Thursday, September 29, 2005

Too big for the big screen

Chris Rock ain't made for the big screen. For some reason, Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey are, even though they're about as entertaining as a colonoscopy administered by an epileptic (though that may be fun for some).

That is to say, I'd prefer not to pay $8 to see Rock slumming in a multiplex when I can crack up for free watching him on TV. For the first time, I directed my remote to the UPN, where I was treated to the season's best new sitcom. To quote a line from "Everybody Hates Chris": "I was happier than Billy Dee Williams after a case of malt liqour."

There are exceptions, of course: Robin Williams was equally annoying in both mediums (Mork or Patch Adams? You make the call). But, by and large, our best comedic talents always seem to find their niche on the little screen. Have you seen anything on film in the last five years as funny as 30 minutes of Larry David, or "The Simpsons" in its prime? (Outside of "Ghost World.")

Welcome home, Chris.

Georgette Sheehan

Ever since she burst onto the scene, Cindy Sheehan has reminded me of someone ... someone kind of annoying. My brain finally made the connection: she's Georgette from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," assuming Georgette was a cloying publicity hound. Wait, that was her TV husband, Ted Baxter. So this is how their kid would've turned out.

Good night and good news.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Vile, venal, villainous vermin

If our Islamo fascist enemies didn't have such overwhelming issues with things like sex, free expression and women, they could compile a fairly convincing laundry list debunking America's claim to moral authority.

Not one to bash America first and ask questions later, I can't help but be depressed about the behavior of our "leaders" in the month since Katrina. They passed shameful weeks ago, and I'm left to assume the worst is yet to come. I might have to resort to potty talk to accurately describe the chicanery certain to follow in the weeks and months ahead.

Just in the past few days, we've witnessed:

The vile testimony of former FEMA director Michael Brown, who went on the offensive in front of a Congressional panel, choosing not to accept any responsibility but instead deploying the old duck and cover method (assigning all blame to that most reliable of scapegoats, the media). They've misrepresented my resume, he blathered, as if that were more important than the human misery that remains. Hey, you can't bring back the dead, but Brownie's got a career in government to protect. Chances are he'll succeed, having shown a remarkable aptitude for shamelessness.

Then there's the venal mayor of New Orleans, acting in concert with desperate Chamber of Commerce types to repopulate a city still soaking in toxins and rife with bureaucratic dissent. And now they have no sheriff (or police superintendent, as they're known in Louisiana). Apparently, business interests trump public health. The Big Sleazy, indeed.

Making sure that tradition survives, Louisiana's two U.S. senators (a Democrat and a Republican) have proposed a quarter of a trillion dollar aid package that, for example, earmarks $35 million for seafood marketing. Hell, I bet you could get the Gorton Fisherman for a fraction of that price. For those concerned that the sugar cane industry might be overlooked, no worries: its lobbyists secured some promotional funds, as well. Exploiting tragedy to bribe your respective bases is villainry at its most brazen.

Not to be outdone, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay made certain he maintained his reptilian reputation, blocking a proposal to fund hurricane recovery through trimming the historically pork-laden transportation bill recently passed by Congress (and signed by a spineless president). We've cut all we can, DeLay claims. When a few legit conservatives publically challenged that assertion, DeLay and his lackey, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, took them to the proverbial woodshed, charging that the mavericks were the real problem. How unpatriotic to suggest those 50 people in Alaska not get that bridge to nowhere?

And, to complete their list, our enemies only have to point to that yearly tradition that never fails to embarrass: the Super Bowl halftime show. Now that would make for a compelling jihad!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Requiem for a demagogue

I know all I need to know about the anti-war rally in D.C. today after seeing the rapturous respsonse given to Georgia congresswoman, and noted anti-Semite, Cynthia McKinney. Anti-Semitism seemed to be one of the themes of the day, and it's become an ideology of sorts in Europe. The real villains, according to the clueless left, are democracy and a Jewish state. Both have significant flaws, to be sure, but let's compare and contrast them with the virtues of Islamic theocracy.

This administration needs intelligent opposition, not a litany of bigoted clowns repeating tired rhetoric left over from war protests long past. Ideas, not anger. Solutions, not bromides.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Drunken logic

"It's a masochistic lie to say American foreign policy created Islamic fundamentalism" --- Christopher Hitchens, on Bill Maher's HBO show last night. It must be repeated, ad nauseum: Islamo fascists hate Americans, particularly American women and American fags. Being a little bit of the former and all of the latter, I have reason to fear.

I don't like fundamentalists of any stripe, particularly those with anti-aircraft weaponry. I want them dead, because they leave me no other option. Survival of the fittest. You know, Darwinism.

American foreign policy mistakes aside, fanatical Muslims don't deserve the crutch some liberals want to give them.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Morning Miss Ellie, wanna drink?

I had never before watched a television soap opera, and I haven't since. But in college I became addicted to "Dallas," so much so that I taped the daily repeats while away on spring break. (It was the "Who Shot J.R." episode arc, and I had missed it the first go-around). Five consecutive hours of "Dallas" was more satisfying than I could have ever dreamed.

Anyway, somehow, Larry Hagman has made it to 74. His liver, meanwhile, celebrated its 10th birthday a little while back.

There is no good answer

Why haven't Willem Dafoe and Steve Buscemi been cast as brothers?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Especially interesting

With perhaps a week left in the nation's attention span for Hurricane Katrina, there's one issue that, typically, has been overlooked. That is the influence of special interests, which will determine the future of the Gulf Coast, just as they decide everything from weapons contracts to health insurance coverage. In this example, the educated guess says that particularly influential big businesses will combine with extreme environmentalists (which doesn't define those who, for example, advocate expansion and reinforcement of the Bayou wetlands) to cobble together a solution that takes neither the long-term nor present realities into account.

All that to say that, within 20 years, New Orleans will face a similar catastrophe. And, likely, it will be even less prepared than it was three weeks ago.

No, you may argue, we won't forget the human misery on display durring the hurricane's aftermath. Yes we will. Recent history teaches us just that, as witnessed by the inability of Congress to pass a bill creating a unified communications network for first responders. Seems logical, considering the difficulty police and fire departments in New York had with technological coordinations on September 11th.

Congress hasn't moved on the proposal (by John McCain and Joe Lieberman) because the brodcast networks are united in lobbying against it. The broadcast networks give a lot of money to political candidates (of both parties ... it's not politics, it's good business), so the end result is way too predictable. Corners will be cut, and new, inefficient bureaucracies will be created to deal with future natural disasters.

There will face no significant opposition to either, except when opposition benefits certain partisans. Voters will be otherwise occupied; whenever they are asked to rank the importance of reducing political corruption, they typically place it below diversity as an issue that matters.

Nothing will change. And the circle will be unbroken, until partisans step back and unite on the unavoidable fact that both Tom DeLay and Nancy Pelosi are bought and paid for. So are George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton. Instead of voting against whichever special interests you find most vile, try voting for someone who at least is bothered by the system as it stands.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Who am I? Why am I here??

As the finger pointing persists in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, I can't help but wonder: Where would the blame be assigned if the mayor of New Orleans, governor of Louisiana and president of the United States were all members of the same party?

My guess is that, instead of blaming the branch of government they don't control, they'd be covering for each other. That's what partisans do: Attack the enemy and take no repsonsibility. More than ever, I'm certain our country needs a third party, one unconnected to the special interests of the left and right who dominate today's political dialogue (witness the John Roberts confirmation hearings). Maybe the stage is being set, as I hear more and more discontent among those not wedded to political affiliation.

All I know is this: my 1992 vote for Ross Perot is looking more sane by the day.

Leave the penguins alone

(NOTE: The following is a guest post from Charles Davidson, republished from Rowland's Office)

First the right wingers glommed onto South Park as a lonely conservative voice in the hopelessly liberal wilds of popular entertainment. Never mind that the South Park guys reliably rip any pompous or absurd celebrity – spanning the political spectrum from Mel Gibson to Michael Moore.

Now, the conservative religious types are hoisting the documentary "March of the Penguins" as emblematic of family values and self reliance and the view that there is no such thing as science, according to a story in The New York Times. I wonder if they know the movie was made by godless Frenchmen.

The conservatives – social conservatives, that is, who idolize politicos who spend, spend, spend as long as enough of it goes to Fortune 500 energy companies and road pavers in the right districts -- trumpet the monogamy of the emperor penguins featured in the film, which is a great movie.

The waddling, irresistible birds are monogamous alright – for a year at a time. Come the next year, they find a different mate. Actually, switching mates regularly is common to such famously monogamous conservatives as Newt “divorced her on her death bed” Gingrich and Ann Coulter.

Maybe penguins are conservative because they all look alike, in their cute tuxedo feathers, and they walk in lock step, one after another in an endless procession. Sure, that could describe plenty of suburban Republicans, headed off to the pancake house for the party breakfast to hear the local DA say he’d just as soon put all the convicts in a big hole in North Georgia. (I actually heard the Gwinnett County, Ga. Republican DA say exactly that in the late 1980s.)

But lots of liberals dress alike too, and they fall in line just as readily behind their own windbags.

Maybe, like our gay-baiting drunken sailors in Congress, the penguins just spent what the right-leaning and sensible Economist magazine calls “$24 billion worth of pure pork” in the transportation bill.

Are there other ways penguins are like human conservatives?

Did anyone see a lobbyist lurking around the edges of the tundra? No, it's Tom DeLay, the allegedly human conservative, who has sold his party to the lobbyists willing to write the biggest checks. Come to think of it, I don't recall the penguins being flown to their birthing grounds, or to Scotland to play golf, by energy companies or right-wing think tanks. I do remember the penguins huddling together against the brutal cold, rotating in and out of the warmest place at the center of the crowd so that each could get equal heat. You know, just like the Republicans are big on sharing and spreading wealth around to the whole population.

I didn’t see a penguin driving a gas-coiffing SUV, unlike the conservative religious yahoo Jerry Falwell, who has advocated driving not one but multiple gas hogs. You will recall how Jesus was big on the "I got mine" philosophy. Thinking about another famous fundamentalist demagogue, there came no call from a single penguin to assassinate another critter.

I didn’t find the penguins particularly like today’s liberals either. No ridiculous wailing about Bush being worse than Hitler or bleating about … well, nothing, really. A Democratic politician with something to say is about as common these days as a talking penguin.

Let these beautiful birds be birds. They don’t have opinions on politics or morals. They have enough trouble as it is, what with walking 70 miles to have sex in sub-zero temperatures and fasting for weeks on end, then getting chased by killer sea lions when it finally is dinner time. Don’t taint them with comparisons to political animals.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The offensive PR offensive

Public relations professionals control the American dialogue these days, culturally and politically. It's been a long time developing, and it accounts for much of our country's questionable taste, cuturally and politically. If you're looking to disprove evolution, the current state of our discourse provides no better evidence: we're devolving at an alarming rate.

Propaganda is an easy art to master. It begins with formulating a simple, broad (and brief) slogan. Hire people who can deliver that message with stoic conviction. Whenever asked a question contradicting the sales pitch, repeat said pitch. Over and over. Without an ounce of doubt. Never, ever, defer.

Finally, the skeptics will become distracted. The observers will grow bored. And the PR offensive is won.

The Bush Administration has proven most adept at this art; they could sell a burka to a Hassidic Jew. But as any gifted liar will tell you, deception must be mixed with an occasional truth. It catches the ombudsman off guard and leaves the deceiver less vulnerable to his or her enemies.

But embattled FEMA Directior Michael Brown let down that guard in a memo sent to the agency's charges on the eve of their deployment to the storm ravaged Gulf Coast. Yes, delivering water to the thirsty and sustenance to the hungry were important, but so was "convey(ing) a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the general public."

Apparently one doesn't have to be schooled in public relations to oversee the competitive judging of Arabian horses (Brown's previous job), though his profane admission of policy proved telling of the current White House's m.o. It's genesis traces back to Texas, but first emerged on the national stage after Bush's resounding defeat in the New Hampshire primary at the hands of John McCain.

Reform was McCain's predominant theme, and it was finding an audience. Reform was suddenly popular. Hmmm....what's more popular than a reformer? Perhaps a "reformer with results?" Hell, let's paint that on the side of our bus. After all, crazy, tempermental Vietnam vets can't be trusted, particularly when it comes to overhauling a corrupt, stagnant system. It takes a well-trained politician to do that.

This is not to place the blame squarely on a couple of unqualified bureacrats. There is plenty of shame to be had, on the local, state and national levels. Enough to fill the Superdome, for that matter, with twice as much denial and three times the scapegoats, real and imagined.

Think how refreshing it would be if just one of them stopped in mid-sentence, took a long pause, breathed deeply and admitted (like Howard Beale once did): "I've just run out of bullshit."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Context, perspective and other trivialities

With few exceptions, I find myself at odds with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, particularly when they organize an awards show celebrating the very thing they are supposed to be aligned against. I recently watched that contradiction on the new LOGO cable channel, otherwise known as Lifetime for Gays (beware any creation that bears the MTV stamp).

Forgive the digression, but I'm so glad to see GLAAD stand up to the James Dobsons of the world and reaffirm our constitutional right to hold an awards show! Following that tone, minus the sarcasm, was Alan Cumming (writer and co-star "The Anniversary Party," a monument to cinematic self-importance), who sent my gag reflex into overdrive as I watched him bloviate against the "fascism" of the Bush adminstration upon recepit of an award for artistic courage, or lifetime achievement, or "Most Likely to Play the Great Gazoo" in the next "Flintstones" movie.

I watched Cumming employ the latest trend in artistic defiance, ignoring his alloted speech time (damn you, band conductor, I have something to say! Something so damn important it can only be said on an awards show!!) to berate the usual, predictable suspects in the usual, overstated style favored by many of today's "Access Hollywood" activists. (You know, just like Gandhi used to do!)

According to the alarmingly self-absorbed Mister Cumming, the world's biggest human rights struggle is underway --- not in Sudan or Syria --- but right here in the U.S. Beheadings are one thing, but when the government wont't grant you a piece of paper acknowledging your romance, then, well, it's time to fight, even if it means pissing off some unsuspecting awards show producer! (While in favor of across the board equality, I could really care less whether the government calls it domestic partnerships or marriage. I don't need a bureaucrat to confirm whether I'm in love. Conversely, I don't want to be punished for it, but there are far bigger facists to fry).

In Iran, two teen boys accused of the "crime" of homosexuality were recently the featured attraction at a well-attended public hanging (pictured above), intended to remind the citizenry that those 72 virgins awaiting young Muslim fundamentalists in the afterlife are indeed heterosexual. Of course, such events are commonplace in the Middle East, but lest we forget that Elton John can't get married in Utah.

Fortunately, Alan Cumming didn't let trivial matters such as ritual torture overshadow the bigger issue of our right to blow a bunch of money on an antiquated religious ceremony. What's the point of living if there's no hope of a bridal shower in your future?

Again, I'm certainly not opposed to gay marriage, although I always thought the restrictions against matriomny were one of the unintended benefits of homosexuality. Never having to pay alimony can't be all bad.

Regardless, all this goes to prove that the allegedly enlightened left is just as shortsighted and insulated as the caricatures on the right. We have no problem comparing Jerry Falwell to Hitler, but we're strangely silent on the sanctioned execution of homosexuals worldwide by alleged "mainstream" Muslim governments. Islam may not be our enemy, but, sadly, most of its practioners seem to be opposed to even the slightest of minority freedoms.

Gays and women should be leading the charge against the moral equivalency now popular on the left. (Instead, our lemming tendencies lead us to applaud when an "Evening at the Improv" luminary like Margaret Cho declares women are just as oppressed here as they are in Afghanistan. Her point: those "evil" corporations reinforce the beauty myth that thin is everything, and voluntary eating disorders are in fact a conspiracy just as diabolical as anything the Taliban might conjure up).

I'm reminded of George Carlin's take on anorexia, bulimia and what not: "Rich bitch don't want to eat ... Fuck 'em." Sorry, but my sensitivities and sympathies are elsewhere these days.

Likewise, to finish my meandering point, I offer Bill Maher's "defense" of Christian fundamentalism, in comparison with their Muslim counterparts: "Pat Robertson has never suggested we behead Richard Simmons."

But haven't context and perspective become irritating deterrents to our increasingly one-track minds, a thought process that requires thoughtless adherence to ideologies driven by well-funded interest groups? Might I suggest Alan Cumming take "Cabaret" on the road, with stops in Tehran, Cairo and all those other thriving cultural hot spots in the Middle East? And take Margaret Cho along, too, provided you can find a Lane Bryant that sells burkas. Seems that eating disorder didn't take.

There is a world outside of Hollywood, and it's a helluva lot more brutal and intolerant than anything John Ashcroft advocates. While there's no debating that the religious right in this country have organized to elevate Old Testament morality to issues of national consequence, that doesn't mean we, too, must lose all sense of context and perspective. Unfortunately, it seems the gay movement already has.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Sublimely sublime

Happy 76th birthday to an unassuming genius: Bob Newhart. In a comedy world now populated by the likes of Sandler and Schneider, it's nice to recall a day when stand-ups respected audiences instead of playing down to them. Newhart had a "buttoned-up mind" ... now we have the unbuttoned fly. And fart jokes.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Quote unquote

Since I'm otherwise blocked:

"Oooh, a fat, sarcastic Star Trek fan. You must be a devil with the ladies." Shopkeep, to Comic Book Guy.