Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ode to Joy

Paul Newman 1925-2008

One of my favorite actors, a great humanitarian and, by all accounts, a fantastic person. That's all that really needs to be said. Goodbye, sir.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Throwdown 9/26

Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. I have to start off by thanking Bubs for alerting me to the fact that, for the first time in 30 years, Hammer Films is making a new horror movie! Here’s some info at their official site. I am very excited.

2. Awesome news: Stephen Chow (of Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer) is going to direct Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet movie. So, Rogen is writing and playing the Green Hornet, while Chow is directing and playing Kato. I already love this movie a little bit.

3. Okay, I loved Speed Racer, but if you think I’m going to love Astro Boy with Nicolas Cage’s voice coming out of the main character, you are seriously mistaken. Can we get some recasting here, stat? I mean, Kristen Bell is in it, so I have to see it, so can we make it a little more… I don’t know, good?

4. Yeah, no shit. What else you got?

5. Wait, so now Jessica Alba is a Latina? She should make up her mind on that one. Because I remember when she vehemently wasn’t, and now she’s “What America looks like” and “excited for my baby to be brown.”

6. Casey Aldridge, Jamie-Lynn Spears’s baby daddy, took pictures of her breastfeeding the baby and holding it while wearing her underwear. Then, like a total fucking dumbass, took the pictures to Wal-Mart to make prints. Surprise, surprise, someone stole the pictures, and since J-Lynn is underage, they are now in possession of child pornography and the FBI is trying to track them down. But let’s not overlook the real problem here: Casey, seriously, I know you’re not smart (and I also know you’re probably not the father), but seriously, Wal-Mart? Prints? You fucking moron.

7. Anna Faris announced that she’s not going to do the Linda Lovelace biopic anymore and concentrate on comedies instead. Man, I really hate that idea. I’m always glad to see her, of course, but come on, she mostly makes crappy comedies that wouldn’t be worth seeing if she weren’t in them. She’s kind of letting herself down, I think. If not Lovelace, she really needs to find something edgy to do.

8. Cindy and Michelle relieved; progressive thinkers irritated.

9. St. Paul has dropped the trumped up charges against journalists and peaceful protestors wrongly arrested during the RNC. Another election cycle, another massive case of Republican intimidation of the press. Land of the free.

10. Washington Mutual is no more. And it’s the largest bank failure in history. What happened? Well, there was a run in the last 10 days that resulted in customers withdrawing about $16.7 billion of their deposits, and Washington Mutual can no longer operate. JP Morgan has already snapped it up, so if you have a WaMu account it should be okay, but your stock is worthless. I don’t want to say anything about the Great Depression, but there is a historical analogy here. 10 days for a bank to fail in this melting economy. I wonder if the next one will take as long. (Spoiler: it’s probably Wachovia, who probably deserves it.)

11. Official 2008 Republican Party platform: “We do not support government bailouts of private institutions. Government interference in the markets exacerbates problems in the marketplace and causes the free market to take longer to correct itself.” So, you’re not still voting McCain, are you?

12. Last week I talked about how melamine had made it into China’s milk supply, specifically milk powder aimed at infants. Well, it turns out that 22 companies have been using the melamine-infested milk (the substance, used in making plastic, looks like protein and inflates the protein content but is, of course, a toxic industrial chemical). Now Taiwan, Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong have banned all Chinese dairy products. Four infants have already died because of this debacle, with nearly 13,000 children hospitalized and 53,000 children sickened. And again I ask: why are they making our products? By the way, it’s now being discovered that the Chinese government knew about this months ago and didn’t make a move on it because of the Olympics. And it’s in those “White Rabbit” candies they sell in US Asian marketplaces, apparently, so I might get looked at before the kidneys fail.

13. It wasn’t news that John McCain’s soulless campaign manager was a lobbyist, but it was news last week that he was a lobbyist for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac against government regulation. He used to get paid $30,000 a month for it. Davis said he was no longer involved with his lobbying firm. Except that, well, he is. McCain doesn’t pay Davis directly for running the campaign; McCain pays him through his lobbying firm. Next lie, Davis?

14. There are a couple of rumors I’ve been hearing lately about Obama switching out Joe Biden for Hillary Clinton as his running mate. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I mean, honestly, I’d still vote for Obama anyways, because even though I’m not the biggest Hillary fan after this campaign cycle, I still think she’s pretty competent and knows what she’s doing. It would be a massively political choice, of course, but this is politics. You think Biden wasn’t a political choice? But the move of picking up Biden was trumped by the move of picking up Palin as another successful distraction. And I don’t think picking a new running mate would really be as offensive to Democrats as it would be to Republicans. I don’t know; it’ll be interesting to see if it happens. And if it does… please, save it for the day of the debate against Sarah Palin. Let’s see Klondike Barbie find a talking point for that surprise.

15. Okay, a bonus Palin point: since she was picked as running mate, there have been a lot of donations in her name at Planned Parenthood. I enjoyed that.

16. “Yes, my pretty little trophy distraction. I’d like to stump that all night long. Too bad I can barely lift my arms because of a life spent war heroing. Still, Cindy’s gettin’ a little old these days, so maybe it’ll be time to trade her in soon, right, sweetie? Alright, now, you be a good little girl and fetch me a cup of coffee while me and the men folk go and talk about the politics. Then you can go and powder that pretty nose of yours.” You know who I think the dumbest women in the world are? Women who think that picking Palin as running mate means McCain somehow respects women. He doesn’t even respect her, let alone them. He just thinks they’re dumb enough to be distracted by him picking a woman. And it turns out that, in some cases, he’s right. They are dumb enough.

17. Another lie: McCain is suspending his campaign. Well, he’s not closing the offices. And he’s not going to stop the TV ads. Or fundraising. Or giving interviews. But he’s not campaigning right now. Here’s a fun video of him heroically leading the charge to fix the bailout proposal by admitting he hasn’t even read the proposal yet. The three-page proposal written four days before the interview. I guess making decisions before you know what you’re talking about is part of being a maverick.

18. President Bush is apparently hellbent on breaking as many federal laws as he can for his last few months in office. In a complete violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, a US Army brigade combat unit, the 1st Brigade Combat Team (650 personnel) will be deployed to deal with “civil unrest and crowd control.” What exactly does Bush have planned for October that he needs an Army brigade to protect him?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Christopher Reeve

While Becca celebrates one of the Geek Gods, I celebrate another, so between the two of us we've got it covered. Happy birthday to the late Christopher Reeve, who thankfully beat out Warren Beatty, Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, James Caan, Kris Kristofferson, Nick Nolte, Robert Redford, Jon Voight, and Bruce freaking Jenner to play one of my favorite fictional characters.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

John McCain Is Afraid to Debate

Hey, if I were John McCain, and I knew Obama was going to use my career of deregulation against me, and I had no way to fight that, and there was an economic crisis going on that I had no idea how to stop, and some of the architects of the disaster were working on my campaign staff, and my party was blaming poor people and demanding more money for the Bush administration to lose as a solution, I'd be afraid of debating Obama, too.

Obama wanted to release a joint statement with McCain. In response, McCain suspended his campaign and told the press he wanted to work with Obama on a bipartisan solution (and that it was his idea). Oh, and to postpone Friday's debate. So, my apologies to everyone who told me that McCain was going to attempt to stop the debates from even taking place before the election. I said you were crazy, but you had it pegged all along.

Film Week

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

Everyone hated this movie; I loved it. I don't plan it that way. This is another one of those movies that really has no conceivable audience; kids won't care about all of the insider trading shadiness, and adults won't like the very kid-centered humor. On the other hand, the plot really is kind of beside the point. Hell, I couldn't even tell you what the plot really was. I just enjoyed the entire experience of Speed Racer, from the actors (even Matthew Fox, but especially John Goodman), to the candy-colored special effects (even the all-CGI backgrounds, which bother me less and less as I see what they're going for), to the serious cheesiness of it all. They wanted to make a live action cartoon, and they did (and, oddly, it's the first Wachowski Brothers movie I've ever liked). I can't defend it, but I absolutely loved this shindig, so fuck it, it gets **** stars.

Laurel & Hardy want to go to a lodge meeting, so they tell their wives they're going to Hawaii to take Ollie to a spa. I always love Laurel & Hardy, and I'd put this right near the top as far as their features go. I wish I had more to say other than "I really enjoyed it," but, well... if you've seen Laurel & Hardy, you know what to expect, and if you haven't, this isn't a bad place to start. **** stars.

Surprisingly good Disney fare about two psychic kids on the run to discover their past. They get help from Eddie Albert, who's not bad at all as a gruff old traveler, and pursued by Ray Milland, a businessman who wants to use their power for himself. Donald Pleasance is, what else, a henchman in a suit. A lot of the Disney films from the seventies are pretty bad, but this one was a lot better than I expected it to be. One of the twins, Kim Richards, has Tanya Roberts's line delivery. But it's not cutesy. ***1/2 stars.

SPARTAN (2004)
No-frills, refreshingly straightforward thriller with Val Kilmer as a federal agent tracking down the president's kidnapped daughter (Kristen Bell). It's a procedural, for the most part, but I found it very watchable and exciting. David Mamet wrote and directed. ***1/2 stars. Ed O'Neill had a small role as an agent; I was glad to see him. He's always good and I think he's underused.

Most of the enjoyment I had from this movie came from the cheesy eighties fashions and the horrific wardrobes of far too many vain camp counsellors who just really, really want you to enjoy their balls and their hairy stomachs. (Seriously, straight men? Half-shirts?) The rest of the enjoyment came from Karen Fields as Judy, the camp's requisite mean girl, overacting with the kind of deliciously arch awfulness that just can't be faked. She was a hoot, for sure. Otherwise, this summer camp thriller doesn't have much going for it. Writer-director Robert Hiltzik doesn't understand much how a movie works, much less a horror movie, and the murder scenes are all silly. Also, there's a lot of time devoted to standing around and describing camp games, making it the first summer camp procedural I've ever seen. Campy, and not in a good way, but not totally disposable. *1/2 stars.

Seven Sisters would've been a much better title. Seven sorority sisters throw a going away party, a party so important to them that they hide the body of their accidentally-murdered house mother instead of just reporting it to the cops. Then they all start getting murdered one by one. One of the girls is Harley Jane Kozak. The most interesting thing in this breezy by-the-numbers slasher film is that it was written and directed by Mark Rosman, who would go on to direct episodes of Lizzie McGuire and the films A Cinderella Story and The Perfect Man. Weird. ** stars. Surprisingly good Richard Band score.

Yes to Bad Taste

The official website for Jim Carrey's new Liar Liar remake/latest attempt to ingratiate himself with an audience he clearly has nothing but contempt for:

BECCA: "That's nice. Date rape victims ought to find that highly amusing."

Happy Birthday, Jim

24 September 1936

Happy Belated Birthday, Anneliese

Yesterday was the 24th birthday of Disney actress Anneliese Van Der Pol, one of the most-searched women on my blog.

I can't think of any other way to say it than to say it: reading that it was her birthday reminded me of my most recent suicide attempt. Not that I try to commit suicide a lot, but I have a few times in my life.

The last time was back in February.

After I graduated from NIU in 2006, as longtime readers know, I went through a real crisis of confidence that was only exacerbated by a very long period of unemployment which followed. I was down at the lowest point in my life, and it only got worse and worse as I felt more and more like a real problem for the people I knew. And in February, I finally hit rock bottom and decided it was time to just let myself go and take that one step beyond.

I live near train tracks, so I walked over to the tracks, sat facing away from the directions 95% of the trains come, and switched on my iPod and just waited.

Now, since we all know I have terrible taste in music, one of the songs on my iPod was "Candle on the Water," from the Disney movie Pete's Dragon, sung by Anneliese Van Der Pol.

And, I don't know, maybe because I was so emotionally susceptible, the words really just hit me. I always thought it was a pretty song, and in the winter I especially like pretty songs. But the words had never just hit me before.

"I know you're lost, and drifting, but the clouds are lifting; don't give up, you've got somewhere to turn..."

I listened to the whole song, and really absorbed the cheesy movie musical lyrics and... I don't know. Suddenly I didn't want to kill myself anymore. So I got up off the tracks and climbed back up to the top of the ridge overlooking the tracks. I sat there in the snow for a while and listened to my iPod. I still remember, for some reason, that the next song was "Beltane Walk" by T. Rex. About five or eight minutes later, I watched the train go by. Then I walked back home.

So, Happy Birthday, Anneliese, and thank you for recording that song. Once again, a personal problem solved by the combination of musicals, Disney, and a pretty girl. Who needs therapy for this?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Health Report, Year 2: Week 41

So tired today. I did middle school again, but it went a lot better this time. Seventh grade science, but I only had five classes throughout the day and all but one of them went well. One was a headache, but there are some problem students in there. I still managed to get through it, despite a somewhat confidence-shaking talk with the principal about the last time I was there. Apparently some of the assistants didn't think I was very good with the eighth graders. No shit, pal. Next time, put the job in as special ed and not English to let me prep for it. That's like getting thrown to the lions and someone telling you you're not good with the animals.

I made a chicken and dumplings dish. They weren't really dumplings; the recipe called for cooked chicken wrapped in croissant dough, then garnished over with cream of chicken soup and cream of mushroom soup and then baked. It was really, really fucking good. It was a Jessica Simpson recipe, actually; I saw her cook it on Rachael Ray. I know, I'm a housewife.

We also made meatloaf with ground turkey (so, turkey loaf, I guess). That was really good, too. We made mini-loafs so that we wouldn't have this massive turkey loaf to finish off. Damn good stuff, and not too heavy.

Off to nap.

TV Report: Another Heroes Premiere...

I watched the Heroes premiere last night. Basically, JA sums up all of the problems I had. I agree with him that part of the problem this show has is that it gets increasingly humorless over time. And while this premiere was better than last season's--it does manage to drop us right into the action instead of going through painstaking introduction and set-up--it still had its patches of rough going. And I do agree with JA that not only is Kristen Bell the best part of the show (she really saved the second season, bringing some humor and dangerous edge into a show that tends to love staying static), but it's starting to look depressingly like they're going to make KB as serious and dull as everyone else.

Okay, this bit gets spoilery.

Seriously, a lot of this show's biggest surprises are predictable and feel hacky. I read on another blog that Heroes makes Star Wars look uncontrived, and that can be frustratingly true. Sylar is Peter's brother? I really saw that coming. Everyone is apparently going to end up related to one another. Mohinder and Maya in a romance? Obvious. Mohinder's mutation going horribly wrong? If you didn't see him shirtless and climbing walls and not think immediately of Cronenberg's version of The Fly, go out and rent it, it's a damn good movie. Sylar not killing/not being able to kill Claire seemed pretty arbitrary, which is another of this show's problems: things that are established are changed on a whim for "dramatic" reasons that never really pay off. Nikki with another new personality? Do I even care this time around? Oh, and Maya is the most stereotypical Latina character I've ever seen; Catholic, virginal, but falls in love easily and slips out of her clothes pretty fast. Why don't they just go for the hat trick and make her a hotel maid, too? Give me a break.

And the repetition is already there. There's a future disaster, everyone has to stop it, no one knows how, Claire is probably the key, and Peter whines and mopes about his crippling indecision. Does everyone have to brood? I feel like, if I had powers, I'd try to enjoy them. No one enjoys it on this show.

And where's Molly? I liked her. And Monica, too, I liked her too.

Still, there were good points. They did a lot with Angela Petrelli, which is the only good thing about having to put up with Peter (how I wish wish wish wish wish they would kill him off already), and George Takei put in another (I assume final) appearance. Ando is still fun, even if Hiro isn't. (In fact, Hiro's vanity seems to be creating his biggest problems; what's up with that?) This new speedster chick seems interesting; she seems to enjoy having her powers. I love the way SF TV luminaries keep showing up; last night we had Mr. Sulu, the Greatest American Hero, and Captain Sheridan from Babylon 5. Do you think the producers have a list of SF actors they'd like to get on this show? I know I would. Bennett is still my favorite character.

And how cool is it that they got Weevil and Veronica Mars on the same show again?

Are they going to ever bring Christopher Eccleston back? Please? Please please?

At any rate, I'll stick with it until it gets painful. Which it almost assuredly will. It's a lot like a comic book without any of the good, interesting character stuff. Everyone is running around or pondering, too busy to be people. It's like a comic book that thinks it's incredibly smart and dramatic, when really it's kind of dumb.

It's a problem I see in a lot of entertainment; it's too smart to deign to be enjoyable.

The Bailout and the Election

Here's a great video of Barack Obama speaking about the economic crisis, the bailout, and McCain's policies (via HuffPo):

This is what I want in a candidate: a man who sounds confident that he knows what the problem is and how to fix it. McCain's advocating for Free Markets sounds more and more like "Stay the course" to me, and I don't like that at all. Why don't we elect the smart guy this time?

Also, I'm glad he went after McCain in that speech for saying he wanted to give the health care industry over to the same Free Market system that's currently destroying the US economy. This should be the issue that decides everything else, as far as I'm concerned.

Obama's confidence even seems to have helped Nancy Pelosi rediscover her spine. She made this statement on Sunday: “Congress will respond to the financial markets crisis by taking action this week in a bipartisan manner that will protect the taxpayers’ interests. The Administration’s $700 billion proposal does not include the necessary safeguards. Democrats believe a responsible solution should include independent oversight, protections for homeowners and constraints on excessive executive compensation.

“We will not simply hand over a $700 billion blank check to Wall Street and hope for a better outcome. Democrats will act responsibly to insulate Main Street from Wall Street.

“As we proceed to deal with this crisis, this is clear recognition that the party is over for the Bush Administration’s anything goes, failed economic policies that have damaged our economy, undermined the middle class and further pointed out the need for a New Direction.”

This $700 billion bailout seems like a potential disaster for the country. Hell, even Newt Gingrich has misgivings about it. In relation to that, Think Progress has a great list of some of the other things that have happened when the administration has been put in charge of a great deal of money.

For what it's worth, this Wall Street Journal article comes right out and says that being in favor of privitization, deregulation, and anything else that led to this current economic crisis has already cost John McCain the election. Wouldn't it be nice if the election turned on an issue?

Like John McCain, there's a lot about the economy that I don't understand. Thankfully, I've got Distributorcap for that. He has posts here and here, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Keep going back. He knows of what he speaks.

Incidentally, Johnny Yen has a link to a very interesting New York Times article about McCain's soulless campaign manager Rick Davis and the role he's played, as a lobbyist, in this deepening economic nightmare. Do you think that McCain will suddenly distance himself from Davis, the way he has from Failorina? And where is Phil Gramm these days? He's suddenly nowhere to be find. McCain's chief economic advisor, Gramm wrote most of the deregulation laws that have helped destroy the economy--he's also the one who called America "a nation of whiners" when we dared complain that gas prices are too high. I wonder what he thinks now, that stalwart preacher of the virtues of deregulation.

Wall Street, apparently, is no more, anyway. Both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, the last of the giant brokerage houses, have decided to transform themselves into holding banks. It means less profits and more regulation, but that's the least of what they deserve. They’re not even waiting for the bailout to come.

Just before the election, at least we've got a giant reminder of exactly what a Republican presidency at this point in time would mean.

Meanwhile, George W. Bush was, of course, out trying to publicly intimidate Congress this time. Can they please just stand up to him for a change? He's a bully who is in a job he knows he's too incompetent to do, and he's scared and needs a scapegoat. Bush's approval rating right now is, no shit, 19%. By the way, people were predicting danger in the free market waters over a year ago. Of course, we all know how adept Bush is at ignoring warning signs and memos and such. When someone asked Tony Snow in July 2007 about warning signs in the economy, Snow replied "despite the sort of cataclysmic scenario you've just laid out, we've just gotten a report that indicates that there's, in fact, extraordinary strength in the American economy." Right, and Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Something needs to be done about this, and the right criminals have to get what's coming to them. This is Bush attempting to steal the American Treasury, and he's acting like everything will collapse if Congress doesn't do what he wants. Of course, we're going to fuck over an entire generation or three, but what does he care? He's got money.

Also, the Dow plummeted 400 points yesterday. I'm sure it will be up 400 again today, but still. Is this going to be an average Monday in the market now? Sheesh. Retail is fucked, too, by the way. Back-to-school sales were pretty weak, and there are reports now suggesting mall stores are going to start closing pretty rapidly and that Target's in trouble because of credit card delinquencies. It's like the end of the economy completely.

Here are some great quotes (via CNN) from some "regular people" who are extremely angry about the bailout and want to let Wall Street go down in the flames of its own making:

Jorge, El Paso, Texas: "Companies, like individuals, should be held responsible for their decisions. This buyout does not address the other problems in the pipeline such as personal credit default and market slowdowns in most industries. No new jobs will be created. It is time for the financial institutions of this country to be called to the mat. We should be expecting and demanding responsible and ethical business practice, not rewarding it at the expense of taxpayers."

John, Springfield, Viginia: "The government does not have $700 billion dollars. WE have $700 billion, and it is being taken from us. If this is passed then the next administration and the next will be extracting this one from the people who are supposedly being protected by this bailout."

Those pretty much say it all.

Well, two more things.

First off, I'm tired of seeing pundits blaming the American public for this problem. There's a big difference between borrowing more money than you need, especially when it's thrown at you by lending institutions who tell you how easily it can be paid back and how good the economy is, and writing policy that lets those same institutions perpetuate their lies.

And second, to any politician who is remotely considering voting for the bailout in its current form: good luck getting re-elected in November.


Governor Sarah Palin, 4 August 2008: "I am pleased to see Senator Obama acknowledge the huge potential Alaska's natural gas reserves represent in terms of clean energy and sound jobs [...] it is gratifying to see Senator Obama get on board."

Governor Sarah Palin, 18 September 2008: "Maybe if [Obama]’d been the governor of an energy-rich state, he’d get it. And maybe, maybe if he’d been on the front lines of securing our nation’s energy independence, then he’d understand."

Sarah Palin demonstrating her understanding of energy: "Oil and coal? Of course, it's a fungible commodity and they don't flag, you know, the molecules, where it's going and where it's not. Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. But in the sense of the Congress today, they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those as opposed to the increase of prices. So, I believe there is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect that what Congress is going to do, also, is like as such not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it's Americans that get stuck to holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. In other words, it's got to flow first, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, into our domestic markets it will help on the red."

Of note:

1. John McCain is not from a state "on the front lines" of the nation's energy production, either.

2. Alaska contributes 3.5% of the country's total energy output, not 20% as she's said recently (and stopped saying, I noticed).

3. I think she means liquid, not fungible.

Water for Elephants

Well, it's about a guy who works at a circus and something to do with an elephant. How could I not want to read this book?

Before I checked it out, Becca warned me that she knew someone from work who had tried to read it for a couple of weeks. This girl from work had never been able to get through the first chapter, because she just couldn't get into it. At all.

"It's like, what's the point?" she said. "What's the point of even trying to read it? Why even bother? There's nothing there."

I checked the book out from the library.

The girl from work is right; this thing is impossible to get into. I just sat there, trying to read it, willing myself to pay attention. And then it was like, what's the point? What's the point of even trying to read it? Why even bother? There's nothing there.

Seriously... blurgh.

Oh, the Hunanity!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Come on Out, It's the First Day of Autumn!

Pictures via Michael Sporn, to celebrate the first day of my favorite time of year.


That's One Down, More to Go: A Conversation from Yesterday

FRIEND: It's just that, okay, I'm going to lay all of my cards out on the table. I don't feel comfortable voting for Obama because I don't want to see every opportunist like Wright and Sharpton and that fucking Jesse Jackson worming their way into the White House just because the president is the same skin color as theirs.

ME: I'm going to lay all of my cards out on the table. That is a fucking stupid thing to say.

FRIEND: I know, and I know it's racist of me, and I know it's wrong, but that's what's in the back of my mind.

ME: If you know it's racist and wrong, then what the fuck? Seriously, if Obama were white, would you be worried that every Falwell, Buchanan, and Hagee were going to show up and get into the cabinet just because they had the same skin color?

FRIEND: Well, no...

ME: No, not at all, because he's a very intelligent man and, as far as we know, a man of character. I mean, he's already disassociated himself from Wright, and Jesse Jackson seems to hate Obama's guts because he's not doing everything Jesse Jackson thinks he can do. Besides, remember the way Jackson and Sharpton used to suck up to Bill Clinton because he was proclaimed America's first black president?

FRIEND: Well, no, I guess I don't.

ME: Bill Clinton didn't let those guys into the cabinet, why should Obama? If any Democrat wins, they're going to be there playing the guilt and race cards, because those guys have nothing else to do.

FRIEND: Well...

ME: Besides, does it scare you more that Obama has rebuffed Wright and Jackson, or that John McCain has been actively sucking up to Falwell and Hagee to get the religious vote?

FRIEND: Good point. But what about Congress? I used to vote straight Democrat, but now I'm thinking about voting straight Republican for Congress this year just to balance things out. I mean, the Democractic Congress is such a failure.

ME: Are you serious? With the next Depression starting, you want to vote in the same people who want to use all of our tax money to bail out the people who lost a lot of 401(k) money? How long is it that you think the Democrats have been the Congressional majority?

FRIEND: Four years.

ME: No, it's been less than two. We vote every two years, remember? The Democrats have only been the majority since 2006. Before that it was ten years of Republican rule. Remember Newt Gingrich? That's what you're going to be voting for. That's a really dumb mistake.

FRIEND: But Democrats want to raise taxes.

ME: Everyone raises taxes. But here's what I'd keep in mind: McCain wants to lower taxes for corporations. He wanted to privatize Social Security and give it to the people we're bailing out now because they're too incompetent and crooked to run a business. And he basically wants to do the same thing with health care.

FRIEND: Then what's the answer?

ME: I'd say the answer is not to vote for Republicans this time. Did you know that John McCain wants to take your employee health care benefits, classify them as earned income, and then tax you on them?

FRIEND: Oh, well, fuck that, then.

TV Report: Summer's Over

Long over, really. But all of the series I was watching this summer have ended.

How good was this summer for television? I don't really remember, which I guess isn't a good sign.

I was surprised to learn that there's going to be a second series of Secret Diary of a Call Girl. I enjoyed the first one, so I'm willing to watch more; I'm just wondering where they can really go from here. I tend to stop enjoying shows once they get too consumed by relationship drama that can be solved with one serious conversation, and given how the first series ended, I really hope the second isn't going to be all about making her love life work. The more interesting aspect of the series to me was the business aspect of it (which is always more interesting to me) and how Hannah devoted herself to it. It was basically about a woman who was really good at her job.

Still, I think Billie Piper can persuade me to give another series a chance. Next summer, then?

Also on Showtime was Weeds. I still enjoy the show, it always surprises me, but I'm starting to feel a little more tired this time around. It just ended, and the last episode may have finally jumped the shark for me. Oddly, it didn't have anything to do with Nancy and the drug kingpin (although, come on, why is she never smart enough to just stick with what she has instead of putting herself and her children in the maximum amount of danger?), but with that whole scene where Doug parodied Brooks's letter from The Shawshank Redemption only so he could choke himself while masturbating. Seriously, I get that Doug is a sleazy ass, but it's not funny anymore and he's just getting more and more over the top. And not in a humorous way; it's very tiresome. And you know, I love Elizabeth Perkins on the show but do we really need her cartoonishly ingesting everything she can to know she's got a serious addiction problem? And that cliffhanger... I don't know.

I've started watching a couple of new shows. True Blood I've already talked about, and I'm still enjoying the show very much. I'm glad I haven't read the book, because I like guessing where it's going and how it'll get there. I had a theory about the dog that already got blown, but still, there's something to it... I've also started watching Entourage, and somehow the show is already off to a worse start than last season. The business part of the show is what really interests me; frankly, the whole show could be about Ari and Eric and have as little Vincent Chase as possible, and that would be fine with me. All of that man drag about being as badass as you can and tough and getting laid all the time gets so boring. We get it, you're way hetero. What else you got?

(On a side note, the casting director on Entourage sure knows my taste when it comes to older women: Debi Mazar, Fran Drescher, and Carla Gugino were all on last night's episode.)

I've also started watching Kitchen Nightmares, which is still lame in its American version, but I like Gordon Ramsey. Last week's episode was especially American, it seemed: hey, let's take out all of the interesting stuff about running a restaurant, cooking food, cleaning the kitchen, and everything that makes it Kitchen Nightmares, and leave in all of the manipulative feel-good bits where everyone's crying and Gordon has to fix a broken family. I knew I was in for a lame night when Fox advertised this as, no kidding, "a very special episode" of Kitchen Nightmares. The British version of this show is so much less full of it.

I also started watching Privileged, which isn't off to a very good start, either. It's a so-so premise, but it's also pretty shallow and obvious, pretending to be deep and observational. JoAnna Garcia is on it, and she's somehow managed to find a character that I don't find immediately adorable, which is quite a feat for her. Usually, all she has to do is show up and be JoAnna Garcia. I'm hoping tomorrow night's episode will turn it around for me, since it'll be the first real episode; the two that already aired on the CW were pretty obviously a 2-hour pilot chopped into halves. I want to see how at works in a one-hour format. Hopefully there will be a lot less repetition and JoAnna hemming and hawing and doubting herself. So far there have been bright spots, but a lot of filler scenes (and characters) that could be axed.

Still, as JoAnna Garcia vehicles go, it's already a thousand times better than Welcome to the Captain.

Heroes starts tonight, and I'm going to try and watch it again. Partially it's the carry-over momentum from having just watched the second season on DVD; mainly, it's the need for ever more Kristen Bell in my life. The Office and Ugly Betty come back this week, too, so I'm set up, I think. Oh, and Little Britain comes to HBO next weekend! So, there will always be Sunday nights.

Also 50, Also Still Rocks

Happy Birthday, Joan Jett!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Song of the Week: "Paris 1919"

John Cale, 1973. From the album of the same name. His 1970s albums are brilliant, some of my favorite music to listen to, and this is one of my favorite songs of his. Way better than Lou Reed.

Elementary School Is Calmer

Last week, I was back in elementary school as an individual assistant. Being with only one student a day is a lot less hectic than a classroom of eighth graders that won't just stop. Of course, this week I'll be back at middle school... It's a different class, though, so maybe things won't make me crazy.

The boy I was with was one of the best-behaved kids I've ever had. He has some kind of learning disability or other; they never tell you specifically, but it was some sort of processing disability. It took him a minute to process information; he often asked "What?" after you told him something, but he didn't really need anything repeated very often. He also seems to have a hard time recognizing patterns at first. I did some of his work with him, and it was hard for him to grasp initially. A slow repetition of the directions, though, and he could do fine. And he had his daily routine down pat (so, of course, they had me interrupt his routine by switching out one of his recesses for speech therapy, which was quite a disruption).

I was also briefly with another kid while covering someone else's break. This girl was bright, smiled a lot, and had severe developmental problems. She could barely walk, talk, or stand up straight, but she tried, man, she tried hard. She could read very well, it turns out, but when she tried to answer a question in class, she had a hard time speaking. Still, the teacher was patient and waited and she had the right answer.

I covered another break and had the same girl during her gym class. She held my hand very tightly while doing her jumping jacks (me and the gym teacher held her by her hands and she jumped) and while she was walking in the circle. She played some soccer, too, although she got weak quickly in the sun and had to be moved into the shade. She was getting all red and overheated and needed to calm down.

What especially moved me about this girl (third grader) is that she had a number of classmates who seemed to have made it their job to look out for her and make sure she was getting to participate. In my elementary school, the kids with disabilities were sort of locked away and not allowed to mix with the other kids. I didn't experience handicapped people in the school's general population until I got to high school. And I remember when I was in third grade, which was about the last school year before nearly every kid turned on me because I got fat, and I was pleased to see that these kids weren't casting her out because of something she can't help. I hope she does well.

I filled out a list/meme/whatever of favorites with the boy while in school. They were all taped to the wall (except mine, of course), and meant to tell you about the students. Just for the hell o' it:

NAME: Mr. Frog

Kudos to the kid who said their favorite character was "Ashley Tisdale." I'd accept her as a character, given all of the tastefully artistic indie movies she's starred in. In my mind.

SUBJECT: History

PET: Thumper (rabbit)

ANIMAL: African elephant

FOOD: Cheeseburger
I can't believe I've finally changed my answer from pizza. I've just given up so much pizza. Now I just need to give up more cheeseburgers.

PLACE: Chicago

SONG OR GROUP: Song, "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me" by Mel Carter. Group, the Beatles.

TV SHOW: The Office

MOVIE: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

SPORT: Baseball, if I have to pick one.
Really, it's probably girl-watching. Or, more realistically, couch-riding.

I'M GOOD AT: Being obnoxious.

WHEN I GROW UP I WANT TO BE: A columnist-filmmaker-paleontologist-rock star. Or Buckaroo Banzai.
What I didn't answer: Kim Kardashian's underwear. It would be a short life, but a happy one. Man, there's a Phillip K. Dick parody that needs to be written: "The Short, Happy Life of Kim Kardashian's Underwear."

Oh, man. Middle school. What the hell was I thinking? I mean, besides that it's a hundred bucks a day.


"Jeez, Ron, is it supposed to hurt that much the first time?"