Thursday, June 29, 2006

“Superman Returns” at a glance

[First, a disclaimer. Got ahold of some bad Thai food (overheard at our table at dinner before the flick… The Missus: Say, what’s all the stuff your seafood is smothered in? Me: I don’t know. Doesn’t look like it’s from this planet. Here, I’ll dip it in the viscous, unrecognizable sauce they have helpfully provided!) and burped and shuddered through the second half of the film, loosing a thundercloud of toxic belchback for any theatergoer unlucky enough to be sitting in my general vicinity (sorry, honey!). The ride home was memorable, too. My point is, it may have influenced my enjoyment of the film. This is the only SPOILER ALERT you need to worry about in my review.]

As to the film…

Liked it, didn’t love it. Bryan Singer, who formerly directed the first two X-Men films, and his team got the visual spectacle right, but the super-villain’s scheme didn’t really resonate and I didn’t like the casting. Superman was played by a guy who looked to me to be a good fit for a WB show guest shot as the secret gay boyfriend. He was too slim and too young. Goddammit, I want my Superman to have broad shoulders. Plus he didn’t have the gravitas one would expect from someone who has just spent the last five years in deep space! The actor, Brandon Routh, does look vaguely like Christopher Reeve and his performance was a capable aping of Reeve’s, but no matter how well the scenes were staged – pretty fucking well! - there was still this guy I didn’t buy in the middle of it. Like Leo DeCaprio in anything but “Gilbert Grape.”

It seems like this director always has casts I don’t really buy. His X-Men films got almost everything wrong but Ian McKellan as Magneto. Even Patrick Stewart was miscast and underused. Hugh Jackman is about a foot and half too tall to be Wolverine, Halle Berry brought zero to her role, and on and on. I liked Famke Jahnssen as Marvel Girl, though. She has something in her eyes that says “watch out, I may be crazy.”

This was the same. Lois Lane is played by Kate Bosworth, always easy on the eyes but never very charismatic. Frank Langella, as always, is good... But the man at the center of the film just seemed more like a boy, and the role would have benefited from being played by an actual man.

There’s a couple of plot twists that I warn you!! All the reviews revel in giving away, nasty fuckers. Entertainment Weekly, in their cover story two weeks ago, would have ruined the film for me by the end of the first paragraph.

Something else the filmmakers did, which I understand but still pissed me off, was excise “...and the American Way” from Superman’s credo when it was stated. They replaced it with “...and all that other stuff.” I kid you not.

The effects were awesome. I recommend seeing it on the big screen just for the effects. All the tropes were represented kick-assably, but really, nothing new was introduced.

Overall, it was kind of a reverent homage to the first couple of Chris Reeve films – like I said, good but not great. I’m glad they didn’t decide to go dark (ala Batman, altho in his case, appropriately so). The tone was spot-on, there just wasn’t a lot of meat on the bones, story-wise.

Maybe the next one will be better. The second X-Men film was way better than the first, and apparently the director has a rough outline for a three film series, so hopes are high for numero dos. And maybe by the time the third one comes out, Superman will have grown up enough to be a super man and not the super kid he is in this one.

And bring back “...and the American Way!” for crying out loud. Superman is about the American ideal, not any particular administration. Don’t partisan-ize Big Blue! He’s better than that...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Disgraceful is as disgraceful does...

Dumbleyou has labeled the NYTimes’ reporting of the Bush administration’s latest extra-legal shenanigans – as usual, at the expense of American’s civil rights – as “disgraceful.”

Now when a man like W calls something disgraceful, that’s like Willy Wonka proclaiming a new candy “yummy.” If anyone knows disgraceful, it’s the Dissembler-in-Chief.

Some days, just to make myself crazy, I mentally list the crimes, misdemeanors and assorted legal, ethical and moral shortcomings of his administration, starting with putting the brakes on stem cell research in the weeks leading up to 9-11 to appease his rapture-enthusing core constituency of dim bulbs, to the seven minutes of very unpresidential sweaty panic after being told America was under attack, to selling us a war against Dr. Evil and serving up a Mini Me instead, to blowing off the search for Osama, to MIA WMDs, to Abu Ghraib, to extreme rendition, to Katrina, to his unprecedented use of ‘signing statements’ to negate the intent and efficacy of bills as he signs them into law (so much easier than issuing his first presidential veto, still yet to come), to domestic wiretapping to dumping phone records to pilllaging bank records to whatever new crimes against the Constitution and/or Geneva Convention will have come to light by the time I’m done typing this.

And oh brother, that’s just skimming the surface, the stuff off the top of my head. If I wasn’t on Man Cub duty right now, I’d do the research to compile a more comprehensive list. A project for another day.

The point is, every single day of the Bush administration has been a Goddamned disgrace. And until only recently, the media in general has colluded with Dumbleyou to keep America uninformed and the President unquestioned. Now that the worm has finally started to turn (it’s a shame it took Katrina’s devastation to remind the fourth estate of their duty to a free society) Bush is craftily taking a page from the Tricky Dick Nixon playbook and attacking the media for exposing his questionable activities.

Disgraceful? As the President himself might blurt out inarticulately, “I am the Disgracer!”

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Superman as Allegory (or is it Metaphor...?)

(Art by me, ca 1988)


I was having lunch with The Last Boy Scout the other day and I asked him if he was going to see “Superman” when it opens next weekend. He kind of shrugged and winced and indicated an overall lack of interest in the Man of Steel. Like me, he was more a Spider-Man guy as a kid, and that shit sticks with you.

I guess I’ve kind of always preferred Superman as an idea, an archetype, rather than an actual character myself. Clark Kent is a pussy and Superman is stronger than everything. Not much there for a gawky little kid to identify with, at least not when we had the option of the then-novel teen-angst angle of the Spider-Man character.

Still, considering TLBS works for the local Christmas Island GOP and is a true Mom-Baseball-and-Apple-Pie patriot, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Superman has appeared carrying or next to an American flag more times than W has claimed to have turned the corner in Iraq! His slogan is “Truth, Justice and The American Way” for crying out loud. Huh? Huh?

More shrugging and wincing.

I decided to launch a spirited defense of this character I’m not that actually crazy about just to pass the time till the entree arrived.

I told him the Superman saga (as crafted by creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel) was the story of America at a time when the big news of the day was the persecution of Jews at the hands of national socialism in pre-WWII Europe. How Superman was the story of immigrants arriving here with nothing, having been exiled from the place of their birth in fear of their lives. Then rising from nothing, not even a family, to become the most powerful figure in the world. It’s the story of The American Dream fulfilled!

I also pointed out the almost eerie similarities to a certain coastal state governor’s story and that got his attention...

The more I thought about it afterwards, the more it occurred to me that Superman really always has been a metaphor for America, or at least the way America sees itself: Supremely powerful and morally beyond reproach, the world’s self-appointed protector.

And through his history, the more power America accrued, the stronger Superman has become. He went from “leaping tall buildings” in the ‘50s to flying backwards in time by the ‘70s! By the climax of the Cold War, there was almost nothing Superman/America couldn’t do, except…. just like Superman was vulnerable to the deadly radiation of kryptonite, we had the threat of nuclear annihilation hanging over our heads day and night courtesy of Soviet Russia.

Art reflects life reflects art.

Then in 1993, Superman was “killed” by the monster Doomsday, presaging America’s humbling at the hands of fundamentalist monsters by 8 years, and a coalition of his fellow superheroes rose up after the infamous crime to punish the evildoers and maintain the status quo.

So what’s Superman up to these days in the funny pages? Recently caught up in a no-win clusterfuck of epic proportions with an inexhaustible enemy, he got benched for a year then reintroduced as a whipped puppy without any super-powers at all, Clark Kent 24/7.

And I worry that another comic-book storyline is going to end up an allegorical premonition of real world events… but that is a post for another day.

Today we have “Superman Returns” to look forward to. I feel certain this one is going to have me leaving the theater with a spring in my step and a lump in my throat. The movie franchise, unlike the comic books, has to answer to Hollywood’s bean-counters, and to ensure Big Blue ends up in the black, a happy ending will be required.

Truth, Justice and the American Way will triumph again, at least for a couple of hours at a time in air-conditioned auditoriums across the land!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Papa Was A Good Man

My Dad was born in 1913 in Chicago, Illinois. He came from a dysfunctional family full of drunkards and scoundrels. He made sure his family wasn’t any part of ours when I was growing up.

He joined the army before WWII because he wanted to learn to fly (and, I would assume, escape his family). He stayed on through The Big One and came home afterwards with a Purple Heart in his kit bag.

He fell in love with my Mom, got married and started adopting kids when the Lord made it clear they weren’t going to be blessed with any of their own.

My Dad gave me a name, all the love his emotionally-tightfisted upbringing allowed him to show, and a life. My Dad was a soft touch who would give a stranger (or a con man) the shirt off his back. What made him a failure in business made him a hero in my eyes. They tell me his politics were old-school conservative, but his example was pure Jesus-delivering-the-sermon-on-the-mount.

He’s been gone for ten years now. I miss the old guy, and among the regrets I have are that I never reached out to him to get to know him as a person when I had the chance. I never asked him about his childhood or the war. We never shared a cocktail or talked about girls. Mostly though, I regret that his Grandson will never get to know him, will never benefit from the example of his simple kindness and generosity the way I did.

If I can be one-tenth the role model for The Man Cub that my Dad was for me, maybe I’ll earn the right to wear my “World’s Greatest Dad” t-shirt without feeling like them are fightin’ words.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Scalia and me

I agree with the recent right-wing Supreme Court ruling! Oh, I feel like such a rebel.

It’s that one written by [gulp] Antonin Scalia (wow, even Spellcheck doesn’t like him!) about police no longer having to knock and announce before they enter a place to serve a valid warrant.

I know it’s part of my job as a blogger to be philosophically consistent (even one-note), but this one just seems to make sense to me. Maybe commenters can show me where I’ve misunderstood.

It seems to me if cops are serving a warrant and there’s bad guys inside where the suspect is, all the knock-and-announce does is give the ne’er-do-wells time to flush evidence and/or grab a weapon. This ruling could save lives, of police as well as evil-doers, and that should be the prize we’re keeping our eyes on, here.

That, of course, and the valid warrant. I think if you’ve convinced a court to give you a warrant for search and/or arrest, you don’t have the obligation to make yourself a target by announcing your presence prematurely in a situation more and more likely to involve scofflaws and criminals who are armed to the teeth.

You see it a hundred times a week on TNT: A cop gets to the perp’s door, yells that it’s the police and they’re coming in. What happens? A hail of bullets through the door at the cops, who have ducked off to the side and clutch their service weapons to their chest. I always wonder how stupid the crooks are to not know by now to shoot at the sides of the door instead of the middle.

But I digress…

I know this ruling is an ominous bellwether for future court rulings in the same area, but on its own merits, I think it will probably save lives and help secure legitimate convictions.

Tomorrow’s rulings will take care of themselves. Today’s was a good one.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Meet the New Bruce

Finally, the same as the old Bruce. Springsteen’s new tour sees him in better form than quite a while. He’s mixed the party vibe of the E Street Band at its best with the political thrust of the Rock The Vote mini-tour and come up with a terrific new record (which I haven’t said about Springsteen since before “Born in the USA”) and tour.

One of the show highlights is an old song from the ’30s, to which Bruce has helpfully added some new lyrics, called “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?”
The song and the performance on the linked clip are kick-ass. If you have a zippy internet connection, you should definitely give it a shot.

Bruce is back, and he’s pissed!

Poetry: Words That Rhyme

The Missus is a published, paid poet. She is respected among her poet peers.

I, however, never understand her poetry. Her use of language is fluid, sensuous and specific, but her work is like foreign films in that when they’re over I usually scratch my head and go, “Say, that was lovely, whatever that was.”

Where I come from, poems rhyme. For instance, here’s an example I wrote in my twenties:

Mr C and Sharon P were lovers when I met them
As much as I treasure our times spent together
Yet do live to regret them

See? That shit rhymes all over the place. That’s poetry, man.

Apparently, The Missus has come around to my way of thinking. The following is a poem she contributed to some chicks-only blog endeavor, regarding The Man Cub’s newfound neediness. (Let me tell you, said neediness is no walk in the park. When only Mommy will do, I feel like Mengele, pointing to my son and saying, “You. You will scream blue murder for two more hours until your mother returns!”)

Anyhow, it prompted her to bang out the following, which I’m proud to point out rhymes like a proper poem and everything. Kudos to the poet in the family!

She writes (to her intelllectual peers, by way of apology for what follows):
Note the first stanza is in AWAW (antiwhine, whine, antiwhine, whine) form (and that "teething" is intentionally falling out of iambic pentameter--I was especially proud of that). Please pardon, however, the AABB rhyme scheme. It's sooo jejeune.

My infant son was once a happy lad,
but now teething has come and made him sad.
He's learned to stand and crawl into our laps
But lo! he struggles with his morning naps.

He cries and rages all the livelong morn
And curses all the world for being born
into this wretched home where doghair flies
all through the air and settles in his eyes.

I have a stack of finals yet to grade
But not a whit of progress has been made,
for I must put the infant's interests first
lest tears and cries roll out like thunderbursts.

But what is this? His eyes take on a glow. . .
'Tis snacktime now; all hail the Cheerio!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Worlds Most Easily Conflicted Dad

I think I may not be a real hippie dippie liberal after all.

My competitive nature – long dormant – has been flogged recently by, of all things, a “World’s Greatest Dad” t-shirt from The Missus in anticipation of Father’s Day this weekend.

(I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: Only I could overthink a simple gift t-shirt into an existential crisis. But during times of relatively smooth sailing, you have to make your own problems.)

See, here’s the thing…

I feel like if I wear this shirt out, I have to be ready to defend it. Like I wouldn’t wear a t-shirt with the name of a really shitty band, for instance. I have to be able to defend it. “Well sir, you may have your opinion, but mine is that Rush does not suck.”

If I wear a shirt out that asserts that I’m the “WORLDS GREATEST DAD, MOTHERFUCKER!” I feel like I’m throwing down a challenge.

I feel like other guys are gonna be looking at me, thinking “Look at him – he’s out in his pajamas in the middle of the day. I’m wearing Dockers, for Christsake…” or “Man, look at that shitty little sedan he drives. My kids are safer in my brand-new top-of-the-line SUV; how can he even think he’s in the top ten of worlds greatest dads?”

I’m defensive already. I feel like if anyone looks at my shirt the wrong way… shit’s on, man. Let’s go.

And I can’t be the only lunkhead to think this way, can I?

I foresee a landscape littered with big piles of guys fighting breaking out all over the place this weekend. Beating ourselves black and blue over our relative position in the hierarchical order of worlds greatest dads, like Wal-Mart shoppers on the first day of after-Christmas sales…

Admittedly, that’s a worst-case scenario.

If she had bought me a shirt that said “Tries Hard” or “Parts His Hair in The Middle” I could have worn those without reservation. But Worlds Greatest Dad, man, that’s a lot to put on someone. I better stop phoning this shit in and get my head in the game. I’ve got my work cut out for me.

There’s a lot of people out there to be much better than.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Damnedest Thing

I’ve always read that backstage at “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was a fun place to be – this damned weird thing seems to confirm that.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is Dead!

Hooray! Strike up and the band and join the chorus. We've cut off the head of the hydra! It's only a matter of time now, baby, before... uh, before it grows 8 more Zarqawis to replace the one we've cut off. Aw shit...

Worse yet, a live loose cannon like Zarqawi would've remained a controversial, divisive figure among the Iraqis. A dead Zarqawi? Martyr. And everybody loves a martyr.

So as much as I'm personally delighted that we've atomized that vile bushwhacking, beheading fuck - and as much as I regret that his death did not proceed from the ten thousand exquisitely placed cuts over several weeks' time he so richly deserved - I regret that this changes nothing.

We could stake Osama bin Laden's on a pole in the Rose Garden, and the Civil War that is tearing Iraq apart would only continue apace. All W's photo-op posturing to the contrary notwithstanding, taking out Zarqawi is a feel-good moment in the alleged "War On Terror," but it doesn't move the ball forward one inch, and doesn't get our boys and girls back home one minute sooner.

The lunatic we need to replace is the one running our country, and there's still two+ years running on that clock. Until then, if we can wrestle control from the GOP of at least one house of Congress this November, we can cut W off at the knees with investigations into the hundreds of crimes and misdemeanors his administration has been perpetrating with utter impunity in the moral and ethical vacuum created by his party's lock on all three elements of the federal government.

‘Cause here’s the thing: If you cut a hydra off at the knees instead of the head, his legs don't grow back.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ann Coulter is a pig

That is all, except to say I don’t mean to impugn the dignity of actual shit-dwelling swine by association.

Now she's going after 9/11 widows - I shit you not. She's selling a new book, so she should be ubiquitous these next couple weeks. Be careful not to stumble across one of her press appearances on a full stomach.

(In case you're not familiar with her work, this page contains a past selection of her greatest hates... uh, hits.)

Monday, June 05, 2006

W Takes a Stand Against Plummeting Poll Numbers

It’s getting tough to pander these days.

There was a better time in America, when women were chattel and black folks were openly bought and sold. If you wanted a bogey-man around which to rally your knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing base, you could just kick around an abolitionist or a suffragette and the villagers could be relied upon to revolt on cue.

“Society as we know it is imperiled!”

“What about our children?”

“The Bible! Exodus spells out in detail how one should treat one’s slaves – it’s in the Bible so it must be God’s will!”

“Torches! Get your torches here!”

Really, things were a lot simpler when the earth was flat, God created it in 6 days and heterosexual white Christian males trod the land like the undisputed giants they were.

But now, thanks to the damned “social progressives,” we are left with anarchy. Women are leaving their roasts to burn in the oven while they walk the halls of power, and not only can you not own black people anymore, they even get to own stuff themselves. Marry our white women and even be killed as equals in our armed forces.

Thank God we still have the gays to kick around. Oh sure, they’re making in-roads in popular culture (thanks a lot, “Will and Grace”), but we can still beat them to death and hang them up like scarecrows if the mood strikes us. Shit, it might even get us on the local news for a couple minutes in between paycheck-loan offers and erectile dysfunction ads.

How much can we still kick Fags around? There’s actually a group led by a Kansas preacher (who will receive no name recognition here) that goes around to the funerals of servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and protests, based on the fact that America “tolerates” homosexuality.

This is the demographic our kind and wise leader has staked out to pursue this week. In response to his dismal approval ratings, he is throwing them some red meat in the form of a proposed Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage.

Yup. He’s willing to do to our founding document — on the world stage — what he doesn’t want consenting adults to be permitted to do to each other in the privacy of their own homes.

What a small man. What a sad man. What an unfortunate man to have at the helm of our ship of state in the rough waters we are currently called upon to navigate. Circumstances require a Titan, and electoral dysfunction, fear and the Supreme Court have served us up a mental and moral Lilliputian.

At a time when 50% of marriages end in divorce, you won’t get any argument from me that the institution of marriage is in deep trouble. But raping the Constitution to breathe life into a lame duck’s political fortunes isn’t going to do a damn thing to address the problem. We’re going to save an already-floundering institution by cracking down on the people who aren’t even allowed to participate in it?

Oh please. That’s just crazy stupid.

I’m going to pray to the God I don’t really believe in that this reprehensible effort drowns in the same sea of flop sweat that has swallowed up the rest of the President’s domestic agenda this term. I think America is better than this, and I think we’re smarter than this, too.

Or am I just pandering?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Babysitter Solution

Taking another brief break from ranting and railing about national politics to note a change on the home front.

On my good days, ol’ Fang is more fun to be around than a barrelful of monkeys. On my bad days, however, I am hands-down, no-kidding-around-about-it intolerable. My ongoing goal, therefore, is to try to have more good days than bad days. For my family’s sake, if not my own.

Lately I haven’t been doing such a great job of it. By ‘lately’ I mean since The Man Cub was born, and even more in the last few months. The good times that were supposed to be right around the corner just kept never showing up.

See, I knew it was gonna be tough being a full-time work-at-home Dad, but really, I soooo had no clue. Turns out it was like taking two full time jobs, one of which involves hitting multiple weekly deadlines and the other safeguarding a ticking human time bomb 24 hours a day while juggling flaming chainsaws. And the twin responsibilities never fail to redline at the exact same moment.

Anyhow, it was making me a half-assed father and a shitty husband. So we had the brainstorm of “hey, let’s engage the services of a babysitter.” We had hesitated as long as we did because it just seemed weird to hire someone to come hang out at our apartment while we were both there and take care of our kid for us. You know?

It’s still a little weird for us. But since we don’t live anywhere near family or friends and it was becoming abundantly clear that I, Fang, had bitten off more than I could chew, parenting-wise, we surrendered to the inevitable and officially took the Child Care plunge.

I’m happy to report all three of us are delighted with The Sitter. I haven’t strayed into the Red Zone all week and The Missus got a mess of work done this weekend that she wouldn’t have if she had been having to entertain the boy the whole time I worked. And The Man Cub didn’t suffer for lack of attention, keeping things blissfully quiet on the home front.

Additionally, I discovered that not having to always be minding the boy makes me actually appreciate the time we do spend together (as opposed to feeling resentment, and then guilt for feeling resentful). I tell you what, I felt like the king of England, walking out of my office to bounce my infant son on my lap for a few minutes and make baby talk, before retiring back to my office to, you know, do the stuff that kings do.

The dog feels neglected, but for right now, that is collateral damage that we can live with.

We shoulda thunk of this months ago.

That concludes this report from the home front. We return you now to your regularly-scheduled political outrage…