Saturday, November 29, 2008

JCVD blog

The Hazardous Bride and I left the house - cautiously - today to go see JCVD, a movie we both really wanted to see. We are both unashamed and unabashed Jean-Claude Van Damme fans. We also like Steven Seagal movies, and are fascinated by Seagal's spiral down from not-quite A-list star to an international icon for the kind of folks who aren’t too fussy about the quality of their action movies. You know, like whether shots match or not. Or whether it’s convincing that a fat guy in a caftan could really take out five terrorists in a single take.

Lo and behold, JCVD is ABOUT all that. Jean Claude Van Damme plays himself, a verging-on-fifty action star, beset by divorces, child custody disputes, and past drug and media scandals, struggling not only to make a living but to justify his own existence. The plot involves him coming home to Brussels after making some crappy action movie shot in Bulgaria (or somewhere), directed by some bored young Chinese hot shot. JCVD is jet-lagged and slightly desperate, hoping for a payment advance on another crappy action movie, so he can pay off his lawyers. He goes into a post office, which (unfortunately for him) is being occupied by thieves and hostages.

Through an even more unfortunate chain of events, the outside world comes to believe that is JCVD who is committing the crime. The movie is funny, moving, and smart – especially with one astonishing moment (though many viewers have differed about the degree of this astonishment), when JCVD is lifted out of the scene of the crime (literally), up into the bank of lights illuminating the movie, and he talks to the camera about his life in an extended six minutes-plus monologue. Some have called this monologue “self-pitying.”


In a much more minor respect, I have been where JCVD has been, and knew EXACTLY what he was talking about. As a matter of fact, I think I know JCVD now better than anybody. I am going to camp outside his house. I have pictures of him. I want his autograph. I want to bear his children.

We also rented IRON MAN, which had value from the performances of Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jeff Bridges. I enjoyed it very much, until….

Until the movie ended like all of these movies end. ROBOCOP II is the prototype (I think). Robots slam each other into freeway barriers. One of them perishes in flames. Who the fuck cares.

Bozell update!
The Hazardous Bride and I took the Thanksgiving occasion to watch the Stephen Colbert Christmas special. It was all right. We enjoyed it. It was funny enough. Wouldn’t care to see it again, really, but I could say that about a lot of things I have enjoyed over the years.

But then I read Brent Bozell (III), as I am wont to do, and I found myself becoming a boiling-with-rage liberal, which is a hard position to achieve, actually, as many of you no doubt know from personal experience.

Bozell writes: “Christmas is coming, which means it's time for Comedy Central to begin besmirching the holiday. This year's first salvo is ‘A Colbert Christmas,; hosted by the clueless ultraconservative buffoon persona played by Stephen Colbert. Colbert is so busy manufacturing his O'Reilly-esque right-wing jerk that it's impossible to tell where the real man and the cartoon diverge.”

Besmirching the holiday? Who uses the word “besmirch” any more? And what does Bozell mean when he says “that it’s impossible to tell where the real man and the cartoon diverge?” Being a right wing jerk cartoon himself, why would he object to that impossibility?

After eliminating any grounds for objection, Bozell (III) nonetheless goes through the show, objecting to Toby Keith’s song about the war on the war on Christmas, and Willy Nelson’s song about offering pot to the baby Jesus, and Feist’s turn as an angel who puts Colbert on hold when he offers up a heartfelt prayer (okay, make that “heartfelt”).

Bozell (III)’s critique concludes, based on the fact that Colbert is a practicing Catholic, “If Colbert doesn't believe that God judges people when they die, why is he teaching children at church? What has he been teaching? Certainly not the passages about judgment all over the Bible. More to the point: What Catholic parish in its right mind would allow this man to teach religion to its children?”

As to the first point, I have no idea where Bozell (III) took away the conclusion that Colbert doesn’t believe that God judges people when they die. Why would Colbert bring it up in the first place? It’s awfully, I dunno, Nietschean or something, for Comedy Central, isn’t it? This was a satirical program, making fond fun of old Andy Williams specials and their ilk, with a bit of a bite to it, but not much. I mean, this was a show where the big payoff was when Santa Claus disemboweled a bear, thus freeing Elvis Costello who had previously been devoured. There are a lot of reasons to deplore that in a television program, but the accusation of heresy is not among them.

As to what Colbert teaches children at church (does he teach children at church?), maybe it’s the old virtues like, “Love your neighbor,” or “Lighten the fuck up.”

New York Times
Kevin Kelly, from WIRED, writing in the Sunday Magaazine:
“Now invention is again overthrowing the dominant media. A new distribution-and-display technology is nudging the book aside and catapulting images, and especially moving images, to the center of the culture. We are becoming people of the screen. The fluid and fleeting symbols on a screen pull us away from the classical notions of monumental authors and authority. On the screen, the subjective again trumps the objective. The past is a rush of data streams cut and rearranged into a new mashup, while truth is something you assemble yourself on your own screen as you jump from link to link. We are now in the middle of a second Gutenberg shift — from book fluency to screen fluency, from literacy to visuality.”

So why didn’t he make a movie out of this vapid and obvious conclusion? Maybe because nobody would watch it? I noticed Mr. Kelly is working on a book, a “coming book on what technology wants.” Unless it’s a movie, why the hell would I care what technology wants? In a movie, after all, what technology wants is to kill Sarah Connor. That’s entertainment! It will end with robots slamming each other into freeway barriers! In a book, what technology wants is whatever Kevin Kelly says he kind of thinks it wants. So he can get another book deal farther down the line. Oh, how I hate us. I like movies though. As long as they’re as heartfelt, ironic, and thoughtful as JCVD.

Obama Unborn
I've noticed, because I listen to a lot of talk radio, and follow certain blogs, that hope is surfacing among right wing folk that Obama will be disqualified as President because his birth certificate is.... a forgery!

Accusations accrue that the Obama folks have "refused" to display the actual birth certificate, which would would supposedly prove that Obama was born in Kenya, and is some kind of Muslim/Commie mole.

Dream on, dear friends! Obama was born in Hawaii, in 1961. There's proof! The man exists! Deal with it.

Of course, John McCain went through this same nonsense, because he was born in the Canal Zone. Oh, how I hate us.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chinese Democracy Blog

Chinese Democracy
Guns N’ Roses has finally released its first album since 1991 -- CHINESE DEMOCRACY. Most of those holding their breath waiting for it have since either passed on, or lapsed into unconsciousness from oxygen deprivation.

Critical response has been mixed, but it mainly seems to consider the CD bombastic, over-thought, and over-produced. Many reviews I’ve read also claimed that it was probably the end of a breed- the last lumbering dinosaur called “the album.”

These days, it seems, listeners prefer to be their own producers, kind of. Maybe their own deejays. Listeners put their iPods on random, and listen to Dock Boggs one minute, Ukrainian klezmer the next, some emo guy the next, some quavery singing’ songwritn’gal the next, etc., until the batteries run out.

I can understand the loss of love for the album format, certainly. I remember buying a SIMPLY RED album back in the day, because I’d heard the band’s cover version of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” and was knocked out by it. But the rest of the album sucked. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve bought an album since, unless it was a CD re-issue of some vinyl I already had.

Calling this a Guns N’Roses album, by the way, is not exactly accurate. It’s Axl Rose’s album. The other guys are gone. And I’ll bet they weren’t holding their breath waiting for CHINESE DEMOCRACY.

Speaking of dinosaurs, kind of….
From the New York Times’ op-ed page:

“There is little doubt that it would be fun to see a living, breathing woolly mammoth — a shaggy, elephantine creature with long curved tusks who reminds us more of a very large, cuddly stuffed animal than of a T. rex. We’re just not sure that it would be all that much fun for the mammoth.”

There’s another downside of cloning right there. What kind of recreational activities will be provided for the cloned? Do mammoths play pinochle?

Morning in America!
Is anybody besides me getting kind of tired of feature stories on how hard it’s going to be for comedians to make fun of Barack Obama? Poor comedians! What will they do? Where will they turn?

Morning in America II
Michelle Malkin:
“Before Election Day, national media handwringers forged a wildly popular narrative: The right was, in the words of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, gripped by ‘insane rage.’ Outbreaks of incivility (some real, but mostly imagined) were proof positive of the extremist takeover of the Republican Party. The cluck-cluckers and tut-tutters shook with fear.

“But when the GOP took a beating on Nov. 4, no mass protests ensued; no nationwide boycotts erupted. Conservatives took their lumps and began the peaceful post-defeat process of self-flagellation, self-analysis and self-autopsy.

“In fact, in the wake of campaign 2008 there's only one angry mob gripped by ‘insane rage’: left-wing same-sex marriage activists incensed at their defeat in California. Voters there approved Proposition 8, a traditional marriage initiative, by 52 percent to 48 percent.”

Ms Malkin cites: “A Los Angeles restaurant whose manager made a small donation to the Prop. 8 campaign has been besieged nightly by hordes of protesters who have disrupted business, intimidated patrons and brought employees to tears. Out of fear for their jobs and their lives, workers at El Coyote Mexican Cafe pooled together $500 to pay off the bullies.”

Homosexual extortion! Yikes! There’s more, but you get the idea:

“Corporate honchos, church leaders and small donors alike are in the same-sex marriage mob's crosshairs, all unfairly demonized as hate-filled bigots by bona fide hate-filled bigots who have abandoned decency in pursuit of ‘equal rights.’”

Michelle Malkin is on the job!
In another column, she wrote: “Congratulations, tolerance mau-mauers: Your shakedown of a Christian-targeted dating website worked. Homosexuals will no longer be denied the inalienable ‘right’ to hook up with same-sex partners on eHarmony. What a landmark triumph for social progress, eh?”

She writes, “Neil Warren, eHarmony's founder, is a gentle, grandfatherly businessman who launched his popular dating site to support heterosexual marriage. A ‘Focus on the Family’ author with a divinity degree, Warren encourages healthy, lasting unions between men and women of all faiths, mixed faiths or no faith at all.”

Well, apparently, the gentle grandfatherly Neil Warren has folded: eHarmony will now feature and promote same sex matching services. Damn those homosexuals!

Morning in America III
Christian Science Monitor: “The election of America's first black president has triggered more than 200 hate-related incidents, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center – a record in modern presidential elections. Moreover, the white nationalist movement, bemoaning an election that confirmed voters' comfort with a multiracial demography, expects Mr. Obama's election to be a potent recruiting tool – one that watchdog groups warn could give new impetus to a mostly defanged fringe element.”

From a review site: “eHarmony offers a managed, personality inventory based approach to online dating. You may learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible and have the opportunity to share the information with matches selected for you by eHarmony.”

Now, gay or straight, you can all be a part of that process, and allow eHarmony to choose the partner that’s right for you. I hate us.

I heart Gitmo!
Some outfit from Brazil wants to turn Guantanamo Bay into a theme park.

From the zer0group web site:

--Cuba is a major destination for sex tourism.

--Cuba is located in the middle of American springbreakers ultimate spots.

--Cuba is the attractive ‘illegal’ destination for American tourists that love to try to sneak in.

--Cuba is ‘the’ place of fake cigars, fake rum and other black markets.

--Cuba is nowadays surrounded by countries rivalizing in casinos, and used to be the major destination for gambling and alcohol in the 50’s when those were illegal in the States.

This bullet point demo concludes: “Guantanamo is the perfect location for a combination of political systems in one place where all vices could simultaneously coexist!”

This is a hoax, I believe, but who the hell knows any more? I'm just glad that "rivalizing" is now a verb.

Irony rises from the dead, only to have another stake in its black heart….
NYT: “The week after the election, in a talk at the New York Public Library, Ms. (Joan, of course) Didion lamented that the United States in the era of Barack Obama had become an ‘irony-free zone,’ a vast Kool-Aid tank where ‘naïveté, translated into “hope,” was now in’ and where ‘innocence, even when it looked like ignorance, was now prized.’”

Oh shut up and enjoy the Kool-Aid.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Why We Have the Internet (Part XII)…
The election is barely wet behind the ears, and already conservatives are snapping to attention. Oddly enough, they don’t seem to be attacking Democrats right yet, but each other. Specifically, they are going after McCain staffers who have been attacking Sarah Palin.

Here’s Michelle Malkin: “Fox News reporter Carl Cameron breathlessly reported that his unnamed McCain sources told him Palin lacked ‘a degree of knowledgeability necessary to be a running mate’ because, they claimed, she didn't know which countries were parties to the North American Free Trade Agreement and ‘didn't understand that Africa was a continent, rather than a series, a country just in itself.’”

This prompted Erick Erickson, on his blog, RedState, to announce that it “… is pleased to announce it is engaging in a special project: Operation Leper. We're tracking down all the people from the McCain campaign now whispering smears against Governor Palin to Carl Cameron and others.”

Then, supposedly in response to Sarah Palin’s calling her detractors “unprofessional,” “jerks,” and “cowards,” a fellow named Martin Eisenstadt revealed on his blog that he was the source for these allegations.

The bio on his blog informed us that Eisenstadt is a "Senior Fellow at the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy in Washington, D.C.” And that he is the "founder and president of the campaign consulting firm The Eisenstadt Group and was an advisor to the Rudolph Giuliani presidential campaign in 2007-2008."

Well, the first item should have tipped people off. Who would name an Institute for Warren G. Harding, widely regarded as one of the worst presidents ever?

Yes, it was all a hoax. Eisenstadt was created, according to the New York Times, by “Eitan Gorlin, a filmmaker who says he planned to pitch a TV show based on the character.”

Apparently Mr. Gorlin and his cohorts spent months creating web sites, links, fake position papers, videos, and took in (briefly) MSNBC, the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, The New Republic, Fox News – and bloggers, of course.

The point of all this? That’s a head scratcher. He got conservative’s blood pressure raised, and bestirred Sarah Palin to at least the semblance of outrage. And, who knows, maybe Mr. Gorlin will become the American Borat. It could happen. Deceit always adds a little spice to a resume.

But golly, doesn’t anybody do any fact-checking any more? I wondered about this from the beginning: I mean, how would anybody discover that Ms. Palin allegedly doesn’t know Africa is a country in the first place? How would that come up in conversation exactly?

And then, of course, there’s the whole Warren G. Harding thing. Maybe I’ll start a think tank called the James Buchanan Center for Social Justice, and let the punditry begin.

In other hoax news…
I learned from SF Weekly that Savannah Knoop, who was the public persona of JT Leroy (Remember him?), has just published a memoir: GIRL BOY GIRL: HOW I BECAME JT LEROY. She was in San Francisco to publicize the book. Her cohort in the hoax, Laura Albert, who supposedly actually wrote JT LeRoy’s books, has called Knoop’s memoir “sad and sleazy.” Strangely enough, these seem to be the very qualities that attracted readers to JT LeRoy in the first place.

Anyway, the book reveals her intense but brief sexual affair with Asia Argento, who directed and starred in a movie based on LeRoy’s THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS. Apparently Ms. Knoop told Ms. Argento, to explain the fact that she wasn’t really a guy, that she had changed her sex. Laura Albert, who did the actual writing (allegedly) quickly became jealous of this relationship. Ms. Knoop was getting the groupies, you might say, while Ms. Albert toiled in the trenches, anonymously.

It all ended badly, of course. In 2003, JT LeRoy was featured in Dave Eggers’ BEST AMERICAN NONREQUIRED READING, just as James Frey’s pseudo-memoir, A MILLION LITTLE PIECES, hit the bookstores. (Remember him?) Shortly after that, the non-identity of JT LeRoy was revealed.

The grifter’s life is not an easy one. Unless you get a book deal at the end of the scam, of course.

Election 2008
Did something happen? What? Oh, this happened in Florida:

AP: “A nudist community on Florida's west coast wants to establish the first clothing-optional polling site. The Caliente Resorts, located in Pasco County north of Tampa, has approached election officials about the idea. Nothing in state law would prohibit it, but the supervisor of elections says he is opposed to creating any new precincts before redistricting in 2010.”

What’s wrong with Nebraska?
AP: “A judge has thrown out a Nebraska legislator's lawsuit against God, saying the Almighty wasn't properly served due to his unlisted home address.”

What's Wrong with Ann Coulter?
"For the first time in 32 years, Democrats got more than 50 percent of the country to vote for their candidate in a national election, and now they want to lecture the Republican Party on how to win elections. Liberal Republicans have joined them, both groups hoping no one will notice that we just lost this election by running the candidate they chose for us."

That's right. Liberals picked John McCain because... they knew he'd lose? Kind of, I guess. Ms. Coulter continues:

"And then Election Day arrived, and all the liberals who had spent years praising McCain all voted for Obama."

So their fiendish plot worked, according to the ever-prescient Ann Coulter.