't mean you can't be polite. Quit forcing it on me; I'm not forcing you to read my blog am I? Am I telling you that if you don't believe what I believe, you're going to die or burn or whatever shit they tell the rational-minded?

I respect people's freedom. What I don't respect is their superstitions. When I was a kid, my parents and teachers told me I should always respect the beliefs of others. But the world is just too precarious a place for that kind of lunacy. Why should I respect the Muslim belief when their texts deny women their basic humanity? Why should I respect the Christian belief when their texts do the very same? I don't have to respect Catholic dogma, because that dogma is tainted by its foundation in anti-Semitism and the representative Church's actions throughout history in the name of that dogma?

What brings this to a head for me is something that occured in a group I'm a part of, a group that publishes scholarly studies of genre fiction. Recently I published a piece on Milton's Paradise Lost and the use of vision in Book III, a piece which won me second place in an essay contest and which I was proud of. In the course of answering some comments about it, I found myself speaking through my own perspective (which we all do). My perspective is that, based on experience, the study of history, and the study of religious texts, religion is total bullshit. I can approach Paradise Lost as fanciful literature, the same way I approach the Bible. But I cannot take the Bible seriously as something historic. I felt, though, since I was answering comments about a religious topic, it was okay to speak about my views as they pertained to the eassy I wrote. Which isn't really much, to be honest, because it was an only analysis of a literary device.

Now, the guy who is the editor of this entire thing has been a friend of mine for nearly a decade now. And a few years ago, he suddenly became very religious. He knew that I didn't share his views and didn't want to become involved in religious discussion, because I know how I can be and I know how he can be, and I didn't want it to affect our friendship. I was doing what I'd always been taught, respecting his beliefs because I valued him as a friend. The problem is that it gets very tiring sometimes respecting beliefs that you personally think are ridiculous.

In the new issue of our little group, he made some comments to me that, I think, bear out my fears. A number of people commented on what I said, which was: "Religion on the whole has had a negative and even disastrous impact on human history." The people who took issue with that said nothing I hadn't heard before. The usual defense (as was the case here) is something along the lines of "Religion is pure, it's men who tainted it by twisting it to serve their own purposes." Well, that argues from a position of, if I may be frank, utter bullshit. Because in order for that argument to work, you have to accept that God and Jesus and the angels and the fairies and the pixie dust are real, actual fact, and that they're all cool and just because some priests touched some boy's balls or a few hundred Muslims got slaughtered in the Crusades or the Vatican defended Hitler and turned a blind eye to the Holocaust or the Church constantly interferes in government because the thought of boys kissing is too horrible to contemplate...well, that doesn't mean that the sentiments aren't good.

But yeah, that's exactly what that does mean, I'm afraid. Every week in The Bible Summarized by a Smartass, I try to expose this very thing. The sentiments contained in the Bible are not all "Love thy neighbor" and "Do unto others" and "Honor thy father and mother." They also encompass "Slaughter the children of unbelievers" and "Women are property" and "Men fucking men is an abomination" and "Nothing is more important than your radical and slavish devotion to the invented laws of a fairy tale figure." The Bible is bullshit. It's half a history of the Jews, and half a collection of rules for an oppressed people. It is not a handbook on human behavior. It is not a moral codebook. It is not a guide for anyone.

What the Bible is, and the whole structure of religion, is a succor for people who are weak and scared. I'm sorry if this offends you, but I don't care, this is my opinion, not yours. I'm sorry more people don't find wonder and possibility in the uncertainty of day-to-day life, or the vastness of the universe, or the amazement of the world around them. I don't have a lot of respect for people who have to ascribe it to some sort of master consciousness because they're afraid of all of those things. Because they're afraid of the random way in which people can act sometimes. Because they're afraid of losing the ones they love, or of suddenly dying, or of everything disappearing. But I cannot for the life of me understand how believing that all of this is governed by something thoughtful and loving is comforting. How thoughtful and loving is a God who lets children die? Or lets the Earth become poisoned? Or lets dictators run the nations of the world while their people starve? As Mark Twain said, you can only come to the conclusion that, if God exists, he's a malign thug.

And I'm not trying to sit here smugly and say that I have it all figured out. I don't. That's the wonderful thing about learning and living: you can never, ever know everything. It's not possible. That's why science is more dear to me than all of the poetry about the massacre of Philistines. Because it makes it possible for human beings to discover the way things works. The properties that govern the cosmos. The forces that begin life, and the forces that end them. The machinery of the world and its processes. How can ascribing a meaningless rhetorical device ("It's God's will") on these things be more eye-opening, my beautiful, more fulfilling than discovering for ourselves how they happen? I don't understand it, I really don't.

But I do understand what the Bible says. I understand the history of the Church and what it has done, and what it has ignored. There is too much of this sentiment now where people justify those things by saying that's what people have done, but you can still believe in God and separate that from the organization. But you can't. You really can't. That's not being religious or spiritual. That's as ridiculous as someone who says that they believe in the American government, but don't ever vote. It's participation in the system that reinforces the belief, not the other way around. Religion is a human institution, not something that you do as a hobby. I actually have less respect for people who claim to be religious but hate the Church. Without the Church, there is no religion. Without the government, there is no democracy.

So, I don't buy that religion is pure but people are wicked. That's self-serving. If the institution itself is rotten, it's because it's built on rotten beliefs. Including the belief that one person is better than another because they believe in something that can never be proven, but apparently is a way to guide your every action.

What tears at me is what my friend said in reaction to my comments: "To think that, say, the Crusades had more to do with religion than anything else, is absurd. It was mostly about man's hunger for wealth, land and power. Man corrupts religion and blames it for all the evils of the world when in fact, it's a poor excuse to explain their own imperfection. The world is the way it is today because of atheism."

I wish I could adequately describe why I think that is one of the most wrong-headed and naively simplistic things I've ever heard anyone say in my life. Okay, sure, the Crusades were about wealth, land and power. They were also about racism. But religion was the seed. Do you think anyone in Europe would've cared about a Muslim empire if they hadn't captured Jerusalem and started accosting pilgrims? Religion was used to justify all of that crap. It was done in the name of religion. And the Church supported it. Hell, they basically instigated it. So that part of the argument can be quickly done away with. I don't have time to come up with an entire list of things that were done in the name of religion (including the mass murder and exploitation of India, Asia, Africa, and the Americas by Christians, up to and including the destruction of entire cultures and, in some cases, civilizations).

And you know, that's not even to talk about other religions throughout history that have done violence in the name of orders from some higher power. Which is to say most of them.

But the part that bothers me, an atheist, is that last bit. That the world is the way it is now because of atheism. Unless that means scientifically advanced, I reject that out of hand. Isn't George W. Bush a Christian? Isn't Osama bin Laden a Muslim? Doesn't Bush keep calling this whole thing in Iraq an ideological conflict? I know Bush means that it's democracy vs. tyranny. And I know that what he really wants is oil and control of the Middle East. But the civil war going on right now is justified by religion. If religion is inherently blameless, show it to me. And show it to me from a position of logic and reason, not a position of assuming that God exists and that (as I've been told far too many times) it's impossible for anyone to have morals and ethics and believe in right and wrong if they don't believe in God. Because the dying specter of mysticism is at its core an instrument of tyranny. It is not rational. It is not natural. It is nonsense.

This is hard for me because, as I've said, I don't respect people's beliefs when I think those beliefs are bullshit. So where do you go from there?

A Blatant Attempt to Increase Site Traffic

Since people were coming to my blog looking for uncensored versions of the Antonella Barba blowjob pictures, why not just put them up?
She had no place in a singing competition, but there is one thing she can do.

To quote my girlfriend: "I love Antonella Barba, she's such a hot fucking little skeeze."