Thursday, July 28, 2005


I saw this asinine bullshit on CBS Sunday Morning and nearly puked up my cup o' Colombian. Ben Stein is a jackass and a revisionist historian to boot. CBS sucks for letting him spew such nonsense un-challenged.

Creepy Crawly

I was flabbergasted today to find hanging upside-down a delicate and very black spider affixed to its ethereal web, said web running from my mailbox to a green chair on the front porch. Usually I find hairy wolf spiders on the porch, or daddy long-legs. I'm no expert, but I know what sort of black spider typically hangs head-down in her web, and since this spider was black and hairless I took a closer look--indeed, here was the much-maligned latrodectus curacaviensis, perched nonchalantly and awaiting her prey, her Tucker Calrson bow-tie obvious in the sunshine.

I'd no idea they were common in Maryland until today!

Needless to say I very cautiously retrieved my Verizon bill. I have no fear of spiders, even after my anti-biotic run-in with the brown recluse two years ago, and I follow the folksy dictum:

If you wish to live and thrive
Let the spider walk alive

Face it--they eat nuisance bugs. I often find yellow spiders and wolf spiders in the bathtub and I'll rescue them and put them in the basement in hopes they'll eat the camel crickets there. I've heard in parts of Asia that people put rope ladders in their tubs so spiders can escape at will.

I also found a few dead cicadas in the front yard--they're all over the grounds at Towson High where I ran today, the familiar scree again loud, but nowhere near the cacaphony of last summer. I suppose a percentage of them are programmed to hatch a year late in case of flood or famine at the height of the cycle. Maybe some of them wanted to see who won the election?

At any rate I thank Lord Krishna for dreaming up the gorgeous weather today. That breeze in particular was much appreciated.

More Netflix

Sorry, Aldomovar. This one is way too contrived, too convenient--and not quite clever enough to hide its deus ex machinations. The tragedy is too sudden, too obvious. The narrative set in motion by said tragedy doesn't live up to its heavy impetus. Good cast, and beautiful sets; lots of hot chicks, transvestites, and blowjob jokes can't save this sucker, however.

Again with the Pete Jackson! This is more to my taste (my bad taste?)--a film aesthetically indebted to Basket Case and It's Alive, but with a mordant sense of humor. Not the biting (ahem) social satire of George Romero, mind you, but the goofy horror slapstick of (pre-Spiderman) Sam Raimi a la Evil Dead 2. Obviously a student of the genre, Jackson provides les petits hommages to Tom Savini's machete-wielding whackjob in Dawn of the Dead, the loveable cannibal hitchhiker in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Jackson himself mimics this creature--he wasn't always so portly!) and a variety of other classic gorefest moments. Not the crowning achievement his Dead Alive came to be, but certainly on the road toward developing the requisite skills for said production.

I've read interviews with Pete; he claims he wants to make another zombie movie after King Kong. Please do! The Orcs in LOTR were certainly close.

A curious gesture, George

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Meet the Feebles

I was a fan of Peter Jackson before The Lord of the Rings because of Heavenly Creatures and Dead Alive (also called Brain Dead). Hell, I even liked The Frighteners. I'd heard salacious whisperings about Meet the Feebles for years, and now that Jackson is a billionaire Netflix is stocking his old catalog so I got to see it.

Basically this is a Muppet Show parody, and in Jackson's perverse imagination, Muppets are like any other celebrities. The Kermit character is a heroin addict who justifies his addiction because he was a POW in 'nam (my absolute favorite part of this film is the frog's flashback to the war and a riotous send-up of The Deer Hunter featuring puppets). The Miss Piggy clone is a hippo who binges on pastries and can't satisfy her man any longer--he cheats on her with a bit of pussy cat on the side (yes, we get several puppet fuck scenes) and eventually she goes postal. There's a rat (I believe it's the same "rat monkey" puppet from the beginning of Dead Alive) who films sadistic Muppet pornos in the basement of the theater; there are gangsters and drug dealer puppets; there are scenes of puppet bestiality and oral and anal sodomy; and lots of blood and guts, gratuitous puppet nudity, and even puppet money shots.

Out of the seven Pete Jackson films I've seen, this is by far the worst--that doesn't mean it's not worth viewing of course. Just keep the kids away from it.

BTW, I saw a teaser for Jackson's King Kong. Hold on to your hats, it looked fucking awesome!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

No More Wire Hangers!

Happy Birthday Mom!


Well, at least I'll be old when this shit hits the fan. That is, if the avian flu pandemic, global terror, mercury in the water, global warming, GM superweeds, bio/nuclear/chemical WMD attacks don't get me first.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Bachem Rules

First he introduced us to his fantasies about Ann Coulter. Bachem Macuno is back with a catalog of adult education courses available only in L.A.

Dude, Where's my Cyanide?

I really must start mixing up the Netflix queue--too often the maudlin films clump up. The Sea Inside is an "issues" film, featuring the true tale of a quadriplegic advocate of legalised euthenasia who's looking for someone to help him die. Ramon Sampedro's brilliant and funny but also kind of a selfish jerk, which helps make his case for him. Were I his long-suffering brother, I'd be stuffing a pillow in Ramon's mouth instead of putting up with the bullshit.

I'm being facetious, and shouldn't be. This is a well-directed film--very beautifully done--and the leads are simply grand. I think the treatment of euthenasia as a controversial issue is a bit more complex and interesting here than in Million Dollar Baby, because at times it looks like Roman Sampedro is seeing that he does have reasons to live, and yet his determination to kick off never wavers.

Again with the hankies.

Did it take C or D batteries?

Precious pre-historic object found; not likely they'll display it in
Texas or Alabama, where people are less open-minded than the Germans of 28,000 years ago.

Anyone want to side with "Old Europe" on this one?

Its life size suggests it may well have been used as a sex aid by its Ice Age makers, scientists report.

What do the scientists make of the fact that 20cm is almost 8 inches? Weren't our distant ancestors tiny little people?

[link via Fleshbot]

A Pleasant Sunday

We began with the always worthwhile lunch buffet at Kumari in Mt. Vernon, then walked south to see The Essence of Line at The Walters Art Museum. A good show, but I really enjoyed The Pearls of the Parrot of India. Nothing perks me up like a good illuminated manuscript, and the Walters' propensity to display their copies of precious works before re-binding them makes me very happy indeed. Their Khamsa is spectacular--the beautiful illustrations demonstrate the vital artistic influences of Tibet, Persia, China, and Europe in 16th century Indian illustration. Each page features a variety of styles: European figures, Tibetan demons, Chinese mountains, Middle Eastern decorative motifs...

From The Walters we went to ArtScape (and ran into the Earl of Pembroke who was following our same path but in reverse). There were some rather good potters and printers present, and a troupe of incredibly beautiful Brazilian carnival dancers made my day. We happened to be passing by Mt. Royal Station just as Jah Works were getting started, and hung around for 45 minutes as the crowd began passing dutchies, much to the chagrin of Balto's finest.

Now, I'm back at the Liberry, and suffering. I sprained my right ankle Saturday, and have developed an enormous painful blister on my left heel. Two of the many curses of regular running.

McCain Sucks

I used to have a sort of grudging admiration for John McCain, but after watching his unendurable bullshit on Hardball last week and his pathetic "depends what you mean by 'negligent'" parsing on This Week yesterday, I've had it.

How can McCain defend Rove?--the guy who started the whisper campaign that McCain was a hothead with an itchy trigger finger, then claimed that he'd fathered a black child, etc.

McCain can't even be honest about his role in the Wedding Crashers, for Christ's sake! Sure he thought it would be PG-13.

You suck, John McCain. You're only palatable when compared to the schmucks running things now.

Missed me by that much!

Senator Pat Roberts is either a moron or a self-deluding partisan. Scratch that--he's both.

How the fuck does he think most CIA covert folks get to work? Or NSA folks? Via super-double-secret telephone booth?

Sunday, July 24, 2005


I waited for months for Netflix to deliver this--and it was worth the wait indeed! Sure, Finding Neverland is sweet enough to cause Type II diabetes, but it's the best film of its kind since Topsy Turvy and features two of my very favorite actors, Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet.

Depp is ageless. He looks, in fact, younger than he did 15 years ago. His performance is perfect, and requires him to ping between staid Victorian and 6-year-old revved up on pixie dust. Not a problem for one of the greats of his generation. Winslet is of course spectacular as always, as is Dustin Hoffman and that chick from Trainspotting whose name I always forget in the role of the actress who first plays Peter Pan.

The kids in this film are exquisitely good. Cha and I fell right in, and I didn't think about terror or Iraq or Karl Rove once during the show--nor did I look at the counter on the DVD player to see how much time was left on the movie, which is very rare indeed. A magnificent film. Keep some hankies nearby.

Even American blue bloods have whack-job relatives. Here it's Jackie Bouvier's aunt and cousin who live in a sprawling Hawthornian manse, overgrown with weeds and over-run by cats and raccoons. I found the film interesting, but the subjects are as annoying as they are fascinating--be forwarned.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Squeal Like a [fascist] Pig, Boy

Oh, sweet Virginia, there just may be a Santa Claus!

When you overturn a soggy log in the deep forest, all kinds of sundry unsavory specimens, unaccustomed to the light of day, begin to panic and scamper off. I think Mr. Fitzgerald has overturned the mother of all rotten logs!

What will Bush do? He can't very well fire the man who put him there--if Rove starts squealing the way most backstabbing double-dealing cowards do when exposed, then unpleasant truths may surface about FL'00 and OH'04/Diebold/Halliburton/Abu Ghraib/Gitmo/Rathergate, etc. But Bush also can't not fire Rove if he's to have any credibility at all.

Perhaps he'll pull a Poppy Bush and pardon everyone before they can go to trial or testify as witnesses in other trials?

W. is hoping for an early Rapture, that's for sure!

In light of all this, I'm beginning to believe the late Mr. Hatfield about Rove...

The Roberts Nom

Billmon might just have something here:

Since the guy is probably going to be confirmed anyway, maybe the Dems should praise him instead of slamming him. Talk about his tolerance and his respect for diversity. Congratulate Bush for picking such a moderate, fair-minded jurist -- one who has already testified that Roe v Wade is "settled law." Tell the world they're overjoyed the president selected a nominee who can reach across the partisan divide, instead of some extremist skin job with a radical religious agenda. Smother Roberts in some hot, juicy Demo love.

Say that kind of stuff often and loud enough, and it might plant some seeds of doubt in those tiny wing-nut minds: "If the filthy 'rats like him so much, he mus' be some kinda librul."

Who knows? If enough of the "base" starts talking like Frau Koch, it might even force Roberts and his GOP support team to drop the warm and cuddly spin, and demonstrate just how much of a hardliner the guy really is -- thereby stripping some of the radar cloaking off the Stealth nominee. But frantic efforts to polish up Roberts's ultra-right credentials might further feed wing-nut paranoia about the guy: "If he's one of us, how come they gotta keep defendin' him alla time? And why don' his forehead slope down like ourn?"

Maybe I'm reaching here. But if it worked, it would be a very clever use of political jujitsu -- a variation (at least from an extreme right wing point of view) on Lyndon Johnson's alleged suggestion that his campaign spread a rumor that his opponent enjoyed carnal relations with his barnyard animals.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Molly Rules

Actually, we are missing the point here. The point being that Joseph Wilson is merely one of the many people who provided one of the by now innumerable pieces of evidence that this administration lied about why we went to war in Iraq. When former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill wrote that Bush planned to invade Iraq from the day he took office, the administration went after O'Neill. When Richard Clarke disclosed that the Bushies wanted to use Sept. 11 to go after Saddam Hussein from Sept. 12 on, they went after Clarke. They went after Gen. Zinni, they went after Gen. Shinseki and everyone else who opposed the folly or told the truth about it. After they got done lying about weapons of mass destruction and about connections to Al Qaeda, they switched to the stomach-churning pretense that we had done it all for democracy. Urp.

from TruthOut

My only addition to this? They also fired Laurence Lindsay for suggesting the war would cost $200-$500 billion. He was right, of course.

The Spies Who Came in From the Cold

Take that!

(linked letter via Josh Marshall, linked image via Recollection Books)


It wasn't until I actually read the [un-redacted] conclusions of the Senate report on pre-war intelligence that I heard there was significant doubt about the memo saying Plame had any role in Wilson's trip.

Now, thanks to Media Matters, this doubt is back in plain view.

Here's my take [purely speculative, but I'm good at "through-the-looking-glass"]: Fitzgerald's enthusiasm stems from the fact that he suspects the original yellowcake forgeries were perpetrated by Cheney's fake Intel cell, run by Feith and Libby (Seymour Hersch was all over these cats in The New Yorker). Once there was a danger that these forgeries might be traced to Cheney they set out to smear Wilson and warn other Agency/Intel cats off the case, and forged the Plame memo suggesting that she sent Wilson in the first place.

Heh. Fitzgerald indicts Cheney, Rove, Libby, Feith, Fleischer (who probably said--"fuck this shit, I'm quitting before it gets much hairier out here!" and resigned) for obstruction of justice, perjury, and TREASON. Does it get to Bush? Does the shitstorm happen in time for the '06 elections?

He's dead, Jim

"I'm givin' 'er all I can!"

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The New Guy

Yeah, he's conservative. What'd you expect? I think all the media speculation that W. would play nice with the Dems on this one was at best naive and at worst moronic. Why should he play nice?

Here's a lefty report on Roberts from his nomination to the Federal bench.

There were far worse dudes available--I thought, for example, that Bush would give Scaife gangster Ted Olson the nod. Am I pleased by John Roberts' nomination. Hell, no. But I didn't expect to be pleased.

[kudos to Aravosis]


The owner in #1 told me last week that starting in August his house was being rented by FOUR TOWSON STUDENTS. Cha and I are officially the last owners living in their property on the entire row of 12 townhomes.

Fittingly, I saw the first rat I've seen in Towson today, in the front yard two houses north of us. None of those rental properties give a rat's ass (har-dee har har) about maintaining their yards; as a result, the nice brick wall along York Road has become overgrown with ivy and weeds and consequently garbage from #3 (whose yard I maintain since its abandonment) on up to the corner of Burke. I'd thought I'd seen a rat earlier this week but wasn't sure. Today there was no doubt. He was BIG.

The most surprising thing is that I'd never seen one before, given our location; across the street a University with 15,000 students and several dorms and foodservice dumpsters; Section 8 housing in an apartment building a block south of us; Starbucks across the street; numerous restaurants and college rentals to the north...

#5, formerly owned by the father of a TU football player and rented out to his son and three other TU students and their pitbulls, has just been purchased by another parent for his TU student son and friends who are beginning college this fall. The house, which I toured last week, is a disgraceful shambles.

It sold for a quarter of a million dollars. What, I wonder, could we get for ours?

Monday, July 18, 2005

It is a success!

See! Our Iraq policy was a great idea all along. We've brought old enemies together....

I warned my hawkish good buddies about this back in '02. Take that Sluggo!

There's there there

Hello, RNC-talking points regurgitators! It doesn't matter what Wilson said in his report--if there was a smear campaign in the WH and his wife's intelligence role was revealed as part of that campaign, the outing is still at best ethically reprehensible and quite likely a crime.

So attacking Wilson or Wilson's report as false or discredited is simply a red herring in Rovegate (sure it's appropriate to question his report, but not as a defense of Rove's behavior. Had Wilson said "Saddam is a harmless puppy dog" in his report the vengeful outing of his wife would still be criminal). Attacking Wilson's character is also not fair here--at the time of his initial editorial such questions were appropriate, but not now when the WMD question has been settled as a canard from the get-go. (Personally I don't doubt Wilson has a flair for theater; his histrionics* at the US embassy in Baghdad before Gulf War I were perhaps evidence of that. But as Poppy Bush noted at the time, Wilson is definitely a patriot, and until recently a non-partisan sort).

It also doesn't matter if Rove learned of Plame's job from a journalist instead of from Scooter Libby or Rice or Tenet--that's no defense either.

Today on Inside Politics one of those Republican Strategists (Terry Holt, I believe) brought up Clinton to defend Rove, ie, the "You guys do it too" defense.

Clinton was impeached for something far less important, jerkass.

If Wilson was wrong, and the Iraqis were trying to buy yellowcake from Niger, why did Rice, Powell, Tenet, and Bush (but not Dick Cheney) all disavow the claim?

This murky story has brought me out of my newshound hibernation. I love it. Even if there are no further indictments, I'm happy that Judy Miller--the queen of neo-con footsie-playing and Chalabi/WMD whore--is in jail. Does her arrest bode poorly for future whistleblowers? Yes. Does it potentially harm journalists? Yes. But Miller is neither--she's part of the problem, and likely participated in the Wilson smear campaign on top of her other unethical behavior (for the which the Times apologized in a blanket mea culpa over pre-war journalism) as a propagandist for Bush Co.

This scandal has been vastly entertaining, to say the least. First the leak was condemned by the Right, but as soon as Rove became a central figure the Right contorted itself to find an appropriate spin: Rove didn't NAME her, Plame wasn't an "agent," but an "analyst," there's no crime, Wilson is a liar/a liberal/a partisan/arrogant. My personal favorite spin? Mehlman's line that this is all an attempt by Lefties to smear Rove--whose well-know modus operandi is to smear first and mercilessly! Ah, the tortured ill-logic. Today on Connected Coast-to-Coast with Reagan and Crowley some particularly stupid hack said there could be no crime because Plame isn't in physical danger. What about those who worked with her overseas, dickweed? What if she travels?

I also like the way TV talking heads are telling their audiences how stupid they are: "This story is a bit nuanced for the public," or "There are too many twists and turns here for the average Joe..." or "This story is so complicated..."

*Wilson seems content to let the show play itself out. He does not appear the sort of person to dodge a fight or, for that matter, the national spotlight. He was the US chargé d'affaires in Baghdad when the Iraqi government ordered diplomats to register their nationals, and in effect hand them over as human shields. Wilson turned up to a press briefing with a noose around his neck, telling the Iraqis that not only could they hang him but: "I'll bring the fucking rope." The Guardian UK, Oct 22, 2003

The Senate Report covering pre-war intelligence, and Wilson's original work in Niger for the CIA, is worth looking at. Not since the CIA report on CIA relationships to drug-smugglers during the '80s, in which the press release issued by the Agency claimed no evidence was found of such relationships but the report itself said the opposite, have I perused a gov document so interesting. (Note my use of "perused." I can't imagine reading this 500-page clunker cover-to-cover, especially since most of its conclusions are redacted, and since the entire question of whether or not Valerie Plame actually did recommend Wilson is left un-decided in the report [though the partisans on either side draw their own predictable conclusions in their additional comments]).

I don't know what it's like where you live, but the weather here in Baltimore is downright putrid, and putrid is a few steps up from the weekend when the weather was positively Venuvian.

We had houseguests in from Iowa and had to rush out and buy another window-rattling AC unit for the guest bedroom because the heat index was absurd. It took no more than 15 minutes to install the damn thing, but in that time I lost about 18 pounds and became dehydrated.

We tried to take our guests--a family of four, the mother being a long-lost Filipina cousin of Cha's mother--to the Inner Harbor Saturday, but the Harbor wasn't there; in its place was a smeary fingerpainted field of gray smudges. Bands of hurricane Dennis dumped inches of rain at intervals, so our outing ended up being a 3-hour stay at the Galleria Mall. I can't abide shopping malls, particularly those geared at tourists, so my mood was foul as the weather.

I ran 4 miles on Sunday and it was HELL--I'd actually waited until it started to rain heavily before heading out, figuring that the rain would counteract the heat, but less than a half-mile out the rain stopped and Towson became Singapore. Agonizing. Today was a much better day for a run, but still awful.

I can't help but think that this was related to the weather. When the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory, 5k memorial runs should be cancelled.

Jean-Pierre Jaunet returns after the blockbuster Amelie with another film featuring many of the same actors and nearly the same formula. Instead of a cheery quirky urban Montmartre setting, however, Un long dimanche de fiancelles takes place mostly in the trenches during la premiere guerre mondiale. Every frame of the film is saturated with tanin and yellow tints, evoking era photography; this world drained largely of primary colors is painful to inhabit, achieving a mood appropriate to an epoch when Europe almost destroyed itself.

Audrey Tautou is again superb--she's not the wilting wallflower Amelie, but the long-suffering polio-stricken Mathilde. She doubts her lover has been killed as claimed, and her quest to find out the truth provides the narrative frame for some rather gruesome combat recreations. Tautou proves again her depth--behind the irrestible dimples and deep dark eyes simmers a complicated soul.

I recommend A Very Long Engagement though I must admit Jaunet's use of CGI to saturate every shot is puzzling. The French countryside doesn't need computer noodling to look better when there are no special effects sequences.

J'ai trouve un peu choquant le fait que Jodie Foster eusse un role petit dans ce film. Nous vous manquons Jodie! Elle parle francais comme un Parisienne, et, comme d'habitude, elle est magnefique. BTW, does anyone know how to do accents in Blogger without resetting the keyboard to another language? Or laboriously cutting and pasting from Word symbols?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Another potential key to the fall of Bush's Architect?

Radically Inefficient

Can we stop pretending that the free market is appropriate for health care?

The Unraveling

I've been breathless with anticipation before at the thought the Bush Admin would at last sink under the weight of scandal, only to have my dreams fade to oblivion. Thus, there's an instinctual reluctance to get all giddy now.

But things look damn good, don't they?

Torture wasn't just "a few bad apples" after all? Well, most of us knew that--even my rightwing friends knew that, but they LIKE torture.

Rove's (literally?) headed for the hot seat.

These polls are the best yet; I'd like to see Chris Matthews continue calling Bush "a popular president" or "beloved" with these digits on his desk.


  • Rove in jail
  • Rummy fired
  • Santorum gone!
  • an 06 sweep

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

As usual, the current Harper's Magazine (July 2005) is chock full of goodies (Ken Silverstein's excellent The Great American Pork Barrel: Washington Streamlines the Means of Corruption nicely complements Elizabeth Drew's Selling Washington from the June 23 NYRB).

In particular I got a good laugh or two out of Mighty White of You: Racial Preferences Color America's Oldest Skulls and Bones by Jack Hitt. His reporting on a silly yet virulent form of Eurocentricism raging in the anthropological sciences reminded me of the great controversy at my grandmother's church when I was a young teen. Some upstart African/African American churches were claiming Jesus was a black man! Reverend Ron was particularly worked up at the idea that any group of people could be so stupid as to change the appearance of The Saviour and base it upon their own. Oh, his indignation at the very thought! Oh, the thundrous condemnations he rained down upon his humble lillywhite Gettysburg paritioners in that bleak brick church, once a Union hospital.

And behind him the entire time was an 8'X 10' painting not unlike this image:

Reverend Ron, you were right! It is stupid for a group of people to change the appearance of The Saviour to fit their own. I noted at age 13 how you and your ilk had turned him from a grungy Semitic hippie into a squeaky-clean fire-breathing vengeful honky.

Reverend Ron, BTW, went on a "mission" to China with all his church's resources (including thousands of my gullible grandparents' dollars) and never returned. He'd "found Jesus in prison," after all.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Paul Bowles me over

I feel no less ravished than Kit by her Arab captors in the brutal Sahara! Bowles' characters flee "civilization" only to find it inescapable--their existentialism makes them romantics, their romanticism dooms them to sickness, death, debauchery, insanity. In Bowles' maddening novel, poised somewhere betwixt Kafka and Hawkes, we learn that prisoners are the most free, that communication is easier without language, that the brutality of authentic experience happens in European hotels as much as in scorpion-infested mud huts.

I'll visit this world again; Bowles has the wisdom to inhabit it with people who do unfathomable, senseless, bizarre, and awful things.

At Niagara.

Cha and Leesha in Toronto.

My friend Paukhim emailed from Singapore because she got to have lunch with Neil Gaiman. Check her out!

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Meaningless Hegemony of the Involuntary

K'wali and Klezma had a fab housewarming Saturday eve. Pierrot Lunaire was present, and expressed to me an astonishing opinion, seconded by the host:

"Geoff, you're like easily the happiest guy I know. Whenever I see you my heart rate drops significantly."

Could I share but a fraction of my internal abyssal dark with Pierrot, he'd be much less cavalier in his assessments.


I liked Spielberg's War of the Worlds remake ok. It continues the surprisingly dark line of sci-fi films he's made of late (A.I. and Minority Report), and the film is infinitely superior to the lame Independence Day, my last great hope for wholesale cinematic destruction. I've always had a love-hate relationship with Stephen: he makes entertaining action sequences like nobody else (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws), but his films are typically adolescent in tone, and the characters and dialogue until his most recent work can be painfully bad (let's face it: ET is simply Benji from outer space). Jurassic Park had great tense moments--the T-Rex and the upturned Jeep? Excellent. But you have to wade through goofy acting to get there.

In particular, Spielberg's films feature bratty kids that one wishes would die, but they never do. War of the Worlds is no exception. Tom Cruise's character should let those self-righteous upper-crusters fry. In fact (SPOILER ALERT) Spielberg could have done parents everywhere a great favor when the bratty little daughter starts screaming as Cruise tries to rescue her, if Cruise had kicked her out of the minivan and allowed her to get vaporized by the tripods instead of indulging her.

Of course I say this as someone who intends never to be a parent.

The absolute best thing about War of the Worlds? The vivid memory of being scared shitless at age 7 or 8 watching the original on TV.


I saw this bird on a PBS series called Deep Jungle--at 3am, after lots of wine.

That's all I can stand...

On CNN's Inside Politics today I watched dumbfounded as Jack Valenti, the "lefty" opposed in a panel discussion to Bey Buchanan on the right, dismissed the entire Rove/Plame affair as "politics." "I don't see what the big deal is about Wilson and whoever his wife is," he said.

Not a big deal, eh? What the media are failing to focus on is the fact that Wilson's information was solid proof that the Bushies were manipulating intelligence, picking and choosing info to present to the American people to maximize their case for war. Wilson had discredited their African uranium info and they used it anyway in a speech, and Wilson called foul publicly only to have his wife outed by Bob Novak.

Do you think the US would be at war now if this were more thoroughly investigated at the time? Do you think Bush, had this treachery been more aggressively covered in 2003, would have been re-elected?

"What's the big deal?" Argh.

Also, isn't the claim Rove makes to Cooper that Wilson was sent by his wife--and not Dick Cheney's office--a lie? Hello--you journalists who are still afraid to ask tough questions?

In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake--a form of lightly processed ore--by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office.

Joseph C. Wilson the 4th

By Rove, I think we've got him.

Members of the White House press corps have mysteriously developed testicles.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

A Complete Surprise

Not what I expected! An engagingly perverse love story. Antonio Banderas manages to be cute and scary at the same time with his Ed Gein haircut. Victoria Abril? Hot. Bondage, porn stars, drug addicts, mental patients--what more do you need in a romantic comedy?

An untroubling entertainment, and despite the sordid characters a surprisingly light bit of Eurocinema.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

More Punchin' Judy

Billmon effectively presents the intricacies of the case, and makes the correct determination:

When I read Miller's little speech, I'm afraid something snapped. Fuck journalistic principles. I was glad Judge Hogan locked the bitch up -- I only wished he'd thrown the key away. And since we're dealing with a critical national security threat here -- after all, there's a traitor running around the White House making things easier for nuclear terrorists -- it occurred to me that a few stress positions might be in order for a high value detainee like Miller, or maybe a little of the Fear Up Harsh approach -- with a nice lemon chicken dinner afterwards, of course.

This is a difficult case to puzzle out logically as opposed to emotionally, much like when Rush Blimpaugh got busted for his Oxy-contin habit. I was troubled to feel glee at someone's addiction, but justified my reaction because of Rush's hypocrisy on the issue. Now we've got a journalist locked up for protecting an anonymous source--a position I support and would normally admire--but Judy is not taking the fall out of regard for high moral principals, she's taking it to appear a martyr when in fact she's a lapdog for the neo-cons who've used her to hijack US foreign policy. Fuck her.

Career Opportunity

I've always wanted to teach in China.


Tucker Carlon's new show on MSNBC--"The Situation"--is awful, as expected. Last night Tucker was sneering in joking contempt at the very idea Valerie Plame was an actual deep cover agent. "She posed for pictures in Vanity Fair!" he shrieked.

That's true, Tucker--she was in Vanity Fair after she was outed as a CIA operative. I'd like to beat you up. Please meet me after school at the swingset.

Funny how conservatives are suddenly mocking the idea that outing a CIA agent is treasonous, let alone criminal. Remember Bush I and Philip Agee?

Central Services

In Terry Gilliam's dystopian masterpiece Brazil the characters barely react to violent explosions in department stores and restaurants; such things have become routine despite an increasingly militarized police and an intrusive government that spies on, detains, tortures and kills citizens with impunity.

Welcome to the future!

Every day I wake up wondering if there will be an attack somewhere. Last week Turkey got it, today London. Perhaps these bombers, like those in Madrid on 3/11, were trained in Iraq on the frontlines of The War on Terror?

Last night I was appalled to find myself agreeing with neo-con Francis Fukuyama, who was on Charlie Rose vociferously disagreeing with the Bush neo-cons, and in particular Charles Krauthammer, about the war in Iraq. It's a mad mad world indeed.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Judge Judy--Appropriately

Will Bunch gets it right:

But the Times' Judy Miller has not been afflicting the comfortable. She has been protecting them, advancing their objectives, and helping them to mislead a now very afflicted American public. In fact, thinking again about Watergate and Deep Throat is a good way to understand why Judy Miller should not be protected today. Because in Watergate, a reporter acting like Miller would not be meeting the FBI's Mark Felt in an underground parking garage. She would be obsessively on the phone with H.R. Haldeman or John Dean, listening to malicious gossip about Carl Bernstein or their plans to make Judge Sirica look bad.

Link courtesy of Atrios, image via Isebrand.


I was just assisting a patron from Tennessee who teaches at Morgan State. He saw my reading material and we got to talking--he's researching a book on H.L. Mencken about the wholly unfair drubbing old Henry has taken from the PC crowd (he's been labelled racist and anti-Semitic and generally intolerant). My patron was impassioned about righting this injustice, given that H.L. was a friend of the NAACP and considering that most of his drinking companions and the members of his intellectual circle were German Jews, and I was pleased when he told me Knopf was interested in his book. "I used tuh be the director of the H.L. Mencken House before Baaaawltimawhr closed down the City Life museums," he told me in a long syrupy drawl, and we talked about Mencken and what he'd think of America today, overrun as it is by his least favorite sort of human being: fanatical Christers.

Here's what Mencken thought about Americans [from On Being an American]:

It is, for example, one of my firmest and most sacred beliefs, reached after an inquiry extending over a score of years and supported by incessant prayer and meditation, that the government of the United States, in both its legislative arm and its executive arm, is ignorant, incompetent, corrupt, and disgusting-and from this judgement I except no more than twenty living lawmakers and no more than twenty executioners of their laws. It is a belief no less piously cherished that the administration of justice in the Republic is stupid, dishonest, and against all reason and equity-and from this judgement I except no more than thirty judges, including two upon the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States. It is another that the foreign policy of the United States-its habitual manner of dealing with other nations, whether friend or foe-is hypocritical, disingenuous, knavish, and dishonorable-and from this judgment I consent to no exceptions whatever, either recent or long past. And it is my fourth (and, to avoid too depressing a bill, final) conviction that the American people, taking one with another, constitute the most timorous, sniveling, poltroonish, ignominious mob of serfs and goose-steppers ever gathered under one flag in Christendom since the end of the Middle Ages, and that they grow more timorous, more sniveling, more poltroonish, more ignominious every day.

So why did Henry live here his entire life?

It is my contention that, if this definition be accepted, there is no country on the face of the earth wherein a man roughly constituted as I am-a man of my general weaknesses, vanities, appetites, prejudices, and aversions-can be so happy, or even one-half so happy, as he can be in these free and independent states. Going further, I lay down the proposition that it is a sheer physical impossibility for such a man to live in These States and not be happy-that it is as impossible to him as it would be to a schoolboy to weep over the burning down of his schoolhouse. If he says that he isn't happy here, then he either lies or is insane. Here the business of getting a living, particularly since the war brought the loot of all Europe to the national strong-box, is enormously easier than it is in any other Christian land-so easy, in fact, that an educated and forehanded man who fails at it must actually make deliberate efforts to that end. Here the general average of intelligence, of knowledge, of competence, of integrity, of self-respect, of honor is so low that any man who knows his trade, does not fear ghosts, has read fifty good books, and practices the common decencies stands out as brilliantly as a wart on a bald head, ann is thrown willy-nilly into meager and exclusive aristocracy.

And here, more than anywhere else that I know of or have heard of, the daily panorama of human existence, of private and communal folly-the unending procession of governmental extortions and chicaneries, of commercial brigandages, and throat-slittings, of theological buffooneries, of aesthetic ribaldries, of legal swindles and harlotries, of miscellaneous rogueries, villainies, imbecilities, grotesqueries, and extavagences-is so inordinately gross and preposterous, so perfectly brought up to the highest conceivable amperage, so steadily enriched with an almost fabulous daring and originality, that only the man who was born with a petrified diaphragm can fail to laugh himself to sleep every night, and to awake every morning with all the eager, unflagging expectation of a Sunday-school superintendent touring the Paris peep-shows.

[emphases mine] Every time I read this I laugh heartily until the tears roll.

Office Space

It's not unusual for The Aunties at Cook Liberry to be in a tizzy about something, but I know the situation must be dire if I'm unable to avoid their urgent whisperings in my hidey-hole office.

On July 22nd some 'consultants' are touring the Liberry and meeting the Liberry staff; said consultants are supposed to observe workflow and organization and make assessments about the direction of Cook and the necessary skills of its future director. I take this in stride, coming from years of retail management. Some of the Aunties, however, are freaked out. Will there be layoffs? Will the 'consultants' mysteriously know that everyone here looks at 'blogs and plays games 20 hours/week?

One rumor: a more "professional" dress code. This always made me laugh at Borders; the idea of making employees who spend much of their day genuflecting while shelving, pushing carts around, unloading trucks--making them wear dress pants and ties is plain foolish. Here at the Liberry the same silliness abounds; why should I wear a button-down shirt and dress pants at the Service Desk when la plupart of our patrons have their thongs and asscracks visible over their PJ bottoms?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I Heart the TU Cleaners

In the Men's Room off the 2nd floor lobby here at Cook Liberry is a sink for handwashing. When I left Thursday [before a four-day holiday weekend] there was a loogie, a paper towel, and a big ass dead cockroach in said sink.

The cockroach is still there, with the loogie and the towel, though everything is moved around a bit by multiple handwashings. I'm not going to touch the bug because I want to see how long it stays.


Interesting primarily because it's a Xmas story from Japan. Tokyo Godfathers is not nearly as interesting as Kon's Millennium Actress, and features far too many convenient coincidences, but is nonetheless touching and beautifully animated. Worth a visit.

Unadulterated Racism?

We spent the weekend in Toronto for a wedding--not just any wedding, but the wedding of Cha's cousin Marivee (she's half-Filipina, half-Japanese) and her fiance Keif (half-Irish, half-Greek).

Despite Toronto's amazing success as a melting-pot, we had an interesting experience at the airport Comfort Hotel. Cha's father decided Sunday that we were not going home as planned that afternoon--we were staying until Monday. This left us in the lurch, and we finally found a hotel room at midnight Monday morning. I called and made a reservation under my last name, and while I was parking Cha ran in to check in.

Cha: My husband called 20 minutes ago and made a reservation.

Desk Clerk: I hardly think so.

Cha: He did. You said we didn't need anything but to leave our name.

Desk Clerk: What's the name?

Cha: G.......y.

Desk Clerk: Oh, um, ok. I do have that here.

[I arrived at the desk at this point to find Cha talking to an elegantly dressed Indian man who spoke English with upper-crust UK affectations. I handed him my credit card and we began the transaction when another man approached the desk and waited for a few seconds. The desk clerk acknowledged him finally with a glance and the man very politely asked for a pen which the desk clerk gave him.]

Desk Clerk: That explains why I'll never go to Mexico. Those people are rude, incapable of waiting their turn, and expect one to drop everything at their whim!

[I hadn't noticed any rudeness on the part of the pen seeker--he waited until noticed before asking, and asked kindly. I'd also not noticed he was Mexican, but now heard him speaking to friends in Spanish behind us. Cha and I exchanged an uncomfortable glance.]

Desk Clerk: Do you have this problem?

Cha [with sarcasm]: Um, no, not really. [Keep in mind that Cha's last name, like that of most Filipinos, is Hispanic. She is as much a Latina as she is an Asian.]

Me: There are rude people everywhere, from every culture.

Desk Clerk: Are you being honest, or are you just afraid to say something in front of your wife?

Me: There are rude--and racist--people from every culture. I encounter them everywhere.

When we got in the elevator Cha flipped out--had we not been desperate for a room we'd likely have stormed out. There were two large busloads of Mexican tourists at the hotel--perhaps the guy was just fed up and decided to vent. Perhaps he saw Cha and assumed she was one of "them" when she first came in. I dunno, but I was furious, and considered calling Comfort Hotel and letting them know about their jackass employee. Then, however, I imagined this guy getting fired and deported and not being able to feed his kids, and decided against it. Now, in retrospect, I think I made the right choice, but I still feel guilty, like I let someone get away with a racist joke or comment without challenging it. Then I thought about Cha's aunts and uncles telling us not to visit downtown Toronto because of "the blacks and the Chinese," and then I thought about the bad blood between many of her relatives and the father of the bride at the wedding--he's Japanese, and the older Filipinos remember quite well their childhood under the occupation. Cha's parents used to send her to Canada for months at a time because she had black friends and they wanted her out of their reach. These are not terrible people, but they have casual racist attitudes and share them with those they imagine might agree. I did not challenge Cha's parents' racial attitudes, nor those of her aunts or uncles--so what right did I have to sit in judgment of some frustrated hotel employee?

Is it always wrong to let racist comments slide? Is it wrong to be politic about it with family members? Another illustration: my brother Pork Heaven and I sitting with my stepdad at his house.

Dad: I used to go to a bar in downtown DC every week when I was single, but got fed up with it because later on the spooks started hanging out there.

Me: Jesus Christ, you can't say that. What the hell sort of comment is that when kids are around? [my niece and nephew were there]

Pork Heaven: Jesus, Dad, that's pretty awful.

Dad: What are you guys talking about?

Me: Calling black people 'spooks' is bad enough, but saying the fact that a bar has black patrons is reason enough to stop frequenting such an establishment is so 1950s.

Pork Heaven: All the bars I hang out in have black patrons. Who cares?

Dad: Holy shit, "spooks" are spies! I was working for defense contractors and they'd listen to our lunch conversations, for Christ's sake. That's what I'm talking about!

Sometimes we over-react with good intentions, and make snap judgments like the worst reactionaries; it's one of the things I despise about many liberals who condemn others casually and with an almost evangelical fervor. I'm (obviously) guilty of it myself from time to time. Other times, people are jerkasses, plain and simple. We stopped at my mother-in-law's favorite restaurant (Wendy's-ugh) on the way home, in a small town in central PA. Nothing like getting stared at by the entire clientele because I'm with three Asians. Of course, it might have been the "B-More for Peace" T-shirt I was wearing.