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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ecu-menace

Stephen Colbert's Word last night was "Ecu-Menace." Colbert centered the segment on criticizing the Pope for being too ecumenical/nice to Muslims. It was pretty funny, albeit potentially shocking, and at one point I turned to ES and told her that Colbert was a superstar in the Catholic world.1

"Really?" she said. "Won't they be mad at him for saying all that?"

"I dunno. I get the feeling they'd let him get away with it. He's only joking."

"Still . . . "

When Ben mentioned the segment to me today, I related the conversation to him.

"Clowning the Church is one of Catholicism's great traditions," he said. "Colbert may be a jester, and I definitely don't think he shares the same straight-down-the-line orthodoxy as perhaps I do, but I feel that he is, in the end, one of us. I think this one-of-us-ness is the main factor behind Colbert's HUGE popularity in the Catholic blog world."

I was reminded of several parallels:

- Black people can call each other the N word, but white people cannot.
- I may complain about my family, but you may not.
- The Godfather, which proves itself once again as relevant in every single part of life:
. . .

CARLO [Connie's husband, but still an outsider] (to Sonny)

I knew that was gonna happen soon as they started makin' big money.


SONNY (background, to Carlo)

Yeah...


CONNIE

Well Papa never talked business at the table, and in front of the kids.


CARLO

Hey shut up, Connie, when Sonny's talking...


SONNY

Hey, don't you ever tell her to shut up--you got that?


CONNIE

Okay...


MAMA (to Sonny)

Santino ... don't interfere.


CARLO

Hey look, Sonny, Tom--I'd like to talk to you maybe after dinner. I could be doing a lot more for the Family.


SONNY

We don't discuss business at the table.


1According to Ben, who is Catholic.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

From Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies, and videotape shooting diary:
28 June 88 Seattle

Jimmy (he prefers Jimmy) [James Spader] and I met for several hours in the afternoon to discuss script changes. The main area of concern for him seemed to be the motivation for both Graham's severe withdrawal from people and his return to Baton Rouge. We came up with a backstory involving a child that Graham had fathered with Elizabeth that turned out to be retarded and led to Graham's eventually abandoning Elizabeth due to an inability to deal with the child. He seemed satisfied, so I'm hoping everything will now proceed apace.

. . .

15-24 Jul 88

The general consensus amongst those I know and trust is that the Graham backstory involving the retarded child is easily the dumbest subplot ever concocted for a minor motion picture, and I must say I am in agreement. I will go back to the more straightforward yet vague approach that I was using unsuccessfully before.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The phrase that pays: "Snitch bitch ratheads get swiss cheesed up."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Public note: Chinese Democracy appears to have gotten pushed back again, possibly to February 2007. Maybe you can see some of the songs performed live.

Note to self: Nothing lasts forever, not even cold November rain.
Note to self: If attempting to poison Supreme Court justices, don't tell them that the baked goods they just received are poisonous.

Friday, November 17, 2006

"I never really liked apple pie."

"What are you, a terrorist?"

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

TM received his high school yearbook in the mail recently—something to refresh his memory for his upcoming 20-year reunion.

“Look at this,” he said. “They fucked up my quote. I had this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, ‘To be great is to be misunderstood,’ but they wrote ‘To be great is to be understood.’”

“About as far from the original meaning as possible,” Lan noted.

Anything Else, (2003)

In some ways it must be more difficult to work when you're an icon. Your critics will always compare your recent work to your previous work--the work that made you an icon--and you're forever having to answer questions about why you don't 'return to your roots' or something.1 That said, Anything Else isn't Woody Allen's best, but it's better than most comedy-dramas.

This is a movie that stars young actors, was marketed to a young audience, and was written with a young-adult perspective. But this isn't a young movie. The best scenes in the film are from the older actors--Danny DeVito, Stockard Channing, Woody Allen--while Jason Biggs is unconvincing.

Biggs is Jerry Falk, a comedy writer in New York who has trouble ending bad relationships. He's got a leech of a manager who takes 25% of his wages, a lying, dysfunctional girlfriend (Christina Ricci), and a therapist who won't talk to him. He can end these relationships at any time, but he refuses to do it because he feels somehow responsible for the other person. Jerry meets David Dobel (Woody Allen), a teacher and struggling comedy writer who has tons of advice, and equal amounts of paranoia. Dobel encourages Jerry to stand up for himself, but Jerry would rather be tortured by staying in a relationship than endure the difficulty of breaking it off. These bad relationships continue to test Jerry's endurance, and since this is a movie, he is eventually forced to make some tough decisions. (They don't turn out exactly as he plans, though.)

This is a dialogue-heavy film, which is good, since Woody Allen is doing the writing. The speeches by Dobel are always rich and entertaining, Stockard Channing's scenes are notable, and Christina Ricci plays the manipulative girlfriend so well you almost begin to feel sorry for Jerry. The dilemma Allen presents for Jerry is compelling and universal, even if it is being portrayed by the guy who stuck his dick in the warm apple pie.

That's not Anything Else's biggest problem, but it is representative of it. Allen works with a strange paradigm here--a youth-oriented movie with very mature, adult themes. There are a few other middling issues--the movie is about 20 minutes too long, I was distracted by Jerry's seemingly limitless wealth, and there are inconsistencies in his character. However, Allen explores familiar themes to a satisfying degree, and there are definitely a couple of dialogue gold nuggets. It's an interesting movie for Allen fans, but not something that the casual viewer would talk about at the water cooler the following Monday.

1Jonathan Lethem addresses this in his recent Rolling Stone interview with--icon of all icons--Bob Dylan:
Yet it's awfully easy, taking the role of Dylan's interviewer, to feel oneself playing surrogate for an audience that has never quit holding its hero to an impossible standard: The more he offers, the more we want. The greatest artist of my lifetime has given me anything I could ever have thought to ask, and yet here I sit, somehow brokering between him and the expectations neither of us can pretend don't exist. "If I've got any kind of attitude about me -- or about what I do, what I perform, what I sing, on any level, my attitude is, compare it to somebody else! Don't compare it to me. Are you going to compare Neil Young to Neil Young? Compare it to somebody else, compare it to Beck -- which I like -- or whoever else is on his level. This record should be compared to the artists who are working on the same ground."

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

“When I make a run for the presidency, I’m going to run on a determinist platform.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, determinism—that our lives are predestined, and there’s nothing we can do to change them.”

“But what about free will?”

“Free will is an illusion. It’s incorporated into determinism—we were meant to think that we have free will, but in reality, each of those decisions we make under the illusion of free will were already determined anyway.”

“Wait—so how will this get you elected president?”

“It’ll relieve people from a feeling of responsibility. First of all, they’ll probably give up on voting, because, hey, if what I’m doing is already predetermined, then I can do anything I want. I’ll get a pretty big increase in voter apathy, I think.”

“But the people who don’t believe your claptrap will build a vigorous campaign to show that you’re a fool—the bases of your opponents will be much more motivated when they’ve got a force of evil to contend with.”

“Ah, but what’s great is that my base will fight uglier and harder than theirs will.”

“Why would that happen?”

“Because they’ll have no conscience. If my base believes that nothing matters—if they just become determinist nihilists—then they’ll just indulge their egos and their most base, most animalistic nature, and create a smear campaign to end all smear campaigns. It’ll turn into a huge free-for-all. Those that haven’t turned away from politics in disgust or aren’t already on my side—what I’ll call ‘the undecideds’ as a joke, you know, because their decision has already been made by fate—will naturally end up voting for me.”

“Why the hell should they vote for you?”

“They’ll be the kind of people I’m ultimately looking for to elect me—people who give no thought to things, but just go on vague media impressions. They’ll see me as a maverick, as someone who does things his own way, and they’ll hear from friends that I have some pretty ‘wild ideas’ about politics. With my renegade personality and my massive media campaign, they’ll definitely go out of their way to elect me.”

“This is disgusting.”

“My slogan will be: ‘Chris Zane: Have it Your Way.’”

“That’s the Burger King slogan.”

“How about: ‘Chris Zane: Eat it, Mister!’?”

“Now you’re talking.”

“Yup, that’s what’ll get me into power: a huge drop in voter turnout, and an appeal to the ugly, vicious side of humanity.”

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Speaking of sexual congress with the opposing party, I've been thinking: It's pretty stupid not to be friends with or have sex with someone just because they have different political beliefs.

The main idea behind this is that reasonable, intelligent people can disagree on politics. I think all the political prejudice comes into play when people with strongly held beliefs encounter people who disagree and are stupid. It just sets a bad precedent.

There's a special kind of irony in this matter for liberals: The basic idea behind political liberalism is that they're accepting and understanding of all creeds. They stand up for the People, oppressed and otherwise disenfranchised, but when it comes to opposing political beliefs, they won't even approach a conversation without their teeth bared. The kicker is that in a belief system in which subjectivism is king, they're absolutely opposed to many conservative beliefs.

It's not so hypocritical for conservatives--everyone know the only reason anyone would be conservative is if they're stupid or evil.1 At least they're consistent.

MESSAGE: Feel free to sex it up with liberals or conservatives, as long as they're not ugly. This doesn't apply to Libertarians and Green Party people.

1He he!

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The New York Times Select is free this week!

Read all the Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman you like, but don't get used to it. It's the classic drug-seller's method of offering the samples at a reduced rate, and once you're hooked, they jack up the price.
"Would you fuck a Republican chick?"

"Yeah, I guess. If I liked her."

"What's wrong with you? I would never fuck a Republican chick."

"Why not? It's win-win! You get the thrill of the revenge-fuck, and she gets the thrill of slumming with a Democrat."

"Fuck that."

What's so bad about feeling good?

This election season, I've noticed a particular feeling of schadenfreude developing that I'm not sure I'm comfortable with. It probably started around the time that the tide in public opinion began shifting on the war in Iraq. I've never been a fan of the war, and it made me glad to see that people were beginning to notice its lack of direction. The unconscious idea there was, I think, that the quicker things go bad there, the quicker people notice, and the quicker a new strategy will be implemented.1

I also recall a particular pleasure after the Jack Abrhamoff scandal came to light, crossing my fingers each day that a new Republican official would be indicted. This peaked when Tom DeLay retired after being removed from his post as majority leader.

Next, of course, came the Mark Foley scandal. By the time the affect of it became clear, I'm sure it was all most Democrats could do to not cheer and giggle when making their public statements denouncing Foley's behavior. I was just crossing my fingers that the story would stay hot until election day. Ultimately, political schadenfreude comes because one party's ruin is the other party's opportunity.

I feel a strong amount of pleasure at watching the consistent Republican gaffes, but I also feel kind of depressed about all of it. Depressed at the catastrophe that continues in Iraq, the embarrassing torture bill that President Bush recently signed into law, the inactivity of Congress as a whole, and the dozens of other events over the last six years that have put the United States in near universal disfavor. Each bad decision does more than just hurt the party.

If I had to make up a new German word to describe my deeper feelings, I suppose it would be something like schadenfreudenschuld, indicating the guilt I feel at feeling pleasure at others' misfortune. In other words, I feel bad that bad things have to happen for people to figure out that the party they elected never really knew what they were doing in the first place--they'd only taken advantage of the disorganization and disunity of the Democrats last time. I guess this is the nature of politics--partisans want the opposition to fail so they can get their own agenda accomplished; the result of this is that half of working in politics is doing your best to make the other guys look bad.

My current fear is that the potential wave of Democratic victories will be based purely on Republican mistakes, which could leave the Dems open to a similar, opposing wave the next time it's time for us to cast our ballots. I guess if you can't get anything done, the best you can hope for is to make the other guy look less competent. At least we're winning that race.


1The Bush administration's blind stubbornness regarding the war is particularly infuriating, but some say that the administration will reveal an altered approach to winning this war after the elections.