Saturday, January 19, 2008

My Star Wars Biography

I caught part of Return of the Jedi on cable this morning, and it suddenly got me reflecting on how much Star Wars I've seen in my life and the nature of fandom and how the fans of Star Wars made liking those movies next to impossible.

Star Wars was released in 1977, when I was less than a year old. I can't remember at what point in my life I first saw it. I do have a memory of seeing The Empire Strikes Back in either 1980 or early 1981, and that's one of my earliest memories (another is seeing Sleeping Beauty around the same time; as the Wampa sticks out strongest in my early memories, so does the dragon in Sleeping Beauty). What I'm getting at is: there's not a time in my life when I remember not having seen Star Wars and knowing who all the characters were.

As a kid, of course, I played with the action figures and toys. We had blasters and lightsabers, but we thought the toy lightsabers were too bulky and lame, so we used sticks instead. A friend of mine, Jeff Ward, lived on a house where the back yard was on an incline that went down towards the sidewalk; his dad built a deck at the top, so we used to pretend that was Jabba's barge. In the winter, we had the snowy plains of Hoth. In the summer, the forest near my house was the moon Endor. Our bicycles became Imperial speeder bikes. We were always involved in some form of Star Wars play or another, be it with our imaginations or our action figures or whatever.

There were few movies that fascinated me the way Star Wars did, and they were usually Muppet movies, Disney movies, Indiana Jones, and fantasy movies like Clash of the Titans or that great, cheesy 80s skiffy like The Last Starfighter. It's always been my instinct, when I'm fascinated by movies, to find out more about how they were made. In those pre-internet days, I ate up everything I could in magazines and books about the making of Star Wars or The Dark Crystal or The Muppet Show or cartoons or Ray Harryhausen and, a little later, Star Trek or Who Framed Roger Rabbit (I was an authority on that movie, I read so much about its making). And this was in addition to a lot of other reading I did as a kid. I was one of those kids that seemed to be reading constantly.

So anyway, I read a lot about the making of the Star Wars trilogy. I also watched some great TV specials. One, the one I liked best, I can't even remember the name of, but it was about Industrial Light and Magic and the creatures of Return of the Jedi. Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher hosted it, and I remember they got a lot of mileage out of Salacious Crumb. Another one, From Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of a Saga, was about the making of the entire trilogy. I was rapt, fascinated. For the longest time, what I really wanted to do was grow up and be a special effects technician at Industrial Light and Magic. I used to build elaborate sets for my action figures, or time things to occur (like a fake rockslide or a fake explosion or something). I wanted to do that as an adult instead of things I was interested in earlier, like writing or being an astronaut. In fact, I was heavily interested in special effects (I used to be a regular Cinefex reader, and I still have the Star Wars anniversary issue) right up until they started using so much CGI.

Anyway, I was immersed in Star Wars as a kid. I was even, very briefly, a member of the official fan club. I watched the Ewoks and Droids cartoons (and the Ewoks TV specials, which I actually have on DVD, because Chukha-Trok still makes me inexplicably happy--I just remembered watching The Ewok Adventure on TV while it was simulcast on radio with stereo sound). I read the Marvel comic book for a long time, because of which my favorite ancillary Star Wars character is still Plif the Hoojib. Oh, what it would have done to me to see some Hoojibs in the prequels! I collected the cups from Burger King.

And then, in the eighties, Star Wars started to disappear. George Lucas moved on to other projects, a few of which I especially liked. My mom sold my old Star Wars toys at a garage sale. And the fanaticism started to die down. You didn't see merchandise ever anymore. The movies seemed to be impossible to find on video, so I had to make do with the movies taped off of television. And it just started to fade out of my life to become something I had used to love, but which was in the past. By the late eighties, I was 12 years old and much more exicted about Star Trek: The Next Generation and Who Framed Roger Rabbit and a third Indiana Jones movie and the endless rumors about a Ghostbusters sequel than in the long-held (but no longer repeated) rumor of six more Star Wars movies.

But that all started to change in the eighth grade. The first thing that happened was that Fox did an official release of the entire trilogy on video. I got the boxed set for Christmas and was thrilled. I hadn't watched any of those movies in years, and I got wrapped up in them once again. I was rediscovering something I'd loved, and it was nice. And then the Timothy Zahn novel Heir to the Empire was released. I read it, and the two sequels, and found myself wishing that George Lucas had made those other movies. The novels marked the real turning point, and it seems like it was around this time that a new kind of Star Wars fandom emerged out of the old one. A more obsessive one that wasn't always fun to come across.

Star Wars fandom Mark 2 was different for me, anyway, because I had been 7 when Return of the Jedi came out. I know now that there are people who were older and less naive than I was who were gravely disappointed in Jedi because of the infantile humor (something Lucas has always seemed to love) and the Ewoks and all of that stuff. But it wasn't until Mark 2, until the early nineties, that I became aware of just how deeply, personally angry some people still were about it. Even people my age, the generation that never knew a world without Star Wars, were suddenly claiming that they'd always hated Return of the Jedi and Ewoks and all of that, which I find astoundingly hard to believe, considering they were all 5 and 6 and 7 and 8 when it came out. Sorry, people, I don't believe you.

What I realize now is that the Timothy Zahn novels and the video release were really George Lucas gauging the temperature of Star Wars fandom in preparation for the prequels. The novels, I remember at the time, were treated like fan novels, much like those Han Solo novels from the late seventies, until they became really popular and people started clamoring for more Star Wars. Now that Lucas could make a lot of money off of Star Wars again, there was a new explosion of merchandising and interest. There were new action figures. The events of the novels and the Dark Horse comic books were considered actual events that fit into the movies and even influenced them (there was no Coruscant in George Lucas's vision until it became accepted fact because of the Timothy Zahn novels, no matter how much he wants to claim that he wrote the prequels thirty years ago).

Remember the novel Shadows of the Empire? That novel got a lot of attention (and even a soundtrack album) because it was, apparently, the official version of what took place between Empire and Jedi. This was the moment fandom Mark 2 went off the rails for me. I remember, as a kid, reading the Star Wars comic strip, which took place between Star Wars and Empire. And I remember the Marvel comic, the events of which were apparently ignored (this was the first time people began to talk of an "official Star Wars canon"). And I also remember the novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye, which for a long time was one of the only Star Wars novels in existence. It was written by Alan Dean Foster (who ghost wrote the novel adaptation of Star Wars) with an eye towards making a stripped-down sequel to Star Wars in order to reuse some of the same sets and props if Star Wars had been a box office failure. That's why that exceptionally boring novel features only Luke, Leia, Artoo Detoo, See Threepio, and Darth Vader.

And then Sci-Fi Universe published its obnoxious "50 Reasons Why Return of the Jedi Sucks" issue, which really set the tone that most Star Wars fandom would take from the mid-nineties on. It was really nothing more than an outpouring of fanboy whining about how the movie not being as good was a massive betrayal of all that was dear and good in life. It was (and still is) pathetic to see people railing against the flaws of something they've devoted far too much of their lives to, and it was a massive turn-off. I could understand being a huge fan of Star Wars and doing what I did as a kid--collecting stuff, reading books, finding out all sorts of things about how the movies were made--but I couldn't see taking it so seriously that not liking elements of one of the movies or one of the new novels or something was a major life trauma. Hey, I didn't like Chewie doing the Tarzan yell in Jedi, or the Sarlaac belching, or Chewie hitting his head on the pipes. I realized, as I got older, that I didn't like a lot of the deliberately childish humor in Jedi. But my God, it's not the end of the world.

And then the Special Editions happened. By 1997, I was 21 years old, and willing to see the Star Wars movies for what they were. I basically thought Empire was flawless and Jedi was flawed but fun, and that Star Wars itself had its moments but was pretty overall dull. Some people were already caught up in prequel fever. For about a year before the Star Wars Special Edition was released, I saw a lot of letters in the major science fiction magazines condemning George Lucas for daring to mess with the Holy Trilogy. Some people were really outraged, really personally offended and betrayed. Mark Altman, the idiot editor of Sci-Fi Universe, waged a personal war against George Lucas in his editorial column (or would have, if Lucas noticed these things), constantly calling them "our" films and reminding Lucas that "you don't own these films anymore; they belong to us."

And this was another time when Star Wars became nearly impossible to like. The fervent were going mad, frothing at the mouth, eyes wild with rage, at the idea of George Lucas ruining his films. I saw far fewer letters (either because there were fewer, or SFU didn't print as many) with the relatively sane opinion of "They're his films, he can do what he wants with them, I still have my originals on tape, anyway." And if George Lucas did do something I think was wrong, it was cutting into the negative to create his Special Editions; it was wrong of him to remove the old films from history and pretend they didn't exist and make only the new versions available. That just seems dishonest somehow, and kind of unfair to people who would like to have the original trilogy on DVD without seeing Hayden Christensen pop in at the end of Jedi. But still, the Special Editions really only meant to me a chance to see the original films in a movie theater once again, so I went to all three. The audience was smaller for each one. On the opening night of Star Wars, the theater was packed. It would've been nice not to have heard discussions all around me about things like Greedo shooting first (it's just stupid, George, admit it, it doesn't work) and Han Solo telling Jabba "You're a wonderful human being" (it can't be sarcasm?), but whatever. I still got to see Star Wars--a movie with one of my favorite actors, Peter Cushing--in a movie theater. And with my mom and sister, too. That was nice.

But what really got me was the attitude typified by Altman: "they belong to us." Not to the world. To us. The Star Wars fans. The people who were creating a whole "accepted" Star Wars chronology. The people who were taking neat childhood aliens like Walrus Man, Hammerhead, Yak Face and Squidhead and giving them names and backstories. The people who were, in my opinion, taking the idea of Star Wars and making it smaller. Who taking three movies that were never really great movies, but really fun fantasy flicks, and trying to make them into something Important. The people making it more insular in order to keep people out. The people who don't get that it's only a movie.

My final break with Star Wars fandom came in 1999, when The Phantom Menace was released. I saw the movie on the opening day, and I enjoyed it. I thought it was a fun movie. I wasn't surprised to see so many people hated it, because I knew it had been built up so much, and the fan base had grown up 16 years since Return of the Jedi. Plus, Mark 2 had set the stage for a new type of fandom all over comic books and science fiction and television; the kind of fandom where love and interest is signified by constant and harsh criticism. The kind where approval is given almost begrudgingly. I knew many Star Wars fans would hate The Phantom Menace simply for existing.

Around then, I wrote an essay for an amatuer press zine that I was involved in. In it, I wrote about my opinon that Star Wars is a fantasy series, not a science fiction series (I've reprinted pieces of it here on the blog). This alone was enough for at least one of the members to attack me with amazingly personal vitriol. He spent a lot of space and energy writing long scads about how wrong I was and how small I was to put Star Wars in the fantasy category. He took issue with my having written things about my problems with the plot structure, or my assertion that the story was fun but shallow, or my gentle tweaking of the series for thinking that a planet can only have one weather system or one enviornment and still sustain life. He was just so goddamn angry about it. He wouldn't have been that mad if I'd insulted his mother. He just could not stand the idea that I could possibly find fault with the Holy Trilogy.

And he was only one of many people I got this kind of rhetoric from. The fanatics of Star Wars now seemed to view it as a religion, and having a discussion about it was like having a religious discussion with a fundamentalist: any criticism was seen as an attack, and it was always met with something personal and angry. I hate to put it like this, but the people who are fans of Star Wars--and not the cool fans, not the guys and girls like me who just enjoy the movies on occasion and think Yoda is neat or Lando is cool and just bring it up every once in a while--no, the people who jealously guard it from the outside world and have appointed themselves the gatekeepers of all Star Wars knowledge and who shake with rage if you don't think Boba Fett is all that special... those people have taken three fun movies and turned them into something so humorless and so serious and so goddamn important that it's almost impossible to like Star Wars because of them.

The final straw for me was just after The Phantom Menace was released. When the fans were wetting themselves to attack it. It just kind of annoyed me that so many people were blaming George Lucas for making the movie he wanted to make and not making it the way it had always been in their wildest fantasies. Granted, it's hardly a perfect movie, but whatever it is, it is the movie that George Lucas wanted to make. And to hear the fans blame George Lucas for "ruining" something that he created... Okay, there's a vast difference between thinking someone made a bad movie that you didn't like, and acting like it did something to you personally. George Lucas made a movie you thought sucked; he didn't break into your house and rape your mother in front of you while wearing a Greedo mask. It was basically the equivalent of hearing the fans say: "George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, without whom we wouldn't be able to waste our lives obsessing over these movies, doesn't know Star Wars as well as we, the people who've been watching it over and over again for 20 years, know it." That George Lucas's vision is shallow and kind of lame and not very original I can accept. That George Lucas's vision doesn't appeal to you as a filmgoer I can accept. But that his vision of his own creation is "wrong," just because he throws in a character you don't like or shows you Anakin as a child, that I cannot accept.

And then I actually started hearing people say that George Lucas should've gotten "the guy who directed Jedi" to direct the movie. And that was it for me. Because I was listening to fans who didn't know the name of the man who directed one of the films they'd devoted far too much time and effort to. His name was Richard Marquand. He also directed Eye of the Needle and Jagged Edge. And by the way, guys, he died in 1987. Remember, when I was a kid, I'd see a movie and love it and find out all I could about the making of it. And now I was listening to fans who didn't know that the man who directed one of their favorite films died a decade earlier? I couldn't stand it anymore.

Because what I realized was this: fans of movies immerse themselves in the fictional world they imagine the movie takes place in and become obsessed with the minutia. I'm a different kind of film buff, I guess. And if that's fandom today, I'm glad I stopped participating in it around that time. It's not fun anymore. It's not about liking things anymore; now it's about not liking things. And I think that's just too bad.

But if there's one thing I've come to realize, it's that--massive flaws and all--I like the Star Wars movies. All six of them, actually, though the prequels aren't as fun for me as the originals. And I'm tired of apologizing for liking them because the fanboys have made liking Star Wars so unpalatable. I like Star Wars. But I'm not obsessed with it. They're just fun movies. Case closed. For me, anyway.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Throwdown 1/18

Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Gee, at first I thought making a CGI Smurfs movie was really stupid, but now that the guy who owns the rights to the Smurfs says that there will be a “greater female presence” to reflect the “dramatic changes in socio-cultural values in the past 20 to 25 years” such as “girl empowerment,” I think that Smurfs just has to be made. How else are we going to empower all of those girls?

2. Speaking of empowering girls, there’s a movie coming out called Over Her Dead Body where Eva Longoria is so bitter and awful that even as a ghost she won’t let anyone get romantic with her widowed husband. Nice. Ladies, does this kind of movie really appeal to you? Do you enjoy movies where the humor is all based on how women are bitter and possessive and jealous and won’t let go of a man? Is that sort of thing charming and hysterical to you? If so, I recommend this on a double bill with My Super Ex-Girlfriend, another empowerment classic about a woman who will go to any lengths to stalk and torture a guy for daring to break up with her. Can you imagine if either of those movies reversed the gender? Would they still be comedies?

3. I caught a commercial on ABC last night for Eli Stone, a show about a lawyer who gets brain damage and then has fun hallucinations about George Michael. Oh, and he also uses his hallucinations to help people. Somehow. So he doesn’t do anything medically, because, like scientologists, he’s convinced his brain damage is somehow beneficial to him. And that he’s helping people. So, see, people? Brain damage and mental illness aren’t just hilarious and fun—they’re also touching. That doesn’t offend me even more than shows about psychics at all!

4. Oh, and I wanted to thank the makers of The Bucket List for showing America that cancer isn’t about sickening chemotherapy and crippling trips to the bathroom and pain and degradation and your body betraying you and actually being so sick you wish you were dead at all! It’s about finding freedom and confidence and what’s important in life! Yeah, I’m never going to punch anyone in the neck for making this movie! See, it turns out my 13 year-old sister didn’t die a painful and slow and awful death at all! She just found freedom and confidence, so she didn’t need to live anymore! Thank you, Rob Reiner, for once again showing how well you understand life in one of your wonderful movies!

5. Jenna Jameson retired from porn?! Oh, no! But I need a fame-hungry hypocrite to lecture me on the importance of pornography to society and female empowerment! Where am I going to get that now! And I so wanted to see this thing naked, too! Damn it, I never liked Jenna even when she was supposedly hot. And now she’s the stuff of children’s nightmares and Maurice Sendak books. Jenna, when you make Posh Spice look like Bettie Page, there’s a huge problem.

6. Paris Hilton, whom Jenna Jameson makes look like Marilyn Monroe, is the new face and burning, itchy body of Fila. Is this still a good idea? To have Paris Hilton modeling your clothes? To sell? To people? I don’t know, girls, you tell me. Do you look at this and think “Oh, cute, I want to look like that!” or do you think “Ew, someone needs to burn those clothes now.”

7. Paul Soto, a 40 year-old New York cop, tried to get the Pension Board to increase his disability pension because he apparently injured his knee at work and couldn’t perform his full duties as a police officer. The Pension Board rejected it because he was already granted a disability pension. They reasoned that a guy who weighs over 500 pounds, has high blood pressure, and is narcoleptic already wasn’t performing his full duties. I Can’t really make a joke here. It’s just kind of sad and weird.

8. I do appreciate that CBS puts out promo pictures. Sure, a show about pyschics insults my intelligence, but at least they're doing it with giant tits.

9. Bill O’Reilly says that homelessness is not a problem for returning vets of the Iraq War, despite all tangible evidence to the contrary. It’s just not a problem, I guess, because he says so. Just for kicks, let me ask you: how detached from reality do you think Bill O’Reilly is at this point? At least Rush pretends that he has poll numbers or something. Bill just makes this stuff up, pulls it out of the air, and spews it out in that horrible prison warden voice of his. If he says it, it must be true. I mean, this guy called for a boycott of France, and then magnanimously lifted it. I think he really believes he crippled the French economy. That he has the power to say these things and make them true. Hey, those veterans aren’t homeless; they’re just used to sleeping outside, right?

10. In Canada, the REWARDS program (Rewarding Everyone Who Acts Responsibly and Doesn’t Smoke) was just unveiled. They’re offering $5000 to everyone in grades 5 through 8 if they stop smoking or remain smoke-free throughout high school. They just have to sign a contract agreeing to it and enlist four sponsors to donate some cash, and when the kid finishes high school, he or she gets 5000 bucks. Given the success of abstinence pledges, I’m almost interested to see how this works out. Anyway, if I were a Canadian kid, I’d take it. Five thousand bucks buys a lot of weed.

11. This year, Yale is going to make their ethnic students more comfortable by giving them an orientation guide of their own ethnicity. So black students will have a black guide, and Asian students will have an Asian guide, etc. Yale is probably also planning to make them more comfortable by giving them their own drinking fountains and restrooms, and then their own halls and their own classes with their own professors.

12. WLUK, the Fox affiliate in Green Bay, has made news for pulling Seinfeld from the schedule while the New York Giants are in town. Because Eli Manning loves Seinfeld. So, in an attempt to apparently disrupt his weekend, a station manager is going to do everything in his extremely limited power to give Eli Manning a bad evening and throw off his game. He says: “We don’t want to give any comfort to the enemy whatsoever when they come into town.” Martinets just love the meaningless exercise of their infinitesimal control over nothing. If only people cared about the election this much.

13. Speaking of, 40% of Americans think the media have devoted too much coverage to the 2008 campaign. Only 49% of them could name either of the winners in the Iowa caucus. The people most likely to not know the winners? Those oh-so-important-and-informed young voters. The ones under the age of 30 who are supposedly integral to the campaign. That sort of explains a lot about how these things go down, doesn’t it?

14. How the hell has the ACLU made free speech the issue with Larry Craig? Was that the issue? Free speech? Look, I understand the necessity of the ACLU, I just don’t understand the point they’re going for sometimes. The point was not that it’s wrong or right to have sex in a public bathroom; the point was that Larry Craig wants to legislate sexual preference and make homosexuality illegal, yet goes trolling for rough trade in the men’s room. Figure it out, guys.

15. So, did anyone else see those creepy scientology recruitment videos that were going around this week? See, if Tom Cruise is the spokesperson for a cult that purports to be “the authorities on the mind,” that’s just sad. What does it say about your fake, made-up religion that the guy you have shilling it can’t even pretend to be a realistic person in a movie, much less in real life? He’s the authority on the mind? He sees things in all of their complexity, yet he believes the Nazis invented psychiatry? When there’s an accident in life, only scientologists can help? Thanks, but I’m going to go to someone who believes in medicine and tested science and reason for help, not people who believe in alien ghosts and flying space planes. Either Tom Cruise is just bugfuck, street prophet ranting on the corner drooling out of his mouth insane, or he’s Mike Huckabee’s new running mate.

Jolene

It's Dolly Parton's birthday today, so I'm putting up a song to celebrate. This is "Jolene." You've all heard it; I think it's her best. It's my favorite, anyway. This is live; listen to her work that crowd. I still love her.

Yeah, They Taunted Tatiana

The Dhaliwals have been more cooperative with the police investigators, and Paul has denied antagonizing the Siberian tiger that attacked him on Christmas. The police haven't found anything incriminating on Paul's or Kulbir's cell phones, though they did find vodka and marijuana in their car. Oh, and a drug test kit with synthetic urine (Paul was on probation after a drunk driving incident; Paul is 19, and remember, he's a good kid, according to his lawyer). But police have also had multiple reports of a group of young men taunting animals at the zoo, despite their lawyer's protestations of an earlier eyewitness account as "demonstrably false." At the time of the attack, Paul's blood alcohol was 0.16, twice the legal level. Kulbir's was .04, and Carlos Sousa, the boy who died, had a .02. And they'd all been smoking weed (it was in their system, but Kulbir also admitted they'd been smoking earlier in the day).

Carlos Sousa Sr. said that he spoke to Paul on the phone after the attack; he told police that Paul had admitted to him that they'd been taunting the tiger before it attacked. The police also found Paul's shoeprint on the top of the railing above the tiger moat. Sousa's mother says Paul told her they didn't do anything.

One of the paramedics who rode with Paul to the hospital tried to interview him; he told her "I don't want anyone to know," and when pressed told her to "just shut up." He later tried to flirt with her and offered her his phone number, and then told her he didn't have a cell phone. The police are now saying they believe that the tiger was taunted and agitated by the Dhaliwals and Carlos Sousa, and that it contributed to Tatiana freeing herself.

They also did an autopsy on Tatiana, which showed that her claws were broken and splintered after climbing up the moat wall (which is concrete). The animal had to be very determined to go through that; possibly angry at something.

I wonder.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Introducing Tiana

The first released image of Princess Tiana, the heroine of Disney's return to cel animation, The Princess and the Frog. The film's coming in 2009, and I have high hopes for it.

Updating

I'm going to be messing around with my template a bit here while I switch over to the new new Blogger. Will my experience with layouts be crap? Who can say. But if things look really weird here when you're visiting today, that's why. Just letting you know.

UPDATE 1:38 PM: Finished with that. It looks... exactly the same, but new. Which is actually how I was hoping it would look. Success! Now I just need to finish putting labels on the older posts.

Stop It, Quentin! Don't! Don't!

I have a real love/hate relationship with Quentin Tarantino. I hate him, but I love his work. When I hear him talking about how great and important he is, I just want him to fail so people will finally stop taking him so seriously. But then I see the films, and they're just so damn good. I actively love each and every one of the movies he's directed. So when I hear he wants to remake a classic exploitation movie, I'm a little annoyed.

Apparently, QT wants to write and direct a remake of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! That's just a horrible idea. I know Tarantino loves to make movies where women kick ass and show their feet a lot, but does he have to remake Russ Meyer to do it? Pussycat is a great movie that hasn't dated at all. Movies like this are the reason Tarantino exists as a filmmaker (all of his films owe something to Meyer, Kill Bill and Death Proof especially), so I understand why he would want to pay homage to that, but you can do an homage without just copying. I know Tarantino can, because I've seen him do it.

And his casting choices are terrible. First of all, there can never be another Varla. And there can never be another Tura Satana. He wants to cast Eva Mendes in the role. Now, nothing against Eva, but I barely see her as capable of playing a role similar to Varla, much less Varla herself. And he wants to back her up with Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears? Please tell me this is some kind of hoax or terrible joke or something. Please tell me this is never happening. Jesus, Quentin Tarantino makes a movie every five to seven years unless Robert Rodriguez pushes him into it, and he wants to waste one of those on a Russ Meyer remake starring Britney fucking Spears?

Dude, how's Inglorious Bastards coming along? I've only been hearing about this thing since Pulp Fiction came out. Get to work and leave RM alone!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I Am Scared Out of My Mind

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."

I'm a little speechless here. This guy wants to change the Constitution to make it a religious document? The administration and the media keep selling us the notion that the terrorists are insane because they want to run the world according to a set of religious laws, and this Chuzzlewit, this backwoods ruminant, this insane man is running on the notion that America needs to turn back to Jesus? And he's the front-runner?? What the hell...

Granted, I know that Congress would never let this happen (at least I hope not; Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid don't exactly have a great track record on standing up to a president so far), but the fact that goddamn Mike Fuckabee can keep saying the things he says and still be considered the serious front-runner for the highest office in the United States speaks to something deeply wrong in our country. This man is insane. And he's very dangerous.

I'm making plans to leave this country while a) other nations will still let Americans in and b) the federal government will still let Americans out. It's good to have a contingency in place for when America's Dark Age starts.

Some video here. Thanks, MC, for making me plan my exit strategy...

The Borders of Africa

Dr. Monkey has an excellent post up in which he states his opinion that the Western involvement in Africa has been to the detriment of an entire continent. I've always been of the same opinion myself. I've actually been thinking a little bit about the history of Africa, mostly because I saw The Last King of Scotland last week and I just managed to find the textbook I had for the history of Africa course I took at NIU. On the post, Dr. Monkey says that a big cause of problems over there is that America, Britain, and other European countries (and the UN, in my opinion) has attempted to foist democracy on people who don't want it or can't make it work, all in the name (of course) of capitalism and corporate market share.

I've always thought of another problem, which is that, to this day, the US, Britain, Europe, and the UN (in my opinion) are still forcing the African "nations" to maintain borders that are absolutely arbitrary. Take a look at an older map of Africa, and you'll see that many of the borders are straight, as though they've been drawn with a ruler. That's because they were, at the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, where the European powers finally tried to put aside their differences and divide up Africa among themselves into colonies. Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Portugal divided the entire continent among themselves, while King Leopold II got to retain the Congo as his own private property and the Orange Free State in South Africa was essentially demolished. Only Liberia and Abyssinia (Ethiopia) remained independent; the Muslim governments had been driven out of North Africa. Basically, seven European countries took it upon themselves to decide that Africa was simply theirs and that they could divide it up into little portions they could do whatever they pleased with. And even then, wars broke out as the powers tried to get more and more and more and more.

The result of this, the effects of which are still making life terrible in Africa today, is that the white colonizers forced many different African nations and tribes into the same territories, even though they might have religious differences or cultural differences. In many cases, there were bitter enemies who were now yoked together under the banner of a European nation. And, as in the Middle East under Ottoman rule, the presence of a common oppressor didn't make these differences go away. The differences and the hostilities simply festered.

(It should be noted, for the sake of accuracy, that this rape of Africa for slaves and resources and souls had already begun in the 10th century or so under the Arab Muslim nations and, to some extent, India. Westerners didn't start the slave trade or the African colonization, but like other places in history, they found a system of exploitation already in place and made it horribly efficient.)

After World War II, colonization and imperialism become pretty unpopular on the world stage. After the rampant conquest of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, and the fear entering the world that the Soviet Union might keep expanding, many European countries sought to "grant" independence to their colonies. The fifites, sixties, and seventies saw the transition (and not always smoothly) to independent African nations. Local industries had grown in Africa during World War II, as had urbanization, and the Atlantic Charter called for the autonomy of imperial colonies. But many colonies were not pleased with the introduction of democracy, and Africa became (and has remained) a continent torn by civil war, political instability, racial inequality, religious inequity, economic disaster, and debt dependence.

I will never understand why the borders made during the Berlin Conference, the partitioning of Africa by white imperialists, are borders that still need to be in place. Some have changed, but barely any. And it's a major source of violence, because there are people who do not want to live together and who will kill each other in order to become dominant. And the West helps to fund this, because the Western governments want to keep the chaos in order to make it easier for corporations to do exactly what companies have been doing to Africa for centuries. Hey, people may be slaughtered in Africa, but women want shiny things, so why stop it?

Africa has lost many of its economic institutions; because their economies have been drained of natural resources, they can't diversify from their colonial exports. Which means that Africans have to keep growing cash crops instead of growing food to feed their own people. Yeah, there are droughts in Africa, but they're working with what they have. With what the West has left them. They can't industrialize because they've got no money. Most African countries are so dependent on donations and loans from the West that they can't live on their own. And most of that money doesn't go to anything other than corrupt dictators who ignore the welfare of their country because they're happy to be Western puppets. They can't educate their own people or care for their health, which has also led to a massive number of people with AIDS and other deadly diseases, some of which are treatable.

And then I read something else this morning: Plague is making a comeback. And it looks like it's going to bloom big-time in Africa. So this is what Western interference has brought them: civil war, instability, famine, and now plague.

Is there even an answer to this? Because I sure as hell can't see one.

Film Week

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

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND (2006)
A political piece, certainly, but this movie is much more of an intense thriller than I expected. Seriousy, Idi Amin isn't just dangerous, he's scary. I have to admit, over the years I've come to think less and less of Forest Whitaker as a very interesting actor (directing Waiting to Exhale, Hope Floats, and First Daughter will make me think less of you), so I was very surprised by him here. James McAvoy plays the Scottish doctor who becomes personal surgeon and advisor to the Ugandan dictator, and Whitaker plays Amin like a wild animal. On the outside, he's charismatic and friendly, bubbling with joy and a love of life and what seems like a genuine desire to help his people. Amin's crimes are deliberately hidden from us, and only gradually to we begin to see the real cost of his friendship--just like McAvoy's character, we feel betrayed and sickened by it, and Amin suddenly seems much more dangerous when we have a fuller picture of him. Whitaker's portrayal--an Oscar winner, but derided as over-the-top by many--is actually quite effective. Friendly and jovial at first (you want to hug the guy), but then the danger is revealed, and being in the same room with him is like being locked in with a bull; you never know when the animal is going to go off and charge. It's scary as hell, and the result is a riveting, powerful picture. Kerry Washington plays one of Amin's wives, and as usual, she's excellent. She needs to be getting Kate Winslet caliber roles, because she's a Winslet caliber actress. **** stars.

CURSES! (1925)
THE MOVIES (1925)
MY STARS (1926)
FOOL'S LUCK (1926)
Short comedies directed by Fatty Arbuckle under an alias. The Virginia Rappe scandal drove him behind the scenes. As a comedy director, he's a little broader than I tend to enjoy. The films are pretty obvious and a bit forgettable, but there are some genuine laughs in them. **1/2 stars each.

VIVA LAS VEGAS (1964)
Finally, I sat down and watched this, the only Elvis movie I've ever actually wanted to see. Elvis plays (what else?) a race car driver who meets a spitfire of perfection played by Ann-Margret, who somehow managest to be tomboyish and womanly at the same time. She's really the perfect woman in this movie: she wears lots of skimpy shorts, she dances with the energy of a demon, she loves speed, and she sings like, well, like Ann-Margret! Apparently there was an offscreen romance going on at the time, and Elvis and Ann-Margret together is basically the mindblowingly perfect coupling. Damn you, Tom Parker! If someone was smart and Elvis hadn't been under the spell of the "colonel," Elvis and Ann-Margret would've been in 14 movies together and they'd all be fun to watch just because they were in them together. Damn. She's really the reason why Viva Las Vegas is Elvis's best movie (at least as far as I'm concerned); she's the only woman I've seen him act opposite who matches him instead of just being dominated by him. It's a lot of fun. ***1/2 stars. By the way, seeing Ann-Margret in this movie (and I love her in movies), it's mistifying how anyone ever compared Lindsay Lohan to her. They even posed together in People once!

THE GOLDEN COMPASS (2007)
Okay, I'm going to do what I always do, and give this novel adaptation the benefit of accepting it on its own terms as a movie and not as an adaptation. Simply: it's clumsy and dumb. Honestly, I just don't get what's going on here. The movie wildly wants you to believe there's something important under the surface, but it never has a serious grasp of what that something important is. Which is odd, because this movie is so very condescending; it really tries to take you by the hand and lead you around every corner so that you won't lose sight of the implications and the big concepts, but the filmmakers don't seem to understand that the concepts are actually very shallow. Nothing is satisfactorally explained or even made interesting. There's no mystery. There are three editors, and it really does seem like scenes were added in or re-ordered after the first cut was finished. Things are obviously dropped in so that the movie makes more sense, but it just results in pedantry and some illogical decisions (if Iorek becomes king of the bears before he rescues Lyra from Bolvangar, why doesn't he bring a helpful army of armored bears with him?). And the movie is also essentially toothless, shying away from anything too violent or scary for fear of children feeling bad (one of the two cardinal crimes of America, the other is offending someone with an opinion); I'm almost looking forward to The Subtle Knife, because this movie ends before the dark ending of the book, and I'm sure Chris Weitz is wetting himself trying to think of how he can avoid it. Jeez, did I like anything about the movie? Yes: it looks really great; the design of the vehicles and the buildings especially. The special effects I can take or leave--some of the daemons look really good (especially Pantalaimon and Hester), but some of them look like video game characters. The bears are the same; Ragnar is especially well animated, Iorek is hit or miss. I loved Sam Elliott; Lee Scoresby is a potentially interesting character with not much to do. I thought Nicole Kidman, who is always so hit or miss with me, was pretty good, and very sexy in an ice queen sort of way. Daniel Craig was okay in his cameo. Christopher Lee had a scene--he's my favorite actor, and I had no idea he was in this movie! And I especially liked Dakota Blue Richards, making her debut as Lyra. I thought she was just wonderful, and the movie would be even worse without her in the role. I'd love to see her in a good movie instead of this one. In a nutshell, here's the problem: it looks good, a lot of potentially interesting situations and characters come to nothing, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and it takes itself far too seriously considering nothing is really happening. It's shallow and I have a feeling if you haven't read the book you might need a decoder to make sense of it. It flirts with the notion of ideas, philosophy, and ethics, but it's not really about any of those things. I guess that's what happens when you put the guy who made American Pie and American Dreamz in charge of a movie. Although he's not exactly working from Moby Dick in the first place... ** stars. Not even fitfully interesting enough to say it's a waste. It's forgettable.

GRAND THEFT AUTO (1977)
Ron Howard's first movie as a director is a road/chase comedy, sort of a funny version of Spielberg's The Sugarland Express. It's okay, I guess. Tighter than most Ron Howard movies, but not one of his best. Marion Ross is in the movie, and it's almost worth it to see Mrs. C punch a cop in the nuts. **1/2 stars.

THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (1934)
Martin Scorsese's version is passionate and filled with longing; it's an exquisite movie. This earlier version with Irene Dunne is very much of its time, and that's not always good, as 1930s movies about rich people and their stuff are sometimes condescending. At least they got the ending right, but it didn't move me. **1/2 stars.

HARD CANDY (2006)
This movie is about a teenage girl who meets a man in his thirties on the internet, hooks up with him, then accuses him of molesting and killing other girls and tortures him until he kills himself. Frankly, it's about as good as it sounds. Okay, I know that men meeting girls on the internet and raping them is a serious issue; I also know that more people than ever before are terrified and angry about it. But this movie has nothing to say on the subject. I think it trivializes the entire issue. And worse than that, it tries to set what the girl does--torture and murder--as somehow morally superior because it's done in the name of righteousness. However, it's not done in the name of legality. The law has a serious problem taking this kind of thing the way it should; why not make a movie about that? Probably because it would have to be creative and interesting, and Hard Candy is neither. Hard Candy is smug, moralistic, and obvious. It never gets to the heart of the problem, which is the dichotomy of how women are seen in American society. The real problem is the fight between instinct (to see young girls as entering fertility and good prospects to help propagate the species) and civilized society (girls that young are off-limits). You know, it wasn't that long ago that girls as young as 12 were getting married in America; hell, my aunt got married when she was 16. Today, we want teenagers to have the life of children in our ever-expanding concept of childhood (which seems to go to about 30 these days), but we continue to parade them around as sexual objects, even as we're told we're not supposed to see them that way. That's an issue this movie isn't even prepared to deal with because it's just a fairly unoriginal genre movie. Patrick Wilson is very good, although I realize the only things he's ever been in that I remotely liked were Angels in America and that Hanes commercial (or whatever) with Claire Danes--he's in a lot of bad movies that he's honestly too talented to have to be in. Ellen Page is less good; she makes the mistake of a lot of young actors, being too theatrical and big because she's trying to convey sarcasm and energy. She's not bad, but she's not at her best, either. Overall, it's a shitty exploitation movie that tries to justify its exploitative factor by pretending to be socially relevant; at least I Spit on Your Grave and Freeway were honest about its intentions. And I can almost never respect movies that advocate revenge murder as morally excusable--or, more importantly, legally excusable. Deal with the ramifications like an adult. Even the first Death Wish (the good one) did that. Frustratingly annoying. * star.

BIKINI PIRATES (2006)
Evan Stone and Rebecca Love play pirates. Evan Stone is fucking hilarious. He's a comic genius. It's the same movie every time, but it's a funny, naked waste of time. *** stars.

THE GIRL FROM B.I.K.I.N.I. (2007)
Evan Stone doesn't have enough to do in this one, and Nicole Sheridan only has a cameo, but I always love a topless Rebecca Love. ** stars.

Calloo Call-Quiz-Day




Find out what pixar character are you at LiquidGeneration.com



Find out your Spider-Man personality at LiquidGeneration!



Find out how totally 80's are you at LiquidGeneration!



Your Score: Ben Crandall


155 Heart, 148 Genius, 129 Cool, 131 Excitability



Ben Crandall - (Ethan Hawke)
Explorers (1985)

You are Ben Crandall! You have big dreams, and even if you don't have the ability to make them come true right now, don't give up on them... you never know when you might get an alien transmission from beings who have been watching Nick at Night.

"I've waited all my life to say this."
"Be my guest."
"We come in peace."

Other scientific possibilities:
Gary Wallace
Wyatt Donnelly
Peter Venkman
Jordan Cochran
Egon Spengler
Doc Brown
Newton Crosby
Paul Stephens
Ben Crandall
Wayne Szalinkski
Winston Zeddemore
Ben Jabituya
Lazlo Hollyfeld
Ray Stantz
Buckaroo Banzai
Chris Knight

Link: The Which 80s Movie Scientist Test written by xxyl on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test
View My Profile(xxyl)



Your Score: Class Clown


You are 42% Rational, 57% Extroverted, 85% Brutal, and 85% Arrogant.



You are the Class Clown. This means you wear grease paint and have a big, red nose...

I really need to stop thinking so literally...

Anyway, I MEANT to say that you are the Class Clown, and this means that you are extroverted, mean, and arrogant. You are not very rational, so you gravitate towards things that produce feelings or emotions over thoughts (like fart jokes or spitballs, for instance). You are also an extrovert and rather full of yourself, so of course you want constant attention for yourself and think you are somehow better than others. (Upon hearing the expression "you are full of yourself", you probably also slyly feel the need to ask women if they would like to be "full of yourself" too. I am assuming you have a penis. I often make that assumption, being fond of the penis.) You can also be a bit mean-spirited, and like a class clown you wouldn't hesitate to make a joke at someone else's expense, no matter how terrible it would make them feel. A lot of people probably find your antics annoying, sophomoric, and desperately histrionic. Like some sort of crack-taking hyperactive monkey, you'd do anything, mock anyone, just to get someone to pay attention to you for five seconds. So your personality defects are that you have to be the center of attention, that you don't care about others, and that you are rather irrational and motivated by intuitions. Now stop walking around with those books on your head and sit down this instant! Or else I'll be forced to stand here, hands on my hips, doing nothing once again!


To put it less negatively:

1. You are more INTUITIVE than rational.

2. You are more EXTROVERTED than introverted.

3. You are more BRUTAL than gentle.

4. You are more ARROGANT than humble.

Compatibility:

Your exact opposite is the Robot.

Other personalities you would probably get along with are the Schoolyard Bully, the Smartass, and the Brute.

*

*

If you scored near fifty percent for a certain trait (42%-58%), you could very well go either way. For example, someone with 42% Extroversion is slightly leaning towards being an introvert, but is close enough to being an extrovert to be classified that way as well. Below is a list of the other personality types so that you can determine which other possible categories you may fill if you scored near fifty percent for certain traits.

The other personality types:

The Emo Kid: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Starving Artist: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Bitch-Slap: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Brute: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hippie: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Televangelist: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Schoolyard Bully: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Class Clown: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Robot: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Haughty Intellectual: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Spiteful Loner: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Sociopath: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hand-Raiser: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Braggart: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Capitalist Pig: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Smartass: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

Be sure to take my Sublime Philosophical Crap Test if you are interested in taking a slightly more intellectual test that has just as many insane ramblings as this one does!

About Saint_Gasoline


I am a self-proclaimed pseudo-intellectual who loves dashes. I enjoy science, philosophy, and fart jokes and water balloons, not necessarily in that order. I spend 95% of my time online, and the other 5% of my time in the bathroom, longing to get back on the computer. If, God forbid, you somehow find me amusing instead of crass and annoying, be sure to check out my blog and my webcomic at SaintGasoline.com.

Link: The Personality Defect Test written by saint_gasoline on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test
View My Profile(saint_gasoline)



Your Score: Curvy and Naughty


Raw score: 70% Big Breasts, 63% Big Ass, and 52% Cute!





Thanks for taking the T and A and C test! Based on your selections, the results are clear: you show an attraction to larger breasts, larger asses, and sexier composures than others who've taken the test.

Note that you like women overall curvier than average.

My third variable, "cuteness" is a mostly objective measure of how innocent a given model looked. It's determined by a combination of a lot of factors: lack of dark eye makeup, facial expression, posture, etc. If you scored high on that variable, you are either really nice OR you're into deflowering teens. If you scored low, you are attracted to raunchier, sexier, women. In your case, your lower than average score suggests you appreciate a sexier, naughtier look. Kudos!

Recommended Celebrities: Supermodel Laetitia Casta and Actress Angelina Jolie.

Link: The Tits, Ass, and Cuteness Test written by chicken_pot_pie on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test
View My Profile(chicken_pot_pie)


Wait... Angelina Jolie? How old is this test? Because she ain't fitting that profile anymore.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Health Report, Year 2: Week 5

It's been a good, stress free week.

I'm still (still!) in the process of modifying my eating habits, finding things I like that aren't going to kill me so much, etc. It's a hard balancing act, especially when you're just craving garbage like I've been. It was hard to get through last week without caving in and going to Long John Silver's (right at the end of the street, next to Baker's Square and its siren cheesecake). Oh, man, that was hard.

On Thursday night, I did cave in a little, and I had some Oreo cookies. Oh, man, did you know that a single serving of Oreos is just 2 Oreos? And it's 140 calories! Holy shit, no wonder they put thin crisps in those 100-calorie packs! And I just couldn't stop eating them, though I tried hard to be disciplined. I had three servings! Just six cookies, but 340 calories. I actually felt sick the next morning. Sick and disgusting. And then we went out for breakfast. I usually get some variation on steak and eggs, which I know isn't as good for me as some sort of vegetarian omelet or something like that, but the place we went makes it's omelets with, get this, five eggs. Do you believe that? How much food do people need all at once? I weigh 370 pounds, and even I think a five egg omelet is excessive. Holy shit, five eggs? I got the chopped steak, which is what they call hamburger for some pretentious reason, and I ordered it medium rare. The thing looked fine until you got closer to the center, and then blood started gushing out of the thing and covering my eggs over easy. The center was raw. Fucking raw. Needless to say, I didn't finish it. But I still got sick and felt sick all day.

I also went to the DeKalb Clinic for the first time in a year. Last time I went, I had a terrible experience; the new doctor wouldn't listen to me, I hadn't had my meds for several days before the check-up, and the lady at the front desk hassled me because I didn't have insurance. This year was much better. I talked to a different woman at the front desk, and she was a white-haired old lady, which instantly made me feel better. When it comes to older women, I find most of them are polite and friendly and helpful if you're polite and friendly in return. Since I'm always polite and friendly until someone meets me with the opposite, I had no problems. In fact, in contrast to the woman last year who wanted to treat me like I was some kind of damn criminal because I was uninsured, this woman was almost apologetic because she had to ask me to pay beforehand. I said I'd already called to check on it and had the cash in my pocket. She was a very, very nice woman.

They still don't have a regular cardiologist, and in fact Dr. Sabrawhal from last year is still coming by. I'd specifically asked to see anyone else. I saw a woman named Dr. Atta, and she was the first doctor I've had who is, like, my perfect doctor. She's exactly the type of person I always want to deal with wherever I go: she's around my age, she listens to what I tell her and any concerns I have, she's genuinely helpful and gives me all the information she can, and she's extremely sexy. Really, really hot. She's Iranian, I think. Not that that makes her a better doctor, but it's something I enjoy wherever I go. She's just a really cool doctor. She came in and, right away, said "Aaron--wow, your blood pressure sucks." I knew then I'd found the doc for me. There was going to be no bullshit with her, but she was going to be cool about it.

Dr. Atta changed my medication. I told her about the Metaprolol fiasco, and she said she'd heard of that sort of thing, especially with beta blockers. She didn't want to just renew my meds, because they obviously weren't working as well as she'd like, so she took me off my 100mg Toprol daily and gave me some samples of a capsule called Coreg CR, and took me down to 80mg a day. She wants me to stay on it for a few weeks and see if it's more effective at lowering my blood pressure. I was nervous about it, but she knows what she's talking about (I felt) and I don't want to just stay on meds that aren't quite doing the job. I don't want the kidney damage, frankly.

I told her that I knew I was genetically predisposed to hypertension (it runs rampant in my family), but that I wasn't quite keeping up my end because I still weigh 370 pounds and my weight loss has been very slow. I must've mentioned this a couple of times, because she finally put her hand on my wrist and said: "Aaron, you're too hard on yourself. You know you have a problem and you know what you have to do about it. Don't beat yourself up about it, just work on it." And somehow, hearing that from my cardiologist just made me feel so much better about myself. And since then, I've been in a damn good mood.

Except for the cravings. The horrible cravings!

I finally had to give in to them on Saturday night, and I had pizza. What I did was have a thin crust, square-cut pizza. That crust was wafer thin, no kidding. And I ordered vegetable toppings: mushrooms, onions, green peppers, and black olives. And whoever made the damn thing piled those all over. There were too many veggies for that crust to support! Which meant there was almost no room for cheese. I guess that's a good thing. I also decided that I don't like mushrooms. They just sit there being slimy and tasteless and taking up space that could go to jalapenos. Or cheese.

But the good news is, it killed my cravings. I wanted a pizza, so I had one. And now I don't want another one! The cravings are gone! I'd turn my nose up at Long John Silver's now. I don't want fries. I literally do not want fast food anymore. That's much, much better.

This week I've had chicken marinated in a Greek vinaigrette along with rice and green beans. I found out that brie is pretty good, but on panetini it's orgasmic. I found out that I should never order medium rare meat (four people told me, including Dr. Atta), even though I usually do. We've made fish with a light, spicy bredding, and it was sublime (plus, I discovered a new fish that I like--trout, which is a thousand times yummier than tilapia and doesn't taste as fishy). I discovered I didn't like mushrooms. And I found a new brand of sugar-sweetened soda with only 40mg of sodium per bottle and 45 carbs and no caffeine. It's called Hank's, and it's awesome. I hadn't had an orange cream soda in about a decade, since I worked at Barnes & Noble. And that stuff had caffeine in it. This is better, smoother. Cleaner-tasting. It's a nice dinner drink. The rest of the day, I drink only Desani mineral water. And I feel really, really fucking good.

And I'm on a new medication. Coreg CR. I admit, I was worried at first, because if I don't have my Toprol in the morning, it really does affect my mood all day long. But the Coreg is working wonderfully. I don't just feel good; I feel better than I have in a long while. Since a year ago, I guess, when the dieting was going full force and the weight was coming off. My blood pressure on Friday was an awful 165/92. Yesterday it was 123/69. I know I'm eating better and I'm in a much better mood, but the drugs are really helping me out. I feel actually happy. Like I can do things like live my life. Like I have a handle on things.

What I need to get a handle on now is my exercise. I'm still doing push-ups and such in the morning, but ever since my ankle got fucked up the day before Halloween, I haven't gone for a walk or gone to the gym. I'm perfectly capable of walking now, but I haven't because it's been so damn cold in the mornings. I have to get out and walk, either outside or (more likely) the gym. Still, even without it, I've noticed I've been getting more energy. My legs feel stronger; I don't even need to lean on my arms to get out of chairs anymore. I can rise more easily. What is going on? And how do I get more?

I know I keep repeating this, but I feel good. Really, really good. Really damn good. And that's without the exercise. When I'm walking every day and giving myself a workout, and when I'm getting stronger and thiner, and when I look like Christian Bale with my clothes off, I'm going to be juggling barrels, y'all.

Why did I ever let myself stop doing this?

Are You Warm, Are You Real, Mona Lisa?

German experts have determined the identity of the Mona Lisa.

Personally, I don't care. I didn't read the story. I know it's one of the biggest art mysteries in the world, but I'm not interested. It's the most over-analyzed painting in the world. But it's also a beautiful painting, and I don't know why we're so dead set on diminishing the enigmatic qualities that make it so compelling.

Let me ask what you think: does knowing the identity of the woman in the painting enhance your appreciation of the work, or does it really matter?

Vampira 1921-2008

Maila Nurmi has died at the age of 85 with no known surviving family. Without her there'd be no sexy Goth chicks.

There's a much better tribute to her here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

All My Cowboys

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Tony Romo and Terrell Owens reflect on another shitty postseason game, marking 11 straight years of no postseason victory.

ROMO: Aw, man. Another shitty game played.

OWENS: Hey, we lost as a team. Don't blame yourself. We're all pretty lousy players, honestly.

ROMO: I know, but I was in Cabo with Jessica this weekend, and you know people are going to bring that shit up again. I can practically hear Terry Bradshaw's sweaty, loud, ridiculous, irrelevant, shuffling, elderly, ham-fisted condemnations now.

OWENS: Aw, no one listens to him. Seriously, it's okay.

ROMO: It's something about girls, man. Every time I'm getting some, I suddenly can't concentrate enough to throw a ball, run a yard, or any of the other complicated things I'm paid far, far more than someone with a socially relevant skill to do for a few months a year. I mean, the Cowboys are treating me like a superstar, and I'm the quarterback, so I'm going to take the heat, not all those guys who were interviewing for coach jobs on other teams.

OWENS: Are you blaming the girls?

ROMO: No, it's just... well, remember when I was dating Carrie Underwood? My mind was so full of her that I could barely remember to wear all of my equipment, much less throw a ball...

OWENS (mumbling): Don't remind me.

ROMO: And now, with Jessica. I don't know, I date all of these southern blondes, and I think they're what I want, but it's like pussy has some kind of drug in it that makes me stupid.

OWENS: Well, maybe you should give up on girls. I mean, just during the season. Concentrate on important things like running and tackling and shit.

ROMO: Gee, I don't know...

OWNES: Come on, Romy. Next season it'll just be you and me, practicing hard, working side-by-side, sweating like real men, showering together...

ROMO: Oh, man, T.O., for the last time! I'm not interested in that!

OWENS: Well then what the hell are you playing football for?!

ROMO: Shut up!

OWENS: Come on, Tony! A game where we wear tight pants and run after other men, jumping on them in a big mass and dry-humping them while we try to grab their balls? Shit, you're a quarterback! You reach under a man's hips and deliver a pigskinned baby every offensive play!

ROMO: It's not like that! It's just a game! A silly, unmanly, ridiculously-beloved, stupidly overpaid game that takes up far too much national attention!

OWENS: Tony, you silly savage, don't tell me you're the last person in America to realize football is pure homoerotica.

ROMO: You bastard!

OWENS: Come on, man. Don't be like that.

ROMO: I'm going to head to the locker room. I may or may not be at the after party!

OWENS: Fine! Then I'm going to go to the idiotic amount of press that's always waiting after each game and tell them the pussy's addled your brain, man! I'll tell them you're a shitty, overpaid player who barely deserves fame and the class of women he's getting because he can't throw as well as a six-year-old!

ROMO: Dude. Dude, you can't.

OWENS (weeping): I'm sorry, Tony. You're right. I'll protect you. Tony... I l-... Good game, man.

ROMO: Thanks, T.O.

Piano music rises as Terrell looks away and tries to stem the tide of tears.

TV Report: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Etc.

No. Just no.

I tried to watch The Sarah Connor Chronicles last night. And by "tried" I mean I gave it until the first commercial break, bored out of my mind, and then shut the TV off. I realized that, much like the Aliens and Predator franchises, The Terminator is another property that I'm beyond done with. I'm sick of it. There's nothing new being added to it. I just don't care anymore.

The only real reason I decided to give it a try was Lena Heady. I really like her, and I could really see her playing Sarah Connor on TV. But frankly, I'd rather see her in movies. I'm sick of the Sarah Connor character. I'm sick of the John Connor character and the way he's always such a whiny little bitch. I fucking hated Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. I don't care what happens. The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day were great, great movies. I love them. They're endlessly rewatchable. But that's it for me. I don't need any more.

And I really have no interest in seeing that teeny little girl from Firefly (a show I still can't believe it so well-liked) playing a killing machine. It's laughable to me. It's laughable to me the way science fiction, the genre of ideas as they used to say, has just become little girls kicking ass. Are we bored with this yet? Because I am. It's all just going to lead up the inevitable: "I do not understand this concept you call love. Teach me, John Connor." Because it's all about getting to fuck machines and aliens in SF anymore. And barely-disguised pedophilia (watch Battle Angel--er, sorry, Dark Angel, and tell me it's not true). Pass. Such a fucking pass.

Also, I forgot the Golden Globes were on last night. Of course, having never seen the Golden Globes, I guess that would be 31 for 31. My mom called last night after it was on and told me it was an hour long show with clips and the winners announced, with no red carpet, no interviews, and no acceptance speeches. She said it was the best awards show she'd ever seen.

I hope this keeps up for the Oscars. Not only will it really stick it to the network to lose all of that ad money, not only will it destroy the E! channel, it'll mean there'll be no Oscars this year. Ah, blessings.

I miss a couple of the shows I really liked, but otherwise, I haven't missed TV at all. And if shows like The Sarah Connor Chronicles are what we're missing out on with this writer's strike, I say let it continue until there are less producers to come up with this kind of shit.

Clinton and Obama Need a Reality Check

Hillary Clinton says that Martin Luther King's dream of civil rights didn't happen until President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Barack Obama says that offensively diminishes the role of King in the movement.

Now both candidates are arguing over who has the right to offensively invoke and thus compare themselves to Martin Luther King in order to win the Democratic nomination.

Historical fact: Martin Luther King's tireless work to gain equal civil rights for black people was one of the most important social wars ever fought in this country. He forced America to deal with an issue that had festered and been ignored and actively fought against for far, far too long.

Also historical fact: It did not become the law of this country until President Johnson signed it into law.

Social criticism: There are a lot of people who've still chosen simply not to notice that black people have civil rights. Those people are assholes.

This is the year 2008. Why aren't we past this shit yet?

Shouldn't the real issue be that we have two candidates, each of whom is pro-corporation, anti-union, and taking scads of payoff money from the health care industries they purport to be against, and they best they can offer us is a spat over how much credit Martin Luther King deserves? If we really were all equal, it wouldn't matter that one was a white woman and one was a black man; it would matter that they're both liars, both untrustworthy, and both easily bribed.

The State of Disney

I'm watching the 2004 straight to video Disney movie Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers. I bought it when it came out on DVD nearly four years ago, but I hadn't watched it since then, and I'd forgotten how damn enjoyable it was. Not great, not groundbreaking, but enjoyable. It's fun and it's funny, and it's easy to like without being stupid, like a lot of modern cartoons. And watching it now, knowing that this was a time when Disney had released Brother Bear and was about to release Home on the Range and then Chicken Little, it kind of pisses me off. Because those movies are anything but enjoyable, fun, funny, or, um, not stupid. Those are bad movies.

I keep hearing a lot about how Disney wants to reinvent itself. How the Pixar merger is supposed to put Disney back on the right track. And this year, with Meet the Robinsons and Enchanted, it does seem like Disney's doing something better. They even want to get back into making short cartoons, having released a new Goofy cartoon, How to Hook Up Your Home Theater, with National Treasure: Book of Secrets. And, nicely, they seem to have cast aside their earlier pledge to go all-CGI. Not that CGI doesn't have a place, but it would be a shame to cast cel animation aside. It's just a matter of doing a better job.

Personally, having really devoted myself to Disney my whole life, and having begun my critical series Evaluating Disney in 2005, it seems like a lot of us who love Disney do so in spite of a lot of things. In spite of so much unrealized potential and so much promise that was never fulfilled. There are Disney cycles: in the thirties there was genuine artistry; the forties were full of compromise and cutbacks; the fifties saw Disney revive itself with live action; but the sixties and seventies were death zones of repetition and cost-cutting, until the Renaissance of the late eighies, which only lasted until the late nineties, when things got repetitive again. Where are we now?

Granted, I don't work in the entertainment industry, but how hard is it really to make good cartoons again? Why was it so hard for Disney to make great animation? To hold on to a beneficial property like Hilary Duff? To do something interesting with the Muppets? To make movies as good as Pixar movies? To change with the times? Jeez, Jamie-Lynn Spears gets pregnant at sixteen and Nickelodeon's first thought is to do a show about sex education for its young audience; Disney is still acting like sex doesn't even exist. And it doesn't have to in their movies and TV shows, but neither does Disney have to act like the outside world doesn't exist in reality. There's no edge to Disney. And that means fewer things for kids to relate to.

Seriously, Disney, when I watch Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers, I'm thinking: More of these, please. It's, what, an hour long? But it's fun. It's fun. And that's something that a lot of Disney offerings are still sorely missing.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Song of the Week: "Thoughts of You"

I having them. Dennis Wilson, hauntingly beautiful song.

Politics and Social Concerns, Again

Hillary Clinton is pro-corporation, takes payoff money from the health care industry, and wants the insurance companies who keep fucking us over to create a new government health care plan.

Barack Obama is the same. Plus he's anti-union.

John Edwards wants Americans to have a single payer, universal health care system and wants to throw off the corporate stranglehold on our for-profit government.

Mike Huckabee wants to take America back for Jesus, put women back in the kitchen, and abolish taxes.

John McCain is a fascist who wants to rule with the military and is running on the same platform President Duh was running on: "I just really, really, really, really, really want to be president."

Rudy Giuliani is just a ludicrous idiot who is as much in bed with the Arab royal families as Bush; he ran New York like it was his personal concierge service with additional piggy bank. He will run America the same way.

Mitt Romney is an idiot with zero respect for anyone (unless pretending to have respect will get him elected).

Statistically, the happiest country in the world is Denmark. They're a market economy with efficient agriculture, a corporate industry, extensive welfare, "very high" living standards, stable currency, and an efficient foreign trade system. They have zero foreign debt. 75% of the labor force is in a trade union (and union reps are on most boards of directors, and the government rarely interferes in matters of work schedules and wages). Their unemployment rate is 2.8%. Work hours are long, but only because service workers are in demand. They have a nationalized health care system. They are the second most acceptant country of evolution, despite being 91% Lutheran. College education is free (by law). In 1969, they legalized pornography (one of the first countries in the world to do so). In 1989, Denmark became the first country to give same-sex couples nearly all of the rights of marriage. They pay 63% of their wages in taxes. But they're the happiest people in the world. Do you think that has something to do with the government taking care of a lot of things?

And Denmark is a constitutional monarchy. Today, in Europe, monarchies and former monarchies are better at handling democracies than America is.

More people die in this country than any other of heart disease. We die of stress and worry. We die young because we work 60 hours a week for terrible pay because we're terrified that we can't put our kids through school. We work until we have health problems and pay into a health care system because we're scared to death that our kids will get sick. And when they do, we're denied care because of corporate loopholes. American life is basically work, fear, and early death.

And yet, when someone says they want to create national, universal health care, people get upset and cry "That's socialism! My taxes!" People react with even more fear at the idea of anything that isn't the great god capitalism. Capitalism has given you insurance companies that won't cover you, oil wars that are wasting the lives of your children, corporations that fire you because they can hire an immigrant who will work for 70% less money than you, a government that steals all of your retirement money for pay raises, stress, overwork, health problems, barely any vacation time a year, crippling debt, overpriced education, poison toys from China, and 9/11. I see why you love it so damn much.

People always ask where money for health care and education and better wages will come from. No one ever asks where money for the war will come from. It's just always there.

You turn on other poor people because your corporate masters have turned you on each other so you won't notice how bad off you have it.

But at least we have tax cuts, right?

I think Americans just love being kept down. Hell, American Idol starts on Tuesday, so they won't be able to concentrate on anything else until May.

Loving this country.

Sunday Hottie 154

GINA BELLMAN