Tuesday, March 28, 2006

This Is Freedom?

So I'm sure everyone has already heard about the guy on trial in Afghanistan for converting from Islam to Christianity and could, even though he's been released for now for a "mental exam" (and has apparently disappeared, possibly abducted), be facing the death penalty for that "crime".

Good job George! Looks like freedom is really on the march in the Middle East.

I was trying to come up with some sort of quirky analogy about being put on trial for your life for switching religions. The only one I could come up with is that it's a lot like being arrested and tried for wearing the wrong color of underwear. Or like, I don't know, being executed by the Taliban for converting to Christianity.


Sorry I've had such little output this last week or so. I'm in tech week for the production of The Little Prince I'm directing, so my life is hell right now.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Evil Thoughts

You know those "performance artist" that have popped up in every city these days that paint themselves white (or silver for those "cutting edge" performers) and just stand there frozen like a statue until someone puts money in their basket, and then they do some lame-ass little dance for a few seconds? It takes every ounce of energy inside of me to stop myself from running up and pushing them over.

Whenever I see Joan and Melissa Rivers on TV, which isn't often since I don't make it a habit to watch E! or the TV Guide Channel, all I can ever think to myself is "No big fuckin' mystery why that husband/father killed himself."

I watched part of President Dumbass taking questions from the (pre-approved) audience yesterday. A woman got up and, not so much asked a question, but suggested that it was really smart of him to invade Iraq because that drew all of Al-Qaida to Iraq like fly paper and we could kill them all there instead of fighting them on our own soil. All I want to do is find this woman so she can be held down and kicked in the head several hundred times.

Friday, March 17, 2006

News You Can Use

Looking through the newspaper....

So Jessica Simpson is "snubbing" Dubya and refusing to go to a Republican fundraiser just to get "face time" with him to promote her charity. I really don't have an opinion about this at all, except that I like it when people snub Bushie in any way, shape or form. Apparently she is in Washington to lobby for her charity that gives kids overseas with facial deformities free plastic surgery (I know this is a worthy cause, but I can't be the only one that finds it hilarious that Simpson's big charitable cause involves plastic surgery). Supposedly, she didn't want to do the lobbying at a fundraiser for a political party. I can respect that, which is unimaginable that I'm using that word in relation to anything about that dumb bimbo. But the reaction to her turning down the invite is the best part:

"It's never been a problem for Bono," he said, referring to the U2 rock star who has met regularly with political leaders of all stripes to promote various causes, including Third World debt relief. "I find it hard to believe she would pass up an opportunity to lobby the president on behalf of Operation Smile."

I'd be pissed if I was Bono. Not only did that guy suggest that Bono helps them at their fundraisers, but he got compared to an airhead blonde. Somebody really needs to school that dumbass on the difference between the Jessica Simpsons and the Bonos of the world. Start with the brain cell count. But you know why they're really pissed off about this don't you? They know those old, rich, white guys would have written bigger checks if they got to ogle her ass all night long.

Alabama lawmakers are considering granting pardons to anyone ever arrested for breaking the old segregation laws. Awesome. Now maybe Rosa Parks can finally get that government job that her criminal record has kept her from. And Alabama finally catches up with its neighbor, the super progressive state of Mississippi, which just a few years ago finally ratified the 13th Amendment to the constitution, the one that outlawed slavery. Hey, welcome to the 19th century Alabama!

USA eliminated by Mexico in the baseball world cup thingy (I find the title "World Baseball Classic" so amazingly pretentious). This is me when I opened the paper and saw this news:


My two favorite things about this:

Alex Rodriguez still has won diddly-squat in the game of baseball.
Bud Selig is crying in his Metamucil this morning.

Amtrak board chairman David Laney says he is looking to "restructure" the long-distance routes. Let me translate this for you all. When this Bush crony says restructure, he means eliminate altogether. This administration has proven time and again it has never wanted Amtrak around and wants to get rid of it. Bush has put these idiots on the board of directors of Amtrak, several through recess appointments, who don't have any experience in the train industry. And most of them have even admitted to never having ridden on Amtrak.

Amtrak president David Gunn, a genius railroad and transportation man who is responsible for the major turnaround of several transit systems over the years, including Washington Metro and the New York Subway (he is the guy who got rid of the graffiti and crime, and got the orders going for those nice shiny new subway cars), had Amtrak well on the way to major improvements in service and financial stability. How did this Amtrak board reward him? They gave him his walking papers. Laney says he's looking at the possibility of getting someone from the airline industry as the new president. Great idea crony-boy! To try to fulfill the (misguided) goal of getting Amtrak off the government teat, he's going to pull in the leadership of someone from an industry that eats at the federal trough more than just about any other. The entire existence of the airline industry has been about losing money and government bailouts (2002 alone saw more taxpayer money given to the airlines than in the entire 35 year history of Amtrak), but this is David Laney's answer to making Amtrak profitable? And just imagine the great changes an airline professional can bring to Amtrak. Two days on a train from Chicago to Seattle with airplane-style coach seat leg room, no sleeping car options, no dining or lounge cars and just a push cart with pretzels and $6 beers/$4 sodas as your only refreshment choices. The way to really travel!

It's all bullshit. Dubya is doing all he can to run Amtrak into the ground and then say "See, it doesn't work." I hate that ass hole so much.

Doctors in London report a link between the Atkins diet and health problems.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Rape Me!

The murder of Imette St. Guillen in New York has been getting a lot of coverage here in Boston because this is her hometown. Not unusual, especially since this is getting a lot of attention nationwide anyway. But there is one fucked up story, or angle, that they decided to run last week that is just so wrong. It was a story called Fearless In The City by a writer named Donovan Slack who seems to be an insanely sexist ass-hole. Basically, this article talks about how women in this day and age are careless about their safety and comes to the conclusion that it is the fault of the internet, cell phones and the TV show Sex And The City, because they've given women a false sense of security. And binge drinking. This stupid twit makes observations that seem to suggest that women get raped because they drink too much and are too young to remember the Central Park jogger rape and the movie Looking For Mr. Goodbar, which I haven't seen myself but I guess is about a woman getting murdered after (gasp!) drinking in a New York bar. And then he interviews emergency room doctors about how many women end up in ERs on the weekends from drinking too much. He also makes little observations of women at bars in New York doing shocking things like kissing men they met earlier that night. And all of this nonsense that he writes suggest an assumption that this is how St. Guillen was vulnerable to get kidnapped, raped and murdered, even though we don't know at all how much she had to drink or if she was, in fact, flirting with strange men.

And what the fuck if she had been? What is this, the 1950s? Didn't we stop blaming women for their rapes a long time ago? What, we've moved on from blaming them for wearing short skirts and low-cut tops (you know, dressing like they "want it") to blaming them for drinking a little bit and (god forbid) talking to men in bars? Women can't win with ass-holes with this kind of attitude. If they didn't talk to men in bars he would probably call them cold bitches. It's a lose-lose situation for women by his standards.

Not once in his story does he talk about the fact that the bouncer suspected in this crime was a felon who should not have been working in the position of the person responsible for the safety of the customers. It's against the law. So Mr. Slack, where is your story about the maggot bar owner who hired a criminal to be in charge of the safety and security of his place? It's not like this woman did a crazy dangerous thing like go to some dive bar full of crackheads for crying out loud. All she did was go for a nightcap at The Falls, a yuppie bar in SoHo.

What I can't figure out from this story is what this guy wants women to do. A woman gets raped and murdered and all young women are supposed to stay home? In what other situation would this kind of attitude be suggested? A guy gets shot in a bar and no one screams that men are being "too risky" by going to bars and drinking. Hell, car accidents kill a hell of a lot more people than rape/murders and you never see anyone write articles suggesting people should stop driving. Our government and a lot of newspaper writers told us after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Madrid train bombings and the London Underground bombing that we should go right ahead and keep flying, taking public transportation and going to work in our tall office buildings. To do otherwise, they all told us, would be letting the terrorists win. I guess Donovan Slack wants the rapists to win.

Edit (3/13/06- 3:22 PM) - A comment to this post informed me that the reporter Donovan Slack is actually a woman. This is somewhat surprising, but I still stick by all of my points and opinions about her and her article. In fact, it is even more disappointing to find out that a female could write such an anti-woman article. She should be ashamed of herself. Women like her and the Concerned Women For America group (the right-wing religious nut-ball answer to NOW) do more damage to women's rights than any male chauvinist does.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Unfriendly Fire

I gotta say, I have a lot of respect for Pat Tillman's family. They could have let everything go and supported the Army's story that their son died in a hail of gunfire while fighting off an enemy attack and saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. A lot of soldiers' families would have done just that, preferring the legacy of their fallen son/daughter as a hero going down fighting in a blaze of glory, even if it wasn't true. Like Jessica Lynch's family. No complaints from her or her parents when the military completely fabricated the story of her capture and eventual rescue. And they've made the most of that bullshit story too, selling it to Hollywood to make that crappy TV movie of complete fiction.

But not Tillman's family. They want the truth. Even if that truth is ugly and it tells them that their son died for nothing, or even worse maybe died for some reason more sinister. They haven't allowed the Bush administration to use their son as a propaganda tool. The truth is what they want, and they have pushed hard for it.

After he died, the conservative went out of their way to use him as a prop for their agenda. All the wacko-righties jumped on the bandwagon, from Coulter to Limbaugh, calling him a true American hero. What most of them weren't saying is that Tillman thought the war in Iraq was illegal, he hated Bush and was supporting Kerry for president. Tillman had joined up to fight for his country after the attacks on the World Trade Center but, like most smart people, he was against the Iraq invasion. I know, I know, I'm not usually in the habit of giving jocks credit for brains, but this guy counted among his favorite authors one Noam Chomsky. In fact, it has been said that he arranged to have a meeting with Chomsky when he returned from his tour in Afghanistan. There is speculation that he was going to come home and use his celebrity voice to speak out against Bush and the Iraqi war. We'll never know for sure.

The investigation into his death has been done only because his family pushed hard for it the whole time. They still haven't gotten the whole story. All they want is the truth.

Was Tillman killed on purpose or just an accident? I don't know. But the fact that his clothes, body armor and even his personal diary were destroyed right after his death says somebody is covering something up for some reason. Whether that reason is embarrassed soldiers covering up their fuck-up, or something more sinister is something his parents have a right to know.

I don't know anything about the Tillmans' politics or point of view about the Iraq situation or the Bush dictatorship. What I do know is that, unlike the Lynch family, they won't let their son be reduced to being a propaganda tool for Dubya's wars. I don't think they'd allow it for a President Gore or Kerry either. I don't expect it, but I hope they finally get the answers that the military has resisted giving them.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Boom Mic Mountain

I finally saw Brokeback Mountain last night, just in time to see it, more than likely, take home the best picture award at the Oscars tonight. And it was a great film. Romantic, tragic, great acting, a social message that I completely support and a gorgeous backdrop. Really some fine filmmaking and deserving of all the award nominations it has gotten. Except one.

I love Ang Lee's films. I think he is a great director, as long as you ignore Hulk. But he should not have been nominated for best director this year. Now, yes of course Brokeback was beautifully directed and filmed in general. All shots were wonderfully created and thoughtfully put together. But he should be disqualified from the award. The reason? I counted no less than three times (and I think it was four) that I saw the boom microphone in the shot. And one time it was really bad. Earlier in the movie the boom mic would quickly come in and out of the shot that I wasn't positive at first. But in the scene where Ennis walks into the Kitchen after the emotional scene he just had with Jack's coat toward the end of the movie that thing came swinging so far into the shot that I could make out the whole thing and the boom that holds it and the wire leading into the mic. It was one of the worst boom mic spottings I've seen in a movie since Sling Blade, which is the king of boom mic movies.

You just shouldn't be eligible to win an Oscar for best director with such amateur mistakes like that in your movie. It's like in sports, there's a ball player who hits .348, slugs 53 homers and has 130 RBIs. But if he also commits 60 errors on the field you don't give him the MVP award. If a bowler throws a strike it doesn't count if his toe went over the line. At the Olympics, after two false starts you're out of there. Race over, hit the showers.

I mean, come on. In these days of movie making you have "rush" shots on video right there on the set to look at what you just shot. How could he miss these? And then, even after that, with all the technology at your finger tips in this day and age it's not that hard to erase the mics from the scene. I watched the movie a total of once and I noticed them, Ang presumably saw each scene hundreds of times and missed them? Or decided it was OK or no big deal?

Sorry Ang, it is a great movie and you should be proud of yourself. But with such rookie mistakes you just don't deserve to be called the best director of the year.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

I'd Like To Be A Vowell

I'm reading Sarah Vowell's book Radio On: A Listener's Diary right now, a gift from my wife for Christmas. It was her first book, published in 1996. If you haven't read it, here is the quick rundown of what it's about. For the whole year in 1995 Vowell listened to the radio all the time and kept a diary of her observations about radio. She listened to everything from NPR to right-wing talk radio to "alternative" rock stations, with stops in between on classical, religious, oldies and a host of other types of stations on the dial.

I absolutely love the book so far. Well, I absolutely love Sarah Vowell in general. I've said it before, but my best example of what a screwed up country, or world, we live in is the fact that people like Britney Spears, the Simpson sisters, Lindsay Lohan, Clay Aitken are more well known and seemingly more beloved by the general populace than Sarah Vowell. Something is wrong with a universe where more people have seen a Johnny Knoxville movie than read one of Vowell's books.

Anyway, this is already one of the greatest books in the world and I'm not even done with it yet. I'm surprised I didn't read it years ago. But in a way I'm kind of glad. This is an interesting book to read ten years later. The year that she is listening to the radio is a time period that I listened to the radio the most, and don't really listen to it much anymore. The diary begins on New Years Eve 1994 with her listening to a year-end countdown on an alternative rock station and hearing a Nirvana song (from Unplugged in New York) at number 23. This was less than a year after Cobain killed himself (or was murdered by Courtney Love if you want to believe that weird guy on Seattle public access TV) and she waxes very poetic about the loss as a prologue to her year with radio. And what follows is a great comment on Radio in America in all it's glory or lack thereof. There are many great observations about right-wing radio, which had just become a major force by this time (The diary begins right before the new Congress takes over after the "Republican Revolution" of the '94 election. You know, Newt's Contract on America?). But by far my favorite stuff has been her comments about the music of the time. She certainly carries Nirvana in high regard, for good reason I believe, and wastes no time busting on the bands she can't stand, which turn out to be a lot of the same that I hate. I know this phrase is over used, but Vowell is the best when it comes to irreverent humor. My favorite bit in the book so far is this, after a song that she has been kind of digging turns into something else:

But whatever distilled pleasure I derive from it is spoiled by a segue into the lame-ass intro I instantly recognize as the Spin Doctors' "Little Miss Can't Do Wrong," which is your basic "Grateful Dead for the nineties" crap. Every time I hear this song, I picture one of those neohippie girls I went to college with dancing to it in a circular fashion, thus fanning her patchouli oil aroma into my already polluted world. "I hope you hear this song and it pissed you off" cracks the scraggly, smiling lead singer. Congratulations, man, you succeeded.

Pure gold stuff, that. And it's not just the stuff that makes me laugh hard that I love. When she says that if the Nirvana song "Lithium" had existed when she was fifteen, with its line "I'm so ugly, that's OK 'cause so are you" she "might not have cried myself to sleep every night until college," I totally understand the feeling.

It probably helps that I'm the same age as her, less than 8 months separate us. As a liberal, white, middle-class upbringing kid of the same generation and of generally the same music taste, I'm completely tuned into her. I think my wife is concerned about my love of Ms. Vowell. The other night when she was a guest on the Daily Show, my wife turned to me right before Vowell was introduced and said "Do you think you'll be able to keep from drooling" or something like that. My wife was the one who bought me my first book by her, so she has only herself to blame. But that's not my love of Sarah Vowell anyway. I love her the same way I love Billy Bragg or Robyn Hitchcock. I don't want to be with Sarah Vowell, I want to be her.

This is why, while reading her books makes me happy, they can also make me depressed. Everything she does with her life is something I would love to do. Now, I don't think of myself as some great writer, or even a good one. But I'd like to be. Specifically, I'd like to be one like Vowell. Snappy little observations with a bit of attitude and smugness and hopefully funny. Granted, I like using profanity a lot more than she does, especially the word "fuck," and the rest of my vocabulary isn't as extensive as hers. Which is probably why I like to use "fuck" so much, it fills in the gaps of my lack of word knowledge since you can kind of put it in the place of anything. People have told me that they think I'm a good writer before. But these have all been my friends (like all four people that read this blog) and could totally be blowing smoke up my ass. That feeling may be left over from years of doing theatre and lying to friends about how much you like their show is in itself an art form. How many times have I myself been in the lobby, three minutes after the end of a friend's show and they come walking out and I say "great show," when in fact I thought it was a total piece of shit? A good friend you eventually tell, maybe several months later at a party when the show comes up in conversation, what you really thought. But you can never do that right after a performance. Maybe people are being honest with me, I just always assume the worst. The best compliment I think I ever got about my writing was that, if you know me, you can hear me saying the stuff I write just as if I were there. So that's cool. It might suck, but at least it's coming across as honest.

And I really only decided in the last year or so that I'd like to be some sort of writer, so I'm way the hell behind Sarah Vowell. Which is why reading Radio On can be depressing. See, it's a great personal story about a time period that I remember very well. And it's in diary form, so every entry I can pretty much correlate to where I was and what I was doing at the time. Like I said, Sarah is the same age as me. We even graduated high school the same year. But she graduated a semester early and started college that January. I, on the other hand, almost didn't graduate (In fact, I shouldn't have. I was a semester short on science credit that no one caught and I certainly didn't tell them) and then worked in a warehouse for a year before I went to college. When Sarah Vowell starts writing Radio On, she is just leaving San Francisco, where she has been working at an art gallery and writing for art magazines, to go to Chicago to study modern art history at the Art Institute grad program. So in 1995 she's working toward a masters degree at a top art school and in her spare time writes a book that she gets published the next year. I was making big moves myself that year. In 1995, I moved from being a pizza cook at Pagliacci's at the corner of 40th St. and Stone Way in Seattle to working as a barista at the coffee cart in front of the Safeway kitty-cornered from the pizza place.

Ten years later, Sarah Vowell has gone on to publish several more awesome books, become a regular contributor to NPR's This American Life, voice a character in an animated movie and author regular Op-Ed pieces in the New York Times. And I, well, haven't. I've directed some plays, some of which were great and I made no money and some that were crap but I made a few bucks for selling my soul to do them. Like directing the musical State Fair with a cast of 40 kids in the 7-15 age range. Not exactly like working with Ira Glass or David Sedaris.

But I have gotten married since then, which is great. But that's not so much an accomplishment as much as it's a momentary lapse in sanity from an otherwise intelligent, accomplished and attractive woman. Luckily, her success is in a completely different field than I have an interest in doing, or I would want to be her too. And that would just be sad, being jealous of your wife.

I guess this all comes down to me judging my 25-year-old life through the eyes of my 35-year-old self. Which I really shouldn't do just because of what Ms. Vowell was doing when she was 25. It's probably pretty dumb to reevaluate your life like that ten years later. I loved my life in 1995. I was in my mid-twenties, living in Seattle at the height of it's pop-culture coolness and going out all the time seeing tons of bands. I pulled espresso drinks and read books during the day and went out most nights. And there are festivals almost every weekend all summer long in Seattle. I was having tons of fun back then and honestly, even though if I had accomplished more back then my professional life might be more where I want it now, I wouldn't go back and change a thing. My mid-twenties self didn't give a crap about my thirties, and that's why it was so much fun. My mid-thirties self should just accept that and stop being pissed about it.

Still, why couldn't Sarah have been more of a slacker too? Didn't she get that memo back in the early nineties that us Gen-Xers are the "do-nothing" generation?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The GOP: Fighting Hard For Your Right To Agree With Them

Time once again for another episode of "Why I Hate Conservatives."

So a couple of groups at the University of California-Irvine, the Campus Republicans and the United American Committee (i.e. - right wing nutjobs) had a forum on Islamic extremism that included them showing the cartoons that are the center of all the riots happening around the world. This, of course, cause all kinds of controversy and protest at the so-called forum. All in the name of "free expression" according to the vice president of the College Republicans:

"We're not going against Islam whatsoever. This is about free speech and the free marketplace of ideas."

Oh goody for them! Suddenly the Republicans see themselves as the ACLU, defending the right of free speech across the land. Funny thing though, whenever they seem to stand up and defend the First Amendment it just always happens to be speech that they whole-heartily agree with. Amazing how we never see "open forums" and "free exchange of ideas" when the subject is something that Christians find insulting. When The Book Of Daniel had its short-lived run on NBC, I didn't hear conservatives screaming for the right of free expression and having open discussions about the topic. No, they wrote angry letters and threats to NBC and the sponsors to get it pulled off the air. They staged protests outside screenings of The Last Temptation Of Christ. They even protested Kevin Smith's Dogma.

Hell, they went nuts even when nobody was doing anything to wrong them. The imagined "war on Christmas" nonsense was way out there. They tried to get boycotts going against stores that said "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas", and claimed that these stores were guilty of "religious persecution" (I still start to belly-laugh over that one. As if any American Christian even has any idea what real religious persecution is.) Hell, there was a group that threatened a lawsuit against the city of Boston for calling their Christmas tree a "Holiday Tree" on the city website. Oh the horror these conservatives have suffered at the hands of the big mean video store clerk who had the nerve to wish them happy holidays. HATE CRIMES! HATE CRIMES!

Even beyond religion they don't believe in protecting free speech that is not their own. They have been fighting for years to make flag burning illegal. Every year some Republican brings up the Amendment to the Constitution to outlaw flag burning. They even tried to shut down an art exhibit in Chicago that included a flag laying on the ground that people would walk on. Really, they actually tried to prohibit people from walking in the museum to see it. Great free speech defenders those conservatives.

And they continue to call the ACLU the biggest threat to America, even though the whole purpose of the organization is defending the Constitution. Bill O'Reilly has said that if Hitler were alive today he would be a "card-carrying member" of the ACLU.

But now they are all calling for freedom of speech like they are some great group of civil libertarians.

In this forum they had at UC-Irvine they showed more than just the anti-Muslim cartoons to show that they weren't just attacking Muslims. They also showed three cartoons that were anti-Semitic from an Iranian newspaper. Wow, what a sacrifice by a group of conservatives Christians to show some anti-Semitic cartoons. How daring. How brave. How full of shit can you get?

Funny, the night didn't seem to include example of anti-Christian sentiment. Not even the supposed anti-Christian stuff that they like to bitch about. Nowhere did I read that they had a showing of the "crucifix in a pool of urine" photograph that had them up in arms several years ago. Or a showing of The Book Of Daniel or The Last Temptation Of Christ.

Look, as I wrote before, I totally agree with the right to draw/say/do whatever you want. But I believe in that for everybody, not just the people who agree with the things I believe. It sure is easy to defend your own. But standing up for the ass-holes you can stand is a whole different story.

So I whole-heartily support the right of the jackasses at UC-Irvine to have this forum and show anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic cartoons. But at least be honest you stupid jerks. This wasn't a forum to discuss free speech. It was a forum to attack those who aren't like you.

At least when the KKK and the Nazis have gatherings they don't pretend it's about anything other than what it is: a hate rally. What happened at UC-Irvine Tuesday night was just that.