Friday, December 31, 2004
In response to the anonymous comment on my previous post below, all I can say is I just wanted to point out that in the wake of this mind-boggling disaster, our initial offers of help came to less than we were planning to spend on a party next month. No wonder people call us stingy.
I shouldn't even really respond to the charge that us liberals don't have any ideas for solutions to the world's problems, that all we do is whine. If the poster took, oh, 5 seconds to search the internet to read such lefty journals as The Nation, The Washington Monthly, Alternet or the Village Voice you'd find more articles filled with suggestions and proposals than you could shake a freedom fry at.
But, in the interest of fairness, I concede that I didn't offer any suggestions in that last post. So here's one: cancel or dramatically scale back the inaugural festivities (there are nine different balls to go to this year) and donate the money to the disaster, thereby more than doubling the aid package. (Now that the proposed aid amount has increased tenfold, this is a moot point, of course.)
But, thanks for reading and thanks for your comment, whoever you are.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
$15 Million: the U.S. government's initial offer of aid.
$35 Million: our increased offer after a U.N. emergency relief coordinator called the aid efforts of western nations "stingy."
$40 Million: The cost of next month's inaugural festivities for President Bush.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Monday, December 20, 2004
I got off the A express train at 59th Street/Columbus Circle, and from there I had to transfer to either the B or the D train, which I ride one stop to 7th Avenue, and then transfer to the E, which I ride one stop to 5th Avenue. If that sounds slightly ridiculous, I agree...but if the connections are smooth, it saves 10-15 minutes timewise. Did I mention it was 13 degrees this morning?
Now, above 59th Street, the D is an express train and the B is local. However, below 59th, the B and the D make all the same stops. So this morning while I was waiting on the platform, the Brooklyn-bound B train arrived first. Everyone got on. But then a Brooklyn-bound D train pulled in on the opposite track. Now, remember, these trains go exactly the same places. But all these people suddenly bolted off the B train and ran across the platform to the D. On an uptown train, I could understand, because the D goes nonstop from 59th 125th. But downtown, there's no difference.
So then a dispatcher announces over the loudspeaker that the B train will be leaving the station first. Naturally, everyone comes hurtling off the D train back on to the B. So many people are fighting to get on the B train that the doors are unable to close; naturally the D train closes its doors and sails out of the station.
When will people learn that sometimes being patient is the fastest way to accomplish something?
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Friday, December 17, 2004
Why Bush’s win is a victory for gays
You have to be kidding me, right?
First of all, Bush's statement that he supports the idea of civil unions was made in exactly the same offhanded, spontaneous way that he said the war on terrorism was unwinnable and in which he defined himself as a "war president." (Or when pressed by Diane Sawyer into admitting Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, he responded, "What's the difference?") It was an unguarded, brief candid glimpse into the inner mind of George W. Bush. I think it's quite possible that George Bush the man is just fine with civil unions.
George W. Bush the president, however, is another story altogether. This is a man who called a news conference -- something he's done far more rarely than any president in modern history -- specifically to announce his support for a Constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage. He has publicly vowed to defend the "sanctity of marriage," and repeatedly used the phrase "activist judges." But this author tries to argue that Bush's "stance" on the gay marriage issue is support for civil unions. Hogwash. He tries to say that Bush's official policy was indistinguishable from Kerry's.
There's so much here worthy of debate, but let me just say this: I am not a one-issue voter. The gay marriage thing, while obviously of some importance to me, is not on my front burner. George W. Bush is an economic and diplomatic disaster of catastrophic proportions. I have no doubt that the name George W. Bush will be remembered by historians with a shameful shudder.
Even if their policies were completely switched on this one issue -- say, for argument's sake, that John Kerry ran exactly the same campaign he did but actively supported a gay marriage ban and George W. Bush ran the same campaign he did but was openly in favor of same-sex marriage, I would still have voted for John Kerry.
While thousands are dead and dying in the middle east, here at home our economy has been set adrift on an iceberg in an ever-warming ocean. The problems directly attributable to Bush's administration are legion. Just because he once casually expressed support for civil unions is no reason to celebrate.
- Donald Rumsfeld needs to resign. You know you're in trouble when both Senators McCain and Lott agree that you're incompetent.
- The missile defense program needs to die. The Pentagon tried to claim that Wednesday's failed test wasn't a setback. Hi, your rocket didn't launch. How is that not a setback? There have been nine -- count 'em, nine -- tests of this system. Only nine. Five of them, under "controlled" circumstances (i.e., the target missile basically had a homing device in it to attract the anti-missile-missile), were successful. Three of them were not, and then there's yesterday's no-go. The last test, which was conducted two years ago, missed its target by "hundreds of miles." Additionally, a Pentagon spokesperson today said that the rocket that failed this week was one developed under the Clinton administration. Uh-huh. It's always Clinton's fault, isn't it? By the way, these nine tests so far have cost us $85 billion.
Lest you think we are still in the "experimental" phase, Bush claims that the system is operational, based on the six missiles in Alaska that are ready to go. Assuming they can leave the silo.
Launching an intercontinental ballistic missile is beyond the capabilities of most terrorist organizations, and a missile -- even one that can actually fly -- can't stop a car bombing in Washington or a sarin attack in Chicago. We would do better to take these financial resources and help secure nuclear weapons in the former Soviet countries. The priority is all wrong. (Oh, and, it doesn't work anyway.)
- My tin roof rusted! The rural dwelling that was reportedly the inspiration for the B-52s' hit "The Love Shack" has apparently burned to the ground. I want my juke box money back.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
I object to James Ridgeway’s 12 Days of Christmas, where he wrote, “The holiday season offers Christians an opportunity to consider the different gifts they have brought to Iraq,” and then lists everything that has gone wrong with Bush’s war.
I am a Christian, but do not support the war in Iraq. I have written letters to my representatives in Congress, I have protested, I have given money to anti-war political candidates, and I have prayed my butt off over this catastrophe. There are millions of Christians in America who were opposed to the invasion, and many others who consider it a valid war of choice but who are appalled at the way the occupation has been managed.
The chronic shortages cited in today’s piece are not the fault of the Christian community. They are the result of an administration more concerned with rewarding its wealthiest supporters through tax cuts instead of spending what is necessary to protect our children overseas; an administration so pre-occupied with promoting an image of infallibility that they refuse to acknowledge miscalculations; an administration that claims to value the “sanctity of life” and yet deploys weapons of mass destruction on urban areas, endorses torture and withholds from prisoners international basic standards of legal rights.
I do not accept his blame.
My thanks to all of you who wrote in protest! And a special round of applause to ultra-cool Mary Tyler Moore, who is my new favorite person.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
He summarizes, "Elected Democratic presidents Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton all failed to win a majority of the popular vote. "
Well, that might be an encouraging thought -- even if it didn't make the Electoral College seem even more ridiculous than it is -- except that it is wholly untrue. In fact, four Presidents have been elected despite losing the popular vote, and Shields only got one of them right. They are, in chronological order, John Quincy Adams (who was before Lincoln so he wouldn't have been in the list anyway), Rutherford B. Hayes, Cleveland, and George W. Bush.
How did such a blatant error find its way into print? Is anyone at all home at CNN.com? Did Shields do even the most basic fact-checking Google search?
Monday, December 13, 2004
-- State Representative Cynthia Davis of Missouri
To: Representative Cynthia Davis, Cynthia.Davis@house.mo.gov
Subject: Liberals are not hijacking America, thank you
Dear Representative Davis,
As a resident of Manhattan, I am writing to you to express my objection to your sentiments that were quoted in today’s New York Times, comparing the liberal vision for America to the September 11 hijackings.
I was here that day, and will never forget the horror. How dare you trivialize such terror? I cannot imagine that you or any other social conservative feel anything even remotely akin to the panic the residents of New York and Washington suffered that day, let alone that of the helpless souls trapped on the doomed aircraft, when you worry about progressive goals. Do not speak so lightly of such things. Do not use this tremendous tragedy as an allegory fit for a cheap political soundbite.
What is this liberal direction in which you do not want to travel? It is one that values the rights of the private individual. It is one that values the environment and recognizes that the true worth of the planet cannot be measured in corporate profits. It is one that holds that education and health care are basic, fundamental rights. It is one that believes in fair taxation. It is one that favors global cooperation over military dominance. It is one that respects the dream of America that the founding fathers set forth over 200 years ago. Would the realization of these goals be a worse fate for you than crashing into a skyscraper at 600 miles per hour?
In fact, “liberal values” means having the freedom to live your life according to your personal beliefs. If anyone is being forced to go in certain directions against their will, it would be the 49% of Americans who voted to reject the Republican agenda last month.
You owe American liberals a public apology for comparing us to fanatical murderers of innocents. Your resignation will suffice.
New York, NY
Friday, December 10, 2004
Apparently there's a new "angle" to this week's Rumsfeld fiasco.
It turns out the now infamous question asked by Army Spc. Thomas Wilson was "prompted" by a reporter embedded in Wilson's unit.
The New York Post went so far as to opine today, "Rumsfeld was set up."
Aw. Poor, poor Donald "Hell, I'm an old man" Rumsfeld. My heart just goes right out to the poor S.O.B.
That damn liberal news media. (The reporter in question is from that hotbed of lefty thought, Chattanooga.) I bet the other 2,300 soldiers present for the Q&A were also "prompted" to cheer at the question.
It's really an outrage that the architect of this war has to face questions like that. If this reporter had really done his homework, he would know that:
- 25% of Humvees deployed in Iraq aren't armored.
- The most secure are factory-armored Humvees, and the Pentagon has received only 5,910 of the 8,105 that commanders say they need.
- 90% of the 4,814 medium-weight transport trucks have no armor.
- 85% of the 4,314 heavy transport vehicles aren't armored.
- Two armor-making companies said the Pentagon has declined their offers to pick up the pace of production.
- The Pentagon's proposed budget didn't include money to armor trucks.
But if you read the Post, you would know that it's really only an "alleged lack of adequately armored vehicles," and that "at the end of the day, soldiers need to make do with what they have."
The A train was already pretty much full when it pulled into my stop this morning. Now, pardon me for stating the obvious, but people don't stand when there are empty seats available. So if you can see through the windows that there are lots of standing people, it's a pretty safe bet that there are no seats. I say this only because this kind of logic seems not to have dawned on some of my fellow riders, notably the hobbit-sized old lady this morning who literally put her right elbow in my ribs trying to push past me onto the train; then she stands just inside the door and looks left, then right, then left again, scanning the train to see if there's any seats that the 50 or so standing people might just have happened to miss.
As I mentioned in a previous post, in winter subway riders swell up to three times their normal size, so even leaving 181st Street heading downtown, after making only 4 stops so far, it's pretty tight. The next two stops are the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal and then 168th Street, which is where the Presbyterian Hospital is, the Columbia med school, and the connection to the Broadway local subway. Leaving 168th Street you could barely breathe.
Then we sit in the tunnel for about 5 minutes, not moving. "Attention ladies and gentlemen, due to congestion up ahead, we're being held by dispatch." You wonder, after waiting 10 minutes for a train in the first place, and then proceeding at the speed of a tortoise, how on earth you've caught up with the train in front of you.
Alas, the previous train has "gone out of service." I'm not sure how many people you can actually get on a subway car at its most crowded, but I would venture to guess it's probably around 125 or so; in a ten car train, that's well over one thousand people. So we lumber into 145th Street on the local track (screech, screech, thud, wobble) and now you have 100 people per car or so trying to squeeze on. You can bet some of these people were late to begin with and the fact that their train got stuck only made it worse. They are determined, come hell or high water, to get on this train.
"Stand clear of the closing doors please."
Cursing. Sound of doors thudding unsympathetically against flesh and backpacks. Ding-dong.
"Ladies and gentlemen, there is another A train directly behind this one, if you cannot get on this train, please wait for the next one."
Yeah, right. I fell for that once. Miraculously the doors managed to close, leaving a few stranded people behind. Then at 125th Street we repeated the whole process.
Finally we reached Columbus Circle. Even if New Yorkers were inclined to politely step out of the way to let people off, the train is so crowded there's nowhere to move. You end up literally climbing over people. You don't have a choice. "Jesus Christ!" spat a woman angrily as I stepped on her foot on my way out the door.
My sentiments exactly.
UPDATE: See today's New York Times editorial. (Riding the subway while inebriated is prohibited? Well...how the hell am I supposed to get home???)
Thursday, December 09, 2004
There is a fear that we've been overreaching and that the backlash has been or will be insurmountable; that by pushing for full marriage rights while a significant proportion of the country remains uncomfortable with the concept, we have forced the hand of the religious right and mobilized them into enacting laws that set us back. Some wonder if we shouldn't aim just a little lower for now.
I think we need to look back at the effective civil rights campaigns of the past. I'm trying to picture Susan B. Anthony or Martin Luther King, Jr., telling supporters that their goals are unrealistic.
Yes, we need to examine our tactics. Be honest about what worked and what didn't. But let's also not put all our eggs in one basket. There is a place for measured, pragmatic, step-by-step legal techniques and social outreach programs, and it's right along side in-your-face activism.
I categorically reject any suggestion that we shouldn't shoot for the moon. In the short term, we're gonna lose some battles, especially if Bush gets to replace three or more Supreme Court Justices. Given the success of the 11 recent state initiatives, there will likely be more. But these are just laws. Laws are not permanent. Laws are interpreted, amended, and repealed. Sometimes they are judged unconstitutional. And none of the laws that are being enacted now change the daily reality for any of us. They take away rights we don't even have. Practically speaking, nothing is different today than it was six months ago.
Increasingly, however, public opinion is on our side. And that is where the final victory will be won, in the court of public opinion. Trent Lott was hounded out of his senate leadership position when he made casual remarks at a private function that fondly recalled the promise of a pro-segregation presidency. He didn't break any laws. When we can move society to the point where Rick "man-on-dog" Santorum incurs the same outrage, whatever laws passed today will be meaningless and not long for the books.
Specifically, I think we need a more aggressive public relations war. Call every bluff. Publicize every discriminatory remark. Challenge every assertion. Push all the science we can get our hands on. Recently it was exposed that 99.8% of the indecency complaints received by the FCC this year were filed by one organization. There's no reason we can't go after Fox News, the 700 Club and other mouthpieces for the amoral minority and tell the government we're offended.
It's going to be a long, hard fight, and we shouldn't look for any significant victories with Bush in the White House and Republicans controlling both arms of Congress. But we can't be so shortsighted. Looking back over history, the long term trends globally are decidedly in our favor. For the next four years, at least, we'll have to run to stand still. But if we don't, we'll have that much farther to go later.
Mr. Rumsfeld seemed taken aback by the question and a murmur began spreading through the ranks before he silenced it. "Now, settle down, settle down," he said. "Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my thoughts here."
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Rumsfeld, who puts the deaf in SecDef, was in Afghanistan recently for the swearing-in of newly-elected President Hamid Karzai, and then stopped in Kuwait afterwards for a pep-talk with U.S. troops. Afterwards he opened up the floor to questions.
"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" [Army Spc. Thomas] Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.
Rumsfeld apparently couldn't hear the question and asked for it to be repeated. Then he responded, "You go to war with the army you have."
"You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can be blown up," Rumsfeld said.
Now, let's see...we sent our troops to Iraq in March of 2003. You'd have to accept that this was a war of imminent necessity, which almost no one nowadays believes; we rushed to war before we had time to fully prepare our troops with the equipment they would need. And now, 20 months later, they still don't have it.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Rumsfeld here seems to be saying that "all the armor in the world" won't protect you, so why bother? One would think that the more armor you've got on your vehicle, the more powerful a bomb would have to be in order to do some damage. That offers some protection right there. Furthermore, even with a very powerful bomb detonating under a fully-armored truck, isn't there the possibility that some lives could be saved?
Let's send Rumsfeld for a joyride down the road to Baghdad International Airport in an unarmored transport and see how confident he feels then.
And now for the good news: Howard Dean gave a speech today in which he outlined his vision for the future of the Democratic Party.
For ten years now, a family of red-tailed hawks has lived in a nest built on a cornice on top of a luxury building in the middle of Fifth Avenue's swanky Museum Mile area, across from the boat pond in Central Park. These glorious, graceful, regal -- and endangered -- birds could frequently be seen soaring over the park.
The birds had a small army of adoring fans who observed them faithfully from the benches opposite the pond. In summer, they often set up a video monitor for tourists focused on the nests so you could watch the baby hawks in this unusual environment.
Full details here (NY Times registration required).
These rare birds were really celebrities, and were even the stars of a PBS documentary. While it is unclear if any law has been violated (there are federal protections in place prohibiting the destruction of migratory bird habitats), it was definitely a heartless thing to do.
As it so happens, one of the residents of this building is Mary Tyler Moore. "I am so outraged that they would do this without so much as a by your leave," she told the Times.
Please write to Ms. Moore and ask her to convey your anger to the management and other residents of her building:
Ms. Mary Tyler Moore
927 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10021
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
- After ten years, however, six spent running residential discipleship courses, followed by years of weekly group meetings, it was increasingly clear that however repentant people were, and however much dedication and effort they put into seeking change, none were really ‘successful’ in the long term in ‘dealing with the deeper issues’. This is not to say that people gained no benefit! Many matured greatly. A few married (though their same-sex attractions remain an ongoing issue for them). But the kind of change everyone really hoped for – to re-orientate and reach a point where their struggle with being gay was over – remained elusive. We never saw the fruit we longed for.
- I saw that those who began, on their own initiative, to embrace the possibility of a gay relationship, benefited greatly. Common to all was an underlying longing for companionship and intimacy – a heart-longing, not merely a craving to pursue gay sex! So I realised that to dismiss erotic intimacy between gay men merely as the pursuit of lust was to seriously misjudge the situation. Gay relationships, entered into sincerely, with mutual commitment, provide value and a sense of belonging.
- Besides, why did Jesus call us to follow him, if there is no hope of finding a way forward, if celibacy is the only option? Why bother to study the Scriptures, or seek God in intercessory prayer, if there is nothing more to be said on the matter? In any case, what criteria do we have for judging committed love between two people as sinful, except for adultery?
- Biblical law was given at a time when people saw nothing wrong with a man having many wives. We do not accept polygamy today – presumably because we believe this runs contrary to God’s creation plan. So why did the Bible not unequivocally forbid it?
Monday, December 06, 2004
I was reading this article in the New York Times this morning about a controversy going on in Denver over the city's annual holiday parade.
"This was always just supposed to be a cutesy parade, for the kids," said [Downtown Denver Partnership] president, Jim Basey. "The purpose was to get bodies downtown."
Now, I ask you: what the hell is wrong with that?
"We just wanted to come out and show them the love of God and what Christmas is all about," said Laverne Gillespie, who was leading the line with a thermos of chocolate.
It seems to have started when the Denver mayor's office decided this year to change the banner that hangs from the City and County Building to read "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." So here you have a gesture that was intended to be sensitive and respectful to people who like their Xmas without the Christ, and naturally the Christians are offended, even though "Happy Holidays" certainly includes them, too.
It's not as if Denver banned religious association with the holiday. If you want to show people what the love of God is all about, you have 365 days in the calendar year to do it. Let's just let people have their secular holidays, okay?
Secular? Am I nuts? you must be asking. Look people, scholarly research indicates that in all likelihood, Jesus was born in the fall. It's almost certain that December 25 was chosen as the day of observance to replace the annual pagan winter solstice festival which, in the Roman calendar, was celebrated on December 25. While the church fathers almost certainly chose the date to replace celebration of the solstice, many of the traditions persisted. For example, the Druids used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life, and placed evergreen branches over doors to keep away evil spirits. Medieval Germans decorated their homes in winter with evergreen boughs to remind themselves that spring was coming back. (Trust me; having spent a winter in central Europe, you do begin to wonder if you'll ever see the sun again.) Ancient Romans celebrated the winter solstice by decorating with the color green and exchanging presents.
Every year we see a news story or two about some yahoo objecting to Halloween because of its pagan origins. Frankly, the people who worry about this sort of thing have no faith in their children, their parenting skills or the power of the Lord. But isn't it odd that you don't see Christians picketing Christmas tree lots or burning holly bushes? Far from it. Most churches put up a tree or two, and the advent candles are always incorporated into an evergreen wreath.
For that matter, no one warns against the evil of Easter Eggs, boycotts the Paas company or melts down rabbit idols made from chocolate. No one reacts in horror to a bride swathed and veiled in white bearing a bouquet as they toss fistfuls of rice in her direction.
And why not?
Because no one worships a Christmas tree. It's that simple. People are able to enjoy it, even during a religious holiday, with out attributing some sort of power to it. It's just something pretty.
Look, winter sucks. The days are short, dark and cold. The weather can be downright dangerous, when it's not just merely inconvenient. It can have such an effect on our emotions that psychologists have identified an actual syndrome called "Seasonal Affective Disorder." It's well-known that suicide rates are highest during the holidays. Christmas is a break from the routine. If winter drives you insane, then Christmas is the chance to go a little crazy without anyone noticing. Is there any other reason for people to go out in the frigid cold in the dark and stand on the corner singing? You get to give and receive presents, visit with family you don't normally get to see, and put up decorations around your home to mark a special occasion.
Christians need to ask themselves if it really matters what day of the year Christ was born. We should celebrate the Gospel every day. There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a secular holiday. This is not to say that we should not try to keep the Christ in Christmas, but merely to suggest that we put things in perspective.
What makes you angrier: that there's a secular holiday parade in Colorado, or that, by the Government's own ungenerous standard, 36 million Americans are living in poverty this Christmas?
What would Jesus protest?
Friday, December 03, 2004
Matthews: Did you choose to be heterosexual?
Falwell: I did.
Matthews: You thought about it and you came up with that solution, that lifestyle?
Falwell: Well, put it this way, I was taught as a child that that's the right way to be.
Matthews: But did you feel an attraction toward women?
Falwell: Oh, of course.
Matthews: But when people are born and they find themselves having an attraction to somebody from the same sex, do you think that's a choice?
Falwell: I think you can experiment with any perversity and develop an appetite for it, just like you can food. […] I don't think anybody is born a bank robber […]
Matthews: How old were you when you chose to be heterosexual?
Falwell: Oh, I don't remember that.
Matthews: Well you must, because you say it's a big decision.
Falwell: Well, I ... I started dating when I was about 13.
Matthews: And you had to decide between boys and girls. And you chose girls.
Falwell: Well, I never had to decide, I never thought … (laughter) [emphasis mine]
I think I figured it out. I miss Paul Krugman. Hurry up and finish your textbook, Paul! I need you to come back and make sense of my world for me again.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Today has been a fairly typical day for me here. Starting the moment I arrived this morning, I carefully noted everything that they asked me to do during the day. Here's what I recorded:
8:27 a.m. Arrived
8:35 a.m. Deleted 66 emails
9:26 a.m. copied a magazine article
11:08 a.m. boss decides she wants 10 copies of article
1:09 p.m. went to lunch
1:42 p.m. back
4:18 p.m. began to work on blogpost*
[* Obviously this part was not part of my job.]
For this work, I am paid $16/hour.
Today they asked me if I could be available to stay through January. Okay...it's time to get cracking on finding a real job. I can't take this much longer.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Monday, November 29, 2004
Let me just say I am a huge fan of epic, saga-like historical and quasi-historical stories. Gandhi. The Ten Commandments. Spartacus. Ben-Hur. The Lord of the Rings, preferably in the extended editions. It doesn't have to be films, either. I've sat through three complete cycles of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, and once saw Parsifal twice in the same week. If that's not kooky enough, I saw The Two Towers seven times in the theater.
I also can enjoy seriously bad movies, for example, anything with Jean-Claude van Damme (at least before he started directing his own movies), or anything where an iguana shot in close-up appears to be threatening a city made from railroad model kits.
Rarely in my life have I ever been as bored as I was during Alexander. It has all of the elements I love: exotic locations, elaborate sets and costumes, cast of thousands. It has the added benefit of being true (sort of). Then of course there's that whole gay thing.
What this movie lacked, above all else, was a script. Yes, I heard people talking, but I don't remember anything they said. It wasn't overblown, stilted "look at me being historical" dialogue (think Charlton Heston). It certainly wasn't razor-sharp wit. It wasn't even dry academic fact regurgitation. It was just the barest force necessary to move this lumbering elephant of a movie along to its whimpering end. How Angelina Jolie managed to wrest her pathologically committed performance out of the infertile dust of this screenplay is a mystery on the scale of Genesis.
Oh, how I have longed for a gay hero on the silverscreen. A macho, muscular, attractive, virile, sword-wielding genius of a military strategist with a boyfriend. As the old proverb goes, "Be careful what you wish for." Colin Farrell and Jared Leto -- both exceptionally attractive people -- have absolutely zero chemistry together. The scene where a weepy Hephaistion brings Alexander a ring on his wedding night, which he slips onto the ring finger, no less, could have been either deeply touching or scandalously bold (ideally both). Instead it became ludicrous when Mrs. The Great, aka Roxane, catches them and stutters out, "You....luff...heem?" It's not clear whether she's tormented more by the realization that she's a big-boobed political pawn of a breeding trophy-wife (aka, beard; see McGreevey, Mrs.) or whether she's just having difficulty conversing in this obscure Gaelic dialect of Macedonian.
Alex and Heph have a couple of nice buddy hugs, but the only kiss is shared between Alex and his Babylonian eunuch, Mona Lisa, who seems to have been instructed by Stone not to act at all, so that he didn't overshadow Leto. No, the gayest performance in the movie comes from Angelina Jolie, for whom they should create a special Oscar category: Best Performance by a Drag Queen in a Supporting Role.
My friends warned me that I'd be disappointed, but I assumed it was because they underestimated my fetish for long, terrible movies. Alas, from the technicolor alternate-reality sequence of the doomed battle in India (if there's one thing we learned from South Pacific, it's that magenta filters are a bad idea) to Ptolemy's last-minute "scratch that" whitewash of Alexander's demise this movie is a disaster. On an epic scale.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
The film in general:
- Now that ''Alexander" is finally here, the best there is to say is that it's better than ''Troy."
- Certainly it's brought out the worst in terms of the puerile writing, confused plotting, shockingly off-note performances and storytelling that lacks either of the two necessary ingredients for films of this type, pop or gravitas.
The New York Times
- "Alexander" may not be a historical document, but at least some moviegoers are sure to have a gay old time.
Colin Farrell's hair:
- The new Oliver Stone movie, ''Alexander," is full of brilliant highlights, and they're all in Colin Farrell's hair.
- Presiding above all is Colin Farrell's tousled bleach job, his gypsy-moth eyebrows and dark brooding roots suggesting less the eponymous myth figure in his battlefield prime than a Vanity Fair hairdresser ablaze with purpose during a high-pressure Kirsten Dunst cover shoot.
The Village Voice
- As the movie goes on, his bleach-blond bowl cut grows out to something resembling a mullet, and by the end he's sporting the flowing locks of Fabio.
- The more people Alexander kills, the longer and fluffier Farrell's wigs get.
San Francisco Chronicle
Was Alexander bisexual???
- Having seen the film, I can categorically state that Stone does not in any way suggest Alexander was bisexual. He suggests Alexander was absolutely, fabulously gay.
- Predominant among a few laugh getters is Hephaistion's silent, bedroom-eyes beseechment for nookie augmented by a slight toss of Anistonian hair, only to be told by his top, "Not on the eve of a battle." Once Babylon is taken from the Persians (yes, Stone goes for a replay of Intolerance's vertical pan, although naturally nothing we see is real), the two diehards lounge around in silk robes with chaliced cocktails like a married couple at the Pines.
The Village Voice
- The proclamations of love and the most intense and passionate hugs are between Colin Farrell's Alexander and his best friend Hephaistion, played by the long-haired, dewey-eyed Jared Leto, who's photographed as if he's appearing in Elton John's wildest dreams. As narrator Anthony Hopkins says, "It was said that Alexander was never defeated, except by Hephaistion's thighs." He's talking about their boyhood wrestling matches, but then again, he isn't.
- Sporting a dreadful blond pageboy and a micro-mini toga while exchanging come-hither looks with his mascara-loving childhood pal, Hephaistion (Jared Leto), Colin Farrell looks more like Alexander the Fabulous than Alexander the Great.
New York Post
- The fiery Jolie is terrific.
- Angelina Jolie, as A's sorceress-mother Olympias, white pythons entwined around her legs, seems destined for a Maria Montez Lifetime Achievement in Vamp Award.
The Village Voice
- With snakes literally slithering around her shoulders, body makeup not quite concealing an arm tattoo and what sounds like a bad Transylvanian accent, Jolie is hardly striving for historical accuracy. Actually I don't know what she's striving for, but it's hugely entertaining.
- As the young marauder kills and enslaves peoples from Egypt to India, Mr. Stone repeatedly returns us to Olympias, snakes coiling around her body and chastising her absent son in a bewildering accent, part Yiddishe Mama, part Natasha of "Rocky and Bullwinkle" fame: "You don't write, you don't call, why don't you settle down with a nice Macedonian girl?" or words to that effect. Rarely since Joan Crawford rampaged through the B-movie sunset of her career has a female performer achieved such camp distinction.
The New York Times
- And where Kilmer is a drunken riot, Jolie is plenty dangerous. Her Greco-Gabor accent alone could kill.
- An accent that seems to have been borrowed from George Hamilton in "Love at First Bite."
- She does attempt a foreign accent, but unfortunately picked the one we recognize from old movies as Transylvanian. She could be the mother of Count Dracula, but not of a fine Irish lad from Macedonia.
New York Daily News
- All the while, Jolie is hissing with her snakes and telling "Alexaaaaaaannnnndrrrrrrreeeeh" that he is destined for legendary things. It's one of the great so-awful-it's-wonderful performances in recent film history.
- I don't care how nuts she is, Jolie is the real deal: a gorgeous, epic-scaled actress who can transform herself from the inside out. She could eat Colin Farrell for breakfast and pick her teeth with Jared Leto. Forget Alexander: The film is a pedestal to Angelina the great.
- To Mr. Stone's credit he doesn't shy away from the character's omnisexual appetites even if he doesn't allow Mr. Leto to cut loose like Rosario Dawson, who plays Alexander's wildcat wife, Roxane. Then again, in light of Alexander and Roxane's comical boudoir brawling and growling there's something to be said for directorial restraint.
The New York Times
- And if you can't work up some honest, loving passion for a nude and revved-up Rosario Dawson, you're either gay or dead.
- Presumably, the idea is, if Alexander must have a boyfriend, at least give him one as pretty as Diane Lane.
San Francisco Chronicle
- When Alexander, having conquered the Persians, decides to take the peasant girl Roxane (Rosario Dawson) as his wife, a puddle-eyed Leto appears with his mascara running like Dorothy Malone's to present his own engagement ring.
The Village Voice
- Didn't it occur to anyone, perhaps during rushes, that Jared Leto might be a more photogenic and reliable choice in the title role? Seeing them together time and again kind of rubs in the misconception. Mr. Leto is better-looking, possesses a more expressive voice and confronts the camera with striking blue eyes. He doesn't steal scenes the way Angelina Jolie steals scenes, but he might provide the luxury of a heroic profile matched to a sensitive acting instrument.
- Alexander's great love was said to be Hephaistion, who is played in the film by Jared Leto, but unless you know Jared Leto by face, even late in the movie you'll have no idea which one he was. I thought he was this other guy, equally handsome, equally vapid, equally unmemorable, whom Alexander prongs with a spear in a drunken rage late in the movie. But that was some other guy.
- "Alexander" is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). The film features a lot of graphic warfare with impaled flesh, severed limbs and disturbing images of animal cruelty. Ms. Dawson also takes her top off, which may disturb some viewers in a rather different fashion.
The New York Times
Monday, November 22, 2004
I would like to recommend this NY Times article, In Falluja, Young Marines Saw the Savagery of an Urban War. Be forewarned, it is graphic and very upsetting in its description of combat.
May God above keep them safe and bring them quickly home to their families. For those who are not destined to return, may He grant them swift passing into His loving, eternal embrace.
Anyway, forget that.
Rudy Giuliani? As the GOP choice to replace Dubya? Here's one good reason why that will never happen:
Yes, that's right folks. That is Mr. Rudy Giuliani appearing in public in drag. Am I supposed to seriously accept that all these "moral values" voters are going to stump for a man who has appeared -- more than once -- in public in a dress? A man who is on record as saying, "I’m pro-choice. I’m pro-gay rights."
He's also Catholic. Could we expect the same Catholic bishops who urged withholding communion from John Kerry on the same grounds to likewise publicly and loudly come out against Giuliani?
He was divorced in 2002. His ex-wife's lawyer went before the press and said, "If there's going to be a divorce, let's have the truth about why — Rudy's open and notorious adultery."
Now, before people accuse me of smearing Giuliani's character and trying to sabotage his presidential bid, let me just say this: I would totally vote for a cross-dressing, pro-choice, divorced Catholic who supports gay rights.
I officially endorse Rudolph Giuliani for Republican candidate for president in 2008. Maybe he could use this photo in his campaign ads:
Friday, November 19, 2004
Yeah, that's been keeping me awake for weeks, now.
So I returned to one of yesterday's links and printed out the article "Inside the Mind of the Gay Sheep." No, really. On my next trip I'm gonna slip it under one of the stall doors.
In a barely related tangent, the research for this article came from Oregon Health Sciences University. Yay, Portland!
Thursday, November 18, 2004
"Bulgarian farmer Galen Dobrev is claiming substantial damages from the breeder who sold him a prize-winning pedigree pig after the porker turned out to be a little more pink than the average Babe, Ananova reports. An outraged Dobrev told the court where he is sueing the breeder: "It's a disgrace, all he was interested in was other male pigs."
The page also contains links to the following articles:
Aussie boffins probe lesbian cows
Inside the mind of the gay sheep
Sheep pine for absent friends: official
Sheep like happy, smiley people: official
"It's like experimenting with drugs," [Delana] Davies said. "You just keep playing with it and it becomes customary. ... If it's OK to dress like a girl today, then why is it not OK in the future?"
It has been replaced with "Camo Day" -- yup, the kids will dress in camouflage, I guess pretending to be soldiers, hunters or white trash at Wal-Mart on laundry day. Details here.
Latest reporting indicates that 96 Americans have been killed since November 1. Globalsecurity.org is now estimating that the November figure could reach 150.
In other news, I'm going to provide you with the first few paragraphs from a CNN story today. I'm blanking out the name of the country in question for effect. Does any of this seem vaguely familiar? (Emphasis mine in text below.)
Powell: Intelligence suggests XXXX trying to adapt missiles for nukes
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- The United States has intelligence indicating XXXX is trying to fit missiles to carry nuclear weapons, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said.
Powell partially confirmed claims by an XXXXian opposition group that XXXXXX is deceiving the United Nations and is attempting to secretly continue activities meant to give it atomic arms by next year.
"I have seen intelligence which would corroborate what this dissident group is saying," Powell told reporters Wednesday as he traveled to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Santiago, Chile. "And it should be of concern to all parties."
Pressed by reporters on the intelligence reports, Powell said the intelligence indicates that XXXX "had been actively working on delivery systems" capable of carrying a nuclear weapon.
Powell said there is no evidence to suggest that XXXX has developed the technology to make a nuclear weapon, but suggested that the regime is working to adapt missiles for nuclear warheads.
"I'm talking about information that says that they not only had these missiles, but I'm aware of information that suggests they were working hard as to how to put the two together," Powell said.
REPUBLICANISM SHOWN TO BE GENETIC IN ORIGIN
The discovery that affiliation with the Republican Party is genetically determined was announced by scientists in the current issue of the journal NURTURE, causing uproar among traditionalists who believe it is a chosen lifestyle.
Reports of the gene coding for political conservatism, discovered after a decades-long study of quintuplets in Orange County, CA, has sent shock waves through the medical, political, and golfing communities.
Psychologists and psychoanalysts have long believed that Republicans' unnatural disregard for the poor and frequently unconstitutional tendencies resulted from dysfunctional family dynamics -- a remarkably high percentage of Republicans do have authoritarian domineering fathers and emotionally distant mothers who didn't teach them how to be kind and gentle.
Biologists have long suspected that conservatism is inherited. "After all," said one author of the NURTURE article, "It's quite common for a Republican to have a brother or sister who is a Republican."
The finding has been greeted with relief by Parents and Friends of Republicans (PFREP), who sometimes blame themselves for the political views of otherwise lovable children, family, and unindicted co-conspirators.
One mother, a longtime Democrat, wept and clapped her hands in ecstasy on hearing of the findings. "I just knew it was genetic," she said, seated with her two sons, both avowed Republicans. "My boys would never freely choose that lifestyle!" When asked what the Republican lifestyle was, she said, "You can just tell watching their conventions on TV: the flaming xenophobia, flamboyant demagogy, disdain for anyone not rich, you know." Both sons had suspected their Republicanism from an early age but did not confirm it until they were in college, when they became convinced it wasn't just a phase they were going through.
The NURTURE article offered no response to the suggestion that the high incidence of Republicanism among siblings could result from their sharing not only genes but also psychological and emotional attitude as products of the same parents and family dynamics. A remaining mystery is why many Democrats admit to having voted Republican at least once -- or often dream or fantasize about doing so. Polls show that three out of five adult Democrats have had a Republican experience, although most outgrow teenage experimentation with Republicanism.
Some Republicans hail the findings as a step toward eliminating conservophobia. They argue that since Republicans didn't "choose" their lifestyle any more than someone "chooses" to have a ski-jump nose, they shouldn't be denied civil rights which other minorities enjoy. If conservatism is not the result of stinginess or orneriness (typical stereotypes attributed to Republicans) but is something Republicans can't help, there's no reason why society shouldn't tolerate Republicans in the military or even high elected office -- provided they don't flaunt their political beliefs.
For many Americans, the discovery opens a window on a different future. In a few years, gene therapy might eradicate Republicanism altogether. But, in the meantime, why should they be allowed to marry?
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
I miss the private bathrooms at the non-profit place.
The sounds and smells of having to share a bathroom...dear lord. Don't these men understand the concept of "courtesy flush"?
And while I appreciate the kind gesture of leaving reading materials behind for the next user, would it be at all possible to get something other than the sports or business pages? What I wouldn't give for National Geographic.
The privacy is really the issue, though. It doesn't matter that you've got a little stall. The fashion conscious among us know who wears which shoes. Acoustically, this place would be great for an a capella concert by a vibrato-less pre-teen soprano...everything is amplified and comes with automatic reverb. Let's face it, sometimes in the morning, after your coffee, your body makes unusual noises. They could at least pipe some muzak in there to cover it up.
It's not just me that feels this way. Frequently I encounter a game of "toilet chicken"; that is, two guys stuck next to each other in the stalls, both clenched in the hope that the other will just get on with it and get out and leave them alone for a moment.
Then there's the Hummer. Someone here sits on the pot and just hums. It's not any particular tune. It's just, "hmmm-mmmm, mmmm-mmmmm-mmm, hmm-hmm-hmm, mmmm."
And that's all I want to say about that.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
This is the poster for the upcoming Episode III of Star Wars, Revenge of the Sith. Fark hosted a photoshop contest on it recently. I thought they were kidding, that like some rube had made up this spoof of a poster, but no...I saw this at the theater last night.
It's not inspiring confidence. Check out the photoshop, though...some clever folks out there!
Monday, November 15, 2004
Thank God. Now maybe they can find a conservative columnist with a grasp of reality. He should have been fired after his repeated columns about Mohammed Atta in Prague and Musab al-Zarqawi's links to Osama bin Laden, even though both stories have been thorougly disproven. Perhaps he is resigning in frustration because, despite God knows how many columns he's written on the subject, no one seems to care about his Saddam Hussein/U.N. Oil for Food scandal. Oooooh, Saddam Hussein was a corrupt ruler who tried to game the system for his own benefit and possibly bribed international officials.
Oh, speaking of resignations, Colin Powell quit today. So did Secretary of Education Rod Page -- now THERE was a scandal Safire should have written about; Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham; and Agriculture Ann Veneman. Total Bush Administration resignations since the election: 6.
From the front page of today's New York Times:
Military commanders point to several accomplishments in Falluja. A bastion of resistance has been eliminated, with lower than expected American military and Iraqi civilian casualties. Senior military officials say up to 1,600 insurgents have been killed and hundreds more captured, altogether more than half the number they estimated were in the city when the campaign began.
Saturday, November 13, 2004
TK: "I think people are misinterpreting the "Mission Accomplish" [sic] speech that Bush gave on the carrier. It was the crew, of their own free will, that hung the sign. An old student of mine, who helped hang it up, told me this.
Andy: Yes, of course. I forgot that all battleships come with their own Kinko's so they can print up giant propaganda banners whenever they like. Unfortunately, that doesn't square with the results of the media's fact-finding mission after Bush's speech. Damn that liberal press corps!
TK: "If people can get off the media's bashing of this statement and listen to what the President actually said then the context of the statement is clear:
"Iraq is a dangerous place and we've still got hard work to do, there's still more to be done. And we had just come off a very successful military operation. I was there to thank the troops." - George W. Bush, May 1, 2003
Andy: Well, it seems you've come up with a post-speech quote that the President gave to the press to clarify what the hell he was talking about out there and his reasons for being there. Fine, let's all take your suggestion and read what the President actually said that day. It's all right there in black and white on the official White House webpage. Don't forget to notice the banner at the top of the smiling, joyful Iraqis. At least I guess they're Iraqis celebrating our invasion...no way to prove it's not a crowd of Jordanians watching a soccer game. So what did the President say?
- "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." That's from his opening sentence. TK, you've got to be kidding me if you expect us to believe that Bush meant only that the Lincoln's mission was accomplished. His first statement was an absolutely unequivocal declaration of final victory, there's no other way to read that.
- "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on." Unfortunately, as shown by the results of the election, 48% of America fails to see the connection between Iraq and September 11. That might have something to do with the government's own commission reporting that there was no relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.
- "And as of tonight, nearly one-half of al Qaeda's senior operatives have been captured or killed." Over the course of time, Bush would increase this number to 75%, but as I pointed out in my analysis of the final Bush-Kerry debate his context for this assertion is a list of approximately "two dozen" al Qaeda members that the government knew about in September 2001. There's absolutely no reason to think that the vacancies in al Qaeda's management haven't been filled. Oh, and thanks once again for linking Iraq and al Qaeda despite an utter lack of supporting evidence and substantial evidence to the contrary.
- "We've removed an ally of al Qaeda." Or...not.
- "No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more. (Applause.) " One might also add, "and because they didn't have any weapons."
- "With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got." Except the President did not actually declare war; first of all, he can't, the Constitution doesn't give him that power. Only the Congress can declare war. They voted to override the Constitution and surrender their own authority to the President, an act of which the constitutionality will be forever debated, I'm sure. Even with this authority, the President chose to go to war without actually declaring war. Hence, in his point of view, the prisoners are not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention. Isn't that convenient? (Unfortunately, the G.C. stipulates that its protections must also be extended to any prisoners whose status is in doubt.)
- "Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups and seeks or possesses weapons of mass destruction is a grave danger to the civilized world -- and will be confronted." Or even if they don't, hey, what's the difference?
- "The war on terror is not over; yet it is not endless." I thought it was only fair to include this acknowledgment on the President's part. Still, Bush clearly defined Iraq as a fait accompli. A year and a half later, we know that is not the case.
TK: It is presumptuous and naive to think that all hostilities would come to an end as soon as Bush made his speech that day. One more thing Bush said that the liberals will take literally so that it could be used against him later on. I guess when Clinton was in office and the literal definition of the word "is" and "sexual relations" came into question it was time to hit Websters.Andy: Sorry TK, but if anyone's taking President Bush literally, it would be the people who voted for him, not "the liberals." Give me a break. Go back and look at the papers from the months before our invasion began. Columnists, military commanders, diplomats, foreign leaders and the general public are all on record questioning Bush's repeated assertions that this would be a swift victory, that we would be welcomed as liberators, etc. Everyone wanted to know, "What is your plan in case you're wrong?" Many, many people predicted exactly the chaos -- specifically, a drawn-out urban guerrilla war -- that we're seeing now. WE knew this was going to take a long time and wasn't going to be easy. The Bush Administration was saying "cakewalk." How DARE you accuse us of having unrealistic expectations.
By the way, Clinton is no longer president. He didn't run for president this year. Why is it that every time someone criticizes Bush, the conservatives all yell, "But Clinton..."??? Do you really want to compare this current fiasco with Monica-gate? The President had a blowjob (or two) from someone who wasn't his wife. Well, that is tacky, to be sure. And he lied about it. But those lies didn't drag us into a war that has cost more than 1,100 American lives and an unguessable number of Iraqi lives.
The conservatives, who always wail about how the government wastes taxpayers' money, spent $64 million investigating Clinton and came up with bupkus, and yet Bush only managed to find $15 million to fund the 9/11 Commission to figure out how three thousand people died.TK: Come on people, it was the Lincoln's mission that was accomplished. Those people had been out in the Gulf for a long time and were ready to go home. I would expect hostilities and casualties to increase this week when executing a major offensive against the assholes who have buried themselves in Falujah. This is something that should have been done a year ago.
Andy: If Fallujah "should have been done a year ago," WHOSE FAULT IS THAT? Casualties have been increasing for a far longer period of time than just this week. The handoff of "sovereignty" was in June. During that month, there were 44 US casualties. In July we suffered 61. In August, 71. In September, 83. October was better at 67, but that number is still higher than it was in June and July. Currently we have had 48 casualties for the month of November; that's a rate of 3.69 casualties a day. If that keeps up, we're looking at a November total of 110. (These figures from Globalsecurity.org.)
TK: Contrary to popular opinion and political correctness we should have wiped them out completely and not given the insurgents time to make a stronghold. Incidentally this is something that Bush wanted to do a month ago but was forced to concede to popular opinion instead of listening to his military advisors.
Andy: No, what we should have done is not gone to Iraq in the first place because a lot of reasonably intelligent people were afraid this would happen. You're in the military; how could you not have learned one of the great lessons of Vietnam? Namely, you just can't effectively fight a guerrilla campaign. You'll never be able to wipe them out. Stronghold? It's their home, TK. And what's your source that Bush "conceded to popular opinion"? Also, you just finished saying we should have done Fallujah a "year" ago. It doesn't exactly exculpate Bush to claim he's been wanting to do this for a month. And, are you accusing the President of disregarding expert military advice for fear of losing popular support? Why would he do that? Oh, I forgot, there was a presidential election last week that he won by 3% of the vote.
TK: The success stories just aren't covered in the news. Just the rising death toll, which is surprisingly small, compared to other conflicts we have engaged in, and all the other "failures" attributed to Bush's invasion.
Andy: Are we, as a nation, "surprised" that only 1,100 Americans have died? Are you going to include in your "rising death toll" the estimates of the number of Iraqi civilians killed, which range up to 100,000? Is that "surprisingly small"? You're in the military, you tell me. And I've asked you this before. Please tell us all about the success stories we're not hearing.
The press isn't just covering the death toll. Kidnappings. Beheadings. Pipeline destruction. Abu Ghraib. Al QaQaa. Suicide bombings. Fallujah. Mosul. Samarra. Pardon my French, but there'd better be some pretty fucking good news to overshadow these catastrophes before we start throwing around the word "success."
TK: Unfortunately, Bush can't give 100% focus to the war effort because it isn't in the forefront of everyone's agenda.
Andy: No one is saying the president doesn't have more than one iron in the fire. We're just saying it's a disaster, is all.
TK: As far as monogamous lesbians are concerned, it wasn't Bush who decided to "protect" the U.S. from that lifestyle- it was the millions of voters who voted for the bills on their ballots.
George W. Bush: "And the preservation of marriage rises to this level of national importance. The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution, honoring -- honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith. Ages of experience have taught humanity that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society. Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all. Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of man and woman as husband and wife." (February 24, 2004)
TK: Bin Laden may be off dialysis at the moment but he sure as hell would have been on it sooner had Clinton got off his ass and did something when the WTC was bombed the first time. I guess Clinton was too distracted by his intern's DSL's and the fact he was patting himself on the back for lobbing a few tomahawks when the USS Cole was almost sunk in Yemen. We had some soldiers die on his watch too but I keep forgetting that going to war when a Democrat is president is somehow ok.
Andy: Nice try, but Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were not responsible for the 1993 attack, which was perpetrated by Ramzi Yousef and Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman. They are both now in jail, along with 19 others who were tried and convicted.
Please find for me any reference to a Republican who urged Clinton to take stronger action against Osama bin Laden. Oh yes, I know that story that Oliver North himself tried to warn us, but that myth was officially debunked by the U.S. Senate. By the way, let us not forget that on August 6, 2001, just five weeks before the attacks, Bush received a security briefing entitled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." And what was his response? He stayed on vacation. No press conference. No increase in airport security. Didn't even notify the intelligence agencies or law enforcement, let alone "lob a few tomahawks."
In fact, as Richard Clarke's testimony proved, the outgoing Clinton administration warned the Bushies repeatedly about bin Laden and al Qaeda. The result? On September 10, 2001, John Ashcroft cut the Justice Department's counterterrorism budget.
And if you think "going to war when a Democrat is president is...ok," then clearly you have forgotten the ruckus the GOP raised about our involvement in the Balkans. At least Clinton never claimed Milosevic was "a grave and gathering threat" to U.S. security or credited him with possessing weapons he didn't have.
Plus, there was so much pre-release press that I felt like I'd already seen the movie just having read so much about it. And finally, having read all of that and hearing about Gibson's adherence to pre-Vatican II Catholicism and his alleged anti-Semitic upbringing, I just didn't feel like throwing $10.25 (welcome to movie theaters in Manhattan) at a millionaire who was promoting a view of Christ I wasn't sure I was going to share.
My first reaction is: what a waste of talent. The film was beautiful. Gibson has an eye for filling the screen with phenomenal, perfectly balanced and intriguing images. The art direction was superb. It was lovely to look at, and, I thought, very well cast. I was particularly impressed with Maia Morgenstern as Mary.
But I missed Jesus. I suppose if Gibson's intent was really to make a film about the crucifixion, and specifically that, I can't fault him for failing to give more time to the lessons Jesus taught. It would be like complaining that it's a fine wheelbarrow, but it doesn't play CDs -- you can't criticize something for failing to do what it wasn't designed to do.
Having said that, the character of Jesus in this movie is completely overwhelmed by the sadistic violence. I don't doubt that His final hours were every bit as miserable as the film depicts, if perhaps not even moreso. I can't help thinking, though, that the Gospels themselves don't spend a lot of time, proportionately speaking, about Christ's suffering and death. Gibson seems to want to win us over by inciting our outrage that such cruelties could be done to an innocent man.
But Christ was not just innocent. He was virtuous beyond reproach, kind, generous, a healer, and a pacifist. If you took all the segments of this film that showed Christ being any of these things and spliced them all together, they would occupy less time than the flogging scene. The thought that occurs to you over and over during this movie is, "How could they do this to someone?" I don't believe that He came to us to inspire outrage and indignance. He came to offer hope and comfort...and this was one of the most uncomfortable movies I have ever watched. While Gibson gives you Christ's Greatest Hits from the Gospels in one-verse-at-a-time flashbacks, showing a slightly bored-looking Jim Caviezel saying something compassionate for 5 seconds, he spends great stretches of the film glorying in creative camera angles capturing blood flying in every direction. For every peaceful thing He says in the film, He receives about ten lashes.
I did not really see this an anti-Semitic film; I mean, that's just the way the story goes, I'm sorry. For it to really be racist, I think there would have to be a more obvious playing-up of unpleasant stereotypes. However, I did find it distinctly homophobic.
The bloodlust and sadistic camaraderie of the Roman guards had a definite leather-clad S&M feel to it, and Gibson calls our attention to the same-sex debauchery early on when one guard grabs another by the head and moves as if to kiss him...they don't actually lock lips, but the one does wag his tongue lasciviously at the other.
King Herod's court looked like a retirement home for transvestites. Um, is this the same Herod who, according to the Bible, promised his stepdaughter anything in his power up to one half his kingdom if she would just dance naked for him? Sigh. You know how gay men love naked dancing girls. These guys weren't just gay, they were complete poofs, with obvious-looking wigs and fake beards and make-up.
The coup-de-grace, of course, was the effeminate Satan. Please. It was a bold stroke to cast a woman as the Devil...one that has fascinating possibilities, and I think is a very valid choice, actually. Effeminate, though, is not to say "feminine." There's a difference. This Satan was distinctly androgynous; I wonder how many viewers thought the actor was actually a man? We certainly tend to think of the Devil as a masculine entity, if his representations in art are any indication. Yes, this was no female Lucifer, but rather a pale-faced limp-wristed pansy-assed lisping Fagistopheles.
I would hope people would recognize that this is just a movie, just one man's idea about the events of the final hours of Christ's life. They shouldn't take The Gospel according to Mel all that seriously. If they'd really like to understand Christ's passion, there's no substitute for the original source.
Friday, November 12, 2004
Thank God that's over. Can we stop obsessing about it?
Can I point out that as of this morning, 18 U.S. soldiers had been killed in our current assault on Fallujah? And just remind everyone that yesterday was Veteran's Day? The New York Times is currently reporting that three U.S. helicopters have been shot down in Iraq in just this week. Oh, and by the way, while our military attention, at least, is focused on Fallujah, CNN reports that "fighting intensifies in four Iraqi cities."
Let's see...it's 20 months since the fall of Baghdad, about 18 months since Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" and almost a year since the capture of Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile, we're engaged in a street-by-street conquest, under heavy guerilla resistance, of a major Iraqi city while simultaneously losing control in three other places.
Osama bin Laden is off his dialysis machine making campaign commercials from Pakistan, the situation in Iraq is getting worse, not better, but at least we've got George W. Bush -- who's responsible for all these catastrophes -- to protect us from monogamous lesbians in Massachusetts.
Basically, in the heat of the moment, you set yourself down and write a long letter to the person you're angry with, and put everything in it. Let it all out. Say the things you've been dying to say forever, and use as many four letter words and as much colorful vocabularly as you can muster, if it helps. Just put everything out there, right on the page.
When you're done, read it back to yourself. Then destroy the letter; don't ever let anyone else see it. Breathe deeply. You should feel better, and hopefully, freed from the entrapment of rage, your brain has begun to find constructive ways to deal with the situation instead.
For those of us who might still have a few untapped resentments left after the election, click here to read one person's rant.
Warning: this website contains language not appropriate for chuch. At least, not my church.
Disclaimer: I am NOT the author of this text, and would be proud if I were.
- Divorce will be illegal.
- Secular ceremonies (i.e., those performed by a judge or justice of the peace) will be banned.
- Adultery will be criminalized; the penalty should be a mandatory jail sentence, or perhaps, as recommended by Leviticus, stoning. I'm flexible on that one.
- Divorces granted in other countries will not be recognized.
- Everyone wanting to get married must pass a fertility test; infertile couples can only be married after signing an affidavit indicating their intention to adopt.
If this doesn't sound acceptable to you, then please stop trying to hold gay people to standards you can't fucking maintain for yourselves, assholes.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
On the street outside the window a few floors below a moving van was double parked on the narrow two-way street. A livery cab attempting to pass it had pulled around into the oncoming lane, only to find itself staring down the headlights of an oncoming bus. Trapped now, between the bus and the line of cars behind him, the outraged driver leaned on his horn, while the driver of the bus responded in kind, wildly gesticulating his arms and mouthing the words, “Back up, moron!” The honking continued.
Fluffy raised herself into a sitting position and yawned, then twitched her tail. She didn’t turn to the window, but could sense from the level of light in the room that the sun was obscured by heavy clouds, and would not appear today. The current of heat rising from the radiator beneath the windowsill made her feel heavy and slow, and content. Raising herself to all fours, she contemplated a leap directly to the floor, but decided against it. She stepped elegantly to the arm of the sofa instead, then to the cushions, and descended to the polished parquet like a princess arriving at a ball.
She moved swiftly across the room, her body moving fluidly like a fur-covered fish. Her tail rose high in the air like the standard of a proud king, curving over gently at the top like a shepherd’s crook. Carefully she avoided the weak spot in the floor that creaked under even her gentle carriage. Lightly she bounded up the two steps out of the sunken living room and headed toward the kitchen.
As she bent towards her water dish, her nose wrinkled in involuntary distaste. Mitzi had been at her water again.
For five years now Fluffy had lived contentedly in her two bedroom apartment that she shared with two humans in upper Manhattan. It was a life of utterly predictable routine. The man was up early on a daily basis, and his first task was always putting fresh food in Fluffy’s dish, whether she was there to meow for it or not. (As she got older she tended to sleep in more.) Though the apartment remained dark, he sat under a solitary lamp in the dining room reading the newspaper while listening to the radio, slowly sipping a cup of coffee and nibbling two pieces of whole wheat toast with strawberry jam. He never varied this routine.
After dressing he would slip on his grey overcoat, regardless of the weather, and disappear out the door, leaving the radio in the dining room on. Moments later a harsh buzz would emanate from the bedroom. The woman would rouse herself out of bed, turning on both lamps on either side of the bed, the overhead light, then the light in the hall, the bathroom, the four lamps in the living room, the television, the foyer, the kitchen, and the entryway, before disappearing into the bathroom. Five minutes later she would reappear in a burst of steam and dressing quickly, she would retrace her earlier steps, this time turning off the lights as she passed them. Then whirling frantically from room to room mumbling to herself she would pick up scattered papers, books and magazines and stuff them into her oversized woven shoulderbag before flying out the door with a slam. Frequently she would re-appear a moment later, repeat her circuit around the apartment, pick up one additional item, and be gone again.
Fluffy would then have the rest of the day to herself, which she spent having naps in various locations followed by baths. All this had changed two weeks ago with a fateful knock on the door.
It was Mrs. Rosenbaum from across the hall, a kindly old woman whose hearing deficiency frequently prompted her to answer the question she thought she heard, rather than the one that had been asked. A friendly neighbor might greet her by saying, “Good morning, Mrs. Rosenbaum,” to which she might reply, “Yes, isn’t it awful?” or perhaps, simply, “What?”
Lily Rosenbaum explained that her family had decided she shouldn’t live alone in the City anymore, and they were taking her to live in an apartment facility for senior citizens in Hewitt. She was peeved; she was getting along just fine, thank you, and did not like the idea of being babysat twenty four hours a day and held hostage in a dining hall filled with chattering yentas and somnolent men. What’s worse, Schapiro Estates did not allow pets, and Lily’s daughter-in-law loudly protested that she was allergic to dogs. She needed a home for Mitzi, her 2 year old Shitzu. Would the Lowensteins be able to help?
They asked if they could have the evening to discuss it. It was hard to say no to Mrs. Rosenbaum, not least because she was the kind of woman who didn’t take no for an answer to begin with. But she was a kind, old-fashioned lady and had been a very good neighbor for many years, and had taken excellent care of Fluffy last winter when the Lowensteins had taken a Bahamas cruise. The woman was reluctant, but the man argued that it was the right thing to do to help Lily out, and that basically it would be like having a second cat. The woman conceded, but on the condition that the man took Mitzi for her morning walk.
And so Mitzi had arrived. She spent her first hours racing from one end of the apartment to the other, her short black nails clattering against the hardwood, yipping and yipping as she tried to manage the corners, her back legs sliding out from under her as she collided with the wall. It didn’t seem to stop her. Even now, two weeks later, she still slid into walls. Fluffy, terrified, had curled her lip in disgust and hissed.
Perched high on the living room windowsill, she surveyed her new housemate. Mitzi had two black circles for eyes, that shifted rapidly and never seemed completely in focus. Fluffy had the sense that Mitzi saw much but understood little. Or nothing. She was snaggletoothed, the right lower canine jutting up over her lip, which made her look like a mentally retarded vampire. Her off-white curly fur was the color of an old mop, except under her chin, where it was stained the same brown as the smelly food she inhaled. She proudly wore a black collar studded with fake rhinestones. “Like putting lipstick on a pig,” Fluffy sniffed.
“Yip!” cried Mitzi. That was all she ever said. And she always yipped it in precisely the same way, leading Fluffy to speculate that it likely meant nothing at all.
The next days proceeded in agony for Fluffy. Where before the days were filled with blissful, mellow silence, excepting only the constant hum of human voices from the small radio in the dining room that was always left on – for her? Fluffy sometimes wondered, disinterested – now there was the cringe inducing click-clack of shitzu paws on the floor, the uncouth “xhaxhaxhaxhaxha” sound of her idiotic panting, and the goddamned yips.
Mitzi spent hours sitting just inside the door at the end of the long entryway. “Yip!” Pause. “Yip!” Fluffy wished there was a way she could explain the ceaseless unvarying rhythm of the humans’ lives; they would be home around the time of the setting of the sun, give or take an hour or so, depending on whether the days were long or short. The woman would come home first, dumping her coat and bags on the wingback chair in the living room before bustling about in the kitchen. The man came a few minutes later, and would sit on the living room sofa and watch TV while communicating with the woman in a loud voice, so that he could be heard over the TV and around the corner into the kitchen and over the radio, still on, in the dining room. “Mm-hmm,” was all the woman ever seemed to reply.
“Yip!” was not going to speed up this process.
Worse still was the loss of many of Fluffy’s favorite napping spots. The top of the bed in the man and the woman’s room was too low. Mitzi would come click-clacking down the hall at top speed, and after regaining her balance following the collision with the right side of the door frame would leap on to the bed and dance in circles before leaping back off and repeating the routine.
Under the bed, her favorite refuge when strange humans appeared, was also out. Mitzi frequently crawled under the bed herself and yipped at dustbunnies. When they’d shift in the breeze caused by her vulgar breathing, Mitzi would “Yip!” in terror and click-clack out of the bedroom in a panic.
The bed in the unused second bedroom was too high for Mitzi, but the room itself had a stale and somewhat oppressive mood to it, and Fluffy did not like to nap in there. Invariably she would be restless and have unpleasant dreams. She avoided the dark bedroom most of the time. In the back corner of one of the hall closets there was a pile of old comforters and winter clothes, and Fluffy frequently retreated here when she wanted isolation. She had assumed it was a safe spot, until she was once roused from a nap with the uncomfortable sensation that she was being watched. When she opened her eyes, blank-eyed Mitzi was staring at her and panting. “Yip!” she said, and scuttled away. Fluffy frowned.
In the living room she was safe under the sofa; it was just the barest bit too low for Mitzi’s clumsy, oversized head. Fluffy would press herself against the back wall and smile patronizingly at Mitzi, and occasionally stick out her tongue. She was also safe in the seat of the wingback chair, but the windowsill was higher still and commanded a fuller view not only of the living room, but of the world outside, including the idiotic pigeons who would stare at Fluffy through the glass. “Hooo,” they would say, blinking.
Despite this, Fluffy mourned the loss of the broad open space in the center of the living room on the worn, faded Persian carpet, where she liked to bask in the golden rays of the morning sun, rolling onto her back and feeling herself melt into the floor like butter in a warm saucepan. In the evenings when the humans would sit quietly and watch television, Mitzi usually claimed this patch of carpet, coarsely biting and sucking on her fur, though to Fluffy’s eyes she never appeared quite clean. Now the carpet smelled like dog.
So she sat, as her tail slowly slid across the floor from one side to the other, and gazed at her reflection in the water dish. She pondered whether her thirst overpowered her revulsion at the taste of Mitzi’s slobber. A medium-sized cockroach ambled across the floor nearby, as Fluffy watched. In earlier days she’d have swatted it and chased it, playing with it until it vanished under the crack in the corner by the steam pipe, but now she didn’t bother. She had outgrown such behavior, except at full moon.
The water dish had been one of their first disputes. The humans aptly figured that having two four-footed creatures in the apartment would require more water, so they set out a larger bowl. Mitzi would lap at the water with a nearly pathological aggression; Fluffy stared in disbelief as the rhinestone-bedecked dustmop slurped and hacked over the bowl, spattering water in every direction and leaving the floor nearby wet with small puddles. The water then tasted like dog. Fluffy did her best to tolerate this, until one evening, as she delicately sipped her water, lost in thought, Mitzi padded up behind her and sniffed at her nether regions.
In the blink of an eye Fluffy wheeled on her with a snarl and smacked Mitzi hard across the snout with her right paw, claws fully extended. Then she hissed for good measure. Mitzi leapt backwards and made a whining noise akin to the radiator when it starts up on cold mornings. It was the only time Fluffy ever heard her say anything other than “Yip!”, and she wondered if perhaps maybe she wasn’t completely stupid after all.
Hearing the fracas, the woman came running and quickly sized up the situation, seeing the orange cat’s hackles raised like a porcupine’s quills and the cowering Mitzi in the far corner of the kitchen. “Bad cat!” scolded the woman, as she picked up a plastic water bottle and squirted a cold jet in her face. Fluffy felt betrayed by the woman, and glowered at the quaking dog as she retreated into the living room. The rest of that miserable evening had passed in heavy silence.
After that, Fluffy decided she needed her own dish. She circled the dish in the kitchen and mewed, glancing at the water and then back at the humans. “Whatsamatter, kitty?” the woman would say. “What do you mean, ‘meow’?” The woman frowned. “I don’t understand, honey. There’s food in your dish, water in the bowl, I just changed your litter. What do you want?”
Fluffy mraued in consternation, frustrated by her inability to articulate what she needed. The man’s gruff voice called from the living room.
“Honey, I don’t think the cat likes sharing the dog’s water, let’s get her her own bowl.”
As the woman went to the cupboard to get another bowl, Fluffy danced in circles between her legs and purred, humming in victory. Her own water dish! All was well.
Except Mitzi didn’t seem to understand this arrangement. Clearly, thought Fluffy, this bowl by MY food is MY water, and THAT THERE is your water. But Mitzi happily lapped away at both bowls. Fluffy gave up.
Heaving a sigh, she closed her eyes and bent her slender neck toward the dish, wrinkling her noise to avoid inhaling the scent. Just as her delicate pink tongue touched the water, she heard a familiar sound.
Click clack. Click click click click click.
Turning, she saw Mitzi standing in the doorway, panting like an idiot. “What do you want?” she meowed softly.
“Yip!” said Mitzi.
“Yip!” Pause. “Yip!” Fluffy hissed and raised her paw as Mitzi turned tail and headed back down the hall. Finished with her drink, Fluffy slinked back down the steps and ascended gracefully in a single leap to the top of the warm windowsill. The rising heat made her feel drowsy at once. Circling twice, she tucked her head under left arm, curled her tail around, and fell asleep.