Monday, August 28, 2006

emmy whining

Okay, 24 won best-drama Emmy. I got no problem with that; I love 24. I watch it faithfully and enjoy it immensely. If The Sopranos had won, I would have no complaint. The other three? House is a brilliant performance surrounded by a repetitive, cliched premise. Grey's Anatomy... I don't get. Doesn't mean it's bad, just means that I see no reason to watch it, ever. West Wing? Loved it early, lost interest, glad it didn't win a sympathy award on the way out.

What bugs me is the pearl-clutching in certain quarters about the Academy' s failure to nominate Lost or Desperate Housewives. So what if they were past winners? Neither deserved to be on the list. Want a drama that really got shafted? Hi, Veronica Mars! Good to see ya! As far as DH, hey, I'm no fan of Two and a Half Men, but that doesn't mean the housewives needed hardware.

Oh, and Jack Bauer, hope those heathen Chinee aren't abusing you too badly.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

kathleen parker makes my head hurt

My local newspaper publishes weekly. I subscribe to the nearest daily paper from a city some 60 miles away. The opinion page carries Clarence Page and Molly Ivins, Donald Kaul and Cal Thomas, along with assorted local thinkers and one-shot columnists.

And Kathleen Parker.

I have no idea how Parker got into the opinion business. I suspect it's a tale rife with Satanic deals and ritual slayings. She is the director of the School of Written Expression (whatever sort of sinecure that is) at the Buckley School of Public Speaking. The Buckley School is the creation of Reid Buckley. Reid is William F. Buckley's younger brother. The school was founded when Reid's heart was moved with pity by the terrible plight of Union Carbide executives following the Bhopal disaster in 1984. It's a spin academy. Parker is part of the consulting faculty (which I assume means that her commitment to the school extends to cashing the checks), along with L. Brent Bozell and various members of the extended Buckley family. I will extend a personal exemption to Christopher Buckley on the grounds that he can be really, really funny.

Parker's latest brain belch is entitled "Intellectually Curious George." Her thesis? George W. Bush ain't inarticulate--he's from Texas. You see, George feels so inferior, due to his po' folks upbringin' in Midland that he just tries too hard. His embarrassment at his humble beginnin's causes him to try to talk purty in a way that jus' ain't natcheral to a native son of the windblown soil. See, Kathleen was the guest of a guest at a private lunch with a hundred Bush supporters. Appparently his command of simile and metaphor coupled with his grasp of the issues and the butter-smooth lilt of his political patter caused Kathleen to succumb to the vapors.

I'm so glad I had my baseball cap on, because that little gift-shop investment is all that kept my head from exploding. I may have blacked out for a moment. Imagine, the man feels more at home in front of a hand-picked group of supporters. Who'd a thunk it?

That pales next to her attempt to re-create GDub as the son of migrant workers who, through something we real Americans call pluck and a generous helping of grit, became the first member of his family to finish high school, then entered politics at the behest of the people when all he really wanted to do was continue to run the little hardware store he had founded after graduation from SW Texas State at San Marcos. This quote is the topper:

"Anyone who speaks before cameras knows the taste of humility and can relate to the agony of being George Bush."

Well, maybe he wouldn't have that problem if he had attended the Buckley School of Public Speaking. In the interest of full disclosure, I have spoken before cameras and, unlike our CEO Prez, was able to clench my verbal cheeks and keep my rhetorical sphincter under control. Actually, GW's biggest flaw is that he doesn't know the taste of humility. He's never been within sniffing distance of the stuff.

Really, it's hard enough that I have to try and hold some measure of respect for the man. Now I'm supposed to feel sorry for him, too? Quick, Ms. Parker, perhaps you can use some of your influence and get George a hardship admission. I'm sure Reid has a soft spot for the truly handicapped.

Update: Doghouse Riley read the same column. He no likey either.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

this takes "meat and two veg" to a ridiculous level

On Monday, August 7, John Hendren of NPR reported this:
This is how staggeringly pointless the killing in Iraq is getting: shepherds in the rural western Baghdad neighborhood of Gazalea have recently been murdered, according to locals, for failing to diaper their goats. Apparently the sexual tension is so high in regions where Sheikhs take a draconian view of Shariah law, that they feel the sight of naked goats poses an unacceptable temptation. They blame the goats.

I’ve spent nearly a year here, on more than a dozen visits since the early days of the war, and that seemed about as preposterous as Iraq could get until I heard about the grocery store in east Baghdad. The grocer and three others were shot to death and the store was firebombed because he suggestively arranged his vegetables.

I didn’t believe it at first. Firebombings of liquor stores are common, and I figured there must’ve been one next door. But an Iraqi colleague explained matter-of-factly that Shiite clerics had recently distributed a flyer directing groceries how to display their food.

Standing up a celery stalk near a couple of tomatoes in a way that might – to the profoundly repressed – suggest an aroused male, is now a capital offense.
My first reaction was "John Ashcroft's in charge." I know it seems like a strange connection, but let me elaborate.

One of the signal events of the Ashcroft tenure was his decision to drape a sheet over the nude statue of justice. This action was cause for much amusement, but the real truth of the matter is this: The attorney general of the United States couldn't walk past a statue without becoming aroused. Oh, maybe not aroused to full attention, so to speak, but at least thinkin' 'bout it. I come from a Christian tradition very similar to Ashcroft. I've spent many an hour listening to authority figures lecture girls and women about how they should dress. This always raised a question in my mind. Let's say a woman dresses really, really provocatively. You know, dress cut up to here, down to there, showcasing the merchandise, you know what I'm sayin'. Isn't it within my power to turn my attention away? I once heard Barbara Coloroso say that in the Talmud, it is no sin to go naked, but it is a sin to look. I like that concept. What I look at and think about is my responsibility.

The more I listened to these lectures and observed the rules they produced, the more I realized that the men making them were obsessed with sex. A woman could cut a hole in the middle of a 16'x16' tarp and put her head through it. They would still find a way to brand her a harlot, because they couldn't put sex, or at least the thought of having sex with her, out of their minds.

Which brings us back to John Ashcroft. There's only one reason to drape the statue of justice, and that's because you can't walk past it without thinking about how sweet it would be to bend justice over your podium and do her.

Which brings us back to Gazalea. I guarantee you that if you scratch one of the sheikhs who made this decree, you'll find a goat-humper. And I don't even want to know what his neighbor is thinking about the stew.

Update: Lance Mannion has a post that deals with much the same issue here. His is better written and more comprehensive.

the heart of the game

I took the Golden Child to the movies on Monday. There's a little independent theater about 70 miles from our house. It's been there about a year. I saw Nightwatch, Brick, Tristram Shandy, and District B13 there, among others. Thirty years ago, we wouldn't have been able to get a sniff of those movies unless the university was showing them as part of a series, and then you would have been watching them in a cramped, ancient college auditorium on a stained screen with dim projection. Trust me, it's much nicer to sit in padded seats and see a crystal-clear image on a big screen whilst I sip a Fitz's root beer.

The Golden Child and I piled into the car and trekked to the Moxie to see The Heart of the Game, a highly praised documentary. I was a bit chary of the film since it revolves around the well-known "much beloved coach who makes a great impact in his players' lives." I played football and basketball in high school and college and most of my coaches were self-centered asses at best, borderline psychotics at worst.

The Heart of the Game got me. Bill Resler, the women's basketball coach at Roosevelt High in Seattle, and Darnellia Russell, a dominating player who comes from a different section of Seattle than most of her teammates, leave indelible impressions. Resler seems to be that rarest of creatures: a coach who loves the game, but loves his players more. Let's just say I want to play for him. The way he deals with tough losses and the words he offers to his team are marvelous. Russell takes over the screen the way she takes over the court; you cannot look away from her.

There's an old cliche that says "If you wrote a script like this, Hollywood wouldn't buy it." You could say that about The Heart of the Game, only Hollywood would buy it. They'd just turn it into crap. Filmmaker Ward Serrill follows the Roosevelt team for seven years and so can shape the narrative of his film for maximum impact. He trusts his story and doesn't hype it. The action tells the story. He even gets lucky with the final showdown. Roosevelt's ultimate opponent is their crosstown rival, and while the Roosevelt players are photogenic and friendly, the opposing players (at least those on camera) look downright scary.


Resler vows to play every player in the state final, even if it costs Roosevelt the game. Wouldn't you know it, players with almost no playing time during the regular season make key contributions.


Every element of the movie save one works. That weak link is the narration by Ludacris. I understand that it's a smart commercial move (his narration was recorded after the film made the festival circuit), but it's tepid in execution.

This is a good documentary. It would make an outstanding double feature with Legacy, Tod Lending's film from 2000. Find out where The Heart of the Game is playing and go see it.

follow this link

Lance Mannion has a post you should read. I not only agree with him concerning Pratchett, but if you are burned out on all the Left Behind nonsense that passes for reading, get your hands on Good Omens, a collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Pratchett that is soda-out-the-nose funny while doing no damage to its source material. In other words, the LaHaye-Jenkins crowd cannot call it heresy. Read it, I say, read it!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

iron west

Amazon, via the USPS, delivered my copy of Doug TenNapel's Iron West this afternoon. Now, I'm a fan of his work dating back to Earthworm Jim. I deeply love Creature Tech, and so I was stoked to get his newest work.

I was not disappointed. Iron West reads like the best evah episode of The Adventures of Briscoe County, Jr. A story that combines aliens, robots, Native American spirituality, and Sasquatch. A hero who even looks a little like Bruce Campbell. The requisite fallen lady with a heart of gold. TenNapel is one of those storytellers who weaves together disparate elements in a way that makes them seem not only compatible, not only natural, but inevitable. It's one of the coolest things I've read since Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, a zombie saga that combines and outdoes both Dawn of the Dead and Land of the Dead.

hello, it's me.

Why am I blogging?

After all, isn't a little late to get in the game? Am I not brother to the guy in the Progressive Insurance commercial, the last lone loser in an empty stadium? Isn't this kind of like being the last kid to get bell-bottoms in 1969, or the last girl to wear legwarmers in 1986?

Maybe. And I would be fooling myself and trying to fool you if I thought that I had any deep thoughts or original takes on life that you, the reader, really needed to hear. I think it's more about things I need to say.

You see, I live in a small town in the Great Midwest(tm), and by that I mean a really small town. I'm not talking about a suburb of 15,000 some twenty minutes from Chicago or Indianapolis or Des Moines. I mean a real, honest-to-goodness small town, 4500 free-standing souls isolated enough to think that Des Moines is a very big city. It's a small place that looks askance at boat-rockers, and isn't real crazy about opinions that venture too far off a well-beaten path. It's full of good people trying to get through life, but who would rather watch Benchwarmers than Brick.

But I like Brick. And I hope that through this blog, I can connect with other people who like Brick. Or the music of Jon Dee Graham and Habib Koite. Or the comics of Warren Ellis. Who have a religious faith with which they grapple and that they take seriously, not a set of rules that they use to elevate themselves above others. Who think that we need new ideas, but aren't smug and certain about what those ideas might be. If you might be one of those people, or interested in eavesdropping on us, welcome aboard.

And I promise that the next post won't make me seem like such a whiny, self-aggrandizing ass.