Saturday, May 05, 2007

Why Is There a Debate About Hate?

Forgive me if it seems like I’m callously using this picture of Brandon Teena to make a point, but he was the first person I thought of when I read about this. And I say he because that’s how he wanted to live. There are a lot of people who want to live that way. Who feel like the proscribed role they were born into is not really who they are. So some people want to live as the opposite gender. And some of them are in love with members of their own. That very fact makes some of the badly-wired people in our country nervous, scared, and angry. For Brandon Teena, that ended in rape and murder. It was a criminal act caused by hatred; a hatred based on Brandon’s attempt to live as a man, even though he had been born a woman. It was a hate crime.

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to expand that which can be considered by the federal government to be a hate crime. This would include violent attacks on homosexuals and people targeted because of gender. It would also make it easier for federal law enforcement to assist local prosecutors in a bias-motivated attack. Similar legislation is now in the Senate; the House passed it 237-180.

Of course, President Duh is threatening to veto it.

This has been a fierce party battle, perhaps unsurprisingly. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said: “This is an important vote of conscience, of a statement of what America is, a society that understands that we accept differences.” But conservatives fought this for years, mostly because it threatens the right to express moral opposition to homosexuality. Can you believe that? They’re not actually whining about their disgusting moral opposition, they’re upset that that moral opposition could no longer be legally signified through discrimination. The White House’s statement said there’s no need for a law at the federal level, and there was “no persuasive demonstration of any need to federalize such a potentially large range of violent crime enforcement.”

One Representative, Lamar Smith of Texas (of course) said that the bill would make justice unequal, depending on “the race, sex, sexual orientation, disability or status of the victim.” The fact is, under the current federal law, hate crimes are defined as acts of violence against individuals on the basis of race, religion, color, or national origin. This bill basically extends that to sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability. And it would also allow federal prosecutors to assist in the investigation and prosecution in hate crimes. So, Representative Smith is really arguing here that hate crimes should be treated like any other crimes. Is beating someone to death because they’re gay and then hanging them on a fence really supposed to be treated the same way as mugging someone for drug money? Representative Smith is saying that hate crimes aren’t really that big a deal.

Consider Brandon Teena. He was raped when two thugs discovered he was biologically a female. Local police, led by Sheriff Charles Laux, didn’t arrest the people responsible. Federal intervention might have saved Brandon’s life. But Brandon Teena was murdered by the same thugs after going to the ineffectual local police (Laux even referred to Brandon as “it”).

Of course, the religious fundies have been in a lather about it. Dr. James C. Dobson, famous hysteric and founder of Focus on the Family, said that the bill was meant “to muzzle people of faith who dare to express their moral and biblical concerns about homosexuality,” and turn people who read the Bible “in a certain way” into perpetrators of a “thought crime.” Actually, sir, this is a free country, and you can think however you want. You can even say whatever you want. You just can’t beat a gay man or woman to death because you think homosexuality is wrong. Seriously, is anyone arguing that the previous hate crime laws are bad because people should be allowed to be racists? I want to hear someone make the equally misguided argument that current hate crime laws are meant to muzzle people who are opposed to blacks and don’t want to accept them. And don’t tell me they’re not the same thing, because they are. They are exactly the same thing. Hate is hate. And hate is not moral.

Currently, there have been over 113,000 hate crimes in the last 25 years. 14 percent were based on sexual orientation. That’s nearly 16,000 men and women who have been attacked, beaten, raped, or killed simply for loving someone that some people don’t approve of. How can we claim not to be a sick society when people are arguing that we shouldn’t stop it from happening?

The Bible Summarized by a Smartass, Part Twenty-Nine: The Acts of the Apostles

Now that those pesky and repetitive Gospels are out of the way, we get to Acts, which is basically there to establish the spread of Christian influence and introduce Saul, who becomes Paul, and who starts spreading the mythology all over the ancient world.

Chapter One
Well, right off we get the warning that this is going to be long, pedantic, and boorish: it’s directed at Theophilus. Just like Luke was. Remember, the Gospel that was long, pedantic, and boorish? We start off with Jesus’s resurrection and ascension, and the Apostles begin meeting in a room to devote themselves to prayer (along with “certain women” including Mary the Mother and Jeezy’s brothers). The last time I had a meeting in a room with a bunch of guys and “certain women”…well, there wasn’t any prayer, but there was a lot of kneeling and calling out God’s name. Matthias is elected to take Judas’s place as the twelfth Apostle.

Chapter Two
On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gives the Apostles the power to speak and be heard in other languages. Basically, anyone who hears and Apostle speak will hear him (or her…ha ha ha ha ha!!!) in their own language. It’s magic. Or bad comic book writing. Doctor Who would at least have an explanation, but whatever. Omnipotence. Always the go-to of a writer who can’t imagine a creative solution. Anyway, Peter speaks before a crowd and baptizes 3000 Israelites. Now we get to the real point of Christianity—numbers before quality, to create an army of salvation zombies created by meaningless conversion who will then do whatever you say.

Chapter Three
Peter continues Jesus’s tradition of proving the value of faith by being a trained seal. Christians have never been afraid to resort to flash over substance when selling the Church, and Peter, like Jesus, is quick to pour on the magic tricks. He heals a beggar, then magnanimously “forgives” the Jews for murdering his Savior.

Chapter Four
Peter and John are arrested for preaching the resurrection of Christ, but 5000 more people convert. In another self-serving episode, Caiaphas and the Jewish Council realize that Peter and John are telling the truth about Jesus being the Messiah, but try to hide it out of embarrassment. Peter and John are released, then initiate the Catholic Church’s tradition of financing through land deals.

Chapter Five
Ananias, some guy who’s down with Jesus, tries to make a personal profit off one of the land deals, so God murders him. Then God murders the guy’s wife, Sapphira. I guess God is still going to rule through fear and arbitrarily murdering people. Caiaphas arrests the Apostles, apparently out of “jealousy,” but an angel breaks them out of prison and tells them to go teach in the Temple. When Caiaphas gets pissed off, Peter plays the “doing God’s will” card. Caiaphas agrees to let them keep preaching because, you know, if this wasn’t real, God wouldn’t allow it. 2000 years ago, and the Christ enthusiasts were already shucking the “lack of evidence is evidence” jive. Then Caiaphas has the Apostles flogged, but like true fundies they’re just thrilled to have been persecuted for their beliefs.

Chapter Six
Stephen and six other Hellenists go to the Apostles to complain about neglected, hungry widows, then convert to Christ and go out teaching. Stephen begins to do wonders and preach the word of Jesus. Apparently, he’s quite good at it.

Chapter Seven
Priest: “Stephen, is all you say true?”
Stephen: “Yep. Jews suck.” [Approximation of verses 2-53.]
Stephen is stoned to death. Saul is a witness to it, and he’s thrilled to see Steve murdered by a mob.

Chapter Eight
Persecution of Christians begins like someone hitting a light switch. Depending on who you talk to, it’s either because the Christians knew the truth (the Bible), or they were seditious arsonists and vandals (actual recorded history). Saul especially loves killing Christians. There’s a, um, charming story about Philip teaching a lowly, humble African about scripture and then converting him, which seems like a horrible justification of the so-called white man’s burden.

Chapter Nine
Jesus appears to Saul and chooses him “to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.” Saul is baptized and, with the fervor only attainable by someone who comes late to the party but really wants to prove he belongs, begins preaching the resurrection of Jesus. The disciples don’t trust him and some try to kill him, but the Church is spreading. Meanwhile, Peter continues to go around healing.

Chapter Ten
Peter tell you, the reader, that “God shows no partiality,” and with that sentence, the entire Old Testament—mostly a record of God choosing the Israelites over all other ancient people, and then mass killing those ancient people because they don’t worship him already—crumbles into total irrelevance. Except as back story. And yet, the Church keeps quoting from it.

Chapter Eleven
Peter explains to Jews that Gentiles can also be saved and that circumcision is unimportant. Huh, finally God must be bored with his bizarre foreskin fetish. Like an untended sore, the Church continues to spread.

Chapter Twelve
King Herod executes James and imprisons Peter. Peter is freed by an angel, but then drops out of the story completely.

Chapters Thirteen through Twenty-Seven
Prophets and teachers are everywhere. Saul changes his name to Paul, and travels around preaching all over the Middle East. Sometimes he’s with Barnabas, sometimes Timothy, sometimes Silas. Sometimes he’s imprisoned and escapes. It’s pretty episodic, a travelogue about walking, like The Lord of the Rings is occasionally. All the rest of the book is Paul and his adventures in walking, ending with him teaching in Rome. The actual 12 Apostles just aren’t mentioned at all in the last fifteen chapters of Acts of the Apostles…

And now, it's all Paul. Join me next week as I begin summarizing the first of fourteen books that are just letters written by Paul to other people about how damned awesome it is to love Jesus.

The Golden Compass

I basically stole this from JA, but look how freaking cool this thing is!That's it, I have to see this movie. In fact, I think I have to read the books finally.

All My Depths Contained in a Widget

Friday, May 04, 2007

Throwdown 5/4

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

1. Jennifer Hudson may have lost the role I really, really wanted her to get in Disney’s The Frog Princess, but she is going to play Aretha Franklin in a biopic. And that’s according to Lady Soul herself! So that’s a nice compensation!

2. I can’t believe that Victoria’s Secret dumped Gisele Bundchen. Even if her demands were too high, what a stupid thing to do, just dropping her like that. I mean…Jesus, look at her. I don’t care if she was demanding to travel only by pink elephant and walk on the backs of men so her feet never touch the ground—she’s fucking Gisele!

3. Gordon Scott, another Tarzan actor, died this week. That makes me sad. I love my Tarzan movies. Nathaniel has a rundown on the Tarzan actors.

4. So, Robot Chicken is going to do a half-hour Star Wars tribute, and suddenly Seth McFarlane decides he has to do an hour long tribute on Family Guy. Whatever. The story I read said that they would be spoofing the trilogy “as only McFarlane and his writers can.” Which I assume means a lot of sitting around as bits play out exactly as they did in the movies, with no new jokes. I think that’s pretty much the only rule in the Family Guy writer’s bible.

5. Well, this is yet another example of CG animation being used stupidly. They took the audio from that classic Tootsie Pop commercial and put new animation in. And it’s pretty typical for the current state of computer animation: there’s no charm, the character designs are ugly, the action is slow and bland, and the backgrounds are unnecessarily detailed to the point where they overwhelm the main action. Congratulations for taking another piece of my soul.

6. Reason #457,051 I wish I were rich: John Schneider was selling the General Lee. And KITT was for sale, too. Man, throw in a Batmobile from the TV series, and I’ve got the beginnings of a collection. Now if only I could even afford toy versions of each one…

7. Well, there’s your reason to go and see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in IMAX 3D right there: apparently Hermione’s breasts are clearer and brighter and much more accentuated.

8. The Copyright Royalty Board has succeeded in raising fees for internet radio stations between 300 and 1200 percent. Well, kiss internet radio goodbye. Is this really the American way? When someone provides a decent service, use dubious legal means to paper them out of it? If there was ever a real excuse to just start stealing all music, this is it. From now on, just steal all of the music you can. If they’re going to force you to access it on their terms, just because they’re pissed that we’ve found better ways, just take it from them.

9. Apparently some gay guy took a picture of Daniel Craig’s ass, and Craig just went off, screaming and swearing at the guy. Wow, how uncool is that? I’d hate to think it was just because a man was doing it; can these actors just, you know, get over themselves and realize that, as public entertainment figures, they don’t really have private lives when they’re in public and out on the street? Seriously, it’s been a hundred years of film now, you know how the celebrity deal works. If you don’t want it, don’t seek it.

10. Huh. Tobey Maguire is also a dick. Seriously, hasn’t the internet shown us that we should stop treating these assholes like they’re some kind of royalty?

11. On Tuesday, a New Jersey Comcast market accidentally aired some porn instead of Handy Manny, a morning show on Disney Channel. Funny, because when I first heard of Handy Manny, I assumed it was porn, anyway. Come on, it's called Handy Manny. Enjoy your early education, kids!

12. Apparently, he told his daughters they should record him if he ever falls off the wagon, so that he can see how far gone he is. I wonder if he regrets that decision since it leaked to Entertainment Tonight. Why do I still know who this guy is?

13. See, this is why I just can’t bring myself to hate Britney. She tries so hard. She really does. I mean, she doesn’t try anything that’s actually constructive, but she doesn’t know any better. It’s like the sympathy you feel watching a child try to push open a door you have to pull.

14. So, people are making a big deal out of the fact that, while we were chilling at Coachella, ScarJo was invited up on stage to sing backing vocals on “Just Like Honey” with the Jesus and Mary Chain (I don’t know why they were there, I guess this was Coachella 1990). Anyway, a lot of people are hating on Scar and nailing her for singing “badly,” as though celebrities are supposed to be perfect at every single moment of every single day. But, you know, haters will be haters, because it’s easy to criticize every aspect of a person’s life from the comfort of a chair instead of actually creating something. Either way, I didn’t think my baby was so bad, since she was actually attempting to sing counterpoint, which is what the backing vocals sound like on the actual record, but whatever; people voted for Sanjaya, so it’s not like this is the first time America’s gotten it wrong. At least she was out in the world having fun. And hey, how exciting is it that Egotastic actually for once reported on a story that didn’t involve breasts and how they’re round?

15. For my final item, I need a little reader feedback. I’ve been doing the Throwdown now for just a teeny bit over two years. In that time, it’s alternately amused people and pissed them off. And with some exceptions, I’ve been doing it consistently. But lately I’ve not been looking forward to doing this at all. It was always meant to be about entertainment news and celebrities, but lately 99% of that news goes like this: someone sexy did something, someone sexy is standing there, someone sexy is in a bikini, breasts are awesome, here’s Lindsay Lohan again. You know, the Egotastic special. It seems like Lindsay Lohan has just come along and singlehandedly ruined the pleasure of talking about what an asshole Tom Cruise is, or just chuckling at Matthew McConaughey’s lack of shirt. Nowadays, celebrity news is just terribly, horrendously irritating. So I either need to branch out and widen my scope, or I need to stop doing the Throwdown entirely. So my question to the readers who are still with me is this: do you like the Throwdown and want to keep it? Because I’m willing to keep doing it. But if no one’s really going to miss it, I’m perfectly happy not doing it anymore and saving myself the time. Especially since I’ll probably just throw up a post if something really feels like it needs to be commented on. So tell me what your opinion is.

You Ain't My Link, Palooka

My sympathies go out to my friends and fellow bloggers in Texas, who are getting buried under a series of floods, tornadoes, and violent storms. I think that same storm system is heading in my direction...

Here are the week's links.
The Film Experience is worried about the latest Blade Runner director's cut.
Johnny Yen had a good idea for the Chicago Cubs. Yes, they're still my team.
J.D. has a hilarious Saturday Night Live cartoon.
The Absorbascon kicks off his month of groovy comics chicks with Melba Manton!
Apropos of Something gets some comments on Avril Lavigne.
Ken Levine visits my city and enjoys it.
HI-WATT-cha Doing? gets dirty and giggly, but it's really Bon Scott's fault.
Man vs. Clown! has been in top form this week, with not one, but two creepy posts that prove, yes, comedy is tragedy plus time. He also has something that Lord of the Rings fans should enjoy.
Zaius Nation witnesses Betty Cooper's transformation into goth. What will Chic think?
Postmodern Barney learns the lessons of the internet.
Living Between Wednesdays takes on her first Marvel super hunk: Captain America.
Thoughts of the Average American (As Imagined by Network Executives) (at Cracked)
If Someone Wanted to Publish My Blog Entries for Money, I Wouldn’t Say No (at The Onion)
The New York Sun on the awfulness of Family Guy and The Simpsons.
Page Sixty has unanswered questions about the Rocky movies.
Jim Hill details how painfully hard its been for Disney to get their shit together and do something with the Muppets. But, Disney does have nine minutes from Ratatouille, because Pixar is great.
Star has an excellent Quicktime trailer for Robot Chicken: Star Wars.
Top 20 Simon Cowell Insults (Times Online)
Similar Movie Showdown (Cracked)
The Onion A.V. Club has a summer movie preview.

ModFab continues chronicling American Idolatry and says a well-deserved au revoir. Meanwhile, Ken Levine perfectly chronicles the experience of watching the circle jerk that is the results show. Which is why I don't watch it.

After he called me awesome on his blog, I really need to return the favor and tell you that you really have to sign up to be a part of J.D.'s Ghiblog-a-thon, a celebration of Studio Ghibli and the greatest animated films of all time (which is to say, with one possible exception, every film they've made--and that one is still better than a lot of animated movies). Animation is one of the big concerns here at Electronic Cerebrectomy, so of course I'm participating. Why aren't you?

Some great reactions to the fourth annivesary of Mission Accomplished from Byzantium’s Shores, The Rude Pundit, Zaius Nation, and a lesson from the past from Johnny Yen. Rounding out the political portion, Rocks That Move has a wise post on illegal immigration, The Rude Pundit comments on "The Commander Guy," and Dr. Zaius never gets tired of celebrating Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who as I've said before should be president.

Yay, I'm transmundane!

Thursday, May 03, 2007


"Moon and back. We did confirm a round trip from the very beginning. And 'moonandback' is one word. No hyphens. No commas." -- correcting common misconception on NASA's mission to put a man on the moon

Walter M. Schirra Jr. died today at the age of 84 from a fatal heart attack at Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla, California. He was one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts and the only man to fly on NASA's Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. He was the fifth American in outer space. On 3 October, 1962, Schirra boarded the Sigma 7 Mercury spacecraft and orbited the planet six times, saying from space: "I'm having a ball up here drifting." He piloted the capsule into splashdown so perfectly that NASA Adiministrator James E. Webb told him "No one has flown better than you." He then commanded the Gemini 6 in 1965, completing the first rendezvous of two spacecraft in orbit (with the Gemini 7). And he commanded the Apollo 7 mission with a bad cold in 1968, the first crew in space after the Apollo 1 disaster which killed three of his fellow astronauts. Afterwards he left NASA and retired from the Navy, having logged 295 hours, 154 minutes in space.

There were seven brave men who first stood in line to lead this country into outer space. We call them the Mercury Seven. And they are among this country's greatest heroes. Captain Schirra follows Gus Grissom, Deke Slayton, Alan Shepard, and Gordon Cooper to the undiscovered country. Scott Carpenter and John Glenn continue to remind us of what we can accomplish. And what, one day, we may accomplish again.

Meet the Veronicas

Well, it's probably no surprise to regular readers that I would enjoy rock chicks who are also identical twins, right? I mean, that's, like, two of my fantasies right there.

In fact, I'd like to meet them. But at my age, that might come across as creepy. But if you want to meet them, there is a contest going on right now and that's a part of the prize. Here's the details:

"We're Not Gonna Take It" Video Contest

Fans of The Veronicas have a chance to make their solo debut by creating their own a capella version of "We're Not Gonna Take It"

How it works:
1. Record your cover of "We're Not Gonna Take It"
2. Complete the registration form and upload your video
3. Check out all eligible entries in our Video Gallery
4. The Veronicas will pick the contest winner!

The Prize : One lucky winner gets their song posted on the Veronicas MySpace page, plus a trip to LA for the winner and a friend to see the Veronicas in concert (including a private meet and greet).

The deadline is 2 June. The contest website is here and you can download the Veronicas' cover of "We're Not Gonna Take It" for free here.

So, I've also got a copy of the CD with bonus DVD of the Veronicas' album, The Secret Life of the Veronicas, to give away. So this is how I'm going to work it. Just tell me what my favorite movie is. I've placed four taglines for my favorite movie below. The first person to email me with the correct answer and their address that wants it, gets it. Here they are:

Remarkable. Unbelievable. Impossible. And true.

Adventure, Comedy, Romance. He was full of it.

A true story. We've got the film to prove it.

A new movie full of NOISE... FLYING OBJECTS... SEAFOOD... CELEBRITIES... COMPASSION... TRAVEL... HONOR... GRAVITY... BULL... he was full of it.

Hey, it was all I could think of.

UPDATE 11:00 AM: Wow, somebody already won. I'm amazed there were that many people who knew it, just because I remember a time not too long ago when it seemed like no one knew what I was talking about when I referenced The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Thanks to everyone who sent me an email!

Josh Holloway and Island Parasites

I have to give it up for this guy.
When Lost first started, 27 years ago or however long it's felt, I really did not like Sawyer. And I didn't like Josh Holloway, either. I thought Sawyer was the most cliched type of character, and I thought Holloway played him in a very one-dimensional, one-note sort of way. But as the show has progressed, I've been surprised and thrilled to see Sawyer change, and Josh Holloway really take the character from something very simple to something very layered and fascinating to watch. As things stand now, I haven't lost my faith in Locke, but Sawyer is definitely my favorite character on the show, and I'd for sure go as far as to say that Josh Holloway is possibly the best actor on the show. Of all the characters, he's the one whose conflict has been the most interesting to watch. His changes have been the most recognizable, and it's an ongoing process. I'm glad so much of the show has been about him. I didn't think it was possible, but I actually hate Kate even more since she started sleeping with him, because we all know just how badly she's going to hurt him. In a show where the bad twists, lame character arcs, unjustified cruelty, and near-scientology levels of bullshit are starting to outweigh the true triumphs of storytelling, Sawyer is one of the best things this show ever had going for it.

I was thinking this morning about Lost in terms of a comic book. On last night's episode (an episode I actually really liked, as it was all about my two favorite characters, Sawyer and Locke), Sawyer went walking through the jungle with bare feet. And all I could think when I saw his bare feet was, dude, that's a good way to get hookworm or some kind of parasite. And you know, back in the eighties when comics were interesting, I could see Eclipse Comics doing Lost. And if some writer--Chuck Dixon or Bruce Jones, say--wanted to take side trips in a much more interesting way than the series is actually doing now, they would've devoted an entire issue to the story of the hookworm that gets inside of Sawyer. Except, it wouldn't be an average hookworm, it would be some kind of malicious, superintelligent parasite, like Mister Mind in the old Captain Marvel comics. And then we'd get the worm's flashback, seeing its childhood and its decision to become evil and take over someone's will. And then it would get inside of Sawyer and try to carry out his evil plan. And in the end, it would be the worm that actually killed Locke's dad, not Sawyer--he was just being fed all of this aggression by the worm.

But then the aggression would overwhelm the worm and kill it, and when Sawyer puked, the worm would come out. And then, in the last couple of pages, we'd see that the worms only live for a single day. And it would be all poetic and kind of strange, but kind of likeable, like that issue of Airboy that was all from the plane's point of view.

That would be something different, at any rate. But Lost doesn't want to admit it's a comic book, even though it moves as slowly and with as little character development and as much overwritten emotions as, say, Chris Claremont's run on anything.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Iran: Living in the Moment

If you can get a hold of it, I urge you to buy the most recent issue of Playboy, the one with Anna Nicole Smith on the cover. Inside, there's a fascinating article by Pari Esfandiari & Richard Buskin called "Sex in Iran." The article has some interesting things to say about young people in Iran.

For some time, I've been advocating a diplomatic approach to Iran. The young people there are the key. Since the 1979 revolution, Iran--once the most Westernized society in the Middle East--has become a theocracy that rejected Western values in favor of strict Islamic law. But because of mass fatalities in the Iran-Iraq War and a population boom, the median age of the country is 25. There are 70 million people in Iran; 70% of them are under the age of 30. And they are rejecting traditional Islamism.

The sharia is no longer being strictly adhered to by the young. Prostitution--especially teen prostitution--is on the rise. The divorce rate is increasing. Men are marrying later in life. There is an underground system of forbidden videos--not just sex videos, but videos of people at family gatherings and women with unveiled faces. Because of the strict government regulations, unmarried youths cannot meet in public. Now many of them meet at sex parties; sex is becoming much more common among unmarried young people, and it is often anonymous or part of a party atmosphere. In Tehran, virginity in a bride is no longer a big deal. Women have been tightening their hijabs and wearing sexy lingerie underneath them. They wear heavy makeup. Cosmetic surgery is in fashion. The kids in Iran want to party, dance, drink, meet people, make friends, listen to Western music, and just enjoy their lives. They're not very interested in the afterlife and don't trust their government anymore.

This is the reality of Iran.

The images that are being projected to us--women in hijabs, men praying--are the images that Iran wants us to see. They are the facade. The Iranian Parliament knows it cannot control the private lives of Iranians, and so there is a sort of compromise where public appearance is much more important. And everyone knows it's a lie.

This is why it's so crucial that we listen to the Iranian people and ask them what they want. The internet has made the world smaller; stop relying on official government stories and just start talking to people. I still believe that all people basically want the same thing--to provide for their families and to enjoy life. How many people in Iran want to fight with the US? And how many people here want to make the Iranian people pay for the decisions of their government? Why does the world keep getting held back by the few in the government who want to further their own agenda?

It is so critically important that we don't allow George W. Bush to turn this nuclear issue into a pretext for war. Iran feels betrayed enough right now. President Khatami wanted to talk to us. And President Bush answered him in 2002 by calling Iran part of his "axis of evil." And that was the single best endorsement for Ahmadinejad, a conservative anti-American who was elected in a landslide victory. And Iran seems as tired of Ahmadinejad as we are of Bush. In Iran, young people, the majority of the country, see the West on TV and on the internet and want what we have. They are tired of unemployment and social restrictions. They feel trapped, and as a result, their government is making steps towards tolerance. Towards a possible democracy.

But if Bush makes an issue of war with Iran, then Ahmadinejad will have a good excuse to do away with civil rights; a hardline from Washington will only empower Iran's theocracy. The population is pro-Western. We should be talking to them.

In the article, the moment that really struck me was when college students were talking about the arrests they often face for socializing the way Westerners do. One girl called Leila said: "The government is an irrelevant nuisance. My father has to pay 100,000 toman [$100] every time I'm arrested."

Her friend Sahar responds: "So what? Our parents wanted the revolution. Let them pay!"

I've never seen a generation gap so perfectly displayed. Let's hope it only gets wider. And let's start making some friends.

Just a Spoonful of Death

A friend of mine shot me this story about something that happened to him at work. I thought it was hilarious and had to share it. He works with someone who takes Echinacea in liquid form.

"[She] had this medicine bottle of it in an alcohol mixture. It's only 30% alcohol, but still. She winced taking a spoonful as though she was knocking back a rancid shot of tequila. Truck stop tequila. Filtered through a wino's kidneys tequila. I could go on.

I, naturally thinking her to be weenie, took a whiff of the stuff. It smelled not all that unpleasant. A bit pungent, but not bad. So I grabbed a spoon.

"You'll hate it," [she] warned me, and not in a teasing fun way. A "I mean it, seriously," way.

I took the spoonful.The initial taste wasn't bad. Like medicine. And there was a curious alcoholic burn in my mouth. And I thought, "Eh, it's not that bad." But my brain only got as far as the "n" in not when the aftertaste hit.

I described it as such: Imagine you have a pet hamster. That hamster dies. And it rots in the corner for three weeks. And you put it in your mouth.

That would wash the taste of this crap away.

I was retching and spitting for a full minute, when one of our editors said, "I've gotta try this!" It was like somebody replaced our tongues with sandpaper made from pure bacteria. [He] and I went out back to spit for ten minutes and come up with descriptions about how horrid this shit tasted. I thought it tasted like what cancer would taste like. [He] envisioned tiny animals pooping down his throat as he swallowed. I was reminded of the single Funyun I ate in 1990, freshman year, and how since that very day, that disgusting taste has lived in the back of my mouth like some Nazgul of flavor. I can only regret that now I have found a taste that is even more atrocious.

You know what it took to wash the taste of this supposed health supplement from our mouths? Insert irony here: Menthol cigarettes. After we each had a cigarette, we felt better.

But if anyone, ever, offers you Echinacea in liquid form, insist, instead, upon the hypodermic needle that has just been plucked from the vein of a junkie of indeterminate origin.

So I hope you got a kick out of how I spend my time at work. After fair and considerate warning, I did the equivalent of a drunken frat boy eating road kill on a dare. So anyway, feel better!

You know what? I think I do.

Film Week

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

THE QUEEN (2006)
Helen Mirren certainly deserved her Oscar. One of the things I’ve found most interesting about this movie is the way people read it. For example, my mom and my grandmother, both of whom loved Diana, both really identified with Queen Elizabeth and really felt sorry for her; I think that, as women, they were both sympathetic to the Queen and her constant battle to hold her position and keep her family together. In their eyes, Diana became an ungrateful woman who threw everything the Queen stood for back in her face. I see things somewhat differently; I appreciate the history of the monarchy, but I don’t think the British people should still be supporting what have become mere figureheads with so much tax money. For me, it was an interesting look into the near-total irrelevance of the monarchy, and their lack of connection with the British people they pretend to rule. I identified more with the government and the Prime Minister, whom I think would prefer not to deal with the royals at all. How all of them respond to a national tragedy, and how it changes each of their perspectives on their positions, is fascinating. The genius of this film is that it makes sense wherever your sympathies lie, and it’s fair to each. The performances are uniformly excellent (it’s a shame that Helen Mirren overshadowed excellent work by Michael Sheen as Tony Blair). It’s also sad that Blair is played so likeably (when he calls Diana the people’s princess, you can really feel him becoming the people’s PM), and yet we know that, as the Queen predicts, the public turned on him. Gorgeous, gorgeous movie. **** stars.

I liked this movie probably better than it deserved. Yes, it’s a Rear Window variation about a high school kid under house arrest, and as these things do, it devolves into an action movie in the third act. But it’s fun and well-made, and Shia LeBeouf is just one hell of a good actor. He’s still not at the stage where I’ll see anything he does, but that has more to do with his continuing association with Spielberg (Transformers and Indiana Jones 4 are both movies I’m skipping) than with his talent. And he’s very talented. Not a great movie, but fun to watch. ***1/2 stars.

Ouch. Just, ouch, man. Even for an American horror film and a remake, this movie is a total piece of shit. One of the scariest things about the original, classic Black Christmas was that nothing was ever explained. They used to do that in the seventies; they used to create horror films that freaked out and scared the audience. Nowadays, with people being as pedantic and overly-literal as they are, this film apparently needs to have some sort of lame, predictable, unsatisfying explanation. It’s total crap. And it’s kind of disappointing, not just because I like Trachty, Lacey Chabert, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who are all wasted (and who all seem to be under the impression that they’re playing the tuff Margot Kidder character from the original, leading to a boring sameness), but because this is made by the guy who made two of my favorite modern horror movies: Final Destination and the remake of Willard. This is just a completely forgettable piece of garbage. No stars.

MAY (2002)
Fascinating character study about a socially awkward girl who has trouble making friends and is taken advantage of a few times too many. Angela Bettis stars as May Dove Canady, a veterinarian’s assistant who falls in love with a man who doesn’t understand her, then finds solace in the arms of a beautiful but selfish co-worker (my darling Anna Faris), and finally decides to follow her mother’s advice: if you can’t be a friend, make a friend. It’s creepy and atmospheric horror, with a bit of a twist on the Frankenstein mythos, but at heart it’s just a compelling study of a character very well played by an actress who deserves more attention. **** stars.

THE WOODS (2005)
Lucky McKee directed May and Sick Girl, one of my favorite episodes of Showtime’s Masters of Horror. He also directed this film, which then inexplicably sat on the shelf for nearly three years. Too bad, because compared to the recent glut of torture porn and over-literal remakes, this is a gem. McKee is obviously influenced by Dario Argento (this film in particular recalls Suspiria), but is much more interested in character than in situations and trendy, superficial shocks. The pace of The Woods builds and builds deliberately, and if it doesn’t quite deliver in its final moments, it’s still been a good ride. The period production, the photography, the acting, Bruce Campbell…it’s not a great film, but it’s worth seeing. I can’t wait to see Lucky McKee’s next. ***1/2 stars.

THE PATSY (1928)
Boy, it was a revelation when Marion Davies started acting in comedies instead of fatuous costume dramas. When you watch her in her late twenties films, you can practically see her invent the screwball comedy acting style that Katharine Hepburn, Myrna Loy, and others had success with. And complementing her here is Marie Dressler, one of my favorite actors, whose career at this time was going so badly that apparently she was going to kill herself the very day she was given the role. King Vidor directs. Great stuff. ***1/2 stars.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Health Report: Week 20

Well, what can I say? Except that after 20 weeks my weight loss program has been an almost total failure.

I've gained back almost all of the weight I lost.

I am now sick all of the time, like I was.

I'm also tired all of the time, like before.

I'm still unemployed, and thoroughly demoralized by it.

And I know it's all my fault. All of it. I'm so unpleasant to be around that even some of the online friends I'd made have deserted me. Some of them I haven't spoken to or heard from in weeks, which makes me wonder what the point of exchanging emails even was. But whatever, I understand.

It's all my fault. I'm too weak and just can't see the benefits of it anymore. I always thought I'd die at the age of 42. Maybe we can get there faster. Who cares, anyway? My life is never going to change, no matter how much I try and no matter how much I want it to. No one wants to hire me. No one wants to live with my incessant whining.

Where can a broke man just disappear to for a while? I mean, other than off the face of the planet?

Maybe I need to shut the fuck up and stop feeling sorry for myself because I broke my couch.

I think I wasted this week's Health Report on self-pity. But there's nothing else to report.

Next week WILL be better.

Fuck You

I guess I shouldn't expect much from a man whose name is a euphemism for pussy, itself a euphemism for coward, but fuck you for the veto. Fuck. You. Fuck you for putting our troops into the middle of a civil war. Fuck you for sending our troops to Iraq based on a lie. Fuck you for knowing you were lying, and then demanding our loyalty and acceptance of every decision you make based on that lie. Fuck you for everything you've done to the Iraqi people and America. Fuck you for ruining our country, for putting us in greater danger, and for not caring enough about stopping terrorism to prevent 9/11. Clinton would have; he protected us from terrorists. But just don't care about anyone but yourself. You're nothing but a punk. If you wanted an evil man slain to make the world a safer place, you should've just hanged yourself. The world doesn't need you, and it will be a better place without you. Fuck you.

What We Learned Four Years Ago Today

Just because you force a returning aircraft carrier to float around in circles all day so that camera crews can catch you coming out of the sun, and position all the cameras so that the harbor 30 miles away won't be visible, then dress up like a pilot and hop out of a plane and yell "Mission accomplished!" doesn't actually make it true. But hey, at least you can blame the "Mission Accomplished" banner on the crew of the ship when people start calling you a theatrical asshole. And what a great way to send a message of freedom: by dressing up in a military uniform and giving a speech. Ah, just like Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, and Moammar Gadhafi. So I guess that's a respected tradition.

To think, it was a mere four years ago when Bush said "The War on Terror continues, yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide." And when he said: "In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

And there's been peace ever since. Bush said it just a month later, on 5 June 2003 when he said to troops at Camp As Sayliyah: "America sent you on a mission to remove a grave threat and to liberate an oppressed people, and that mission has been accomplished."

20% of Iraqis live under the poverty line now. Nearly a million Iraqi civilians have been killed. More than four million have fled the country. There are over two million women who are the head of their families because their husbands have been killed. The morgue in Baghdad takes in over 60 bodies a day. Paul Bremer's Governing Council basically caused the sectarian violence by dismantling the Iraq military and security forces; this turned Iraq into a welcome mat for terrorists and other organizations who flooded into the place and destroyed the infrastructure. According to the International Transparency Organization, Iraq is somewhere between 70 and 100% corrupt; they've "lost" over $10 billion. There's our democratic government.

Hooray, peace at last.

To be fair, a lot of the blame also lies with the United Nations. When Bush admitted that there were no WMDs, they didn't ask him to withdraw and apologize. They didn't censure him over Abu Ghraib. Or other violations of the Geneva Convention or all international laws.

But that's okay, right? I mean, look at the respect with which we're treating the customs of the people we're supposed to be protecting.Oh... well, it's not like America is supporting the death squads, right? Oh, wait.

We are terrorists now. We are ruling Iraq through terror and total incompetence. And still, no one does anything to stop it from happening.

"If everyone howled at every injustice, every act of barbarism, every act of unkindness, then we would be taking the first step towards a real humanity." -- Nelson DeMille

"Those who watch injustice silently are evil." -- Muhammad

"Silence is a betrayer." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

In Search of Fergie's Pussy

Looking at my site meter, I see that at least four times a day I get someone landing at my blog because the search term "Fergie's Pussy" leads them to this post which, as you can see, does not contain Fergie's actual pussy. And if I did have a picture of it, I'd be far too busy spot cleaning my eyeballs with kerosene in order to stave off the effects of the several sexual diseases that Fergie transmits visually--looking at her for too long can actually give you genital warts and herpes. So, I apologize to you, undiscerning traveler--I do not have a picture of Fergie's pussy.

But I do have a concept drawing of one of the many worms that lives in her pussy. So, that's close, right?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Song of the Week: "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times"

I love this guy. 60otaku puts videos up on YouTube of Kagoshima, Japan, and then puts music on the videos. I've used one of his videos before as Song of the Week, "Both Sides Now" by Judy Collins. He picks just the right music, and this song is easily in my personal top five. Brian Wilson is talking about himself, but I just relate to it exactly. This lovely magic comes from Pet Sounds, and it's just perfect.

Some Brief Piratical Thoughts

I've just read that Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the third and (mercifully) final chapter of an increasingly-unneccesary franchise, is going to come in at a running time of 170 minutes. That's 2 hours, 50 minutes. Now, I adamantly believe in Roger Ebert's rule that no good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough. But since the first two films were pretty interminable and felt like they were about a week long apiece, I'm just not looking forward to a third movie at all. It's going to have to be completely awesome in a way that no movie ever has been if they're going to wash the taste of the first two movies out of my mouth and get me to really enjoy another one. Because the last one was one of a very, very few movies that I actively tried to fall asleep during (I think the last one before that was Lara Croft: Tomb Raider). And I don't think the director of Mouse Hunt has that kind of awesome in him.

So this makes the entire Pirates experience a total of 363 minutes of your life. Much like The Matrix trilogy, I think I could stand it better edited down to a single, 150 minute experience.

What I'm going to enjoy the hell out of is when this movie makes its $200 million, and then someone points out the running time. Like, according to Hollywood's idiot, reactionary economic theories, the third Pirates should be a failure, right? Because the reason that Grindhouse failed is the running time, right? And at 191 minutes of Grindhouse versus 170 minutes of Orlando fucking Bloom poncing about... The funny thing about American movies--they're usually too long, but people supposedly won't go see long movies. Because Titanic and The Lord of the Rings were such failures...

All I know is, if At World's End is even half as good as Dead Man's Chest, I'm going to chew my legs off to escape the theater. Do they really think they've got this great, epic story to tell? Because they have yet to actually create any characters, and personally, I think the massive success of these movies says a lot about what the American audience wants, and I just don't get it anymore.

I think I'll stay at home and watch The Crimson Pirate. Or read Treasure Island, maybe.