Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday Playlist

1. The Smiths: You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet
2. Foo Fighters: I Feel Free
3. George Harrison: Faster
4. Zac Efron: Get’cha Head in the Game
5. Lily Allen: Take What You Take
6. John Lennon: Only You
7. The Police: Invisible Sun
8. Bob Dylan: Ballad in Plain D
9. Stevie Wonder: Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)
10. Frank Sinatra: Dream (When You’re Feeling Blue)

1. Nope, I sure haven't.
2. Pretty good Yardbirds cover. Sounds just like the original; kind of wish they'd added their own spin to it.
3. One of my all time Harrison faves, from my favorite of his albums, the eponymous one.
4. Becca despises this song from High School Musical. I've heard it so much on Disney Channel that I don't mind it anymore.
5. I'm surprised how much I'm enjoying Lily Allen's music. She still bugs me, though.
6. From Anthology. Of course, Ringo ended up recording this Lennon production, but John sounds pretty good singing it, too. Not much difference in the versions; frankly, I kind of wish John had kept it. It makes a natural stylistic follow-up to his great cover of "Stand by Me."
7. From Ghost in the Machine. Not a fun track, especially on a night like tonight when I'm, to put it delicately, puking.
8. A standout from Another Side of Bob Dylan.
9. This tune is so plaintive and damning in it's way. One of the Stevie Wonder tunes I haven't listened to as much, but I found it very moving tonight. The Music of My Mind is a great album, but I usually go for Talking Book over that one. I should listen to this more often.
10. A nice way to close out for the night. Bed time for me, and Frank always makes me feel cozy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

100 Years of James Mason

Born today in 1909.

Cynical Six

1. So, was the whole swine flu pandemic canceled, or what? I need to know what made-up non-issue I’m supposed to be panicking about, media!

2. I stopped reading most comic book blogs a long time ago because all of the conversation switched from whether comics were fun or not to whether comics were feminist or not. The newest pointless mini-controversy that everyone’s in a tizzy over is whether or not this new Marvel Divas is a giant bowl of sexism. Here’s the pitch from series writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: “The idea behind the series was to have some sudsy fun and lift the curtain a bit and take a peep at some of our most fabulous super heroines. In the series, they're an unlikely foursome of friends--Black Cat, Hell Cat, Firestar, and Photon--with TWO things in common: They're all leading double-lives and they're all having romantic trouble. The pitch started as Sex and the City in the Marvel Universe, and there's definitely that ‘naughty’ element to it, but I also think the series is doing to a deeper place, asking question about what it means...truly means...to be a woman in an industry dominated by testosterone and guns. (And I mean both the super hero industry and the comic book industry.) But mostly it's just a lot of hot fun.” So, since no one has actually read a single page of this comic book yet, I’d like to know: is this actually sexism, or is this just another situation where people see something with stereotypical “girly” trappings and have assumed it can only be sexism?

3. New York City is charging rent at homeless shelters now. In America, they overcharge the poor and struggling with every kind of fee they can make up, but if you’re rich and you lose money, the government just gives it back to you. This country is on its way out.

4. Lt. Daniel Choi is a National Guard platoon leader, an Arab linguist, and has served one tour of duty in Iraq. And he’s been booted out of the military for coming out. The military in this country is so desperate for bodies that it has relaxed the rules so that felons convicted of violent crimes can get in, but being gay is considered far worse. Meanwhile, Pfc. Steve Dale Green was just convicted of raping and murdering a 14 year-old Iraqi girl and killing her entire family in a Baghdad suburb. So, that’s the type they’re letting into the military these days? Hey, if you snap and rape and kill a kid, that’s just a job risk, but letting a gay dude in the platoon, that’s unconscionable? Really?

5. The Obama administration has taken some more action against the rule of law in the Binyam Mohamed case, telling the British government that if the High Court allows American torture methods to be described, then America will no longer share pertinent intelligence regarding terrorism with the UK. Isn’t that threat itself a criminal act? I mean, it’s hard to say right now what America’s credibility is when it comes to counterterrorism intelligence, but telling a government that you will intentionally withhold potentially lifesaving information from them if you make them look bad in court… well, it would be childish if there wasn’t the possibility of lives being ended. It’s repugnant. Every time I think Obama can’t slide any further down the Bush path, he proves me wrong.

6. According to the fringe right, calling it an “enhanced interrogation technique” means it isn’t torture. If you call it an “enhanced dating technique,” does that still make it rape?

Quote Flashback


"I have never seen [
Jaws: The Revenge], but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific."
-- An oldie but goodie from Michael Caine that someone reminded me of yesterday.

The 22 Worst Movie Sequels of All Time

James Gunn posted a question on Twitter: What is the worst movie sequel of all time? (Defined as the largest decline in quality from one film to the next.) He took his poll and recorded the results on his blog. And, because it's what I do, I'm commenting on it.

Here they are:

1. The Matrix Reloaded
Which I could agree with if I didn't hate the original Matrix pretty much the same amount as I hated this one. Actually, I may have hated the original more than I hated this one; at least the sequel had Monica Bellucci and a lot less plot to mess it up. Seriously, it's like blah blah blah, then there's a fight scene, then there's a truck chase for an hour, then a guy in a room says a lot of stuff about computers and existence that is somehow the only thing in the entire trilogy that actually makes any sense, and then it's over. Painless. A waste of time, but painless.

2. The Phantom Menace
I disagree. But I didn't hate this film in the slightest.

3. The Godfather, Part III
I still don't understand all of the hate that's been thrown at this film. I liked it. And in fact I like it better as a narrative than The Godfather, Part II.

4. Highlander 2: The Quickening
Now, this would probably be my choice for the worst sequel of all time. I love Highlander. It's a fantastic movie. And the sequel is just a stinking piece of camel shit. It's a drop in quality the equivalent of going from "Wow! This double cheeseburger is really good. I'm surprised, because I expected it to be greasy and junky and make me a little sick, but this is actually a quality double cheeseburger and it tastes fucking great!" to "Oh, man, I knew I shouldn't have consumed that piece of camel shit made up to look like a double cheeseburger, because now I think I'm going to die."

5. Caddyshack 2
Frankly, I'm a little disappointed that anyone remembers this piece of garbage exists.

6. Spider-Man 3
Nope, still digging this movie, too.

7. Batman and Robin
Well, given the parameter that it has to be a disappointing drop in quality from the previous film, I'd say no. Batman and Robin is terrible, but I think I hate Batman Forever a lot more. If only because Batman Forever was so obviously a script that had been written for a third Tim Burton movie, and then dumbed down by Akiva Goldsman into a movie that tried to be Burton-y, but had a lot of stupid nonsense in it instead. At least Joel Schumacher just did whatever the hell stupid crap he wanted in Batman and Robin, which makes it somewhat less painful. I mean, it's a stupid movie, but at least it's stupid on purpose. So it has a sense of itself.

8. Speed 2: Cruise Control
I don't remember much about this one. It's not memorable. As soon as I saw that Willem Dafoe kept a jar of leeches so he could bleed himself, I knew it was bad news. That's the kind of affectation crappy writers love to throw into a screenplay in lieu of actual characterization.

9. Son of the Mask
I haven't seen it and I'm not sure why anyone would have.

10. TIE: Grease 2 and The Exorcist II: The Heretic
Again, they're crap, but so are the originals. Hated all four of them.

11. TIE: X-Men: The Last Stand and Troll 2
Didn't see Troll 2.

I'm not really a fan of any of the X-Men movies--they were all unsatisfying in the same way--but I have always defended the third one for at least doing whatever the hell they wanted with it and not caring if the fans cried their little eyes out.

12. TIE: Halloween 3: Season of the Witch; Superman III and The Sting 2
I've never actually seen Halloween 3. I hate Superman III. And I didn't see The Sting 2.

13. Lost Boys: The Tribe
Life's short as it is, you know?

14. TIE: Ocean's Twelve; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; American Psycho 2: All-American Girl; Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation; and Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd
Well, lots to go on here. Ocean's Twelve should be much higher; the first movie was way better than I expected it to be, and the sequel was the absolute dregs of filmmaking.

I loved Indiana Jones.

All-American Girl just should've been stripped of its bullshit sequel status; it's actually a funny movie with a nice Mila Kunis performance that has nothing to do with the first movie. As a sequel it's awful, but it's not really a sequel.

I've never seen a Texas Chainsaw movie other than the original and the execrable remake.

I don't think you can get much worse than Dumb and Dumber (a friend's quote: "The people who made it are dumb, and the people who went to see it are dumber"), so it's kind of quibbling with the sequel. Which I did see, actually, because I wanted to see Mimi Rogers kiss a younger girl. So, you know, for me that makes it slightly better than the original.

15. TIE: The Two Jakes; The NeverEnding Story, Part 2; Star Trek V: The Final Frontier; Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines; and A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 2
I liked The Two Jakes, to be honest. I mean, it's not Chinatown, but I thought it was a good movie. Certainly better than some of the other movies Jack was doing at the time.

I never wanted to see a sequel to The NeverEnding Story, so I didn't.

I'm amazed Star Trek V isn't much higher; it's a terrible movie and quite a letdown coming after Star Trek IV. And you know, I would've included Star Trek: Insurrection, the absolute worst Trek film, coming after the high of Star Trek: First Contact, the best Next Gen film. (Or, I guess I should say, the good one.)

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was one of the most boring films I've ever sat through. And I've sat through it three or four times hoping for something to stick, but the memory just evaporates every time.

I thought A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 2 at least tried to do something creative by reversing the premise of the original and having Freddy try to get into the outside world. Still, I understand why it's on this list.

Honorable mentions:
* Teen Wolf, Too -- the original was just as shit as the retread.
* Cruel Intentions 2 -- again, both bad, but at least the sequel has Amy Adams, Mimi Rogers, and naked twins (and doesn't think it's as clever as the first one so smugly did).
* Gremlins 2: The New Batch -- this is just insane for it to be on this list.
* Starship Troopers 2 -- didn't see it.
* Scooby Doo 2: Monster Unleashed -- and Gunn wrote the screenplay, poor guy; I liked both movies, and this second one was better than the first. Tar monster!
* Blues Brothers 2000 -- again, I liked it, but it's not remotely a patch on the original.
* Revenge of the Nerds 2: Nerds in Paradise -- agreed.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Taylor

There are enough Taylors in the world. Parents, please stop naming your kid, boy or girl, Taylor. We've reached Taylor capacity. We're full of Taylors. How about giving them a first name instead?

What I Wanted to Say to the Sixth Grader I Spent the Last Two Days Shepherding

Dear sonofabitch,

Do you honestly think I want to be here any more than you do?

That I want to sit here monitoring you while you just sit here and take up space and we all pretend that you've got a chance at some kind of future?

That I woke up this morning and said "Alright! I really hope I get to spend the whole day with yet another sullen preteen who is 'too special' or 'too emotional' or 'too unique' to do his homework!"? Is that what you think?

Let's get one thing straight: I don't want to be here.

You kids have lost my sympathy. Because I've worked with a lot of special education kids. I've worked with kids who are so, so close to figuring out a math problem or a sentence diagram, and then aren't able to reach the conclusion. I've seen kids trying desperately not to let their learning disabilities or mental handicaps or the fact that their mom smoked crack when they were pregnant hold them back from progressing and doing as well as they possibly can in school. Those kids are amazing, and when they reach a new plateau, it's heartwarming. I live for those days at work.

The days I can do without are the days like this one. You aren't a kid with a disability, you're just pissed off and unfocused. And believe me, pal, I recognize the behavior. I know when a kid is using anger because they're embarrassed and feel stupid. And I know, too, when a kid is frustrated because he feels like his schoolwork is never going to make sense to him. You're just pissed off because no one is firm with you at home and now you think you're too special to do the same work as the rest of us. And one day, when you're about 19 or 20, you're going to have a painful realization, because you won't be able to do anything that can get you a job.

You're halfway through your schooling (trust me, no university is going to do what public schools are doing and change everything to accommodate your emotional immaturity), and you're just sitting there instead of paying attention. And it's not because you have a disability, like a lot of other kids. It's because you just don't.

Maybe you feel like if you never try you'll never fail.

Except... not trying is failing.

You're going nowhere and you're not even trying to stop it from happening.

Kid, I can only do so much for you. If you're not going to put the effort in, then why should I? You're giving me nothing. You're giving the school system nothing. I can't do the work for you. And I'm not going to indulge your hissy fits and your demands for respect and your desperate need to be reassured that the whole world stops when you stamp your feet like a baby.

Because it doesn't.

And the older you get, the less people care.

Suck it up, do the work, and behave. Or get out of the way and stop bothering the kids with a chance to succeed.

Sincerely,
Mr. Frog

Terrible Sequel Idea

Night at the Holocaust Museum

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Princess and the Frog Trailer

I'm so excited for this movie. At the very least, it's got to be better than Home on the Range and Brother Bear.

Film Week

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

THE AMERICAN ASTRONAUT (2001)
I had quite an experience with this film. In fact, I think I'm still having it. Let me try and explain. So, this is a black and white, semi-musical, sub-low budget science fiction movie about a space traveler escorting a boy from Jupiter's mines (the only one of his colony who has actually seen a breast) to become the new concubine for the women of Venus. All the while, he's being pursued by a mentally unstable professor who has a convoluted reason for killing him--or, actually, for not killing him. It's a weird, weird movie, and I have to admit I found it hard to watch. For a movie that's only something like 85 minutes long, there were stretches in there that just felt like a chore to sit through. Right up to the end, I wasn't sure if I just wanted to shut the movie off or not. But then there were real moments of brilliance, and brilliance of a kind you don't see often in movies. Some scenes are just riveting--the Professor dancing among the dusty remains of the miners' colony, or the surreal moment when the main character is threateningly sung to in a bathroom stall, or the excellent song "The Girl with the Vagina Made of Glass," or the survivors of a Nevada expedition recounting (in song) how being in outer space too long changes the body. So, what I like about this movie especially is that I saw it a week or so ago and I can't stop thinking about it. It's something worth thinking about and chewing over, and the more I think about it, the more my opinion is positive. I bet if I see this again I'll enjoy it a lot more. As it is, I'm going with ***1/2 stars, because it really is something unique.

STAR TREK (2009)
I loved this movie. I talked about it in my Positive Cynicism column yesterday, so this review will be fairly brief. In short: I did not have a single problem with this movie. Every single aspect worked for me--the performances, the plot, the score, the special effects, the space opera, everything. The first ten minutes of this film were more emotionally compelling to me than anything that's happened in a Star Trek movie since the eighties. What I expected to be the weakest aspect of the plot--the alternate universe and the time travel--were probably what really sold the story for me. Leonard Nimoy's appearance passes the torch elegantly, and cordoning this film off into a universe completely separate from "Earth-Prime" Trek continuity gives the filmmakers an out to do whatever they want with it. It's nice leaving the stodginess of 40 years of lowered expectations and dull moralizing and fatuous self-importance behind for something that's actually fun. Star Trek hasn't been fun for a long, long time, and that alone is a reason to embrace this movie. Honestly, if I have one small complaint, it's that we needed more of this:

Green women are always hot. I wish they hadn't just dropped her as soon as the fleet mobilized. Also, I've never actually seen Rachel Nichols in a movie before, but am now pretty smitten with her. I hope to see a lot more of her in the inevitable sequel. And I will be in line for a sequel. **** stars.

Does Lindsay Lohan Know She's Not Marilyn Monroe?

Lindsay Lohan is trying once again to transform into Marilyn Monroe. And you know, the pictures are annoying enough, but I can ignore them. What bothers me is that she's actively comparing herself to Marilyn now, talking about how she and Marilyn were both so troubled and have such a weird relationship with the press.

You know what, Lindsay? Fuck you.

You are not Marilyn Monroe. You know why? Two essential reasons.

1. People liked Marilyn Monroe. She was an icon. Her sudden death was a tragedy. If you died tomorrow, I think anyone who wasn't indifferent would be relieved.

2. Marilyn Monroe worked for a living. Unlike you, Marilyn took acting very seriously and worked hard at improving her abilities and cultivating her craft. She pushed herself.

Don't compare yourself to Marilyn Monroe unless you're prepared to work even half as hard as she was, Lindsay. Don't drag her memory down with you.

Natalie!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Health Report, Year 3: Week 22

Today was a good day, but it's been a real mixed bag lately.

The TV broke down again; just refuses to turn on, even after having the main board replaced. The damn thing works perfectly well for 11 months, and then keeps breaking down. It's a cliche. So, never buying Samsung again. If it's not fixed properly this time, they're going to get a long, long fight from me about how they're going to replace my $800 set.

The rent check bounced. Hooray! It was a matter of two checks crossing over, and if the check had been deposited just one day later, everything would have been fine. Instead, I've got a bounced check fee from my bank and from my apartment management.

The money situation is grim. We've not got much to live on anymore, and we're down to just one car. Thankfully I've been picking up a lot more work lately, but I won't get paid again until the end of the month. I keep trying to find something more permanent, but no one is hiring except, oddly, financial companies. I've also gotten a bunch of job offers to go and teach English in Asia, which is funny considering that there was a time I was planning on doing that. (When I made up my mind not to, the company was exposed as some kind of insolvent scam. This is a different company sending me offers.)

Becca's getting screwed at work, too. One of her co-workers, a friend of ours (especially hers), just turned in his notice, so he'll be leaving right before the yearly inventory, which would have been his responsibility. Now it's Becca's. She's done it so many years, and it's taken so much out of her, that it was a massive relief to hand it over to him. Now he's scampering off and timed it so that the burden falls on Becca again. I know he's really doing it to screw over the store manager, but Becca's caught in the crossfire and I don't really think he's our friend anymore. Personally, I'd like to punch him in the windpipe. I'm so sick of seeing people associated with her company taking advantage of my wife like that. I wish I could do something about it.

Jeez, what else can I bitch about here?

Oh, right, I was trying to get into a plasma donation project that was going to pay me $260 a month, but they wouldn't take me. I don't have good veins. I do have a good one in my right arm, but in my left the vein is deep set and next to a tendon, so they won't touch me. I will just find a way to not be good enough for anything, really.

That's why it's been really nice having moments where everything works out, small and perhaps insignificant as they are. In the post below, I talk about feeling useful at work today. That was nice. I had the foresight to extract my media key from the TiVo while the TV was still working, so I can transfer shows onto my computer. My health has been pretty good and I'm losing weight again, and now that Becca's kicked her bronchial infection it turns out her asthma's not as bad as the doctor thought it was. I took my mom to see Star Trek on Mother's Day and we had a terrific time. They're still making Pepsi Throwback, for now. My goddess Denise Milani found my blog and sent me a nice email about the post where I wished her happy birthday. So it's not all bad.

I'm oddly sanguine despite how many things are pissing me off.

Emotionally Disturbed

Today, I watched a kid break his own nose. On purpose. And laugh about it.

I'm doing one of the two middle schools this week, and today I did a half day in the class for emotionally disturbed children. They didn't have such a thing when I was in school; considering I was the kid who once stabbed a classmate in the arm with a plastic shard in second grade for correcting me, I'd probably have been in it. (I felt terrible about that immediately afterwards, and tried so hard never to do things like that again.)

There were only five kids in that class, ranging from 12 to 14 years old, but emotionally they were all still four year-olds. Stamping their feet in frustration, yelling "NOW!" when they wanted something, trying to humiliate each other... it was pretty pathetic. One on one, you could deal with a couple of those kids just fine. But as a group, they were a noisy mob with no direction, just a lot of excess energy and anger. They have terrible home situations and aren't keeping up with the other kids, and that just makes them more frustrated. One kid kicks over his desk when he's frustrated. That's not going to help him out later in life. Believe me, I know that from experience. I have the holes in my apartment wall to prove it.

I have to say, I admire the other two teachers I was working with today. They're in that classroom every day, and it seems like a struggle for them to not just become jaded and start ignoring or yelling at the kids. They were good with the kids; they were firm, but also jovial, treating the kids like people instead of like a collection of symptoms. And the kids mostly responded, except for two: the one who kicked his desk over (and sat there yelling at one teacher about how much she pissed him off, full on swearing and everything) and the one who broke his nose.

For a laugh.

He just kept pulling his nose from side to side, and then you heard a crack, and blood started gushing out of his nose. He just laughed hysterically. One of the teachers walked him down to the office; kid laughed the whole way, apparently.

I know as a teacher I'm not supposed to say this, but there really are some kids who just aren't going anywhere. And they never get that about themselves; they think everything's going to turn out fine. The kid broke his nose to get out of math, which is a shame as I feel every job he's ever going to be considered for is going to involve making change.

I was told today was one of their good days.

I'm glad I don't have to deal with these kids all the time. And, actually, except for that horrifying incident, I didn't have a bad day, either. I helped one kid who really felt he could never "get" math do his assignment. He was having a hard time with the distributive property (at least these kids are in algebra, unlike a lot of special education kids their age), and I sat and explained it to him. Then he finished the whole thing in about six minutes and didn't make a single mistake. That made me feel pretty damn good. I had the hardest time getting math when I was in school; it eluded me forever, and I never really did well in math until my senior year of high school. And still, I had to take Math 100 (100!) three times in college; I had to apply myself hard that last time, and I got an A in math for the first time in my life. I did so well on the tests and homework and project that they told me I didn't have to take the final exam!

I was always intimidated by math, but as an adult I've come to see how simple and elegant it all really is. Since I started subbing last year, I've really come to love helping kids with math; I want them to see it for what it is instead of being intimidated and failing it year after year after year like I always did. And today was one of the times I've really helped. I've done it before. Hell, I'm more than willing to brag about one of my kids from last year no longer being in the special education program because I sat with her and taught her how easy multiplication really is. "Wait, when did I start thinking math was fun?" I remember her asking me. Made me feel really good.

Today made me feel good, too. I helped that kid learn math, and I helped another kid get rid of her hiccups. I felt useful today. I'll take that.

Why I Love Working with Kids

Talking with an 8th grader in a Firefly tee shirt...

KID: I just wish I was cooler sometimes. Were you cool in middle school, Mr. Frog?

ME: Are you kidding? I was like Nathan Fillion, but cooler.

KID: But Nathan Fillion is the coolest guy alive.

ME: I know. So you can imagine.

KID: Man!

Mr. Frog: Reinventing on Occasion.

Shelley Duvall

Quick Thought on The Big Bang Theory

Screw the predictable Leonard/Penny attempt at Sam-and-Diane heat. When are we going to get you two crazy kids together? I'm just saying, the best episodes of this show involve Sheldon and Penny being forced to deal with one another or mentally spar in some way. She teaches him more about "normal" human behavior (and if he does have Asperger's, which a lot of people think, let them not do what J.K. Rowling did with Dumbledore being gay and reveal it when it's too late to have any impact), and he makes her a little more (albeit reluctantly) nurturing. Unlikely match, but it soooooo works.

Happy 31st Birthday, Malin!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Carrie Prejean Thing

I've talked about this a couple of times now, but I'm going to bring this up again because I don't think I've adequately summed this up, and every time I talk about it I get right wingers with persecution complexes commenting, which just makes me want to talk about it more.

So, the Carrie Prejean thing.

Right off the bat, I just want to say that I don't care if she has breast implants or if she posed for topless photos when she was 17. That's irrelevant to the bigger story, which is what she said and how the right and the left have reacted to it. That's what I care more about.

Now, to recap: Miss California Carrie Prejean was asked during the Miss USA pageant by "celebrity" judge Perez Hilton whether or not she supported gay marriage. Prejean gave what was, to me and many others, an offensive answer about how "in my country" marriage was between a man and a woman. And then she got booed and didn't win. And this became a huge deal. And since then she's gone on further to elaborate that she's a Christian, as though being against gay civil marriage rights is some kind of fundamental piece of Christianity--it isn't, which is evinced by a lot of Christians I know who are very tolerant; and by the way, it's very sad to hear a lot of Christians argue that their belief in a supposedly loving religion of peace tells them to hate anything or anyone--and Perez Hilton has gone on to his usual sort of character assassination against anyone who displeases him.

Now, I'm of a couple minds on this. More than a couple, I guess, so bear with me.

On the one hand, this is a free country. Carrie Prejean and anyone else has the right to say whatever they want, no matter how stupid and vile. And not only that, she was giving an honest answer to a direct question about her feelings on a social issue. But on the other hand, she also has to understand that this being a free country means that other people have the right to take issue with what she said and, well, say so. I think what she said was insensitive and ridiculous and completely ignorant. And it's my right to say so. But it's also her right to say what she said. You see how this works? Too many people have told me that I have to just accept what she said because, you know, she has the right to her beliefs. And yes, she does. But I also have the right to believe she's wrong.

And Perez Hilton has a right to have his feelings hurt by what she said. But I think it's counterproductive for him to go on running her into the ground and showing her to be somehow morally inferior, as though that's what makes her wrong. That's not really a valid argument: morally flawed=wrong. I mean, Perez Hilton is kind of a scuzz and a bottom-feeder and desperate for some kind of validation from famous people. I'd consider him pretty morally flawed. So, by his argument, I shouldn't listen to what he has to say, either.

And this is the problem with the discourse in America: no one seems to want to engage anyone on what they've actually said, what position they've taken, or what they believe in. It's all hurt feelings and yelling and character assassination and attacks based on nothing to do with the issue at hand.

No one has tried to engage Carrie Prejean. Instead, they've either demonized her or turned her into a martyr for those poor, persecuted, loudmouthed evangelicals who are making all of the other Christians look bad. Everyone has said either that she's a moron or that she has the right to her beliefs and anyone who disagrees with her is intolerant.

And this is what sticks in my craw the most. That word intolerant. That's where I get hung up on this whole thing.

There's been a lot of talk about intolerance lately, which is only natural in a world where people have no other ideas than to shout down opposing viewpoints. So someone gets to be intolerant of gay people, but disagreeing with them is somehow intolerance? I'm sorry, that doesn't fly. Why are so many people on the right so quick to shed crocodile tears and play the victim?

Why is the argument suddenly even allowed to become "You need to be tolerant of my intolerance, otherwise you're the one who's intolerant?"

Let me pose this question, then. Say someone had asked a Miss USA contestant what she thought about black people being allowed to marry white people. And she had said something about how "in my country" marriage is between two white people. Would people still be rushing to defend her? Or would people generally be embarrassed by that? So what makes it more "valid" that she's saying it about gay people? In America, yes, she has the right to her opinion. But just because she has the right to say it doesn't mean it's a valid opinion, and it doesn't make us duty bound to consider it one.

(I want to add as an aside that I was discussing this with a colleague who felt that if Carrie Prejean lost Miss USA because of her beliefs, that's not a legitimate reason for her to have lost. I completely disagree. That assumes that there's some kind of objective scientific measurement for a beauty contest winner. The whole thing is a subjective reaction to someone's looks and personality, and how you answer a question has something to do with it. If you're asked "What do you think of cap and trade?" and you answer "I love baseball!" it's going to count against you. Beauty pageants are a big Which Girl Do You Want to Fuck the Hardest? contest, and her bigoted beliefs make her a lot less attractive to me. If your answers to questions didn't count for or against you, why would they even ask them? Still, Carrie Prejean is out pushing the idea that she lost the pageant because of her answer. So she's not just a bigot or a false martyr, she's also a sore loser.)

So, Carrie Prejean playing the intolerance card doesn't wash. She brought it on herself, and continues to bring it on herself by continuing to talk about what she said and why she thinks it's a legitimate viewpoint. After all, what has she had to endure? Compare it to what others have had to endure simply for being gay. She'll never have to worry about having her rights taken away from her by a vote just because of bigotry and hate.

She'll never have to go through what Matthew Shepard or Brandon Teena did just because of the way she was born.

A surprising number of people in cyberspace have come down on me for not being okay with the kind of anti-tolerance twaddle that Carrie Prejean represents. That I need to be respectful of their own "disagreement" with gay marriage. And, honestly, I don't. I don't need to respect their belief that someone is less of a human being because of their sexual preference, and therefore less deserving of equal rights. I've never believed that anyone was undeserving of equality. When I hear these people argue that their harsh stand against gay rights is not based on hate, I have to laugh. What else could it be? If they were arguing that a black person was three-fifths of a human being, would their argument be less valid, or would it be the same argument. It still comes from a place that is incapable of seeing people who are different from you as people with the same wants and desires that you have--food, shelter, love, and dignity.

So while I do respect that the Constitution allows these people to have their bigoted beliefs, I do not respect the beliefs in question, nor do I respect the people who have them.

And I most certainly do not believe that they have the right to legislate their prejudices. No one has the right to tell anyone in this country how to live; no one in this country has the right to say that because they "disagree" with gay marriage, we must change the Constitution to make it illegal for gay marriage to exist.

I "disagree" with religion. I hate it in all of its guises. But here's the thing: I don't tell people they don't have the right to be religious. I do believe in the Constitutional separation of Church and State, but I don't support some kind of legislation (which doesn't exist, although a lot of ignorant people think it will) to eradicate religion and take away the rights of people who are Christian or Muslim or Hindu or Jewish or whatever they have chosen to be.

It's their choice.

And it doesn't affect me.

You cannot force anyone to conform to your beliefs. You cannot rewrite the system so that people have to. Your opinion of what I do doesn't matter to me. And my opinion of what you do shouldn't matter to you.

So no, I'm not intolerant of you having your ignorant, bigoted beliefs. But because I'm tolerant doesn't mean I don't have the right to challenge you or to disagree. And it's not being "mean" or "intolerant" to do so.

A few people have said to me this past week that "tolerance is a two-way street."

No. No, it isn't.

Tolerance is a one-way street.

You just... be tolerant.

You just have the strength to say "This is something that doesn't affect me, therefore I'm not entitled to have a say-so."

The message behind "tolerance is a two-way street" seems to be "if people want me to be tolerant, they have to be tolerant of me first." That's just a selfish attitude. If you want tolerance, extend it. I'm sure there must be something about that in most religions (and you'll have to excuse me for seeming to come down so hard on religion, except that most of the opposition to gay marriage I've heard involves religious objections). Just be tolerant and let things go.

No one expects everyone to be okay with gay marriage. That would be acceptance. All we're asking for is tolerance. Tolerance that someone may do something you don't agree with, but that it doesn't matter because it doesn't involve you in any way. Disapprove all you want, just don't expect that your disapproval should matter to complete strangers.

Tolerance is just letting the other guy be, regardless of your opinion. It is not finding hateful words acceptable, especially when they're meant to hold someone down.

Superpowers

Unsatisfying.

Gosh, that one word sounded glib, didn't it?

Superpowers is a novel about five college students who drink some beer and wake up the next day with, if you hadn't guessed, superpowers. And that's about as scientific as this science fiction novel gets. Magic beer. One of the kids works at the chem lab, so maybe that has something to do with it, but who knows? As far as we know, it's just magic beer which magically gave five college students superpowers. The author even addresses this lack of explanation, but in a way that makes the reader feel like kind of a douche for wanting to know. Which is not, really, the way to win your reader over.

So we get five kids, each of whom gets a power: shy Mary Beth gets super strength, nervous Charlie can read minds, responsible Jack gets super speed, outspoken Harriett becomes invisible, and desperate-to-connect Caroline suddenly finds she can fly. Standard issue powers, and the personalities don't add up to as much as I kept hoping. I guess that, overall, what was so unsatisfying about this book is that author David J. Schwartz has a good grasp of who he wants his characters to be, but settles for the same sort of cliched half-personalities you find on a CW show.

(Ironically, this would probably make a fair-to-good CW show that I would watch.)

So that leaves the situation, but Schwartz doesn't feel completely invested in that, either. The thinking of these characters is so jaded and linear--well, we've got powers, let's become superheroes. All the while they are dogged by a student publishing his own conspiracy paper, who is too unlikable to be the voice of reason. And anyway, he's not really in it enough to make any kind of impact (and neither is a TV news reporter who seems meant to be a comment on corporate-owned media, but the author doesn't really have very much to say about it). He just comes across as an irritant. Oh, and Harriet's father is a cop on the trail of these new heroes, the Madison All Stars, who doesn't know his daughter is one of the suspects.

I really don't know how to sum this book up. I mean, I'm not sorry I read it but, on the other hand, I'm astounded that it got nominated for a Nebula Award. There's too little in the way of motivation and complexity in the actions of the characters; a lot of this is Comic Book Origins 101. Too much is dropped because of the format--the novel takes place over the summer of 2001, and every time someone is working themselves up to a revelation, the chapter stops before there's any kind of resolution or character build, and then it's on to a new day and a new character. Threads are dropped and we rejoin the characters at a later point and are told as a throwaway what happened. The ultimate fate of the characters is hastily told in an epilogue. And 9/11 is thrown in to, I guess, put superheroes into perspective, or something.

I'm just not sure what I'm supposed to take away from this. I didn't feel connected to the characters, and there were times I really wanted to. When Jack was worried he wasn't doing enough for his dying father, or Caroline talked about perception on a rooftop with a co-worker, or when Mary Beth accidentally killed a man, I really wanted to feel more than I did.

But I didn't.

Kristen Bell Mondays


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Taking my mom to see Star Trek for Mother's Day today. Fingers crossed!

UPDATE 7:54 PM: Awesomeness achieved!

Song of the Week: "C'Etait Toi (You Were the One)"

Billy Joel's 60th birthday was the other day. I wanted to post this very pretty song from Glass Houses in honor of that. Without Billy Joel, I think my junior high school years especially would have been a lot lonelier.

Wishful Drinking

This is not quite a memoir.

No painful stories of childhood traumas, no heavy apologies for things long past, no begging the reader for sympathy. Instead, this is a breezy, witty, candid, self-deprecating confessional. This is Carrie Fisher's stage show (I didn't even know she had one) in book form. She talks about her famous parents, her marriage to Paul Simon, Star Wars, and her marriage to a gay man in... well, I was going to say "in a matter-of-fact way," but that's not entirely true. I mean, she is very matter-of-fact, but she's also funny. Hilarious in fact. She looks back at her past and handles it with style. They're anecdotes, crushingly honest anecdotes, in which she describes herself and her family with the sort of frankness that might make other families nervous. (Hell, my mom freaks out every time she gets mentioned on this blog.) But that's the matter-of-factness. What happened, happened. Why not laugh about it?

Having undergone ECT, Carrie Fisher is now, at age 52, getting a handle on her memories and sorting them out to get a sense of herself. Her chosen therapy is the thing she's best at: writing. Carrie Fisher is a great writer. I've read Postcards from the Edge and Surrender the Pink, and they're damn good books (Postcards is fantastic). And this book is a great read. And fun. I read it in about an hour and a half. Like I said, breezy. About 160 pages with pictures and slightly large type. So it's like getting to spend part of an evening hearing these stories and laughing and you come out of it feeling like you've had a really great experience.

Because, you know, you have.

This book is terrific and you should really give it your time.

Sunday Hottie 223

DANIELLE PANABAKER

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