Saturday, January 28, 2012

Our Lady of the Aspens

Here's Wo'C Correspondent Keith, with one of those VH-1 Behind the Music-style profiles of Judith Miller: ex-New York Times reporter, former Scooter Libby sexting partner, and a human vuvuzela who spent most of 2003 with her ass end plugged into Dick Cheney's puckered gob. Take it away, Keith!
I’ll have a glass of Chalabi please ... No make that Chablis.”

Someone left a copy of New York Magazine at the unemployment office back in early November 2011. Unfortunately the crossword puzzle page had been ripped. As a consolation prize we were treated to a feature article regarding a certain former New York Times reporter, Judith Miller.

According to the celebrity profile, Judy is still shopping around that blockbuster tell-all book despite the fact that no legitimate publisher will cut her an advance. Also, Judy has switched her martini formula from gin to vodka. At home, perched before her laptop and typing away on a purloined copy of Microsoft Word, she’s probably just drinking the gin straight out of the Tanqueray bottle with few embellishments. Because Judith Miller is now blogging for Newsmax.

Warning: Judy is just plain dull. Her style is turgid and constipating. I feared Judy was not stupid enough for “World ’O Crap” readers. Then found this article, “The Many Talents of Gen. Petraeus.”

“David Petraeus spent his first day out of uniform doing something he rarely did during the last few years of his 37-year military career: He took the entire day off. He also escorted his sainted wife, Holly, a veteran of 23 moves during his army career, out to dinner. In fact, he’s taking the rest of the week off too, straight through Labor Day.”

I’m unaware of Saint Holly’s ordination but dammit I want one of those graven images for my dashboard. She’s the patron saint of moving. The boxes! The crumpled newspaper! The lost receipts!

“Except, of course, for the daily briefings he’s been getting for the last month. Those will continue. So, too, will the “prep sessions” he has been holding to prepare for his swearing-in and first meetings next Tuesday as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

“Welcome to what newly retired, four-star general David Petraeus calls downtime. If Wednesday’s literally star-studded retirement ceremony focused mostly on the past, Labor Day weekend is all about the future.”

Nice to know being briefed-in as Director of our nation’s premier intelligence agency is considered “downtime.” Maybe they kicked-back with a bowl of Doritos, a six-pack of 16 oz. Bud Lites and talked about Valerie.

And Judy, doesn’t the future of Labor Day weekend mean the retirement of white trousers and, if you are a lady, white pumps? Let’s continue, because I must know which stars actually literally studded this retirement ceremony.

“For Petraeus, life is all about staying in the fight. His career is hardly ending; it’s morphing, his battle ground shifting. But his many wars — boots-on-the-ground and bureaucratic — are destined to continue. He knows that his greatest challenges may lie ahead.

Where are the celebrities? How long do we have to go on reading this crap before we get to the celebs? Except Judy Miller there aren’t any present. What a lost opportunity, Judy. You suck.

There’s more. Let’s transit over to another Judy Miller Newsmax feature. Whether fueled by Tanqueray or Old Mr. Boston, I’m not entirely sure. You decide:

“If you want to understand why the jihadist movement is losing its appeal, consider the body bomb. Reports surfaced last week that al-Qaida has been considering trying to slip a suicide bomber through airport security by surgically implanting explosives in the prospective martyr’s belly, rectum or breast. Yes, women can be homicidal maniacs, too.”

I agree. Women can be potential homicidal maniacs. Particularly in the employ of the military-industrial complex and fully-rigged with half-assed association with prominent world media in addition to DoD security clearance of dubious origins.

“The generic belly bomb has been the talk of the intelligence community since August 2009 when Ibrahim Asiri, the infamous, inventive al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula bomb maker now living in Yemen, planted an explosive device on his 23-year-old brother Abdullah for a suicide mission. When that failed, he recruited another would-be martyr, Mohammed al Awfi, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate who nearly killed Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who heads the kingdom’s counterterrorism effort.”

Maybe Abdullah opted for the two-piece knit Chanel and plastique flats. Judy, please, now that you have our interest, where exactly was this bomb implanted? I’m not expecting any celebrities this time.

“Initial reports said that Asiri had planted the bomb inside al Awfi’s rectum. But Anthony Kimery, a veteran analyst and editor of Homeland Security Today, reported soon after the incident that Asiri had planted from 100 grams to 1 pound of explosives (expert opinions vary) not in the bomber’s rectum but in his underwear, which he assumed (correctly) Saudi security would not check.”

Anthony Kimery conducted a thorough physical examination of al Awfi. He found the other glove. That’s about it.

Judy, I’m very disappointed with you. There I was, sitting in the unemployment office all by myself, with nothing but an abandoned copy of New York Magazine to console me. Then I thought I might get a gig blogging about your Newsmax columns for a reputable snarky website. But your copy is as stale as Scooter’s old voice-mails. Have you lost your edge? Is something wrong? Judy, I’m very depressed. Please contact me asap.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Deadline U.S.A.

UPDATE: You guys are cheering me the hell up with your high quality captionry, and I really appreciate it. Thank you.

On another happy note, Cat Rescue Operative Emily posted in the comments to this post that Adele, the beautiful feline featured in the video, has left the halfway house for a new home: "Adele was adopted on Saturday! She was featured in an ad in the Oregonian and was adopted that day. Huzzah!"

I usually frown on the use of "Huzzah!" outside the context of a Renaissance Faire, but in this case it seems appropriate. Kudos to Emily and her colleagues at the Cat Adoption Team.
My apologies for the dead air, but I do have an excuse -- I'm bumping up against a deadline on a modest, but paying assignment (so in other words, I have an excuse I stole from Jonah Goldberg).  On the bright side, this should be (and really, really needs to be) finished by late tomorrow afternoon, so normal blogging will resume this weekend.

In the meantime, I'm hoping you'll allow me to crowd source the entertainment around here, by leveraging the legendary Wit O' the WO'C readership with a caption contest.  I'll get things rolling...
"You were fantastic..."

Flash-mob that sucker!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mike & Ike Go to The Grindhouse

We don't usually review things we like, because to do so would violate the mission statement implicit in our blog title.  S.z. and I always regarded WO'C as a kind of Distant Early Warning System for bad movies and worse pundits, but occasionally something comes along that makes us happy, and it would feel selfish to bogart it (this would include things such as Bogart [the noun, not the verb, which actually makes us unhappy] ).

I've mentioned Mike and Ike in the past, and linked to some of their videos and podcasts (full disclosure: I've appeared as both an interviewee and a panelist on their show, the All Star Summer Jamboree, or ASSJAM).
Mike and Ike are a couple of pop culture gadflies who started off posting savagely funny YouTube rants about movies, and are now in-house media mavens at Geekplanetonline, a portal for all things of a genre-related or nerd-bait nature.  Like most critics they have their bete noires and their irrational enthusiasms, but what I enjoy most about M&I is their habit of viewing everything -- even things they love -- with the same jaundiced eye.  Their stoned, snarky critiques remind me of two buzzards perched on a tree, writing a restaurant review of the dead, bloated cow below them, and getting sidetracked by a philosophical discussion on the morality, let along the esthetic value, of using  tumbleweed as a garnish.

Mike and Ike have also written and directed two well received horror shorts, Surprise and Skeletons, and are about to start production on a third.  In between all that, they wrote and performed a live show entitled The Grindhouse, featuring their peculiar brand of brainy low comedy and sober, informed heckling.

Now, I going to just come right out and admit something: I am a devoted admirer of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (and while we're on the subject of shocking revelations, I hear that Kristy McNichol is a lesbian!).  I generally take a dim view of imitations (although I make allowances for MST3K's legitimate progeny, Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic), but while Mike and Ike's style, which they call "CommentaRIFFING," follows in the grand tradition, it's sufficiently different to be its own thing -- a satisfying hybrid of DVD commentary and stand-up comedy.

After road-testing the Grindhouse, they recorded a studio version, and the result is both funny and weirdly enlightening.  The show consists of three segments, each stranger than the next, and all laced with jokes, little known facts, jokes, bizarre trivia, dirty jokes, and some surprisingly savvy observations from two guys who know movies and love weirdness.

The appetizer, if I may call it that, is the 1931 Merrie Melodies short, Hittin' the Trail for Hallelujah Land, which features singing swine in blackface, and is sort of a bizarre Uncle Remus rip-off for people who liked Song of the South but wished it was more racist.   Seriously, this thing makes Birth of a Nation look like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?  Hallelujah Land is one of the "Censored Eleven" cartoons that were banned from television in 1968, and while I'm opposed to bowdlerization on principle, it's amusing that this ossified chunk of minstrelsy was undone by a blacklist.

Still, it must be seen to be disbelieved, including its shameless pickpocketing of other, better cartoons (it all but traces the opening sequence of Steamboat Willie.)

The middle portion is an abridged (and with this film, the more abridged the better) version of Beach Girls and the Monster (1965), an effort by faded matinee idol Jon Hall (he both co-stars and directs) to cash in on the vogue for Beach Party and Teen Monster flicks.  The result is an abomination that makes The Horror of Party Beach look like The Creature From the Black Lagoon.  (If Hall's name sounds familiar, you may know him as Dorothy Lamour's beefcake paramour in 1937's The Hurricane.  That proved to be Hall's professional peak, and from there he took his John Agar-sized acting talent on a long, slow toboggan ride to obscurity.  His career climaxed with the title role of Ramar of the Jungle, a 1952-54 syndicated series which, if you ever happened to catch one of the episodes where Hall took off his shirt, might more accurately have been titled Man-Boobs of the Backlot.)

The entree is Jack Hill's cult classic Spider Baby (1964), which features one of Lon Chaney, Jr.'s last (and oddly, least drunken) performances, and which, if seen without proper protective gear, will warp your brain like a bra in a dryer.  This is a rich slab of hot-buttered What the Fuckery, and it inspires Mike and Ike to some of their best work (although I take issue with a few of their satirical jibes, particularly about Mantan Moreland, who I think deserves credit for invariably rising about the thin and demeaning material he was given, even in the Monogram Charlie Chan films).

Those caveats aside, my only real complaint is with their decision to let the cartoon unspool without any commentary from the boys, because it doesn't really set you up for what's to come.  But I'm a sucker for these forbidden and forgotten film curios, so it's a minor lapse. Overall, I found the Grindhouse funny and entertaining, and I give it 5 out of 5 Racist Minstrel Pigs.

Mike and Ike's Grindhouse, Volume I is available from Geekplanetonline as "a DRM-free download, provided as a thank you gift in exchange for a $10USD donation."  All three featured films are in black-and-white.  Running time is approximately 84 minutes.  Joe Bob says check it out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Special Mid-Week Pre-Friday Beast Blogging! With Special Guest Stars!

I'm having a bit of an ulcer-inducing week, and wasn't feeling up to harvesting even the usual low-hanging fruit today.  Fortunately, long time reader and lurker Emily was kind enough to send us a package of "Cat Crazies," to augment Riley and Moondoggie's new Pillar of Scratchitude (along with an additional supply for Sheri's menagerie, which I have dutifully forwarded), so instead of reading crazy crap from RenewAmerica, I just sat for awhile and watched my own cats take enthusiastic leave of their senses.  It was highly therapeutic.

Cat Crazies, for those who don't know (and I didn't), are deceptively simple toys consisting of tabbed, uneven plastic rings that flip out of one's non-opposable grasp at the slightest pounce, thereby causing the cat itself to flip out, and providing hours of fun (or minutes, if it takes a bad hop and winds up under the couch).

She also shared an image of her own cats, Richmond and Burnaby, who appear to be the Chang and Eng of the feline world:
Cute, huh?  I don't know their breeds, but Richmond appears to be a Hitler Cat who slept on his mustache.

Emily, like s.z., is also in the Feline Rescue business, and provided a video featuring one of their refugees giving a Ron Popeil-like demo of the Cat Crazy in action:

Emily explained:  "Our manager at the shelter in Petco is also a videographer, so she makes tons of movies at the one I work at (CAT's youtube channel is here)."  She concluded by saying:
So If you have any friends or friends of friends in the Portland area looking for a cat to adopt (or to foster, or to visit, or to sponsor, but to hopefully adopt), look no further than Cat Adoption Team, in beautiful Sherwood, Oregon. It's a no-kill, feline only shelter with outreach centers in several Petco, Petsmart and Nature's Pet locations in the Portland Metro Area. 
So to you Portlandians I say this:  It doesn't matter whether you're a Beaver or a Duck...we all need Cats.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Crazy Cow Lady Cracks Christ Conundrum

WorldNetDaily columnist Patrice Lewis, who lives on a 20-acre spread with her husband and two children, describes herself as "a practical constitutional conservative stay-at-home gun-toting homeschooling cow-milking rural-living Christian mom."  But she's also a keen observer of pop culture, aware of all internet traditions and abreast of the latest trends, as witnessed by her prompt comeback to this year old bit from the Colbert Report:
It all started with a quote I recently read, attributed to comedian Stephen Colbert:

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus is just as selfish as we are or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition … and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.
Without condition? This got me thinking.
As some of you may recall, the last time we caught Patrice thinking, she reflected on how the Pill caused women to "rut like cattle," admonished men to "keep their wicks zipped" and ladies to "keep their bloomers buttoned," then wrapped up by telling us she was off to give her cow an abortion.
Now it always amuses me when people with no apparent interest in Jesus as a Messiah will try to pigeonhole Him into supporting their own socialist agenda in the name of “compassion.” But the question here is whether or not Jesus would approve of entitlement programs.
Like his modern followers, Jesus believed in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps; and he would have led by example, too, except he wore sandals.
Progressives like to claim Jesus was a socialist. They say welfare is morally equivalent to the teachings of Jesus, who urged us to have compassion on the poor and destitute. Liberals, from their position of lofty superiority, say we “must have no personal wealth beyond our needs.”
That doesn't actually sound like any of the liberals I know -- certainly none of the ones I've voted for -- and for a second there I thought Patrice was propping up a strawman, but then I noticed she used quotation marks, so it must be true.  I would have liked a link, or a citation, or even just a name, but even I know that any liberal who confided our ulterior agenda to a gun-toting cow-milker would only do so on deep background.
To prove their point, they cherry-pick various Bible verses to support their logic. But of course the devil can cite Scripture to his own purpose.
Lately he's been strip mining Leviticus for good gay-bashing quotes.
Progressives long for a utopian society of complete equality, a land of neither rich nor poor. Human nature being what it is, such a utopia can only be accomplished and maintained through centralized economic management and forced income redistribution. Thus, what progressives ultimately want is communism.
Well, they're pretty sneaky about it, because the "progressives" in the current Administration and Congress don't even seem to want single payer health care.  But the bigger question is, now that progressives want communism, what's left for communists to want?  I haven't had a chance to ask one, but if I had to guess, I'd say either "catabaptism," or "toaster pastries."
But the historical track record of communist societies isn’t too good when it comes to charity and mercy. Communism has killed 100 million people in the last century. Trust me, 100 million dead people is not compassionate.
Unless they all simultaneously broke a leg while running at Pimlico and had to be shot.
And that’s why conservatives oppose entitlement programs … because they lead to socialism. 
Which leads to communism, which is why Christ's weird injunction that the wealthy give their worldly goods to the poor in order to store up treasure in heaven inevitably turned the late Roman Empire into a egalitarian hellhole that was only rescued from oblivion by the meritocratic job creators of feudalism.
First, welfare creates a dependent class of voters who are guaranteed to vote for more entitlements. Second, entitlements don’t help the poor. Indeed, they cause poverty, not cure it.
Food Stamps allow people to live -- indeed, to wallow -- in poverty, whereas the traditional method of forcing the poor and destitute to starve to death or emigrate to America put a efficient period to their misery, although it occasionally led to public health problems (e.g., dozens of dead Little Match Girls rotting in alleyways after the Spring thaw, or severe Irish infestations).
The proof is in the pudding. If the trillions of dollars we’ve so far spent on entitlements cured poverty, we would have no poor people in this country. None. 
Poverty is like chickenpox -- once you've had it you can never catch it again.  Unless there were, say, a major economic downturn, with high unemployment and a widespread housing crisis, but really, how likely is that?  Anyway, this is why I never give money to the homeless, because they'll just use it to buy tapioca.
Jesus did not come to influence the government leaders of the day. Rather, he came to offer salvation and guidelines to the individual.  
The rugged individual.  So I guess this means you guys don't want to elect Christians to office, or legislate morality anymore?  Because it's too collectivist?
We – not the government – have the responsibility to care for the poor and destitute. Jesus’ message was not one of forcible seizure of individual wealth and unchecked redistribution of that wealth. It was a message of personal charity and compassion.
Yes, there was that whole "render unto Caesar" thing, and some might say "We the People" means we are the government, and are delegating certain tasks to it which we can't easily perform ourselves, such as issuing Social Security checks to widows and orphans, but in reality, Jesus was only interested in private altruism.  He was like a personal trainer for your soul and his message was simple: Let the Poor go to Bally's.
But liberals don’t see it that way. They look at Acts 4 and conclude that because the early Christians adopted a communal lifestyle, then communism is the biblical ideal. But this entirely misses the point. The early Christians voluntarily engaged in communal living as an endurance mechanism against prosecution. It was not forced by government mandates; in fact, it was a survival tactic against a hostile government bent on their destruction. Savvy?
I am, indeed, hip to your lingo.  And of course, once Christians finally did get control of the government, they gave up that hippie shit and devoted themselves to private enterprise and the destruction of their enemies, just the way Jesus would have wanted it.
Social justice, one of the buzzwords of the progressives, is not the same as caring for the poor. Forced redistribution of wealth is not charitable. It’s easy to get the government to do your “charitable” work for you.
Yeah?  Try raising taxes.  Hell, try raising the debt ceiling.  (Argument not valid in cases of corporate welfare, because I freely admit, I've never had a hard time getting the government to handle that for me.)
Government programs of theft and entitlement do not make someone compassionate. 
However, Title XII, a government program of wire fraud and emolument has been shown to make participants increasingly puissant.
Those who advocate the theory that Jesus was a socialist point to the rich man who was instructed to sell everything he owned and give his money to the poor, and then to follow Jesus (Matthew 19:21-24). The man went away crestfallen because he loved his wealth more than God. Jesus said, “It is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Progressives read this and then somehow make the extraordinary leap of logic that the government must seize and redistribute all wealth (while conveniently ignoring the “follow me” part). 
 Actually, I think they read this paragraph and think, "Was that the quote?  I thought it was something really catchy about a camel and the eye of a needle..."
Of course, Jesus was talking to an individual and suggesting an individual course of action.
It's unfair to infer a larger meaning from any of his words, because that's not how parables work.  They're very surgical.
He didn’t tell the rich man to pass a government program to take everyone’s money and give it to the poor. He didn’t hold a gun to the rich man’s head and tell him “donate or die.”
Although if the Gospels contained credible reports that Jesus pulled a Glock .380 on the moneychangers, even progressives would have to admit that was a legitimate miracle.  Or at least a really cool episode of The Wire.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Demon Barber of Fleet Enema

 Matt "Bam Bam" Barber was, as you probably recall, an obscure employee of Allstate Insurance, until he started writing anti-gay jeremiads on the internet, and the Good Hands dropped him like a hot rivet.  Naturally, he was scooped up by the loving arms of Professional Homophobia, and now spews his santorum  from a doubly secure double sinecure:  "Vice President of Liberty Counsel Action and...Associate Dean and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Law at Liberty University School of law. In addition to his law degree, Matt holds a Master of Arts in Public Policy from Regent University."  (Matt obtained the MA when he went to collect his BS, and they asked him if he'd like to Super Size it.)

Since taking up residence at Jerry Falwell's diploma mill in Lynchburg, Virginia, Bam Bam's harangues have taken on a more bible-banging fervor, even when writing for the relatively secular (or at least non-sectarian) Townhall, and has now reached the point where his average column sounds like any random pull quote from Elmer Gantry.  But this week Bam Bam has pulled off a masterstroke, turning the atheists' love of unholy science against them, by enlisting Albert Einstein in his army of Christian soldiers.
The Folly of God-Denial
Every year secular-“progressives” and obnoxious atheist pressure groups exponentially ramp up demands that all traces of Christianity be purged from the public sphere; particularly at Christmas time. This is like demanding the abolition of penicillin during an outbreak of Typhoid Fever.
Unfortunately, the Constitution mandates a separation of church and antibiotic. But the next time you come down with typhus, Matt, by all means, feel free to take an intravenous creche.
Albert Einstein, who is often falsely characterized as having been an atheist, once said of non-believers: “The fanatical atheists are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who – in their grudge against traditional religion as the ‘opium of the masses’ – cannot hear the music of the spheres.”
Einstein also said (in the same interview from which Matt will shortly be quoting):

"My own career was undoubtedly determined, not by my own will but by various factors over which I have no control--primarily those mysterious glands in which Nature prepares the very essence of life, our internal secretions."

"It may interest you," [the interviewer] interjected, "that Henry Ford once told me that he, too, did not carve out his own life, but that all his actions were determined by an inner voice."

"Ford," Einstein replied, "may call it his inner voice.  Socrates referred to it as his daimon.  We moderns prefer to speak of our glands of internal secretion.  Each explains in his own way the undeniable fact that the human will is not free."

So Einstein didn't believe in free will (something he says several times in the interview), but he does believe that his destiny could be foretold, if not by an astrologer, then certainly by an endocrinologist.  The point being, given how often Einstein was interviewed from 1916 on, you could probably piece together quotes that would have him seemingly endorsing homeopathic medicine, the Church of Scientology, or Applebee's new Sizzling Skillet Fajitas.
Although there is no evidence that, in life, Albert Einstein accepted the lordship of Jesus Christ, when asked if he believed in Jesus the historical figure, he responded: “Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.”
Well, not to get nit-picky, but seeing as Bam Bam's already gotten cherry-picky, I'll just point out that there's no exclamation point in the original interview.  And the quote continues, "How different, for instance, is the impression we receive from an account of legendary heroes of antiquity like Theseus.  Theseus and other heroes of his type lack the authentic vitality of Jesus."

So Einstein thought Jesus was livelier than that guy who sneaked around labyrinths with a ball of yarn and sucker-punched Minotaurs.  Still, it's only one man's opinion that Christ had more "authentic vitality," not settled fact, so in the spirit of fundamentalist demands that science courses treat creationism and evolution as equally plausible, I think Sunday Schools should "teach the controversy," and let the kids decide if they want to worship the pacifist hippie, or the dude who decapitated a giant bull-man and killed Mickey Rourke in 3D.

As we mentioned, Bam Bam is quoting from interview that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post (October 16, 1929), which Einstein granted to George Sylvester Viereck, a German-American poet who also interviewed (and defended) Hitler, and who was later convicted of being a Nazi agent.  Viereck does bring up Jesus quite a bit in the piece, but he also asks Einstein if he thinks of himself as a German or a Jew, and whether he believes in assimilation.
"We Jews," Einstein replied, "have been too adaptable.  We have been too eager to sacrifice our idiosyncrasies for the sake of social conformity."

"Perhaps assimilation makes for greater happiness."

"I do not think so," Einstein replied.  "Even in modern civilization, the Jew is most happy if he remains a Jew."
So there we go.  In the same interview in which Einstein affirms a belief that Jesus was a historical figure, he also rejects assimilation into Christian society, let alone conversion.  But Bam Bam draws a different conclusion:
I write this with complete confidence: Albert Einstein presently acknowledges the deity of Jesus Christ. 
I write this with even greater confidence: Albert Einstein is dead (as is Jesus, so admittedly they have that in common), and is therefore not presently endorsing anybody's claim to godhood.  Unless what Bam Bam means is that Einstein, because he didn't "accept the lordship of Jesus Christ," realizes that he screwed up by being a Jew, because he's presently roasting in hell (but still has the graciousness to admit it was a fair cop).
Still, the mere belief in a creator God, or an admission that Jesus walked the earth, is altogether insufficient to recompense the debt owed for the fruits of wickedness, sown and harvested throughout our lives. As James 2:19 declares: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.”
Yep.  Einstein is roastin' in hell.  Even worse, he's still getting calls from collection agencies.
So there is a question of principal importance to every human, and it is this: Is Jesus who He claimed to be: God, Creator of the heavens and earth; the singular path to salvation? Or was He something else? As with any yes-or-no question, there is a yes-or-no answer. There must be.
This seems like it ought to be a multiple choice, rather than a True or False quiz.
As author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis observed...
 Sigh.  Here we go again...
...Christ could have been only one of three things: A lunatic, a liar, or – as He often claimed and as billions have believed – the sovereign Lord and Creator of the universe.
Or he could have been -- misquoted.  So four things.  Or exploited after his death by a group of men who may themselves have been either sincere lunatics or cynical opportunists, but who clearly had their own agenda.  So five, he could only have been one of five things.  Or maybe he was a wholly fictitious mascot for a New and Improved brand of religious doctrine, like Betty Crocker or the Quaker Oats guy.  So six.  Six tops.
The Bible is one of two things: it’s either simply an ancient text chock-full of creative tales and loose philosophies no more relevant to our daily lives than a Tony Robbins self-help book, or it is what it says it is: the inerrant, inspired Word of God. It can be nothing else.
Now replace the word "Bible" with "Koran" and run the test through the Scantron machine again.  Then try it with "Book of Mormon," "the Veda," "the Avesta," and, just so we have a control group, Jim Bouton's Ball Four.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It's All About Love or, Parts: The Dorothy Hamill Horror

Jim at The Velvet Blog sent me an email the other day, kind of like one of those "For Your Consideration" ads you see in the trade papers, and on billboards along the Sunset Strip, except it contained a recommendation for our sequel to Better Living Through Bad Movies.  Like his previous suggestions, it was a movie I'd never heard of -- a state of blissful ignorance I can now only look back upon with a wistful sigh of nostalgic yearning -- which didn't surprise me, as Jim seems to possess an encyclopedic knowledge of -- and eclectic taste in -- bad cinema.  This time he nudged me toward a bucket of art-house offal by Thomas Vinterberg, a Danish filmmaker who co-founded the Dogme 95 movement with Lars von Trier.  Jim proffered a few brief plot details, but basically summed up the film by asking:
Good lord--what were they thinking??

I have to admit, I dozed off near the end, so I'll probably rewatch the last 15 minutes to see what, if anything, I missed.

If you have any desire to see this train wreck, it's on Netflix streaming--but it expires on Sunday, I think.
I probably should have taken this as a warning rather than a challenge, but since Sheri and I tend to write about either big- or low-budget Hollywood fare, our repertoire is a little light on moderately-priced, EU-funded art films starring B-list American actors.  So what the hell, I figured.  And if it got really bad, and I found I could neither match Jim's fortitude, nor fall into a defensive coma, I could always just turn the thing off.

Unfortunately, once I'd sat through the first six hours of this one hour and forty-one minute movie,  I realized it was too late to turn back. Much, much too late.  So Join Us, won't you?

It’s All About Love (2003)
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Written by Mogens Rukov and Thomas Vinterberg

“It was the hot summer of 2021.” That’s what Joaquin Phoenix tells us, in a “Polish” accent that makes you want to beat him with a truncheon made of kielbasa. Joaquin is stopping in New York to see his wife, Clare Danes, the World’s Greatest Figure Skater, and sign their divorce papers. Instead, he’s met by two of Clare’s sinister private security agents: Mark Strong, who’s struggling to maintain an American accent and suppress the urge to kill everyone in the terminal, and an elderly bodyguard who’s struggling with jowls and the urge to switch from Metamucil to Ducolax.

Joaquin agrees to stay in town and attend Clare’s “premiere,” but naturally he’ll need a tuxedo, because in the future, Holiday on Ice is a black tie affair, while people wear Crocs and those beer-caddy hardhats to the opera.

There’s a dead man blocking the bottom of the escalator, and Strong explains that everybody’s heart has gone on the fritz (“The heart,” Joaquin says, touching his chest, “That’s in here.”), and people are just dropping dead, often while leaning over to collect their suitcases, leaving their corpses to ride slowly around on the baggage carrousel, and turning JFK into the most depressing theme park in the Tri-State Area.

Clare’s hotel is an armed camp. Joaquin is frisked before being hustled to her floor, which is sealed off like the White House Situation Room, the halls crowded with murmuring Men in Black, because the whole city is abuzz about “the skating show.”

So to recap: Everything in 2021 will look exactly the same as 2003: fashions, cars, technology. The only noticeable difference is that in the future, more people than usual will keel over while buying Eagle Snacks, and ice skaters will have their own militias.

Joaquin and Clare mutter and giggle about why she didn’t meet him at the airport (because she never goes to the airport – apparently she just skates everywhere, like Hans Brinker). Clare also has a vague Slavic accent, and if anything, it’s even worse than Joaquin’s.  But it fades in and out like a weak UHF channel, so I’m hopeful that one good hail storm will knock it out entirely.

Clare’s massive motorcade heads to the skating show. Joaquin calls his brother, Sean Penn, who is mincing up and down the aisle of an Airbus and flavoring his own Polish accent with a sparkling tablespoon of Fey.

It seems Sean’s doctor prescribed a drug to ease his fear of flying, but he took an overdose, and now he can’t stop flying – he’s always in the air. This is pretty funny, but I think it’s actually supposed to be poetic. Meanwhile, people in Uganda are flying without planes, spontaneously floating into the sky like Ed Wynn in Mary Poppins, except they clearly don’t love to laugh; in fact, they seem kind of depressed about it.

At the rink, Joaquin and his tuxedo watch as Clare and her hair-weave do a few listless double axels. The crowd goes out of their frigging minds with joy, suggesting that in the future, figure skating is the only form of entertainment allowed, TV and movies having been outlawed. Which at the moment doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

Clare walks out into the hall and confronts Another Clare, dressed forbiddingly in a babushka and Zebra-print raincoat. Her two-toned, black and white color scheme obviously represents Manichaeism, or Cartesian Dualism. But then Another Clare screams at Clare, “You go away! Go away!” which makes me think she might actually symbolize

Clare begs Joaquin to skip his flight and get in her motorcade of white limousines, so he will know what it would feel like if the President of the United States were a 17-year old prom queen. Then they drive to a bar to use a payphone, because it's the future.

Joaquin discovers that there’s a conspiracy to send Clare to Moscow for a vacation, so the two of them hold hands and run toward the camera, just like the opening credits of The Mod Squad, if it had been a show about two Polish people who were depressed because they didn’t have cell phones.

Meanwhile, Sean Penn is still airborne and Polish, but he’s less fey now, so thankfully the overdose of Rip Taylor he took is starting to wear off.

Joaquin and Clare check into a flophouse in Brooklyn and pantomime intercourse under a musty blanket. Suddenly, it starts to snow. They walk out into a flurry, and Joaquin, who totally nailed the location of the heart earlier in the film, says to someone standing off screen, “Hello, sir! Have you seen that it’s snowing?” Dude is in the zone.

Joaquin passes out from all the implied sex, while some shadowy men kidnap Clare.  He goes back to her hotel, where Another Clare weeps and screams “Get out of here!” and threatens him with a knife. Then a Third Other Clare sprints past the camera, presumably because she spotted a better script across the room.  It turns out that a supervillain is buying skaters at a discount in Eastern Europe, then scientifically transforming them into Clare – so for convenience sake we’ll call them Clonya Hardings.

Joaquin walks outside and faints. Meanwhile, it’s also snowing in Venice. He wakes up in Clare’s hotel, just in time for a weird debutante ball, where all three Clonya Hardings are formally presented to Joaquin. Then things get a trifle uncomfortable when they dopplegang-bang Real Clare, rubbing her all over and begging to smell her.

Clare swoons (a good 41% of this film consists of people greeting each other in hotel rooms, smoking on airplanes, and fainting). Later she wakes up in her hotel room and drinks a glass of water just as a TV anchorman warns the audience that all fresh water in the world is about to freeze for two minutes. This saves Clare and Joaquin a trip to the ice machine, and they celebrate by simulating sex under a quilt.

Afterwards, Clare squints at something off screen and shouts, “Look!” Cut to Paris, where it’s snowing. Cut back to Clare, who can see unseasonable weather three thousand miles away, suggesting that in the future, Lasik surgery works really well.

Joaquin and Clare decide to escape to Poland.  Before fleeing for their lives, however, they stop by the rink so Clare can figure skate with her psychotic clones. They are all dressed in identical pink outfits, and one of them – I think it’s the shouty, knife-wielding Other Clare – repeatedly tells Joaquin how “beautiful” he is, before whispering, “I meese men.” So before she was transformed into Clare, Other Claire apparently had an affair with former Attorney General Edwin Meese, which frankly would have put me off penis in any form, but then I have a weak constitution.

Somebody with a yen for German Expressionism illuminates the rink, and Clare’s four body doubles slowly figure skate through the light and shadows, in what can best be described as The Ice Capades of Dr. Caligari. Tickets available from all Ticketron outlets.

There’s a gunshot, and one of the Clares is hit! They all continue to skate, however, because Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t interrupt Jackie Kennedy’s ice dancing, did he? Bang! She takes another slug while doing a Hamill Camel, spraying the rink with blood like a Rainbird.  Somebody should probably do something, but Joaquin is busy smoking, and the Clares are concentrating on their salchows.  In fact, the only person who even seems to notice the gory assassination is the Zamboni driver, and he just looks annoyed.

Two more shots ring out, and the Remaining Clares drop dead.  Okay, enough is enough; Joaquin walks onto the ice in a snit, stands over Clare’s body and snaps at the gunman, “Stop that!” But it’s okay, because it’s only the Other Clares who are bloody corpses – Real Clare took a dive. Aren’t you relieved? You won’t be when you look at the time code and realize there’s still 25 minutes to go.

Joaquin and Clare wander across a vast, snowy landscape, just like Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago, except you keep hoping they’ll run into that bear from Grizzly Man. Meanwhile, people continue to fly in Uganda, which means someone is still capable of thinking happy thoughts. Personally, I can’t manage it.

Clare develops painfully chapped lips, so she decides to die, perishing slowly and languorously in Joaquin’s arms while he stares into the camera, which is what he’s been doing for a good 50% of the film. Seriously, I am way more intimately acquainted with his face than I ever wanted to be; I feel like I went to high school with that scar on his upper lip.

Anyway, he sits there, until he and Clare are just two blue faces sticking out of a snowdrift. Then Sean calls again to say, “John, you’re probably out there somewhere in the snow.” Well, yeah. “Both of you. It’s like the old days.” Remember when you kids would wander into the Arctic Circle and die of hypothermia? Mom would get so mad…”

Cut to Africa, where dozens of floating Ugandans are tethered to the ground by ropes and wriggling like Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade balloons with a panic disorder.

We fade to black, and these words appear: “It’s all about love.” Just in case you were wondering what the deal was.

According to the time code there are still five minutes to go, but since it's just the end credits, I’m going to turn it off (words I’ve been weeping and screaming for the past hour, like George C. Scott in Hardcore), because I’m reasonably sure there isn’t a hilarious blooper reel at the end.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy Belated Birthday, Doghouse Riley! I Got You a War!

Well, I screwed up.  Boy, did I screw up.  After I had to restore my phone, the app I used to keep track of Significant Dates ceased popping up with reminders, and as a result, I failed to offer birthday greetings to Doghouse Riley on December 21st.  In some ways, this is entirely in keeping with tradition, since I've gotten the date wrong for the past two years in a row, but never before have I flat out missed it.

So my sincere apologies to DR, who we think is kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being we've ever known, and one of the finest writers on the Internets -- although thanks to geographic destiny, his gift is mostly devoted to the creation of new and better euphemisms for Mitch Daniels' brief stature.  As a small token of our vast esteem, please accept this tardy photo of Sabrina Ferrilli:
And please join me in wishing the Hoosier Sage a very happy, if criminally overdue, birthday.

It's not enough though, is it?  Okay, in penance, I will read Larry Klayman's pitch for a wacky 3-camera sitcom: Larry Loves Curtis LeMay.

You're familiar with Larry Klayman of course -- the attorney (law license currently suspended) who founded Judicial Watch in 1994, and made his bones filing multiple, redundant, and groundless lawsuits against the Clinton Administration.  In 2006, in a comic misunderstanding worthy of Love, American Style, Larry sued Judicial Watch, perhaps due to a clerical error, or maybe he'd visited the optometrist, then tried going back to work while his pupils were still dilated.  After that episode, he ran for the U.S. Senate in Florida, but got trounced in the primary.  Now he's back with another group, this time called Freedom Watch, because Watch on the Rhine, Someone to Watch Over Me, and The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything were all copyrighted.

Larry also writes a column for WorldNetDaily (check out their snazzy new WordPress template!), and this week he goes from Watching the Judiciary and Freedom, to Watching Dr. Strangelove, which he seems to think is a documentary:

Let’s be blunt.
And realistic.  In fact, let's use reality as blunt instrument, then touch off a thermonuclear weapon to burn down the crime scene and destroy the evidence.  By the time the cops are through sifting the ashes, we'll be on a beach in Zihuatanejo, painting a boat.
 The Islamic Republic of Iran is and has always been the major problem and danger in the Middle East and internationally.
Ah, so apparently the Middle East is all one country -- someone inform Google Maps.  But Larry's right.  Remember the Iran-Iraq War?  True, Iraq started it, but Iran got top billing for a reason.
Iran will within months acquire atomic weapons that can be delivered through missiles as well as planes and ships

...and yet the bomb is still cold when it gets here! 30 minutes or less my ass...
...and has threatened – in the face of increased sanctions – not only to annihilate Israel and attack us too, but also to set ablaze the Strait of Hormuz, which is the gateway to oil shipments from Middle Eastern producers throughout the world. This would cripple the world’s economy and send us into an irreparable depression.
While turning the oil-rich sands of the Middle East into a radioactive wasteland is just a smart business plan, assuming we followed it up by immediately switching to an all glass and mutant-based economy.
Iran’s threat is a declaration of war, and we must now respond in kind with massive force!
Wouldn't responding in kind to a threat mean...making a threat?  "I can explain, Officer.  She slapped me, so I responded in kind by dismembering her with a chainsaw."

Anyway, it's been 70 years since we last declared war, so it figures we're a little rusty on the fundamentals, but a threat isn't a declaration.  Threats, at least at the diplomatic level, are usually a negotiating tactic, while in every day life, threats are usually a sign that you're spending too much time in a Youtube comment thread.
The immediate need to destroy the Islamic regime once and for all is heightened by what is going on in neighboring Iraq.
Because what's a sitcom without wacky neighbors?
Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, even by the admission of the liberal New York Times, “is moving to consolidate authority, create a one-party Shiite dominated state” and in effect throw his lot in with his Shiite brothers in Tehran – the neo-Nazi mullahs who not only threaten and are thus far succeeding with world conquest in the name of Allah
...assuming you count their Sunday afternoon games of Risk in the mosque basement.  Still, it's not the first time Persia has threatened Western Civilization, so Larry, I need you to round up 300 beefy guys in rawhide jockstraps and start painting them with olive oil.
 ...but also torture, maim and murder their own people to hold on to total power.
Which we hate, unless you're Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, or the Oakland Police Department, in which case we'll pay for it.
So now Iran and Iraq will essentially be one big terrorist state – with tremendous wealth, thanks to their huge oil resources and revenues – bent on successfully waging Islamic revolution not just in the Middle East, but worldwide. And, of course we know that the Islamic regime supports other terrorist states and groups and is the major financier and source of terrorism.
Face it, they have a monopoly, just like the old Ma Bell, and it's producing the same anti-competitive effect.  The Justice Department needs to immediately sue to break up the Islamic regime, or smaller, regional terrorist groups will be priced out of the market.
I, for one, am aghast not just at the prospect of a “greater Iran,” but I am outraged that our so-called political leaders sacrificed a huge number of American lives for what was inevitable in the end. But despite the stupidity and negligence of George W. Bush and Barack Hussein Obama and their enablers, like Sen. John McCain, in not making the removal of the Islamic regime in Iran the major priority, now is the final time to act before it is too late. The radical mullahs in Tehran are a scourge that must be destroyed. To allow them to exist one minute more would be tantamount to reliving the mistakes that led to the rise of Adolf Hitler, World War II and the Holocaust.
So we should atone for our failure to stop the Holocaust in Germany by committing genocide in Iran.
Importantly, an increasing number of Iranian-Americans now understand that war with Iran will entail significant civilian casualties in their native country.
Clue Fever: Catch it!
And, while many Iranian-Americans still have loved ones there, they are increasingly willing to accept the consequences of all-out war with the Islamic regime. 
If their loved ones are anything like my relatives, it's not surprising.
 That is because they know, better than most of the rest of us, what this terrorist state means not only to the fight for freedom in their own country, but to world peace and hoped for economic prosperity. This is the most evil regime since the Third Reich, and it must be expunged now before it is too late.

So if Grandma promised you'd inherit her collection of porcelain figurines, you might want to go grab them now, before her Hummels acquire a half-life of 10,000 years.
Ironically, if there ever were a time to use nuclear weapons, like radiation-reduced neutron bombs, to excise a cancer such as this, now is the moment.
Even more ironically, a neutron bomb is an "enhanced radiation weapon (ERW)," since "the enormous radiation released by ERWs that is meant to be a major source of casualties."  So no offense, Larry, but I think I'd like a second opinion before we start the cancer treatments.
While our armed forces are now clear of the quagmire in Iraq, to sacrifice many more American lives would be criminal.  And, a quick strike is necessary – much like the Israeli pre-emptive air strikes that quickly put an end to what otherwise would have been a devastating war with neighboring Arab states in 1967 – to prevent a counterattack that would let the Islamic regime “get off the mat” and wreak devastation on the world economy by closing the Strait of Hormuz and attacking and seriously if not fatally harming Israel, and even other Western interests.
We must hit Iran with a nuclear sneak attack, because if we just do what we normally do -- bomb the indiscriminate crap out of them with conventional high explosives -- there might be someone left alive to shoot back at us.  And yeah, sure, perpetrating the equivalent of Pearl Harbor with nukes might seem harsh, but it would be criminal to lose a single American life to this worthy enterprise, whereas torching every Iran man, woman, and child would at worst get you into civil court.
To kill this regime, strong and decisive measures are necessary. The threat is not one just toward Israel anymore, but the entire civilized world, and in particular the well-being of the United States.
In other words, we need to take a strong dose of nuclear medicine.  Then we need to chase it with some potassium iodide to deal with our now luminous thyroids.
It is indeed sad that it has come to this. If Presidents Clinton, Bush and now Obama had had any foresight, a nuclear attack on Iran could have long since been averted.
We're expunging you more in sorrow than in anger.
Much like taking out a small lump in a cancerous female breast, the operation could have been simple and done with. Now a total radical double mastectomy is required.
We're going to bomb them back to the training bra.
Because of this inaction, this Islamic state – so strategically powerful – is the equivalent of Germany prior to World War II. And, it intends not just to eradicate Jews, but Christians as well in furtherance of its Muslim war on all of us.
Using the same conversion chart, I find that Larry is the equivalent of James Spader in Mannequin
We are just days from the Iowa caucuses, and some of you may look to a new Republican president in 2012 to solve this and other major problems. Even were a great leader to emerge...we cannot wait until early 2013 to crush the mullahs in Iran.
"Because this erection has already lasted longer than four hours, and my doctor's phone is going straight to voice mail."
And frankly, no Republican candidate has advocated a massive strike to end the Islamic regime.
Oh sure, they're crazy...but they're not Klayman Krazy.
The Republicans just talk a good game. Where have they been for the last three years, as the cancer grew to a tremendous size under the “mullah in chief,” Barack Hussein Obama?! Their efforts amounted to little more than political gamesmanship and are sickening!

Unless he is forced, the prospects of President Obama ordering this forceful action are not great. We thus need to put heat on our political and governmental interests by rising up and demanding this.
Apocalypse Now!
Obama and Hillary Clinton are traitors, and they are probably bribed to the hilt by Iran, but that does not relieve the rest of us from demanding action! We cannot allow for the rise of another Hitler-type regime at this time in world history.
It might conflict with our Spring recital by Sparkle Motion.
There are enough problems that confront us, and we must NOW take drastic measures to remove these vile and evil Islamic terrorists from the face of the earth, if for no other reason than to allow us to deal with other matters and get on with business.
"People, people... (taps gavel)...The Chair cannot entertain any motion to consider new business until the Clerk has read the minutes of the last meeting and everyone in Iran is a smoldering corpse."