Tuesday, March 31, 2009
But what the hell has happened to American horror? Have we forgotten how to make a good pee-in-your-pants scary movie? (For my conservative readers, now would be an excellent time to make a Michael Moore joke).
Has Hollywood horror gone the way of US Steel and American Motors? Because the best fright flicks I've seen lately have all been made somewhere else, and that's really frightening.
One of the best movies I've seen lately is Let The Right One In, a Swedish movie, for God's sake. The young actress who plays the love interest for a lonely 12-year-old boy is Lina Andersson and she turns in a performance that makes you believe her when she says she's 12, but she's been 12 for a very long time.
Yesterday at work, we started naming good scary movies we'd seen and every one I mentioned was from somewhere other than here. In no particular order, I've seen:
The Orphanage - A Spanish haunted house story with a good twist.
Shutter - An eepy-creepy from Thailand about a girl bent on revenge, even after she's dead. Do not be fooled into thinking the American remake of the same name is the same movie. It is not.
The Host - This is a monster movie/family drama from Korea. Great performance from the girl.
Funny Games - OK, I can't say I enjoyed this torture porn with the pretense of social commentary, but it was interesting, and German. I have not seen the American version and I won't because really, once is plenty.
Audition - Dear God, this Japanese movie started out like a Meg Ryan/Billy Crystal romantic comedy and turned into the most horrifying torture scene I've ever witnessed. I never want to see anything like this again, but goddam, they did it right.
The Ring - The Japanese version was better, as was The Grudge. Other American remakes you should pass up: The Strangers and Quarantine, known as REC in the original Spanish version.
Of all the horror flicks I've seen in the past couple of years, only one American film stands out and that's a comedy. If you haven't seen it, rent Slither.
Possibles I haven't seen, but will soon: The Midnight Meat Train, The Signal and Splinter. If these are any good, maybe there's hope for American horror yet. They've got to be better than House of Wax, where the scariest thing on screen was Paris Hilton's acting.
Anything I should see that I've missed? Go ahead. Scare me. I dare you.
Monday, March 30, 2009
The series begins in Gettyburg, where a Union soldier dies alone, gripping this picture of three young children. The picture is found and a search is made for the identity of the dead father.
After newspaper articles appear throughout the northeast, a young mother claims the soldier as her own husband, missing since the battle. End of Part 1.
This is surely not the somber end of the tale. I suspect skullduggery swims beneath the surface because it's only Monday, and Errol Morris is not one to be drawn to simple stories.
Mr. Morris is the Oscar-winning filmmaker who gave us "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara" as well as "Gates of Heaven," "The Thin Blue Line," "Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control," "A Brief History of Time" and "Standard Operating Procedure."
(This story also serves as a reminder to label your pictures while you can. Too often we look through a family album only to ask, "Who the hell is that guy?" And sadly, everyone who could have told us is gone.)
Friday, March 27, 2009
But I'm keeping my options open. Because God loves me, and if I don't believe that, he'll cast me into an eternal lake of fire, the ultimate in scorned lover crazy ways.
But I don't want to talk about religion. If it makes you happy, it makes me happy. Just let me sleep in on Sunday.
No, I want to talk about documentaries. It's that time of year again when Durham hosts the Full Frame doc fest. That's when The Nephew comes to town and the two of us overindulge in film, food and vodka for three days.
When one of the reviewers talked about Religulous, you could tell he was upset by the movie, even angry. And at one point he said that the film wouldn't qualify as a documentary because Maher made no effort at objectivity. You can see that argument repeated here.
Here's the lede from Brett McCracken, the movie critic for Christianity Today:
Let's face it: most documentaries these days don't bother to document anything in an objective, journalistic sense. We can thank Michael Moore for re-conceiving the documentary film as something akin to a sensationalistic, cinematic op-ed piece. If you have something you hate, or something you want to humiliate in as public a way as possible, make a documentary!
OK, aside from the gratuitous swipe at Michael Moore, what struck me was the absolute nonsense that docs, in their pure form, are objective. What a load of crap. Nothing is objective. Documentaries have always had a point of view, even when they just pointed the cameras and let the film run as Pennebaker and the Maysles brothers did.
When you consider a documentary giant like Barbara Koppel, a woman with a powerful point of view, then you realize that this objective standard for "real" documentaries is real bullshit.
Another thing got under my skin. From both of these critics I heard that Maher only talked to "...the kitschiest, most grimace-inducing practitioners ... Sure, we have to own up to these unfortunate (but fortunately fringe) elements within our ranks, but Maher shores up little credibility for his cause by refusing to talk with any opponent with an ounce of nuance of theological rigor."
Maher goes to the Vatican and talks to priests. He talks to a US Senator. These are hardly "fringe" people. And in a recent NBC poll, 44% of Americans believe the earth was created in 6 days. This "fringe" includes 16% of our science teachers, teaching your kids, that man walked with dinosaurs.
OK, that's all the rant I have time for today. But go out and see a documentary, but be prepared, because someone, somewhere may have the audacity to have a point of view.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Take Diebold, the definition of political hackdom, solidly in the tank for the GOP and George Bush. Their voting machines are considered by almost anyone who does not own stock in the company as fucked. Easy to hack, prone to error, and like most things Republican, impervious to accountability.
According to an investigation in California's Humboldt County, their machines lost 200 ballots. No one knows why or where the votes went. They just vanished like a fart in a hurricane.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Scout Fail: This used to be my favorite hat.
Home Improvement Fail: After 6 weeks, 4 trips to Lowe's and a few hundred dollars, I still cannot get lights over our sink. Oh, I have them up all right, and they look pretty good. But they don't light, which is pretty much the basic function of a light, right?
Basketball Fail: Against my better judgement, I entered the office pool last week. I filled out the brackets, having no idea what I was doing, and after a brief taste of victory, West Virginia fucked me just like it did during my undergrad years.
My mistake was trusting a school that has a statue outside of the student union that looks suspiciously like Jerry West in buckskin.
Thanks to the Mountaineers Fail, I am now ranked 50th in our pool. I could make a cruel remark about that matching WV's literacy ranking, but I won't.
That would be a Discretion Fail.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
No, I want to talk about nick names. Especially nick names worn proudly by middle-aged asshats who think it makes them cool.
The bobblehead is of Dick Vitale, a man I know only by his grating TV voice and lame catch phrase, "Awesome, Baby." I didn't know this until a few days ago when my wife, a woman who gags at just the mention of this douchbag, read something aloud about "Dickie V."
"Dickie V. That's what people call Dick Vitale."
Dickie Fucking V. Really? People call him that to his face and he hasn't bought a gun? Really? Which leads me to conclude that Dickie gave himself that nick name, maybe copping the swing of it from dead coach Jim Valvano, known as Jimmy V to his fans.
I can hear Dickie now saying, "Hey, Jim's dead, and nobody else is picking up on that sweet E-V rhyme, so I'll just start calling myself Dickie V.
Dickie Fucking V.
A good nick name is like herpes. You can't give it to yourself.
You earn a nickname like Jewels or Pounder. Sometimes the name will reflect your character or looks or origins, and sometimes it doesn't reflect anything except the giver's timing.
But giving yourself a nick name, especially past the age of 20, is sadly pathetic.
It's one of the many things I think reveal Rush Limbaugh to be a weak little man trapped inside a blimp-sized body. The guy's a known jock-sniffer and, never having done anything in the field of Testosterone-Based Events (TBEs) himself, he stuffs a bit of drugstore machismo down his pants and calls himself El Rushbo, or Maharushi, names that would get him pummeled in any self-respecting middle school.
Which, I'm willing to bet, happened a lot to the fat Cape Girardeau kid trying to be cool.
No, you earn a nickname by playing sports or serving in the military. Man stuff. Not watching other men play a game or fight your battles.
Unless you're shooting for a name like Sally.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
On Sunday we couldn't locate the remote. We found it. That's it up there.
At least she didn't gnaw on the business end.
Scout seems damn happy to be living with us, and why wouldn't she? Better than dodging traffic, an orphan on the Interstate.
And these little mishaps aside, we're pretty happy to have her with us. We're not rested, but happy.
ADOBE UPDATE: The power has arrived.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Now, you may be asking
1. "What the fuck is a credit default swap and what does it have to do with me?"
2. "When do we get set up Dr. Guillotine's famous blade in Time Square?"
Let's take question number 1. Credit Default Swaps are these miraculous things invented by financial whiz kids that always make money. Except when they don't.
Think of it this way. I'm A Big Motherfucking Corporation (ABMC, Inc.) and I issue bonds to raise money. My bonds have always paid off because I'm ABMC, Inc. and I've never defaulted on a bond in my corporate life.
So you are A Big Motherfucking Bank (ABMB, Member FDIC) and you buy my bonds, expecting a solid 5% return, no risk. But just in case, you want some insurance because hey, you never know.
AIG says, we'll insure that bond. It's a hell of a lot better way to make money than insuring lives or homes or cars because we pay zero money out and get premiums all day long. Besides, the chances of ABMC going toes up are next to zero.
Other people see AIG raking in all this easy money and decide they too want in on the action too. It's a hell of a lot easier than actually working, or making shit. You just buy and sell CDSs and roll around like Scrooge McDuck in all that lovely dough.
By the end of 2007, Credit Default Swaps are doing roughly $60 trillion in business around the world. Unfortunately, a lot of those bonds being insured were big old balls of sliced and diced subprime mortgages. Shiny on the outside, rated triple-A by the ratings brains, but on the inside they were, of course, big slimy wads of crap.
Things start to go south. Mortgages are revealed to be built on very shaky foundations and, because I have invested in other people's bonds, suddenly, I don't feel too good. For the first time, my corporate corpus is looking more like a corporate corpse and I can't pay on my bonds, the ones that you, Mr. ABMB, bought from me.
But no worries, you just ask AIG to pony up on their insurance policy. In fact, all your banker friends are asking AIG to fork it over and the whiz kids at AIG respond from their summer homes in the Hamptons with "Pay? What is the meaning of this word pay?"
AIG looks into its capital coffers and finds it has no way to pay. The dominos start to tumble and AIG, who holds so many of these CDSs from all over the world starts to bring everything crashing down, inlcuding the bank where you have your savings, the stocks where you have your investments, and your company where you have your job.
The government steps in and pays the giant AIG a lot of money so it doesn't collapse and crush all the little people scrambling to get out of the way. AIG says thanks and gives a chunk of that money - your money - to pay bonuses to the same fucks who dreamed up complex financial shell games like CDSs and subprime lending in their MBA-induced, easy-money fevers.
This is like your brother Lenny losing his mortgage money at the track, you give him your mortgage money to help him out, he loses that money too, you lose your house and the next time you see Lenny he's driving around in a brand new Porsche. Fucker.
Which leads me to question 2. Sorry, I don't have an answer for that.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
This, my friends, is my second-ever Flash animation.
Crude, you say? Hell, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Monday, March 09, 2009
When they covered the story of yesterday's church shooting, I looked up long enough to see this headline:
Bible Stops Bullet.
Huh. OK, one of the crazy man's shots did hit the pastor's Bible, but as the Good Book didn't, you know, actually save the man, isn't this a little weird to run as a headline? I mean, if the Bible had come through and saved the guy, great, but it didn't.
What was the editor thinking when he wrote this?
Here you have a minister murdered in front of his congregation by a man reportedly made crazy by Lyme's Disease, who then stabbed himself in the neck as he was wrestled to the ground by several brave congregants.
So, what's the lede? What is the most important part of this story? It's been a long time since I flirted with a journalism career, but I know it's not Bible Stops Bullet.
Weird. America loves its Bible-stopping-bullet stories. There were over 2 million Google responses to my search.
One guy even tested whether a Bible carried in a breast pocket could really stop a slug. He shoots a lot of bullets at a lot of books. I wish I'd thought of that.
Which leads me to a story Woody Allen told back when he was funny:
Years ago, my mother gave me a bullet...a bullet, and I put it in my breast pocket. Two years after that, I was walking down the street, when a berserk evangelist heaved a Gideon bible out a hotel room window, hitting me in the chest. Bible would have gone through my heart if it wasn't for the bullet.
So far, my Monday sucks pretty hard. Maybe the time change screwed up my internal clock. I don't know. But I hope your day is better.
Friday, March 06, 2009
Thursday, March 05, 2009
A few more Republican leaders revealing themselves to be craven cowards is hardly news, is it.
But still, I'm happy that the great Tom Toles is around to pick up the slack.
This is great. I particularly like the hard-hitting CNBC business questions. Is it fun to be a billionaire?
And for anyone who wants to get their head around this financial crisis, here are two great places to start:
This American Life's episode The Giant Pool of Money and Factcheck.org. Factcheck's story is a little dated, saying that Bank of America is doing OK, which it isn't, but on the whole, pretty fair and even-handed assessment of how we screwed the pooch.
In general, I would encourage anyone who wants to know more to read more. There's plenty out there. But if what you're reading blames one party, one policy, or one group of people for this mess, that's most likely bullshit written by someone with a political axe to grind. Don't believe them.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
David Brooks writes for the New York Times. Yesterday, he wrote a column that reminded me of those Waffen SS officers who, once they lost the war, quickly shed their uniforms and tried to pass themselves off as helpless, war-weary German civilians.
"Hitler? Never heard of the guy."
In his column, with the oxymoronic title A Moderate Manifesto, Brooks tries to rebrand himself as a moderate and reveals just how far this pampered rich asshole is removed from the troubles that a generation of his brand of conservatism has inflicted on his fellow citizens.
Just listen to this:
But the Obama budget is more than just the sum of its parts. There is, entailed in it, a promiscuous unwillingness to set priorities and accept trade-offs. There is evidence of a party swept up in its own revolutionary fervor — caught up in the self-flattering belief that history has called upon it to solve all problems at once.
No, it's just that you and the other Bush apologists gutted the treasury and left vitally important work to thieves like Halliburton. Now, the country has a whole bagful of problems that can no longer be put off.
So programs are piled on top of each other and we wind up with a gargantuan $3.6 trillion budget. We end up with deficits that, when considered realistically, are $1 trillion a year and stretch as far as the eye can see.
Yes, thanks for driving us into this ditch, you and the other Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman worshippers who foisted on us a monetarist policy based on servicing the debt. Now quit bitching, get the fuck out and help us push.
The U.S. has never been a society riven by class resentment. Yet the Obama budget is predicated on a class divide. The president issued a read-my-lips pledge that no new burdens will fall on 95 percent of the American people. All the costs will be borne by the rich and all benefits redistributed downward.
Apparently, Mr. Brooks thinks the only suffering during this crisis will be borne by people making over $250K whose tax rate will go up 4%! OMG, David, the misery you and your fellow patricians must endure, it's appalling.
Never mind the unemployed. Never mind those who will lose their homes. Never mind those who will lose their health insurance and get sick. Those people don't suffer. Hell, they don't know the meaning of the word suffering. David Brooks knows suffering.
I have a simple rule. Whenever I hear someone whine about being treated unfairly, I ask myself if I would switch places with them. If the answer is yes, I tell them to STFU and I reserve my sympathy for more deserving people.
The U.S. has always had vibrant neighborhood associations. But in its very first budget, the Obama administration raises the cost of charitable giving. It punishes civic activism and expands state intervention.
Yes, and according to poeple who actually think about this stuff rather than just spew bullshit, the taxes will cost charities 4 billion dollars out of the 300 billion given annually. Will it hurt? Yes. Does it"punish civic activism?" Fuck no.
The U.S. has traditionally had a relatively limited central government. But federal spending as a share of G.D.P. is zooming from its modern norm of 20 percent to an unacknowledged level somewhere far beyond.
Again, according to people who actually think about this shit, the level is estimated at around 60%, still lower than many wealthy European countries. And on a related note, every time I hear one of these conservatives bleat about spending too much I want to throw up. It was you neocon cocksuckers who got us into a 3 trillion dollar war, telling us that it wouldn't cost us a dime. Fuck you. Fuck you all.
As Clive Crook, an Obama admirer, wrote in The Financial Times, the Obama budget “contains no trace of compromise. It makes no gesture, however small, however costless to its larger agenda, of a bipartisan approach to the great questions it addresses. It is a liberal’s dream of a new New Deal.”
Here's another thing. Conservatives like Brooks, and don't let him fool you with that moderate uniform he's suddenly sporting, were the ones who chuckled when their tax guru Grover Norquist said "Bipartisanship is date rape." Now that their economic policies have mortgaged our asses to China, they're surprised no one wants to consult them on finances any more. Let me tell you, Mr. Brooks, taking economic advice from guys like you is like taking weight loss advice from Rush Limbaugh. Fuck you. And fuck Rush, too.
Those of us in the moderate tradition — the Hamiltonian tradition that believes in limited but energetic government — thus find ourselves facing a void. We moderates are going to have to assert ourselves. We’re going to have to take a centrist tendency that has been politically feckless and intellectually vapid and turn it into an influential force.
And David Brooks knows intellectually vapid.
But beyond that, moderates will have to sketch out an alternative vision. This is a vision of a nation in which we’re all in it together — in which burdens are shared broadly, rather than simply inflicted upon a small minority. This is a vision of a nation that does not try to build prosperity on a foundation of debt. This is a vision that puts competitiveness and growth first, not redistribution first.
Again, burdens inflicted upon a small minority. Take your patrician head out of your patrician ass, David, get out of the fucking limo and take a look around. The burdens are not being shared broadly and they haven't for quite some time. They're being shared by military families, the unemployed, the poor and all the workers who fear the next round of layoffs. Spare me the hand-wringing victimhood because your taxes will go up.
Moderates are going to have to try to tamp down the polarizing warfare that is sure to flow from Obama’s über-partisan budget.
Polarizing warfare? Fuck you. I remember during Reagan's term when the head of the RNC said I wasn't a "real American" because I wasn't a conservative. I remember when New Gingrich, your speaker, said that Susan Smith's murder of her two sons was a direct outgrowth of liberalism - until he found out she'd been molested by her right-wing Christian father. I remember the $77 million conservatives wasted trying to bring down Clinton. Fuck you and your polarizing warfare.
David Brooks, the Wrongest Man in America now appears to be one of the most dishonest.
Fuck him. And fuck the New York Times for giving him credibility.
Monday, March 02, 2009
Eric, a helpful co-worker, recommended The Furminator. I thought he was joking, but Bonnie quickly seconded the suggestion and she doesn't even own a dog. She said something about her husband, Vito, and his back hair, but we quickly moved on.
The Furminator. That's what I need.
If I had a loom I could knit every one of my readers a sweater and mittens. Wouldn't that be nice?