Monday, December 29, 2008

Ann Savage

Ms. Savage has shuffled off this mortal coil. She was a B-movie actress for most of her career. She had resurfaced recently to play Guy Maddin's "mother" in "My Winnipeg" (which I haven't yet seen, although Maddin is a unique and fascinating filmmaker).

She'll be remembered most for playing the absolutely vicious Vera in Edgar G. Ulmer's no-budget film noir "Detour". "Femme fatale" doesn't even come close to decribing what Savage does in this movie. Savage's character would eat a femme fatale for breakfast. And then beat another femme fatale to death with the first one's bones.

The scene where she wakes up in the car next to Tom Neal is awe-inspiring in its trashiness. When Savage opens her eyes, it's as if a sleeping crocodile has just been startled out of its tentative slumber and is mere nanoseconds from tearing your head off. It's so over-the-top that you don't know whether to be frightened or to laugh. The movie is basically trash, but it's hugely entertaining trash. Savage's character, such as it is, is one-dimensional and subhuman. And you can't stop watching her.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Blind Love, American Style

Joel Stein, occasionally funny, occasionally annoying, very occasionally enlightening, has one of the latter in today's LA Times.

This is something that's always bugged me about a certain brand of conservative. The "love" that they have seems arbitrary and tribal. It's uninterested in improvement. What we have is perfect and to hell with anyone who says otherwise. That's not love, it's infatuation. And laziness.

One of my favorite responses from conservatives whenever I dare to criticize anything our best-nation-in-the-history-of-the-universe does is to compare us to Saddam Hussein. "At least we don't have someone like Saddam Hussein here!" Excuse me for daring to point this out, but when you speak with such hyperbole about a country's greatness don't you think the bar should be set a little higher than one of the worst leaders on the planet? Listen, conservatives. Pointing out that we are better than a stinking corrupt dictatorship is not exactly a ringing endorsement. "Best" is the not the same as "not quite as bad as the worst".

"Jimmy, why did you knock over that liquor store?"

"At least I'm not Bobby. He killed the liquor store manager."

"Oh, Jimmy, you're the best boy on earth!"

Thursday, December 25, 2008

No Fine Lamer

New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker seems like a decent fellow. And he's having a heck of a year. When I saw the brief headline "Welker fined" on the ESPN website, I thought "How surprising. Welker is not the type to get into a fight with anyone. I wonder what he did."

Oops. Here's what he did that was so horrible.

He made a freaking snow angel after scoring a touchdown. He didn't hit anyone. He didn't threaten anyone. He didn't get all up in anyone's grill and say anything about their mama. He didn't even point at anyone and say "Your skills as a professional football player pale in comparison to mine! Enjoy the taste of this!" He just made a snow angel.

Come on, NFL. This is stupid. You're draining the life out of your sport with these lame-ass rules meant to prevent people from "taunting". I'm against taunting too. But there's a big difference between taunting an opponent and simply expressing joy at one's own accomplishment. If you can't see the difference, well, enjoy your $10,000. Which, by the way, was assessed after Welker's team was already punished by having a 15-yard penalty thrown at them. Excessive? Yeah.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Three Types of Audience Member That Piss Me Off

Okay, so it's the day before Christmas and I'm supposed to be all peaceonearthgoodwilltowardsmen and shit. Well, it's raining here so I'm gonna rant a bit about people that piss me off. 'Cause I never do that.

Concert tickets are expensive. Unless you like really unpopular music (and I do like a lot of it) you're going to shell out some bucks for a show. At least for well-known artists. So with great anticipation (and money) I went to see Neil Young at MSG last week. Big show. Two opening acts, one of whom was Wilco, another musical act I like a whole lot.

So, how was the show, you ask? Well, if I had a gas mask, x-ray glasses and unidirectional ear plugs it would have been great. There are three distinct flavors of annoyances at concerts that make me batshit crazy. And they were all there. I shall now gripe about each in turn.

1. The Person Who Stands Up All the Time - I'm all for being excited by the act that you just shelled out a bundle to come see. But as an old SNL sketch demonstrated (sorry, can't find it online), crowds collectively decide whether to stand or sit at concerts. When there's just one yokel doing it, it's annoying. Especially when they're fewer than three rows in front of me. This person stood up after every song to throw her hands in the air, further obscuring the view. This is okay, assuming you're going to sit down again in a somewhat timely fashion. Which she usually didn't.

2. The Guy Who Sings Along to EVERY FUCKING SONG - I swear, I get this guy at every big concert I go to. Does he think that no one can hear him? Does he think I want to hear him? Does he know what the word "off-key" means? Does he think I dropped a hundred bucks to hear Neil Young with Special Guest Doug Malinowski in Row C Seat 13? Will he sign my ticket stub? My favorite part was during "Powderfinger" when he not only sang the words, most of which he knew, but the goddamn guitar parts too. ("The closer they got, the more these feelings greeeeew! Dairn dair dairn de-dair-dair dair de-dairn!") I actually was relieved when Neil sang new songs that no one knew. At least this dude shut up for a bit.

3. The Smoker - You knew this was coming, didn't you? Smoking was banned at pretty much every indoor space in New York City early on in the Bloomberg administration, and no one was happier about it than I. Finally, I said to myself, I can go out and hear music (and play music) without wanting to die. Apparently, this is not so much the case. One dude lights up. Stinky. Gross. It can be nipped in the bud if somebody nearby says "Hey, dude, do you mind?" or an usher comes by and politely asks the offending party to extinguish. But when this doesn't happen, it emboldens others around to do the same. The original party, now emboldened in turn by the acquiescence and participation of others, ceases to hide the cigarette under the seat between puffs, and in his cupped hands during puffs, and just smokes openly through the whole freakin' show. Person #1 even joined in. She was too far away for me to tell if she pulled off the annoyance trifecta, but she clearly didn't have much lung power because, rather than being forcefully expelled upward and/or outward, the smoke just drifted out of her mouth and wafted back towards me to say hello. I did not return its friendly greeting.

Rules don't mean anything if nobody enforces them. Now, there are no hard and fast rules against #1 and #2, so I accept that I'm just a curmudgeon who should stay home if that crap bothers him. But #3 really angers me. Apart from the general unpleasantness (that I spent a lot of money to experience, fuck you very much) I had a freakin' headache for most of the show, which was really long, by the way. And, oh, you know, it's just the law and all. Not that anybody cares about laws in this country anymore.

Am I overreacting? Is it just me? Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people?

Oh, by the way, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Warren Piece

What on earth could I possibly add to the discussion about Rick Warren? The guy seems amiable enough. He's charming and friendly and willing to listen to everybody. Of course, after it's all finished, he still holds the same views as James Dobson and Jerry Falwell and any of the other Religious Right assheads we've been screaming about for years.

I'm all for inclusion and everything. But it's tough to include those who don't include. It's tough to tolerate those who don't tolerate. Even when they're nice about it. "Dude! How's it going? Cool! Love your shirt. Your wife is so pretty. Let's do lunch next week. Oh, by the way, you're going to hell. Bye, sweetie!"

Christopher Hitchens can be an insufferable prick, but I love to hear him rant about religious people. He's got a nifty tirade in Slate today about the situation.

"[I]f we must have an officiating priest, let it be some dignified old hypocrite with no factional allegiance and not a tree-shaking huckster and publicity seeker who believes that millions of his fellow citizens are hellbound because they do not meet his own low and vulgar standards."


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Majel Barrett

How cool was this lady? The obits all talk about Nurse Chapel. Which was cool. I loved that she had a crush on Spock. I also loved that she was the voice of the computer in every incarnation of the series. But I loved her most when she came back in The Next Generation and even Deep Space Nine as Lwaxana Troi. She was the mom you're glad you never had (or were annoyed that you did have). It was worse for poor Deanna, of course, because her mom, being a Betazoid, could read her thoughts. (What, you didn't know that?) And you only thought your mother could.

When Stanley Kubrick died, my first thought was "Oh, no!" but it was followed almost immediately by "Oh, no! Did he finish "Eyes Wide Shut"? I'm the last person earth who would suggest that the passing of Majel Barrett ranks up there with Kubrick's as a loss to our culture. But I was heartened to hear that Mrs. Roddenberry managed to complete one last turn as the computer's voice in J.J. Abrams' new prequel.

Trekkers of the world, raise a glass of, oh, I don't know, Romulan ale... Klingon bloodwine... tea - Earl Grey - hot... whatever ya got. She lived long and she prospered.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

And Speaking of Insults...

Here's one from The Idiot.

When confronted with an unassailable truth (one that doesn't comport with his "reality") he resorts to speaking like a 12-year-old. Which, I know, is only a small downgrade.

Bush: One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take ...

Raddatz: But not until after the U.S. invaded.

Bush: Yeah, that's right. So what?



Go throw a shoe at the bastard.

Dick Cheney: Dick

Our soon-to-be-ex-Vice President continues to insult us. He holds the American people in such utter contempt that it's infuriating to listen to him or to read his words. I, for one, am so goddamn sick of being insulted by this creep that I'd slap him in the face if I saw him and consider it an honor to serve jail time for doing so. (I'm sure the Iraqi journalist in my last post feels the same way.) He continues to justify criminal behavior and war crimes, and I don't exaggerate when I use those terms, and to suggest that anyone who calls him on it is just some sort of lunatic. I'll say it again: it's insulting. Painfully insulting.

Read this transcript of an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl. He regrets nothing. Nothing. And when Karl suggests that some may take a less-than-charitable view of the tyrannical (yes, tyrannical) powers that Cheney has arrogated to himself and his administration, he says they "don't know what they're talking about".

Here's what he said in response to questions about the use of torture. Now keep in mind that Cheney actively supports waterboarding, which is defined as torture in U.S. law and in treaties to which we are a signatory.

"I think the results speak for themselves. And I think those who allege that we've been involved in torture, or that somehow we violated the Constitution or laws with the Terrorist Surveillance Program, simply don't know what they're talking about."

How can you get more insulting than that? If you want to be immediately whisked out of the Christmas spirit, assuming you were in it in the first place, go read the rest of the interview. Hate will fill your heart. He also absolves himself of the responsibility for creating the existing climate and pushing the policies of torture, rendition and absence of due process. He merely claims that he "supported" them. This says otherwise. Liar liar.

I am looking forward to the end of this administration. But I will not be satisfied just to see it end. Justice must be done. The rule of law looks both forward and backward. (It has to, as all crimes were committed in the past. Duh.) I will not be happy until this man and his felonious cronies are behind bars. They belong there. And I do know exactly what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How to Get Arrested in Your Stocking Feet

Have you seen this? Probably, but it's funny anyway.

This sums up my feelings about the past eight years. I have just wanted to throw shit at this guy every time I've heard him "speak". And I've honestly been wondering how all of those people (press, foreign dignitaries, schoolchildren) could possibly listen to the utter crap that comes out of his mouth and manage to repress the urge to do the same. It's been maddening.

Although his behavior was entirely unprofessional, I heartily applaud this dude (an Iraqi journalist, apparently, but not for long, I'm guessing) for expressing the feelings of millions of us. It's a bit cathartic. And funny. And hey, nobody got hurt. We already knew that The Idiot was good at ducking. He's been ducking the truth for years.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dumb Letters: It Rhymes With Schmaschmortion and It's Destroying the Economy

Oh my. This is hilarious. Hilarious, I tell you.

Abortion is a highly emotional issue for people. (And hilarious!) Due to its fundamental nature (it is murder vs. it is not murder), it's pretty intractable. There really isn't any common ground there.

So if you want to tell me it's wrong because it's murder, I really can't argue with you there. We'll just have to shake hands (or not) and move along to Social Security or the Iraq War (which, strangely enough, is supported by many of the Culture of Life people).

But here's a novel argument from a letter writer in todays' NYTimes. They must've had a great time publishing this one. Apparently, the problem with abortion is that it's thinning out our population.

For some people, abortion is a nonnegotiable issue. A nation that runs out of people cannot perform the activities of a sophisticated society.

We have a shortage of primary care doctors. There are other skilled-worker shortages. You cannot kill the future population of a nation and then wonder why that nation does not have the people it needs to do the jobs it requires to function.

Our nation needs to face up to the 48 million lives lost through abortion since 1973. I think at least some of that number would have become the skilled people we need now and will need even more as our population ages.

Abortion is at the very center of a host of our troubles.

Elinor Hite
Carrollton, Tex.

Man, I laugh every time I read this. (Hilarious, I said!) So, the problem isn't that all life is sacred. It's that we don't have enough people to do all of our jobs. Um, Ms. Hite apparently hasn't seen our latest unemployment figures. You see, when you abort a fetus, you're aborting a doctor or a skilled machinist. You couldn't possibly be aborting a junkie or a drug dealer or a crack whore or a folk musician. Or, I don't know, one of the 533,000 people who just lost their jobs. God help us, we need those people! Don't kill them! We're running out of people! Look at the figures!

You see? Since 1973 our population has increased by over 50% and it's all because of... Oh. Never mind.

Hey, Elinor! We've lost 15 million people from smoking in the same time period. Oh, but wait. They're keeping the doctors employed. Darn! I need to work on my logic.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Senate Seat for Sale: Not Cheap

Geez, this is the kind of thing that was supposed to go out with Prohibition. Or at least, the Bush administration.

How fucking stupid do you have to be to advertise that a Senate seat is for sale? Even Dick Cheney pretends that he doesn't profit at all from the creepy things he does (>cough!< Halliburton!) and covers his tracks. This dude is just pathetic. Clean out his desk. Teach him how those license plates are made.

I can't wait to find out who Candidate 5 is. And crap, how much money were Candidates 1 through 4 willing to offer? This is going to be fun.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Please Use Revolving Door

It makes me crazy when people disregard clearly posted signs. Heck, I don't even like it when the signs aren't so clearly posted and they disregard them. I expect people to have a basic understanding of the rules. Most people (most people) don't need a sign saying "Please Don't Stab the Person Standing Next to You" to refrain from doing so. So when there's a sign that gets ignored, my Annoyance Meter goes all kooky.

My least favorite, of course, is the ever-popular "No Smoking" sign. This is by far the worst because smoking is disgusting and, as is the case at the Staten Island Ferry terminal (on the bad side) where scofflaws continually light up on the path to the buses, unavoidable. Right. Under. The. God. Damn. Sign. Argh! Once I even saw an MTA EMPLOYEE offer a light to someone not 5 feet from a "No Smoking" sign. There is no hope for common courtesy. Or my lungs.

But, as obnoxious and gross as the smoking creeps are, there's a part of me that understands it. Particularly at the ferry, where folks have just spent at least 30 minutes on a boat and are about to get on a bus for another who-knows-how-long. They've only got a few precious seconds to get some of that mm-mm-good tarcotine in there before the next leg of their soul-crushing journey from a crappy corporate job in Manhattan to a miserable family on Staten Island. And it is an addiction. So there ya go. Smoking.

What really baffles me, though, is the revolving door. Not the door itself, but people's aversion to it. Now, big office buildings in NYC always have revolving doors alongside normal swing-open doors. (I use the technical terms for things here. Sorry if you have to look up terms like "swing-open doors". Erudition reigns here at the Den.) Naturally, the buildings prefer that you use the revolving doors because their use saves each building thousands of dollars a year (my guess) in heating and cooling costs. And helps to keep the smoke from the phalanx of tobacco addicts in its rightful place. But the swing doors remain usable for emergencies or for people in wheelchairs or with pizzas or whatever.

But there is almost always a sign saying something along the lines of "Please Use Revolving Door". And yet, I see people ignoring these signs every goddamn day of my life. What is it with people? What is so fucking awful about using a revolving door? You have to push it the same way you have to push the revolver. It takes about the same amount of strength. It takes about the same amount of time. Why would you ignore a clearly posted request for something that gives little or no benefit? It says "Please", for crying out loud!

The only possible explanation I can think of is claustrophobia. But you know what, I'm the most claustrophobic person I know. I refuse to get on a subway train if there are too many people on it. And I freak out if I get on and it doesn't move between stations. I see the same people who just ignored the door sign cramming onto the sardine train with no issues whatsoever.

Just this week in the building I work in, I saw the ever-present "Please..." sign placed directly in front of the door. With no gap. There was no way to avoid seeing it. There was no way to get out the door without acknowledging the sign physically. And yet...some dude actually squeezed himself around the sign to use the regular door.

Now, it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket that these people do this. But seriously, what the hell is wrong with people?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dumb Letters: Canada Sucks at Health Care So We Will Too

From today's LA Times, a big fat dis to Canada and it's crummy crummy health care system. We DON'T want to be like them.

The government should not be guaranteeing "universal healthcare." Healthcare is a need, not a right. Rights are freedoms of action, not automatic claims on goods and services that must be produced by another. There's no such thing as a "right" to a car or an appendectomy. Whenever the government attempts to guarantee a service such as healthcare, it must control it, leading to Canadian-style rationing and waiting lists.

Instead of universal healthcare, we need free-market reforms, such as allowing patients to purchase insurance across state lines and use health savings accounts for routine expenses, and allowing insurers to sell inexpensive, catastrophic-only policies to cover rare but expensive events. Such reforms could reduce costs and make insurance available to millions who cannot currently afford it.

Paul Hsieh, MD
Sedalia, Colo.

This letter isn't stupid crazy batshit dumb. But it does fail to justify itself with anything concrete. The arguments are as old and weak as Nancy Reagan.

Fist of all, I completely agree with Dr. Hsieh's first statement. I don't believe that health care is a right. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have it. Roads aren't a right either. They are a good provided by another. And the troopers patrolling them are a service provided by another. But the government builds them and staffs them because they help us. We seem to think that's okay. The argument that health care isn't, or shouldn't be, a "right" is immaterial.

Dr. Hsieh really falls apart when he brings Canada into the equation. He leads off the sentence with the premise that the government must "control" what it guarantees. Well, duh-fucking-uh. Did we expect the government to take something over and then just let it sit there? We've had enough of that with FEMA over the past eight years. The concept is ludicrous and only mentioned because, as we all know, government is always bad and the private sector is always good. The words "government" and "control" in the same sentence are meant only to scare you.

Now, where is the proof that universal health care in America will lead to rationing and waiting lists? Where? Our economy is a gazillion times greater than Canada's, even now. We have more than enough resources to cover everybody with no waiting lists and no rationing. We could have done it with room to spare with the money we spent, and continue to spend, in Iraq. Or that we just gave to Wall Street. The argument holds no water. (Notice also that free marketeers always point to Canada and its problems and never to, say, France, which does it really well.)

So, now that Dr. Hsieh has conclusively established that universal healthcare is a bad idea (rationing! government control!) he can stick the knife in with the old free-marketeers' standby. That's right, the health care market is just not open enough. If we just allow people to shop more, we'll all be okay.

Dude, I don't want to be able to afford health care. I don't want to shop. I just want to get it. Get it? These "reforms" will just lead to more money trickling UP to your pals in the insurance industry.

Fuck you, Dr. Hsieh, if that is your real name. And the insurance company you're shilling for.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Dumb Letters: Legal Evils

This kind of crap makes me crazy. It never ends. This is from today's NY Times.

When something is this loaded with stupid, we have to take it bit by bit, to allow the proper amount of jaw-dropping and snarky refutation for each nugget of poop. Here we go.

When we release the prisoners now at Guantánamo Bay, many will go back to their homelands and carry out attacks similar to what we just saw in India.

And this is to be proven how, exactly? Do we know which ones? If we have their plans for doing so, we've got enough to keep detaining them, don't we? And if we don't, well then, this is just fear-mongering and speculation. And this isn't Minority Report. Or is it?

And despite what many say, I believe that these people would have done this before they came to Gitmo, and not because of it.

Maybe. But if you piss on a hornet's nest, they're a lot more likely to sting you. And once again we're dealing with "these people", as if they're all cut from the same cloth and all have the same motives. This is the essence of xenophobia.

So the question becomes: What do you do with a person so evil that he will never give up the idea of killing Westerners until they are dead?

Well, I'd say you probably wanna lock 'em up. But we'll need some kind of way to determine which ones this applies to. Some kind of, I don't know, legal system.

Again, does this apply to all of them? How do we know? And here we also see the entrance of the dreaded "e" word. They're evil! Not criminals. Not war criminals. Not even deranged. But evil. If this is your view of the world then don't even bother making a legal or logical argument. You don't have one.

I eagerly await Barack Obama’s plan to try these barbarians in United States federal court. Security, both physical and national, will be a nightmare.

Ah, yes, barbarians. Barbarians, of course, are one step above cro-magnons. Naturally, such a being is undeserving of legal protections afforded to the civilized and non-evil (and white).

Obama doesn't need a "plan". We've had one in place for two centuries. It's our basic American legal process. It works fine. If they're guilty, they go to jail. If not, they don't. We've tried a few folks in civilian courts and so far no security nightmare. My guess is that the nightmare would only come from assheads like this causing a fuss at the courthouses.

Teaching about constitutional law and actually having to protect America and enforce the law are two very different things. We’ll see how Professor Obama reacts to his first encounter with reality.

Eric Smith
Stafford, Va.
Um, yeah. Switch out "teaching about constitutional law" for "running a few oil companies into the ground" or "fleecing a city for money for your baseball team" and you've got the problem with the last eight years. I think that teaching about constitutional law is a pretty good training ground for learning how to uphold said constitution. Call me crazy. Hell, just reading the damn thing once should have helped.

I love the word "reality" in this context. It's always used to imply that "reality"="maniacs want to kill us and anyone who says we shouldn't behave just as maniacally in response is a big fat pussy who hates his country and wants to see us all die". Here's reality in my estimation: on Inauguration Day the president swears to uphold our constitution. If he doesn't uphold it, he breaks that oath and disqualifies himself for the office. He does not swear to protect us, although it would be nice if he did that too. But it's not in the basic contract. Our ideals are more important than any individual life or group of lives.

And it's President-elect Obama to you, fucknut.