Monday, August 31, 2009

Going with the Flow

The other day, when doing a little factchecking for the Voice, I found, which is full of interactive organizational and cross-connective flowcharts. It doesn't seem entirely complete to me--and I notice Disney's Marvel buyout isn't represented yet--but I still think it's a fascinating tool. (Here's the map on Joel Coen, to choose someone innocuous. And here's the one on FreedomWorks, one of the organizations ginning up the healthcare protests.) It might work better as a monitored wiki: Enough participation to allow passionate people to include minutia, but with a few guiding hands to keep the tinfoil hats from running wild.

Still... feels a bit like A Beautiful Mind, dunnit?


Holy Freaking Cow

Disney buys Marvel.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Good morning, you flourescent beautiful and terrifying sex chimpanzees of the noosphere.

Yes, the Robot 6 blog has some goodies today. Foremost of which is this random Talk Like Warren Ellis generator. (Which reminded me of the Dialectizer, an old Internet site that could translate other sites into different dialects, including Swedish Chef-speak.)

Plus, an enterprising fan has made it possible to track the progress of the Walking Dead survivors on Google Maps! (Spoliers abound, though... read with care!)


In Bruges

Y'know, I see good movies every once in a while, too.

In Bruges is one of them. Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell play two hitmen sent to Bruges to lay low after an assassination goes horribly wrong. Farrell's character, Ray, has killed a child with a stray bullet, and is heartsick at his actions. Gleason's Ken considers himself his babysitter as he works through it.

They're in the city of Bruges, particularly, for a reason, and it's not necessarily the reason you might think. Ray hates the town, finding it stuffy and boring; Ken loves its history, architecture and beauty.

A few other characters round out the cast. They stumble onto a film set and meet Chloe (Clémence Poésy), a pretty local girl, and Jimmy (Jordan Prentice), a dwarf who's acting in a Eurotrash dream sequence for the film. Both are full of surprises. There's also Marie (Thekla Reuten), the proprietor of the bed and breakfast they stay at, and Harry (Ralph Fiennes), the hitmen's uncompromising boss.

There are wrinkles and complications. Characters appear in one scene, then return in unexpected ways. There are several opportunities for the film to make a conventional choice, and it unfailingly chooses the opposite. If the film has a flaw, it's that some of the connections are a bit too pat. For instance, it seems a bit too much coincidence that one character, seeking a gun (if that's indeed what he's looking for), goes to Harry's local supplier just when Harry arrives. Then again, I might have missed a bit of dialogue that explained it.

There are little coincidences all over, and most of them work just fine. It is, as one character says, a magical fairyland of a town, and in fairy tales, there are certain things you just accept.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Leftovers Again?

Blood Freak.

I can't believe I've seen this movie twice now. In the same year. I can't help but hope that it'll be the last time... but worry that I'll sit through it again, on some other late night, with some other friend.

This time, I rewound the second-to-last scene--an unwittingly ironic lecture by the Droning Cigarette Man--over and over, watching it three times, just losing it every time. It's unreal.

I haven't found it online yet, and I worry that if I do, it just won't be as funny to anyone who hasn't been beaten down by the first 70 minutes.

This may not just be the worst movie I've ever seen. This might be the worst movie there is.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Compassion and its Consequences

I'm struggling with this.

It's been dominating my thoughts since I heard of it, and I can't stop turning it over in my head.

As I said to my friend in the comments to my last post, I think Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's release on compassionate grounds of the terminally ill Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was a good act. It's a brazen act of compassion, one that demands attention.

And I do think there's a difference between compassion and forgiveness. Al-Megrahi hasn't been forgiven, and he won't be. He was returned home in spite of his crimes, not because the slate had been washed clean.

But in practical terms, does it matter? 270 people are dead because of him. They didn't get mercy. Soon, Al-Megrahi will be dead of cancer. Scotland has given him shown him mercy as to where he dies, but no one can change when.

I distrust the concept of "victim's rights," as it is normally applied. It seems to me, in a just society, that the people directly hurt by a crime are the very last people who should decide the punishment. Justice doesn't bring catharsis like revenge does.

But eight years in prison for 270 deaths? Is that justice? I don't think there's any stretch of the imagination that could say that it is. But I wonder: What if the cancer claimed him two days ago? What if he spent the same amount of time in prison, but died there? It's still eight years, but no one would be saying justice wasn't served.

And I think that's the nut of it. On the one side is the good act of letting a sick man return home to die. On the other side is justice -- the need to mete out a proper punishment for his horrible crime.

I think that's why I can't stop thinking about this. Life's not fair, of course -- it's so true it's a cliche. But usually, when justice fails, it falls victim to selfishness, greed, or even expediency. It's a rare thing, I think, to see goodness and justice at odds... and even rarer to see goodness win out.

So which is better, justice or goodness? Which should we strive for, fairness or mercy? As it stands, I'm no closer to finding an answer to that than when I started this essay. But two days ago, before this bold act, I wasn't truly aware of the question.


Thursday, August 20, 2009


This video of Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, explaining his decision to release one of the Lockerbie bombers who is now terminally ill with prostate cancer, is worth watching. And worth remembering.


Are YOU Ready?

You better be.


What's David Mamet Doing These Days?

He's writing the script to The Diary of Anne Frank.

(And all kidding aside: No, really.)

Best of the Fest

Now that I'm back from the Philadelphia Folk Festival, I figure I oughta mention the music. (I'll save the other fun for a separate post.) I was blown away by a few acts -- two of them local, strangely enough. Wissahickon Chicken Shack is a terrific honky-tonk combo, much too twangy for Kathy but hitting exactly the right notes for me. And some songs, like "Queen of the World," are just wonderful, wispy pop.

Then there's Slo-Mo featuring Mic Wrecka, a hip-hop/dance band that I honestly was surprised were at the fest, but boy was I glad they were. They had one set, on Sunday, and they were really the highlight of the day for me.

Another highlight was Caravan of Thieves, a gypsy acoustic swing band with a great, dark sense of humor, the guts to do a wonderful cover of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, and the talent to pull it off.

The Decemberists played Saturday afternoon, offering a powerful, muscular rendition of their new album, The Hazards of Love, from start to finish -- and then following it up with a few other tunes, including the haunting "Eli, the Barrow Boy."

And there there's Iron and Wine. In this case, Sam Beam played alone on the large folk festival stage, just filling it up with his voice, his guitar, and the longing and emptiness he conveys with them. I'd never heard his song "The Trapeze Swinger" before Saturday night, but I'm not likely to forget it.

And come to think of it, I should also mention Sara Hickman, the always-wonderful Ellis Paul, Tom Rush, The Folk Brothers (I'm still singing their ode to a dead mouse), Deer Tick, Cresson Street Vibration and Burning Bridget Cleary. All entertained the heck outta me.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

God left the ground to circle the Earth

Well, we're off to Fest. Enjoy some Iron and Wine... they're playing Saturday.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Recommended, Sight Half-Seen

One of my favorite filmmakers (Errol Morris) had a conversation with one of my favorite charlatans (Ricky Jay). About (what else?) lying. I haven't even read part two yet, but I'm sure it's every bit as good as part one. Go see.


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Are you sure that's Rated G?

Okay, so Chris and I were watching an old episode of Password with Florence Henderson and Jack Carter as the celebrity guests. (Chris dubbed the pre-Brady Henderson as "The Golden Age Florence Henderson" -- she was incredibly cute, smart and clever in a short pixie-cut hairdo.)

Anyway, the host offhandedly mentions that Jack Carter was going to be in a movie called The Extraordinary Seamen -- which made Beavis and I burst out laughing, naturally. Who'd title a movie that, these days?

Looking it up on IMDB, it turns out it was a John Frankenheimer joint. But the incing on the cake was Carter's character's name: Chief Gunner's Mate Orville Toole.


Friday, August 07, 2009

The Modern World Has Ruined Me For the Classics

So I'm listening to Bill Bryson's biography of Shakespeare (or, more accurately, his book about what we know or don't know about Shakespeare, and how and why we know or don't know it), and every single time he mentions Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway, I picture:

Not that I'm complaining.

(This has been a another Thinly-Veiled Reason to Post a Photo of Someone Dreamy. You're Welcome.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Getting Rid of the Weight

From here on out, my weight-loss updates will have their own blog. It's a matter of daily motivation, it's a matter of me not wanting to overwhelm this blog with a daily update, and it's a matter of me learning Wordpress. So unless something crazy spectacular happens (like I lose an arm, and probably like 10 pounds!), you can find my weight updates at my new side blog, Weight That Can't Be Carried.


Shocking New Evidence

Apparently Vinne Barbarino was born in Kenya! Who knew?

(click image to embiggen)

Make your own Fake Kenyan Birth Certificate, just like the actual racists Birthers!


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Shaddup Shuttin' Up.

Now that Congress is in recess, with the Senate soon to follow, congresspeople have gone home to their districts to meet with constituents and discuss healthcare reform. And those who are for it are getting ambushed right and left, as this Rachel Maddow video shows.

Legislators are being shouted down at their town hall meetings, unable to make themselves heard. Even regular people who support reform are getting shouted down. These confrontations aren't spontaneous, and they're not local. It’s all part of the lobbying group FreedomWorks' tactics to gin up an angry mob whenever there’s a forum to address legitimate questions by people who have doubts about the plan: Intimidate the speaker, intimidate the questioner, and just shut down conversation altogether.

Now, this tactic—reminiscent of Bill O’Reilly’s “Shut up! Shut up!” tirades before cutting off a caller’s microphone—may backlash. As Jonathan Martin points out, those angry people holding up pictures of a congressman in devil horns and signs with Nazi SS lettering look crazy, and may become prevalent enough to paint the whole anti-reform crowd with that brush. (See also: hanging congressmen in effigy.) So this whole thing might collapse upon itself like the teabaggers (FreedomWorks' last project).

But letting things go far enough for a backlash to happen naturally would be a mistake. Especially since things have already gotten so bad that Fox’s wild-eyed rabble-rouser Glenn Beck has had to remind people to avoid violence in these confrontations.

So what can be done?

We’ve had a couple days of these things, now, and we have their playbook, so we essentially know how they work. While I’d love the see a vigorous crowd supporting healthcare reform at these meetings (and they are there, they’re just not shouting), it’s troublesome to add anything to an angry mob—things could get ugly fast if fire were fought with fire.

There’s the Bush solution, of course: Pre-screen everyone who comes, keeping anyone who disagrees outside, like he did in the 2004 election. This is problematic for two reasons. First, you can pretty much depend on the fact that anything which can be called “the Bush solution” is a bad idea. And second, the whole point of civic discourse is to have a conversation. You can’t do that without people who disagree with you.

I like Kevin Drum’s suggestion: Announce beforehand that an organized group is trying to disrupt the meeting so citizens with legitimate questions and comments can’t be heard or answered. It won’t stop what follows, but it might change the way it’s perceived.

Of course, that’ll only work for the people actually in the room. TV news broadcasts are much more likely to just show the angry shouts and hand-painted protest signs, the more garish, the better. So there needs to be a strategy tying these events together, showing that they’re part of a pattern, and this pattern is bought and paid for by lobbyists working for anti-reform forces like the insurance and pharmaceutical industries who make tons of money as long as the status quo is preserved.

I’m curious as to how the Democrats and the White House push back against these tactics. The first step, I think, is getting the word out. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.


UPDATE: The White House is starting to respond.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Ask a Canadian

Comics blogger Christopher Bird (Mightygodking) examines the study that healthcare reform opponents are using to make the Canadian healthcare system look like a band-aid and a shot of whiskey. For a guy who has a strange attachment to Rex the Wonder Dog, he makes a lot of sense!


Sunday, August 02, 2009


Had a great little impromptu pool party at our friends Beth & Paul's last night -- but when we got there, it turns out most of us were already there.