Sat 14 January 2006
Some notes on Alex in Punditland
This was an idea I scribbled in my sketchbook upon waking one morning and decided to turn into the Friday the Thirteenth nightmare. Naturally, it turned out longer than I bargained for, even though I kept cutting it. In some ways, the final script represents which ideas ended up with drawings I liked. For example, the car originally had a balloony-looking driver who never spoke, and Alex eventually realized he was just a part of the car. But I never liked my drawings of the driver, so, there ended up being no driver.
The radio speech is stuff from Rush Limbaugh's book, which I got from a scholarly paper on his rhetorical use of different metaphors, but with all the "triggers" taken out. Like, everywhere it says "liberals" or "feminists" or "America" or whatever.
Some of the language during the "pack of heads" scene is taken directly from the end of Alice in Wonderland.
Alex's outfit is intended to be a punkified version of what Alice wears in the John Tenniel illustrations, but too small for her -- an adult wearing a child's clothes. The Tenniel illustrations -- or, rather, the reproduced engravings of them, though as a kid I had no idea that they weren't the same thing -- are one of my earliest and most enduring artistic influences. So, it was time for a homage.
Permalink : Alex in Punditland
Sat 14 January 2006
It's sad that some liberals are trying to take the Robbie Burns out of Chinese New Year. But you can help save the holiday at GungHaggisFatChoy
People aren't as weight judgmental as they used to be. Or, maybe not.
Over a 20-year period, the percentage of Americans who said they find overweight people less attractive steadily dropped from 55 percent to 24 percent.
The survey ... also found that obese boys and girls were half as likely to date as normal-weight kids.
Attitudes on obesity are lightening up, poll finds
Yesterday, apparently, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito was "unflappable." But his wife, Martha-Ann Bomgardner, left the room in tears. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. (a guy), said, "Judge Alito, I'm sorry that you've had to go through this. I am sorry that your family has had to sit here and listen to this."
Um. Right. Mean, mean Democrats...how DARE they ask searching questions of somebody who, if approved, is GOING TO BE ONE OF THE 9 MOST POWERFUL PEOPLE IN THE WHOLE COUNTRY. Look, if you can't take being asked searching questions for days on end, maybe you're just not cut out to be a Supreme Court judge.
Or, you know, if Alito doesn't have a problem with it, but his wife does, maybe she should stay home. Hey, you ever notice how those right wing types are always talking about how great it is for women to be in their "proper place in the home" and yet all their poster girls are never there?
But that's the right wing for you. It's all about what they think other people should do.
(To be fair, liberals do that sort of thing too. For example, urban liberals think that other people should ride the bus to work.)
Alito's wife leaves Supreme Court hearing in tears
Speaking of right wing poster girls, here's a recent gem of mind-blowing illogic from Phyllis Schlafly's (I wish an) Eagle (would peck out her eyes) Forum. (Okay, not literally, as such, peck out her actual physical eyes. But it really gets up my nose that right wingers are always eagle this and eagle that, when, if they had their way, the Endangered Species Act would vanish in a puff of industrial smoke and there wouldn't even BE any eagles to get all misty about. So anybody who uses an iconic American Bald Eagle, and isn't an environmentalist is a big fat hypocrite. And an idiot.)
Where was I? Oh, yeah.
Fact v. Fiction #1: Some evolutionists who claim to be Christians — but also evolutionists who label themselves "theistic evolutionists" — argue that God could have used the evolutionary process hypothesized by Darwin to create the universe. But evolutionism reduces man to an animal. Theism, conversely presents man as made in the image of God. If man is an animal, but man is also made in the image of God, what does that make God?
Fact v. Fiction #2: Evolutionists claim that their battle against creation-science is primarily a "scientific" issue, not a constitutional question. But our treasured U. S. Constitution is written by persons and for persons. If man is an animal, the Constitution was written by animals and for animals. This preposterous conclusion destroys the Constitution. The Aguillard Humanists leave us with no Constitution and no constitutional rights of any kind if they allow us to teach only that man is an animal.
(Emphasis in the original)So...if man isn't an animal, what is he? Mineral, perhaps? (Of course, Ms. Schlafly, I've known for years that you've got rocks in your head where the rest of us have squishy biological thinking brains.)
Anyway, while the "arguments" above make me feel my head is going to explode like a confused Star Trek robot, it is somewhat refreshing to see the right wing case against evolution presented so nakedly. They don't like it because they don't like seeing humans as connected to nature in any way. We are not animals; we are not subject to the laws of nature. Food, sex, sleep, pain, illness, death -- none of that applies to us. We are creatures -- no, not creatures, beings -- of pure personhood, divine and unsullied. We barely have bodies at all.
So, Ms. Schlafly, if you really believe all that...jump off a cliff and see what happens.
"On Men and Monkeys: The Oldest Fight in the Culture War, II."
For years, University of Washington neighbors have argued that the city of Seattle is creating firetraps by allowing landlords to stack renters into houses like cordwood.
Rules allowing eight unrelated people to live in a single home, or 16 in a duplex, have encouraged owners to convert once-stately mansions into crowded rooming houses or student party pads.
As a sometimes consumer, and friend of consumers, of "crowded rooming houses or student party pads," this article raises my hackles considerably. Note the extremely loaded wording: "stacked like cordwood" "once-stately mansions." It was prompted by a genuine deadly fire in a genuine U-district rooming house, but even the article states "investigators have not documented any fire code violations that contributed to last week's accidental fire."
Crowded rooming houses are a natural and inevitable response to high housing prices and low wages. I suspect that neighbors with money hate them because they don't always look nice (keeping the already inflated property values from rising even more), and because they cause extra cars parking on the road -- extra people, extra traffic, extra noise. Just don't come to me pretending that you're all concerned about fire safety violations.
Multitenant homes in U District a fire safety concern
I have sometimes restated the info-bit that Albert Hofmann, the chemist who invented LSD, still thinks of it as a valuable drug. He turned 100 recently, which prompted this feature article on the "Father of LSD". I didn't know that LSD was actually synthesized by isolating the hallucinogenic compound from ergot, the mold that grows on rye and is hypothesized to be related to some outbreaks of witch-hunting.
[Hofmann] calls LSD "medicine for the soul" and is frustrated by the worldwide prohibition that has pushed it underground. "It was used very successfully for 10 years in psychoanalysis."
But the drug was hijacked by the youth movement of the 1960s and then unfairly demonized, he said. He concedes LSD can be dangerous and calls its promotion by Timothy Leary and others "a crime."
"It should be a controlled substance with the same status as morphine," he said.
Sleep inertia -- the real medical reason that we're all stupid in the morning.
People awakening after eight hours of sleep have more impaired thinking and memory skills than someone kept awake for 24 hours -- equivalent to being drunk.
... The results showed the most severe impairment from sleep inertia in the first three minutes after awakening, and that level of grogginess dissipated within another seven minutes, although effects were detectable in some subjects for up to two hours.
Permalink : Zeitgeist 060113
Sat 14 January 2006
From the "whacky left"
Okay, not only do I have to put up with three more years of a president I can't stand. I have to put up with being called a "whack-job" on national television by some pundit named Chris Matthews. From the November 28 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:
MATTHEWS: I like him. Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs, maybe on the left -- I mean -- like him personally.
Hey, Matthews, I'd tell you exactly what you can do with your asinine opinions, but this is a PG blog. Or, well, here:
MCGALLIARD: I just hate him. There's just something about him -- his voice, his face, his gestures -- I mean, personally, he really gets up my nose. Everybody sort of hates him, except for the real crazoids, maybe on the right -- you know, those people think he's God or something. But normal people hate him.
Quick quiz, tell me the difference between my quote and Matthew's quote. Okay, there are two. Number one, I'm not on national television. Number two, I freely admit I am just making stuff up. I mean, it's true about me hating Bush, in a visceral way that applied even before he was president and had done anything to make me hate him in a more principled, informed way. The guy just bugs me. He always has. But I don't think that's necessarily the norm, even the norm among people who hate him now, although it's certainly common. Whatever it is that makes some people like him personally (I claim, pure sociopathic smarm. You know, people liked Ted Bundy, too, except for the people who were creeped out by him) makes other people hate him personally.
And I really don't appreciate being called a "whack-job" on national television by some talking head goober who's never even met me.
Permalink : From the "whacky left"
Sat 14 January 2006
Nothing to fear
Some say, "If you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear."
I say, "Rotten green fuzzy baloney."
The Bush apologists out there are responding predictably and defending his secret, warrantless spying on Americans as constitutional, legal, no big deal anyway, and the real crime here is the leak about his spying to the New York Times.
If you are tempted to believe any one of those points -- snap out of it! If you think warrantless domestic spying is okay because you wuv wuv wuv George Bush and think he's the bestest president ever (Harriet Meiers...has left the building), imagine Clinton doing the same thing. Would you be outraged then?
Then you should bloody well be outraged now! American democracy is supposed to be about the rule of law, not unlimited imperial power concentrated in the hands of the president. We have no divine right of kings here. We have elected officials who are expected to obey the same rules as ordinary Americans. In fact, elected officials are considered to be ordinary Americans. You could run for president. I could run for president. We wouldn't win, because we're not well-connected millionaires. But we could run. God bless America.
And if you think that warrantless spying is, well, warranted because of 9/11 -- that Bush administration "get out of jail free" card -- then think again. Cheney claims it has "prevented another attack," without being able to demonstrate that they have used it to catch any terrorists. What, is it supposed to be a deterrent or something? Except it's secret! So, no!
And if you're actually trying to catch terrorists, what're you doing spying on Quakers? Quick, a little quiz. Who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks? Was it --
- Peace activists
- Saudi nationals with probable Al Qaeda connections
- The Bush administration
- A bunch of crazy hate-filled maniacs
B and D answers are acceptable, C is paranoid but interesting. A means you are a complete idiot.
Speaking of Cheney, I think this quote explains his position concisely:
"Watergate and a lot of the things around Watergate and Vietnam, both during the 1970s, served, I think, to erode the authority I think the president needs to be effective, especially in the national security area. Especially in the day and age we live in...the president of the United States needs to have his constitutional powers unimpaired, if you will, in terms of the conduct of national security policy."
So, really, he's just been in a snit since Watergate made the peasants cautious about trusting the president too much. Dirty peasants, don't know what's good for 'em.
And as for his claim that it would have prevented 9/11, because "we didn't know they were here plotting until it was too late" -- um -- look, if they already had a memo called "Al Qaeda plans attack in the US," what more were they going to get by unwarranted wiretapping? (Washington Post).
I must confess, too, that I'm having difficulty reconciling the NRA rebel-yell cold-dead-fingers pro-Bush constituency with the "spying is okay as long as Republicans do it" viewpoint. Maybe it's not the same people...but it sure seems like it. I picture some guy standing out on his barn roof brandishing a rifle at the black helicopter, shouting, "Ye'll never take my gun ye government varmints!" The helicopter lands and a couple of goons in suits get out. They say, "But we're Republicans." The guy says, "Well, okay then," and hands over the rifle without a fuss.
Related: Just when you thought it was safe to wear your "Impeach Bush" shirts to the flag-hearting good time Bush rally, along comes The Patriot Act: Part II: The Final (that is, permanent) Chapter.
The new bill adds language prohibiting people from "willfully and knowingly" entering a restricted area "where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting." The measure also applies to security breaches "in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance" and doubles the prison time for those found in violation (from six months to a year).
"It's cementing the trend of the Secret Service basically acting to arrest or harass or control dissenters, and now not just at presidential events but at other events," said Timothy H. Edgar, the ACLU's national security counsel.
And now, here it is, my little contribution to the spook words project:
Al Qaeda, Taliban, Iraq, assassinate, 9/11, bomb, George W. Bush, kill the president, kill the wabbit, POTUS, SCOTUS, FLOTUS, GOATUS, uranium, plutonium, strontium, target, airplane, train, bridge, tunnel, ship, tower, building, kidnap, torture, Afghanistan, explosives, C4, nuclear, infidel, Allah, Satan, suicide bomber, rebellion, echelon, New York, Washington DC, Seattle, White House, Congress, Senate, Supreme Court, satellite, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, tinker, tailor, soldier, spy, insurgent, Osama bin Laden, Bert and Ernie, jihad, police, Secret Service, FBI, National Security Agency, wiretap, surveillance, carnivore, PeTA, death, destruction, glock 26, glockenspiel, rail gun, nail gun
Permalink : Nothing to fear
Sat 14 January 2006
Loose lips sink ships
"The American people know the difference between responsible and irresponsible debate when they see it. And they know the difference between a loyal opposition that points out what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right. I ask all Americans to hold their elected leaders to account and demand a debate that brings credit to our democracy — not comfort to our adversaries."
George W. Bush in a January 10 speech to Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Hmm...what's worse..."irresponsible" debate over a war, or an irresponsible war?
This little quote brings up something that Iraq War cheerleaders have been remarkably vague on -- who, exactly, ARE our ADVERSARIES? Because the party line says it's not the Iraqis -- supposedly we are "liberating" them -- but then when war critics point out that we're not treating the ordinary Iraqi citizens very well, war cheerleaders come back with some variation of "well, we're at war with them." But we're not supposed to be at war WITH the Iraqi people! We're at war...I dunno, on their behalf or something. And is it really a war? I mean, it's certainly a war whenever the Bush administration wants to make claims like "we're at war! You can't criticize the president!" But supposedly we went to war to oust Saddam Hussein, who was ousted after -- what -- a couple of weeks? Ever since then, going on three years now, we have been there, bombing and being bombed, in what seems like...kind of...more of a...you know..."police action" sort of thing. Our "enemy" is a vaguely defined "insurgency" which may or may not be driven by "foreign agitators," or may be made up of disenfranchised former Iraqi military, or may be "terrorists" or who knows.
Bush makes many grand pronouncements of the "stay the course! Victory eventually!" variety, without even clearly defining what victory even is. Didn't we already have "victory" as defined by the original stated purpose of the war? Isn't Saddam Hussein on trial for war crimes? Didn't we find out there were no "weapons of mass destruction"? Isn't the proper response at that point to say "sorry," give the Iraqi people money to rebuild the stuff we destroyed, and go home?
The Republican party line accuses Democrats and war critics of wanting to "cut and run," which sounds sort of bad, but what is the alternative? Stick around bombing people until we get tired of it? And that's better somehow? More noble?
I realize I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that if our presence there, as managed by the Bush administration, were capable of establishing peace, it would already have done so. Our strategy (whatever it is) isn't working. So what are we doing there? Why are we still killing and being killed?
I don't get it. Nothing about the Iraq war has ever made any sense to me, and if Bush thinks saying that is "irresponsible" then...well, I, personally, am a member of the "American people" and I think I do know the difference between responsible and irresponsible when I see it. And I think that when you're the president, trying to shut people up just because you don't like their questions -- because you don't have any answers -- is about as irresponsible as it gets.
Permalink : Loose lips sink ships
Sat 14 January 2006
A king-sized disappointment. Overlong and self-indulgent, as if Peter Jackson has already reached the point in his career that certain novelists do: where nobody has the guts to tell him he needs to cut something. And cuts would certainly have helped, as every single scene lasts to the point where the dramatic tension drains out of it, and anything that happens once tends to happen twice -- as if Jackson were worried we wouldn't get it. Or perhaps, as is often the way with pet projects, he simply couldn't bear to let go.
The movie fails on the most basic level of any remake: I wished I were watching the original. It is kind of interesting to realize that the very latest in computer animation doesn't manage to be more convincing than a stop-motion puppet from 1930. And it is also interesting that the past seventy years of developing political correctness somehow yielded Skull Island natives who are more savage and inexplicable than the rough stereotypes in the original. (It isn't the fact that they like to dress up in skulls and sacrifice an exotic blonde stranger to their giant monkey-god that I'm talking about here -- that's all required by the plot. It's the fact that they seem barely lingual, unable to feed themselves adequately, and without construction skills.)
In fact, this movie is a perfect example of what is wrong with modern movies compared to classics from the thirties and forties: it is more concerned with showing us cool-looking stuff than in telling a story.
I'm serious. Watch an old classic sometime and note how much of the story they've already told in the first fifteen minutes. In modern movies -- especially modern blockbuster epics -- fifteen minutes in they're still doing establishing shots. Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy avoided this somewhat, because he was working with an epic story to begin with. With Kong, he's working from...a movie. Further, a movie less than half as long as his own movie.
(Note: Serenity totally did not do this. It was blam-blam-blam story all the way through. It was awesome. Watch it.)
Jackson's Kong is not utterly without charm. It is, of course, gorgeous. The recreation of Depression-era New York is breathtakingly convincing, like cinematic time travel. And some of the little touches work perfectly, like the shot of Adrian Brody as the screenwriter typing away behind the bars of an animal cage, or a shot stopping to mourn the broken men who have fallen to the bottom of a ravine which also stops to mourn the broken and exposed canister of film. Jackson clearly loved this movie. But he loved it without reservation or judgment.
Probably his worst miscalculation is in the way he develops the Beauty and the Beast story which forms the heart of the movie. He chose to make Ann Darrow's (Naomi Watts) eventual acceptance of Kong explicit rather than implicit, which in itself was not a bad move. The problem is that the story is clearly over as soon as Beauty learns to love the Beast, which happens here before they even get him back to New York.
This causes all sorts of pacing, dramatic, and plot problems that were completely unnecessary. For example, her tearful reaction to the ship's crew successfully chloroforming and capturing Kong is pretty much exactly the same as her tearful reaction to when airplanes kill him on top of the Empire State Building. This takes what could have been a real tearjerker moment (and is, in the original) and renders it tedious and drawn out, because we've already seen it. And it makes her behavior on Skull Island a little inexplicable. Is she actually trying to escape from Kong with love interest Adrian Brody? She looks a little reluctant to leave. And if she really doesn't want them to capture Kong, why doesn't she work harder to stop them? All she does here is a lot of slow-motion shouting of "Noooooooo!" and reaching out her arms while members of the ship's crew hold her back.
Also, and I just feel I have to mention this, the giant flesh-eating bats are completely unconvincing. Yes, I know they're meant to be some kind of super jumbo creepy atavistic critter, like the giant flesh-eating slugworms, but their behavior as animals doesn't make a lot of sense (if they're supposed to be something like giant prehistoric vampire bats, why do they ignore the humans completely and not feed on Kong until he's awake? And bats simply don't swarm like that. No, not even prehistoric ones.) Also, their slimy toothy faces looks suspiciously reptilian. Bats are mammals, Jackson, I know you know that. They're cute and furry, just like Kong.
Just thought I'd mention it.
Overall, the movie wasn't actually painful to sit through, which elevates it above other recent good-director-misfires involving monkeys (Planet of the Apes) and giant rampaging humanoids (The Hulk). I wasn't so much bored as impatient and unmoved. And, as noted, wishing I were watching the original instead.
Permalink : King Kong