Saturday, November 10, 2007

Special Guest Spam Email

In my inbox this morning:

Dear Beneficiary,

I wish to notify you that you are being listed as a beneficiary to the total sum of 4,600,000.00GBP (Four million Six hundred thousand British pounds) in the estate of a deceased, you can therefore be presented as the beneficiary to the inheritance since there is no written will.

If you consent to assisting in actualizing this claim, I am happy to set-up all modalities, and provide you further details on your response and acceptance.

In your acceptance of this deal, kindly forward your Full names, Country of Nationality, current telephone and fax numbers and a forwarding address to enable the filling and updating of the necessary documents in the high court probate division, for the release of this sum of money.

Regards,

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins? Really, Stephen Collins?

Man, things have been rough since they cancelled Seventh Heaven.

Brenda Venus

Author, actress, model, and muse Brenda Venus turns 60 today. I'd just like to thank her for all she's unknowingly done for me over the years.

Campari Calendar 2008 featuring Eva Mendes

Maybe I should start drinking Campari. They really get that the quickest way to my heart is sexy Latinas. Their 2007 calendar had Salma Hayek, and this year they've put on Eva Mendes. Oh, man, I hope it's Penelope Cruz next year. Or America Ferrera. Or Ninel Conde. Or... it's a long list, alright?













Friday, November 09, 2007

Opening Today

Check it out.

Remember That Bit About Supporting the Troops?

The New York Times reported yesterday that there are now over 400 returned veterans of our Iraq and Afghanistan wars that are homeless. And they're anticipating many more.

Read that sentence again and let it sink in.

Over 400 people so far have returned from the Middle East, many of them women (and many of those women sexually assaulted by their fellow "heroes"), and it's only taken months for them to end up on the streets. It took the Vietnam vets longer to wind up homeless and disassociated from a society they felt viewed them as agents of evil. Supposedly America supports its troops in Bush's oil grab.

Apparently, there is a high rate of shell shock among these vets, and a high case of brain trauma. I wonder how much of that comes from the extend tours of duty? A lot of them are finding solace in drugs; many of them can't find jobs or homes. According to that article, the National Alliance to End Homelessness says 72,000 out of a million vets are paying more than half their incomes in rent. And some of the homeless vets actually have jobs but can't afford to live anywhere. And, of course, Bush is always ready to cut their benefits, because those men and women he's so proud of for defending his contractors should be paid almost nothing for the privilege to die defending American imperialism.

And those over 400 homeless vets are only the ones we know of. The ones who've contacted aide centers.

But hey, at least Americans are still putting flag stickers on their cars. They're buying "Support the Troops" bumper stickers. And that's about all they're doing. The quarter of America--the rich quarter--that still approves of the war isn't lifting a finger to help the people they're sending into danger. They're simply discarding them.

How many more ways can this country embarrass itself with its total lack of compassion?

Eisner: Still Deaf, Dumb, and Blind

"I've seen stupid strikes, I've seen less stupid strikes ... This is a stupid strike. It's a waste of their time. [The studios] have nothing to give. They don't know what to give." -- Michael Eisner, former CEO and mis-manager of the Walt Disney Company, on the Writer's Guild strike.

It's good to know that retirement hasn't dulled Eisner's terrible sense of business. But he's sticking up for the little guys getting battered by those selfish writers--little guys like General Electric, Time Warner, News Corp., Sony, Viacom, and, uh, Disney. Goodness know they couldn't be pressed to cough up a little extra money for writers. They need, just need, to pay guys like Jim Carrey $25 million for doing all of the work.

I am so looking forward to watching television go down in flames because of this strike. And I really hope the WGA pushes it for the year they're talking about if the studios don't give in. Just wait until they're desperate to hire writers for the Oscars this year, they'll cave.

Oh, man, I really hope the networks are doing what they usually do and blindly assuming that people will stick around to watch reruns instead of new episodes. This is gonna be hilarious!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Quick, Obvious, Sarcastic Aside

I read that the California wildfires were bigger and more out-of-control than usual, possibly because of the effects of climate change. Isn't it too bad that, for a crisis this big, the government doesn't have some sort of nationwide system of soldiers, emergency workers, and technicians to help save peoples' lives? I mean, if we had some sort of national guard or something, we sure would see a lot less destruction. Let's hope there's not some sort of crippling hurricane or awful bridge collapse before we get that institution going!

14 Characteristics of Fascism

According to political scientist Laurence Britt in the Spring 2003 issue of Free Inquiry after studying the fascist regimes of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Suharto, and Pinochet. But I added the pictures for emphasis.

Do they sound terrifyingly familiar to you?

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism -- Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights -- Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to "look the other way" or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause -- The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military -- Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism -- The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

6. Controlled Mass Media -- Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or through sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in wartime, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security -- Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined -- Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected -- The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed -- Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts -- Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment -- Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses, and even forego civil liberties, in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption -- Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions, and who use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections -- Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against (or even the assassination of) opposition candidates, the use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and the manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Americans really need to ask themselves some questions about how comfortable they are with things being done in their name.

Institutionalized Racism

Has anyone been keeping up on the story in Irving, Texas?

In Irving, a north Texas town of about 206,000, has been using racial profiling to deport illegal immigrants (about 1% of the populace). It's called the Criminal Alien Program, and Irving uses it to refer anyone arrested in town to federal authorities and check their immigration status. Referrals for deportation are up by about 40 times -- somewhere around 1600 of them. And most of them are not for people who committed serious crimes, but misdemeanors and traffic warrants. Latinos--even those born in America or naturalized citizens--are now afraid to drive because looking Mexican is now a crime.

Irving Mayor Herbert Gears says "people aren't being pulled over because of the color of their skin," but I know that's not true because people I know who've driven through Irving tell me otherwise. I've also heard stories about cops simply walking up to Latinos on the streets or in their own yards demanding documentation. And there are children born in this country who are getting left behind because of it.

As far as I can tell, Mexicans are simply targets in the city of Irving. It's not a law enforcement program, it's a persecution. It's a soft ethnic cleansing.

But at least it's going to destroy Irving's economy. Small comfort, but there it is.

Being an undocumented illegal is not a felony, by the way; it's a misdemeanor. Unless you've been deported once before, it's a misdemeanor. But because the government is deflecting us from paying attention to what's really wrong, the rhetoric is running overtime to convince us that Mexican immigrants (and again, this is aimed at the Latino community and not at anyone else--anyone who thinks this has nothing to do with racism is at best naive) are the real problem with the country.

This kind of discrimination has no place in America. People now have to be asked to show their papers at a moment's notice?

I have certain feelings over the immigration debate. On the one hand, I don't think someone who isn't a citizen of this country can claim the rights of citizenry just by benefit of showing up. On the other hand, I don't understand the rampant racism in this country. It's like everyone decided that, since their White Guilt won't let them be openly racist to blacks anymore, it's perfectly okay to start in with widespread anti-Latino sentiments and persecution. When do the pogroms and the liquidations begin?

And all of this because some people--people I know and respect and, in some cases, am related to--think the split-second "inconvenience" of having to press a number to hear a recording in English instead of Spanish is somehow un-American.

What really pisses me off about this whole debate is that illegal aliens have nothing to do with what's wrong with our country. A high proliferation of Hispanics isn't even close to what's wrong in America. Does no one understand that the reason there are so many illegal workers in this country is because our mighty corporations would rather pay them slave wages than pay an American worker a living wage? How do Americans dare to blame Latinos for a system that is created by corporatism and our capitalist system, rather than holding corporations responsible? And what about our government, which supports the corporations and lets them use loopholes to avoid paying taxes, and encourages corporation with corporate welfare? How do Americans, especially the poor and uninsured, have the temerity to blame other poor and uninsured people for their problems? For long waits in the emergency room? You're not going to blame the idiot bastard son in Washington, who won't nationalize health care and who cuts health insurance for children? You're going to blame Latinos? What?

I'm sorry to be so general here, but if you look at illegal immigration and think it's the entire problem, and not a mere symptom created by our shitty economy--an economy that favors making money at the expense of fairness and basic human rights and even capitalism itself--then you are an idiot. You just are. Take a look at who's running things. Take a look at your leaders, who allow corporations the freedom of feudal landowners, and think what they mean when they tell you that illegal aliens and people on welfare are the problem.

Why do you think they're telling you to turn on each other?

Why do you keep taking the bait, America?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I Am Iron Man!

I had zero feelings or expectations for this movie until just right now: the impossibly awesome trailer for Iron Man.

Rot in Hell, Lackluster Video

I hate Blockbuster and everything it stands for, so any news of its imminent demise is good news to me. The rentail chain has continued to die a long, protracted heat death that started a decade ago (at least). They're reporting that in the third quarter ofr 2007, they lost half a million online customers, as well as announcing store closings and layoffs.

Yeah, Total Access was, predictably, a disaster. Blockbuster is saying they're thrilled to get rid of the whole thing, but give me a break, no one's happy to lose business. The stock is falling and the company lost almost $38 million in just one quarter. Revenue is falling. Those free in-store exchanges lost them about $29 million alone, but apparently lots of people got hundreds of free rentals. So, that's a swing and a miss on stealing Netflix's business. They refuse to lower prices on retail DVDs, and they're trying to sell more ancillary items, which is not going to save them anymore than it saved Hollywood Video. They're acting like everything's rosy--"We're glad to lose business!"--but they closed over 500 stores in just the last quarter.

Yeah, it's the end. Keep playing the violin, Blockbuster; everyone else is abandoning ship. You deserve it. Rot in hell.

Steampunk Dalek

Sent to me by Allen L!

Check out more at BoingBoing!


Yes! A second Transmundanity Award is mine!

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen the past few weeks.

CHIPS OF THE OLD BLOCK (1927)
THE BEAU BRUMMELS (1927)
THE COWBOY AND THE GIRL (1927)
DON'T GET NERVOUS (1927)
MY BAG O' TRICKS (1927)
THE NIGHT COURT (1927)
Vitaphone Shorts from the early sound era, all of them showcasing popular vaudeville acts of the time; ironic since, of course, talkies killed vaudeville. As a result, they all seem quaint and antiquated, older than they actually are. Chips of the Old Block features the Foys, and I can see where they would have been very popular with a music hall or vaudeville audience, but it just doesn't play on film. There's less energy and no crowd. Of all the rest, Don't Get Nervous plays the best, just because Georgie Price comments on the difference between film and stage, and doesn't overplay it too much. All shorts **1/2 stars, except Don't Get Nervous *** stars.

THE BETTER 'OLE (1926)
Syd Chaplin plays popular comic strip Old Bill in this World War I comedy. I wish I had more to say about it, but I really don't. It's okay. *** stars.

WITCHES OF BREASTWICK 2 (2007)
Disappointing. I know, I know, but the first is one of my favorite late night softcore movies. This one is somehow ugly and irritating; and how do you give this over to the people who make the Bikini movies and not put Evan Stone in it? * star for a quick appearance by Nicole Sheridan and the lovely Rebecca Love.

ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS (1958)
An incredible Louis Malle film about a man who plans the perfect murder of his boss... and then gets stuck in the elevator, while a random chain of events puts him in the position of being accused of an entirely different killing. A gripping noir thriller that is a bit different from the hard boiled films it emulates. Jeanne Moreau is especially good. **** stars.

ZAZIE DANS LE METRO (1960)
Okay, this is the kind of French movie I find less than interesting. Broad comedy, creatively filmed, but annoying. ** stars.

THE FIRE WITHIN (1963)
Louis Malle meditation on suicide. A little dry but ultimately very compelling. *** stars.

CALCUTTA (1969)
A documentary about life among the poor in Calcutta. This movie makes me never want to go to Calcutta. Fascinating look at everyday life in a foreign country. **** stars.

MURMUR OF THE HEART (1971)
Probably my favorite of Louis Malle's film, a semi-autobiographical movie about a boy with a heart murmur who goes to a health spa with his mother and experiences his sexual awakening. While he flirts with girls his age, his strongest attraction is for his liberated, free-spirited mother, which actually leads to a very tender and sensitive ending. Beautiful film. **** stars.

LACOMBE, LUCIEN (1974)
The hero of this film, Lucien Lacombe, is a selfish bastard who joins the Nazis after the French Resistance turns him down for being too young. That should tell you right there what you're dealing with. Lucien becomes sexually attracted to a Jewish girl and has a relationship with her, but you're never sure where his loyalties lie, and the girl is both repelled by and attracted to him, often for the same reasons. It's a complex movie, interesting considering the subject matter. It's powerful and disturbing, but I think the ending is rather abrupt. ***1/2 stars.

PLACE DE LA REPUBLIQUE (1974)
Fascinating Louis Malle documentary that captures bits of daily life in France. Malle simply asks questions of passerby, each of whom reveals something about themselves. It all ends with a woman telling the story of the many times she's tried to sneak into first Nazi Germany and then Soviet-occupied East Germany to be with "people who think alike." It's a very odd ending to a documentary that is somehow both random and compelling. **** stars.

BLACK MOON (1975)
Cathryn Harrison (daughter of Rex) stars in this plotless, bizarre, interestingly-filmed vision of the future. In a way, it's Alice in Wonderland in a post-apocalyptic world, with Joe Dellasandro as a mute. The imagery is what makes this--strange images like naked children running among sheep are somehow beautiful and disturbing. I mean, the movie ends with Harrison pulling out her breasts in order to suckle a black unicorn. I have no idea what this is about or what the plot is or whether anything makes sense, but I couldn't turn away from it. **** stars.

GOD'S COUNTRY (1985)
Louis Malle documentary about an American small town and their values. Interesting, without forcing a focus or a viewpoint. ***1/2 stars.

INDIA ON PARADE (1937)
From the FitzPatrick Traveltalks series of shorts, this film shows us the maharajah of Baroda and a glimpse of the Taj Mahal in Agra, but the real centerpiece is a nice parade of animals including some magnificently bedecked elephants. A wonderful capsule of a bygone era. **** stars.

PATHFINDER (2006)
A real disappointment; okay, Marcus Nispel, I've given you two chances to entertain me, and you've failed, so no more of you. Back to music videos! I mean, come one, it's a movie about a Viking child raised by Indians who helps Indians fight Vikings! How could this be so goddamn bad? The Main Man Clancy Brown even plays the Viking leader, and one of them is Ralf Moeller--this should have been one cool ass movie, and it's just as overserious and indulges in all of those masturbatory camera flourishes that filmmakers (I use the term generously) like Nispel think substitutes for a story. A real shame; embrace the stupidity, people! Embrace it! ** stars.

ERAGON (2006)
Ouch, dude. Ouch. I hate to say something like this, but I think this is a movie so bad that having been directed by Uwe Boll would actually make it better. Utterly terrible, hammy acting all around (with the possible exception of Jeremy Irons, who is just the right side of disinterested to work). Poor Djimon Hounsou is made to look like an idiot. The plot barely makes sense, and to the extent that it does make sense is seriously underwhelming. The lead actor, young unknown Ed Speleers, has too much physical weight and not enough emotional weight to play the character. The dragon is especially well animated, but a tiny disappointment. As a young baby, the dragon is absolutely wonderful--when the dragon flies and is hit by lightning and turns into an adult (with Rachel Weisz as its voice), I immediately missed the cute baby. Typical of today's fantasy movies, when the dragon finally has a voice, it doesn't have anything interesting to say. * star for the animation, everything else is pretty crap.

GOKE, BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (1968)
Extremely awesome Japanese movie about passengers in a crashed plane who are menaced by a space vampire. It's said to be inspired by Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but it also owes a debt to The Thing. Excellent cinematography and a genuinely gripping, creepy storyline--one of the best Japanese SF movies. **** stars.

KWAIDAN (1964)
Spectacular Japanese movie featuring four supernatural stories of revenge, passion, and murder. I find myself at a loss to describe it, but it's easily one of the greatest films I've ever seen. Gorgeous colors, riveting art direction, and emotional, turbulent stories... god damn it, you have to see this movie. **** stars.

MR. WU (1927)
Lon Chaney stars as a Chinese noble (as well as his own father) whose daughter falls in love with a British man. Chaney wrestles with the decision to take the ultimate action necessary to protect his daughter's honor, and the story goes from a pastoral love affair to a revenge drama of particular cruelty. One of Chaney's best performances, which I've said so much that it's probably lost all meaning. But that's what happens when you're one of the greatest actors who ever lived. **** stars.

MOTHER INDIA (1957)
An epic that's often called the greatest Bollywood movie ever made. It's not my favorite (that would be Asoka), but it's pretty damned great. Nargis stars as a woman whose personal journey takes her from the royal court to the fields to the peasant villages to a trek away from starvation, all the while doing the best she can to care for her family. There's singing, of course, and lots of color and passion, and thought it's a little longer than can be endured, it's a damn fine achievement. **** stars.

THE 47 RONIN (1962)
I was sadly underwhelmed by this classic samurai film. All 208 minutes of it. That is all. ** stars.

BEDLAM (1946)
Boris Karloff stars in one of Val Lewton's last movies (his last for RKO) as the brutal head of St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum. Anna Lee plays a nurse who learns firsthand of the sadistic treatment of patients, and is committed to shut her up and keep the world from learning the truth. Another Lewton winner with great atmosphere and a great performance from Karloff; based on The Rake's Progress. ***1/2 stars.

ISLE OF THE DEAD (1945)
In another Lewton film, Karloff plays a Greek soldier who returns to his island home in 1912, only to discover the island is quarantined because of a plague. To make matters worse, he starts to believe a superstitious woman's claim that a girl among them in really a vampiric demon. Great pacing on this one, with most of the film's horror really consisting of the terrible isolation and what it does to peoples' minds. There's lots of conversations about war, faith, superstition, and fear, and a very moody atomsphere. (And, as always, a great Karloff performance.) I was going to say it was one of Lewton's best, but since I really only didn't like one of them (The Ghost Ship), I'm not sure what that means. ***1/2 stars.

TRANSFORMERS (2007)
I know, I know. This is a mess, it really is. It's so ludicrously stupid, and Michael Bay as a director knows nothing about tone, story, or anything that isn't visuals-related (although he really needs to shake hands with Mr. Establishing Shot). As always, the plot revolves around a government crisis and boring, expendable government characters who don't really do anything to move the plot (seriously, this thing could have been a tight 96 minutes or so if they hadn't started with the conventional Independence Day rip-off scenes that really do nothing for the story. The film is very nearly saved by a couple of things: first, Shia LeBeouf, who is somehow completely impervious to the incredibly shitty dialogue--the kid can do anything, and I love him for it; also, John Turturro is very funny in a role that should've marked the first government presence in the film (Turturro and LeBeouf both commit to the movie's inherent stupidity, as opposed to Bay, who can't decide if his movie is funny or deadly serious); the Autobots are both really dumb (Ninja Turtles dumb) and kinda cool--Bumblebee is neat and I was glad that Optimus Prime really was Optimus Prime, both in voice (Peter Cullen, reprising his role) and in his sort of warm demeanor. There were some scenes that felt like they were out of a Joe Dante movie, and Dante is really who should have made it. He'd have embraced the silliness and made it fun instead of a fitful mess. The special effects are terrible--the giant robots are so overly complicated in design that the eye can barely focus on them; they look like metal shaving stuck together. When they're having their underwhelming robot fight (why all the shoulder rolls? this ain't the WWE!), the Autobots (except for the yellow Bumblebee and the red-and-blue Optimus Prime) and the Decepticons are virtually indistinguishable. (One fanboy aside--I loved that they got Prime's original voice and the lines "Autobots, roll out" and "It's you and me, Megatron... one shall stand, one shall fall," but I was very disappointed to hear Hugo Weaving doing Megatron's voice instead of Frank Welker...didn't feel right.) I knew this would be a dumb fucking movie, and it is, but it's even worse to know it's a mess that could have been salvaged by a better director and some tighter editing. And better effects. And will someone tell Bay to stop shooting love scenes like car commercials? I found the last shot, with Shia and Megan Fox (looking a hot but hard 40 these days) making out on top of the car, kind of creepy. The movie ends with a three-way with Bumblebee? *shudder* I'll go to ** stars, but I'm still very disappointed. Which is funny, because I expected it to be worse.

BEWITCHED HOUSEWIVES (2006)
GIRL WITH THE SEX-RAY EYES (2007)
Ah, Nicole Sheridan, I love you and your silly sex comedies. And Evan Stone, you are a comedy god! *** stars each.

RATATOUILLE (2007)
This is the second Pixar movie I've missed in the theater, and hopefully it will be the last. I really, really liked this movie. The two sides of the story--a rat who wants to be a chef and a reluctant chef who wants to get the girl--didn't quite mesh 100%, but I really enjoyed the warmth of the story and the beautiful visuals. Damn, remember when CGI water looked terrible? An artful film, not Pixar's best, but way, way better than Cars. **** stars.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Health Report: Week 47

I have to admit, I'd hoped to be further along by now. I've had my setbacks, and I have yet to get out of many of those setbacks.

For example, the weight. When I went to get my physical a couple of weeks ago, I found out I weigh 375 pounds. Not the most I've ever weighed, actually, but pretty fucking high. I've been lower than that this year; I think the lowest I got down to was 335 or so. The only upside to gaining the weight back has been the fact that none of the hard, visceral fat came back. It's still soft, which means it will actually be easier to lose. The tricky part now will be getting back on an eating schedule; hopefully, it'll be easier with Halloween gone. I know a lot of people overeat during the holidays, but my holiday overreating always happens in the month or so leading up to Halloween, my favorite holiday. Over Thanksgiving and Christmas, it seems like I barely eat.

I also have my old soda problem, as I've hinted at or mentioned. I'm compromising with myself a bit for now--no more high fructose corn syrup soda except on the rare occasion when I eat out. We'll start with that one and build from there, and then it'll be second nature again that I don't drink them. It's always so easy for me to get rid of my caffeine addiction, but it always comes back. This is the last time; no more regular soda drinking. I'm promising myself that I'm not going to let myself down again.

Because, frankly, I fucking hate being this fat. I went to Wal-Mart to get some Oxford shirts for teaching, and I can't fit into the 3X shirts anymore. I need a 4X, which Wal-Mart barely sells. A lot of stores barely sell them. Dude, when you can't fit into shirts anymore, it's past time to change the way you live. I wanted to rush out and exercise as much as I could, but I'm still laid up with this fucking ankle (which I think I re-tore again over the weekend, because I could barely move it yesterday and the day before).

This is a hard road to be starting over again. At least, it looks hard. I feel like I've really failed myself, and I need to get back on track with it or suffer some real consequences. I thought I was having a heart attack when I went to the hospital a few weeks ago; and I knew that, given my bad eating of lately, it was highly probable. Thankfully, I didn't have one. It was just a panic attack. I don't want to go through that pain again, and I don't want it to get even worse. So I can't let it happen.

Let me rethink that--it feels like it's hard to be starting over again, but I know (from experience now) that it isn't. It's easier than I thought it would be to give up eating so many bacon cheeseburgers and drinking so much Pepsi. Now it's time to do it again, and this time I'm not going to let myself lapse on it. There's only one first step; each step gets easier. Time to get back in the habit and stop doing this to myself. I've got a life to live.

Next week, I'm going to be able to say I haven't had any HFCS soda and I'm feeling healthier.

Shakespeare or Not?

If there's one literary quest I've never had time for, it's the debate over whether or not William Shakespeare actually wrote all of his plays. I see an actor that I love, Sir Derek Jacobi, has reopened the debate with his "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt" on the authorship of the plays, saying "I don't think anybody could do it on their own."

Why not, exactly? I haven't seen the debate framed well enough to consider that the plays wouldn't have been written by anyone other than William Shakespeare. I don't see why one man couldn't have written the plays of Shakespeare. I mean, Stephen King writes all of those books, and he's a hack.

And that's what really gets me here. It seems like the anti-Stratfordians are arguing from a point of arrogance and pride. They don't want to believe that the man who wrote those great plays could be the provincial son of an illiterate glover. He must be someone more dynamic, like Christopher Marlowe or Francis Bacon or Edward de Vere. No one with even a marginal education, apparently, has the imagination or intelligence or ability to learn to write the extraordinary works of Shakespeare.

They're also, it must be said, over-valuing Shakespeare's canon. I'm not arguing that Hamlet and Othello and King Lear and Henry V and many others aren't among the greatest works ever written in any language. But come on--Henry VI? Measure for Measure? Freaking Cymbeline? He had his hacky clunkers, too. They can't all be great. And they're not. Even Stephen King writes an occasional Shining, or at least he used to. You're telling me the same guy who makes such an annoying waste of Love's Labour's Lost can't also be the genius of Romeo and Juliet? Get over yourself.

Jacobi also says that probably de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, was really Shakespeare, because "I agree that an author writes about his own experiences, his own life and personalities." As a writer, I can tell him he's wrong there. Some authors write about their own experiences, life and personalities, but not all of them. Most of the fiction I've ever written has been as an avenue to exploring thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Why won't they grant that the son of an illiterate glover the same imagination and ability to explore human relationships as a Stephen King? Why must they ascribe it to some kind of conspiracy or false name or Da Vinci Code?

I don't know what they're hoping to find in the historical record, either, but Jacobi and 300 others signed this rather grandiloquent declaration to provoke further research. The record is spotty, though--he was an actor, poet, and playwright, not a member of the royal court; his life wasn't obsessively documented.

The evidence they always point to is that there are no payment records for Shakespeare, no literary documents referring to him, and a will which mentions none of his works and contains no "clearly Shakesperean turn of phrase," as if business documents are written like sonnets. But the little evidence they do have--other than the published works, and the plays were published after his death--is not necessarily related to the same person (his name is always spelled differently).

So I just don't get the obsession with disproving that one man can't have written the works of William Shakespeare. And as a writer, I find it disheartening to think that there are people who can't imagine a single person writing all of those plays.

So Glad Someone Else Still Gets It

If you're living hand to mouth and still buying into the con that the big threats to America are socialized medicine, Mexican immigrants, and tax increases, then you're not being kept down by the rich, you're being kept down by YOU. In America, it's not the Haves and Havenots, it's the Haves and the Been Hads. If you, the citizen, deliberately vote for someone who won't give you health care over someone who will, you need to have your head examined--except you can't afford to have your head examined.

--Bill Maher on this week's Real Time

Monday, November 05, 2007

Silly Science Stories

According to David Levy, an artificial intelligence researcher in the Netherlands, the human race will be marrying robots "around 2050." Dr. Levy--he was given a Ph.D. for this thesis--believes that people will begin having sex with robots and even marry them in the next half-century or less. "Love and sex with robots are inevitable," he says.The ironic thing? Gays still won't be able to marry, but the robot thing will go right through.

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According to evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry from the London School of Economics, the human race will reach its physical peak by the year 3000, and then will begin to decline, eventually (within 100,000 years) splitting into two separate species: "an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures."

Here's an artist's conception of the two.Incidentally, if stealing theories from H.G. Wells novels can get you published and respected these days, I need to finish my paper about how germs will save us from alien invasion.

ScarJo Lichtenstein

Thanks be to Heidi for pointing this out to me:

Learn how to make images like this one from Melissa Clifton's cool tutorial.

My 500 Favorite Movies

Wow, was it back in July that I did the 500 Faves series? It seems much more recently that I spent a few weeks listing my 500 favorite movies--not the greatest movies ever made, but the ones I like the best. I'm still thinking I'll do it again, an updated version. But not for five or ten years...

Numbers 1-25, 26-50, 51-75, 76-100, 101-125, 126-150, 151-175, 176-200, 201-225, 226-250, 251-275, 276-300, 301-325, 326-350, 351-375, 376-400, 401-425, 426-450, 451-475, 476-500.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Song of the Week: "This Time Tomorrow"

About the only thing most of the angst-and-quirk-ridden films of Wes Anderson and similar directors are good for is a decent soundtrack. Every one of these movies has at least one surprisingly great song moment, or some fantastic song that you haven't heard in a long time and never realized was so great before. I call them the cats, in reference to Running with Scissors having "Year of the Cat" on the soundtrack--great song in a movie I have no desire to see. For The Darjeeling Limited, it's the Kinks's fantastic "This Time Tomorrow," from their 1970 album Lola vs. Powerman and the Money-go-Round, Vol. 1. Someone has taken it and put in film of a bunch of kids dancing in a French movie I've never heard of. But I love this damn song to bits, and the Kinks are such a perfect band. Play this song loud. Get up and dance. It's infectious and all your troubles go away. Enjoy your day.

Food Meme

From Byzantium's Shores, I take!

1. How do you like your eggs?
Just about any way, but scrambled is my favorite. It's what I eat for breakfast most mornings. Sometimes with a little cheese or some veg, but I don't get those people who put hot sauce or ketchup or anything on them. I notice most diners and family restaurants are just bringing those over with your egg order now in case you're some kind of freak.

2. How do you take your coffee/tea?
I'm not a big tea drinker. I take my coffee with two creams and a buttload of sugar, which is why I don't drink coffee anymore.

3. Favorite breakfast food?
Eggs and bacon. I love pancakes and waffles, but I've cut back on them a lot. And French toast... Yeah, there's been none of that for some time. I prefer orange juice in the mornings, too, since coffee is out of the question (it was making me jittery, anyway).

4. Peanut butter - smooth or crunchy?
SMOOTH! Actually, I don't know if I'd like crunchy or not, I just hated it when I was little and have been, when the mood takes me, indulging in Jif creamy ever since.

5. What kind of dressing on your salad?
I haven't found a dressing I'm happy with. I like Caesar dressing, but that's awfully rich. And I like olive oil. My taste in a salad usually runs toward something more traditional and simpler.

6. Coke or Pepsi?
Both, since I'm not supposed to have either. Coke tastes best in a glass bottle, of course. I've been a little too lax with my vow not to have HFCS soda lately, and am dumping them as of now. It's not as bad as last time (preferring soda with sugar instead of HFCS helps), but I can't get in the habit again.

7. You’re feeling lazy, what do you make?
Make? You can make food without a phone and a credit card? I should really be better about that.

8. You’re feeling really lazy. What kind of pizza do you order?
I like this new Papa John's six-cheese Tuscan pizza. I used to only eat cheese, but it turns out I also like pepperoni and black olives and jalapenos. And green peppers and onions, to a lesser extent. I'm still not sure about mushrooms, though. They intimidate me.

9. You feel like cooking. What do you make?
I'm so bad with the cooking. I used to be really good, and then I stopped cooking for myself. That's another thing I want to start doing again. These days it's basic--eggs, burgers, etc.

10. Do any foods bring back good memories?
No. There's part of me that thinks eating in itself is kind of gross and I almost wish I didn't have to do it. The only food that brings back good memories is one I never eat anymore--chocolate cream pie. And that's just because it reminds me of an old cat. I had a chocolate cream pie instead of a cake for my thirteenth birthday, and that was a very lonely year (my parents got divorced that year, plus that was just after all the kids at school decided I was the outcast because I'd gotten fat, so I didn't really have many friends). When the chocolate cream pie was down to one slice, I pulled it out in the middle of the day and sat on the floor watching Batman and eating it slowly. My cat, Bourbon, decided he liked the way it smelled, so we kind of shared it. I ate my piece and he licked the tin.

11. Do any foods bring back bad memories?
Don't make me tell the beef stew story again.

12. Do any foods remind you of someone?
Not really that I can think of. I remember the time my mom tried to force me to eat a kiwi and I puked. Weird. Brussels sprouts and peas also remind me of my mom, just because she thinks I still like them because I liked them when I was four.

13. Is there a food you refuse to eat?
Well, I'm in a period of rediscovering foods. There are a lot of foods I always thought I hated that, it turns out, I don't. In fact, I now love fish and greens, which is something I never would have even tried a year or so ago. Still, there are still foods like broccoli that no one should ever eat. And Brussels sprouts, which look like something a cabbage sneezed up. Ooh, and squash. What the fuck is up with squash? It looks like pumpkin vomit.

14. What was your favorite food as a child?
Pizza, my evil mistress. Pizza and Pepsi.

15. Is there a food that you hated as a child but now like?
Well, fish. And greens. And all manner of vegetables. Jalapenos.

16. Is there a food that you liked as a child but now hate?
There's food I'm just tired of eating. I thought ham was pretty savory as a kid, but now it just grosses me out--it really tastes like what you imagine a pig would taste like when you look at it.

17. Favorite fruit and vegetable:
Bananas and green beans.

18. Favorite junk food:
Chocolate.

19. Favorite between meal snack:
I'm trying not to do that anymore...

20. Do you have any weird food habits?
I'm not sure. I still do that thing I did when I was a kid, where I put some butter on the mashed potatoes and then wait for it to melt down the sides. Becca eats everything--even French fries--with a fork and knife, which seems to me more bizarre. I'm just childish.

21. You’re on a diet. What food(s) do you fill up on?
I don't consider it a diet so much as learning to eat better and more responsibly so I can fit into clothes. I don't know what I should fill up on, but I do like bananas. Bananas are good.

22. You’re off your diet. Now what would you like?
Is anyone putting chocolate fudge sundae topping on pizza yet?

23. How spicy do you order Indian/Thai?
I've never eaten Indian or Thai food. We had one Indian place in town that I thought about eating at, but it got closed down. It was a popular place, too, but I heard from someone that used to work for the health inspector that they went down into the basement and put their hand on the wall to find the light switch. They thought they were touching some kind of fuzzy wall-covering, but apparently it was crawling with rats. They said it was someplace "Eastern," so I just stopped eating Chinese for a while and never went into the Indian place.

24. Can I get you a drink?
I'm not a fan of alcohol, but I'll do the occasional rum-and-coke, or White Russian. Maybe a Bass Ale.

25. Red wine or white?
Neither, thank you.

26. Favorite dessert?
Cheesecake, but this time of year I prefer a slice of pumpkin pie. It's not fall for me until I have one, and I ain't had one yet.

27. The perfect nightcap?
I don't have one, really. I don't like to drink anything before going to bed. Is that boring?

Sunday Hottie 144

MARJANE SATRAPI

Are You Really Even Surprised?





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Thanks to the lovely Miss PJ.