Saturday, September 30, 2006

Do you smell that?

I do believe it’s the sweet, sweet scent of WASHINGTON SEX SCANDAL mingled with the musky aroma of ATTEMPTED COVER-UP, which as I recall from the Clinton administration, the media just can’t get enough of once the blood is in the water. Even Fox was leading their broadcasts with it today. To wit:

Top House Republicans knew for months about e-mail between Representative Mark Foley and a former teenage page, but kept the matter secret.

Formerly respected, silvermaned statesman – check. Wide-eyed, underage page/intern – check. Politico’s own people pre-emptively condemning his actions to anyone who will thrust a microphone in their face – check. Yup, this one has all the makings of a SEX SCANDAL that’s gonna go the distance.

On a sidebar, here’s the groovy thing about Florida, the state the alleged sexual predator represented in Congress until yesterday: His name remains on the ballot for November’s election, and any votes he receives automatically pass onto whomever his hastily-arranged replacement is. Seems Florida just can’t get through an election cycle without hoodwinking the electorate in some way, shape or form. Way to go, Sonshine State! You make Texas look good.

Speaking of matters political, it was also good clean fun tonight when CNN and Fox ran dueling hour-long Rumsfeld bios at 8; CNN’s was called “Man of War,” (yes he certainly is) and Fox’s was called “Why He Fights.” You know, like the WWII-era series of propaganda films by Frank Capra? I didn’t watch either Rummy bio, but I caught promos for both, and as you can imagine, the tones were poles apart. CNN lauded him for the first couple weeks of the Iraq War – Shock! Awe! – before turning to examine the godawful mess he’s made of it in the years since; Fox made him out to be half Winston Churchill, half Superman, all tragically misunderstood. Hilarious! Definitely Fairly Unbalanced.

I’ll tell you Why He Fights – because Bush doesn’t have the stones to admit he’s made a mistake or the character to correct himself when he has. Did you know Rummy’s about to become the longest-serving SecDef in American history? Longer than the guy who won WWII and longer than the guy who lost Vietnam. Pretty sobering forecast, isn’t it?

Bring on the mid-terms!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

WTF is Lou Dobbs’ Problem With Mexicans?

Did he catch his wife shtupping Pablo the pool boy or something?

I see the headline on, “Dobbs: Keep religion out of politics,” and I think “Far out! He’s finally gotten off immigrant-bashing and is staking out some fresh turf,” turf I coincidentally happen to agree with. So like the fool I am, I click through.

Sure enough, to no one’s surprise but mine I guess, by the seventh paragraph he’s all over the Catholics and Mormons like stink on George Allen for coddling Mexican laborers of the undocumented variety.

With the world going to hell in a handcart because of battling religious crazies, Dobbs can’t talk about it for more than a couple minutes before falling back on his one-note tirade against the Vast Brown-Skinned Conspiracy to keep white kids off their knees in the onion patch come pickin’ time.

That’s the danger we’re staring down by mixing religion and politics.

Not militant Islam, not Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell climbing into bed with W, not devil-worshipping baby-eaters… these apparently pose no threat to Dobbs’ worldview. They are merely dragging the world inexorably into WWIII (and in the case of the baby-eating devil-worshippers I made up, eating babies) – the only threat Dobbs sees in religion mixing with politics is that some swarthy south-of-the-border devils are potentially being coddled.

What an asshole. I wonder what GOP-held Congressional district he's planning on running for.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

When Lies Kill

So it was leaked this week that all the time W was selling us The Big Lie – that his war in Iraq was “making us safer at home” – his intelligence agencies were telling him the exact opposite. And with a smarmy, cocksure smirk plastered across his dim-witted visage, he continued to lie to us on a daily basis in high-definition Technicolor.

And not just passively, or when he was caught flat-footed and an untruth slipped out before he could catch it. No, he did a whole series of high-profile speeches and press events just in the last couple weeks whose sole purpose was to sell his Big Lie to us.

Everybody lies sometimes. I myself have said shit in the past to get laid, for instance, that would make Diogenes roll over in his grave.

For that matter, Bill Clinton lied to the country when he was President too, wagging his index finger and swearing he didn’t frolic with the zaftig intern. Here’s why I have a bigger problem with Bush’s five-years-and-counting litany of lies (from WMDs to Heckofajob Brownie to Making Us Safer At Home) than Clinton’s lie: Clinton’s lie did not come with a body-count.

Bush’s lies have cost America the lives of over 2,600 of our young men and women (not to mention the thousands maimed for life), and untold scores of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives, with no end in sight, according to his own generals on the ground in Iraq.

Clinton’s lie cost us… an embarrassing kangaroo court impeachment fiasco.

On the Pinocchio Scale of 1 to 10, the current President’s lies go to eleven. No wonder he’s so anxious to cast aside the restrictions of the Geneva Conventions – any war criminal in his position would be.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Worst. Daddy. EVER!!!

Had to rush The Man Cub to the ER today with a whopping big gash on his forehead. And of course it happened on my watch.

And I was looking right at him as he happily maneuvered his
Baby Walker into a big pile of wooden railroad tracks and tipped over at a 90-degree angle, conking his noggin a good one on the way down on the corner of the TV.

I flew off the couch and swooped him up, screaming (him, not me), into my arms and whisked him back to the bedroom for some serious comforting. I didn’t see the blood till we hit the bed, and by then it was all over the sheets and running down the right side of his face in a crimson crescent.

I will never forget the sight as long as I live.

The rest is a blur. The Missus was working and unavailable, so I had to load the boy up and race him to the hospital myself. I tell you what, when you run into an ER with a howling child with blood running down his face, people will part for you like Moses and the Red Sea. In the end, we were in and out of there quicker than the usual wait just to be triaged.

So they Crazy-Glued his head back together and today my son earned his first scar, non-emotional variety. He doesn’t seem any worse for the wear – it was old news for him already by the time we got home – but it’s gonna take me a while to live down, and I will never forget the twin sights of my boy taking a header juuust out of my reach, and my initial glom of the unexpected blood rolling down his otherwise perfect cheek.

Thus, I end as I begin. Fang Bastardson – Worst Daddy Ever. I’ll stick to Pet Rocks and pet peeves after this.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bill Clinton vs Fair & Balanced

Okay, The Man Cub got me up at 4 am, as usual, so I’ve had time to check out Clinton’s interview on Fox yesterday.

First off, let me just say that Chris Wallace is one smug, preening little prick. Seriously, I did not know they stacked shit that high, even at Fox News.

And to be fair, Clinton let him get his dander up. At times, I thought he was gonna hop up off his chair and squash that little Fox News fucker like the insect he is.

Wallace even pulled the same craven trick to pose the question that set Clinton off as the Pope did in his mea culpa about writing off Islam – it wasn’t his words, it was somebody else’s and he was just the hapless go-between. Wallace began by saying that Fox News fans emailed him overwhelmingly with one question for Clinton: Why didn’t he do more to catch bin Laden when he was President?

[Allow me to digress about the Pope thing – he made a big speech containing an earlier Pope’s blanket condemnation of Islam, and as soon as the lunatic fringe of that religion pointed out that the Vatican would make a dandy terror target, he’s been retracting his words daily since then, claiming “those weren’t my words, I was just repeating them!” What a load of horseshit. You don’t quote someone in the middle of a major speech unless you agree with them or are setting up a rebuttal. And this rebuttal didn’t come till after the Pope had placed the Vatican treasures in the cross-hairs of Muslim extremists. That shows you what the Vatican really values – its possessions.]

Whenever Clinton talked about the comprehensive anti-terror plan he bequeathed to the Bush administration – which they completely ignored till 9/11, just like they did the Israeli/Palestinian peace process because they saw it was a political loser for Clinton – Wallace smarmily asserted that all he [Wallace] wanted to talk about was Clinton’s current Global Something Initiative. It was a repeated, smirking display of hubris worthy of the current President himself.

Whenever Clinton talked about Richard Clarke’s allegations against the Bush administration – Clarke, who had served under two Republican presidents before Clinton and wasn’t kicked to the curb till he began to blow the whistle on W’s anti-terror inaction pre-9/11 – once again, all Wallace wanted to talk about was Clinton’s new Initiative.

Clinton also made an excellent point (admittedly repeatedly, as is his wont) that the very neocon geniuses who egged W into invading Iraq were the same bastards who criticized the Clinton administration’s anti-terror efforts as “wag the dog” tactics to distract the public’s attention from the shitstorm of empty investigations they spent the 90s throwing at him. Turns out now that the partisan investigations were tactics to distract the President from doing his job, not vice versa.

No wonder Clinton was pissed. Every American should be.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Hi, it’s just me

In case you were wondering what happened to me, so was I. It seems all the time and energy usually allocated to outrage has been taken up with other stuff since my vacation ended.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s been plenty to be outraged about. Politics are pretty reliable in that regard.

My man Bill Clinton has even been making the rounds of the press – I understand he got pissed off in a Fox News interview earlier today, but I haven’t seen it yet. (I’m actually taping the replay while I type this. I swore I’d drop my blog a line tonight.)

But coming back to work from a week off, there’s always extra stuff to be handled. And The Man Cub continues to battle us on the sleep front, and I’ve got this little hobby writing project I’ve been working on finishing in lieu of keeping up with the blog.

Also been watching a lot of TV-on-DVD. Second season of “Veronica Mars,” first season of “Prison Break” and second season of “Nip/Tuck.” All recommended. What little bit of time The Missus and I can schedule together we mostly spend watching season two of “Battlestar Galactica” and wondering aloud when “Lost” is coming back on.

She starts teaching four days a week next week, her heaviest load since the boy come along. I fully expect to handle the new schedule with all the petulance, pettiness and self-absorption with which I’ve tackled every other phase of parenthood so far. We’ve gotta start seriously looking at Day Care. Our regular babysitter is also on a newly restricted schedule starting next week and we’ve learned that Daddy doesn’t actually have the wear-with-all to be the Work-At-Home-Dad he thought he would.

And on top of everything, that damned sissy Axl Rose, right on schedule, pulled the plug on next week’s local Guns & Roses show.

On the other hand, I know too many people these days with real problems. Seems more jump up every day. Medical shit. Shit that’s so bad, I’m gonna have to pick up the phone and talk directly to other people about it.

I know. That’s pretty bad.

Don’t worry, though. I’ll keep the important things all bottled up inside and just rant here about strangers doing stuff I can’t do anything about. I was looking at August’s posts the other day, and like 90% of them are nothing but bitter invective about the Rodeo-Clown-In-Chief. That guy is just always pissing me off.

Thank you for your attention. This post has been about nothing, and has been brought to you by the letters G, N and R.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Vacation-at-Home #2 Days 6 & 7:

Well, the truth is, the ‘vacation’ part of my vacation ended Sunday night when the family returned home. The Man Cub is cutting some fangs of his own – sleep deprivation began taking its toll again Sunday night and is ongoing. Plus, The Missus had a high-profile job to interview for this week which ate up two whole days and I was starting to get itchy to work again anyhow, so yeah, the last couple days have been a sham, vacation-wise. Very little vacating was accomplished.

I spent a lot of my free time writing a lengthy epistle about how the whole God thing has become unnecessary, but for a piece that’s bound to lose me friends, I can’t seem to pull it together to my satisfaction yet. It’s been very frustrating. Even the drummer from Rush agrees with me, and I can’t quite spit it out.

However, I have succeeded in throwing together another mix disc of lullabies and love songs that has already proven successful at its desired task, which is to help soothe the boy back to sleep up to the five times a night he wakes up screaming. Feel good about that.

The world is still a stinking, steaming shit hole of hypocrisy and lies, but that could just be the sleep deprivation talking. No wait, it’s Just look at this minute’s headlines and judge for yourself:

• Hate-filled shooter killed himself, police say | Video
• Suicide bomb hits Army outpost, kills 2 | Video
• CNNMoney: 75,000 staff to hear Ford payout deal
• Spinach blamed for 8-state E. coli outbreak
• Clooney: Remember Rwanda, stop Darfur | Gallery
• Judge: 'You should never have been a mother'
• Coach convicted in autistic boy's beaning
• Why a bionic arm needs a manicure
• 'Survivor' using race in ratings race | Video

Any one of these stories would have been enough to motivate me to bang out an indignant screed during the first half of my vacation, but now all I want to do is get to sleep before The Man Cub wakes me up.

Actually, if I wasn’t going to bed in five minutes, I’d write about how I read this morning in George Will’s column that the Dems are planning on going after Wal-Mart in the mid-term elections – making it a campaign issue – and what a loser this is gonna be for them. Pissing all over the number one shopping destination of Red State America isn’t likely to move a lot of swing voters into their column. My theory is that the Democrats have looked ahead to the problems they risk inheriting if they win, and have decided Number Two is a pretty sweet place to be right now after all.

Anyhow, I’m glad I wrote everything down the first half of the week, because my brain is already writing over my memories of the beginning of my vacation. Hope I had a great time – wish I could have been there!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Vacation-at-Home #2 Days 4 & 5:

Okay, I’m about to watch the ABC-TV movie about the lead-up to 9/11 (“The Path to 9-11”). Supposedly the producers have been keeping it under wraps except for right-leaning focus groups and specially-selected worthies (for instance, I understand Rush Limbaugh was one of the fashionable few who was given an advance screening; he probably sent his housekeeper).

Even so, some of the people from the Clinton administration portrayed therein have still seen/heard about scenes where they’re shown saying and doing things they didn’t say or do, including Bill Clinton himself, who I saw diss the flick in a 5-second sound byte on TV. It was cool. I miss having him as our President, wandering pecker and all.

But I digress.

And people who haven’t seen the movie yet have already drawn their conclusions and shared them with anyone who’ll listen, but I’ve gotta give it an honest airing. I’m not gonna get involved in the back-and-forth regarding the flick’s financiers or its alleged agenda – I’m sure that’s well-covered territory in the proper blogoshpere – I’m just going to watch it and hold it to the same standards as I’d hold any film of equal ambition.

If it sucks ass early on, I’ll bail. Believe it.

Two hours in: I haven’t gotten to the alleged Clinton-bashing parts yet. So far, it’s a pretty good flick by TV-movie standards, although some scenes drag on or are extended through multiple cuts of the same images to pad out the running time.

Okay, I just hit the first “Clinton-bashing” part. The film implies Clinton was distracted from the pursuit of bin Laden (presumably among other important things) because of the Lewinski scandal. They imply it in kind of a cheap-shot way, but their device is dramatically sound and their point is one I’ve been making for years. Gee, who exactly was distracting the President with spurious investigation after spurious investigation throughout his entire term in office? That would be the GOP and their proxies. If anyone’s to blame for the President’s inability to focus – besides the President – it’s the people who prosecuted and funded the running campaign to keep him distracted! Fuckers. ...But so far, the movie is pretty good by docu-drama standards.

Ooh, Harvey Keitel’s character just sneered that Clinton was “pathetic.” That’s dirty pool! Keitel’s character, based on a real guy, John O'Neill, doesn’t make it out of the Twin Towers alive, so he’s not around to substantiate or refute any assertions his character makes, which makes him a perfect mouthpiece for any salacious dialogue the producers want to throw in.

Okay, another nasty snipe against the whole administration. I don’t know first-hand if the entire administration was indeed made up of cowards, but it seems a cheap shot to include said assertion stated by a sympathetic character as fact. It doesn’t advance the plot, only an agenda. I can see why people are pissed.

On the other hand, they cast the actress who played the President’s evil wife in the first couple seasons of “24” as Condi Rice. She makes it so easy to hate her! Now why would a right-winger like the one I’ve heard bankrolled this flick cast The Evil First Lady as Condi? This movie makes every American agent and agency look bad except Harvey Keitel and the guy playing Richard Clarke. And their ‘composite’ CIA-guy character, who can’t get anything done because all his higher-ups are idiots and/or hide-bound bureaucrats.

And the terrorists... The terrorists come off smelling like roses! They cast a good-looking, charming bunch of dudes as the highjackers. The Americans, almost without exception, come off as over-bureaucratized buffoons while the Bad Guys have their shit together throughout. Honestly, the way their planning and meeting and levels of security and stuff all came together so smoothly, the al qaeda goons came off like a bunch of suave middle-eastern 007s.

Actually, the way they portray the terrorists is the boldest, most un-rightwing thing about the movie. These are not the cartoon cut-out Jihadist caricatures (think “True Lies”), we’ve come to expect in our popular entertainment.

Wait a minute! They just made out like W was all hopped-up and focused on the Presidential Daily Briefing (“Bin Laden Determined to Fly Airplanes Into Buildings”) that he infamously blew off while on vacation. Now that smacks of pure politicking!

And poor, inept George Tenet better hope this movie isn’t how he’s remembered by future generations. Of all the impeccable doofuses upon whom Dumbleyou later bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Tenet comes off the worst here.

Strictly as a film, I’ve got to give this flick a solid B. It’s just really well done. It loses points for scenes that stretch too long, and for bad guys portrayed as gallant warriors instead of the murderous motherfuckers they were. I don’t really need to see an even-handed portrayal of the villains of 9/11 yet. And maybe that’s the thing.

At last. The Thing:

In spite of all the pre-release hubbub earlier this year, it seems to me that “Flight 93” wasn’t made too soon after 9/11, nor was “World Trade Center.” They each concentrated on contained, specific aspects of that infamous day. And personal stories of courage are timeless. Especially in a nation so torn apart over the war in Iraq, we need all the bipartisan, patriotic, feel-good films Hollywood can produce (not that that seems to be a priority there.)

This seems like the movie that was done too soon, even if it had been more politically even-handed. To try to pass a comprehensive verdict only five years after such catastrophic events, the repercussions of which are ongoing, is pure folly. Most of the bureaucrats portrayed haven’t even retired and hit the whistleblower circuit yet.

As 9/11 stories go, this is the project that should have been given a while longer to get just right.

I remember Johnny Cash

Monday, September 11, 2006

I remember 9/11

It was a Tuesday. Me and The Missus had just the weekend before moved the whole dog and pony show to this miserable little island. Her Dad paddled over with us and helped with the load-out. It was crazy hot, even for early September.

As usual I’m up before 7 local time (10 on the east coast) and turn on the morning news – how hot is it supposed to get today? Instead, I got grainy rabbit-eared footage of the twin towers burning. I ran immediately in and woke up The Missus. “You’re not gonna believe this shit” I told her. And like the rest of the country, we sat there and watched the towers fall a little while later.

I remember being really really pissed – pissed that we didn’t have our cable hooked up yet and my computer was still in a box somewhere. The biggest news event certainly of the decade and I was forced to squint at it on rabbit-ear TV.

It was horrible.

I was the first person in the complex to hang an American flag outside our apartment that day. I couldn’t find my computer, but I knew just where my flag was.

After the human tragedy of it had had its way with us, I remember thinking, “This country is about to go screaming to the right.” Dumbleyou had just recently won his squeaker of an election in the Supreme Court due to the country being on a bubble – we were primed to be knocked one way or another. I didn’t mind the idea of getting all medieval on whatever evil fuckers had done this thing – we’d have to, if only so we wouldn’t be seen as the world’s bitch from that point on. Some kind of Extreme Sanction was absolutely necessary and called for. What worried me then is the same thing that worries me now – who stewards us through this rough patch of history?

Aye, there’s the rub.

Remember the outpouring of support that came our way in the aftermath of 9/11? If the Bush administration had been more interested in coalition-building than cowboy dick-swinging, we might still have the rest of the world on our side instead of at our throats. I think it was the President of France, of all people, who said at the time, “Today, we are all Americans.”

And they were. Even some moderate Muslim governments denounced the September 11 attacks and offered statements of support.

It was that kind of moment in time, and we squandered it.

Our leaders pissed it away, because it didn’t fit in with their world-view, or their agenda, which from Day One had been all about punishing Saddam for making W’s daddy look like a pussy back in the Gulf War. Suddenly, the perfect pretext drops in their lap. “Mission Accomplished” is just around the corner.

And I keep thinking, Good God, what a waste. Think what TR could have done with an opportunity like 9/11 afforded us. Think what a statesman could have built from that wellspring of international good will… then turn on the news any night and see from Iraq what our leaders have wrought instead.

It’s like one of those nightmare alternate-future scenarios in the cheap sci-fi I favor. How the hell did we get from point A (worldwide bonhomie) to point B (some concluding chapter in the book of Revelations)?

The victims of 9/11 deserve better, and so do we.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Vacation-at-Home #2 Days 1-3:

Well, so far the pop culture wallow has been a big disappointment.

I had high hopes for “Inside Man” by Spike Lee with Denzel Washington. They’ve done some pretty excellent work, together and individually. This unfortunately was a standard hostage-caper flick that could just as easily have starred Colin Farrell and been directed by Brett Ratner. With Jessica Biel probably playing the Jodie Foster extended cameo. (WTF was Jodie F doing a walk-on in this flick for? I’m guessing it was the cash.) Even Christopher Plummer seemed to be sleep-walking through his role. It wasn’t at all bad, but compared to stuff that is on even basic cable drama shows, this was nothing out of the ordinary. In my opinion, TV lately has been the raising the bar in cop/adventure shows, and if you can’t keep up with the kinetic pace of “The Shield” or the thrills of a good episode of “24,” you might as well not make your movie.

“Transporter” 1 and 2 try really hard to meet this new bar. I saw the second one first and decided it was just big, fast and loud enough to rate checking out the first one. It’s the kind of enterprise where I was actually expecting the first one to be named “Transporter 1.” Synopsis (either film): Bald vaguely euro-dude drives a really cool car really fast and hooks up with a hot chick leading to karate fights and more fast car driving. Bad guys get shot. Roll credits. Each film clocks in at a brisk ninety-ish minutes and if you just don’t give a shit about car chases no matter how cleverly executed and filmed, there’s plenty of time to read USA Today.

Another movie that lagged compared to its TV brethren was “Freedomland” with Sam Jackson and Julianna Moore. A fine movie and all, but it just seemed like an episode of “Special Victims Unit” on ‘luudes. I saw everything coming miles ahead in excruciating slow motion.

And oh God, how many times am I going to get fooled by Michael Madsen’s name on the cover of a DVD. What the fuck? Does he tire easily or something? He’s got to be my favorite actor whose movies I absolutely hate! With the few obvious exceptions, everything else The Missus and I have ever seen him in, the movie either is so bad it’s unwatchable, his role in it is negligible at best, or both. Even knowing all that, I still rented “The Last Drop” because it’s a WWII actioner starring Michael Madsen. What’s a life without hope? Well, it’s gotta be less nerve-wracking anyhow. I didn’t make it through an hour of Billy Zane’s ridiculous Canadian ‘accent’ (“What’s that aboot, eh?”), endless exposition and occasional glimpses of Madsen as somebody who cusses a lot before going away again somewhere for a long time.

If they’d just release “Vengeance Unlimited” on DVD, I could stop renting movies I know are going to be awful!

I had also planned to watch the 4-hour director’s cut of “Kingdom of Heaven” – had it ready to roll for a couple months now. Got through the first disc (of two – it’s long!) and here’s the thing: Director Ridley Scott makes every frame is breathtaking to behold. But when Orlando Bloom is cluttering up the front of so many shots with his bland, sincere pretty boy posing, it takes me right out of the twelfth century and into a cover shoot for Vanity Fair. It’s like Oliver Stone wrecking “Alexander” by casting the aforementioned Mr. Farrell and Martin Scorsese ruining his last handful of films by casting vacuous pretty boy Leo DeCaprio in the lead roles. I keep asking myself, “What does Scorsese see in this kid that I just don’t?” He wrecked “Gangs of New York” as well as “The Aviator.” Hopefully Nicholson will have the lion’s share of screen time in Scorsese & Leo’s latest, “The Departed,” out in the next couple months.

Anyhow, I’ll finish “Kingdom of Heaven.” I like the story and it’s gorgeous to look at. There’s just a big, pretty hole in the middle of it. Hey, maybe he’ll get killed at the end. Shit, now I have to watch it!

The trip to the comic store was a fiasco. Not a damn thing of interest. I don’t think I even spent $15. And the regular guy was out and his Igor-like assistant kept trying to talk to me. Ugh! I felt like if I just threw some original “X-Men” animation cels in the corner or something, maybe he’d go away and leave me alone.

Here’s a couple flicks I’ve seen lately I want to recommend: “Thunderbirds” with Bill Paxton. The live-action kids’ flick from last summer. I won’t go on and on about it; it’s kiddie fair and unabashedly so. That having been said, it’s just faithful enough to its original puppet-based source to give oldsters like me a giggle, and just enough pastel-colored family-friendly confection to make it a damned pleasant way to waste ninety mintes with the kids. Ben Kingsley, who seems to have a rule – one ghastly piece of shit (“BloodRayne”) for every brilliant star turn (“Sexy Beast”) – does his ghastly piece of shit thing here, but tonally for the flick, he somehow gets it just right. I didn’t recognize many of the other faces, but they played marionettes quite convincingly (except for Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope, who seriously brings on the hotness). It’s got some fun, colorful action sequences and there’s always something going on. Your kids will love it and you’ll be able to endure repeat viewings.

Finally “Confederate States of America” is out on DVD. A pseudo-documentary ala Ken Burns’ “The Civil War,” it imagines the South having won the Civil War and tells the story from the time of Lincoln (who’s run out of town in blackface on Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railway) to the present day. Now, I’m a sucker for historical “what-if” scenarios. I read a whole series of Harry Turtledove novels on what would have happened if the world had been invaded by extraterrestrials during WWII, and those Goddamned books went nowhere!

“CSA,” as its called, isn’t a perfect piece of entertainment, but it is jam-packed with ideas. It’s been a week, and I’m still pondering it. It’s allegedly a comedy, but unfortunately, so many of the slight tweaks they give to history hit way too close to home for this guilt-ridden white boy. (Understand, although I am guilt-ridden, it doesn’t really have anything to do with being white. More just with being me.)

Due to this crappy island I live on, I have to wait till 3 pm to catch His Malignant Majesty Darth Cheney on “Meet The Press.” I’ve already skimmed the highlights on the news pages, but I like to watch these things myself. I want to see what I see, not the sound bytes the media feeds me later on. It should be a howler. “Greeted as liberators.” “Death Throes.” “WMDs.” Stop it, you’re killing me already…

Speaking of howlers, I can’t wait for tonight’s ABC-TV movie allegedly based on the official bipartisan committee’s report on 9/11. Apparently they make up some scenes in the first half to make the Clinton administration appear even more culpable than they arguably were and Mr. Clinton is hopping mad over it. I’ll watch it and draw my own conclusions. Besides, as a student of history (okay, more of a fan-boy of history), I’m always interested to see what effect the era a film was made in has on the period events represented therein. It’s why Turner Classic Movies is my favorite television channel.

Other than all of that, I’m happy to report the vacation is going exceedingly well. I’ve updated The Man Cub’s home page, caught up on some news magazines, slept my ass off (and I’m about to head back) and have begun to miss the chaos and disorder and inconvenience that will inevitably accompany the return of the Missus and Man Cub tonight.

I may even get all weepy over them, at least until the 9/11 movie starts at 8. That’s when Daddy goes back on vacation.

Bob Dylan Is Number One!

All others are number two or less.

Although chart positions are transient by nature, just the fact that Bob stopped back by briefly at number one – thirty years since his last visit there – is encouraging. I’m sure he’ll be unseated by the latest new “American Idol” runner-up album out next week.

Even more encouraging is the fact that the album in question, “Modern Times,” is my favorite since 1997’s “Time Out of Mind.” Everybody fell all over themselves to lay praise at the feet of the album between, “Love and Theft,” but it left me cold. It was like every song Bob put on a different hat and made a different funny face. Plus, no song really “popped” for me. What song on L&T will we be talking about in 20 years?

“Modern Times” is back in the “TOOM” mold, featuring alternating blues raveups and wistful ballads. And even the blues numbers had something new to say, and an ingratiating way of saying it. Plus, Bob in concert is an energetic train wreck on a good night. Bob in the studio, he really leans into the microphone and croaks as clearly as he can. Like Tom Waits (not to mention Vincent Price, whom he has come to eerily resemble), his limited, ruined vocal instrument only becomes more expressive in its advancing decrepitude, especially when you can actually hear it.

And to answer my own question, a couple tracks popped right away, “Spirit On The Water” and “Workingman’s Blues #2.” I gotta put the thing back on and give it another listen. But two tracks on the first listen, and blues songs that didn’t have me hitting the “next” button. And, I understand (but haven’t seen yet) a video with Scarlett Johansson and an iPod commercial.

Welcome to the party Bob! Can I be on your myspace Friends List?!

Self-produced as Jack Frost, this CD will probably end up in a Grammy duel for Best Folk Album with Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Vacation-at-Home #2 Day 0:

I decided to get started early this time out. No reason to wait for your vacation to officially start when you work from home, and The Missus and The Man Cub have been safely put on an airplane for the in-laws for a few days.

First order of priority: SLEEEEEP! Sleep, and lots of it.

After that, it’s all about reading comic books, watching TV and walking the dog. And catching up on email and about six months’ worth of news and entertainment magazines.

Seriously, between The Missus’ dissertation, The Man Cub just being his infant self and the demands of my 9-5 gig, I haven’t had much of a life at all this past year. Everybody promises Year Two will be easier and they’d better goddamn well be right.


The first movie of my week off, “The Sentinel” with Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland and the hot young chick from “Desperate Housewives,” turned out to be a big disappointment. Douglas tends to have a pretty keen eye for scripts, and I’ll usually enjoy any feature he selects to star in.

This one, though, was just a re-hash of plot elements from superior efforts (the original “Manchurian Candidate,” “In the Line of Fire,” etc.) without any ideas to call its own to justify its existence. Douglas plays the ‘agent out of control’ role usually essayed by Sutherland on “24,” leaving Sutherland to play a less-caffeinated, but equally terse and grim variation on his Jack Bauer character, a government cipher with a gun and a mandate. The comparison to the knuckle-biting intrigue and pacing of the far-superior “24” made this effort seem even lamer.

The “Housewife” chick had some lines and carried a gun, but brought absolutely nothing to her role as some government chick with a few lines and a gat. Haven’t seen her TV show – I assume she acquits herself more honorably there. Frankly, in “The Sentinel,” she didn’t even bring on the sexy.

What was most telling was the list of special features on the disc, which included a sneak-peek at either the last or next season of “24.” Apparently this movie does have a reason for existing after all, which would be to move more units of “24” on DVD. Sorry, mission not accomplished. (Bless you, Netflix.)

A far, far better production is HBO’s “The Wire,” any season. I just watched Season Three (newly out on DVD) and it blew me away. It takes an episode or two to get rolling (large cast of characters and many, many intersecting plotlines), but the back-end payoff is huge. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it in the couple days since I finished the season.

For some reason, “The Sopranos” (and “Deadwood” for that matter) gets all the love and critical acclaim, but any season of “The Wire” is better than any season of the Sopranos, with the possible exception of Sopranos season one which I remember really liking.

“The Wire” is a cop drama that takes place in Baltimore and features more black faces than you’ve seen on your TV screen since Katrina coverage last summer. Intricately plotted, brilliantly acted, measuredly paced and smart without being ‘good for you,’ this is TV as good as it currently gets. And DVD is definitely the way to catch it. I can’t imagine having to wait a week between episodes.

Also excellent from HBO and also recently out on DVD is “Big Love.” Any plot synopsis I could muster would make it seem like a niche soap-opera and would thus not do it justice. See what I mean: Bill Paxton plays a nice-guy polygamist with three wives, a boatload of kids, a hardware store empire and Harry Dean Stanton as the whack-job father-in-law from hell. I started watching this show just to spend some time with The Missus and ended up a huge fan. Considering it debuted at a time we were struggling with first-time parenthood and the considerable headaches (and attendant self-pity) that brings with it, once a week we settled in and enjoyed the travails of a guy with real family problems. Recommended without reservation, even for guys like me who prefer flicks with hot babes and big explosions over dramas exploring other peoples’ relationships.

As long as I’m doing catch-up reviews of great movies I’ve seen recently, I have to mention two more. “Running Scared” (not the Billy Crystal/Gregory Hines flick of the same name from 1986) grabbed me by the throat in the first 60 seconds and didn’t let go till the end credits rolled two hours later. The DVD’s cover blurb enthused “Makes Kill Bill look like Sesame Street” and by God that’s not an exaggeration. Written and directed by somebody named Wayne Kramer whom I’d never heard of before, his style is Tarantino meets Scorsese meets Jolt Cola. I’m loathe to discuss plot details; let’s just leave it at this: It’s a cops vs crooks action flick that delivers on every level – seat-of-your-pants direction, innovative camera-work and scene-staging, a plot that kept me guessing and involved throughout, a little kid (Cameron Bright) who can actually act, and more bad motherfuckers and betrayals than you can shake a stick at. I love this fucking movie! Buy it, don’t rent it. You’ll want to watch it over and over.

[Sidebar: I also really like the 1986 “Running Scared.” Must have been before Billy Crystal had total creative control over his projects because it is genuinely, consistently enjoyable throughout, with the exception of a young Jimmy Smits paying his Hollywood dues by portraying a drug-crazed murdering Hispanic drug dealer. Other than that casting bad karma, both flicks of this name are worthy additions to any man’s DVD collection.]

Finally, the last movie I need to give props to is Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center.” I can’t remember another time I’ve walked out after an Oliver Stone movie feeling good about the human race – let alone America, but this one did just that. It’s less about the attacks of 9/11 (Did I just say 9/11? Somewhere, Bush’s poll numbers just jumped 2%) than about the durability and fragility of the human condition. It’s like “Towering Inferno” meets “Earthquake” meets “Emergency.” It’s a rescue flick that cuts back and forth between a couple of Average Joes hopelessly trapped under tons of WTC rubble and the impact their absence has on their families. Maria Bello as one of the wives is not only hot (that’s a given), but turns in another Oscar-caliber performance (after last year’s “A History of Violence,” also excellent). Nick Cage dials back his usual gimmicky, eye-rolling scenery-chewing and delivers an impressive performance using pretty much just his voice – I had no idea he could do Restraint. That Stone and Cage both chose this movie to exercise artistic restraint makes it an even more remarkable accomplishment.

In the end, though, for me, this movie is owned by a bit player, a guy with maybe a dozen lines throughout. William Mapother plays a retired Marine who watches the unfolding carnage on TV and decides to do something about it. He gets his Marine uniform out of the closet, puts it on and bullshits his way through Ground Zero security and commences searching for survivors. He’s the one who locates Cage and his associate and sticks around till both are pulled alive from their entombment. Every line of dialogue he has is like a recruitment poster for the US Marines. When one of the trapped cops begs him not to leave after he’s found them, he replies cooly, “We’re the United States Marines, son – we’re not going anywhere.” When the rescuers arrive and ask him who the hell he is, he says “Staff Sergeant blabitty blabbitty so-and-so.” The fireman asks him, “Well, what can we call you for short?” After a brief pause, the Marine answers, “Staff Sergeant.” It’s that kind of performance, and that kind of movie. Oliver Stone does the heroes of 9/11 – and America in general – proud.

I stand corrected! (a humble mea culpa)

It turns out Wednesday’s speech (in front of a roomful of 9/11 victims’ families, the same ungrateful bastards who years earlier had pressured His Majesty into forming the 9/11 Commission he wanted nothing to do with and whose bipartisan recommendations he has subsequently ignored) was all about trying to force Congress to give him the new kind of trial rules he wants for the terrorism suspects the CIA has had sprinkled around torture chambers worldwide these last few years.

After the Supreme Court denied him the secret military tribunals he desired to try these alleged fucking bastards earlier this summer, Team Dumbleyou has decided to try to turn that sticky negative into a political positive in the run-up to the November elections. Either Congress caves, as they have reliably done for the last five years whenever Bush whispers the magic words (“nine-eleven”), and grants him the God-like rules of judicial leeway he is demanding, or his spin-meisters get to continue to paint the feckless Dems as, sigh, soft on terror.

As “Strong On Terror” is the only political pot W has left to piss in, this attempt amounts to a Hail Mary Pass for his administration. Because even Dumbleyou understands that if the Dems take either House of Congress in November, the investigations into all things Abuse of Executive Power his rubber-stamp Congress has so far successfully forestalled and denied will hit him like the wrath of God. And that couldn’t happen to a nicer despot.

I say, why wait for the judgment of history? Let’s legally label him the liar and criminal he is during his lifetime, so he can spend his last 30 years on this earth trying to rehab his Presidency like Nixon did.

I mean, every once in a while, even for the rich and well-connected, justice ought to prevail.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

If it’s Wednesday, the President must be shoveling shit on TV…

Another day, another carefully selected, pre-tested pack of lies from the President, whose life’s purpose has become trying to polish his turd of an unwinnable war in Iraq into a bright-shining diamond of democracy in the empty heads of his stalwart 30-33% of true believers.

In recent days, his “Stay The Course” series of speeches have become increasingly histrionic and desperate (and always before prescreened, adoring crowds of like-minded idealogues), comparing the war on terrorism to everything from Nazism to Communism. (Yes, the GOP has shamelessly dusted off the ghost of Soviet Russia and is trotting it out in a last-ditch effort to wring just a little bit more political mileage out of The Red Scare by pushing familiar buttons in the AARP/Alzheimers crowd.)

One day Osama is Hitler, the next day he’s Uncle Joe Stalin – perhaps today he’ll be cast as Ming the Merciless, and our intrepid bullshitter-in-chief as a modern-day Flash Gordon? He already has the flight suit…

The difference is, in WWII we beat the Nazis on the ground, and in the Cold War we outlasted the Soviets through intelligence assets and crafty brinksmanship. Bush has already proven we can’t beat the Iraqi insurgents on the ground, and Dumbleyou’s use of intelligence assets and diplomacy makes the Keystone Cops look like John Steed and Emma Peel.

Honestly, is anyone but the brain-addled and blindly-faithful buying this shit anymore?

We’ll know come November.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What I’ve Learned About Parenting – Year One

Looking back, I realize that the first year of your first child’s life is all about simple survival. If all three of you make it intact to Day 366, Mission Accomplished. Pat yourself on the back and kick off your slippers – it’s Miller Time.

The Man Cub turns one today, Sept. 5, 2006. My God, has it really only been a year, not a decade? An epoch? This may have been the longest year of my life, and I have a few pretty interesting years to compare it to. If this was a “Tick” episode, there would be a clear moral to mark this milestone, illustrating what we’ve learned so far in our time together.

Speaking for The Man Cub, he’s learned to chase the dog and crawl with a pronounced John Wayne swagger. He’s also learned that baths are fun, but getting dried off after is the pitts, man.

What have I learned?

I’ve learned there may be nothing cooler than having your own kin fall asleep in your arms. The tiny eyelids flutter, droop and eventually just drift together. The breathing evens out and the muscles relax. It’s like one of those lame “Trust” games that therapists and motivational speakers play that I usually wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. But this one… this one kinda kicks ass.

I’ve learned you must learn to ignore the screaming. It’s not about you. And even when it is, fuck it, what are you supposed to be? A mind reader? Until the child can find a more articulate way of explaining his needs, he’s just gonna have to scream and you’re just gonna have to live with it. I recommend multiple oscillating fans in the bedroom to facilitate sleep while your partner is dealing with the shrieking bundle of joy at the other end of the tiny apartment.

I’ve learned to take my anti-anxiety shit as prescribed and that 3-5 hours of sleep in any given 24-hour period for days on end frankly doesn’t cut it anymore.

I’ve learned that everything in the apartment, especially Daddy’s office, is dangerous; and ten seconds out of my sight is more than enough time for our turbo-powered crawler/climber to get himself – and/or me – into a hell of a lot of trouble. So far the worst has been when he’s gotten his hands on the remotes, and re-programmed my beloved ent-center back into the stone age.

I’ve learned that babies really do like to fall asleep to reggae. I have a disc that starts with two white-boy reggae numbers, an all-girl “Hard Times Comes No More” and Kris Kristofferson’s “Holy Creation,” and the little dude is usually sound asleep by the second or third verse of “Hard Times...” The Kristofferson tune is for me.

I’ve learned to breathe in through my mouth and out through my nose when changing soiled diapers. This point cannot be emphasized enough.

I’ve learned to appreciate every phase as it comes by, because they’re all so fleeting and no matter how much the day-to-day irritation of it drove me crazy at the time (What fucking ‘separation anxiety’? I’m standing right the fuck here in front of him?!), I miss them all already.

I’m also learning that I have to be careful how I speak in front of the boy so his first words don’t get us in hot water with CPS, the DHS or the WCTU.

And I’ve learned that if I remember to pay attention, I learn something every day. The trick, of course, is remembering to pay attention to the stuff that matters, not the stuff that distracts.

Mostly though, I’m determined to make his second year about more than simple survival. Somehow, The Missus has managed to flourish as an artist, a professional and a mother this past year while Daddy… well, Daddy has been a handful.

Sorry honey. Some day, it’ll all seem funny – I swear!

Happy first birthday, son. Some day — maybe soon — I hope to be able to start teaching you some stuff...

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Boy, things are really gonna start happening around here now!

Seriously, I couldn’t be prouder of The Missus. I will be delighted to be known henceforth as “Mister Doctor Bastardson.”

All hail the future breadwinnerHUZZAH!