Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Man (Cub) In Black

Thanks to The Lifetime Member for the cool holiday gear.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Man Cub and The Best Man

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Mad Max: Crazy Like A Fox Again

The trailer for Mel Gibson's new dead-language opus, Apocalypto, is up, and it looks friggin' incredible!

I thought “Passion of the Christ” was a waste of the talent involved because there was no story! Seeing a guy you know is about to be killed be beaten for 2+ hours was slow torture, beautifully wrought.

But this one seems to have a plot to accompany the A-List cinematography and score. I don't know about what (there's a lot of running involved) but any plot will be better than no plot.

As crazy-ass as it sounds for Mel to do back-to-back subtitled period pieces, I think he's got another winner on his hands, although not of “Passion…” box office appeal. This preview includes a quick shot of a naked pregnant chick who you just know isn't married in the eyes of the church, which will keep the religious throngs from flocking to this flick. I'm sure some ill-informed souls will wander into screenings, expecting another Christian extravaganza, though - woe betide them!

The screen capture above is from the trailer. It flashes by in a fraction of a second, but I swear I didn't touch it.

I can't wait to see this flick. The trailer's last shot gave me goosebumps.

Christmas Away From Home (Part 1)

When you're from Christmas Island, every day is like Christmas. So when the actual holiday rolls around, we like to pack up the sled, hitch the team and head for sunnier climes.

This year as every year since I got married, we're spending the holidays in Southern California with the in-laws. Usually the Missus flies down for 10 days or so, and I drive down at the last minute, snatch my wholly unearned holiday largesse, and race back to Christmas Island with her within 72 hours of arrival.

This year, however, the presence of the Man Cub upended the usual itinerary. The thought of sending him away with The Missus and not seeing him for more than a week proved even more stressful than the prospect of 10 days away from home. (The Missus would refer to this as a paradigm shift.)

I should explain that ol' Fang is like a rare flower, one that thrives in darkness and definitely doesn't travel well. There's a reason I usually blow into town for just a couple days before hightailing it back home. So this Christmas represents a real challenge for our family unit. For me, it's how long can I deal with being away from home before I go crazy, and for the Missus it's how crazy is too crazy before I divorce this dope's fucking ass.

The story so far - I'd give myself about a C. No real eruptions yet, but I have been by turns petulant, short-tempered, unyielding and hurtful. We gave me a time-out last night, one that will end around lunch today. Fortunately, to quote Sarah Conner in Terminator 2, “I'm feeling much better now.”

This in spite of the fact that the family dog, in his old age and advancing decrepitude, keeps slipping on the in-laws' hardwood steps (lacquered and buffed to a diamond-like smoothness) and tumbling down the stairs on his ass. Not to mention that the Man Cub is on a poo strike requiring manual manipulation of de-constipatory agents, which agents took explosive effect during a lunch date with The Best Man (see next paragraph).

On the upside, yesterday we had lunch in the County of Orange with my Best Man and his family. According the Missus, the salubrious effects of The Best Man's company upon my attitude were immediately apparent. Nobody pulls my head out of my ass quicker than he does.

Unfortunately, he's flying back to his home base today, leaving me to deal with my aberrant-personality issues without his magic to steady me just as the high-profile, Dockers-required family and friends holiday events ramp up in earnest. Looks like I picked the wrong lifetime to quit drinking.

Stay tuned…

This post may be monitored

But that's okay because the President is the President. 9/11 gave him imperial, Godlike powers to protect our freedoms even as his administration strips them away, one at a time, in the interest of protecting them.

Most compelling, even the esteemed, altogether credible Dick Cheney guarantees their illegal domestic wiretapping shenanigans are, you know, perfectly legal. And his track record on such things is unassailable. This is the same august sage who predicted we'd be greeted as liberators in Iraq and only months ago opined that the insurgency there was in its death throes.

So case closed, Commie-pinkos. Go burn your bra somewhere else. Air France has flights leaving JFK for Paris every hour.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Time’s People of the Year

Oh hell yes. I've been expecting to see the President's arrogant smirk on the cover again, or some other nefarious warmaking bastard, or group of them (Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld perhaps?).

Imagine my surprise to see Bill Gates, his Missus and Bono gracing the cover for their work in decreasing third-world debt and battling poverty and disease in Africa.

I appreciate that frequently it is the warmaking bastards who have the most influence on the world in any given year, it's just tough seeing them celebrated. It's much more of a kick to see good acts recognized.

Bill Gates the businessman is a merciless prick (from what I understand), but whatever motives you assign his philanthropic work, there's no denying the good he's trying to do. Mrs. Gates' contribution, with all due respect, seems to extend to having married really, really well.

And Bono… well, Bono gives Christianity a good name. Usually when we hear about Christians, they're bombing abortion clinics, calling for assassinations of world leaders, robbing the sick and the old of their social security checks or belly-aching about how shabbily the tiny minority of non-Christians in this country treat them.

I was just talking to the Missus yesterday about Christians, and how I could only think of three offhand that walk it like Christ talked it. Johnny Cash, my friend The Pilgrim, and Bono.

Kudos to Time for not only getting it right, but recognizing positive works for a change instead of feting the dealers of death and carnage. We'll still be killing brown people and dying in droves in the desert thousands of miles away a year from now - plenty of time to reward Team Bush next year, or the year after.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

That Feckless Fuck

Well, so much for trying to keep this page moderate. Bush's victory-lap of speeches leading up to The Great Day in Iraq (right now, as a matter of fact) are as embarrassing as they are years late.

This just in: President accepts responsibility for own actions! Breaking news: Compassionate Conservative President shrugs off laughably low-ball estimate of 30,000 Iraqis killed since the American occupation! Flash: President admits what the rest of the world has been howling in unison for years now - he took us to war on 'flawed' intelligence! If this dope lives to be a hundred, just think of all the startling revelations that will be dragged kicking and screaming out of his Lie-Hole. The mind reels.

What's even more depressing is that new polls suggest this gun-to-his-head show of carefully-parsed candor is playing with John and Jane Bumpkin in the intellectual hinterlands. Even the mainstream media is getting on board again, with W uncharacteristically granting 'exclusive' TV interviews left and right. Wow, access to the President? That changes everything! The shithead who pedaled while New Orleans drowned is suddenly a sober and serious statesman.

This guy is held to a lower set of ethical and professional standards than the fry cook at the local Burger King. And the rubes and the media whores eat it right up and then dutifully puke it back at us on talk radio, the blogosphere and the first 20 minutes of the “Today” show.

The Man Cub and his digestive dilemmas have left me too sleep-deprived to put forth a full-length rant, and anyway, beyond this anything I have to add would be redundant.

So yippie for gun-barrel “democracy” in Iraq. Yippie for purple fingers and the fundamentalist Islamic, America-hating regime we will see installed before the inevitable descent into full-scale, even-Bush-can't-pretend-it-away civil war that's brewing up there.

Oh, my little Man Cub. I've brought you into a world that is hopelessly broken and all I can do is bitch about it. I only hope when the inescapable conclusion of our arrogance and willful stupidity comes, that it will be as swift and painless for you and as it is brutal and prolonged for the bastards who will have brought it down upon our once-great nation.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Old Folk Songs Never Die

They just become more relevant.

Pete Seeger from 1969.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Unbearable Blackness...

…of being Richard Pryor.

He, along with Steve Martin, Hawkeye Pierce and Archie Bunker shaped (warped? twisted?) my sense of humor as a kid. Made me the deeply conflicted and confused man I am today.

One time in the early 80s, a colleague came into work and said to me, "OhmyGod Fang, I saw a comedian on TV last night and he sounded just like you!” God help me, she was talking about Richard Pryor. My generation of young white kids didn't want to be cool like P. Diddy or Tupac, we wanted to be cool like Richard Pryor.

My heart has hurt with the loss of Richard for years. I've tried to explain to the Missus about him, what he meant to me, but most of what she knows is the string of shitty movies he made in between his groundbreaking stand-up comedy films. Most of his 40-some odd movies-for-hire are regrettably disposable, but his stand-up… His stand-up changed everything for me.

Richard Pryor changed the way I looked at issues of race, mortality and morality. Really made me confront my own racism for the first time. I am a better man for having been exposed to Richard's work, and poorer for having lost his voice to MS so many years ago.

It's funny. All the shit Richard did to try to kill himself (either passively or deliberately) over the years, and it finally took a Higher Power - whether vengeful god or capricious fate - to silence his genius with debilitating illness, a decade before it released his spirit from its mortal bondage.

I miss you Richard, and I hope you've found the peace at last that eluded you in life.

Good journey, my friend. I bet they're holding a seat next to Rosa for you at the front of the bus.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Another Embarrassing Admission

Let's say, hypothetically, a guy was really, really old - like in his 40s even - and he still read comic books. Would that really make him a total geek?

How's that…?

Oh, it would. Well, anyway, there's this really cool book out now called (it's kind of a stupid name but there was an important marketing decision behind it) the Ultimates. It's a super-hero team book, you know, like the Justice League of America, only with Thor instead of Superman and Captain America instead of Batman, like that.

The art on it is by this guy, Bryan Hitch, who draws the photo-realistic thing really well. Every panel is a beauty to behold. It's like every issue plays out visually like a wide-screen summer blockbuster film. And the writer, Mark Millar, is top-notch too. He's this young Scottish guy with a drinking problem who just happens to be a brilliant writer. I'll bet a lot of these guys would like to know if the alcohol causes the brilliance, or does the brilliance necessitate the alcohol? Or is it just a package deal? Doesn't seem to be a coincidence.

But I digress.

Here is an example of the talent at work here: Captain America beating up a naked alien Nazi from last year. (Make sure you scroll to the bottom and enjoy all three pages.)

So issue number 9 (of Volume 2, another marketing decision) just came out and it's got to be the best single book I've read this year. Without geeking out on all the details of comic-book goodness this issue contains, in the end it's the premise that kicks the most ass here.

What it comes down to is: The US Government has been bankrolling and pulling the strings of this group of affiliated super-heroes, The Ultimates. They're out there saving the world from ET's and shit, but what the rest of the world sees instead is the US Govt with a Superhero advantage that totally threatens the balance of power in the world. They actually refer to them as Persons of Mass Destruction.

Imagine if we could send Superman to Afghanistan with his superspeed and X-Ray vision to pick up Osama's sorry ass? Mission Accomplished in 30 seconds, start to finish. In this storyline, that's exactly the kind of power imbalance the rest of the world is looking at when they see The Ultimates in action.

So what does the rest of the world do? They form their own 'coalition of the willing' to slap The Ultimates down with a team of international super-creeps, ostensibly to keep the US from continuing to 'threaten' our world neighbors. They successfully attack The Ultimates, invade America and depose our civilian government; there's even one scene eerily (and no doubt deliberately) reminiscent of the toppling of the statue of Saddam.

(It remains to be seen whether an unexpected insurgency will rise up to make the international super-creeps' lives miserable, but the story still has a few more issues to go.)

What's amazing to me is that I didn't see the allegory coming till now. I'd seen hints of it, but the fullness of it didn't really came home till I read this issue.

I just can't say enough about the craft involved in the creation of this book. It not only dazzles the eye, but it packs an intellectual punch that the average Joe on the street wouldn't expect from what is popularly considered quite a disposable form of entertainment.

Ultimates, Vol 2, #9 Recommmended!

If you're curious, go to amazon and search out one of the trade paperbacks (which collects a number of previous issues in one edition). If the words-n-pictures format doesn't throw you, you'll find this book a worthwhile entertainment.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Back in the early '80s, when I was a paste-up monkey at a printing company in Lakewood, California, I used to work on the official quarterly publication of the Pearl Harbor Survivors' Association.

Being young, stupid, and in the on-deck circle for a major-league drug addiction that would see me through the rest of the Big Hair Decade, these old guys were just another job to me. I enjoyed their vintage photos of shit getting blown up, and some of their first-hand accounts made for compelling reading.

One of the articles I remember to this day put forth the then-controversial theory that FDR had deliberately goaded Japan into attacking us, in order to join up with his buddy Churchill in England's battle against the Nazis. (I made a really awesome photo collage of cool shit blowing up with FDR's face superimposed over it, an apparently maniacal leer on his face. Did I mention about being young and stoopid?)

These days I'm of the opinion that FDR did exactly that, and more, that it was the right thing to do. Personally, I'm convinced FDR was expecting to take an ass-whupping at one of our smaller, remote Pacific bases, closer to Japan. I am quite certain he didn't think his manipulations would end up costing us almost our entire Pacific fleet. But the threat posed by the Axis powers (Germany, Japan and Italy) demanded intervention, and without direct provocation, America - by a large margin - had no taste for getting into "another European War."

History lesson over.

Anyhow, that Sunday morning dawned 64 years ago today. And the war that followed took America from being the post-Great War isolationist enclave that we were at the time to the biggest swinging cock on the international block that we remain today.

So I would like to take a minute to remember the American servicemen and women we lost that day, and encourage anyone reading this to do the same. Their sacrifice was not in vain, as long as we (as a nation, if not a specific administration) continue to honor the ideals they gave their lives to defend.

God bless them, every one.

Mmmmm… Sacrelicious!

According to this morning's Maureen Dowd column over in the NYTimes (I'd put a link, but it would cost you an arm and a leg to read it), Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is co-sponsoring a Republican bill making it illegal to desecrate the American flag.

Ms Dowd points out, correctly, that the knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers Sen. Clinton is courting with this move aren't going to be fooled by it, not for a minute. It's not that they're necessarily smart enough to see through her; no, it's just that clinging to time-tested pre-existing ideas is the very core of their belief system. Hillary is, was and always will be a bra-burning feminazi to the 'Red-Staters.' She could hold public executions in the city square of giant negro illegal immigrants who have raped blue-eyed, blonde-haired white vestal virgins, and she wouldn't get as much as a “howdy-do” from the Flag-Burning Amendment people.

So, shame on you Hillary. You're not only being cowardly and a political whore, but stupid, too. You're pissing away valuable political capital with your increasingly disenchanted base (old hippies like me) and bringing home nothing to show for its loss but the ongoing contempt of the Epsilon-Minuses you're trying to court.

My other point, and it's an old one but I didn't have a forum then, is that you can't desecrate something that isn't sacred!

The FLAG isn't sacred. What's sacred are the ideals the flag represents. What's sacred are our freedoms, not the flag that represents them. And running up this issue to provide political traction with the NASCAR crowd has always struck me as being one of the most craven acts of legislative cowardice there is, especially for a person of conscience who knows better.

For Sen. Clinton to co-champion this cause really makes me that much less eager to have Bill Clinton back in the White House, even as First Resident.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

That whole other post

Before I got to whining about how tough it is being me and how sorry everyone should feel for me, I was talking about Iraq. I said something about how getting out of Iraq would be a whole 'nother post. This is that post.

You know, our country is like the drunken nabob who sobers up and says to himself, “Okay, it looks like I've shot my housekeeper and set fire to her children. How do I make myself come off good here?”

Meaning, any Iraq resolution is necessarily going to be tainted by the circumstances of the situation itself (I won't bore even myself re-re-reciting them). This is not a problem that can be turned into an opportunity. Even Tony Robbins would have trouble spinning this turd into gold. Being a clusterfuck, all we have to choose from are bad choices.

If we leave precipitously, ie: now, history will record that we chickened out. It just will. And we need history on our side, because the winners write the history. And the world's too dangerous a place for us to afford to be history's bitches.

We have more than ourselves to look out for, we have future generations of Americans to think about. (You know, the ones who will pay off Mr. Bush's deficit.) We have to make our humiliation in Iraq less devastating, and in the short term that means not coming home immediately.

But the longer we stay, the more we rub the local dudes the wrong way. And we really piss off the extremists. How pissed off must you be to say, “Yeah, yeah, let's blow me up in their lobby! Yeah, let's do that…!” No one yet has found a way to beat an enemy that is anxious to die. How in God's name do you win against that?

You don't. Not by our conventional, Western definition of winning that necessarily includes us still being alive at the end of hostilities. We get our 72 virgins online for $7.99 a month, thank you very much.

So really, we can't stay any more than we can leave. This is the conundrum that faced Mr. Bush's father, when presented with the opportunity in Gulf War I to proceed to Baghdad and depose Saddam. Mr. Bush Sr. passed on the “opportunity.” He's looking smarter all the time.

I predict we're going to end up declaring “Victory!” and leaving, probably with only a token presence there in time for the 2006 Congressional election. The partisan in me hopes we don't, because it will be more politically damaging to the Republicans if we stay; but the American in me hopes we do, because the sooner we've backed the fuck out of this engagement the sooner we can focus on real solutions to real problems (figuring out how to manage the problem of religious fundamentalism - ours as well as theirs) that we haven't made up ourselves (the war in formerly-secular Iraq).

The President is already defining “victory” broadly enough that we could leave Iraq, in a pinch, whenever it's the most politically expedient to do so. If the election there later this month isn't a bloodbath of Biblical proportions, folks, that's the “victory” that's gonna start the draw-down. Then we can watch from the safety of our living rooms as Iraq continues its descent into a hell on earth of revenge murders, civil war and general internecine mayhem.

This horrifying scenario, God help us, is the one that plays out if saner heads prevail. If Mr. Bush has his way, we'll stay till the last dog dies. Literally. His gang wants to turn it into a desert South Korea, with American military bases and oil companies there for decades to come.

In the final analysis, what's at play here is Mr. Bush's legacy, and he's keenly aware of that. To admit the failure of what's become the signature initiative of his administration would be to consign himself to that lower circle of half-assed Presidents who, though ignorance, hubris, or a catastrophic combination of the two, left the country worse off than when they inherited it.

And Mr. Bush is determined not to allow himself to suffer that fate, no matter how many children of other parents it costs.

So for the record, I say we fake up a few photo-op “victories” (perhaps Ahmed Chalbi can help us some more!) and start bringing our kids home as soon as we can without looking like total douschebags for taking out an impotent, isolated little tyranny and leaving a functioning terrorist inferno in its place.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Even Odds

Fortunately, the Missus is as good at being a Mom as I am growing lousier at being a Dad; indefatigably kind and giving, even beyond the point of physical endurance, she is relentless in her pursuit of what's best for the Man Cub.

Thanks to her, I think he may have a shot at making it. At least 50/50.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Uber Dad

That's me. Oh sure, I may be doing a shit job of it. I may be scarring the Man Cub psychologically for life. I'm certainly shaving years off the back end of my own life.

But if I'm judged by sheer parenting hours logged, I'm right up there with Atticus Finch, Pa Walton and that guy from “Courtship of Eddie's Father.” Between my working from home and the Missus' heavy teaching, writing and networking schedule, except for the few hours a week I flee the house on Wednesday mornings, I am tethered to our young padawan 24/7.

This is exacerbated by the House Policy, which is that the Man Cub must not be allowed to cry. He's like the button in the hatch on “Lost.” If we don't push it quick enough, we don't know what will happen, but oh dear sweet God, we daren't risk finding out. When he commences to shit-pitching, all household activity comes to a screeching halt, day or middle of the night. The dog and the Missus - panicked, both of them - go racing past my office door to spare The Man Cub his unfortunate discomfort, which of course makes me The Bad Guy for not instinctively doing the same.

For Christ's sake, I don't even have time to frame a coherent thought to update my blog (as this entry attests), let alone dispatch my freelance responsibilities. Which is funny, you know. Come on, laugh with me. “Bwa ha ha ha haaaa!” Funny because the more we need the money to raise the Man Cub, the less time I have to earn it.

Oh irony. Nobody told me that in gaining a son, I would be completely and totally negating my own existence. Do I sound like a woman? I definitely feel like I sound like a woman.

I can't say for sure if it takes a village to raise a man-child, but it sure takes a lot more than me, the Missus, the dog and nobody else. We literally had to have the in-laws drive 400 miles up from Los Angeles so we could go see a movie a couple weekends ago.

The saving grace (all the books assure me) is knowing that in retrospect I will cherish this experience with my son and our extensive, intensive time together. Because frankly, being right in the middle of it all, sometimes I just want to put my head in a wood chipper and hit “puree.”