Tim Blair recaps the year in quotes.

The hilarity starts here.

And reminds me how much I miss Juan Gato in the process.
TB: Which are you more likely to violate: the Third Law of Thermodynamics, or the Mann Act?

JG: I'm pretty sure it'd be Third Law of Thermodynamics. Too bad it wasn't which I'd prefer to violate. No, that'd probably still be the Third Law. Once I break free of that bastard, there'll be no stopping me.


Via Bill McCabe, yet another LOTR personality test, this one a bit different from most.

You are most like Aragorn (Stryder) Son of Arathorn

Aragorn's decisions often seem against conventional wisdom, but he knows what to do and why it must be done, regardless of the cost.
You are good at making contingency plans and come up wiith efficient means to acheive clear-cut ends. You are highly independent, and continue on with your plans even in the face of data that might suggest to others that it's no longer feasible. Time alone is important and solitary activities refresh you. You have a tendency to introspection. In your desire for clarity in life, you may have the tendency of being remote or even "heartless". You try to schedule your life as much as possible. You tend to finish your work before resting.

As the foil to Aragorn, Sauron clearly embodies the evil side of this personality.

Traits: Pragmatic, autonomous, ingenious, resolute. On the dark side you could desire power and domination.

Hm. Ok. I can't really argue with those (and wouldn't argue with "ingenious" out of sheer egotism anyway.)




If I were a character in The Lord of the Rings, I would be Eowyn, Woman of Rohan, niece of King Theoden and sister of Eomer.

In the movie, I am played by Miranda Otto.

Who would you be?
Zovakware Lord of the Rings Test with Perseus Web Survey Software

Well, of course I am.
[Via Bill McCabe.]


Return of the King.

Saw it twice today, back to back. Despite my misgivings (and despite living up--or rather, down--to a handful of those misgivings), I'd have to say it holds up admirably well. If I can spend 7 hours in a theater and still be ready to see it again, it's a damn good movie.

That said, there are minor peeves, most of which I think will be straightened out by the expanded edition. Worst mischaracterization: Denethor. Biggest unintentional laugh: tie--Sam and Frodo on Mt. Doom, and Denethor's final moment on screen (there will be more discussion of this last point after more people have seen it.) Best one-liners: Gimli. Best farewell speech: Theoden. Best defiance of the laws of physics that govern mere mortals: Legolas, for the third time. (The cave troll in Fellowship, the flying wrong-sided horse mount in Towers, and...well. You'll know it when you see it, if you haven't already read about it.) Biggest threat to take over every blessed key moment of the plot: Gandalf (and here I thought ubiquity was reserved for God hisself.)

Three musical performances, only one of which I endured without squirming (after you've seen it feel free to guess which.) At least five possible points at which they could have ended the movie (the endings do drag on a bit.) One scene that plays like a curtain call. Good stuff.
For all my bitter fellow Gen-Xers.

And I'm talking about those of us on the leading edge of Gen-X, at that. Via the ever-vigilant Andrea Harris, an apparently new site to keep an eye on: Boomer Deathwatch (soon to relocate to www.boomerdeathwatch.com), a gleefully mean-spirited site about the rat-in-the-snake generation sopping up all the gravy.


End of the whole LOTR thing.

No point in finishing the book when he's not following the book. [Spoiler link courtesy of Angela.]

Thank God he's not filming Beowulf. Here's hoping he never gets a shot at filming The Hobbit.
LOTR "Race the Boxoffice" update:

Looks like I'm going to have to concede defeat. Just to the stairs of Cirith Ungol, about 50 pages shy of the end of the 4th book, and I don't see how I can finish all of "Return of the King" tonight. I'll take a stab at it, though my pre-ROTK time might be better served watching the extended Towers video than reading a text I suspect is in peril of being adapted in somewhat ham-handed fashion. Sounds like I'm pre-bashing, eh? Not really. I'm looking forward to the Paths of the Dead and Pelennor Fields, at least, and though the clip I saw of Pippin with the Palantir could best be described as devouring the scenery, I have to keep in mind that I saw that clip deprived of dramatic context. Anyway, it's not like I can pretend I'm not geeked about the whole thing, I just want to be prepared in case Arwen shows up with a sword somewhere.


Best photoshop of Hussein so far.

Steve H. at Little Tiny Lies wins the prize. (I'd post the picture itself, but I'm not sure how he'd feel about that, and he's a lawyer, after all.)


LOTR "Race the Boxoffice" update:

End of book III, switching back to Sam and Frodo and the Taming of Smeagol. So engrossed I didn't know about Hussein until I signed on to AOL this afternoon. Huzzah!


LOTR "Race the Boxoffice" update:

End of book II, beginning of book 3 (or end of "The Fellowship", beginning of "The Two Towers", if you prefer.) The fellowship is broken. Boromir is about to...er, depart. As it were.


Fully geeked.

Check out ROTK stills here.
In celebration of the countdown.

Congratulations! You're Merry!

Which Lord of the Rings character and personality problem are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Well, they got the bloodlust right, anyway.
LOTR "Race the Boxoffice" update:

The Council of Elrond is over. Next up: The Ring Goes South (II ch. 3). I make no excuses for my sloth.


Killer sweet.

You are Bruce Lee.

Which Martial Arts Movie Star Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

[Via Greg in the Captain's Chair.]
Cruise Control.

Johnathan Last gives The Last Samurai a qualified thumbs-up in the Weekly Standard for "trying" to be a great picture. Since I haven't seen it, and won't because it stars Tom Cruise, I can't address the film on its own merits. What I can address, however, is Last's half-hearted defense of Cruise as movie star:
Though say what you will about Cruise, one fact remains: He's no Steve Guttenberg. Or Mark Harmon. Or Brad Pitt. Or any other of the disposable, pretty-boy movie stars who have crowded the multiplex on and off for 20 years. Tom Cruise is the leading man of his day and, all things considered, he's probably better than this generation of moviegoers deserves. (Historical footnote: In 2035, when the Thalberg awards are handed out and all is said and done, George Clooney will be considered the star of his generation, but that's then and this is now.)
I'm sorry, but he's sure as hell not what I deserve; I can't possibly have been that evil. He is the disposable pretty boy of his generation, which Guttenberg and Harmon are not (who the hell thinks they're "pretty"?) As for Pitt, I can name at least two movies in which his performance was tolerable ("Thelma and Louise" and the somewhat limp remake of "Ocean's 11"), which is two more notches than I can count on Cruise's coup stick.
If you tour Cruise's filmography, you'll see an actor doing competent work in movies that are better than they have to be.
I see a performer giving exactly the same performance, without variation, in every stinkin' film he's ever been in. He is himself in every movie, in the worst possible sense; I can never get the sense that he's anyone but TOM FUCKING CRUISE every moment he's on screen.
For every "Days of Thunder" there's a "Color of Money";
You say that as though there were a qualitative difference between the two.
for every "Mission Impossible: 2" there's a "Minority Report."
That's a sore point with me; a potentially great premise ruined by bad casting. His performance in every movie is the same. Minority Report is Cocktail is Risky Business; only the props and costars change.
His popcorn films are often mediocre ("The Firm") and even his prestige movies can be terrible ("Born on the Fourth of July," "Far and Away," "Eyes Wide Shut"). But if you do the numbers, he bats about .600 and hits to all fields with power ("Rain Man," "Top Gun," "Magnolia").
You could easily replace Cruise in "Rainman" with any reasonably competent actor, or even a mediocre actor of Cruise's own caliber, and it would be essentially the same. Dustin Hoffman did all the heavy lifting (not that I necessarily agree "Rainman" is a good example of a base hit; it's more like a seeing-eye single than a double to the wall. "Top Gun" is an execrable piece of crap and I found "Magnolia" unwatchable. So by my count he's more Rey Ordonez than Alex Rodriguez.)
And above all else, with Tom Cruise you always get the sense that at least he's trying.
And that's exactly what I have against him. When I watch a movie I don't want to see the wheels turning. With Tom Cruise I always feel like I have to supply half the lead performance.
Golden calf alert.

Michael Crichton challenges the sacred beliefs of the environazis in his address to the Commonwealth Club--and it's a pip:
So I can tell you some facts. I know you haven't read any of what I am about to tell you in the newspaper, because newspapers literally don't report them. I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. I can tell you that the people who banned it knew that it wasn't carcinogenic and banned it anyway. I can tell you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, mostly children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus irrevocably harmed the third world. Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die and didn't give a damn.

I can tell you that second hand smoke is not a health hazard to anyone and never was, and the EPA has always known it. I can tell you that the evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit. I can tell you the percentage the US land area that is taken by urbanization, including cities and roads, is 5%. I can tell you that the Sahara desert is shrinking, and the total ice of Antarctica is increasing. I can tell you that a blue-ribbon panel in Science magazine concluded that there is no known technology that will enable us to halt the rise of carbon dioxide in the 21st century. Not wind, not solar, not even nuclear. The panel concluded a totally new technology-like nuclear fusion-was necessary, otherwise nothing could be done and in the meantime all efforts would be a waste of time. They said that when the UN IPCC reports stated alternative technologies existed that could control greenhouse gases, the UN was wrong.

I can, with a lot of time, give you the factual basis for these views, and I can cite the appropriate journal articles not in whacko magazines, but in the most prestigeous science journals, such as Science and Nature. But such references probably won't impact more than a handful of you, because the beliefs of a religion are not dependant on facts, but rather are matters of faith. Unshakeable belief.
Rachel Carlson, you ignorant slut.

Paula: you might want to forward the link to PETAfriend. Just for the pleasure of watching her turn plaid with rage.

[Via Arts & Letters Daily.]
LOTR "Race the Boxoffice" update:

As of 0900 the hobbits are headed for the Barrow downs (chapter 8). That's 145 pages, but I did take time out last night for 1) an hour's nap, 2) the baking of banana bread, and 3) some online chat. I'll make up for the lapse this weekend, probably.
That's mah boy.

My brother, the ASCAP artist.

(What he says in the Heaven Hill clip about drinking and driving down home back in the day is God's own gospel truth, btw.)


And now we join the countdown already in progress.

Note the placement of the ROTK countdown button atop the left-hand margin. In lieu of an advent calendar this year, I've decided to see if I can re-read all three Lord of the Rings volumes (technically all one volume, since I finally bought the hardbound single-volume edition a couple of years ago), appendices optional, before the movie opens next Wednesday. I'm also trying not to read any reviews. Yes, I'm sure it kicks a huge amount of ass, and yes, I seethe with an appropriate level of envy at those of you who get to see it before I hit the noon show on Wednesday, and those of you who get to see the trilogy in the theater. You can all bite me. I just don't want to hear any debates about how he deviates from the %#%$# book in this one until I actually see it for myself. Thanks.

LOTR "Race the Boxoffice" progress report: Prologue: Concerning Hobbits begun 0400 EST. Correction: 1600. Judas Priest, if you can't do the math, don't put it in military time.


Nerd alert.

[Butthead] This is the coolest thing that I have ever seen. [/Butthead]

[Via Dean Esmay.]

Peter Jackson would like to film The Hobbit.
"I'd be interested in doing it because I think it would give continuity to the overall chapter," he said.

Many of the lead "Rings" characters do not appear in The Hobbit, but the wizard Gandalf, played by Ian McKellen, and Gollum, the cave dweller corrupted by the powerful ring, do and should make a comeback. Arwen, the elf princess played by Liv Tyler, could also feature again, Jackson said.
Arwen? ARWEN?? I realize Jackson's got a major boner for Liv Tyler, but given the fact that she is not going to be aging backward during the interim, just how the hell would Arwen fit into the prequel that occurs some sixty or so years before the action in the Ring cycle?

Not to mention the fact that Ian Holm can't be expected to film an entire movie where he's in nearly every scene with his face taped back, and replacing him as Bilbo could be difficult.
A salute to my least favorite song by an ex-Beatle.

"Was it a millionaire who said 'Imagine no possessions',
A poor little schoolboy who said 'We don't need no lessons'."
--Elvis Costello, The Other Side of Summer

[Steer from Damian Penny, who probably doesn't hate that song as much as I do.]
Protester inadvertently says something sensible.

Re the bear hunt in New Jersey:
"I fought against this day for 10 years,” Smith said. “One week of bear hunting, nothing’s going to be solved. Come spring the bears will still be eating our garbage and still be walking through our back yards."
Dead right, sister. So can I take it you're for extending bear season to a more reasonable length?

[Thanks, Paula.]
My favorite dead film writer.

Hollywood continues to plunder the rich vein of Philip K. Dick short stories. If we're lucky one or two of the movies will actually end up resembling the stories on which they were based.

(Minority Report sucked, by the way. Tom Cruise in a Dick movie is an obscenity.)


And this is the frontrunner, folks.

Howard Dean on Hardball regarding Iran, via today's Opinion Journal:
The key, I believe, to Iran, is pressure through the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is supplying much of the equipment that Iran I believe mostly likely is using to set itself along the path of developing nuclear weapons. We need to use that leverage with the Soviet Union, and it may require us buying the equipment the Soviet Union was ultimately going to sell to Iran, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
I guess for Howie history's just something that happened to other people.

Oh, and that would be a dumb plan even if the Soviet Union did still exist.


More eye candy.

Download the Prisoner of Azkaban trailer here.


Eye candy.

Download the Troy teaser trailer here.


Look how they messed with my boy.

From IMDB:
After 18 actors working on the Lord of the Rings trilogy threatened to write an open letter to Time Warner Chairman Richard Parsons complaining about the small size of their bonus payments, New Line Cinema agreed to create a "bonus pool," negotiated by "one of the actors everybody trusted," the London Daily Telegraph reported today (Tuesday). However, although a measure of peace has been restored between the actors and the studio, the group is nevertheless demanding an audit of the films' accounts, the newspaper said. The Telegraph observed that producers were originally able to negotiate low-paying deals with several actors (it specifically named Orlando Bloom, who plays the elf Legolas) because they were struggling unknowns at the time.


Panties all in a bunch.

My lands, pass the salts. People are evidently delinking Lileks because he dast use the "f" word a few days ago. And the man has actually apologized for using it, despite the fact that he gave ample notice of his use of harsh invective at the head of the column. That's a gracious human being (and a fine writer). I'm pleased to note he doesn't apologize for his honest opinion of Salam Pax; he only apologizes for his language.

Btw, the idea of sending someone a letter with notice of intent to delink is hilariously adolescent. You said something I don't like; now we're not friends anymore and I don't want to hear from you ever. Pardon me while I shrug.


Warning you now.

Put whatever you're drinking down before you read this.


Sic transit gloria blogdomi.

James Lileks is irked [scroll down to "Finally"] by Salam Pax' tone of sneering condescension in his open letter to Bush in the Guardian. There's been some righteous indignation following the publication of the letter and much linkage of Lileks' enjoyable mini-screed, usually prefaced by the phrase "I never liked Salam Pax". My lone comment: what did you expect, exactly? Reading his blog ("dearRaed"--no, I'm not linking to it, because I think he's a pissant) during the war I garnered the distinct impression he was personally pretty well insulated against his government, and therefore in all likelihood at least slightly connected to the Ba'ath party. Is it any real surprise he wouldn't be overjoyed by the overthrow of a regime from whose murderous policies he was apparently benefitting? And was anybody but the anti-war crowd taking him seriously prior to the publication of this letter? Because I'm getting a distinctly hurt tone out of the warblogger commentary on the issue, and I'm at a loss to figure out why.

If you're planning a trip to Vegas, hear me now and believe me later: do not--I repeat, do not--book your hotel through LasVegas.com. Due to their dysfunctional relationship with the Hilton (and, one suspects after several lengthy chats with their staff, with every other hotel on the strip), they are evidently unable to process a refund in less than 3 months, and the convolutions hinted at in the description of why they are unable to process the refund in a reasonable length of time make one wonder if they can possibly remain solvent for much longer. In other words, the people at this company could fuck up a two-car funeral. Avoid them at all costs. (And no, I wouldn't trust them to book a show, either.)

That is all.


Yeah, baby.

You're Rummy!
You're the warlike Rumsfeld! So simple, so
subtle, so darned...cute. God bless you, Donny!

Which member of the Bush Administration are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

[Via Damian Penny.]


Keith Richards, arch-conservative.

Or at the least, aging gracefully. Unlike Mick.
Two Towers extended.

Nearly all is forgiven. Huorns! Denethor! Ent draught! In other words, I'm now prepared to concede that Jackson might actually know what he's doing, and if there's an extended version of the third film, Saruman will probably show up in his proper place.

My boss just thinks I'm nuts.


O brave dissent.

"W. is a doodyhead."

Interesting that the author, whose grasp of fact can charitably be described as tenuous, wasn't proud enough of the screed to attach his or her name. And this passes for journalism.

[Via Peter Briffa.]
Newsflash: Americans go back to being rude to one another.

Jack Thomas at the Boston Globe notes that post-911 America has returned to the norm: rude, crude, and socially unacceptable. I have only two comments:

1) I'm not sure we're ruder than ever, but I do think we lack enforceable standards of public behavior.

2) Mr. Thomas blames the Baby Boomers. I tend to agree, but I also tend to treat the Boomers like France, generationally speaking, so my personal opinion is suspect.

Article bonus feature: a pointer to Etiquette Hell.com. Check out the Bridesmaid Dress Incinerator. (That should make Bern and Paula both feel better.)


ROTK: circling the drain?

Peter Jackson has cut Christopher Lee from Return of the King.

Now, I'm not one of the hardcore Tolkienistas screaming because Jackson cut Tom Bombadil (a mercy) and the elves aren't chanting Tolkien's (rather vile) poetry in the background of every scene. Hell, I'm actually in favor of streamlining the narrative to increase the visual "punch".


When Jackson started cutting things that are actually vital to the story--and Aragorn's acquisition of the palantir in Orthanc is vital to the story--because he was supposedly having difficulty cramming in the necessary details, and then padded the second film with lingering shots of Arwen's perky breasts, Aragorn's adolescent sulking, and a completely de trop over-the-cliff fake death scene...well, frankly, he betrayed my trust. I can't trust him to attend to the barest details now without fearing how he's going to fuck up the storyline. Surmising--and this is just speculation on my part--that Arwen is now going to be bringing her jagoff fiance his reforged sword sometime in the third film (nevermind the fact that he's supposed to have it before leaving Rivendell), why not just have her and Grandma Galadriel show up with a barebreasted Amazon Elf army at Pelennor Fields just in time to pull the guys' fat out of the fire? And then in the name of "Grrl Power" we can have Eowyn seize the mount of the Witch King, fly to Mt. Doom, take the ring from the failing Frodo's hand and fling it into the firey chasm from whence it came. That should dumb the whole story down nicely.

No, I'm not taking this well, thanks for asking.

[Thanks, Paula.]


True. So true.

girl next door
You are the Girl Next Door. You're the sweet one.
The quiet one. The one that he doesn't realize
he's got until you're gone.

What Type Of Retro Gal Are You?
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Er...just ignore the profanity in the preceding post. I'm really not like that.

Stop laughing, dammit.

[Via Ian Hamet, the tramp.]
MLB taking longer to die than Mimi in La Boheme.

Another classic moment in Bud Selig's ongoing quest to drive a stake through the heart of the national game:
MLB may organize a World Cup to start in '05
There is only one kind of "cup" in baseball, and it's not a championship series.
Looking at soccer's success at creating the world's most-watched tournament, major league baseball could give the go-ahead by the end of January to start a World Cup in March 2005.
You start naming baseball tourneys after soccer championships and it can only lead to the collapse of the game as we have known it. I'm completely serious. Next thing you know we'll have a diamond full of guys in shiny pants yelling "GOOOOOOOAAAAALLL" every time they cross the plate, and I just can't reconcile myself to that prospect.
The tournament would include 8-to-16 national teams and be played in 4-to-8 U.S. ballparks,
And then all the other countries will wonder why the fuck they have to do all the traveling when it's supposedly an international contest.
according to DuPuy and union head Donald Fehr. Talks with the union already have begun.

"That's a goal we share, and with a reasonable amount of luck, I think we will get there," Fehr said.
Don Fehr, once again playing Beelzebub to Selig's Satan. Anything that'll kill the game, right guys? And what is it that's driving this sudden need to internationalize?
While the United States was eliminated from Olympic qualifying on Friday, that roster was stocked mostly with minor leaguers. Management and the union envision the World Cup teams having top stars.

The Olympic qualifying loss shocked many major league baseball officials, who repeatedly have said they cannot stop the regular season to allow major leaguers to participate in the Olympics. Canada and Cuba will represent the Americas in Athens next year.
Yes, because MLB has its head up its collective ASS, the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA will not be represented in the Olympic contest in the event that represents its own national game. And yet, to the genii at MLB, the solution is not to review the rules on how the Olympic rosters are set, the solution is to make up an entirely new fake tournament to embrace the spirit of internationalism and so forth. I'm just waiting for the special rules for the world cup to be proposed, so that we won't be accused of discriminating against the way other countries play the game.
The commissioner's office and the union are working on several international events for the 2004 season. Talks are under way to start next season in Japan -- last season's opener between Oakland and Seattle in Tokyo was scrapped because of travel concerns prior to the U.S. war in Iraq.

The union is awaiting a management response to its latest proposal to move 22 Expos' games from Montreal to San Juan, Puerto Rico, or Monterrey, Mexico.

Spring training games will be played once again in Mexico City, and if the Expos don't play in Monterrey, that city could wind up with either exhibition or regular-season games involving other teams.

In July 2005, baseball hopes to play a regular-season series in Europe, according to Archey, possibly in Rome's Olympic Stadium.
Ok, ENOUGH. It needs to be said: it's incredibly hard on the teams that start the season overseas and have to do all that fucking traveling at the start of the season. It has the potential to cost them games when they get back, and it deprives their US fans, who are the people who actually support the teams, of the chance to attend Opening Day without taking out a second goddamn mortgage. Here's an idea: stop fucking with the people who support you. Stop catering to the Japanese, who in most cases don't give two shits about seeing the American teams if they're not the Yankees. They've got their own teams, let them play the game their way, and if we must meet up, let it be at the Olympics. Jetting the teams halfway around the globe so you can pretend the sport has an international cachet is lame. Attempting to model the playoffs after soccer is the final straw.

[Via heads up from Paula, who probably didn't think I was going to react this way.]


And this one surprises me, like, not at all.


?? Which Of The Greek Gods Are You ??
brought to you by Quizilla

She's a girl/she's a bomb. Pfft.

[Also via Dean Esmay, same link.]
I'd argue if I could.


Which Personality Disorder Do You Have?
brought to you by Quizilla

[Via Dean Esmay.]



Via the guy formerly known as Juan Gato:
Denmark to accept Norse god marriages


COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Home to the Vikings of yore, Denmark said Wednesday it will let a group that worships Thor, Odin and other Norse gods conduct legally-recognized marriages.
Ok. We're sliding back into the Stygian darkness of paganism, but if the people are determined to worship a golden calf, that's their business. But then there's this:
"To me, it would be wrong if the indigenous religion of this country wasn't recognized," Tove Fergo, the minister for Ecclesiastic Affairs and a Lutheran priest, told The Associated Press.

Under Danish law, the state Evangelical Lutheran Church has sole authority to recognize other religious communities.

The 240-member Forn Sidr, which worships Odin, Thor, Freya and the other members of the Norse pantheon, sought recognition in 1999, said Tissel Jacobsen, the group's president.

Last year, an Ecclesiastic Affairs panel of scholars recommended that Forn Sidr, whose name mean "Old Custom" in old Norse, be approved, but only if their rituals were clearly detailed in its bylaws.

"At a general assembly, we added and described our four annual heathen rituals - spring and fall equinoxes, and the summer and winter solstices, and our marriage ceremony," Jacobsen told the AP. "We then returned our application and the panel approved it."

Fergo said she would give her final approval "in a few days."

About 1,000 people worship the ancient gods in Denmark, Jacobsen said.

Since 1998, the panel of theology, law and history scholars have advised the government on which groups seeking to become religious communities, should be recognized.

"It was not up to me to evaluate whether they are telling the truth or the quality of their religion," Fergo said. "Based on the commission's evaluation and what I have read, I consider it a good religion."

Officially recognized religious communities can marry people and exempt their members from the 1 percent income tax that is imposed on members of the state church.

People born in Denmark are automatically made members of the state church, but can choose to leave it if they want. Members of other recognized religious communities, such Catholics, Muslims and Jews, are also exempt from the tax.
So what you've got, in an apparent attempt to dodge a 1% tax, is a Lutheran Priest being forced to recognize a pagan religion as legitimate. There's a system crying out for the separation of church and state.


The Shadow of Your Smile.

Larry Miller on the Ralph's/Von's/Albertson's grocery worker strike in California:
ABOUT A MONTH AGO Ralphs, Albertson's, and Vons--three large supermarket chains here in California--told the union they were taking back something they had already given, health care. They said they'd still pay for the bulk of it, but that costs were so high the workers would have to chip in part of the money, five dollars and change per week for a single employee, fifteen dollars and change per week for a family.

I know, that doesn't sound unreasonable, does it? Costs are high for companies in general, millions of Americans have no insurance at all, and millions more have to pay inflated rates for their own coverage (and it usually stinks, too). In fact, one of the reasons costs keep going up is that companies have to make bulk deals for their workers like this one. All right, you may say, so the supermarket employees will have to chip in a couple of bucks themselves. So? What are they complaining about? It's just a gallon of milk and a carton of eggs a week (as management has said in a very clever newspaper ad).

This is how I see it: It's never, ever in a million years going to wind up being just five bucks a week. After the union caves in and the stores are full again, the company will quietly say, "Oh, you know what? Turns out it's thirty bucks a week and eighty for families." Three months after that it'll double, and so on, but it'll be too late. The world will have moved on, and no one will have a prayer.

Now, a reasonable person might ask, "Why should a company have to pay for health care in the first place?" That's a fair discussion, and I guess any issue is on the table during negotiations, but the main thing to me is that, in this case, it had already been settled. They had given it to them years ago, and they just want to take it away because they think they can. The company is doing very well, and it's not right for them to precipitate the whole thing by saying, "Um, you know that thing you already have? We want it back."
A reasonable person might also ask if the price of healthcare has remained stable since the chains agreed to pay for said healthcare "years ago." In point of fact, a reasonable person would already know damn well it hasn't. But that's not important to Larry Miller, because there's something so much more important than the solvency of the chain at stake here:
I've been in that Ralphs twice a week for the past ten years, and I know the people who work there. I knew when Mary got married and had her first kid. A nice guy with a mustache named Chris sometimes tells me a joke, and I laugh no matter what it is, and I forgot my wallet a couple of times and the manager smiled and said, "Oh, just bring it on your next visit." Audra recently got promoted. She exchanged some eggs for me once when they were cracked, and we've laughed many times about how easy it is to be forgetful at the end of the day. There's a cashier with the prettiest smile in the world, and I always look for her, and a slightly built lady who's a little disabled, and we chat every time as she bags, and she loves working there very, very much.
Oddly enough, the plight of the MTA mechanics doesn't strike the same chord of noble suffering with ol' Lar':
The MTA mechanics went on strike at the same time (I disagree with that one) and took a lot of attention away from Ralphs.
Odd. Just "I disagree with that one", no reason given. The MTA mechanics were likewise promised company-paid healthcare bennies in an earlier agreement; why the hell is their plight any different from that of the grocery workers? Is it possibly because Mr. Miller doesn't ride on public transportation, and his conscience rests easy on their behalf because he's never had a mechanic smile at him?


Kingdom update already.

From Empire Online:
'I'd wanted to do a film with knights in armor,' Scott tells Variety, 'but thought why do some homogenous story when screenwriter William Monahan (who's currently working on the screenplay for Jurassic Park IV) came up with such rich history? He based this drama on accurate research, which he spent 19 months compiling and writing.'
Oh, yes, certainly the guy who writes about dinosaurs jumping about and eating people has impeccable credentials as an historian. My, yes. I can certainly see why you'd think so. God, I wish you'd just done a homogenous story, whatever the hell that means. If there's an actual historical basis for a) a peasant becoming a knight or b) said Euro-peasant-knight thwarting the Crusaders, I will eat my hat. He'd goddamn well better be French, at the very least.

Nope. Never too early to start bitching.
Chiefly of interest to Loraine. And me, of course.
By Josh Spector, Hollywood Reporter, 10/29

Orlando Bloom, hot off his recent success in a trio of epic films, has signed on for the lead role in director Ridley Scott’s period epic “Kingdom of Heaven” for 20th Century Fox.

In the story set in 12th century Europe and the exotic Far East, Bloom will star as a young peasant who becomes a knight, saves a kingdom and falls in love with a princess.
And here I thought he was tired of buckling swashes.
The film was penned by William Monahan and is being produced by Scott through his Fox-based Scott Free production banner. Branko Lustig is executive producing the project, which has a January production start date planned and will shoot in Morocco.

At Scott Free, the project is being overseen by Lisa Ellzey, while TCF topper Hutch Parker is overseeing for the studio.

The roles marks the latest epic undertaking for Bloom, who is coming off a trio of successes in the genre including the first two installments of the “Lord of the Rings” franchise and this past summer’s blockbuster hit “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” Bloom can next be seen in the upcoming third installment of the “Rings” franchise due out Dec. 17, as well as starring opposite Brad Pitt in “Troy”.
I love a good period epic. Of course, the last time I watched Scott take a stab at it (Gladiator) he completely bitched up Roman history and infuriated me to no end in the process, so I'm not entirely sure this bodes well, especially given the Cinema Confidential plot precis:
The epic drama taking place during the Crusades is set in the 12th century, and tells the story of a young blacksmith who leads the people of Jerusalem in a fight against the Crusaders.
O...k. Reading both descriptions between the lines and reconciling this with Scott's slapdash approach to history--without access to better info as yet--it looks like a peasant/blacksmith going to war as a Crusader and then siding with the Saracens against his fellow Europeans, "saving" Jerusalem. If so I hope it ends with Richard the Lionheart sticking his head on a bloody pike within sight of the walls of the city.

And remember: it's never too early to start bitching.

[Thanks, Paula!]


It needed to be said.

And Lileks has addressed it:
Back to the house. Get to work. Call up browser. Learn that Howard Dean temporarily called himself a “metrosexual.” Shudder. Do they have that on tape? Lee Atwater would have the commercial in production already: Split screen. On the right, Bush in flight suit, walking on the deck, waving, giving the thumbs up. On the left, Dean in a loop: “I’m a metrosexual. I’m a metrosexual. I’m a metrosexual.” Nothing more. Tagline: Bush. He doesn’t moisturize. He doesn’t tweeze. And he never had a pedicure.



With a capital K:
Jurors in the corruption trial the former Tyco chairman [Dennis Kozlowski] on Tuesday watched PG-rated scenes of debauchery as prosecutors tried to sway them with video of his wife's birthday party on a Mediterranean island.

New York prosecutors showed about 20 minutes of video footage from the 2001 party that cost $2.1 million -- about half paid by Tyco -- and featured singer Jimmy Buffett, gladiators, chariots and an ice sculpture of Michelangelo's David spewing vodka from his penis.

The footage, edited from four hours of film, was a welcome departure for jurors who have sat through three weeks of often tedious testimony. One juror on Monday nodded off in the courtroom. Money 2004.

But Judge Michael Obus ruled that jurors wouldn't see footage of the ice sculpture or a birthday cake in the shape of a woman's breasts with sparklers mounted on top.
After all, what's a $2.1M party without a sparkler-adorned titty cake and an ice sculpture of David pissing vodka? And the worst part isn't the waste of the money...it's the waste of it on stupid, vulgar things without a trace of subtlety or wit. I mean, **damn**, you blow $2.1 million dollars on a party in Sardinia and the best band you can book is Buffett?

Welcome back to the 80's, folks. Unpack the parachute pants and kick back with a cold one, it's going to be a weird few years.

[Thanks to Paula, who knows the good stuff when she sees it.]
Navel-piercing as navel gazing.

Sticking bits of metal into one's skin goes utterly mainstream, as people try to stand out as individuals by doing exactly the same thing everybody else is doing. The fifteen minute timer is ticking on the coolometer, kiddies.
One girl, who had just had her tongue pierced, writes: 'I've always been kind of quiet in school and very predictable…. I wanted to think of myself as original and creative, so I decided I wanted something pierced…
How original. How creative.
'Now people don't think of me as shy and predictable, they respect me and the person I've become and call me crazily spontaneous.'
Then again, one man's "crazily spontaneous" is another man's "dangerously unstable".


which art movement are you?

this quiz was made by Caitlin

[Via Sheila O'Malley.]
The Sixties AGAIN.

The WSJ taste page declares that the 60s are back. Frankly, to those of us who follow hard on the heels of the ubiquitous boomers, the whole decade feels more like the Thing That Wouldn't Leave. And after all, how can I miss you if you won't go away? This particular nostalgic wallow is brought on by an art exhibit in Montreal, gagnaciously titled "Global Village: The 1960s."
[M]any pieces are trivial or bizarre. A work by Christo marking the construction of the Berlin Wall consists of a pile of oil drums between the walls of a street. The wall text says the wall divided the world between the "egalitarian utopia of the communist regimes" and "the 'free world' of the capitalist societies." (Note the scare quotes around free world.)

A video monitor showcases "Meat Joy," a 1964 film by Carolee Schneemann featuring nude performers writhing about in a sea of raw fish, uncooked chickens, paint, plastic and rope. (A PETA ad before its time?) Other pieces feature "celebrities" from Yoko Ono to Charles Manson and Ho Chi Minh. Ho is gone and Manson is behind bars, but last month, in Paris, Ms. Ono reprised "Cut Piece," a 1960s performance art effort in which audience members are invited to cut away her clothing one piece at a time.
No surprises there. Last week I attended an exhibit of pop art at the Guggenheim in the Venetian in Vegas; the first room had a number of 'multimedia' pieces which consisted pretty much of apparently random groupings of crap you'd find in your garage, plus some nice Lichtensteins, some pretty good Warhols (4 soup cans, 2 Liz Taylors, and "Orange Disaster #5", with its interesting repeated images of an electric chair); though I admit I'm a bit skeptical about the artistic value of silk screening, the soup cans are nice), three Dines (mostly lame, particularly "shoe", seen here in a small black and white that really doesn't do justice to the nasty color and overall slapdash feel of the original), a really annoying Rauschenberg black-and-white silk screening of, again, seemingly random images ("Barge"), and my favorite, Rosenquist's "The Meteor Hits the Dreamer's Pillow" (with actual bedsprings!)

And I know why that piece is my favorite: I like commercial art. I like the colors Gain and the other detergent manufacturers use in their packaging, which may mean I've been successfully brainwashed by the admen of the sixties and seventies. (They also had the Rosenquist with the giant sub sandwich, pack o' cigs and can o' Budweiser; I like that one too, and "Barge", with its presumed buckets o' symbolism, left me utterly cold.)

So where the hell was I going with all this? Not really sure. I think about the sixties fairly frequently, but most of my positive non-musical associations are reserved for the period prior to the so-called Summer of Love; it just seemed to me that by 1968 a large segment of the population had decided to wear bad clothing, let their hair go and stop bathing, and I couldn't figure out why. Then the long, slow nightmare ride through the seventies until we hit the cultural nadir during the Carter administration (by which time the Grease soundtrack constituted about 3/5 of AM radio playlists, alternating with Disco, causing the desperate flight to FM radio. Pity those of us with no FM radio in the family car. Feel my pain.) Then Reagan and the eighties; got my license, put an AM/FM/cassette deck in the car, Elvis Costello and Warren Zevon brought sweet musical relief to my ears, and off to college. People bathed again. Skinny ties, straight leg pants, and styled hair came back (not for me personally, but in general.) And then the 90s brought back the self-absorbed angst of the late sixties, the oughts resurrected the ghastly fashion mistakes of the early seventies, and now here we are again, theoretically poised to dive back into the early sixties, possibly via the eighties. When are we going to get off the boomer treadmill and do something new that doesn't depend on ironic inversion and post-modern revisionism? As Buz said when he and Tod were kidnapped and forced to be schoolteachers, it's a new day, the world has turned on its axis, and we'd like to hear something a little more "real" than the voice of the Turtle.
RIP, Rerun.

By now I'm sure you know Fred Berry died Wednesday at the age of 52. This just struck me as incredibly sad:
He wore his red beret and suspenders in real life, and it was unclear whether he originally brought his own style to the character of Rerun or whether he was forever mimicking the character that made him famous.
Damn, I hope it was the former.

Dead at 52. 2003 has been a hell of a hard year for celebrities. Somewhere out there, Rodney Allen Rippey is probably starting to sweat.


I'd just like to reiterate:

UPS is the worst fucking delivery service on the planet. In the five days since I dropped something off in LA to be shipped back to Ohio the package managed to make it all the way to Van Nuys.



Which Ratpack member are you?

I'm Dean Martin. Eat your heart out, Paula.

[Via Allah himself, the 14th (links not working for me), who got it from Red Sugar.]
Full disclosure.

The album to the left, at the top of the navigation bar, is my younger brother's newest, freshly pressed and only available on his website and at the live shows (Dates on the website--see him live! He's funny and talented.) Personal favorites from this one: "Redneck Love Gone Bad" [She had trailerpark charm/He carved her name in his arm/Then he slept with a waitress from the bar/So she took a chain to his car/And broke the windows on the love they had/Now it's redneck love gone bad] and "You Can't Make Love to Bluegrass".

This album is as stripped down as the first one was overproduced, using only the acoustic trio he uses on the road, and he's re-recorded four of the tracks from that first one ("Bad Bad Bad", "Goodbye on a Bad Day" [goodbye, gloppy string arrangement], "Chase the Sun" and "This Old Heart") and bettered them in the process. Those familiar with his work with the Galoots in Louisville will appreciate the new versions of two of their staples, "Banjo Queen" and "Heaven Hill" (written to commemorate the burning of the old Heaven Hill distillery in Bardstown) [both from the 1998 CD "Record", now difficult to find.] The rest are new, except for a surehanded cover of Leadbelly's "When I Was a Cowboy". Highly recommended to anyone with a fondness for acoustic music and powerful voices.
Freak Magnet redux.

Back from vacation. Spent 4 hours on a plane from Phoenix to Louisville sitting next to an ersatz cowboy who consumed 6 beers in that span and announced that he was capable of blowing up the airplane with his mind (Claimed to be an ex-Green Beret. Also former member of the CID. It was like the Pizza Guy followed me on vacation.)


Envy me.

I got to see Bubba Ho-Tep on the big screen, which almost-but-not-quite makes up for failing to nail LOTR trilogy tickets. Bruce Campbell did a knockout job as the aging King; if the face wasn't quite right, at least the voice was all there.


Culture notes.

Overheard at the LACMA exhibit on French masters from the Pushkin museum:
Man: "Have you noticed how many of these paintings are French? It's like they're all Francophiles here or something."

Woman: "That's because it's...a collection of French masters. From Russia."

Man, insistently: "No...it's the whole collection. They're all Francophiles here."
Off to the races. It's like they're all hippophiles there.


There's a lesson here.

And that lesson is, stop fucking around with dangerous animals:
A California author and filmmaker who became famous for trekking to Alaska's remote Katmai coast to commune with brown bears has fallen victim to the teeth and claws of the wild animals he loved.


Treadwell's films of close-up encounters with giant bears brought him a bounty of national media attention. The fearless former drug addict from Malibu, Calif. -- who routinely eased up close to bears to chant "I love you'' in a high-pitched, sing-song voice -- was the subject of a show on the Discovery Channel and a report on "Dateline NBC." Blond, good-looking and charismatic, he appeared for interviews on David Letterman's show and "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" to talk about his bears. He even gave them names: Booble, Aunt Melissa, Mr. Chocolate, Freckles and Molly, among others.
Ok, stop right the hell there. The high-pitched chanting alone is enough to warrant a swift end; what the hell would make this idiot think they like that kind of thing? The cutsie-poo names show he failed to respect the essentially dangerous nature of the bears.
A self-proclaimed eco-warrior, he attracted something of a cult following too. Chuck Bartlebaugh of "Be Bear Aware,'' a national bear awareness campaign, called Treadwell one of the leaders of a group of people engaged in "a trend to promote getting close to bears to show they were not dangerous.
Except that they are! They're extremely fucking dangerous!

Despite that, Treadwell refused to carry firearms or ring his campsites with an electric fence as do bear researchers in the area. And he stopped carrying bear spray for self-protection in recent years. Friends said he thought he knew the bears so well he didn't need it.
Ah, yes. He knew them so well. If only the bears who ate him had been aware of how well he knew them.
U.S. Geological Survey bear researcher Tom Smith; Sterling Miller, formerly the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's top bear authority; and others said they tried to warn the amateur naturalist that he was being far too cavalier around North America's largest and most powerful predator.

"He's the only one I've consistently had concern for,'' Smith said. "He had kind of a childlike attitude about him.''
Those are the people I really despise, the ones who view all of nature as a kind of petting zoo and themselves as gloriously in tune with same. Hopefully his demise will serve as an object lesson for the next would-be natureboy.
"I told him to be much more cautious ... because every time a bear kills somebody, there is a big increase in bearanoia and bears get killed,'' Miller said.
Damn you. Damn you for coining that word.
"I thought that would be a way of getting to him, and his response was 'I would be honored to end up in bear scat.' ''
I hope he remembered that quote as the bears started to eat him.

[There's more. Via the Midwest Conservative Journal.]

Alec Baldwin feels it incumbent upon himself to intercede in Texas politics: he took a box of dog biscuits to a Democratic fundraiser, announced they were for Texas Governor Rick Perry, whom he designated Tom DeLay's "lap dog" (note the extreme cleverness of the whole "lap dog"/dog biscuit thing. Now, that's quality political commentary.) As reported by the AP, he then launched into a tirade about the Texas redistricting strategy, the CA recall, the evil Republicans, and BushBUSHBUSH! But the money quote is the reply from 'Perry spokesman' Gene Acuna:
"Mr. Baldwin's political views against President Bush and Republicans in general are well known and documented. I have no doubt that Texans will give the comments made by the star of 'Beetlejuice' all of the attention they are due."
[Via the invaluable Charles Austin.]


An atheist by any other name.

The Bright movement protests when people accuse them of a certain level of smugness, then they say things like this:
However, since we're now at the beginning of a presidential campaign, it's reasonable to ask not only President Bush, but also each of the ten contenders for the Democratic nomination to state their attitude toward Brights (designated by whatever term they choose).

We might also speculate about which of these candidates might be closet Brights? Which would evince anything like the free-thinking of Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln? Which would put forward a Bright Supreme Court nominee? Which would support self-avowed Brights in positions of authority over children?

Which of them would even include Brights in inclusive platitudes about Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims? Doing so might be good politics. Although unorganized and relatively invisible, Brights constitute a large group to whom politicians almost never appeal.
Maybe because you're unorganized and relatively invisible.
Moreover, it would be interesting to see and hear the squirming responses of the candidates to the above questions.
(Interesting that the author gloms onto Jefferson and Lincoln as would-be Brights. It puts me in mind of a number of famous people who always claim to have been Cleopatra in a previous life. Funny how ditchdiggers and sewer workers don't ever seem to get reincarnated.)

Just what the hell is this need for public approbation, anyway?


The eternal lameness of remakes.

Michele's pissed because Limp Bizkit hijacked "Behind Blue Eyes", and she worries that the younger generation will think Fred Durst wrote it. I just shake my head and shrug, since I knew people in high school who honestly thought Eric Clapton wrote "I Shot the Sheriff" and Bob Marley ripped him off.

Besides, that's not nearly as horrifying as Eddie Vedder muttering his way through "Last Kiss". Admit it.


Return of the King.

Behold the trailer here, and marvel.


Yeah, I delinked Bill Whittle.

Wanna make something of it?

He just doesn't update enough. Besides, whenever he does get around to posting something, everybody else on the blogroll will let me know.


Robert Palmer is dead.

Heart attack, Paris, age 54. 2003 has been a rough year to be a celebrity.


Fantasies of the powerless and insignificant.

From WSJ's Best of the Web:
"Actor Tony Randall has a fantasy: when he dies President Bush and Vice President Cheney show up to pay their respects but they're turned away--because his family knows he didn't like them," the Associated Press reports.
My fantasy is that when I die, George Clooney will show up to pay his respects, and my family will ask him what the fuck he was thinking when he did Solaris.



I was going to make extended reference to Martin Sheen paying Canada left-handed compliments ("You don't shoot each other."), but I decided I just don't care. [From Drudge, via Tim Blair.]

Why, oh why, oh why, oh --
Why did I ever leave Ohio?
Why did I wander to find what lies yonder
When life was so cozy at home?

Wond'ring while I wander,
Why did I fly?
Why did I roam?
Oh, why oh, why oh,
Did I leave Ohio?
Maybe I'd better go home.

--Bernstein, Comden & Green, Wonderful Town.


Good luck with that rock banjo thing.

Courtesy of the Angela the Coffee Muse, this item: Chicks to break with country scene.
The Dixie Chicks say they don't want to be a country music band any more.

Fiddle player.
Martie Maguire told Spiegel
The catalog people? Or is this, as I suspect, a German publication?
magazine: "We don't feel part of the country scene any longer, it can't be our home any more."
Am I to infer the quivering lip and the misty eye, or should I rather assume the pout of an urchin whose hand has been smacked for reaching into the cookie jar five minutes before dinnertime?
She said she was disappointed other country singers didn't back up the Dixie Chicks in their criticism of George W Bush's politics on Iraq.

"A few weeks ago, Merle Haggard said a couple of nice words about us, but that was it," Maguire complained.
Probably because the rest of the country music scene recognized that you couldn't have pulled a bigger faux pas if you had started lighting farts during a papal audience. You slipped the turd into the punchbowl; don't act so surprised nobody wanted a drink after that.
"The support we got came from others, like Bruce Springsteen."
Yeah, Bruce is also eternally in search of his own authenticity. He apparently believes New Jersey borders Nebraska. The four of you should get on like gangbusters.
Going home empty-handed from the Country Awards ceremony also made them decide to break with the scene, Maguire said.
Dingdingdingdingdingdingding!! "If you don't reward our brave dissent we're going to pack our toys and go home."
"Instead, we won three Grammys against much stronger competition.
"We don't want your stinky awards anyway." Way to burn that bridge, fiddlechick.
"So we now consider ourselves part of the big Rock 'n' Roll family."
I'll alert Ozzy. Just remember not to invite Ted Nugent to your housewarming; I don't think he's quite ready to adopt you yet.
Well, this one's just wrong.

Which Colossal Death Robot Are You?

Holy Prime Directive, you're Robocop!
The hell you say.

Well, you're neither colossal, nor technically a robot, but your arthritic lurching and dubious morals
Well, that part's true.
have found their way into the hearts of futuristic rebels and children everywhere. You walk through fire, catch bullets from the air, and you never, ever smile. Combine this with an abstract, almost random concept of duty and honour, and you have a police officer one cannot fail to adore.

Thank you, Robocop.

(Brought to you because I refuse to foreswear silly tests. Unlike some people.)

[Via Emily Jones, in a roundabout way.]


You're Egypt!

Curator of ancient mystical secrets, your life on the surface is fairly typical these days, though you are in denial about more things than most people. Nevertheless, you're trying to convince people that you're safe despite your more volatile and unstable times that seem to be behind you. You like cats a whole lot. You'd probably really appreciate The Blue Pyramid.

Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

[Via Steven Chapman. He's Mexico. Viva!]
Behold the power of my wrath.

Just the threat of a hissy fit was enough to make whoever the hell left that grill on my patio take it someplace else. At least, I guess that's what it was.


They toil not, neither do they spin.

Thanks to Bernadine for the heads up on this unbelievable bullshit:
September 14, 2003 -- THEY have cell phones. They've got e-mail. They shop free at Old Navy, McDonald's and Virgin record stores. They have free access to acupuncture treatments, yoga classes and massage therapy.

Welcome to the coddled lifestyles of New York's new "homeless" - young kids who, besides getting pampered by charities, rake in hundreds of dollars a week begging on the street.
Cell phones and e-mail.
Cell-phone toting Dawn, who like most interviewed for this story did not wish her full name revealed, is one of their number, and she's staked out a corner at Fifth Avenue and 14th Street as her begging spot.

A sign at her feet reads, "Hungry, broke and miserable . . . All I want is a warm, safe place to stay until I . . . get back home . . . or back on my feet here."

Dawn told The Post she averages $40 a day panhandling - what the new homeless called "spanging" - but recently a stockbroker handed her $600 cash, saying he'd once been in similar straits.

"I don't spend my money on drugs, so I'm able to afford a cell phone, buy clothes and go to the movies once in a while," she said. "Part of the reason I'm living like this is to get away from the material life."
Then ditch the cellphone, stop asking strangers for money, and change your motherfucking sign, you lying bitch. You're neither hungry, nor broke, nor miserable, and the cynicism with which you are manipulating the good-hearted people who hand you money for your bullshit sobstory makes me hope someone steals your phone and beats you up. Repeatedly.

Meanwhile, her boyfriend, scion of a well-to-do family, declaims,
"I don't find joy in a 9-to-5 gig," Tom told The Post. "I'm kind of happy with the way things are now. And if it ever gets to the point where I'm not, I'll change my life."
Fuck you, you goddamn parasite.

I just feel all warm and tingly thinking that the tax money of regular schmoes who hold the 9-to-5 jobs Tom so disdains is being handed to him in the form of Virgin Records coupons and Old Navy gift certs. Yes, indeed, I do.


Entertaining invective.

Via Michele at A Small Victory, this priceless rant on this year's rather lame crop of Rock'n'Roll HOF nominees.
Of course you know, this means war.

Some dumb son of a bitch here in the apartment complex had the gall, the boldfaced nerve, to leave an old, worn out propane grill on my patio. I don't care if I don't ever set foot on that goddamn patio, I pay rent for it and there will be no grills stored there that I have not purchased my own self.

Measures will be taken. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.


Unintentional hilarity.

Hipocrisy is saying one thing and doing another.

Hippocracy is government by horses.

It might be a good idea to memorize the difference between those two.

(Comments, scroll down to Posted by Jeremy on September 11, 2003 11:34 PM. I wasn't going to mention it, but it kept making me laugh.)
Mark Morford should be fired.
For offenses against the English language.
"some mutant shellacked Maria Shriver-like perma-saluting mannequin"

"all fake smiles and bleached teeth and Botoxed worry lines and pumped-up, silicone-enhanced flag-waving bravado"

"an entirely new, politically purified, blazingly conscious, peace-seeking vision"

"run roughshod over your id like an SUV crushes a bird's nest"
That's just painful.

He winds up his 9/11 retrospective with this gem:
It all comes down to this: Can you, on the deepest and most acute levels possible, in a raw and divine way that does zero dishonor to the various tragedies of your world but instead injects them all with mandatory doses of perspective and divine drunkenness and hot screaming love, can you, with every fiber or your being, with the deepest breath you can possibly take, laugh at the cosmic carnival of it all? .
No, I can't. Bite my ass, shitnugget.

[Via Michele, whose page will no longer load as I post this.]


Not for nothin'...

...but what use does Subway have for giant cans of "Country Sausage Gravy"? Do they even serve breakfast?
Never forget.

I stink at being thoughtfully somber and I don't have the eloquence to do justice to the day. These people do:

Damien Penny.
Sheila O'Malley. (And here.)
Emily Jones.
Michele Catalano. (Andrea Harris concurs.)
Ian Hamet.
James Lileks. (Second half of the entry.)
Mark Steyn.
Christopher Hitchens.



Like everyone else, I have my favorites:

10) Play It All Night Long -- Sweet Home, Alabama, play that dead band's song/turn those speakers up full blast and play it all night long.

9) Mohammed's Radio -- Don't it make you want to rock and roll, all night long.

8) Mr. Bad Example -- I'm proud to be a glutton, and I don't have time for sloth/I'm greedy and I'm angry and I don't care who I cross.

7) I'll Slow You Down -- You know I hate it when you stick your hand inside my head/And switch all my priorities around/You think you're pretty tricky but you're simply overbred/Go on without me, I'll just slow you down.

6) Turbulence -- We've been fightin' with the Mujahedin/Down in Afghanistan/Comrade Gorbachev/Can I go back to Vladivostok, man.

5) Splendid Isolation -- Don't want to wake up with no one beside me/Don't want to take up with nobody new/Don't want nobody comin' by without callin' first/Don't want nothin' to do with you.

4) Poor, Poor Pitiful Me -- Met a girl at the Rainbow Bar, she asked me if I'd beat her/She took me back to the Hyatt House...I don't want to talk about it.

3) Lawyers, Guns, and Money -- And I'm hiding in Honduras/I'm a desperate man/Send lawyers, guns and money/The shit has hit the fan.

2) Werewolves of London -- I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand/Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain...

1) Renegade -- Some prayers never reach the sky/Some wars never end/And some dreams refuse to die/Next time I would rather break than bend
Bad taste alert.

Ok, I could almost understand the Chinese not grokking the opprobrium associated with all things Hitler. The Italians, however, really ought to know better.


Depp redux.

Also via Tim Blair, Johnny Depp now claims his "dumb puppy" comments were--say it with me--taken out of context:
The magazine quoted the actor as saying "America is ... like a dumb puppy that has big teeth that can bite and hurt you, aggressive." He was further quoted as saying he wanted his children to "see America as ... a broken toy" that they should explore, get the feel of, then "get out."

Explaining his comments a day later, Depp he had been using a metaphor that was taken "radically out of context," adding, "There was no anti-American sentiment."
America as a broken toy isn't anti-American?
"What I was saying was that, compared to Europe, America is a very young country and we are still growing as a nation," he said. "My deepest apologies to those who were offended, affected, or hurt by this insanely twisted deformation of my words and intent."
Is it me, or is 'taken out of context' this decade's 'just good friends'?

Update: Ben Kepple of Ben Kepple's Daily Rant went so far as to pull the transcript for the interview in question.

Second update: The more I think about the questionable judgment exercised by the interviewee, the more I giggle. At least America doesn't have "Wino Forever" tattooed on its collective chest as the sad and tatty reminder of a lame attempt to expunge an ill-advised tribute to its neurotic goth ex-girlfriend, Johnboy.
Satchmo Berlusconi.

Via Tim Blair, this Spectator interview with Silvio Berlusconi:
We are now confronted by a new world situation. We have passed from the confrontation of two blocs because the Russian federation has decided, under the guidance of Mr Putin, to be part of Europe and the West. That is a very big fact. I had the occasion to be president of the G8 in Genoa in 2001, and I was the host of the dinner, trying to bring everyone into the conversation, and I was making jokes as usual. I asked Schroeder about his experiences with women because he has been married four times, and I made him laugh. And I decided after a while just to push my chair back from the table and let them talk, and I saw Blair joking with Chirac, and Putin joking with Bush, and I was joking with everyone, and suddenly I thought, ‘Look, here I am, a man who has felt on his skin the second world war, since I was born in 1936. I saw my father dressed as a soldier, and I thought, ‘What a wonderful world.’
I just can't help liking the guy.


Depp opens his piehole.

And to no one's particular surprise, stupidity falls out.
"America is dumb, is something like a dumb puppy that has big teeth — that can bite and hurt you, aggressive," Depp was quoted as saying.
I hope the painfully inept phrasing is due to some kind of problem with translation. If that's the original English, I'm embarrassed to say we were educated in the same state.

Of course, Depp has cheekbones. That covers a multitude of shortcomings. [Link courtesy of Paula.]


There's such a fine line between brilliant and stupid.

Two engrossing articles from Arts & Letters Daily; the first a consideration of French intellectuel and rockstar-like media darling Bernard-Henri Levy and his new book, Who Killed Daniel Pearl?, the second a review of the rather limp contributions made by writers and intellectual types in the aftermath of 9/11.

From the first:
"I am someone who thinks he can influence things," he says. "France, as Karl Marx said, is the country of politics, of the revolution and of universalism. It's these factors that maximise the role of the intellectuel and which maybe explain why there is such a large place given to these bizarre personnages, intellectuals, who proclaim 'le vrai, le juste et le bien', and who see a great nobility in political causes. It contrasts with the empiricisim, pragmatism and intellectual modesty of the Anglo-Saxon world, where there's a caution when it comes to the universal. There is no mythology about politics as there is in France. In England, politics is not a noble calling. It's a normal social activity - perhaps it's better like this."

In February 2002, his diplomatic role was made official when President Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin, his socialist prime minister, agreed - itself a rare enough event - to appoint him their special envoy in Afghanistan with a brief to advise them on the role French culture could play in a future aid programme. The idea of France sending a philosopher to a war zone was greeted with amusement internationally. At a time when the US was deploying combat aircraft, missiles and special forces to eradicate Taliban forces sheltering al Qaeda terrorists, Levy's arrival in Kabul captured the very essence of all the deep and longstanding differences in the way the world is viewed in Washington and in Paris.

But on Paris's Left Bank, where Levy and Dombasle maintain one of their sumptuous residences, his recommendations were received in deadly earnest. Le Monde, the pre-eminent newspaper of the French establishment, devoted more than 3,000 words to extracts from the 100-page report, which Levy submitted to the president and the prime minister in early April 2002. Its somewhat surreal proposals included training Afghan army officers at Saint-Cyr, the French military academy; the creation of an "Afghan ecole Nationale d'Administration" to imbue the civil service with Cartesian rationality ("We did it in Algeria, why not in Kabul?"); the establishment of a French cultural centre in Kabul; and the formation of a crack team of "hussars to spread the values of 1789" through the Afghan towns and villages.
This is precisely the kind of thought process that I find so perplexing in the French--is this really the best they can do? This is the best their educated elite can come up with? Hussars? And just what the hell are the values of 1789, apart from lopping the heads off the people who don't agree with you and dictating the price of bread?

Anyway. The second article is interesting for slightly different reasons, as a general reminder of the response of the international intelligentsia to 9/11, which ranged from the merely stupid (Alice Walker: "I firmly believe the only punishment that works is love.") to the outright offensive (Karlheinz Stockhausen: "the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos.") It seems harsh to say that no creative types rose to the occasion, but I'm damned if I can think offhand of any who did.


Peter and the Lupine-American.

Via the Corner: Bill Clinton violates the classics.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sergei Prokofiev's musical fairy tale Peter and the Wolf is popular with children but not with wolf lovers, and two former world leaders -- Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev -- aim to put that right in a new recording.

They have teamed up in a new recording that couples the tale with a contemporary version featuring the same two protagonists but a very different ending.

Prokofiev's version ends with Peter capturing the wolf and leading a triumphant procession to the zoo, paining music-loving environmentalists with romantic visions of wolves in the wild.

In the new version, narrated by former U.S. president Clinton and called Wolf Tracks, Peter again captures the wolf, but this time repents of his act and releases the animal, who howls a grateful goodbye.

"Forgetting his triumph, Peter thought instead of fallen trees, parched meadows, choked streams, and of each and every wolf struggling for survival," Clinton narrates.

"The time has come to leave wolves in peace," he adds.
So now Peter's just going to abandon his erstwhile friend, the duck, and let the wolf eat him? What about the duck's struggle for existence?
French composer Jean-Pascal Beintus wrote the score for the new wolf-friendly version while former Soviet leader Gorbachev provides an introduction and epilogue.
Ok...so no Prokofiev, either. What about this piece is going to persuade me to buy it, if I don't agree with its obviously lupicentric appeasement politics?
"In Prokofiev's classic, man dominates, but Wolf Tracks expresses quite different values of balance and tolerance. All of us hope for a future where these values are lived every day," Gorbachev said.
Oh, fuck you. It's still a wolf, and it's still going to eat the duck. Is that the future you're looking forward to, you swine?

There are recorded versions by everyone (including Peter Ustinov, Patrick Stewart, Jose Ferrer, Jack Lemmon, Dudley Moore, John Gielgud, Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, PDQ Bach, Captain Kangaroo, Dom Deluise, Sting, and David Bowie) already out there. My personal favorite version features Sean Connery. I can't imagine buying this.
Nice mental image.

The BBC’s credibility is floating in the Thames like a gangster’s corpse.
Geez, Tim, tell us what you really think.


Language peeve of the day.

Grizzly vs. grisly: the first is a bear, the second a synonym for "bloody" or "gruesome". Try not to confuse them.
Zevon on VH1 tonight.

Which is good, because I missed it Sunday. 8 Eastern.

Part of me is wondering if they're just going to run it in heavy rotation until he finally drops.
Two Towers comes out on DVD today.

And yet somehow I'm not moved to rush out and buy it. I guess the elf army showing up at Helm's Deep bothered me more than I thought it would.

And I don't think I need a statuette of Gollum. Bookended towers would have been nicer.



This is why I hate the NY press coverage of the Mets.

Joel Sherman, covering Piazza's return to the lineup from the DL last night (where Piazza was 3 for 5 with 5 RBI in their 9-2 stomping of the Giants):
"I don't want Steve Trachsel or Al [Leiter] to suffer for my learning on the job," Piazza said in explaining why he is not playing first. Of course, Piazza never offered the same concerns about them suffering due to his clumsy receiving and woeful throwing as a catcher. It is just another lame excuse to avoid what should really be done. The Mets are only playing for the future now, and Piazza should be playing first base every other day to provide his organization clues about how to construct future rosters.
Yeah, his catching skills are so clumsy Trachsel allowed one damn run and four hits in seven innings. I absolutely despise the way Sherman and Klapieceofshit and a number of other press pinheads in New York have taken the bit in their teeth about moving Piazza to first and will not relent, even when his performance proves them wrong.
Enterprise redux.

Evidently Greg took offense to my dismissal of Rick Berman's latest Star Trektm brand schlock, "Enterprise". [See 8/6 post "Enterprise", below.]
I'm tired of hearing people whine about Enterprise. People criticize it without watching it. You say, "Yeah, I've watched it." No, you haven't. You looked at it but you didn't watch it.
I viewed an episode. I wasn't aware that I had to commit to a full season before uttering a word of criticism.
And again, why can't people say "I don't like it." instead of "It sucks."?
In my case, because I was disappointed by its lameness, and in my judgment, it sucked.
It's more true to the orignal series than any of the others. Space exploration without much support from home. No holodeck. No transporter to get them out of every little jam. And no reconfiguring the sensor array to emit a tachyon pulse every time something gets in their way. Archer is a "down to earth" (pardon the expression) Captain. He's not a tea-sipping Shakespeare quoter like Picard, a messiah wannabe like Sisco, or an "I've been a science offcier so I can solve any problem on my own, why do I need the rest of you" bore like Janeway. There are some bad shows out there, people. Some bad, bad, bad TV goin on. This ain't part of it. You know what "sucks"? Stargate SG-1. Don't have even see the eye makeup wearing black guy to know its faggot food.
That's damning with faint praise, if the best you can say about "Enterprise" is that it's better than all other other horrifyingly bad series Berman's produced. Whether it's "faggot food" or not never crossed my mind.
Chicago sucks. Hate the town, hate the cast, hate musicals. Never saw it. Never gonna. Also faggot food.
The fact that you're closed-minded about musicals as a genre, in combination with the fact that you haven't actually seen it, pretty much renders your judgment on whether Chicago sucks or not moot. That's like someone who hates westerns passing judgment on The Searchers (or Bob Klapieceofshit passing judgment on the Mets. But I digress.) I've watched Star Trek literally since infancy, and this show, in my estimation, was as painfully pointless and derivative as TNG. I concede it's possible I saw the worst single episode of the show, but it sure as hell didn't make me want to see any more.

Btw, my father, not exactly a faggot, enjoyed Chicago immensely.
The West Wing sucks. Painfully obvious liberal platform and cast. Where's Squeaky Fromm and John Hinkley when you need em?
Well, yes, "West Wing" does suck.
And I'm tired of people complaining about the theme song to Enterprise. Sorry you don't got a new blaring orchestra piece to add to your dusty John Williams collection. Grow up, stand up and walk out of the comic book shop and into the sunlight.
What the hell? I'll put my musical tastes up against yours any day of the week. Nor do I frequent comic book shops, not that it would be relevant if I did.
It was a Rod Stewart song. If you actually listened to it, and I know not one of you did, it fits the Star Trek ideal completely. If you don't like Rod Stewart, too bad. He didn't sing it for the series, Russel Watson did. It's the most innovative, appropriate opening I've seen for a series in a long time and it's wasted on you closed-minded, unimaginative people as is the show.
I don't care who sang it, nor do I care about its pedigree. I physically cringed when I heard it, and that's where I draw the line. If Celine Dion suits your ideal of Star Trek, fine, but it doesn't suit mine.