Saturday, July 03, 2010

Another Brilliant Light Shines in Arizona...

Barry Wong, a Republican candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission, thinks that one way the state should ferret out undocumented immigrants is to deprive their homes of electricity.

In his own words: “I’m sure there will be criticism about human-rights violations. Is power or natural gas or any type of utility we regulate, is that a right that people have? It is not a right. It is a service.”

He's correct about that. Sure, you ask anyone who has medical equipment they need that plugs into a wall or whose homes may freeze in the winter and they'll tell you something different, but yes, those are services. Essential services, but services nonetheless.

The thing about the difference between rights and services, though, is that services are available to anyone who can pay for them. Services are bought and paid for, not filtered through a concept of availability based on citizenship.

So there are a few of things this Wong blowhard had completely failed to take into account in his little police-state fantasy:

1. He seriously believes that cutting water, power, gas, and even phone lines to the homes of illegal immigrants will save Arizona money and lower costs for the rest of the state's customers. This is one of the absolute myths of undocumented immigrants in this country: they don't pay for anything. That's bullshit. It's often cash out of pocket, but you don't get services in your home if you don't actually pay for them. Anyone (like myself) who lives from paycheck to paycheck knows this for a fact. So I don't see how depriving people of essential services is going to save anyone any money or lower any prices for anyone else. I'd love to see his math on this, but I have a sneaking suspicion he hasn't actually done it.

2. Another of his apparently serious yet misguided beliefs is that the population spike caused by illegal immigrants has forced Arizona to build new power plants and raise rates for existing customers. I think he knows he's lying when he says this shit. He's running for the Arizona Corporation Commission, so he knows how corporations--and services are mainly run by corporations--do their greedy business. They're going to build new plants and raise the rates no matter what. I'm not sure how large he imagines this population spike caused by illegal immigration is, but I'm sure it's a fantastic number based on the reality. You want a population decrease? Start pushing birth control, Republicans.

3. Where does Wong imagine the money for this is going to come from? Does he have any idea how much work it would take to verify the legal status of every utility customer in a single state? Is Arizona the one state in the union without any budget problems this year?

4. Wong also needs to know the legality of what he's suggesting. You can't invade the privacy of private citizens to discover their legal status. You just can't do that. It's against the laws of this nation.

So, yes, while Wong is correct that utilities are services and not rights, he doesn't seem to understand a few things that are, I'd say, really important to his idiot musing: things like cost and the law. The sad thing is, this idiot will probably be elected.

Why doesn't the Arizona legislature quit fucking around and just go ahead and enact the Nuremberg Laws already?

Schadenfreude of the Day

The Last Airbender got a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

2 Girls 1 Cup has an 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

It's going to be very interesting what the reaction is if anyone in Hollywood tries to sell M. Night Shyamalan as a genius again.

Ah, Summer...

Friday, July 02, 2010

Pöpcørn

The new video from Muppet Studios features the Swedish Chef, popcorn, shrimp, and Hot Butter!

Happy Birthday, My Little Tis!

Ashley Tisdale is 25 today. That's a great age to be.

Star Trek Clipboards

A few weeks ago, there was some discussion in the comments on the futuristic technology of Star Trek. I think there are aspects of the show that become kitschy over time, mainly due to the advancement of real world technology vs. how writers in the 1960s imagined those advances might play out.

Specifically, Tallulah Morehead mentioned that it was amusing to think that the creators of the series never imagined that yeomen with clipboards might be replaced by something else.

During a discussion on Tumblr today, though, Seltzerlizard points out that, in a way, we can imagine that Star Trek imagined the iPad 40 years ahead of schedule.

So, I guess if you imagine them as iPads...

I just think it's amusing.

The Mad (Republican) Tea Party

Wishing... Wishing...

Finally!

Following in the footsteps of Jaquandor, I have finally managed to defeat Bowser and beat New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

And it turns out there's a bonus world, too. In order to unlock the different levels in the bonus world, you have to have all of the star coins from every level. And I don't have all of them, so there are levels I'll have to replay again. I like this feature a lot, as it turns out. I feel like I've won the game, but then I have more adventuring to do and new things to experience. I'm not done with the game, but I have beaten the enemy. It's really nice and a lot of fun.

On a side note, there have been a lot of new previews popping up on my Wii Channel: Epic Mickey, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kid Icarus: Uprising, The Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword, Metroid: Other M, Kirby's Epic Yarn, GoldenEye, Mario Sports Mix, PokePark: Pikachu's Adventure, Sonic Colors, LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars... and LEGO Harry Potter came out this week.

Damn, this is the new Golden Age of Nintendo for me. I haven't been this excited about video games since the Nintendo 64 came out. I don't usually ask for anything for my birthday, but if anyone wants to get me LEGO Harry Potter, since I know my family reads this blog...

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Illusionist

Directed by Sylvain Chomet from an unproduced screenplay by Jacques Tati. I'm really looking forward to this; I hope this doesn't take another year to get to the US (although I'm sure it probably will).

Happy 65th Birthday, Debbie Harry!

Happy Birthday, Liv Tyler!

My Elven queen turns 33 today.

Happy Canada Day

Don't party too hard, my Northern brothers and sisters--this guy didn't take it easy, and he looks like he's not too happy about it.

(Unless you have a long weekend. Which you totally should. In that case, go nuts.)

Chicks 'n' Pokemon

I don't know why, but a while back I started making these pictures on Tumblr of women with Pokemon. They're not really good, but they're kinda cute, and I thought I'd just post them here, too. What boredom does, I guess...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

T-Shirt Idea #12

Because the special kids need a Pokemon of their own. He's called Slowpoke for a reason, right?

Winter Is Coming

Sean Bean as Lord Eddard Stark in A Game of Thrones. Very much looking forward to this.

Film Week

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

INCIDENT AT OGLALA (1992)
A fine documentary about the 1975 murder of two FBI agents at the Pine Ridge Reservation. Michael Apted's film does a very good job of showing all available evidence, including evidence that ignored or manipulated by the US government in order to prosecute Leonard Peltier for the crime. The whole thing seems politically motivated to me, an attempt to silence members of the American Indian Movement, and Peltier remains in prison despite the evidence that the original trial may have been tainted and that much of the evidence he was convicted on was circumstantial. Apted presents all sides, but the US government side seems very hateful and illogical in a way that makes me, as a US citizen, cringe. The film unfolds like a thriller but isn't slick like one. It doesn't have to be. Well worth watching. **** stars.

BROKEN RAINBOW (1985)
Another documentary about our government's relations with this country's native people, but one that I feel is overrated (it won an Oscar). It's a little more manipulative than I would've liked, especially since it has a compelling enough story on its own, which is the relocation, in the 1980s, of over 10,000 Navajo from their sacred land in order to mine for resources. It's sad enough on its own the way the government has mistreated them throughout history and continues to mistreat them today, forcibly relocating them and putting them up in cheap housing and then abandoning them there (all while making massive profits off of the land they've taken). We don't need to be manipulated by overbearing Laura Nyro songs and reports of people dying of broken hearts when you already have the sympathy of any viewer with a heart. **1/2 stars.

BOOGIE WOOGIE (2009)
A bunch of stereotypes of vapid art dealers vie for possession of the titular Mondrian painting, and I don't care. What tries hard to be a sexy black comedy and an expose of the art industry as--like any other industry--full of people who care less about art than about money, sex and power, is really just another one of those actor's reels that parades out the usual cliches. A large cast, some of which is pretty decent (Christopher Lee, Amanda Seyfried, Stellen Skarsgard--whom I usually despise--and Heather Graham, whom everyone else despises but me...) and some of which is truly irritating (Danny Huston, usually so good at playing phonies, just phones it in instead). Utterly unsympathetic and a real wasted opportunity. ** stars.

FUNNY PEOPLE (2009)
A resounding disappointment. I'm amazed how many people took issue with the title, since this isn't really a comedy and the title is obviously meant to be ironic. This is a drama about a comedian/movie star (Adam Sandler) who finds out he has a rare form of leukemia, takes a struggling stand-up comic (Seth Rogen) under his wing, learns to connect with the people in his life, has a miraculous success with experimental drugs, and tries to win back the woman he's always loved (Leslie Mann). Judd Apatow's film is a failure on nearly every level. It doesn't help me that I really hate Adam Sandler, and the character he plays--which so many critics really wanted to see as Sandler's repudiation of his string of incredibly shitty movies--is unlikable in the extreme. (It's not unheard of for me to like a Sandler movie--I liked 50 First Dates--but he's so badly written here; Apatow seems to think that Sandler's popularity with audiences will just transfer over into a natural sympathy, but it really doesn't, and his character treats everyone as though they're beneath him.) There's really no one to sympathize with here, because Leslie Mann is codependent and Seth Rogen is just a wide-eyed worshiper with little to like. And the real problem here is pacing, which has always been Apatow's weak point. Here we have a bad 90-minute movie about a guy who learns to reconnect when he nearly dies, and then the movie goes on for another hour and... basically tells the exact same story. Look, I think Apatow's kids are cute, too, and I love Leslie Mann, but it just drags on and on and on long after Apatow has already said--at least twice--everything he has to say. And I haven't even mentioned the self-serving, self-reverential tone of the film itself, which sees stand-up comedy as a noble calling but never really makes us feel it for ourselves. Apatow... look, I love The 40 Year-Old Virgin and I liked Knocked Up, but maybe Apatow should stick to rewrites and producing. If this film is anything to go by, he's already said everything he has to say. *1/2 stars.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (2009)
A whiny bitch has a psychotic episode on an island full of monsters who are even bigger crybabies than he is (one of whom is apparently supposed to be his big sister). I can see why Warners was worried about this movie's appeal to kids, but honestly, it's not made for them. This is made for hipsters having a quarterlife crisis about how emotionally detached they've become from their poorly-remembered childhoods. Max--played by a kid too old for this to come across as anything other than a massive psychological break from reality--seems to really have no other problems than being incredibly oversensitive and not receiving constant attention from everyone around him. This kid needs drugs, not an adventure with giant Muppets. (And I'll say right now that the design and execution of the creatures themselves--with the big exception of their constant whining--is the only decent thing about this movie.) Otherwise, there's no emotional attachment to anything, and there doesn't seem to be any point here other than that Spike Jonze has seen a lot of Terry Gilliam movies. * star for the creatures.

SITA SINGS THE BLUES (2008)
Beautiful movie by animator Nina Paley, and I'm sorry it took me this long to finally sit and watch it. It tells the story of Sita and Rama from the Ramayana, and parallels this with the filmmaker's own relationship breakup, all through mixed-media and mixed-style animation sometimes reminiscent of Richard Williams and sometimes reminiscent of Lotte Reiniger's silhouette puppets. Much has been made of the device of using 1920s blues recordings to accentuate the story, and I love that, but my favorite thing was the use of conversational narration by three Indian people who sort of struggle to remember this legendary Hindu tale (the same way those of us raised as Christians might struggle to remember the exact details of the story of Abraham). It has a great effect of bridging the gap between Western culture (and Western filmmaking) and Indian mythology, which is too often portrayed in Western films as something mysterious and impenetrable. By giving us a colloquial account, the film takes the almost condescending mystery out of the way we relate to Hinduism and presents the story of Sita in a way that's easy to relate to. This is a wonderful movie. **** stars.

THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP (2010)
The third in writer Peter Morgan's series of films about Tony Blair. The first (The Deal) explored Blair's relationship with the members of his party; the second (The Queen) explored Blair's ability to bridge the gap between the royalty and the people of England; this film goes into Blair's relationship with Bill Clinton and the US government, and the moment that center-progressive politics had to change the world for the better (and didn't, because people get distracted by blowjobs and gamesmanship instead of anything important). Dennis Quaid is very good as Clinton, stopping just short of a full-on imitation. He gets across the magnetism of Clinton, but also the lack of accountability that doomed too many of his initiatives. I also liked Hope Davis as Hillary Rodham Clinton; I'd like to see someone tackle the story of the Clinton presidency from her point of view. Morgan and director Richard Loncraine do seem particularly sympathetic to her, and paint her sacrifices--her choice to stand by her husband for the sake of his presidency--as heroic rather than they way the media presented them as weak. For the third time, Tony and Cherie Blair are played by Michael Sheen and Helen McCrory, and they've now established the sort of shorthand and silent communication many married couples have, and their familiarity with the roles feels comfortable and almost reassuring as a viewer. Morgan and Loncraine don't have to work hard to establish their dynamic, because we already know it from the previous films. I don't know if this will be the last film Peter Morgan writes about Blair--I really hope it isn't, since a film about Blair's downfall seems to be a natural ending to all of this--but this film in particular does a good job of sympathizing with the way Blair's desire for a personal friendship with a charming and powerful man became intertwined with international politics. **** stars.

Hell's Kitchen, Episodes 7 and 8

What the hell happened to Benjamin? This whole time, he's been a quiet, conscientious, talented cook, and suddenly putting him on the Red Team turns him into a pompous dick. I really thought he was going to emerge as the obvious one to beat, but suddenly he's as big an ass as Scott was. What the hell, man?

And the way he was gunning so hard for Siobhan really pissed me off. Granted, I'm no Siobhan fan, and I knew she was going to go (it's not that she can't cook, because she obviously can, it's that she can't handle the pressure and lets herself get pushed around too much, where Gordon needs to see that you're fighting for it), but the way Benjamin just kept trying to rip her apart was so uncalled for. And I see he's after Fran now, too, and I really don't understand that. Fran's not going to win this thing, but she's not the incompetent that the Red Team keeps wanting to portray her as. Seems like the old ageism rearing its head to me.

(The producers, I notice, know what I like and are giving me ever more risque shots of Holli. Oh, Holli, don't ever leave my TV...)

As for the Blue Team... who knows with these people? If you're dumb enough to get drunk before a service, you deserve to go down hard. I knew Salvatore was going to be the next one to leave, and I was pleased that he had such a good attitude about it--he acknowledged that he messed up and that it was his turn to go. At the same time, he handled this competition with what seemed like ineffectualness, but which was really that he let himself get intimidated too easily. When things weren't going well and Gordon was on him too much, he would just shut off. He can cook, yes, but that's not enough to save you on this show.

I'm not sure I like Jay, by the way. He's been quiet, too, but suddenly he's getting a little too full of himself.

I really don't see anyone as the obvious candidate here. All I know is that I don't want it to be Benjamin. Asshole.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Steve Carell Confirms It

The next season of The Office will be his last.

You know... I'm not too upset about it. This previous season was very, very dull and dropped a lot of the plot threads it raised, and it seemed not to know what to do with Michael very much. I'd love to see them wrap up Michael's story, redeem him the way the British original redeemed David Brent at the very end (with just one sentence, and it was brilliant), and have him go off with Holly. We've got hints that Holly is returning, and I think that's the final step Michael needs to really mature into an adult. I would really like that to be Michael's finale: to do what he couldn't do before and give up his career to go and be with the woman he really loves.

The question everyone's speculating about now is what The Office is going to look like without Michael (because there's no way NBC is letting go of one of the few shows that's doing really well for them). They've already tried it with Jim as a manager and it was just tedious and not funny. Plus, I think NBC would like to be able to promote the show with a new character in the manager's chair. Whomever it is, I just hope it's someone funny.

(Side note: I saw someone suggest they put in Kristen Bell and have her play the same kind of socially awkward ballbuster she played on Party Down. I think it would be brilliant, but I don't know anyone else who agrees. Plus, I seriously doubt it could happen. But a man can dream...)

Happy 90th Birthday, Ray Harryhausen!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Kristen Bell Mondays


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Song of the Week: "The Alligator King"

This is Bud Luckey, both singing and animating a classic Sesame Street segment that just tickled my fancy today.

Sunday Hottie 282

MARIA CANALS-BARRERA