Friday, February 19, 2010

In the Year 2000....

I happened to come across this interesting Youtube clip, which parodies the old timey newsreels about "the world of the future!" and shows the everyday mundane and pretty pathetic life of a fat guy and his wife under all of our modern "conveniences". (Such as the "magic" of an automated teller, or microwaved burrito, etc.) The idea is clearly to try and show that while we have all these modern conveniences that we didn't have fifty or a hundred years ago, our lives can be pretty bleak.

However, I think the parody makes some inadvertent points in the newsreel--sure, the fat guy and his wife seem pretty depressed, but think of what we'd be seeing in the newsreel if we didn't have such modern conveniences. He wouldn't have been able to take a cell phone call in his car, instead he would have had to get the message when he got home; he wouldn't have A/C in the car and so might have stunk of sweat; he'd have had to spend much longer at the bank waiting for a teller; they'd have had to spend a lot longer making their burrito; he'd have had to get his porn from a magazine instead. If our lives are wasted, it's certainly not because of the technological advances we have now. Without them, we would have a lot less time to waste.

Murderer Contingency Plan

Just saw the movie "Orphan" and while it devolved quickly into the typical horror-movie cliche (evil antagonist that is relentlessly murderous, hunting the good guys in the dark and each time you think s/he is dead they keep popping back up), it was a very enjoyable story. Basically, a family adopts a pre-teen Russian girl, and that's their first mistake--everyone knows Russians are moody and dangerous people (see Stalin, Joseph--and yes I know he was originally Georgian but culturally he was Russian). I know whenever I invite Russians over I try and keep sharp objects away from them. I'm a quarter Russian myself, and have to work at it to keep the murderousness to a minimum.

Anyway, the "orphan" adoptee of course gets all murderousy, the heroine mother soon learns of a dark past, the idiot father doesn't trust his wife, etc.--this is all pretty clear to anyone who saw the preview. But it also reminded me that every fambly needs a "murderer contingency plan". I'm sure when I have a fambly of my own they're going to laugh and mock me for having a murderer contingency plan, but as I always say, better to have something and not need it than need it and not have it. And just for mocking me, no trips to Disneyland you little bastards.

My murderer contingency plan will involve strongly locking doors, no skylights in the house (at least not ones that you can see into the house from), and the kitchen knives will be firmy locked in a drawer. All of my many firearms will be strapped to my body, and the kids will be trained in using clubs (unless they're evil kids, in which case they'll be mis-trained, and only in using wiffle bats. It's the height of foolishness to let your evil kids learn to use real bats). A special room will be labelled "safe room" and so a murderer will see it and be all "aha! I bet the fambly is hiding in here" and he'll go in and then it'll slam shut and he'll be trapped. Music will be piped into the room to punish him for his murderous ways (I'm thinking some Elton John, but not his good stuff).

Want to murder my fambly? Then get ready to be subjected to "Candle in the Wind" on a continuous loop, you fiend.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sarah Palin, Retard

Just in case there was any fear that I would suddenly become a Sarah Palin fan, this whole "retard" controversy rears up. A few weeks ago, she called on Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel to resign because he used the word "retard" pejoratively to describe some liberal activists who were giving him fits. This bothers Sarah Palin because she has a son with Downs Syndrome, which you might know because she happily used the boy as a campaign prop throughout the 2008 election. And last Sunday's Family Guy cartoon featured a mentally challenged girl who was a love interest for the mentally challenged son in the Griffin clan, Chris. At one point the retarded girl noted that her mother was Governor of Alaska, and this predictably threw Ms. Palin into a tizzy. Like any mature grown woman she lashed out on Facebook. What she really should have done is spread a vicious rumor about the Family Guy writers during lunchtime at the cafeteria.

Of course, when conservative radioman Rush Limbaugh made cracks about Obama hosting a "retard summit", Palin said that was just fine since it was "satire". So if there was any doubt that Sarah Palin has no principles at all and is truly a pathetic blight on the conservative movement, she happily dispells such doubts. Either "retard" is an offensive word, or it's not (unless she thinks Limbaugh is mentally challenged himself, and it's okay "when we use that word, but not for others"?).

My own take on this is that Family Guy is often quite funny, often weak and derivative, but being outrageous is what they do. It does make me wonder where we draw a line though--we can laugh easily at a "dumb" character on TV (such as Charlie on "It's Always Sunny" or Homer Simpson) but once it's established that a character is genuinely mentally retarded it's not funny anymore. (Imagine if there was a "very special episode" of the Simpsons where it was revealed that Homer had Downs Syndrome?) We can laugh at those of us who should be held to our standard, but not those who are genuinely handicapped. The slow kid in gym class is funny, the kid who's slow in gym class because he's on crutches isn't funny.

As for whether "retard" should be dropped from our language, I'd have to disagree--it is a legitimate word used to describe the mentally challenged (as "idiot" and "moron" and "imbecile" once were--they were originally clinical terms which also evolved into insults used for the non-challenged). Perhaps a better question is what is that word's proper use--should we simply no longer use it to insult someone who does something stupid, like quit the Alaska Governorship with two years left on her term?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Train-Related Hero

This is a bit of a feel-good story--a high school kid acts fast and saves a fambly from an oncoming train. Do I intend to use this story to point out to my own kids one day what they could be doing every time they tell me that at least they're not like those murderous Menendez boys? Yes I do.


Last night's film was Irwin Allen's 1979 disaster film "The Swarm", which might have been the most hilarious film ever made that was not actually intended as a comedy. This is like "Road House" meets "Xanadu" with some "Flash Gordon" sprinkled on top. This is like "Night of the Lepus" (the film about giant rabbits attacking the countryside) but with more big name stars.

"The Swarm" is a movie about an invasion of killer bees into Texas, and features a host of big name celebrities for the late '70s--Michael Caine, Henry Fonda, Richard Chamberlain, Richard Widmark--I could go down the whole list but let's just say it was as though all these famous actors just owed the studio one more film on their contract and figured it didn't matter what the film was. Caine plays the liberal hippie scientist, Widmark plays the mean thoughtless military man, and Katharine Ross (from Butch Cassidy and the "Graduate") plays the doctor, and you can tell she's a serious doctor because she wears her hair tied back.

To fully describe the ludicrous plot and all the various mistakes (both in the editing process and in logic) would take a series of posts, but I can sum it up to say that it surprised me. Yes, it surprised me because I found myself agreeing wholly with the Air Force general that they should have dropped chemical agents on the swarm at the beginning, which would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Caine's scientist (in his joyful cockney accent, guvnah!) argued that dropping chemical agents on the bees (after evacuating the people and livestock from the area, of course) would also have the affect of killing American honey bees which would "destroy the food supply and cause epic disaster". Therefore, the general was a fool, and they'd have to take more time to study the Africanized bees and figure out how to kill them without killing regular bees.

Here's why Caine's character is a moron. Sure, killing all the American honey bees in existence would be a problem for agriculture, but we're talking about a localized air strike--at this point in the film, the bees were only in a part of east Texas. It's not as though we couldn't repopulate the honey bees after all this was done. And in the meantime, the Africanized bees had already killed hundreds of people and were moving toward Houston. Sure enough, while waiting for Caine's "studies" the bees end up attacking a nearby nuclear power plant, causing an explosion that kills tens of thousands of people. Er, WTF??? This just proves that the general just maybe had a point early on! And he was supposed to be the antagonist!

Equally hilarious is that when the bees were heading toward the nuclear plant, no one thought of the simplest solution--having the air force general (or hell, the President, if necessary) phone the plant operators to shut it down. Instead, they decide to send Richard Chamberlain's environmentalist to go in person to convince the plant operators to shut down, because "I've fought them on environmental issues before, they'll listen to me." Er, WTFx1000???? That's like saying "we need to shut down General Motors quickly, send Ralph Nader! They'll listen to the guy they hate most!" This was really just an excuse to see Richard Chamberlain get killed by the bees while he was at the nuclear plant.

In the end, they finally figure out that the bees are attracted to a certain sound pitch, so they lure the bees out into the Gulf of Mexico and blow them up. Yes, it was just that stupid.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spring's Gotta Come

After a whirlwind trip to visit the fambly in NY for my mom's birthday last weekend (and yes, wine was drank and a new pasta dish was eaten which will have to be replicated, since it incorporates my fambly name in the title--this is about principle as much as it is about food), I'm reminded of the downside to a short workweek. Five days worth of work crammed into four!

Snowbanks are still all over DC and Virginia, and the melting onto the highway? Yep, it causes splashage of salt and grime and wet all over my windshield as I drive, making the sun's glare completely blinding. Ugh! Nothing good can be said about this weather.

But the saving grace is the fact that February is half over, days are getting longer, blah blah blah, and before you know it I'll be watching Nationals games and drinking wine in soda cans in the park and wearing a t-shirt that reads "not a sex offender so don't ask me for candy". Then I can start complaining about allergies and heat and bugs and crap, but it's nice to change it up a bit. I figure in Alaska they have to spend all year complaining about the cold and the lack of sunlight and their retarded former governor.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I Work Outta Da Home

Working from home the last two days (due to some weather issues that hit DC every twenty or so years) I've learned to weigh the pros and cons of this lifestyle:

1) Pro--can wear sweatpants and slippers all day long

2) Con--it's hard to feel authoritative while wearing sweatpants and slippers all day long.

3) Pro--no commute!

4) Con--commute was short anyway and I sort of miss swerving to not hit pedestrians who have to walk on Route 50 since the retards running the county can't clear a sidewalk for them. (Seriously, the message from Fairfax to the car-less is "move somewhere else". It's message to those of us with cars is "try not to hit them".)

5) Pro--can listen to back episodes of "30 Rock" while I work.

6) Con--after three seasons of "30 Rock" I now sound like Alec Baldwin when I talk. Wait that should be "pro".

7) Pro--I can make a hot meal for my lunch right in the kitchen.

8) Con--after a couple days you can get sick of pasta. And not getting outside.

9) Pro--I can move the laptop around and lay on my bed while I work.

10) Con--after a couple days of that, it's nice to work on a desktop with a good office chair.

It'll be nice when this crap finally melts--spring is around the corner.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Whenever I meet anyone who has nice things to say about snow it takes all my powers to avoid beating them to death with a snowshoe. (I'm a sucker for irony) A second straight weekend of this white death, and if it weren't for being able to drink with friends in their apartments (and watch the Super Bowl, which was neat since we were rooting for the Saints) then I might have descended into madness. I figure people who "like" snow are actually just trying to make do with the fact that they can't get away from the snow so they are doing the best they can. Now, people who actually travel to places like Colorado to be near the snow? Mentally unstable, keep them away from your children and breakables. And especially your breakable children.

Getting out of the city yesterday was an ordeal. Metro apparently goes by the "we need two full days to get the trains running aboveground" rule that was established by the Soviets, who were known for a similar work ethic. Since I live outside an aboveground station, I was in a bit of a bind. Fortunately, a friend of mine was able to give me a ride, and it would have been a smooth 24 minute ride (the normal travel time from downtown DC to Vienna, when traffic is light) except the part of I-66 between the beltway and my exit was a parking lot, as four lanes were reduced to one and my exit itself was closed. Chain Bridge Road? You better believe that one was also taken up by extra trucks. The drive ended up taking over an hour.

All this and we're due for even more starting tonight. Hooray.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!

Normally I try to avoid posting too often on politics, but every now and then there's a doozy. My favorite campaign ad for 2010 so far would have to be this gem from Carly Fiorina who is running for the Senate in California. Forget the substance of the ad (which complains that her Republican primary opponent, Tom Campbell, is not a fiscal conservative) but instead watch it through to the end, where the camera pans through some sheep frolicking in a field and some weird devil sheep thing is popping out behind a tree. This my friends is the stuff of nightmares!

I do hope bizarre and freakish ads get to new creative heights this year. If we're going to be stuck with lousy politicians they should at least entertain us.

More Stupid Expressions

1) "A watched pot never boils." Completely untrue. If you watch a heated pot long enough, it will boil. In fact, watching it is no more likely to keep it from boiling than not watching it would be.

2) "A stitch in time saves nine." This actually makes no sense whatsoever.

3) "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." Nothing ventured nothing lost, either. You can't lose money on an investment you don't make.

4) "The early bird gets the worm." What about the worms that come out later?

5) "The quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach." I asked a heart surgeon about this, it's not true at all. Try the breast plate.

6) "You can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar." Who wants to attract flies? Unless you're another fly, there's no point.

7) "Don't bite the hand that feeds you." I'll agree with this, unless the hand is covered with honey from trying to attract flies. Then it's much too tasty to pass up.

8) "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." If someone gives you a car as a present, and you have any intention of driving it, it's highly recommended you have a mechanic check it out. You don't want to find out the brakes don't work halfway down the highway. Terrible advice!

9) "Money can't buy happiness." People who have money and no happiness just haven't figured out how to buy it.

10) "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." This isn't true if you live next door to trashy people.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Vegas Retards!

The latest firestorm hitting President Obama is that he's now pissed off Las Vegas. Apparently, a couple comments about how people should be spending their money wisely and not "blowing it in Vegas" is taken as a crack at the Las Vegas tourism industry, and the city itself, which has been hurting already in this recession.

Granted, the city is dependent on tourism and having the President single you out as a place people shouldn't go must smart a bit, but consider the implication--people with tighter budgets now should be taking pleasure trips to cities that eat up all your money in casinos? I mean Vegas is great and all, but it's really a place you go when you have money you'd like to be rid of. If you're deciding what day of the week to buy gas because your income is diminished, or you have to clip coupons at the store--well, then maybe pumping hard earned cash into those shady casinos isn't the best idea. Sort of a no-brainer!

But we are now in the midst of an "outrage culture"--take as another example, Sarah Palin's call for Obama to fire Rahm Emmanuel, his chief of staff. Rahm apparently called some liberals
"f---ing retards" for their plan to make attack ads against some Democrats. Palin's youngest kid is retarded, as it happens--and she finds the "R-word" as offensive as the "N-word". (Discussion of the "N-word" is best left to another post) Okay, point taken--the word "retard" does technically mean mentally challenged, even though is most common usage, incuding Rahm's obviously intended usage, it is used to describe non-handicapped people doing something boneheaded. Clearly, Rahm wasn't suggesting that these liberal activists had Down-Syndrome or were low functioning adults. A reasonable response by Palin might have been "hey, I know Mr. Emmanuel didn't mean offense to the mentally handicapped, but he shouldn't be using the R-word as many of us find it offensive in such context". Of course, this is Sarah Palin we're talking about so she's going to go for the cheap political shot and call for his resignation.

How about we all make some pledge to get a thicker skin?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Highest Grossing Film? Gross!

Although the Academy Awards are a bunch of pointless crap since it's just a bunch of film industry lowlifes voting on whatever dreck is well promoted that year, it manages to generate a lot of buzz among media folks and gay men. It's kind of dumb that the movies are awarded within a year of their release, since it does take several years to see if a film stands the test of time (seriously, "Ghost" was nominated back in 1990).

Also annoying is the fact that they measure all-time movie blockbusters by dollar grosses, without correcting for inflation. The sort of morons who adhere to that sort of measurement should be ashamed that a baseball legend like Babe Ruth made less money than a backup catcher on the San Diego Padres this year! It is under this stupid measurement that noted schlock director James Cameron could (until recently) argue that his cliched cartoon of a film, Titanic, was the highest grossing film of all time. You see, because in 1997 squealing pre-teen girls with a crush on Leonardo Di Cappucino were paying $8 a ticket, compared to the squaling pre-teen (and entirely white) girls with a crush on Clark Gable were paying a nickel a ticket to see Gone With the Wind in 1939.

And of course, now Cameron's latest flashy dreck, Avatar, has outpaced Titanic as top grossing film of all time (giving that hack the top two spots in the record books). Really, people? I acknowledge both of his films were (are) very popular, and sold a lot of tickets, but comparing a $10 ticket today with much cheaper tickets in 1939 (where $10 could have bought you a meal, a car, a new suit, a ticket to the World Series, and three comely wenches of questionable virtue, with change left over for the bus afterwards) is absurd.

But the last laugh will be had a few decades from now, when James Cameron has retired and had his head frozen for posterity, and the remake of "Roller Boogie" (this time starring Miley Cyrus' daughter, Flumpy Cyrus--and yes I think "Flumpy" will be a popular first name for girls in the 2040s) becomes the highest grossing film of all time, making over $4 trillion dollars. Of course, movie tickets will cost $300 apiece at that time.

Not including popcorn.


Ah, Groundhog Day, when there's decorations everywhere, people handing out Groundhog Day greeting cards, having friends over for traditional Groundhog Day meals (my ancestors brought over many a Groundhog Day holiday recipe from the old country, by which I mean Pennsylvania). There's just something so magical about this holiday, which is perfectly sandwiched (and don't get me started on traditional Groundhog Day sandwiches! Every time I hear a Groundhog Day song on the radio, my mouth waters just thinking of them) between Martin Luther King Day and Presidents Day. It is no wonder they call February the holiday season.

Of course, the government hasn't officially recognized Groundhog Day as a federal holiday, but that's only because they're bastards. One can hope they come around though! Otherwise I have to decorate my Groundhog Day shrub on the weekend before.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Exorcise Routine

Last night's film was "The Exorcist", the 1973 film about family, love and the pain of growing up. It was a film that caused a large number of young priests to major in "demon-ectomy" in priest school, and an even larger number of mothers raising difficult daughters to invest in vomit guards.

The plot synopsis--a famous actress named Chris MacNeil (played by Ellen Burstyn, who was not a famous actress at the time so it took some serious acting skill on her part--she would later star in the Nick Cage comedy remake of "The Wicker Man") is living in Georgetown (in D.C., not Guyana) with her daughter Regan, an au pair named Sharon, and an older German couple that claims to be Swiss (which is what I'd do if I were an ex-Nazi). Why Georgetown, you ask? Don't ask, it's not important. The point is it gives the film some great familiar locations for those of us living in the area. Anyway, Regan starts doing some hilarious hijinks, such as interrupting cocktail parties to spook out an astronaut and urinating on the carpet (ah, to be 13 again!) and gyrating violently on her bed (though unlike most teenagers, Regan was doing this involuntarily). Chris, unable to discipline the kid with a bamboo rod, takes her to a series of psychiatrists who use their years of clinical experience and modern testing methods to suggest she instead go to an exorcist. At first, Chris is all "eek!" but then Regan starts slapping her around and talking in some gutteral older man's voice and that pretty much seals it.

What also sort of seals it is that the director for Chris' film, an ornery British jerk named Burke, is found dead at the bottom of the steps in Georgetown that lead to M Street (now of course known to locals as "the Exorcist steps") with his head turned completely around. The top of the steps are within a short hop from the MacNeil house, so a police detective (played by veteran actor Lee J. Cobb!) starts nosing around. Chris is basically sure her daughter is possessed, and did the murder--and needs to do something. Granting full custody to her estranged husband and moving to France would have been my suggestion, but nobody ever takes my suggestions.

She tracks down a Jesuit priest named Damian Karras, a man distraught about losing his elderly mother, who reluctantly goes to see the girl. You see, in 1973 the Church was a bit embarrassed about its history of exorcisms, much the same way as Ellen Burstyn would later be embarrassed about "The Wicker Man". Karras sees Regan, who's all tied down on her bed (to keep her from attacking people and violating herself with a crucifix--yes it was pretty gross), and though he's not in his priest outfit she seems to know he's a preist, and that his mother died, and a number of phrases in Latin (and not the easy ones either, like "carpe diem" or "e pluribus unum"). She also vomits some green goo at him, which makes me think that the director had a vat of guacamole handy on set and was like "hey why not?".

Karras becomes convinced that this kid has a devil in her, and at this point I'm like "hey, if the devil is stuck in some girl tied to a bed, he can't be up to much trouble! We can try for world peace now!" which is interesting because 1973 was also the year of the U.S. signing the agreement to end the Vietnam War. Coincidence? You decide! But Karras wants to expel the demon, so he calls on esteemed elder priest Lancaster Merrin, who has performed exorcisms before, and is played by Max von Sydow (who would go on to play the head villain in 1980s "Flash Gordon" movie--oh how the mighty have fallen!).

Merrin shows up, just in time to hear Regan/Demon making cow-like noises from upstairs. I half expected some light comedy--like the priest asking Chris "is this the right house?"--but instead he gravely heads upstairs to lead the exorcism. He's met this Devil before, you see.

Far as I could tell, an exorcism consists of reciting religious verses, spraying holy water on the possessed person, and wiping green guacamole off your face each time they spit up on you. You also need to remember the Devil is a liar! The Devil will say things like "buy stock in Enron" and "really, that new Nick Cage film is worth the ten bucks" but you are not to believe it. Also, the possessed body may levitate, and you have to resist the urge to get your picture taken under the floating body. Apparently, all of this results in casting the demon out.

Sadly, it works out poorly--Father Karras gets spooked because the demon does a great impression of his mother's voice, and Father Merrin makes him leave the room. When Karras returns, he sees Merrin dead at the foot of the bed--it isn't clear how he died, but we did notice him taking pills earlier in the movie so he may have had a heart condition, made worse by the exorcism. What we do know is Karras then flies into a rage and starts to beat up Regan/Demon, which we sort of wanted to see all along. He hollers "come into me, damn you" and then Regan's voice goes from that of Vin Diesel to her original voice of a scared girl, meaning the devil is out, and we suddenly see Karras' eyes glaze over and we know the demon is in him. In a final burst of strength, Karras flings himself out the window and down the now-famous steps, dying on M Street below. He has sacrificed himself to save the kid.

All in all, this is one of my favorite films--while the premise is fantastical, they execute it well, giving you a good sense of how people might rationally react to such a crazy situation. But if any of my kids someday get it into their head to get demon-possessed, I'm going to use a Calvinist priest so I can find out how things will turn out ahead of time.