Saturday, October 06, 2012

Friday, October 05, 2012

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Why Mitt Romney Ultimately Pisses Me Off

It all comes down to this comment from last night's debate: that Obamacare "puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have." He's prevaricating a bit there. He's referring to the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is geared towards modifying payments to insurance providers, but which cannot include any recommendation to ration health care or raise revenues or premiums. It also can't restrict benefits or modify eligibility.

But what Romney is getting at with his comment is the old Sarah Palin "death panel" argument. He's trying to raise that specter again to make people afraid of the Affordable Care Act, and it just pisses me off. It pisses me off for two reasons.

First, it pisses me off because this "unelected board that's going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have" is the exact description of an insurance company. It was the same argument against Palin's "death panel" nonsense: the thing you're saying is bad is the thing people already have. But when it comes down to who could be in charge of whether you or a loved one gets to live or die, Palin and Romney think it should be a private company, and not, say, a doctor. I think that's an important difference. It's for-profit thinking, and I don't want for-profit thinking dominating the government of this country. Romney's stupid reliance on the supposed altruism of corporations, banks and, weirdly, state governments instead of the federal government (because Jim Crow worked out great for democracy) makes me very, very angry.

Seriously, why is it okay for a profit-motivated company to tell people what kind of treatments they can have, but not a government program aimed at reducing the costs of healthcare?

But the second, much more direct reason this thing pissed me off, and the reason everything Mitt Romney says ultimately pisses me off, is the same thing it's always been: he is so cartoonishly out of touch with the life of the majority of American citizens. He doesn't realize it, obviously. It would be tragic if it weren't so dangerous.

Look, Mitt Romney is rich. He was born rich, and he's going to die rich. He's going to always have access to the best of everything. So he has no idea. He has no idea what it's like to be at the mercy of an insurance company, or to be uninsured and know you're just one major illness away from bankruptcy, debt, and maybe even tragedy. He just doesn't understand, and he never will. He doesn't know what it's like to choose between getting medication and eating for the week. He'll never want for care because he can afford it.

And it just pisses me off. Not that he's rich and I'm not, because I honestly don't care. All I want is to one day have the security of knowing that health care won't bankrupt me. What pisses me off is that he has no idea what it's like to be in my position, and he has the unmitigated gall to tell me that his for-profit thinking is somehow better for me. That he knows what he's talking about when it comes to struggling families because his idea of being poor is having to sell some of his stock. That's what gets me right in the bile duct. That he thinks he can tell me what's good for me as a poor person who's barely employed and completely uninsured.

And I reject that. I reject being told what's a better health plan for me by someone who will never be in the position to need it as badly as I do. I reject being called lazy and irresponsible when too much of my life is dedicated to trying to keep my head above water.

I reject the notion that Mitt Romney's complete ignorance of my situation gives him the ability to even suggest what kind of health care I should find acceptable.

I reject the notion that Mitt Romney is somehow smart or capable of leadership just because he inherited money.

Fuck Mitt Romney.

Hallow-meme 2012?

I like to do a meme (questionnaire, whatever) for Halloween every year. However, I am running out of variations of "What do you like to do for Halloween?" So I've decided I'll answer these 8 questions on this very rainy day, and if I don't find more to do, it's not like any of you are going to be upset about it, right? I think most of you know my Halloween preferences pretty well by now.

(1)  What's your favorite Halloween costume ever?

The last Halloween costume I ever wore was Zorro. That was pretty cool. I still have it, actually, including the whip (a real one, not one of those fake Indiana Jones branded noisemakers, ladies). I think my second favorite is probably my Shipwreck costume. Not really a costume; it was a pair of old bellbottoms, a blue shirt, a pair of gloves, and my friend's dad's old sailor hat. But it was a lot of fun to wear. I got to put on makeup and pretend I had a beard. Sixth grade.

(2)  What's your favorite Halloween candy (or other treat)?

My favorite candy to get trick-or-treating was definitely Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. That and Kit Kat. And Smarties!

(3)  Name the scariest book you've ever read?

Hmm... probably At the Mountains of Madness. I was really haunted, though, by the end of Treasure Island. Just the idea of being unable to forget and then waking up hearing that parrot. It always seemed such a dark note to end on.

(4)  Who's the best movie vampire ever:
(a)  Bela Lugosi
(b)  George Hamilton
(c)  Tom Cruise
(d)  Robert Pattinson

Is this a joke question? Christopher Lee.

(5)  Who'd win in a fist fight? Sookie or Bella?

I think fan fiction readers would be the real winners here.

(6)  Are you superstitious? How?

Not really. I'm pretty resigned to unavoidably bad shit happening all the time. One of the benefits of depression, he said derisively. That's a downer answer. But no, I'm not superstitious.

(7)  Frankenberry, Count Chocula, or Boo Berry?

In terms of taste, Frankenberry. If there was a fight... well, Count Chocula would just straight up murder Frankenberry. Frank's just too nice of a guy to put up much of a fight, and Chocula seems like an icy killer. But how would he kill Boo Berry? I mean, Boo's already dead, right?

I'd put my money on the Fruit Brute in a surprising but unsatisfying victory that will come out of nowhere in the final reel and seem cool at first, but which will on further reflection feel gimmicky.

(8)  Will you dress up this year? If so, as what?

No dressing up for me anymore. We don't get trick-or-treaters here, as I've lamented before. Maybe I'll throw on one of my pirate hats and get festive, but even saying that just seems kind of sad right now. But, you know, that could be the start of a new tradition for me. "Aaron's passed out with his pirate hat on and his pants around his ankles again. It's really Halloween!"

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Halloween: October Weird Creepy Crap is Back!


Film Week

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

Not Woody Woodpecker's most boring outing... probably. I really have no idea, but this was really, really boring. *

Peter Watkins' fake documentary about the final battle of the 1745 Jacobite Uprising. It's filmed as a contemporary news documentary, had one been extant and present at the battle. It creates a very interesting cinema verite effect, bringing the battle, its cost to history, and the conduct of the people involved into stark view. It humanizes the people involved in a way that's immediate and urgent. One of the most visceral historical films I've ever seen. ***1/2

REDS (1981)
Excellent, full, personal epic about American socialists John Reed and Louise Bryant, and Reed's involvement in/chronicling of the Russian Revolution. It's pretty daring of Warren Beatty for the time period to make a sympathetic portrait of a Communist, but I think he tempers that by showing how Reed's vision of genuine communism was corrupted by bureaucracy and counterrevolution. At its heart, it's a film about a couple who fell in love during a time of upheaval in America, who witnessed, chronicled and even influenced extraordinary events of change, and who ultimately witnessed the corruption of their ideals by the pragmatism and selfishness of people involved. What Beatty does with this film is offer all viewpoints, imbuing his portrait with arguments for and against, and presenting Reed as a human being who did what he felt was right for him, even if you don't agree. It's an astonishingly good film, with an interesting cast and some excellent performances, particularly Beatty and Diane Keaton in the leads, and Jack Nicholson as Eugene O'Neill. One of the greatest films of the overlooked 1980s. ****

James Caan stars in and directed this film, a film I really wanted to like. It's about a man whose ex-wife and children are swept up into the Witness Protection Program. They simply disappear from his life one day and he tries to track them down, petitioning the government for knowledge of their whereabouts. That's a very dramatic, interesting story, but the film generates no emotional connection, and I watched it rather passively. A shame, because it really could have had an impact. **

The only thing worse than unwatchable garbage is unwatchable garbage with Keira Knightley in it. Zero stars.

Sasha Grey in a rockabilly porno version of Lewis Carroll. Gets to the point faster than Sucker Punch, and shooting it on film gives it a demented grindhouse look that I like, but it's not really enjoyable. **1/2

Just when I'm all set not to like Star Wars humor anymore, this animated special knocks me out. Funnier and more fun than last year's Lego Star Wars: The Little Menace. They have some fun with Darth Maul being back in canon, too. And boy, it just makes me really happy to still hear Anthony Daniels as the voice of See Threepio. ***1/2

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Halloween: The Great Pumpkin Returns!

Why yes, I am going to have more Peanuts strips this year. This is from 1960, only the second time Linus had tried to get people to believe in the Great Pumpkin.

Doctor Who and the Diminishing Quality

I've been finally catching up on the four final episodes of this Doctor Who half-season. I guess it says everything about how into this show I am right now that I didn't even bother to watch the episodes as they aired or within days of airing.

Like "Asylum of the Daleks," I felt the season was mostly rushed-through and not very well thought out. I'm still really bummed out by how bad that episode was; I'm extremely forgiving when the Daleks appear just because I like Daleks so much, but that was so terrible. Rebooting the Daleks (AGAIN!) was bad enough, but I still just don't feel good about the Doctor straight-up murdering a bunch of Dalek mental patients.

The Doctor's been a teeny bit murder-happy of late, it seems. He basically killed Solomon in "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" and then tried to have Kahler-Jex killed in "A Town Called Mercy" before picking up a gun and pointing it right at his head. This is the guy I'm supposed to be rooting for? Since when is the Doctor the moral arbiter of the universe? Since when does he want to be? This is a man who used to think all life had value and that it wasn't his to take away. Now? Who knows? What the hell is Steven Moffat doing to this show? Remember in "The Waters of Mars" when the Doctor saved a woman from dying even when he knew it would affect the entire universe? Now I feel like under Moff's watch he'd just blow her brains out himself.

Anyway, some thoughts on the individual episodes.

:: "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" does what it says in the title. It's Doctor Who at its cutest, but it came along when I needed a mostly-cute filler episode. Mark Williams was very, very enjoyable as Rory's dad Brian. I'd rather have Brian be the companion than the Ponds, honestly. The triceratops was cute and fun, and the Mitchell & Webb comedy robots were funny. David Bradley was enjoyable as the villain, and even though there was really no reason to throw in Nefertiti or Riddell, they were fun characters to hang around with. It mitigated my usual Pond-annoyance to have so many characters in. The CGI dinosaur models looked like the ones the BBC has had since 1999's Walking with Dinosaurs. It's fluffy and junky, but so is cotton candy. Cute stuff, and much better than I expect from a Chris Chibnall-penned episode. But then there's the business about the Doctor just deciding that Solomon was an irredeemable shit and siccing some missiles at him, and I find it objectionable. That's not the Doctor I know. And too bad they just drop the whole Silurian plot.

:: "A Town Called Mercy" wasn't great, but I was thrilled to see Ben Browder, star of the greatest science fiction TV series ever, Farscape. Too bad he didn't have a very good role, but the episode was pretty predictable, anyway. I didn't mind Amy's confrontation of the Doctor after he tries to run out and kill Kahler-Jex, because someone had to do it, and it would have been the companion whomever it was. I'm just glad the Doctor's sudden violent streak was addressed, even though I feel like they kind of dropped it without addressing it enough.

:: "The Power of Three" had a lot of promise, even with the stupid voiceover opening and closing. Plus it was great to see Mark Williams again. I liked the idea that Rory and Amy were basically growing out of the Doctor. It cut to the point that the Doctor has stopped being the old eccentric with the ever-exploring mind and turned into an emotionally stunted runaway child. I wish they'd made this a two-parter and skipped over "The Angels Take Manhattan" entirely. There was so much great stuff in this episode (the Brigadier connection made me tear up a bit), but the episode wasn't carried off well. It seemed like they chucked a lot of the plot in favor of funny scenes with the Doctor not being able to sit still. They treated that hologram like we were supposed to know the character, and then he disappeared. And then I think the Doctor left those people on board the Shakri ship to die. And then the whole plot about jump starting the hearts of millions of people who by that point would have been totally brain dead was pretty silly. This should have been the farewell to Rory and Amy; a two-parter with a better resolution would have been very welcome, because there's a lot of nice stuff in here that I would've liked to have seen built on and given a smarter science plot.

I kind of hate that this episode lets us see a mature Rory and Amy who have grown up and found happiness without having to run off and have adventures all the time, only for them to basically die in the next episode. It would have been much more interesting to me to have them make the decision themselves to just sort of give up this goofy sideline in favor of building their lives together. Have we ever even seen that? People who grow out of the fairy tale and just live their lives instead of being altered forever, never able to leave it behind? But that's a very big, mature idea for a show that's basically become the adventures of Mary Sue Pond and Her Magical Manic Pixie Dream Boy.

:: "The Angels Take Manhattan" was underwhelming. Maybe it was the plot holes. I don't really buy the idea that we just have to accept that Rory and Amy are gone forever and can't be rescued just because the Doctor read a book. I mean, that book dictated that the Doctor was going to break River's wrist, and she did it herself, so obviously it can be changed, right? Rory's paradox idea was brilliant, but it's kind of wasted because it doesn't feel like the episode quite earns the emotions that it plays to. (And I'm going to be honest and admit that, even though I hate Amy Pond, I cried when she made her sacrifice because frankly I never pictured her as capable of making that kind of sacrifice for Rory. That was genuinely touching.)

But I found the episode on the whole rather boring. Maybe it's because there's been such a build-up about Amy and Rory leaving; I wish they could just keep this kind of shit secret so that it's a surprise when it happens. The episode could have benefited a lot from an element of surprise. Bad enough it was more Weeping Angels. Yes, "Blink" is one of the best Doctor Who episodes ever, but that was the one time they were genuinely chilling. They should never have brought them back. At least River's appearance was more subdued this time; it felt less pandering and more like there was a reason for the character to be there other than fanboy boners.

I've been pretty honest about how bad I thought series 6 was. So far, series 7 has been... well, I haven't exactly hated it more than 6 (other than the execrable "Asylum of the Daleks"), but it's just felt so damn inconsequential so far. And now we've got that horrid new companion to look forward to, which is just more of that one woman Steven Moffat writes now, and I'm just... so fucking bored of the whole thing.

Christ, just grow up.

Frankenweenie Monster Posters

Can't say that I want to see Frankenweenie, but I did enjoy these retro monster posters.

Monday, October 01, 2012

My Top 5 Favorite Halloween Foods

Inspired by Reis O'Brien's list. Here are my four favorite Halloween-exclusive foods (with perhaps one cheat).

5. Franken Berry
I think it makes it more special that General Mills' Monster Cereals are only available around Halloween. I like Boo Berry, too, and to a lesser extent Count Chocula. I still like it, but I've just never been a big fan of chocolate cereal. Though it's probably the best-tasting of the chocolate cereals, for me. (My wife loves Cocoa Pebbles, but I just don't get it.)

4. Spookylicious Pop-Tarts
There used to be two Halloween Pop-Tart flavors; this one, the one they stayed with, was originally called Choc-O-Lantern, and it's damn chocolatey. Every time these come out, they taste so soft and fresh. I don't even eat any other Pop-Tarts anymore; I just wait for these to show up on the shelves in all their richness.

3. Halloween Oreos
I know, they're regular Oreos, just orange. But they aren't. They're better. They're freshly made, and they have more filling. Have you noticed how Oreo has cheaped out with the filling lately? It's this thin, almost begrudging smear of cream between the cookies. Halloween Oreos still have the right amount of filling.

2. Pumpkin Pie
This is the arguable cheat. I guess I could make this at other times of the year with the canned filling they have now, but I like to save it for the spooky season. I will only eat this from late September through Thanksgiving. It's how I keep it a treat to look forward to. We've already made one this year, and it was fantastic.

You know what's odd? As much as I love pumpkin pie, I'm not a big fan of all the pumpkin spice stuff they're putting in seemingly everything now. I like it in coffee and donuts, but brother, stay away from the McDonald's Pumpkin Shake. That thing's like sucking on a fricking Yankee Candle.

1. Jones Gruesome Grape Soda
Okay, look, I know this is basically just Jones Grape (but good luck finding that anywhere today). But these small, limited edition cans were just perfect. Just the right amount at once... yet also completely addictive. I lament these things every year. This was the grapiest grape soda in history. Just... the superlative grape. The grape of my dreams. The perfect purple. Unfortunately, they shoved this stuff out of the way in 2008 in favor of that whole pomegranate fad. Ugh.

Come back, Gruesome Grape. I will be just a tiny bit unfulfilled until you do.

Halloween: Vanity Scare

This is officially the year when I chucked off mainstream superhero comics entirely. Now all I read are kids' comics and old comics. Recently, I've been reading the Papercutz reprints of the old Smurfs comics from the 1960s, the originals by Peyo. This is some surprisingly fun stuff! It makes a good daily read alongside Carl Barks (or Don Rosa) Uncle Scrooge comics and collections of classic Peanuts strips and Marvel's Oz comics, which are kind of all I'm reading now.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Here's the new banner for Halloween. And I'll be trying to post Halloween stuff every day, like I do (almost) every October. This is my favorite month of the year, so let's enjoy it!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Michael O'Hare 1952-2012

Michael O'Hare passed away a couple of days ago after having a heart attack that put him into a coma. Sad news. I loved him as Commander Sinclair on Babylon 5, one of my favorite science fiction series. I'm just really sorry to hear this.

Song of the Week: "School Days"

Tomorrow is one (for me, anyway). The great Chuck Berry, 1957.