5/23/2006

I don't care about Barbaro

I really don't.

5/15/2006

White Float

WASPs beat out cockroaches when civilization goes belly-up.

Went to see Poseidon Sunday with my friend Robert. Movies like Poseidon aren't good entertainment in and of themselves. The acting was unbelievably bad owing to an awful script. And we have seen better special effects. But as a cultural document of our time it's definitely worth a look.

Movies like this are products tailored specifically for mass consumption. That's really the sole point of them. And there's nothing wrong with that. There's entertainment value even in the washed-out stereotypes the studios think we'll identify with. It's like pandering politicians. Or your parents trying to be cool. Somehow they always get it wrong, but it's flattering they think enough of us to try.

My favorite character was Richard Dreyfuss's. In case we missed the fact that he's supposed to be GAY, the filmmaker's had him wearing a HUGE diamond stud in his left ear. There was, of course, nothing subtle about anything in the film, but you don't go to a disaster movie in search of subtle insights. I thought sure the Dreyfuss character would end up being the Shelly Winters of this version of The Poseidon Adventure.

But, sadly, while Dreyfuss was allowed to be gay, and to survive, along with only five other representatives of specific demographic groups (more about which later), he was not allowed to camp it up. At all. Talk about politically correct. BO-RING!

I want to be clear about this. I honestly believe there was nothing even subconsciously subversive about this movie, or any of the stereotypes it depicted. There was no reflexive irony. No meta. Which makes it especially ripe for ridicule, and sets it apart from Mission: Masturbation: III, even.

The two most interesting things about the characters are (a) how helpless and cloying all the women are, and (b) how only the WASPs survive.

As regards (a), are we finally seeing some kind of backlash against the GI Jane Feministas of the nineties? There are no bad-ass Sigourney Weavers here, nothing even remotely butch about any of the Poseidon girls. You’ve got a devoted Latina—a stow-away on her way to America to care for her sick brother. You’ve got a devoted mother, cute tot in tow. And you’ve got a devoted daughter/girlfriend (sure, she gives her overly-protective pop some lip early on, but it’s nothing more than innocent post-adolescent rebelliousness in the end).

The women have no special skills to aid in their, or anyone else’s survival. Their role here is pretty much to alternatively screech in terror, whine about their plight, and make unreasonable demands on their men. The men are eager and for the most part able to please. The gay one doesn’t do much to help anyone, but he doesn’t hurt anyone, either. Well, except for the immigrant busboy he kicks down an elevator shaft. But he only did it because the Alpha male, played by Matthew McConaughey clone, Josh Lucas, orders Dreyfuss to “SHAKE HIM OFF!”

You can tell Dreyfuss feels sort of bad about sending another minority to his death, being one himself and all, but in the new minority hierarchy (they released it around the same time as the new food pyramid) gays are now above illegal immigrants (but still, surprisingly, below satanists, who are tied with Mormons, go figure). You do what you gotta do.

It takes a little while to shake off the other darkie in the crowd, the castaway Latina, but finally they manage it. It’s a maudlin scene, and everyone cries, except the audience members who’d had enough of her mewling when she got all claustrophobic in an airshaft, of all places (I mean, she’s a castaway, for chrissake), and almost drowns our sexy Alpha with her flailing around and caterwauling. You don’t mess with our Alpha Male, chica.

The interesting thing about her demise by drowning (I mean, talk about unoriginal) is the reverence for her corpse everyone shows. Since there is zero character development, and we have been right there with them the whole time, we have no idea what she has done to endear herself to her cohorts. Unless whining, bawling, freaking out in air vents, and screeching, “I can’t go on!” are suddenly endearing qualities (guess I didn’t get the memo).

But, wait. It’s not only her corpse that is lovingly attended to, but her cross necklace, which it turns out can been used in a pinch as a screwdriver. Now that’s Practical Christianity. Thank ya Jesus! Halleluja!

Once the minorities are all shaken off (I mean, take a hint), the rest of the rescue is really a piece of cake. SHAKE ‘EM OFF, AMERICA! They’re holding us back.

Another thing I'm not sure I liked or thought necessary was the graphic depiction of death and dead bodies. This movie is chock full of dead bodies, of course, and at points it lingers on them to a degree that borders on perverse. Part of this, I'm sure, is an appeal to a generation of gamers that has finally come of age and expects the graphic and realistic gore they get in their video games. I don't. It's more than enough to suggest without having to see the impact of falling bodies, or to see them impaled or incinerated, or bloody, burnt, and bloated.

There is, in fact, something grossly misanthropic about it. We can laugh at the carnage when it is somewhat abstract, but when we see bodies burnt and piled in a heap in the wreckage, when the camera lingers on the bodies of the dead, we have to ask what the point the filmmaker's trying to make is. I mean, the fact is, Poseidon is not a serious film. It doesn't need these grave images.

Which brings me to my final observation. There are shamelessly unsubtle veiled references to 9-11. And the hunger to see the carnage, perhaps to force some sort of catharsis, as the victims’ statements in show trials seem intended to do, seems to justify the more graphic depictions of bodies being broken in our big screen disaster fantasies.

Because these are fantasies. The cruise ship is the height of decadent luxury our society has to offer, and when civilization is turned upside down, you get Poseidon. Who escapes when civilization crashes? Should we have anything but contempt for those who perished, trusting like sheep in their empty authority figures?

Fittingly if a bit ironically, when finally they emerge from the butt-end of the behemoth, the military is there to pluck them from the ocean.

5/11/2006

Daniel Biechele sentenced

Let's not get into the criminal negligence that went into going to a Great White concert in the first place. Today Daniel Biechele, who was stupid enough to light the pyrotechnics that ended up killing a hundred people who were stupid enough to go there in the first place, was sentenced to fifteen years in prison, eleven of them suspended.

The thing I find puzzling three years later is the white-hot rage many of the victims' families still feel towards Biechele, who, granted, did something terribly, terribly stupid (I mean, apart from just being the manager of Great White), but without any malice, and who has taken full responsibility for what happened.

It's not always the case that vengeance satisfies. In this case, it would not have mattered one whit if he had been sentenced to a thousand years behind bars, because he was not guilty of what the victims’ families needed him to be guilty of. The rage they’re feeling is for the kind of senseless accident that takes thousands of lives every day, but for which most people have no one to blame.

Which is not to say that there are not precautions that should have been taken by bar owners, and things that should not have been done by the band, and the fire marshal (who granted the bar a license for more standing room, even after finding several violations of the fire code). But when one victim’s girlfriend told the judge that when you’re boyfriend leaves to play a show, he’s supposed to come home, it shows the futility of the whole exercise.

I mean, yes, when children go off to school, they're supposed to come home. When mommies and daddies go to work, they're supposed to come home, too. But sometimes they don't. And that's life. And at some point we have to accept the tragic in it and try to have a little dignity about it.

As always there are a couple ways to look at the sentence: is it a warning to other white trash pyro-hair bands, or is it merely a punishment?

The media is loving it, of course, because tears and cries of vengeance on contorted faces are just great news. Personally, I don’t think there should be cameras in the courtrooms, precisely because of this kind of pornographic coverage. I also think it’s enough in a case like this to have written impact statements submitted to the judge. However cathartic it’s supposed to be to have victims or their families confront the accused, it seems little more than medieval spectacle.

Even the great hoo-ha over the little girl who was paralyzed by a stray bullet and told the man who fired the gun she forgave him in court was too much for me. When the media isn’t being lurid it’s being sentimental. This was a way for the media to sentimentalize an epidemic of violence in this city, rather than do the hard work of looking into it in a real and significant way.

5/09/2006

Bitchslap A Pundit

Occasionally I get these emails from Amazon trying to sell me some of their overstock. But try as they might, they don't know me. Just because other people who bought some book I did are fool enough to buy some of the crap they're trying to sell me now, doesn't mean I'm going to, too. I mean, are we in Junior High? What's with the peer pressure?

So the latest was John Kasich's overzealously titled Stand for Something: The Battle for America's Soul. First of all, been there, done that, bitch. Where were you?

I found the description of the book particulalry original. "Kasich asserts that the erosion of moral values can be contributed [sic] to...disappointing leadership, the growing lack of ethics in business and sports, religious intolerance, and mass media and popular culture." Wow, this guy's really thinking outside of the box, isn't he?

Just the fact that he spent nine terms in Congress tells me what a good-for-nothing fucktard he is. But a quick look at Wikipedia proves he's even more of a worthless tool than I'd imagined: former U.S Republican Representative turned television show host for FOX News. He hosts Heartland with John Kasich, and also guest hosts The O'Reilly Factor, filling Bill O'Reilly's pie-hole with custard when necessary. He can also lick his own balls while picking his nose and farting the National Anthem.

Well, not really. He's not that talented. But at least that would be somewhat original. I mean, what rightwing blowhard doesn't have a show on Fox?

I'm working on a book of my own:

5/07/2006

Sundays with Stephanopoulos

Now, it's interesting how patrick Kennedy's little Ambien incident has morphed into a crisis for the whole Democratic party. There's no question Kennedy should resign, But when has a Kennedy ever resigned. You want him out, you better hire a good marksman. But whethr he resigns or not, this is obviously not a party issue.

Sleezebag Tom Delay was also on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, blaming Bill Clinton for the energy crisis. If Clinton had allowed drilling in Alaska, we would have a million barrels more a day, and no gas crisis, Delay said.

When confronted with Republican poll numbers in the gutter, he said it was the Democrats, and that we should get back to the issues: gay marriage and abortion.

When confronted with his own ethics troubles, he said, everyone's doing it, and it's the Democrats' fault.

5/06/2006

POT-AY-TO, POT-AH-TO

So now that Zacarias Moussaoui has had his day in court, where his real victory was to force everyone, including the judge, to behave like tweenies at a schoolyard tauntfest, I am grateful mainly for the fact I will not have to waste any more time than I already have wondering if it's zac-a'-rias or zacar-i'-as. The media never reached a consensus on this, and some newspeople flip-flopped from one mention to the next.

But I have to admit I will miss the courtroom caricatures of Moussaoui that had become a part of the daily news reports. They ranged from somewhat sympathetic depictions of a thin, rather meek Moussaoui, seen in the first four sketches raising his hand like a schoolboy, doing a gay-boy circuit party dance move (the judge would not let him take off his green jumpsuit so that he could do it topless, unfortunately), and standing at a podium looking refined, to somewhat less sympathetic depictions of a supersized, fat-lipped, hook-nosed, evil Arab menace in the several that follow:

Whether Massaoui had collagen injected in his lips and rhinoplasty over the course of the trial I don't know. I didn't hear anything about it, but then they never tell, do they? I mean, look at Sharon Stone. She swears she hasn't had any work done, either.

And the great debates about 9-11 and Moussaoui's role in it are now pretty much a thing of the past, too. At least in the news. The burning questions, like this one, posed to Ollie North on Fox's Your World with Neil Cavuto:


In case you're having trouble reading the caption there, Cavuto's question was "Could 9/11 have been avoided if Moussaoui was tortured?" It's a question. Not a very grammatical one, but never mind.

Anyway, now the fuss is dying down. The news reports have gloated on what a great and just legal system we have that would let a man like Moussaoui live, while lingering with a certain relish at the prospect of Moussaoui "rotting" in maximum security prison with no human contact except for prison guards and lawyers (ick--hardly a worse fate imaginable, is there?), in his tiny cell 23 hours a day with maybe--MAYBE--a black and white TV for company the rest of the time. I have even seen sketches on the news of what Moussaoui will look like sitting in his little cell, all alone, forever.

All of which is supposed to be cathartic somehow, but isn't. Moussaoui is a nut, and his role in the 9-11 attacks, if indeed he played any, is still not clear, and may never be. The brilliance of the hijacker's evil deed is that in addition to wreaking a kind of violence previously unimagined in our complacency, it also robbed us of any possibility of revenging it on those directly responsible. They actively, enthusiastically took from us any possibility of that age-old symmetry of reciprocal violence we see in, say, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There is thus no real satisfaction, and no true catharsis in sentencing Moussaoui, who is a laughably pathetic stand-in for the hijackers, not to mention for that über of all über-bugaboos, bin Laden. So instead we fall back on musings on “what if he had been tortured” because we would like to imagine him being tortured, and flesh out fantasies of “ending his days” in “the Alcatraz of the Rockies,” because we want to imagine him dead and buried. We scribble our caricatures, warped by our impotence in the face of a worldview that refuses to recognize our reality, against which we have no revenge but the flight into fantasy.

5/05/2006

infant anorexia is next

Why wait?

There was a kinda sick report this morning on GMA. It was about baby fat, and how "it's not so cute after all." Those were the reporters last words, no joke. The report was all about how baby fat doesn't actually melt away, but could lead to adult obesity.

Which is bullshit. People, babies have always been fat, but adults have not always been obese. Don't blame the babies.

Fact: I was over ten lbs when I was born. I was a fat baby, if ever there was one.

Fact: I am now 36 years old, six feet tall, 175 lbs. I exercise regularly, commute by bike, work in the garden. I don't sit on my arse all day at work and then sit in my car for an hour in traffic on the way home, and then sit on the sofa in front of the TV all night. I don't gorge on snackies, fast food, or sodas. Period.

Point is: it's your diet and exercise regimen, bitches.

Stories like this are just irresponsible. Because you know there are fools out there who are going to see a story like this and then look at their babies, and say, Oh my God, my baby is too fat, and start the kid on a starvation diet.

Another story in the Herald the other day was about a former skateboarder out on the west coast who's come up with a line of toddler clothing called "pimpfants." "There’s the winsome 'Baby Beater' tank tops, the mini basketball uniform with 'Jr. Pimp Squad' across the jersey or the T-shirts that read 'My Mom Is a MILF.'”

The company's owner is a twenty-something, I'd guess, and as shocking as it seems, they are having children, too, now. I mean, when will it end? Enough, already! And of course, they have their own ideas about children, childhood, and child-rearing that the rest of us will have to live with for the rest of our lives.

5/02/2006

"It was an anthology, not a novel."

That's what Kaavya Viswanathan should have said, given new allegations of plagiarism against her. Apparently her book contains unattributed passages not only from Megan McCafferty, but from Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot, and even Salman Rushdie.

Immies or outies?

The Globe has a front page story this morning about the immigrant rallies here in Boston. There was surprisingly little on the local news about local rallies, owing partly to a four-alarm fire in Worcester that happened right as the evening news was kicking off. The fire was "breaking news" and led broadcasts on all three networks.

Whether the local immigrant rally was more significant than a day-time blaze in a triple decker where no one was injured (even the old lady's cat got out alive) is a good question.

The Globe proclaimed: "Immigrant Day is felt most in Latino areas," like the Latino end of Centre Street in Jamaica Plain. So the consensus seems to be that the people most inconvenienced by the local immigrant rally were local immigrants themselves. Which is what happens when you live in ghettos, I guess.

It's like Goya closing shop for the day. It did not produce or deliver any goods in a show of solidarity with immigrants. But who buys Goya products? Immigrants.

I have personally been very impressed with how well activists have managed a population that is, in large part, not highly educated or well-versed in the "American way" of protest. They have stopped them from waving the flags of their native countries, after pundits expressed displeasure with this. They have stopped them (for the most part) from dancing around and shaking their junk for the cameras like it's a Cinco de Mayo celebration. This shows that they are assimilating nicely, I think.

And they have beautiful children, which is always a help. You will find pictures upon pictures in the papers (and in next week's Time, Newsweek, and so on) of little immigrant children swaddled in American flags, looking solemn and serious about American citizenship. Like so:

I say we let them in and start shipping our indigent white trash to Mexico. Make yourself useful and have pretty babies, or get the hell out of our country! And that means you, Britney Spears and Eminem!

But seriously. I still don't think the immigrants' shtick is airtight. Threatening not to clean white people's toilets? Not only does it lend a certain sordid tone to the protests, but, honestly, rich white people will always have someone to clean their johns. Count on it. That's why society was invented in the first place.

So if that's as indespensible as you can be, then, well, the truth is, you're not. Sorry. You might be doing the crappy jobs for cheap, but if you weren't, someone else would be. What happens to maids, nannies and dishwashers who complain? They get canned. Because replacing a maid, a nanny, or a dishwasher is not like replacing a rocket scientist. I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade. It's just a fact.

But let me speak directly to the immigrants in the room: your whole argument hinges not on your usefulness in society--we all know there will always be janitors, dishwashers and gardeners--but in the low cost of the labor for these services you provide, precisely because you are illegal. Making you legal nullifies this benefit to your employers.

You're gonna have to come up with something more persuasive than "we do the jobs you don't want to." Especially now that the Pentagon is hard at work on its robo-army. Can Rosy versus Rosalita be too far off?