Sunday, April 30, 2006
The NFL draft was fun despite the Bears' ponderous selections. My other teams did pretty well. The Pats even picked up two Gators. But in the midst of all the computer surgery and ESPN cross-analysis, I missed the other big event this weekend.
Not that you'd know anything about it if you relied on TV news, but the annual White House Correspondents dinner's host speaker was none other than the now-legendary Stephen Colbert. Talk about a ponderous choice. Whoever OK'd him to speak in front of the prestigious gathering of top media types, congressmen, representatives and the president and first lady will probably be fired before Monday morning. Colbert absolutely torched the room. It was like a politically charged roast of Bush, various politicos and the mainstream press. I mean he skewered Bush so thoroughly, the room was near silent. Jaws dropped, Bush red-faced.
My talking about it does it no modicum of justice, so try and check it out on a CSPAN rerun. Or Crooks and Liars has video of the last half of the speech. And Daily Kos has the full transscript. But, really, try and watch it. It makes a world of difference. (Also: apparently the haters are saying he bombed, which is just predictable poo-pooing from sourpusses. It was not only a brilliant speech in both content and context, but historical as far as "talking truth to power" goes.)
Indeed as is rounding the net today, Colbert does indeed win the "Big Brass Balls" award for this. Wow.
**UPDATE: New Crooks And Liars page with the entire speech in three parts. And a corny "Thank You, Stephen Colbert" guestbook.
**UPDATE: Top-notch analysis of the lack of audience chuckles over at The Whiskey Bar.
**UPDATE: The YouTube vids are now down.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Friday, April 28, 2006
And with both faith and fact in mind, a quick word about the book I finished a few days ago, The End of Faith by Sam Harris. While there’s no doubt the need is great for the propagation of anti-religious viewpoints these days, Harris’ scattershot screed isn’t exactly a primer for the movement. It’s a fun, feel-good read for those of us in the club already, but I can’t see it changing any minds. Based around opinion pieces and thought experiments before devolving into meditations on peripheral topics, his thesis seems to be that rational thought needs to actively trump religious dogmas on a global scale. And do it soon at the peril of nothing less than the future of mankind. Fairly intuitive stuff as far as I’m concerned. But what I do find compelling is Harris’ ability to inject The Argument (to believe or not to believe) with a much-needed level-headedness and analytic panache. Nevermind that his suppositions regularly leave out various x-factors, points of view and half the world's religions, or that his stone-cold rationality leads to some uncomfortable conclusions regarding the actions of the State in the “war on terror.” It's his rhetoric which resonates, if occasionally to the detriment of his rationale. Ultimately, I finish the book feeling pulled in neither direction; not particularly enlightened, but armed with little more ammunition should I need to press my own particular POV.
And now, some quotes:
" I have examined all the known superstitions of the Word, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the world ..."---Thomas Jefferson
" Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind."--Thomas Paine
"...the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction. "--George Washington, 1789, responding to clergy complaints that the Constitution lacked mention of Jesus Christ, from The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness, Isacc Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore W.W. Norton and Company 101-102.
*See Also: The God Who Wasn't There DVD. Haven't seen it yet, but it's next up in my Netflix cue.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
In any event, as more information comes in by phone and by email, and I’ve been able to better piece together exactly happened to me last weekend. Cell phone records are one thing, memory another. The truth has gotta lay between them somewhere. No one can confirm anything but rumors abound. I now have proof that after cracking that bottle off my foot (and thus ensuring said hero status among the partygoers), I called a cab to come get me. Now, catching a cab out in the wilds of the Orlando suburbs is an entirely different exercise in patience than in a metropolis like Chicago. So, wait I did. Exactly when it got there and when I slipped out, no one knows. But they all agree I must have caught that cab at some point. So, where did I go from there? How did I make it back to Chicago? Why did I wake up in a hospital room on the south side? What the hell happened?
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
I wasn't in Chicago at all. I was back in Florida. In Orlando again.
There was a party. There were friends. I was in and out of consciousness.
I opened the fridge at the party. Out shot a half-full bottle of tequila. It landed on my toes.
I know this. I remember this. My toe's broken and foot blue-black. It happened.
I think I blacked-out after that. I had dreams. Dreams of wild nonsense.
Thankfully I didn't actually dream this:
Thursday, April 20, 2006
While I’m currently waging a battle to stay the hell away from video games (as they suck away time that could, should be better spent) there’s a couple of free internet games that I can recommend without too much guilt. The first is a java-based game called Turbo Tanks. The early 80’s, black-and-white-line construction belies the addictive fun of this tank battle shoot-‘em-up. And because it’s in java , there’s no downloads and it can be quickly killed should you be playing it at work… so I’m told. The second is Soldat, an online multiplayer, team-based fighting game. You choose the look of your little fighter dude and pick a particular firearm and off you go. It’s kida like one of today’s MMP 1st person shooters presented circa 1985 in 3rd person (if that makes any sense at all, go outdoors, get some fresh air and some friends). Soldat allows users to tweak their playing preferences and even the type of game they want to play (kill em all, capture the flag, etc.). It’s incredibly addictive and is the current bane of my “no video games” policy.
And finally, Miami’s most mackin-est, Kev Rose, turned my attention to the latest music video collaboration between mind-blowing director Chris Cunningham and mind-blowing musician/mad-scientist Richard D. James (aka – Aphex Twin). Be warned, it’s creepy. Try-not-to-wet-your-pants creepy. Watch: Rubber Johnny. (See also: Come To Daddy and Windowlicker.)
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Apparently not all the locals were friendly and we Yanks were discouraged from wandering outside the grounds. For reasons various and clusterfuck I wound up getting stuck on-base for nearly two weeks. Luckily they put my brother and I up in one of the vacant American villas complete with a/c, a stocked kitchen, Armed Forces Network cable TV with MTV from India (Dahler Mehndi, anyone?), and what became my saving grace, a VCR. We hit the base’s video-rental operation everyday. Sometimes twice a day. It was some kinda adjunct of the post office there. A one-man operation, but, goddamn, did they stock a lot of movies. Numerous dubbed bootlegs sat side by side with actual releases, each one carefully numbered and catalogued.
What follows was taken from my travel journals that summer. I spent plenty of time swimming in the pool and boozing at the tiny bar and reading a couple of books but nothing inspired a play-by-play quite like cathode Hollywood parading through the air-conditioned, army-issued villa. I still don’t know if these are funny, sad or somewhere in between, but keep in mind, I was basically held captive at the time.
(Forgive the gratuitous swearing and pseudo-pondering, plainly I've moved so far from that kinda sophmoric nonsense. Huff. Puff. Etc.)
ESCAPE FROM LA – Good and silly. Much campy effects. Packed with plenty of Carpenter’s “beware of humanity” themes and post/pre apocalyptic humor.
2 DAYS IN THE VALLEY – Good movie that ultimately unifies 10 different stories. Altman, Tarrantino inspired. Drugs, guns, blackmail. Good acting as well by Aiello, Spader.
KINDERGARDEN COP – Oh, Christ.
SLEEPERS – True story. Fucked-up story. DeNiro good but a lot of the points that could have been made and the drama that could have been exploited were left at less than their full potential in order to presumably follow the book’s direction and sideplots. A little too long.
THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY – Shit, I haven’t seen this movie in so long. I liked it much. It was perhaps a bit tedious but still brilliantly original. Fucking Benny Hill meets National Geographic and possibly tips its hat to Monty Python. Good shit.
THE PLAYER – Aint seen this since it came out in ’92. Brilliant. I remember this as the movie to turn me on to Altman. I got to notice more nuances now that I know the plot. The Lyle Lovitt shit was brilliant. Altman got to the point that he was using any excuse to put Lovitt in front of the camera. It hit most in the lineup scene. The lady calls him out again and for a second time he as forced to face forward, etc. Altman is obviously making us just look at the dude. And he is a funny looking guy… Another Lyle moment… When he’s in the police station and Whoopi asks him the name of the movie he saw the previous night. He turns and says, “Freaks,” then repeats the line “one of us, one of us,” over and over again. Kind of making fun of himself… I think. Goddamn Altman is a genius. Never does he let up on his critique and hammer-on-thumb assault on Hollywood. Maybe I’ll see this again before I leave.
STARGATE – Somebody finally capitalized on Egypt’s vast mythological resources (someone in Hollywood, anyway). Just mixed ‘em with some sci-fi and big guns. It was OK. The first half was better than the second. The second just didn’t deliver what the first promised. Oddly, this is the third movie I seen so far with James Spader in it. (Crash was the first in Istanbul) and the second movie with Kurt Russell.
MARS ATTACKS – OK. Funny little Martian guys. Best part is Sarah Jessica Parker’s head on a dog’s body… shit, that was creepy. Is Burton losing his touch or is he just getting bored?
THE ROCK – Kick ass, shoot ‘em up action movie. American action.
CADDYSHACK – Gonna hang onto this so I can watch it a few more times before I’ve gotta turn it back in.
PRET AU PORTER – Another Altman film. Very good. Guts the fashion industry in the same way he hit the music industry in “Nashville” and Hollywood in “The Player.” Was very light and silly. Showed the varying degrees of bankrupt lives led by the people in industry for the most part. The couple of side stories were great also. Tim Robbins and Julia Roberts story as two reporters thrown into a hotel room together after all their clothes went missing was great. All they did was drink and screw. Good flick.
STAR TREK : FIRST CONTACT – I heard this was supposed to be dark compared to many of the other Star Trek films. “Not silly” is more accurate. Not much interesting shit going on here.
THE DOORS – That dude is just a shit talker making it up as he goes along. Jim Morrison sucks too. What a sham. Good filmmaking in the drug scene anyway.
SERIAL MOM – Pink Flamingoes it aint. Good it aint either. Not even good in a Waters-genre sense. Not even “Hairspray” mediocre good. Not even close. I’m sure there were some good parts but I can’t remember them.
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA – Fucking excellent as always. I just realized this was a John Carpenter film. Amazing I didn’t already know that. Or maybe I did.
LORD OF ILLUSIONS – What the fuck? A decent build-up and then it turns into a friggin’ Matlock episode with a touch of gore. This goddamn sucks.
FOR YOUR EYES ONLY – Bond. What’s the connection? I live these movies. Brain-dead, soupy-plot entertainment. I don’t really know.
SON OF THE PINK PANTHER – Benigni is a comic genius.
CASABLANCA – For the 50th time. I can’t believe my father can also quote this movie. Albeit the more trite quotes, but still. I didn’t know it was in his repertoire.
THE RELIC – OK action suspense about some fucking corn-dog monster in a museum. Penelope Ann Miller is such a nugget that I had to watch the whole movie.
REMO WILLIAMS – Not nearly as good as I remember. I enjoyed so little of it. New trivia: Star Trek series woman captain is the heroine.
DIE HARD 3 – Better than I remember. Actually well written and full of (somewhat predictable) twists. I can say I enjoyed it, but that’s as far as I’ll go.
FARGO – Better again. What a fucked-up story. All kinds of shit going on with the various strongly developed characters. What’s the deal with the guy meeting Marge at the bar trying to get with her then spilling his guts come to find out later that it was all a lie? That was very strange. It was only there as an incident separate to the main plot. There just to reinforce the weirdness of the entire project… and maybe the false true-storieness as well. The movie is of course excellent and creepy… and weird.
VISCIOUS CREATURES – “A Fish Called Wanda” cast. Not as good but it had its moments. Cleese’s supposed getting caught in sexual trysts – way hilarious. Curtis was mildly nuggety even at her age.
THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING – 2nd time I’ve ever seen it and it was just as kick-ass. British Colonial machismo and bravery in northern India about a century ago. The machismo seemed well-founded in those times or at least more valid. I should like to read the Kipling story. It’s probably even better than the movie. Best scene – when the priests cut down the rope bridge and Connery is singing the fight song. It pulls together ideals of horror and dignity and all the bullshit that armies and governments and corporations today try to get you to swallow and makes them actually seem valid. Great flick.
CADDYSHACK – Again. Cannonball. Cannonball coming.
CITY HALL – Pacino and what’s his name. Beginning was rough and the end sucked but the middle was excellent. Quick and complicated plot and character development. Mucky at times but the plot usually hashed it out. Maybe worth seeing again.
HUDSUCKER PROXY – What the 5th or 6th time I’ve seen this. Still good. Still great to look at. It is a little bit long but who cares. Latest revelation: Sam Rami helped write it. Which explains why his boy “Ash” is in it.
12:01 – Pretty shitty flick. Not entirely dissimilar to “Groundhog’s Day.”
JURY DUTY – Long live Pauley Shore. Not only is he funny, but he solves crimes.
INDEPENDENCE DAY – Not as bad as I thought it would be.
MARS ATTACKS – Again. Wasn’t too good this time. But, “Maybe we could live in tee-pees, cuz they’re cooler in a way.”
BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD – Not as good as first time I saw it, but the quality laughs still come through.
THE GRADUATE – Very nice, very nice. Second time to see it. Good interviews before and after on this copy. Maybe a drifting obsessive type can actually fall in love after all. Just a nice all around picture… though it hardly scratches the surface of the “anti-establishment” ideal it touts so triumphantly. But who’s counting?
HIGH SCHOOL HIGH – For an hour and a half movie it had approximately five minutes of laughs…. That’s being VERY generous. Those laughs were good but they didn’t come very easy. Had to sift through the entire pile of shit to get them.
HAPPY GILMORE – Fucking great. Better than I remember. Maybe not all around better than “Billy Madison” but the first ½ hour is comic genius. Those two movies will become classics. I guarantee it.
REAR WINDOW – What’s to say except, “Excellent.” One point of interest however was what I noticed of the background noise. The background sounds actually played as much of a role in the movie as any of the actors. As much a role as the courtyard or surrounding buildings. From voices to horns to singing to piano – the music of the neighborhood provided the sound track… the score of the film. I’d like to watch this again bearing this idea in mind.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Sunday night the lady and I settled in to watch Oscar-bait biopic, Walk The Line. For all the hype, for all the good reviews (both professional and friendly) I’d expected to like it much more than I did. Sure, Joaquin (sp? I don’t care to look it up) Phoenix nailed the drawl and the music numbers, but his overall performance was a horrid display of posturing in place of actual acting. He didn’t for a second let us into Cash’s world, his psyche. Totally uninteresting, uninvolving and, perhaps most importantly, unrevelatory. That goes for the story as well. The story left out every ounce of politics in the guy’s life and music… an element utterly essential to understanding either. It instead revolved around little more than pill-popping Johnny's decade-long flirtation with his future wife, June—played by the singular light of the entire film, Reese Witherspoon. But even this aspect seemed crafted as a formula to yield maximum oscar-ability. Yeesh.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Thursday, April 13, 2006
The following is a snip that I found funny for a few reasons, not the least of which is seeing how fast Algren transforms himself to a high-society type with his imaginary windfall. Maybe it’s not particularly egregious, given the norms of the time, but still, it's amusing.
Q: What would you do with [a million dollars]?
A: …It’s not unmanageable. I could use it and not even be conspicuous, not even be dropping money at the dice or the horses. It’d all be essential… I’d buy a home. I’d buy a place, possibly in some area like Cape Cod. It would have an ocean close and I don’t think that’s a luxury… Just a roomy place with a breakwater and a view of the ocean. And then I’d want a boat out there. I don’t mean a luxury boat. Something I could go out on the ocean with. And I would want books. There’s at least ten thousand dollars worth of books I should have. There’s all kinds of books. I don’t even have a set of Dickens. Now what the hell kind of writer is that? I should have a Dickens. It shouldn’t be cheap editions. I want a set of leather Dickens. And I want Alice in Wonderland. I don’t have a copy of that. Then you should have, you’ve got to have a family. I mean if you’re living you can’t go it alone. You’re nothing, you’re nothing alone. I mean what are you going to write about if you’re not attached anywhere. There should be a family and there’s got to be room in the house for the family. You don’t want to marry a broad for her domestic things. I want to take her in the boat. I want to talk to her. So that means kitchen help. There should be a woman who likes to cook there and there should be somebody to bring it out. Neither of us should have to be making a beef stew if there’s something better to do. And there should be liquor. You shouldn’t have to share a six-pack of beer if ten people come in, you know. There should be cases. There should be cases. There should be Scotch and bourbon and somebody to mix a martini. You don’t have to have a party every night, but you got to see people. There are people you should meet. You are living in the world. I mean, the way I’m living I never see anybody… All I’m saying is I want to entertain, with my broad, somebody presentable in a dress. I don’t want some dog there, you know. I want somebody that’s real, you know, someone who reflects credit on me. Somebody sharp.
Q: So you could say, “That’s my girl.”
A: That’s it.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
1) The facts and the truth are not working. If they haven’t worked at this point, they will never work. The mechanism is in place to deflect any harm to the ruling party that the truth may do. Where there used to be a handful of men running ragged to keep the plates spinning atop the rods, there’s now an army of men for this job. The truth is now the product of the manipulation not the source of it. This manipulation can be seen in the social control of the flow of information.
2) Now that all branches of government are controlled by this faction (through sheer numbers, fear, or social control), they’ve begun to rewrite the fundamental principles and premises of American Government—whereas before they could only attempt to circumvent these fundamentals. Examples abound. From the comparatively casual augmentation of congressional redistricting, to dubious electoral mandates (unaccountable paperless voting, felon roll calls, legal pressures via party operatives, et. al.), to the installation of a judge to the Supreme Court who’s life’s work seems to be pointed toward vastly increasing the powers of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. The process of transforming the compact of the nation from “We the people…” to “We the powerful…” is becoming less encumbered by law and tradition every day. Accountability is a devalued currency. It's certainly absent in the realm of political attacks and the untethered world of the seconds-long sound byte and the story-of-the-hour news cycle--America's prefered channels of information reception. Once again we see manipulation on a vast scale. But here, it’s far less ethereal and intellectual than what we see in the social sphere. Here, it’s a manipulation of the laws and methods of the land; a re-ruddering of the very apparatus which steers this vessel, America.
3) The binary opposition to the powers that be are far too thoroughly entrenched to come to our rescue. They have far too much interest in the status quo to undo all the damage that’s been done even if they do manage to wrest back power in the coming years. To fix things, to weed the garden, would be to upset all facets of American life if only for a short time. The opposition party is so totally weakened and so totally dependent on the current apparatus for what little power they still enjoy, they shouldn’t even be considered a party in their own right. They are but a wildly useful prop for the ruling party. If the soul of this great nation is to be saved, we must look to a political party and political solutions outside of this fetid one-party system. Or perhaps to a solution outside of politics altogether.
4) I have finally realized that the fundamental nature of the current war in Iraq is racism. By that I don’t mean to say that racism is our Government’s reason for being there. (That far more nefarious explanation happens to revolve around the almighty dollar and the corruption it has spread via the corporate-federal daisy chain that’s subverted the modern Democracy). The perpetual struggle of “The War on Terror” is socially financed by stoking the fires of racism within a population. It is yet another means of manipulation by a ruling party and their affiliate conspirators. Another means of population control and psychological influence peddling. While racism within America seems to be ever so slowly on the wane, an event like 9/11 is all that America’s bigots needed to resurface after several decades of veritable fringe-dwelling. And once this portion of the population is aroused and prodded by the media and other figureheads sympathetic to the cause of the ruling party, a rift between the citizenry can be exploited for any number of reasons, the least of which might be to keep that citizenry fighting among themselves while the conspiratory forces begin their assault. From there on, a constant barrage of disinformation, baiting, showmanship and posturing is enough to prolong the exploitation presumably until the cash dries up, if ever. It is in this incarnation that we can see the public’s (if only a segment of that public) rationale being used as fuel for the war machine. All the ruling party need do is stoke those fires on occasion by exploiting an occasional barbarity of the enemy—a barbarity that, in a time of war, would otherwise remain more or less banal and certainly no more barbaric than our own transgressions.
I have concluded from this understanding that the current war in Iraq is a racist war and intend to call it that on every occasion. I urge you to do the same.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Not a bad first weekend back in the big city. I think I’m still readjusting after nearly three weeks of mostly rural, quiet southern-ness. Here I am back from weather that passes for the dog days of summer up here, all ready for backyard grill parties and short pants. But everyone else is in still in that winter rush, head down, bundled up in their winter gear trying to get wherever they’re going by spending the least amount of time outdoors as possible. Winter robot mode. I know it well. It's one of the preferred ways of gettin through the long, dark winters here, even comparably mild ones like this year’s. Just set yr shit to autopilot and move them feets.
Then again, maybe I’m not the only one ready for a change. After a few long looks out the window this weekend at the increasing number of bike riders weaving through the backed-up Cubs baseball traffic, there’s no doubt I aint the only one itchy for spring. They’ve all got the right idea. So that’s it. Time to end my winter hibernation. Time to dig up outta this burrow and enjoy the goings-on.
And thus, with that mindset, I kicked off my
So, huzzah, springtime!!! Get yr ass a shakin. Pull a Fight 93 and, “Let’s Roll! ™”
*Some folks come back from vacation with a stash of South American produce, an ounce of Dutch hashish or a bad case of Southeast Asian clap, but thanks to hitching a ride on a good friend’s bender, I came home from